• How To Handle Uncertain Times

    I recently shared a video with some of my thoughts about how we plan to weather the potential effects of the coronavirus as it sweeps through the United States. There is a lot of uncertainty right now and people are panicking and buying unnecessary supplies and generally don’t know how to act. While there is a need for concern and cautious, responsible action – there is no need to panic.

    I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me about stopping debt payments and if it’s ok to do or not. In the times of unprecedented issues, yes it’s ok. In fact when we see other countries completely shutting down and businesses closing for extended periods – it is necessary to prepare for a loss of income and to change our normal plans and routines.

    Be prepared, don’t panic.

    We recently started an emergency stockpile of supplies in our home because we saw this coming a few weeks ago. A couple weeks later people are starting to take this more seriously and people are panicking and buying all the supplies they can grab – leaving shelves empty and stopping others from being able to get the supplies they need.

    It is important to be prepared but there isn’t a need to panic and put others into a bad situation. Be smart about your purchases and take what you might need for a week or two at a time but don’t clear shelves.

    Pile up money for the storm.

    Emergency funds are super important and I admit we have been lax on rebuilding ours. Now I’m regretting that decision because… there is a storm coming. With many businesses already struggling and potential bigger effects coming in the weeks and months ahead – many of us have job loss worries. This is the time to have money saved or to pile up money as quickly as possible.

    For now that means we are going to stop paying our debt payments beyond the minimum. All extra money will be sent to our emergency fund. We would like to pile up as much as possible in case one of us loses a job. We would like to have a pile of money in case we have medical expenses. Money acts as security in times like this and we would like to build that security.

    Listen to the experts.

    Regarding this particular global pandemic, it is important to listen to the experts and those who are telling us how we can prevent making this worse. Experts are recommending hand washing and better hygiene practices along with social distancing to flatten the curve and reduce demand on our healthcare system.

    My company was ahead of the curve and sent nonessential employees to work from home, something they never have or never would have done in the past. Our school systems and our daycare has closed. As a family we are taking this to heart and practicing social distancing – not going out like we normally do and planning to stay at home for the most part.

    Remember that storms don’t last forever.

    Change can be comforting because it is the one constant thing we can count on. Change will come. Things may get worse before they get better but they will eventually get better. You can be prepared and plan to make it through the worst because no storm lasts forever.

  • What I Wish I Knew Before Starting An Etsy Shop

    Starting an Etsy shop in 2019 was a wonderful addition to my online business. It helped grow Pennies Not Perfection by leaps and bounds and also gave me a new creative outlet that I fell in love with.

    Etsy fulfilled many personal and business needs for me, but I wish had known more about Etsy when I started. Today I’m sharing a few of the lessons I wish I knew before I started my Etsy shop.

    So what lessons did I learn after 450 sales in the first few months of my Etsy shop? These are the top 4!

    SEO Is Very Important For Etsy Success

    I get 55% of my traffic from Etsy, not my Youtube channel, my Instagram account or my blog. The majority of my traffic comes from Etsy itself and much of that is from search.

    Some of that search traffic is from people searching for my Etsy shop because I’ve created a strong brand. Minus the people searching specifically for “Pennies Not Perfection” there are many many more who are searching for keywords to find items they want to purchase. Because Etsy functions as a marketplace driven by search, it makes sense that a big chunk of my Etsy traffic and sales comes from people using the search function.

    Because search is so important that means SEO (search engine optimization) is important to a shop’s success. Knowing how SEO works and how to create good on page content for your listings is very important.

    Your Effort Level Determines Your Success

    Your Etsy shop succeeds based on the level of effort you put in to making it succeed. This has been very evident to me after many months of experience, experiments, and observation.

    I’ve never been super pushy or sales focused because that’s not my natural personality. I love making helpful tools and want to be compensated for the work and value I provide, but being loud about my products is not my style. However, I’ve watched people in my Etsy groups who focus on promotion and they’ve gotten three times as many sales in the same amount of time.

    Promotion matters. If you really want to succeed you have to promote your listings. You need to find ways to share and get your products out there into the world, either on Facebook or YouTube or Pinterest or wherever.

    I’ve also noticed that the level of effort you are putting into your shop with adding listings and doing sales and being active will affect your sales numbers. When I’m actively adding new listings and updating things in my shop I make more sales. When I’m ignoring my shop the number of sales drops. The level of effort I put in during a month definitely changes the amount of sales I make.

