Over the last month, I’ve become kind of addicted to watching Jordan Page’s YouTube channel and reading her blog, both called Fun Cheap or Free. I’ve followed, attempted, and adjusted many of her methods to fit my life. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve struggled with reducing my debt (hi, million-dollar student loans!), curbing my spending, grocery shopping using only the money I need to spend, and just generally budgeting my entire life CORRECTLY. In conjunction with the Artful Agenda (link will work next Wednesday), I’ve organized juuust about everything in my life. I thought it’d be fun (and hopefully helpful for some of you!) to share my favorite videos, explain what I’ve pulled from them, and how I’ve adopted them to my life.
Groceries / Meal Planning
I want to note before I get into this section that I’m someone who already knows a LOT of grocery shopping tips and hacks. I’ve watched videos before and been like “what? These are real tips people don’t already know?!” so I will say that Jordan Page has some other more basic shopping tip videos if you need those too. The ones I’m linking have some basic things but also include better tips that I’m implementing!
How to meal plan using your fridge
This video is about meal planning using what you already have in your fridge, pantry, and freezer. The whole “you’re doing it backwards” thing in the title card is because most people (myself included…) would browse Pinterest or various recipe websites, pick what sounds good, and buy food accordingly. This method has you inventory alllll of your food and then use what you HAVE to build meals from. It sounds super simple, but who actually does it like this ALL the time?
I always meal plan with the best intentions (and sometimes meal prep too). This is primarily because of Weight Watchers and tracking how I’ll use my daily/weekly points, but it’s helpful for plenty of other reasons too. I used to do it just by expiration date. Anyways, this video was super helpful for me because it inspired me to get going on making the food inventory I’ve been meaning to make. I printed out sheets from her blog but also thought it’d be better if I used an app instead. I’m kind of in the process of inventorying and trying to see which method is better. I think digital will work FOR ME because I do a lot of my meal planning research and grocery shopping list development while I’m at work on my computer. Having the app with all of my food inventory right there makes it easier than trying to look at the sheets of paper kept at home on the fridge.
Grocery shopping tips/stocking up
Jordan has a huge family (currently 6 kids) so it’s no surprise that she needs a lot of groceries. I liked this video because she went through how she spent less than $200 for two weeks of food for her family. It’s a good, light introduction to her methods of shopping, freezing food, and saving money. I believe she also discussed in this video (if not this one, then try one or both of the others here) how much money per person per month you should spend on groceries. The general rule of thumb that you CAN make work is $100 per month per person, but starting at $300. (That just means for me and Chris, we have a $300 budget instead of $200. Her family of now-eight people would be $800ish – not sure if babies count as full-sized humans to budget for!)
I didn’t adapt much from this one except bookmarking a few of her shopping-related tips. This video included her reference to their homemade salsa recipe that they swear by. I knew I needed to read that one and make it ASAP, so check it out! And again, the whole $300 per month budget for groceries kind of boggled my mind at first… but in conjunction with her other stocking, freezing, and shopping tips? It’s genuinely possible. You’ll learn more about grocery budgeting later in this post too!
What you can freeze and how
While her family has a million more freezers than I do, I was definitely curious to learn about all of the things you can freeze. Did you know you can freeze a gallon of milk directly in its bottle? Or how about a whole avocado, just placed in the freezer? Some of the ideas creeped me out a little (like, I’m sorry, freezing milk is blowing my mind too much right now…), but many of them were very helpful.
Again, I didn’t fully buy into freezing all the same things as her because my freezer space is limited and it’s only me and Chris, but it was a very helpful reminder to just freeze things if you won’t eat them right away! Why not cook a few servings of something and then put it away for another day or week? When time is running low, you don’t want to cook dinner from scratch, or you need a lunch ASAP because you forgot to prep them, just pull out your food from there. I was also inspired to just clean out my fridge and freezer and fully reorganize them. I bought a few bins, decided what kinds of foods should go on which shelves, and developed a general method for how to use food before it expires. This video, in conjunction with the other two, make you pretty dang informed for how to shop and organize your food/meals!
I didn’t discover Jordan Page early enough (meaning December 2018) to be included in her “Focused in ’19” challenges, but thought they’d be worth sharing here! I plan to participate, in one way or another / at some point, in these. You can subscribe to receive the monthly calendar with challenges and tasks for each month. Here’s the rundown she came up with:
JANUARY – Focus on Finances: This is a month for getting back on track after Christmas spending. It’s about budgeting, a month-long cash system trial, a week-long spending freeze, and more financial related info.
FEBRUARY – Focus on Relationships: Obviously February has to be love-themed! It’s for being selfless, spending quality time with family and friends, cheap dates, and more.
MARCH – Focus on Fitness – March is about being healthier in various ways: drinking water, taking more steps, planning healthy meals/recipes, and doing easy exercises to get active. (This is March’s challenge because my March, most people fizzle out of their New Years resolutions!)
APRIL – Focus on Organization: Spring cleaning time! April has a 30-day organization challenge in addition to cleaning products, easy organization tips, and printables.
