Budgeting: Your financial snapshot

budgeting

Budget – It’s not a bad word, but rather your new best friend helping you meeting meet your financial goals.

The idea of budgeting or “being on a budget” can have many different meanings. Some see it as cheap or a restriction, but I want you to change your mindset and see it as giving yourself permission to spend money you’ve earned.

In my opinion, God is my provider. He has provided me with everything I have or will ever need. I’m thankful for the way He has provided for my family to earn an income and I want to be a good steward of the things I’ve been given. So, think of money and budgeting as a no-brainer. It is the only way to financial freedom and success.

Where do I start? – Write a Budget

Start with pen and paper. Write your expected monthly income and your expected monthly expenses. Some categories that may be more difficult to estimate on a weekly or monthly basis. For us these categories were groceries, going out to eat and gasoline. Give yourself grace on determining these estimates, they will work themselves out during the next few months.

Make sure ever dollar has a place. You’ll want a zero-based budget. Any money left over after your monthly expenses are lined out needs to be put somewhere. My suggestion would be to put it into savings for a few months while you adjust to your new budget. Later on you can explore using excess to pay down debt quicker.

I’ve written a budget, now what? – Track your Expenses

Make sure you control your money and your money doesn’t control you. Remember all those categories you lined out for monthly expenses? Keep track of your transactions. There are several different ways to do this.

  1. Use Cash: If you budget $350 for food for the month, pull out the money either at the beginning of the month, weekly or by pay period. Once the cash is spent, you’re out of money for that category.
  2. Keep Receipts: Receipts are a great way to track your spending down to the item. These are also helpful in determining ways you could cut or increase your budget for future months.
  3. Written or Electronic Tracking: If taking cash out isn’t feasible, you could always input your receipts in a notebook, Excel spreadsheet or a budgeting software. I recommend using everydollar.com by Dave Ramsey Solutions. It’s helped us keep track of our expenses this past year and we love it.

End of the month and… ?  – Evaluate and Repeat

Did your expenses and your income meet your expectations? If not, how can you tweak next months plan. Again, give yourself grace. It will take a few months to determine how much should be in each category and without fail, there will be an unexpected or forgotten expense pop up. My suggestion would be to save any extra money left at the end of the month for a few months. When you feel like you have your categories ironed out, then you now have a nice nest egg for rainy days and can start paying off debt with extra money.

Happy Budgeting!

signature

Money March

money-march

March is green in my opinion.

I associate colors with months and March has always been green. I thought this would be a great opportunity to kickstart a money series I’ve been wanting to do for a while. So gear up for Money March where I’ll give you a preview of some systems we have in place for our finances as well as some tools you can use to get control of your money.

Have you ever stopped to think about where your money is going? The average household family ages 25-34 bring in approximately $54,243. That’s a lot of money, then why do many also feel like they are living paycheck to paycheck?

In this series, you can expect tips and tricks on:

  • Budgeting
  • Frugal Living
  • Contentment
  • Financial Freedom

To the family who lost a job this holiday season

holiday-job-lossDear family who lost a job this holiday season,

I know your pain. My family has experienced job loss during the holiday season twice. Realize in this time of your life, God has a plan. For us it made us realize how thankful we were for the things we’ve been given. Finding a new job is difficult during the holidays. A lot of employers are waiting until after the first of the year to make decisions, but believe me you will gain so much during this time and your new journey is right around the corner.

Tips for the unemployed season of life:

  1. Be a good steward of all things: A lot of people see stewardship as just a money subject. Being a good steward just means to wisely take care of things you’ve been given. This counts for money, time, and even material possessions. Be sure to take care of items. Find ways to reduce your waste by upcycling. Believe me a piece of tin foil can go a long way.
  2. Get on a budget: If you aren’t already on a financial budget, now is the best time to do so. I follow Dave Ramsey’s plan. You’d be surprised how far one income and/or an unemployment check can go. Make sure to set aside whatever you can for an emergency funds and times like this. Even if it’s $5 a month it’s helpful.
  3. Meal Plan: One way to be cautious of your spending is to plan meals at home. Buy ingredients on sale and eat as cheaply as possibly within  your dietary needs. Drink lots of water and avoid costly drinks. Couponing is great, but not necessary. Just have a plan, make a list and stick to it! Be sure to look at your calendar, there are a lot of holiday dinners with family and friends that you won’t have to plan full meals for. Volunteer to bring yummy, inexpensive sides like deviled eggs or mashed potatoes.
  4. Be thankful: While this may be a trying season of your life, it is also a time to be thankful and to reflect on those things that are constant, like faith, family and friends. When you’re not busy applying for jobs and landing interviews, give a loved one a call and talk with them. The best gift you can give is your time and that’s free.

signature

Community Conversation:
What are some tips you have for those who are unemployed during the holiday season? What helped you in this time of your life? Leave a comment below.

