Monthly Archives: February 2015

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How to Hit Your Savings Goal

how to hit your savings goal

Here’s tips on how to hit your savings goal:

I want to talk to you about savings today.  I’ve talked about budgeting.  I talked about using cash to pay for your stuff, but I haven’t shared how to hit your savings goal.  I love savings, I love investments and I love compounding interest.  It’s amazing.  But I’m going to keep it simple today.  I’m only going to talk about your savings account at your local bank.

There are three different types of savings you should have.  Now these can be in the same account or you split them up.  I have 2 savings accounts.

FIRST: emergency fund.  Now there are many different opinions about emergency fund accounts.  My belief is that they should be accessible but not too accessible.  I don’t want to be able to pull cash from the account without giving it too much thought.  But you should be able to get to it when you need it.

TIP: When starting out, make it connected to your checking account.  That way you can easily transfer money into it.  Be sure to be mindful when you’re pulling money out.  

There are many places to have an account.  At your local bank is an option.  Another is at an online bank or through a brokerage account with your investments.

Your end goal is to have at least ONE YEAR’s worth of living expenses saved up.  When you hit the goal then I would recommend talking to your financial planner.  You may want to put the money into an account to earn some extra interest.  If you’re not at that point yet then I would suggest leaving it with your local bank.

how to create an emergency fund

SECOND: start with a small goal.  Make it attainable.  I would recommend starting with $1,000.  That seems to be a popular amount for deductibles.  If you do have an emergency of more than $1,000 then you at least have a sizable  down payment.

THIRD: Set a date to hit your mark.  Look at the budget you created a few weeks ago.  Do you have any extra money each month?  Can you cut back on eating out to free up some money?

Let’s say you can put back $100 a month.  So take your goal ($1,000) and divide by what you can do each month ($100).  That will be how many months it’ll take you to reach your goal (10 months).

creating an emergency fund

FOURTH: Stick to it.  This is the most critical step. You have to commit to it.

Tickets for your favorite band is not an emergency.  The new shoes that just hit the clearance rack are not an emergency.  Your fridge going out is an emergency.  Your husband getting injured and needing to go to urgent care is an emergency.

Be wise with what makes up an emergency.  Keep at least $1,000 in your account at all times.  If you pull from it (for an emergency) then quickly replace it.

It’s important to have financial goals, too.  Financial goals are different than saving for your emergency fund.  These goals can be paying down debt or saving for a home.  While emergency funds are just that – funds for emergencies.  Once you have your debt paid off and reach your other financial goals, or almost reach them, then start increasing your fund.

How to Make a Cash Envelope System

how to make a cash envelope system

Let’s talk about cash envelope systems, shall we?

Last week I shared how to create a budget in 10 minutes or less.  If you haven’t seen it then I recommend reading it first.  I do take all the complicated figuring out of the equation.  Budgeting doesn’t have to be hard or stressful.

If you’re budget wakes you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat then it’s time for a change.

Today I want to share tips on how to switch to the cash envelope system.

You may be thinking debit cards are just like cash.  They are so much more convenient to carry around than cash.  Who has time to go to the bank every few weeks?

But I would have to tell you that you are WRONG.  Debit cards aren’t anything like cash because they are so easy to use.  You see if you want to kick your budget off and knock out debt than cash is the way to go.

Once your cash is gone, it’s gone.  You can’t assume you still have money in your bank account.  Don’t swipe your magic card at the gas station for that bottle of water.  You have to be deliberate with your spending.  You have to plan, save and account for every dollar.

I’m the girl you see digging for change at the register.  When the cashier says my total is 29.16, I’ll find the exact amount.  I do not want to break my last dollar bill.

If you have your budget ready then go ahead and pull it out.  Add up everything you can pay cash with – your gas, groceries, eating out, so on.  Then tally up how many $20s, $10s, $5s you need.

For us we do a budget every 2 weeks.  I get paid every 2 weeks so it just makes sense.  I add up what all we need for each category.  Then I figure out how many $20s, $10s, or $5s  I need.  Once I get that then I head to the bank.  I hand the teller my little sheet so it’s easy for them to follow.  They do not mind. 

I’ve had one teller act a little annoyed with me.  I told her what I was doing and explained I don’t like being in debt.  By the end she was in total agreement and said she should start doing it that way.

cash envelope system

Then I head home or back to the office to divide out my envelopes.  I have these categories:

-groceries
-gas
-eating out
-dog food
-misc.

