Monthly Archives: May 2015

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25 Week Christmas Savings Plan

25 week Christmas savings plan

 

Did you know Christmas is less than 8 months away?!

I know, I know.  It’s crazy to start thinking about Christmas already.  I mean, how early are stores putting out their decorations now?  It may almost be June, but I’m sure we’re going to start seeing decorations soon! HA!

I’m a planner.  I think everyone should be planners because it would just help everything run more efficiently.  Okay, I’m not that much of a control freak that I think everyone should be just like me.  BUT I do think we should plan ahead somewhat.

Every year Christmas sneaks up on me and I’m never ready.  I never know what to get at least one person in my family until the week before (if not a few days before).  I also never seem to have enough money to go around.  I’m frugal by nature.  I like using my cash envelope system so I don’t overspend and I love coupons so I can get more bang for my buck.  Also, make sure you’re using money saving apps to get rewards points and money back for your purchases.  With that being said, I figured this year I would get off on the right foot.  Yes, that foot is months early, but it’s never too early to be prepared.

I created a 25 week Christmas savings plan to help keep us on track for the holidays.  It’s pretty easy to follow.  Starting Monday until the week of Thanksgiving we’re going to put aside $40.  That $40 will add up to $1,000.  Just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales!  I like to do most of my shopping online on Cyber Monday.  Now I will have money saved up and all I have to do is decide what color sweater to get my Mom.

TIP: Print this FREE Christmas savings plan out to check off each week you save.  I plan on keeping this bad boy next to me at my desk so I can check off each week I transfer $40 into my savings.  I included an image for you to do the same with.  Just open it up, print it off and check off when you’re done.  

25 week Christmas savings plan

Simple!

Now, if you have a bigger family or like to go all out then just double the weekly amounts to have $2,000 saved.

Coke Zero Pulled Pork Recipe

Note: Some links in this post contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks for supporting my blog!

slow cooker pulled pork recipe

I’m not going to lie – I lucked out in the husband department big time.  There are a lot of days that when I get home J has already started dinner.  All i have to do is make a side dish then pull up a chair.  I’m one lucky lady!

This past week J and I had one of those days… you know the kind.  You wake up extra early because you just have too much going on.  I had a few meetings and things to finish at the office, studying for my next CFP exam, a luncheon and then I was heading to Crossfit.  Poor J had to get up early to get to work then he spent most of the day lifting and moving beer around.  Ah the glamorous life of the Bud Man!

Those are the days that the crock pot is my best friend.  A crock pot dinner has to be the best invention.  On a day that I know will be crazy long and filled with meetings, the last thing I want to do is come home to cook.  I try to plan ahead and look at my calendar the night before.  If I know it’s going to be a crazy day then I usually try to plan a slow cooker meal.

I want to let you in on something, okay?  I’m in love with my slow cooker.  It’s a love affair that has taken off very slowly.  It started with dishes that I was comfortable with, like salsa chicken and beef tacos.  Now, I’ve slowly been venturing into new territory with different recipes.

I haven’t quite cooked anything for breakfast in the slow cooker yet.  I guess I’m waiting for the perfect recipe.  J isn’t a huge egg fan and most of the recipes I find call for loads of eggs.  The ones that don’t use a ton of eggs seem to feed a small army and well, it’s just the two of us.  I don’t like wasting my food.  So I’m sort of waiting until family come to visit before busting out a breakfast dish.

Let’s get back to my dinner recipe I tried out.  It’s a pulled pork recipe that turned out amazing!  It literally melted in my mouth – it was so good!

Here’s what you need for my coke zero pulled pork recipe:

– 3lbs pork shoulder
– 1 1/2 cups of Coke Zero (any soda will do)
– 1 tsp. salt and pepper
– 2 tsp. onion powder
– 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce

slow cooker pulled pork recipe

Directions:

Rub the pork roast with salt, pepper and onion powder on all sides.
Place in the slow cooker and pour soda on top.
Cook on low for 7-8 hours (or high for 4 hours)
Grab a fork and start pulling the meat apart.
Pour on the BBQ sauce, cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!

slow cooker pulled pork recipe

I made some cornbread to go with the dinner.  I ended up having a fried egg, carrots and some salad with homemade Greek dressing with mine.  The perfect busy day dinner!