 

 

When life hands you squash, make a smoothie

butternut-squash-smoothie(recipe video link at the bottom)

I know… squash and lemons don’t compare, but I feel I’ve been conditioned that lemons and lemonade go together. But squash?

Last week, I saw butternut squash on sale for $.99. Not per pound, but per squash. Knowing this was a good deal, I picked it up. I decided to cook it on Sunday. Roasted in the oven and the house smelled wonderful. I took it out, let it cool, and began to shred the inside. It wouldn’t shred and then I realized… butternut squash is not the same as spaghetti squash.

I thought I had purchased spaghetti squash. They look similar and I already had the taste in my mouth of spaghetti squashed sautéed in butter and garlic. But what I got was a pile of mushy squash, that tasted a lot like sweet potatoes. I improvised and tried to make them into a mashed potato to accompany my grilled chicken, but it still lacked luster.

The next day as I was watching one of my favorite YouTube cooking channels, The Domestic Geek, I stumbled upon a recipe for a butternut squash smoothie. Now, a smoothie sounded like a great place for this sweet squash. Since this is a veggie, it made for a more well-balanced smoothie nutritionally (which is something I’ve been tried to work into my breakfast menu).

On the way to work as I was sipping my butternut squash smoothie I was thinking how this situation was just like God. Life hands us big awkward things like squash and we are like, “What am I supposed to do with this, God?” Then in time He shows us what we thought was an mountain was exactly what we needed and if we just wait on Him and trust, He will show us what the sweet balance that a squash can bring.

Now, who’s ready to open a butternut squash smoothie stand with me?

Butternut Squash Smoothie Recipe (courtesy of Jamie Oliver)

signature

State Fair Fun & Disney on Ice

showThe Oklahoma State fair has become a fall tradition in our family since my husband and I married in 2008. We always go at least one time and of course go to try out the food!

This year was a different. This is the first year our toddler was old enough to enjoy more than just the lights, so we did something special and we took her to see her favorite Frozen princesses at Disney on Ice.

While I was excited to take her, I was a bit skeptical. Events like these can cost a lot financially if you don’t have a plan. A vlogger I follow shared how she pull out all the stops on a budget during their trips to Walt Disney World. I decided to apply these principles to Disney on Ice and it worked! My daughter is two years old, but I’m pretty certain these principles could be applied to children of any age.

Have a Plan
The most important tip would be to have a plan in place before you go to events that you know will be tempting. This is a great opportunity to teach your child and yourself about being grateful. Most of the time, the experience and memories are far more enjoyable than the souvenir you purchased. I’m not saying you shouldn’t purchase anything while you are there or be over cautious, but following a few simple tips will help you stick to budget and enjoy your time.

Get into character:
The show this year was based off the story of Frozen and my daughter loves Princess Anna. We already own an Anna costume, so we went all out and had did Anna shoes and Anna hair. This made her feel special and she was excited about the show. It also saved us some money in purchasing T-shirts. We even had themed pjs to wear on the way home!

duckie

Toys & Souvenirs:
Now, I’ve been to a few children’s events. No magical event is complete without a light up toy, but those things can cost upwards of $20 on top of the $40/per person you already paid to get in the show. Good news for us, our daughter already owns a Frozen light up toy. So we just spent $6 in getting new batteries. Her toy even sings! So any time she asked to buy one we told her she already had a special toy that no one else had. She really enjoyed having something exclusive. It’s not that we

Event Food:
We usually go the fair just for the food, who doesn’t? So we planned to spend money on eating and we did buy something in the arena. We let our daughter choose one themed treat to buy at the show, but we lucked out when her aunt decided to buy it instead. Thanks Tia! Prior to the show I took our daughter to the grocery story to pick out some special Frozen snacks. She opted for Doc McStuffins and Dinosaurs instead, but at least she was happy. We also made sure we had our Frozen themed water bottle full of water before we headed to the fair as well.