The misc. is something J and I both get.  Every two weeks I pull out a set aside amount for both of us.  We can spend or save this money anyway we want.  No questions asked.  If I want to save my money and go get my nails done then that’s what I do.  Everything else is pretty self-explanatory.

I’ve seen cash envelope systems where people keep track of their spending.  Almost like a check register, but that didn’t work for me.  I needed easy.  So I purchased this cash budgeting wallet from Etsy.  It’s been great.  I can label each envelope and they all fit into a matching wallet.  Most of the time when I head into a store I just grab this wallet.  I leave my debit card in the car or at home.

Once the envelope is empty then I know I don’t have any more spending in that category.

I also ‘borrow’ from one category sometimes.  Let’s say I’m out shopping at the grocery store.  I didn’t plan too great and need about $20 to cover food for the next week.  I look and see that my dog food budget has about $40 left.  I do a quick check and learn that we have enough food and treats to get by until I get paid again.  So I pull $20 out of the dog envelope and go on my way.  I never borrow from the bank account.  I must borrow from one of my cash categories.

For all other monthly bills I have them setup on auto-draft or I write checks twice a month.  I know where every single dollar is going.  That is why I don’t pull more money from the bank account.  That money is already spoken for.

Whole30 Meal Ideas

I survived my first Whole30.  It was hard, it was rewarding and I will so be doing it again.  I learned a lot about food and my body during those 30 days.  I broke my diet coke habit and my need for chocolate after almost every meal.  Don’t get me wrong, I still plan on indulging from time-to-time.  I will keep it to small, infrequent indulgences.

I put together some meal ideas using some recipes I found or made.  I was pretty new to this whole clean eating thing.  So I thought I could pass along these recipes.  It’s hard to come up with easy dinner ideas when you work full-time.  It doesn’t help either when you have 100+ other things to do.

Whole30 meal ideas

Whole30 meal ideas

Avocado-lime salad dressing without added honey or sugar from merelynne.

Whole30 meal ideas

Grilled tilapia with homemade salsa from merelynne.

Italian Chicken Soup from Your World: Healthy and Natural.

Whole30 meal ideas

Taco chicken with homemade taco seasoning from merelynne.

whole30

Salmon cakes from Our Paleo Life.

Here’s to your #whole30!  May it be as great as my experience and just as hard to get through.

How to Create a Budget in 10 Minutes

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Budgeting isn’t sexy.  It’s not even fun.  But it is necessary.

So many people seem to be afraid of budgets.  They run from them like it’s chasing them with a knife.  But budgets can be your best friend.  If that friend is there to help you succeed, hit your goals and retire comfortably.

Yes, budgets can do all that.

Budgets aren’t complicated either.  In less than 10 minutes you should have a working budget to go off of.  Don’t believe me?  Then give yourself 10 minutes and try me.

Here’s my no fail guide on how to create a budget in 10 minutes.

Step One: Gather your bills.  I’m assuming you know where your bill information is kept.  So, if you can’t find them in less than 10 minutes then that’s not on me.

Grab a pen and paper or use Excel.  I prefer Google Sheets because you can update it and check it from anywhere.

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Step Two: Create a column for monthly bills.  Another column marked for due date.  A third one for the estimated amount due.  Start filling in.

TIP: It’s best to calculate the monthly amount for quarterly or annual bills.  That is how much you should be setting aside every month to cover that bill.  For instance, you real property tax is $822 due by December 31st.  If you are creating your budget in January then you need to take $822 divided by 12 months.  You would get $68.50.  You should be putting back $68.50 a month.  

Now let’s say your tax is still $822 but you’re creating your budget in February.  You will take $822 divided by 11 months to get $74.73.  You should be putting that amount into a savings account each month.

This tip will help those type of bills from creeping up on you.

Once you have your bills entered in then you can move on to the next step.

This section is for your monthly bills and your debt.  So to be sure to list out your credit cards, personal loans, car loans, etc.

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Step Three: Other monthly spending should be accounted for.  I’m talking about groceries, gas money, eating out, savings, retirement, etc. The easiest way to see how much you’re spending is by logging into your bank account.  You can pull a month’s worth of charges and add them up for each category.

TIP:  You need to lower these amounts if you find yourself in the red at the end of every month.  If you’re spending $400 a month for groceries for two people then look at reducing it.  You’ll have to shop smarter.  I recommend keeping your calculator with you while at the store.  