My Favorite Ice Cream Topping

2 ingredient ice cream topping

If you love ice cream as much as me then you are going to love this homemade topping. With just 2 ingredients you can take any ice cream from great to exceptional!

Lately, I’ve been munching down on some Arctic Zero ice cream. I love their ingredients and nutritional information in comparison to other frozen treats. I have to admit that their taste isn’t always a sugar-filled yummy explosion like the other brands, but it’s definitely tasty.

I had a few macros left the other night and decided to pull out a childhood favorite to pour on top. Now I couldn’t completely relive my childhood, because I did have to measure/weigh out the ingredients. But it still tasted just as my 8 year old self could remember.

Here’s what you need to make this delicious ice cream topping:

2 Tablespoons of Peanut Butter – I used Nuts n’ More in Peanut Butter. I love the high protein and low carb count compared to other brands.
1 teaspoon syrup – I used Aunt Jemima original

Put in a small microwave safe dish. Cook on high for about 10 seconds. Stir and continue to cook in increments of 10 seconds until desired consistency is reached. I like it to be soft enough to pour on top of my ice cream.

2 ingredient ice cream topping

The cold temperature of the ice cream will freeze the topping pretty quickly, but I like it like that.

The whole topping (if using what I used) has 205calories / 10g Carbs / 12g Fat / 14g Protein

Chicago Part 2

Last week I started sharing J and I’s trip to Chicago.  I mainly talked about the Goose Island Brewery tour J had one through work.  It was such a neat experience to see the inside of a brewery, especially one that has such creativity!

We ended up staying until Sunday morning.  So we spent all of Saturday exploring Chicago.  I hadn’t been in over 10 years and J had never been to Chicago so we wanted to do as much as we could.

We woke up about 9am, which felt great!  It was so nice to not wake up to three dogs wrestling on top of you or barking to get their breakfast.  So nice!  We searched for a good place to eat and came across DMK Burger Bar, which had appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  J loves that show and he always wanted to go a place that had been featured on there.  So we headed out the door for lunch.

DMK Burger Bar

This place was amazing.  J and I are still talking about how good the burgers were.  I got the number 1, which featured bacon, char-broiled onions, and BBQ sauce… my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  J ordered a simple cheeseburger – nothing fancy.  We also added an order of cheese fries to the mix.  The order was huge!  We split the fries and didn’t even tough half of them!  I was actually only able to eat half my burger – it was massive!

Afterwards we walked for a few blocks before getting a cab back to the hotel.  Someone… (cough, J cough) didn’t grab his jacket.  It was about 50 all day, so it was a little chilly for us.  We then walked to the Navy Pier to explore some more.  It was about a 30 minute walk to the pier, but totally worth it.  It was neat to walk along city streets.  Plus, we probably got there faster walker than driving.  Traffic in Chicago is crazy compared to what we’re used to!

Chicago Recap (1)

Navy Pier was fun!  I talked J into doing a caricature with me.  He wasn’t too pleased and didn’t smile at all!  So the drawing is pretty funny.  After the pier, we walked to Millennium Park to see the bean.  He wasn’t all too impressed with having to walk another 30 minutes to see a metal sculpture, but I loved it.  I took a ton of pictures and was smiling from ear to ear the whole time.

Afterwards, we decided to head to Willis Tower.  So he mapped it and walked a little over 40 minutes to get there.  We may have taken a wrong turn thanks to my directions, so J took over.  It went a lot smoother when he took over that job!

Chicago Recap (1)

 

Willis Tower was so neat.  I had never been there before and had no idea what to expect.  It was pretty cloudy that day so we walked in and the workers kept saying there was zero visibility from the top.  We both looked at each other and decided it would be worth to still go up.  The line was nothing – literally nothing!  We walked right through and had no problems!   I would give up some visibility to not have to fight crowds any day!

Afterwards we mapped to go back to the hotel and learned we wandered about 3 hours away.  Oops!  So we grabbed a cab instead of walking.

We then searched and found a local pizza place that had decent online reviews.  It was less than a 10 minute walk from our hotel, which was perfect.  It was called Pizanos.  We had original deep dish pizza and a few beers before calling it a night.

I loved Chicago!  I think J had a great time, too.  We can’t wait to go back!

Progress is better than Perfection

progress is better  than perfection!

A good friend of mine was struggling the other day and I said one simple statement that put it all in perspective.

Progress is better than perfection.