6 ways you know you’re pregnant… again

The Big News is out. We are expecting our second child in April 2016 (Happy Birthday to us!) I joke that in 2014 I got gallbladder removal surgery for my birthday and in 2016 I’ll have a baby for my present! One thing I’ve learned, is there are some tried and true ways I knew I was pregnant the second time around.

6-ways-pregnant-header

1. Extreme Fatigue: We aren’t talking I can barely keep my eyes open through out the day. I’m talking full-on I can go from 100 to 0 in a second flat I can’t function style. “What was that you said, hun?…. Zzzzz”

2. Ravishing Hunger: Now let’s just say I understand when you are pregnant, you don’t need to literally eat for two, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do. Thanks to the increase of estrogen and progestogen I have experienced extreme hunger this time around. It has leveled off a bit here at the nine-week mark. There for a while, after a meal I still felt like I hadn’t eaten at all and that was even after waiting the 20 mins for digestion and drinking water.

3. Full Bladder: May be a little TMI for some, but I know my pregnant sisters understand. I could not drink anything two hours before bed and use the restroom before I lay down and wake up at 3 a.m. like I’ve not peed all week. Then wake up to use the restroom at 3:30, 4:00, 4:30, etc. (You get my drift).

4. Wide awake at 4 a.m. (and multiple times a night): I use a Garmin Vivofit to track my steps during the day and sleep cycles at night. Since I’ve been pregnant my sleep cycle is consistently deep sleep for 45 min and restless sleep for about another 45. But yet I still feel wide awake 4 a.m. Now, if I could only get out of my comfy bed and get stuff done instead of falling back asleep.

5. No more tummy tuck: No, I don’t have a tummy tuck, but I my momma taught me to try my best to stand up straight and tuck my stomach in for good posture. But even at four weeks in it was like I had lost all control of my stomach muscles and hormonal bloating doesn’t help much either.

6. Morning Sickness: Now, I debated about adding this one. But this time around morning sickness has got me. I have only vomited once but I’m queasy almost every day. I don’t remember it being like this with my first child. I know I have it easy compared to some, but I’m ready for this stage to be over. Not fun when you are hungry but can’t eat because everything makes you feel sick.

Only four more weeks until the second trimester. Woohoo!

signature

Community Conversation:
I wrote this article to be a light-hearted way of sharing common pregnancy symptoms. I hope you enjoyed it. What are some things that were rather “annoying” for you during your or your spouses pregnancy? I’d love to here your stories in the comment section below.

How to clean up your Facebook

how-to-clean-up-facebook

Unfriend them or get off Facebook?

I’m sure this question has popped into your mind. What about the lingering question of how much time you spend on Facebook or any other social media? You are not alone. In the second quarter of 2015 it is estimated there are 1.49 billion Facebook users. I’ve been a Facebook user since 2006 in it’s beginning stages and have found it to be useful. I have also found it to be a breeding ground for confusion, hate, gossip, and overall miscommunication. So here are some tips on how I keep my Facebook feed clean and positive.


“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”    

-Phillipians 4:8


1. Take Facebook of your mobile devices and set time limits
I know this isn’t what you were expecting but in order to guard heart and mind, it’s often best to just get off all together. However, if you choose to stay on any kind of social media it’s wise to set limits and avoid wasting time. My husband and I recently deleted it from our mobile devices and only access Facebook on our computer. Also, if we are out and need to show someone something quick, we’ll download the app and then delete it when we are done. There is a world out there that is waiting for you to enjoy. What are you waiting for?

2. Go through your friends, pages, and groups
Now on to how to clean Facebook once you’re on it. Go through all your friends and decide who you want to keep. You might not even know some people on this list. Make sure to keep only those people you would friend offline. Chances are if they kept company offline like they do on Facebook, some people are off my list. Anyone who doesn’t line up with your values is gone. If you can’t make commitment to unfriend someone, then Facebook gives you an option to hide their posts. I know some people get really defensive when you unfriend them on Facebook. If this happens, then talk to them about your choice and let them know that doesn’t affect your offline relationship. In the end, let them deal with it.

The same goes with pages you like and groups you are in. Whittle them down until you only have what you are truly interested in show up on your profile. Moving forward, have strict guidelines of who you will friend.