    It Is Just As Easy To Sell Expensive Items

    When I started selling on Etsy, I was scared to sell anything over $2 or to ever raise my prices. Because I wasn’t confident in my ability to create and sell, I told myself the false story that it is easier to sell cheap items.

    As it turns out, it takes just as much effort to sell a more expensive item than a cheaper one. While it might take more effort to create the more expensive item because you are putting more value into it – the effort to sell it on Etsy is pretty similar to selling something cheaper.

    This revelation only came recently – 6 months after I started an Etsy shop! I played it way to safe in the first 6 months of my shop and my revenue was much lower because of it. Once I started higher priced items packed with value the amount I was earning went up. In fact, the best seller in my shop is one of my most expensive items!

    Etsy Controls Your Shop

    Unfortunately the last thing I wish I knew before I started selling on Etsy is not a positive one but it is true. Etsy controls your shop and can change the rules whenever. This is true whether it benefits your bottom line or not.

    Recently Etsy enacted a change with mandatory off site advertising for your listings if you make over $10k a year. It’s not something you can opt out of and you have no choice whether or not your shop participates. This has led many people to plan on leaving Etsy because that type of advertising is not part of their business strategy and the 12-15% fee that Etsy will collect means their profit margin drops drastically.

    Using a site like Etsy has many positives but you are giving up a level of control in order to use it and benefit from their marketplace. Unfortunately that means at any time Etsy can make a change that benefits their business model without your consent. Ultimately all the benefits of having an Etsy shop can be wiped out if they make a decision that negatively affects your shop strategy.

    This is actually one of the reasons I recently started selling budgeting printables on my own website via Shopify which allowed me to keep more of the money from my sales and have more control over my marketing.

    shopify store vs etsy shop
    starting a shopify store to sell printables

    Opening An Successful Etsy Shop

    Those are a few of the things I wish I had know before starting my Etsy shop in 2019. However, despite the good and bad, Etsy has been an incredible addition to my online business! It’s been a great way to get started with selling products and interacting with customers in the marketplace.

    If you are interested in opening your own Etsy shop, I’ve shared instructions in the video below.

    You can use this link to get 40 free listings on Etsy when you start your shop. When you open a new shop Etsy recommends starting with at least 10 listings but I have started both of my shops with 1 item.

    Tips I’d recommend for building a successful Etsy shop from the beginning:

    • have a strong niche where your products are very focused on either one niched area or style
    • create a strong brand story and share that in your shop and listings
    • continue your brand elements throughout the shop via colors and fonts
    • share photos that clearly show your items and how they can be used
    • make your descriptions clear and very descriptive – the more the better when you are explaining what comes with your item and how it can improve someone’s life
    • clearly articulate your shop’s policies if you don’t offer refunds or have specific policies that a buyer needs to share
    • build your shop with more listings to bring in new buyers and more traffic
    • make sure you promote your listings both on Etsy with seo and ads and off Etsy with social media

    Those are a few of my best tips and I hope your new Etsy shop thrives!

  • Starting A Supplies Stockpile For Emergency Preparedness

    Are you prepared for an emergency? Do you have supplies to last multiple days if you lose power or must be quarantined? Most Americans don’t and until a few weeks ago – we didn’t either.

    Recently we decided to start a stockpile of supplies and emergency needs in order to weather different emergencies – from coronavirus shutdowns to weather events and power outages. 

    Why We Decided To Start Building A Stockpile

    First, I dont think there is any need to get hysterical about the current virus circling around the world. Mostly it is a mild virus going around even if the death rate is higher than the flu. Most people won’t die, most people will be fine and it appears kids hardly have an issue with it at all.

    The problem is that people do panic and throw things off because as the CDC website says, most people don’t have supplies or plans for health and safety doing a natural disaster, power outage or flu pandemic. 

    What we are doing is not necessarily to prepare for this specific virus but more the potential of having our lives disrupted by not being able to go to work due to a shutdown or having to stay home due to daycare and school shutdowns.

    Having a stockpile and being more prepared also applies for things like a tornado or power outage which is something we’ve been through multiple times. It’s similar to preparing for a major weather event too. We are very likely to lose power during a storm since it happens at least once a year in our area. We’ve been lucky they haven’t lasted long but we want to be prepared in case it does!