It’s true.  When you’re working towards a goal – any goal, you have to keep moving forward.  Just because you haven’t lost your goal weight, haven’t been able to fully quit smoking, aren’t lifting as much as you wanted to by now, or haven’t been successful at keeping a cleaner house doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

You cannot wait for the stars to align and your actions to be perfect before taking action.  You have to keep pushing yourself.  One slip-up doesn’t mean you will never reach your goal.  It means you’re human.

Remember that progress is better than perfection on those rough days when you don’t feel like you’re ever going to get there.  You will.

You have to keep hustling.

My boss a few years ago really taught me about progress, not perfection.  That was his motto.  He wouldn’t wait until his idea was 100% perfect before introducing it the market.  He would create small, poorly edited videos to share with clients online.  He wanted to get his thoughts, his ideas and his services out first before anyone else in the area.  And you know what?  His business blossomed.  He really showed me that striving for progress will give you more success than waiting for perfection.

I learned a lot from him, but that has to be my favorite lesson.  I have carried it with me over the years.  I have applied it to my professional life, my home life and even when setting my personal goals.

When you start doubting yourself and far you’ve come, remember one thing:

Progress is better than perfection.

 

Challenge Yourself

challenge yourself

I just want to leave you with one simple thought today:

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

#truth.

Sometimes taking risks can be scary.  If you aren’t sure of the outcome then you don’t know when to take that leap of faith.  But I want to tell you that taking a jump into the unknown can be the most rewarding thing you ever do.

Do something everyday that scares you.  You will become a stronger, smarter, and better person for it.

To grow muscle, you must challenge your muscles to break and split.  When they break, they grow back in greater number and stronger than before.

Your brain, your body, your heart, and your soul needs to be challenged to become stronger.

Challenge yourself, daily.  

Chicago Recap

Last weekend, J and I traveled to Chicago for a getaway.  We walked and walked all over the city and saw some pretty amazing sites.  Plus, Saturday was J’s 29th birthday so it was extra nice to do something different for him.  He won a trip from his work that got us a free night in town so we went ahead and extended for it extra day.

Chicago Recap (1)

He won a night at the Millennium Knickerbocker hotel, a tour of the Goose Island Brewery and a dinner hosted by the brewery at their new barrel room.  The tour was great.  J and I went to the Budweiser tour last summer and I had been to the Boulevard tour in Kansas City a few years ago, so it was neat to add another brewery to the list.  It seemed that Goose Island was a little bit more free thinkers and willing to try new innovations with beer.  It was neat to see the process and where it all happens.

Chicago Recap (1)

The night ended with a four-course meal at their new barrel room, which isn’t even open to the public yet!  They have barrels and barrels of beer piled high to the ceiling and as far back as you could see.  Each filled with beer, some with different fruits and some in once-filled whiskey barrels.  So cool!  The dinner was ….okay.  It wasn’t our favorite.  It was different.  I usually like different, but poor J is a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  I think a lot of the Bud salesmen were a little thrown off by what was served.  The main entree totally redeemed the whole meal.  The meat literally fell apart.  It was the best short rib I’d ever had!

Later the night we took an adventure with some of the guys to find more food and more beer.  We ended up at this little bar called Butch’s and had a late dinner.  Then we headed back to the room to crash.  After driving for over 7 hours and then drinking beer most of the afternoon, we were exhausted.  So crawled into the king-sized bed without three dogs to share it with and slept hard.  It was fabulous!

I’ll share more about our trip in a later post.

FREE Retirement Planning Class in Poplar Bluff, MO

retirement planning class in poplar bluff, mo

I wanted to share with you a retirement planning class happening THIS Friday, May 15th in Poplar Bluff, MO.

I will be hosting this class at the Poplar Bluff Public Library starting at 10am.  There are still a few seats available, so go ahead and register to attend.  This is the first class I will be hosting and if all goes well then I’m thinking about turning it into a video series to share on here.

newspaper clipping

It was even featured in the newspaper!  I’m excited to share my knowledge about starting your retirement plan with so many people in town.

To register go to the library’s website or click here.