MAY – Simplify: Put it simply, this month is about doing less. It can be a busy time of year for people with graduations and summer approaching, so Jordan made May about simplification. Don’t add anything extra to your plate and learn how to breathe and reflect.
JUNE & JULY – Focus on Summer: Plan out summer activities, learn travel tricks, plan parties, and think about summery recipes. She has this go on for both June and July with a slight twist. July is about focusing on the family elements of summertime, like quality time outside and continuing to tackle bucket lists.
AUGUST – Back to Productivity: Near the end of summer, it’s time to get going again. She includes ideas for tackling to-do lists and setting things up for the “school year” if applicable.
SEPTEMBER – Shelftember: This month is about shopping your fridge, pantry, and freezers… hence the name. I’ve been meaning to do a month like this! She shares recipes and tutorials on how to get creative with food you already have, in order to clear off the shelves a bit. You have a $25/week grocery budget all month (!!!) just to restock fresh stuff. Otherwise, it’s using cans and frozen food!
OCTOBER – Focus on Finances OR Stocktober: Her yearly focus challenge has this earmarked for another month of focusing on financial stuff, specifically because the holidays are approaching! She has new challenges (compared to January) and ideas for freezing spending, saving/earning more money, etc. I also saw that she’s done Stocktober in the past, which is when you make up for losing your grocery stock in September. You can read more about her Stocktober stuff at that link, but the gist is that you divide your weekly grocery budget in half so some goes to normal groceries and the other half goes toward restocking items.
NOVEMBER – Focus on Gratitude: This is another logical one. November is about being thankful for everything, as well as preparing for Thanksgiving. Pretty self-explanatory.
DECEMBER – Focus on Others: Another easy one. December is about giving to other people in honor of the holiday season – giving gifts, random acts of kindness, service to others, having parties, etc.
Scheduling / Productivity
There’s only one video here that I’ve personally watched because I do alright with productivity for the most part… However, Jordan does have a bunch of videos on the topic! I think they’re geared toward moms and making time to get everything done, but most principles can certainly be applied to anyone.
This video is about how Jordan uses a block scheduling system instead of thinking about hourly schedules. By creating bigger chunks of time (2-3 hours per block) and listening the variety of activities that you generally complete or WANT to complete during that timeframe, you can guide your day without getting stressed about what’s next. She has her actual block schedule and then includes a sample for someone who works full time instead of a SAHM like her. You can think of it like a high school schedule where you’d have one class for a full block of time, where you’d be focused exclusively on that subject.
While I do think this method might work better for people with larger families/children, and/or SAHMs, I definitely took a LOT of tips from this. If you’re someone who feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you want to do, I think this method can generally help you decide when you can complete certain tasks. For me, I was able to think hard about what my current daily schedule is like, including my workday tasks M-F, and determine the best time for me to do specific hobbies or chores. Doing a little bit each day or each block can really make a difference. Chris and I also talked about how we want to make the after-work period, including dinner, a time away from screens and completing some chores before we settle in front of the TV for the rest of the night. I also planned to exercise a bit in the morning before work each day. The list goes on!
Budgeting and Debt
This section is arguably where I’ve found the most value. You can look at any of the previous videos and think some or most of the tips are common sense or too basic, perhaps, but these methods below are genuinely working for me. They’re focused on how to budget, pay off debt, save money, and still live your life.
How to budget and get out of debt
The 70% rule that Jordan introduces basically means that you should only be spending 70% of what you earn if you can. The other 30% is split between other categories. For her, that includes 20% to savings (10% to short-term emergency or family savings and the other 10% to “vault” savings that are for extreme emergencies) and 10% as a tithe to her church. She says others may use that 10% for college savings, investments, or anything else.
Jordan’s biggest bomb for me was that you really shouldn’t or can’t worry about saving money when you have “pressing debt,” meaning credit cards. You’re losing money with interest payments and therefore there’s no use in having a major savings account if you’re wasting money on that kind of debt. She says to get $1,000 into savings and then focus on your debt. I really needed to hear that because I’m constantly worried about saving money and realistically it’s more important for me to pay down my credit cards. If something crazy happened to me, I’m blessed to have a boyfriend and family that would help and support me as needed. Anyways, to each their own on THAT point. Otherwise, it was an awakening to go into my personal accounts and see what my take-home pay is, develop a budget that only uses 70% of it for actual spending, and figure out how to allocate my savings from there.
Using seven bank accounts
I won’t get into all seven of these accounts probably because they don’t apply to me quite the same (given that my “family” is just me and my boyfriend), but you can watch the video below or read about them all here on her blog. Jordan explains why it makes sense to spread your money between different bank accounts to better allocate your money and budget better from there.