    What We Are Doing To Prepare

    Being prepared is just something responsible to do before you end up in a situation where you need something essential but can’t get it.

    So here is a rundown of what we are personally doing to prepare:

    • Building a basic food supply in cupboards focused on canned goods, dry goods, and foods that we won’t have to store in a fridge.
    • Making sure we have all the basic medicines you might need if you have a cold or small problem that wouldn’t require a hospital or doctor visit.
    • Having a job and daycare plan in case either closes down. Kids are actually doing well with this virus and it’s super mild but again hysterical notions can end up closing down daycares and such.
    • Having pedialyte and fever reducers in the house in case illness does occur and we want to treat it at home.
    • Improving hygiene habits. I’m bad about biting my nails, obviously, so I bought fingernail clippers and lotion for my purse so I’m better about taking care of my nails before I want to pick and bite at them I also am just making sure I routinely use hand sanitizer at work and home, which we were better about when our daughter was small.

    What we focused on at first was what we were already completely out of or near the end of our current supply: hand sanitizer, children’s Tylenol, cold/flu medicine, emergen-C, paper towels, toilet paper and pantry foods. These are all things we would have bought in the next couple months during regular grocery shops anyway, so we just decided to buy ahead of time and stock up. This ended up being a good decision because people started panic buying things and many stores near us ran out of items on this list.

    For pantry foods we made sure this is stuff we can use and store even if power goes out during a storm, which is actually a pretty big problem in our area. Many of our neighborhoods have had multiple day outages so stocking up on pantry food can be useful in this case especially.

    We also made sure it was food that we would actually eat at some point so it wasn’t something in danger of never being consumed. The great thing about stockpiling food for emergencies is that much of the food is very frugal and the total amount spent isn’t very high.

    Here is a current rundown of what we have included in our personal stockpile.

    Food:

    • Canned vegetables
    • Canned beans
    • Canned fruit
    • Canned tuna
    • Peanut butter
    • Ramen
    • Rice (5 lb)
    • Frozen meals ready to be reheated

    Medical:

    • Cold/flu medicine
    • Elderberry
    • Children’s tylenol
    • Children’s natural cough syrup

    Cleaning:

    • lysol wipes
    • bleach
    • paper towels
    • vinegar
    • dishwasher soap
    • laundry detergent

    Additional things we added to our buying list that we have never previously stockpiled before included

    • extra dog food
    • ramen (which Jason actually likes but I never buy)
    • cleaning supplies

    We actually have been meaning to better stock our cleaning supplies so the decision to stockpile these came at a good time.

    Things we already had stockpiled from big sales and freebies were counted and considered too: toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant. Our existing stockpile was mostly personal care items.

    It’s not about being hysterical over current sensational news headlines but instead just about good planning. We will use all of this stuff eventually and it’s stuff we needed anyway, but it feels even better to know that we are prepared for a potential emergency situation.

    Building A Basic Emergency Kit

    One thing to do when thinking about emergency preparedness is to build a basic emergency kit. 

    The CDC says after an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

    A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

    • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
    • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
    • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
    • Flashlight
    • First aid kit
    • Extra batteries
    • Whistle to signal for help
    • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
    • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
    • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
    • Manual can opener for food
    • Local maps
    • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
    • Download the Recommended Supplies List (PDF) and continue to add to the stockpile of supplies

    Additional emergency supplies recommended to have:

    • Prescription medications 
    • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
    • Glasses and contact lense solution
    • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
    • Pet food and extra water for your pet
    • Cash or traveler’s checks
    • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
    • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
    • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
    • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Matches in a waterproof container
    • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
    • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
    • Paper and pencil
    • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

    Those are all things that we either have or will have within the next couple weeks as we continue to build our stockpile! 

    Long-Term Survival Foods

    We also plan to increase our supplies for long-term survival foods beyond just the initial emergency survival supplies. We’ve been looking into what we need to include for longer term foods and through research have made the list below. Most of these items are freeze-dried or designed to last for years.