My Favorite Greek Salad Dressing Recipe

Greek Salad Dressing Recipe

While living in St. Louis I had the chance to go to some amazing restaurants for one of my jobs.  We hosted seminars a few times a month and for coming to hear my boss speak, we provided you a tasty meal.  After the seminar was given, questions were answered and dinners were served, we would sneak away to eat our own dinner.  Usually it would be after 8pm before even getting a chance to order.  I would be starving and so excited about something new to try.  One thing I always got was a Greek salad.  I just loved them!  I devoured it every time it was placed in front of me.  I of course would order steak, sea bass or some other delectable entree to go with it.

Ever since moving home, there as been one thing missing – Greek salads.  There just isn’t a good place around here that serves a Greek salad.  So I’ve had to make due.  With a few trial and errors, I’ve finally pinpointed the best tasting Greek Salad recipe.  …and the good part!? It’s not that bad for you!

Greek Salad Dressing Recipe

Here’s what you need for homemade Greek salad dressing recipe:

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon Oregano

Greek Salad Dressing Recipe

Mix the ingredients together and voila!  Serve on top a bed of lettuce and other toppings.  I like my Greek salads with a little bit of Feta cheese, tomatoes and artichoke hearts on top of Romaine lettuce.  When I made this I was out of pretty much everything except lettuce and cheese.  So my salad is a little blah, but the flavor of the dressing totally makes up for it!

Greek Salad Dressing Recipe

It makes about 5-6 servings.  You can store in an airtight container on the counter or in the cabinet for a few days.

41 calories / 0 carbs / 4g fat / 0 protein per serving

5 Money Management Tips For Your 20s

money management skills for your 20s, money management, merelynne

In your 20s you have a lot more concerns going on.  Usually you’re dealing with student loan debt, credit card debt and car payments.  You’re probably living paycheck to paycheck, stretching every penny as far as possible.  If you’re like me, then you probably miss the carefree days of being in college not worried about your financial future.

Developing your money management skills early can really give you a strong foundation for your financial future.  Here are my no fail money management tips to follow.

Create a budget:

You will see me talk about budgeting over and over, but it’s because it’s so important.  You need a budget, even when you’re just starting out and not making that much money.  It’s critical to see what comes in and what goes out of your bank account each month.  Many people don’t budget, but know they should.  So don’t be in that category.

In all honestly, no matter you age you should have a monthly budget.  If you need help starting one, read my quick 10 minute tutorial.  Need help deciding how much should be spent on each category?  Check out these figures I like to go by:

– 50% of your income should be spent on fixed expenses
– 25% on your financial goals – paying down debt, savings, retirement
– 25% should be spent on other expenses like eating out, travel, etc.

Open up a savings account:

People try to complicate savings way too much.  It’s really simple.  You should aim to put 10% of your after-tax income into a savings account each month.  If you’re able to do more then that’s great – do more.  If not, then stick to the most you can do.  I recommend aiming for a $1,000 emergency fund while trying to pay down debt.  It’s great to have an emergency fund to fall back on for those unexpected expenses.

I would recommend setting up an automatic contribution into your savings account each month.  It’s best to do it so you don’t even miss the money.  I think your payday is a great day.  If it comes out of your account before you even notice then you won’t make other plans for it.

Check your credit score:

As I’ve mentioned, right now is a great time to starting building your financial foundation.  Your credit score affects most everything you want to do in your financial life – credit cards, mortgages, car loans, etc.  Having a lower credit score can negatively affect the interest rate on any approved loans.  Monitoring your credit score is easy and it allows you to see what areas you need to improve.  You can use free services like Credit Karma to regularly check your score.

Create a debt payoff plan:

In your early 20s you might have gotten yourself into some debt.  Credit cards are basically thrown your way when you enter college.  Plus, school loans have become a huge part of the college life.  Create a plan to reduce your debt and start working towards it.  Being able to pay off your debt in your 20s will be a huge advantage when it’s time to buy your first home or your next car.  You’ll be able to qualify for better interest rates with having less debt on your credit report.  I like the debt snowball method where you pick your smallest bill to start with.  You pay as much as you can towards one debt while continuing to pay the minimum payment on others.  Once once debt is paid off you apply the unused payment towards the next smallest debt.

Setup monthly money dates:

I’m a firm believer in checking in with yourself.  By setting up a monthly money date you can review your budget.  If you need to make any changes or plan for any future expenses then the money date is the perfect opportunity.  Sit down during these dates and pay any bill that’s not setup on auto-draft, review and update your monthly budget, and plan out the next month.  Don’t let yourself get discouraged with money management.  Keep it fun by giving yourself time to plan for the future.