Homeownership Guidance, Advice and Blogs

As the Director of Affiliate Relations at HomeFree-USA, I’ve always been fascinated with how people handle their money. Like everyone else, I’ve had my financial ups and downs. In fact, it took me 32 months to pay off $32,000 in credit card bills and build up a six-month emergency fund. While that was a very difficult period, I am grateful – and wiser -- for the experience.

Through my personal experiences and working at HomeFree-USA, I’ve gained a ton of insight that I feel compelled to share. You’ll find those lessons here. Feel free to take the thoughts and ideas that resonate with you most and put aside the rest for later. I look forward to sharing my journey.

Embrace Your Vice

I LOVE food! It’s the one expense that I rarely skimp on. I do this both for my health and because I love the communal and cultural experience that comes through a good meal (which is why I gained 20+ pounds while living in Atlanta. I ate everything I could put my hands on).

A few years ago I was feeling very broke. So I went to my Mint account and pulled up the Trends report, which shows me how I spend by category (I highly recommend this tool. It’s a fantastic way to see where your money’s really going). Lo and behold, I was spending an average $200 more each month on food than budgeted!

I had to get this in check, and fast. But it was tough because, besides the fact that I’m highly allergic, I also truly enjoy the experience of getting together with friends over a meal, trying new dishes and (dare I say it!) eating out. Here’s what I did:

1) Embraced the truth: For me, food is more than nourishment, so it’s worth giving up a few other luxuries in order to continue eating high quality and enjoying a meal out here and there. For you: What experience(s) are so important to you that you’re willing to give up other things to have it?

2) Found balance: Spending $200 more per month on food was out. But going back to the originally budgeted amount wasn’t going to work either, so I added $100 more to the food budget and cut getting my hair done ($110 including tip), drove less on weekends ($40 for one fewer tank of gas per month), borrowed books instead of buying ($25) and reduced my cable bill ($40). For you: What are two or three things you spend money on that can easily be trimmed or eliminated?

3) Established boundaries: I had to then cut the other $100. I committed to only eating out for social purposes (I can eat solo at home), and no more than a few times per month; grocery shopping for food that could be used in a variety of dishes; splitting bulk perishable items with my parents (Costco salads and avocados, I’m talking to you); only buying seafood on sale (always wild caught); getting a Soda Stream (LOVE sparkling water!); and making popcorn at home on the stove (don’t own a microwave). I didn’t change the things I loved, only how I got them. For you: what can you do to continue enjoying what you love while spending half as much?

It took me a while to implement all these adjustments but it’s paid off in droves. For you: embrace your experiences, then determine what you’re willing to give up to maintain it, and balance, in your life.

And so it is.