    • Water. Water is always the most important survival item and it’s quantity would increase for long term survival needs.
    • Canned food. We have a good bit of canned food for our short term stash and it also works well for long-term disasters.
    • Freeze dried fruit. Freeze dried food is a great way to prepare food for long term use and it doesn’t take up much space either.
    • Freeze dried veggies. Again, this style of preserving food saves space and you can easily add water and rehydrate vegetables.
    • Dried meats. Dried meat can last up to a year and is a great medium term food option.
    • Freeze dried meats. You can store this kind of meat in mall spaces and it lasts much longer than canned options.
    • Beans and rice. Beans and rice are cheap and have incredibly long shelf lives. They require more cook prep than many things on this list but offer a great option for storage long term.
    • Instant mashed potatoes. These potatoes make it easy to have carbs without lots of prep and they store well.
    • Powdered milk. Powdered milk in cans will last a lot longer than many items.
    • Emergency instant meals. You likely won’t find these in grocery stores but many companies sell meals designed to be stored for long times.
    • Honey. Honey lasts for a long time and can also be used to flavor other foods that need it.
    • Preserved food. You can make pickles and other preserved foods that can be stored for long times.

    It is really unfortunate that most Americans don’t have anything prepared or planned in case of an emergency, but if that is you then you can make plans to change it today!

  • February 2020 Online Income Report – $1,507.18

    Welcome to my February 2020 monthly online income report! I’m diving into how I make money online selling digital products and making videos about our personal finances on my YouTube channel.

    Each month here on the blog I share what I earned from online endeavors like this personal finance blogmy YouTube channel, and my Etsy shop. I like sharing real numbers to inspire myself and others and I value transparency which this report allows me to give you.

    I’ve been slowly building online income over the last two years while working on my blog and YouTube channel part time during my off hours after working a full time job.

    Growing my online income has helped me achieve financial goals like paying off debt faster! It’s been a lot of work in terms of a side hustle but I’ve enjoyed both earning income and helping people by sharing what we’ve done financially.

    Why Share An Online Income Report

    I’m sharing my online income reports as a YouTuber and blogger to show people that it is possible to make money online in a non-sleazy way that helps people.

    Lots of people want to know how much small youtubers make and if you can make money from a small audience online. Fellow YouTubers want to know how I make money with affiliate marketing and digital products not just ad revenue.

    Income reports allow me to share what I’m doing while building my online income so other creators can benefit and it lets me be fully transparent with my audience about how much I am making.

    While I’m not earning a full time income online currently, I am happy to show that I’ve grown my income to hit that original online income goal and I’ve been able to help a lot of people along the way. It’s amazing that we can earn money creating and sharing content online.

    Previous Online Income Reports

    If you’re interested in past income reports, you can see all of them here:

    As you can see from past income reports, my online income in 2019 has been trending much higher than my income last year. The growth is not viral or explosive but it has moved up and is consistently over $1,500 each month.

    I’m consistently earning $1,000 a month now when I was only earning $300-500 last year when I started tracking my online income. That might not seem huge since it’s small numbers but that means I have doubled my monthly online income!

    I like sharing these numbers to show small YouTubers what is possible with a channel that isn’t huge or growing by hundreds of thousands of subscribers in a year. While that would be amazing, it is possible to still earn income as a small channel and blog.

    Seeing these numbers in this format helps me to see the growth I’ve already had and inspires me to keep growing.

    February 2020 Online Income Report

    Here are the main income sources broken down by what I earned for the month of February. I’ve included referral links to each if you want to join too!

    Advertising Income – $778.83

    • YouTube Advertising Channel 1 – $600.35
    • YouTube Advertising Channel 2 – $159.27
    • Adsense & Sponsored – $19.21

    Affiliate Marketing Income – $459.35

    • Amazon – $119.02
    • Awin – $103.33
    • Impact Radius – $237.00
    • Shareasale – $0.00
    • Rakuten – $0.00
    • Capital One – $0.00
    • Robinhood – multiple free stocks

    Product Sales Income – $269.00

    • Etsy Products – $269.00

    Total Income: $1,507.18

    This is the amount earned in February 2020 before any fees, expenses, or taxes.

    That means I don’t keep all of it it and at least 25% will be gone for taxes before it hits my bank account. I also won’t be paid all of it in the month it is earned since each source pays out at different times.

    There are multiple expenses I’m now paying for each month:

    However, I must say with much excitement: I continue to stay above the $1,500 mark in income earned each month!

    This makes me hopeful since the income has been consistent month after month after having bumped up over $1,000 and then $1,500.

    I hit the goal of earning $1,000 in a month from mostly YouTube generated activity which is insane and exciting and worth all the work that has gone into it. I’ve been making videos for over 2 years now and not a single one has gone viral.