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Step Four: Mark your income.  You need to know about how much you have coming in every month.  Don’t count on bonuses, just put your monthly salary down.

Step Five: Done.  You should now be able to see how much you’re spending each month.  This will also show how much you’re saving and how much you’re bringing in.  If those numbers don’t line up then you need to lower your spending down.  Cut in areas that won’t hurt you.  Stop eating out as much.  Opt for cooking at home.  Cut your cable bill by lightening the channel lineup.

Like I said, budgeting is not sexy, but it’s necessary.  You should always have an idea of how much you’re spending each month.  If not, then you could run into some serious cash flow problems.

 

My #Crossfit Journey

crossfit journey

My Crossfit Journey is never ending.

It’s been over 4 months since I joined my Crossfit gym.  So I thought I’d share a little about my experience.  I wasn’t a newbie when it came to WODs and PRs.  I did Crossfit for almost a year (off and on) while we lived in Springfield.  But I made a promise that this time it wouldn’t be such a hot/cold relationship.  If I was going to commit to spending the money every month then I was going to go.

My goal was 2-3 times a week and work up to 5 times.  I’m not going to lie – 5 times is a lot.  Sure, if you’re used to working out then it wouldn’t be so bad.  I wasn’t that person though.  I was pretty out of shape when I joined.  I started slow with 2 times a week.  I’ve worked my way up.

Some weeks I go all 5 days, others I only go 2 or 3.  That’s okay.  Right now it’s tax season and I’m already working 6 days a week.  There are some days I just want to go home and get my housework done so I can go to bed by 8pm.  Sad, but true.

Crossfit is hard.  Real hard.  But the end is so worth the journey.  I’m stronger than I ever have been.  I have a support team around me that will stand and cheer me on when I’m struggling.  I don’t even have to ask – it’s like they just know.  The moment I want to quit, I look up to find someone standing next to me chanting “you got this! One more!”

I didn’t know a lot of them before joining, but that didn’t stop them from cheering me on.

It’s satisfying when you crush your workout.  When you’re able to lift heavier and last longer.  When I finish a workout faster AND with more weight I feel accomplished.

Yes, my pants are tight on my thighs and lose around my waist.  No, I haven’t hit my goal weight.  And I probably never will.  There are some days I come home reeking of BO so bad J can’t stand to be next to me.

I don’t think I would have adjusted coming home as well as I have without Crossfit.   It gives me a purpose at the end of the work day.  I have somewhere to be and people to cheer on.  If I miss too many days in a row then my Facebook is blowing up.  I feel obligated to show and put in the work.

lifting is my fav

How to Find Your Dream in 10 Minutes

how to find your dream

This post isn’t for the girls (and guys) that skate by in life. This is for the ones that put themselves out there every single day. The ones that want need more out of life. I want talk to the dreamers and the up-all-nighters. The small business owners that have a 8-5 career. The ones that spend more than 40 hours a week on their passions.

Let’s be real for a second, can we? With today’s world things better be quick. We no longer like to wait in line at the coffee shop (did we ever LIKE to wait?). Wait for someone to respond to our text message. Have an email sit out in limbo while someone is out to lunch. We want answers and we want them now. We no longer think it’s acceptable to spend a lifetime working towards a goal only to get there and realize it’s not what we want. We need to be quick, follow our dreams and be willing to shift gears when the time is right.

Over the New Year I shared my goals with you, but I also shared how I would allow myself to change those goals if my priorities change. I think it’s important to allow some wiggle room with yourself. I’m not saying shifting your career every few months to something unrelated. I would never recommend that. I’m realistic and a planner, not crazy.

I do think people need to dream big. You need to reach for the stars then develop a plan to get there. You need to allow yourself a chance to make mistakes, change your direction and set sail again. You need to have a safety net to ensure you and your family will be okay. I also want to throw in about how you’re setting aside for your retirement (… start thinking of the future now!).

If you’re in a job that’s sucking the life out of you then you need to make plans, save your money and dig deep before jumping into the deep end. If you’re ready to make that leap and find out what drives you then keep reading.

I have a little game I like to play with myself sometimes to make sure I’m still on the right path. It takes only 10 minutes and in the end it helps you on how to find your dream.