I actually am already ahead of the game here because I have a million bank accounts?? I have my standard Bank of America accounts I’ve always had, including a checking account (with debit card), a “bills” checking account that I’m currently not using properly (no debit card), savings account, and HSA. I also have separate checking and savings accounts at a credit union because I auto-pay my car loan from there as well as my MAJOR bills (student loan and car insurance). My goal is to get all of those on auto-pay. I have a joint checking with Chris at another bank. Because of this video, I went through and wrote down all of my current accounts and credit cards to decide what I’d use for which elements of my budget and bills. It was SO helpful to allocate everything and give it a purpose. For example, because I don’t have a debit card or even ATM card for my credit union accounts, those are perfect for auto-paying bills, direct depositing money right into them, and using the savings as my vault savings (eventually when debt is paid). My joint account with Chris is specifically where our money goes for rent and various utilities, sometimes including groceries. We need to reopen a savings account together because we need a “family savings,” IMO, for trips and fun stuff to do as a couple. Those are just a few examples of how I’ve adapted this particular video and the 70% rule to my own bank accounts!
Easiest envelope budget
And finally, my favorite video and method of all! Jordan describes the easiest cash envelope budget system ever. Many people became familiar with this method from Dave Ramsay but Jordan Page found a way to revolutionize it and supeeeer simplify it! I do think you should watch this video fully to understand it all, but the gist is this: you have one envelope per month with the correct amount of cash you need. (I used her printables on envelopes!) You write down your weekly budget for each of the two categories – Groceries and Other – and record/use your cash accordingly. You can borrow across within the week, but never down. That means, for example, you can spend $20 more on groceries in a week but that means you have to spend $20 less from your “other” category. I’ll let you watch the video for more and explain my personal adaptation below.
Alright, this is the longer adaptation so it made sense to keep it at the end of my post! I’ve had issues in the past with just about any budgeting method or website out there. If I have a million categories to worry about each month, I just get stressed when one of them goes over a little bit. I always struggled with getting those automated budgeting sites like Mint, YNAB, or EveryDollar to work for me. I LOVE the idea of just auto-paying my easy/straightforward bills and not really including them in my budget, so to speak. I just have TWO categories to think about and not overspend on.
So, bank to the adaptation. Like I said, I used her printables to get the dates and boxes on the envelopes. However, I decided to use a different method for the actual cash system. Here are my steps:
1. Figured out how much my Grocery and Other budgets should be.
I decided I wanted to take $200 cash out for each week. This would leave some money in my checking account (the one attached to my debit card) for the auto-payments of small bills like Weight Watchers, Dropbox, Patreon, etc. without overdrafting. Based on the $300/month grocery budget, my grocery budget should be $75 per week. That left $125 for my Other category. This is really a catch-all to buy the various things you’d need to purchase in a week, like going to a restaurant, seeing a movie, any kind of entertainment, buying household decor items… you name it. As I mentioned, any of the digital bills or auto-payments I make each month are not included in my cash-related budget.
2. Adjusted what the categories/definitions of Grocery and Other mean to ME.
Jordan includes things like makeup and health/beauty items in her grocery budget but that’s impossible for me. I like to buy a lot of makeup, skincare, etc. and I literally wouldn’t be able to buy groceries on a week where I need to buy a new tube of my favorite face primer! Sue me. So, I determined my Other section (since it’s ONLY for ME, not for me AND Chris) would include makeup as well as everything else previously discussed.
3. Keep the envelope in my purse for tracking/surplus, but use my wallet to store the cash for that week.
I have a wallet with two slots for bills/cash, separated by my coin purse. This means I could use one slot for Grocery money and the other slot for my Other money. I personally didn’t like the idea of whipping an envelope out and using it at the store, so this made more sense. Then, at the end of the week, I would remove any extra money from the wallet and place it in the envelope. Any excess or surplus of funds does NOT get to get used in the next week – it gets either saved or put toward debt at the end of the month. I personally will just deposit that money into my checking account and move that exact dollar amount over to either a savings account or credit card payment depending on my life at that moment.
4. Move cash out of commission when I buy something online.
The only issue with a cash-only system is that it becomes harder and less clear on how to buy things online. I use Amazon for various purchases throughout the month, as well as countless other websites, so I knew I needed a plan for that. I basically will just remove the cash from my wallet when I spend the equivalent amount online, hide it elsewhere in my purse, and then re-deposit it into my account at some point after the purchase is made. Or, depending on the timing within the week, I might just use it in the following week instead of taking out the full $200 from my checking account to split… if that makes sense.
5. Be flexible and use the envelope system in harmony with other bank accounts/cards.
I’ve had a few good ideas come into play over time that I’m experimenting with too. For example, I have a PayPal credit card with a low limit on it that I thought would make sense to use for online purchases exclusively. Then, I’d be able to track my purchases, collect cash back from using that card, and just monitor the spending on it throughout the month, making sure I don’t mess up my $125 weekly Other budget. I’d pay that credit card off in full using the cash I had taken out. One of the major lessons between this video and the “seven bank accounts” video is to set up consistent bills on auto-pay. I was fortunate to hit a good few months of commission recently so I was able to fill up each of my accounts and make sure there’s always a surplus, so I don’t ever have to worry about overdrafting them.