    What I Worked On In February 2020

    In January I worked on a few different priorities both growing income sources I already had and creating new ones.

    Made for videos for my YouTube channel.

    I continued to make and post videos weekly. I continued to see higher views and revenue due to lingering interest in financial topics.

    Made affiliate marketing improvements.

    I continued with my implementation of ideas learned from Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course. Some of the older posts and videos I made focused on affiliate marketing are doing well even now, so I’m reaping the benefits of past work.

    Added products to my Etsy shop.

    I continued adding more products to my Etsy shop and increased the amount of higher priced products. Having multiple items listed at $8.50 has increased my overall order amount. It also works well for people purchasing because my printables are priced competitively and much less than many alternatives.

    While I have a clean aesthetic for my budgeting printables and trackers, I also decided to offer colors and fun versions!

    What I’m Working On Next

    So what’s on tap for next month? I’ve got a few things planned:

    Grow the products in my Etsy shop. I plan to create more items and also promote what is already there. I have a big goal of eventually getting to 100 items listed in 2020 so I’m hoping I can continue to add products and grow the amount of listing and sales.

    It’s a huge goal and I have a long way to go but I want to at least add 4 new products in February. I have a list of over a hundred new items I’d like to make, but time considerations make it a little bit hard. Aiming for 1 per week is a good compromise that moves me closer to the goal.

    Create more affiliate focused videos. I made a couple affiliate product focused videos and they did quite well for my channel based on the response and the income. Since I’ve determined I will never recommend things I won’t use myself, I’m happy to do affiliate based videos. I’ve turned down more lucrative offers because they felt sketchy and instead I’m focusing on things I use and love. This strategy might not be the fastest way to wealth, but it feels the best to me.

    After taking Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing I have so many ideas to implement and just need to find the time to do so. I’m planning to create more affiliate focused videos by focusing on single products and being super helpful in the content. I honestly never want to create anything that isn’t helpful to at least one person.

    Popular YouTube videos on my channel:

  • No Spend Month Challenge Tips & Printables

    In many personal finance and debt free communities online you will encounter the idea of doing a no spend month in order to save money more quickly. Many people use no spend month challenges to save money quickly in order to pay off debt or save for a financial goal.

    If you are new to a no spend month challenge and wondering if it might be for you, then keep reading! In this post I’ll cover what a no spend month is, how to set up a no spend month challenge, tips for completing your no spend challenge, and lots of printable options to keep you motivated during your no spend challenge.

    no spend month challenge tips and tricks

    What Is A No Spend Month?

    So what exactly is a no spend month? How do you do it? What are the rules for a no spend month?

    At it’s most basic, a no spend month is simply a challenge to not spend any extra money during a month long period. You cut out all luxuries and extra spending and only allow the most basic expenses during the month.

    This allows you to save a lot of money during a typical month since you won’t be spending like normal.

    Most people have a strong WHY behind doing a no spend challenge. Many people do no spend challenges for great financial reasons like the following:

    • To put more money toward paying off debt
    • To quickly save up to pay for a big upcoming expense
    • To reset your spending habits after a period of overspending
    • To build up an emergency fund
    • To build up a savings buffer to get ahead on expenses so you can live on last month’s income
    • To pay off the mortgage faster with a lump sum payment
    • To finally become debt free entirely

    These are all great reasons people do no spend challenges. You may be doing it for one of these reasons or one completely unique to your situation!

    Setting Up A No Spend Month Challenge

    Once you learn about a no spend challenge and decide to do one, you’ll need to set up your own no spend rules and guidelines for your challenge.

    Depending on where you look online you’ll find different sets of no spend challenge rules. This is because there is not one set of rules and guidelines. The best way to set up a no spend month challenge is to set your own rules, guidelines, and exemptions.

    The only real rules of a no spend challenge are:

    1. Set your own no spend challenge rules.
    2. Follow the rules you set for the entire time.

    That’s it! As you can see from my no spend month setup, I set my own rules regarding our spending.

    For my no spend challenge I decided to leave our grocery budget alone but slashed out eating out money, my personal money, and all extra luxuries. It was as bare bones as I could go without also adding in a grocery challenge/pantry challenge. For us that was a big enough challenge!

    If you are feeling like you have no idea where to start, try one of the following ideas. These are just no spend challenge ideas and you should pick ones that will work for you!