It’s easy – here’s what you need:

-pen
-paper
-highlighter
– 10 minutes
– your favorite music
– a private space
– 1 giant cookie

Step One – Take 2 minutes to shut your mind down from what you were doing last. Shut down your writing for a minute, close your idea book, turn off the TV and get off Pinterest. Turn your favorite music, band, song on full blast. Let the music start to sway your body. Get up and dance or jump around to the music. Just like the famous one-hit wonder Kriss Kross said “Jump, jump. The Mac Dad will make ya jump, jump. A Daddy Mac will make ya jump, jump. Kris Kross will make ya Jump Jump.” After 2 songs you should be feeling pretty good and relaxed. This is why you want to be in a private space. If your dancing is anything like mine then it’s best to do when you’re all alone and no chance for a video leak.

Step Two – Turn down the music to an acceptable level. Pull out the pen and paper. Let your brain free flow for a about 5 minutes. Write down anything comes to mind. What do you want to do a year from now, 2 years from now? What makes you the happiest? What makes you sad and depressed? Do you want to be by the ocean, big city, or a small town? Try to free flow. If you need more than 5 minutes that’s okay. If you need a break to jam out some more to get your body and mind relaxed, then turn up the volume to 11.

Step Three – take a look at your list. Do you see an overwhelming theme? Grab your highlighter and mark what stands out. Did you write the same sort of thing more than once? Highlight it! This is what you should be doing, this is what will make you happy.

For me, it’s helping others. I dream of working in an office with a team assisting people reach their goals. I like organization, having fun every day and getting free time to travel and be with my family. I want to save animals and help those that can’t help themselves.

That may not sound like it screams what type of job I should be doing from my passions, but it does yell what I need to be avoiding. I don’t want to work by myself at the house, I want to be around people. I don’t want to help a big company that doesn’t see the everyday guy. I want to help families, individuals and small businesses with a hands on approach. I need to be spending time volunteering to help others and strays. This is the guide I need to be following.

Step Four – Eat your cookie and blast that stereo for one more song. Write a comment letting me know what you came up with. What are you passionate about? What’s your dream?

Now the final step is to sit down and create a plan for what this exercise uncovered. Be realistic with yourself. If your goal is to go to every amusement park in America but are afraid of roller coasters then you might need to re-do the exercise. BUT if you’re goal is to write, share your knowledge with others and help like-minded people then by all means write a plan. See how you can bring your talents to others – local, online, blogging, consulting. The Internet is your friend, my dear. Use it to help you get a plan together.

To end today’s post, I’d like to share a historical gem with you.

Don’t forget to share your dream with me!

Whole30 Recipe – Crockpot Italian Chicken

The other day I was really struggling to think of something for dinner.  I had planned out our meals because of Whole30, but sometimes things don’t happen like you plan them.  So here I was standing in my kitchen at 7:45 in the morning knowing that I needed to leave in 5 minutes to get to work on time (yes it takes me less than 10 minutes to get to work – it’s amazing!), I kept thinking that I desperately needed to cook the chicken that was thawed before it went bad.  I looked around and realized I didn’t have much to work with.

I finally just threw some ingredients into the crockpot, set it to low and left for the day.  I kept my fingers crossed all day that it would turn out good and not be wasted like my first attempt at fried chicken was.  That was a bad, bad dinner.

Not only did my Italian Chicken turn out – it was probably one of the best meals I cooked on Whole30.  J gave me his seal of approval with an empty plate.  So that must mean it was good.

whole30 recipe, crockpot recipe, whole30 approved, chicken recipe, clean eating

Here’s what you need for this whole30 recipe – crockpot Italian Chicken:

4 chicken breasts, skinned and boneless
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 white onion cut into chunks
1 cup organic baby carrots
2 Tbsp. Oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder

Put the onion and carrots on the bottom of your slow cooker.  Season both sides of the chicken with the salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and Oregano.  Pour Chicken broth on top until the chicken breasts are covered with the liquid.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours or until chicken is cooked through.

You could serve this with some cauliflower rice or zoodles or eat all by itself.

Enjoy!

Romantic Date Ideas That Don’t Break the Bank

With Valentine’s Day just a few days away I thought now would be a great time to share some romantic date ideas with y’all.  I’ve never been one to make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day.  All I ask is that you just remember.  I don’t need a fancy present, a dozen roses delivered to me at the office, or $100 dinner for you to show how much you care.

I dated a boy for a short time in college and I was clear that I didn’t want a gift or need to be taken to dinner.  In mind it was a waste of money.  But I guess I was too clear because the day came and gone, and I didn’t even get a “Happy Valentine’s Day babe” text, Facebook post, or phone call.  I was livid, but being the logical person I am I realized it wasn’t the poor boy’s fault.  It was mine.  I kept saying “let’s not do anything for that stupid day.  I don’t need a gift… save your money!”

