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Thirty-Two Dollars and 50 Cents


Did you set a budget for yourself this year? I was a crazy man last year, trying to pay off debts and earn extra money – I did well, but did not technically set a budget for myself. I just spent very little money, and even ignored buying the essentials, like furniture for my living room or bedroom. For much of the year, I slept on a mattress on the floor and relaxed by sitting on a dining room chair. It was not super fun, but I did pay off over $25,000 of my debts and was able to save a considerable amount of money in entering this new year.

This year, however, I have a new goal. To pay off my home mortgage. Instead of just buying absolutely nothing for myself, I decided to create a formal budget that would allow me to have some fun as well as hit my monthly and yearly goals. And this is where the thirty-two dollars and 50 cents comes into play.

Today is the 12th of January, and I am already over budget in some categories. It really isn’t my fault – there were a couple of bills that were left over from my tonsil removal in November that I forgot about. But, when I overspend in one category, that means that I should attempt to scale back in another category, right? So I started to think about how I could make extra money rather quickly, which got me thinking about my childhood days. 🙂

Pop Bottles and Change

When my sister and I were little, we didn’t get an allowance. If we wanted something and could not convince our parents to give us money to buy it, we had to figure out how to earn some money on our own. Before we were old enough to work, we “earned” money two ways. First, we hunted for pop bottles (in garbage cans, along the road – you name it, we looked there). And second, we looked for change (in the sofa, under the furniture, and in vending machines and pay phones).

While I didn’t necessarily want to look for pop bottles and change at the nearby ice cream shop like I used to, this did give me an idea of what lay in my own house. I don’t drink pop or beer, so I have very few bottles accumulating in my house, but I did remember that I had a bunch of bottles in the basement from when I first bought my house and fixed it up – since I provided drinks for those that would help me. I could finally take those bottles in for some extra change. And, I used to fill a jar with coins every time I made a purchase, but hadn’t done that in a while. I still had all the loose change though. I could count that and deposit it to improve my bank account a bit.

Well, the pop bottles netted me $5.00 and my loose change added another $27.50. Not too shabby for a half an hour of work. While it didn’t necessarily make up the difference in my budget, it will allow me to spend less in my grocery or gas portion of the budget, and will ultimately get me closer to my goal.

Do you have ways that you can improve your financial standing today? Pop bottles and change maybe?


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My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Thanks Derek for the inclusion. I set a budget from month to month but not for the entire year!

    • Do you have goals for more than a month? If yes, then wouldn’t you budget for more than a month as well?

  2. For budgeting software, I can’t recommend You Need A Budget [YNAB] enough. It has paid for itself many times over for me. Sometimes just the AWARENESS of what you spend is a powerful motivator, even if you’re not using it to truly budget.

    • Yes. Once you actually realize what is spent where, then you have the power to change and save! Thanks for the tip on the software package. I’m sure that will help many of my readers in their quest for a good budget program.

  3. Derek,
    You GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so damn jealous ’cause I just know you’re going to get your mortgage paid off sooner than I am. Good for you! I want to know the VERY nano-second that baby is paid off. I will personally toast you here in Colorado. I’m very excited for you and if you EVER feel like waivering, email me – been there, done that, overcame it (the waivering part, not the I paid off my mortgage part). I will not let you fall short of your dream. Tic toc – you’re gonna be there before you know it – yeah for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks for the encouragement Jim! I will definitely take you up on your offer if I am about to waiver. It is good to have an accountability partner, especially for something as extreme as this!

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