    • Cut all eating out. Plan all of your meals to bring lunch to work and not eat out at all for any meals.
    • Cut out all discretionary spending. If it’s not planned or in your grocery budget, write it down and wait a month.
    • Cut all of your personal spending. If you get any allowance monthly, cut it out entirely.
    • Cut out any entertainment spending. If it’s an event or concert already planned make it an exemption for the month but don’t add anything new.
    • Cut your normal grocery budget in half from what it normally is. Get creative with items you already have an things on sale.
    • Cut your food budget entirely. If you are able to eat out of your pantry and freezer for a month, consider cutting out all food spending. You could make an exemption for a small amount each week for fresh produce.
    • Cut something out in your own budget once you’ve looked through for things that could be eliminated.

    Typical things cut during a no spend challenge:

    • shopping
    • vacations
    • fast food
    • restaurants
    • coffee shops
    • clothing
    • entertainment
    • extra activities

    Typical allowed spending during a no spend challenge:

    • rent or mortgage
    • paying bills
    • contributing to retirement
    • gas for vehicles
    • groceries in a budgeted amount

    These are just a few different ideas and ways other people do their own no spend challenges. As always you have to pick what will work for your family. It should be enough to make a difference in savings and really be felt by the family, but not so extreme that you can’t accomplish it and give up on day 2.

    No Spend Month Tips

    If you are thinking of giving a no spend month a try, you are likely looking for tips on how to achieve a full no spend month.

    Below are my best tips for completing a no spend month. I used many of these myself and found others while researching how to do a no spend month before I started.

    • Take an inventory before you begin the month.
    • Plan your meals. Look into ways to use the items you already have.
    • Find free fun activities in your area.
    • Make a list of free things to do that you can do during your no spend challenge.
    • Get creative in the kitchen with leftovers and pantry items.
    • Play around with ways to increase your income with side hustles without spending money.
    • Tell other people about your no spend month for extra accountability.
    • Learn frugal living habits that help people live well without spending money.
    • Make sure the whole family is on board with the plan and why behind why you are doing a no spend month.

    My No Spend Month Recap

    In January I decided to do my first no spend month challenge. I set my own rules, exemptions, and guidelines based on what I thought would work best for our life that month but also giving up enough to make sure it would save money.

    During my no spend month I realized that despite all the cutting back I’ve done in my regular spending, there was plenty of room for improvement. I found lots of little daily expenses that weren’t expensive but definitely occurred without much thought. I learned several lessons from my no spend challenge.

    1. No spend challenges are very effective. Regardless of whether you like them or not, they work. Not spending on multiple categories though the month helped us save money.
    2. No spend challenges are useful for short term goals. These challenges work best for short term goals to save up money very quickly. I don’t think they are a way of life most people can sustain long term.
    3. Cutting spending is effective but you can only cut so much. You can only cut so much spending out before you are left with nothing else to cut. While spending challenges are effective, they can only be so effective due to the nature of cutting expenses.
    4. I’m happier increasing income than cutting expenses. Due to my personality, I like earning money and creating more than working to minimize expenses. That is why I’m planning to work on increasing income with side hustles more than cutting expenses. I still plan to be mindful of spending but due to my personality I’d rather spend time earning more money.

    No Spend Month Printables

    When I was doing my no spend month during January, I used my free time to create printables that made the process more fun for me. Without shopping or eating out during the no spend month I had a lot of time to get creative and think about how different worksheets and techniques could help me get the most out of a no spend month.

    Printables have been the easiest way for me to get organized in order to accomplish my goals during a challenge like a no spend month.

    When I started the no spend month month I had just the basics – a no spend month tracker with the rules and exemptions and guidelines.

    And I also had a no spend month recap page that would be waiting for me to fill out at the end of the no spend month.

    During the month of my no spend challenge I really thought about the things I was trying to accomplish during my no spend month and how I could create tools to help myself and others achieve it.

    My goals for the month were to cut back on spending of course but to also reset my spending habits. That meant working on finding free things to do and ways to make it more fun.

    I made myself lists of no spend activities, no spend bingo cards to fill out, and lists to make things more fun.

    No Spend Month Challenge Printable PDF - Pennies Not Perfection

    Because I’m very visually motivated and love having encouragement where I can see it, I also made a couple printable wall art sheets with motivational quotes. I printed these and kept them in my office so I’d be motivated to keep going during the month.

    no spend printables free activity ideas

    These printables were very helpful during my no spend month. I’ll admit that not spending for an entire month was more of a challenge than I expected, so having these sheets to keep me motivated and on track really helped.