3. Facebook’s News Feed is Intuitive – You have control
Ever wondered why you haven’t seen a friend’s post in a while and you know they haven’t unfriended you? But instead of that you keep seeing a bunch of junk? Well I hate to say it but what comes in really goes out. Facebook’s news feed is set up to show you more of things you like. Read a random article about 25 childhood celebrities, then you are going to start getting more things on your feed from that. If you like a lot of Susy Q’s posts then you are going to see more of her posts.

The hide feature is an amazing tool! Remember those friends you are on the fence about deleting? Just hide their posts. You can still remain “friends” but you won’t see their posts. You’ll need to actively seek their page to see what they’ve been up to. If a good friend keeps posting articles from sites you don’t like, you can hide all articles from that website by clicking on the carrot tool on the post and hide all posts from this website. The moral of the store is junk in, junk out.

4. Reevaluate your Facebook Profile information
Whether on desktop or mobile, your feed can customize based off of web searched or sites you’ve been looking at in the form of Sponsored Ads. Advertisers can pinpoint you for ads based on Facebook profile information. They can choose women in a certain state, ages 25-40 with children, who like to sew. It can get pretty specific. If marking the post as irrelevant to you doesn’t work then try updating your profile information.

5. Act online as you would offline
This goes for any thing you put online or even in text. Sometimes we hide behind screens and give our opinions without thinking of the repercussions they may have. As the scripture says, do unto others as you would want done unto you. Just as in our offline lives be sure to keep good company and be around those who encourage you and have a positive influence in your life and help you be the type of person you want to be.

signature

Mini Food Journey| Gluten-Free for Two Weeks

mf-gluten-free

I’ve finally started doing biweekly menu planning again. In order to curb cost I try to stick to similar meals and theme nights like “Taco Tuesday” or “Crockpot Wednesday.”

In keeping with my philosophy of eating as healthy as you can with the budget you have, I’ve begun planning what I call my “Mini Food Journeys.” I want to share these journeys with you.

The First Mini Food Journey: Gluten-Free

No one in my family has a gluten allergy or intolerance. I just decided I would try this one out to see what it was like to eat gluten-free for two weeks based off a discussion with a coworker. She had been feeling very tired and aching and her doctor had her start eliminating food groups to see if it was food related (Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on the Internet). For her body she feels much better sans caffiene and gluten. So I text my hubby and he said “Let’s go for it!”

The Meal Plan

Here is how I planned this Mini Food Journey on paper and how I purchased my ingredients. I had read if you are going gluten-free, it’s best to avoid products claiming to be “gluten-free.” This is where all lot of breads and pastas come into play. So we focused more on meats, vegetables and dairy. You’ll see a few sprinkled in “g-free” products. This was my plan, but not all the meals got eaten and some we ended up having twice.

(I’ve hyperlinked a few recipes I found online. All others are my own. Please LEAVE A COMMENT below if you’d like to see some of my recipes)

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

Breakfast:

  • Egg Bake
  • Chex Cereal and Milk
  • Berries and Smoothies

Lunch:

  • Leftovers or sandwich (sans bread) and veggies

WEEK 1 DINNERS:

  • Chili
  • Tostadas (Refried Beans, Tomatoes, Onions, Lettuce, Sour Cream, & Salsa)
  • Ground Turkey & Sweet Potato Skillet (Family loved this one. We’ll do it again)
  • White Chicken Chili (Still haven’t tried this one)
  • Sloppy Joes w/ Carrot Sticks (This is my favorite whole food sloppy joe recipe. I ate mine on top of lettuce)
  • Fathers Day: We ate at Red Robin and I had a burger on gluten-free bun

WEEK 2:

  • Salmon Patties (My grandma used to make these with Mackerel. Love them) & Black Bean Salad
  • Ground Beef Tacos (corn tortilla, salsa, cilantro, onions and lime)
  • Beans & Gluten-Free Cornbread
  • Chicken, Rice & Broccoli Casserole (Didn’t eat this one)
  • Veggie Noodles & Garlic Shrimp (Didn’t eat this one because I couldn’t find shrimp at the store)
  • Date Night at Cracker Barrel (Had a grilled chicken salad)

The Takeaway

During the process I didn’t feel much different. I’ve begun to notice which foods make me feel uncomfortable. However I this was our menu plan a few weeks ago and the week after we completed it I let my self eat more bread and noticed slightly more bloating. It really wasn’t that difficult to eat gluten-free. I think I focused more on eating less carbs in the form of bread and that is what made me feel better.