In reality – I wanted the day to be acknowledged.

That boy is way out of the picture and I’ve been trying to be more clear with J.  I still don’t need a gift or nice 5-course meal, but I do want to be told how much you love me and the day to be recognized.

romantic date ideas

Here are 5 awesome date ideas that won’t cost an arm and a leg to impress your significant other:

1) Cook dinner together at home

2) Book a couple’s massage at the local massage school – always cheaper and you can’t tip students here in Missouri – WIN!

3) Rent some Netflix movies and curl up in bed together for a sweet night

4) Serve your other half breakfast in bed

5) Write a note to one another with the top 5 things you love about them

date ideas, valentines date ideas

In my mind, all 5 of these things could be done on Valentine’s Day together and they still wouldn’t cost you that much.  I love being the romantic – let’s spoil each other but not spend too much money because that’s just depressing to spend money on non-necessities.  One day I may be more of the sweep you off your feet, surprise me with a trip of a lifetime type girl, but that’s not me today.

What do you do for Valentine’s Day?

Homemade Salsa {Whole30 Approved}

I love salsa.  The chunky kind that’s really juicy and not too spicy.  I love it with chips, but on Whole30 that’s a no-no.  So I’ve found other ways to get my salsa fix.  Carrots are great and even on top of a potato is another good way, but I have a new favorite way to eat salsa.  … on top of tilapia.  It’s sooo good.

It all started on a day I ran home to make lunch during my break from work.  I had less than an hour and was pretty hungry.  I started the tilapia in the oven, but knew that was not going to be enough.  I scoured the kitchen and found some veggies laying out.  Boom!  The idea hit me.  Salsa.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out.  I kind of thought that it would end up being so bad that I would have to throw it all away and then I’d be starving by the time I went back to work.

I was so wrong.

The homemade salsa was perfect on the tilapia.  Plus it being Whole30 compliant was the icing on the non-existent cake.

homemade salsa, whole30

Homemade Salsa:

1 tomato
1 red onion
1/2 white onion
cilantro
lime juice
yellow bell pepper
orange bell pepper

dice the tomato, red onion, white onion, cilantro, and bell peppers until they are very finely chopped pieces.  Mix in the lime juice.  Let sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow the juices to mingle.

Place on top of your tilapia, potato, carrot sticks, or whatever else you can think of.

What’s one of your favorite ways to eat salsa?

2015 Goal Check-In

January has come and gone, can you believe it? I’m still struggling writing 2015 on everything and now I have to write February too.  Crazy pants!

2015 goals, merelynne

At the beginning of the year I set some pretty high goals for myself.  I think it’s time to do a goal check-in with myself and see if I’m on the right path.  I also talked about in my post back in January that I would allow myself to readjust my goals.  Priorities change and I need to allow myself the flexibility to change my plans.  No more beating myself up over the small stuff.

J and  I have both been making more of an effort to date each other.  We’ve been spending more time actually communicating, which has been great.  I really feel like our relationship has strengthened some this past month.  It doesn’t hurt that he reads this blog and usually knows how I feel… *wink.  Don’t get me wrong we still have struggles and are both pretty stubborn.  But by listening more we are understanding what’s important to one another.

2015 goal check in merelynne.com

Crossfit has become a new addiction.  I’m obsessed.  I hate it while I’m doing it but the moment the WOD is over I’m infinitely thankful for being able to actually complete it.  Seeing myself reach new personal records and lift heavier is amazing.  I have a huge support team with J standing by me and the people I work out with are always willing to push me a little bit more.  It’s awesome.  I just wish I would have been brave enough to try it when I first heard about it back in 2010.  I would be a certified badass then.

I’m still working on slowing down a bit.  I like to say yes to lots of different things.  I shared how I stay on top of it all a while back, which makes being a serial yes-er a little easier.  I have been really trying to be more focused.  I’ve cleaned out closets, organized our home and my thoughts. I know I have more work to do in this area, but thankfully I still have 11 months to go.

I’m also still working on my relationship with God, but let’s be honest that will never be perfect.  I’m human, I make mistakes and I’m growing.  One goal that I would like to see J and I achieve this month is to find a church.  We’re trying to find something that fits both of us.  I was raised Baptist and J was raised Catholic.  So finding something that we both love may be a bit difficult.  But I do know there is a place for us out there.  I just need to open my eyes and my heart.