    I also created a couple printables in order to work on my spending mindset during the month.

    The impulse spending list is designed to let me write down things I wanted to buy on impulse but said no to instead in order to stick to the challenge and not spend money.

    The post spending list allowed me to think through the spending I didn’t miss during the month and the spending I needed to resume once my no spend month was done.

    Free No Spend Month Printables

    You know I love free stuff, so I wanted to also share some of the best free no spend printables out there! All of these printables are ones that I found on various websites online so I’ve linked to each one for your convenience.

    While I went further in my no spend printable bundle and made extra sheets designed around the mental aspect of impulse spending and motivation, there are lots of basic no spend month trackers out there for free!

    Here are some of my favorite free no spend printables that can get you started with your challenge:

    No Spend Month Template from Don’t Pay Full

    No Spend Month Printable from Lively Lotus

    No Spend Printable from Debt and Cupcakes

    There are tons of free no spend printables out there so there is no reason to no jump into a no spend month prepared and ready to go!!

    Whether you use my no spend month printables, free no spend month trackers, make up own, or just skip writing stuff down altogether – it may be worth giving a no spend month challenge a try! You likely won’t know if a no spend month will work for you or not until you try it. Since there is no downside – it’s worth giving it a try!

    Other No Spend Challenge Ideas

    If you are thinking of doing a no spend challenge but aren’t sure which one to do, consider them all! Most no spend challenges differ in the length of time you commit to not spending. Below are the most popular no spend challenge lengths.

    No spend weekend – A quick weekend with no spending is a great way to dip your toes into the process and free up money for a quick small goal. This type of challenge needs the least amount of planning, so it is the easiest to setup and do quickly.

    No spend week – If you’ve committed to a no spend week challenge you will have to change up your daily routine and pay more attention to your choices. It’s more challenging than a weekend and requires a bit more planning.

    No spend paycheck period – For most people this two week period of no spending is the best option to reset some spending habits and force a look at your daily spending habits. Two weeks is long enough to hurt and force you to take a real look at daily habits. This requires more planning but is not too much of a burden. I recommend this period for most people to try and found it the most beneficial personally.

    No spend month – A no spend challenge that lasts for a month requires lifestyle changes and a shift in mindset to overcome spending habits. A no-spend month is a great way to reset spending habits and force you to look more deeply at the what you really need and want out of life. You definitely have to do a lot of planning to fully complete a no spend month. While it requires more work and planning ti also is the best period to show you how you can live on less!

    No spend year – Spending no money on extra things for a year long period is a true test of frugality. A no spend year is a huge commitment and you have to truly cut out lots of spending and habits that encourage spending. A no spend year won’t just adjust your spending habits but it will adjust your entire outlook on life.

    No matter which no spend challenge you decide to do, your spending habits will never be the same!

  • Starting Dividend Investing on Robinhood | Penny Portfolio

    I love watching investing videos on YouTube about dividend stock investing, but I’ve put off doing it myself for almost two years. But no more, dear friends, because I’ve got a goal and taking action toward that goal is more important than fear.

    Dividend Investing on Robinhood

    Why Start Dividend Stock Investing Now?

    I’ve put off investing in dividend stocks for a long time because it’s not a main financial goal for us and I also felt overwhelmed by the concept of research “the best stocks”. I didn’t want to dedicate lots of time to learning and analyzing stocks one by one, but I also knew that dividend stocks could provide a huge income once you have a portfolio of a certain size.

    Because I’ve seen many videos about the power of dividend stocks, I wanted to find a way where I could start small and invest without risking much.

    I like easing in to things that are new to me as I learn about them and get more comfortable. Investing in single stocks is something that I’m not comfortable with since I’ve always been an index fund investor in my retirement accounts. Because of that I’m dipping my toes into stock market investing with a specific goal – building a dividend portfolio that eventually helps provide for my daughter in the future.

    Why Invest In Dividend Stocks?

    So why invest in dividend stocks over other investments? Why not invest in something else?

    I chose building a dividend stock portfolio for this purpose because I want to play with investing in single stocks that build a larger portfolio that provides dividends and growth. Since I only invest in index funds in my regular retirement investments, I want to build an asset that provides either dividend income so I can later use that money for a monthly allowance or something I can sell to pay for my daughter’s education if the 529 plan isn’t enough.