At least twice during this two-week food journey I did eat a sandwich with wheat bread like I normally wood. I noticed slight bloating after eating that. At the end of the two weeks I had lost two pounds. The point was not to loose weight but to see if I would feel better, which I did. I contribute my feeling better to my decrease in carbs and my moderation of eating until I was satisfied and not full.

Moving forward this has confirmed I need to continue to cut back on bread as that is what bloated me the most. This is definitely a way of eating I’ll try again sometime and I encourage you to try as well.

signature

21 Email Automation Stats to Know, Love, and Quote at the Dinner Table {via Emma.com}

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.42.47 AM
 Mom is the role most of you see me as on the blog. But most of my week days I’m “working mom” and have the title of Electronic Communications Developer, aka I am responsible for electronic communication for my company. Email communication is a big thing that I do and I spend most of my day deep in coding these and making sure we are reaching prospects at the right time with the right message.

Emma is a email marketing provider that allows people to create email lists and send to those lists with HTML (graphic designed) emails. You know the ones with pretty pictures and such😉

In this article they talk about have 21 Email Automation Stats to Know, Love, and Quote at the Dinner Table. I love the info graphic and lots of valuable information. If you are into this kind of stuff like I am, it’a a must read. Enjoy!

signature

100 Days of Real Food Cookbook {Review}

(This post contains affiliate links.)

book-review-100-days-of-real-food

My apologies to the person who had this book on hold at my local library last fall. I was in love with it so much I had to keep it a little longer. Don’t you just love that you can try out books before you buy them by using your local library? I know our family does.

I’ve been following Lisa Leake for about a year at a 100daysofrealfood.com and I love how she makes cooking with real food simple. This book was my Christmas present from my husband and we ordered it from Amazon. This will be my first book review and I hope for many more to come. Bon Appetite!

Book: 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook (You can buy the Hardcover or Kindle version here)

Overall Impression:

I love the organization of this book. Lisa is known for her real food school lunches and she has an entire section dedicated to this and even a section on her website about it as well. I pack lunch for my toddler almost every day and I love these ideas.

I feared a real food cookbook would have me purchasing a lot of different foods I wasn’t used to. Lisa takes a different approach. Most of her recipes call for similar ingredients in regard to spices or bases like chicken broth. So with a little bit of planning I can reuse ingredients without them spoiling because I just need them for one recipe. If I only need whipping cream for one dinner then I can use the rest to make real ice cream. It’s an all-around win.

Last I love how each recipe is organized with an beginner, intermediate, or advanced level-based system. Recipes are scored based on amount of prep work, cooking processes and time needed. It’s all spelled out for me. I hate nothing more than doing starting to prepare dinner and only to realize I don’t actually have enough time to make the dinner I want. We are all busy and as a working mom when I get home I want nothing more than to get dinner on the table as fast as I can.

Favorite Recipes:

Most of her cookbook recipes are not available on her site, but I’ve hyperlinked a few of our favorites that are on the site.

Tomato Bisque
Berry Sauce
Maple Mocha
Vegetable Pancakes

100daysofrealfood.com - Berry Sauce 100daysofrealfood.com - Tomato Bisque 100daysofrealfood.com - Vegetable Pancakes

What Could Be Better?
Honestly, I’m not much of a cookbook kind of person. I prefer to do an everything stir-fry. Throw it together and hope for the best. I love that Lisa gives me grace through out the book and doesn’t pressure readers to change the way I purchase ingredients like some real foodies. She understands it is a process. Here childhood is much like many Americans in the convenience food generation. (read some of her story) She aims to make real food convenient. She also does not list all ingredients out as organic. She purchases organic but encourages readers to buy organic if feasible.

I would say if you are still working on portion control or like to take leftovers for lunch, double the recipes. It’s hit or miss at our house. Sometimes the recipes yield just enough for one meal. She has a family of four and most recipes work off this number in terms of servings.

Final Takeaway:

100DaysOfRealFoof_book_cover_NYT_best_seller_number_1_521x590I encourage you to look at Lisa’s blog 100daysofrealfood.com for tips for eliminating process food from your diet. I also highly recommend to check out the book from your local library or buy it here on Amazon.

signature