    Another reasons is simply because I needed to take action on something I’ve been interested in doing. I’ve literally been watching dividend investing videos for over a year and a half and talking myself out of doing anything with it. I’ve watched over a year of possible investing opportunities slip out of my hands.

    I could easily tell myself its not the right time because the market is too high or I don’t have extra money for it, but I realized that if I keep doing this it will be another five years later and I still didn’t do anything. I could easily talk myself out of ever investing at all. Too much risk. Too much unknown. Too many other financial goals.

    However, action towards a goal is always better than nothing. Even if it’s a small action, movement toward a goal is better than just thinking about doing something. We all know small consistent actions add up to success.

    Also, I’ve realized that because the WHY behind everything I’m doing here on this channel and blog is FREEDOM, this is yet another way to eventually build freedom. Dividend stock investing eventually leads to an income that is not tied to selling your hours of labor. That income not tied to a job means freedom and that will be amazing for me and for Penny and everyone else in our family.

    Where To Invest In Dividend Stocks

    Once I decided I wanted to finally jump in to investing in single dividend stocks and building a dividend portfolio I had to decide where I wanted to invest. I looked at several options but my Robinhood account I owned years ago – and ignored for literally 3 or 4 years – finally emailed me to say I was open to fractional shares and that made the decision for me: I’m building a dividend stock portfolio inside of Robinhood.

    Fractional shares just means that instead of having to purchase a full stock at the full price – like a $750 investment in one share of Tesla, I could instead invest a smaller amount of money – even just $5 or $10 – and buy a fraction of a share. This ability to buy a fraction of shares opened up many most possibilities for a small beginning dividend stock investor.

    This sounded perfect for how I planned to use the account, so I decided to go for it and buy my first dividend stock inside of my Robinhood portfolio. I realized I also am very comfortable with Robinhood because I watch dozens of investing YouTube channels that all use Robinhood and have portfolios there. 

    How I’m Investing In Dividend Stocks

    My plan for investing in dividend stocks in my “Penny Portfolio” is a little bit different than the normal way most people invest. I will be investing a small amount monthly, but I mostly plan to use this as another impulse spending tool. I plan to fund this account irregularly in a couple different ways.

    First way I will invest in these dividend stocks, whenever I want to impulse buy something my daughter doesn’t need like cute clothes, I will instead invest in her account. She has enough clothes to last til she goes to kindergarten so I don’t need to buy them, I just want to. Instead I plan to buy a stock share with that money and continue to create an asset that will last for decades instead of a piece of clothing she will outgrow in a few months.

    Second way I will invest in dividend stocks is whenever I sell something of hers that is currently not being used I will invest that amount of money. I have a pile of toys that need to be out of my house soon, so when I declutter I will contribute that amount earned into the Penny Portfolio.

    The final way I will invest in dividend stocks in this portfolio, is to contribute $10 a month in our normal budget. As you guys know, I like having small amounts like this in our budget just as a reminder of our bigger goals. While it may not be a focus, those little amounts add up in the background as we are doing other things with the majority of our money. Plus, $10 isn’t much and doesn’t hurt out budget since we’ve cut so many regular expenses and focus on free fun activities!

    Finally, you guys who watch my videos and read my blog will probably help build this portfolio of stocks. I’m going to be including my referral link in the description box for Robinhood. If you sign up, you will get 1 free stock and I will get 1 free stock as well. So if you use my link you will be contributing to the Penny Portfolio and we will all be building this up to provide an amazing future to the cutest kid I know.

    Why I’m Talking About Dividend Stock Investing

    I wanted to share this little dividend stock portfolio project I started in order to let you know why there was a $10 Robinhood line item in our budget for those who were curious.

    February 2020 was the first month for this account and we currently have a balance of $23 all invested in Disney. We invested the money so far in fractional shares of Diseny because I’m going to invest in companies I know, understand, and use.

    This is the perfect time for a reminder that I am not an expert at all and this is just me sharing my personal experience. This is not financial advice, this is just entertainment and me sharing my experience. My stock picks are personal and never a suggestion that you should pick the same. Do your own research!

    So that’s it! I’m excited about complimenting my debt payoff and side hustle strategies with also building assets that will provide income. There are so many ways to achieve financial success and this is just another one of them. I’m dipping my toes in the dividend stock investing world and I couldn’t me more excited about it!