Monthly Archives: July 2015

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How to Schedule Social Media Posts for the Month

How to Schedule Social Media Posts

I was in a meeting for a non-profit organization that I currently am on the board for.  Many of the other members were wondering why we didn’t have much activity on social media, especially with our huge annual conference coming up.  The woman who handles are social media wasn’t there, but I quickly starting wondering why she wasn’t pre-scheduling the posts.  It’s a snap to do and really, you can set it and forget it.  Of course, I’m not recommending not checking your social media for an entire month, but essentially it’s possible.

I told my fellow board members the ease of scheduling posts, articles, sharing stories, sharing blog posts was super easy.  I even offered my help to the woman in charge.  I thought if I could teach her how to be proactive with social media then the board will be happy, we will get our message out to more people in the community, and even increase participation in our conference.

Then I started thinking about how many bloggers, business owners, etc. may not know how to schedule social media posts.  So I thought I would share how I do it.  It’s not perfect by any means and I’m pretty frugal so I don’t actually pay for any of the services I use.  I know there are probably better ones out there that cost money, but I’m not interested in those.

I use Hootsuite* as my platform.  I use it for two main reasons: 1) it’s easy to use 2) it has a free version, which is what I use.


HootSuite: Social Relationship Platform
*
how to schedule social media posts

The first thing you want to do when you get to their homepage is sign up for an account.  Hootsuite* has three options – Free, Pro, Enterprise.  If you’re just starting out or don’t have $9.99 a month to spend until you grow a little bit, then select Free.

On the next screen, you’ll enter your email address, password and timezone.

Then you’ll want to connect your social networks.  I have my Facebook page and Twitter page connected.  Once you’re on your dashboard then you can start scheduling your posts.  Here’s what my scheduled posts stream looks like.  I go ahead and schedule my upcoming blog posts, too.  That way if I get busy at work or on the weekends then my blog post is going to be shared with my Twitter followers.  Plus, you can find what time of day and which day of the week most of your followers are on social media.  I researched by using information online and checking my Google Analytics information.

scheduled posts

Once you get your blog posts scheduled then go find quotes, articles, other bloggers’ posts that you like to schedule.  Make sure you’re posting 2-3 per day at varying times.

I don’t use any tool to schedule pins on Pinterest, yet.  I haven’t found one that I like a lot that doesn’t cost too much for the budget I have.  Remember I’m frugal and until my blog starts making more money then the costs of these programs, I’m just not going to be able to use them.  If you know of a program that can pre-schedule my pins that doesn’t cost, please let me know!

schedule social media posts

I currently use an app on my phone called Latergramme.  It’s free (of course) and it allows me to schedule Instagram posts.  The one downfall is that it doesn’t actually send the post, but it alerts me when at the scheduled time.  All I have to do is get into the program and hit Post Now.  Then my Instagram app opens and allows me to post.  One thing I really like about Latergramme is that I can not only schedule the image, but also the quote to go along with it.  So when the time comes my post takes less than 60 seconds to go live.  I love that!

* This post contains affiliate links.

10 Habits To Better Your Life

10 habits for a better life

Better habits = better life?  Perhaps.  But I’m a firm believer that small steps towards your goals is better than waiting for something to happen to you.  You’re more likely to work hard and save your money then you are to hit the jackpot in the lottery, right?  So develop small habits that are going to get you the results you want.  You can just daydream of the perfect body, you have to work for it.  You have to eat right, work out regularly and be disciplined.  By regularly choosing a lean protein and veggies over pasta you’re creating a habit to better your health.  By developing a good habit now then you can continue to work on your goals without having to focus on the small stuff – it will come natural to you.

I’m working on developing 10 habits to better your life, you should join me:

habits to better your life

Choose family.

Considering your family – spouse, children in any decision is vital.  You need to strengthen those relationships on a daily basis.  Letting those around you know how much you care about them and need them is the most important.  Think about you as a team.  You and your team have certain goals, needs and wants.  By treating your family as one unit then you all move forward together and can stay on the same page during big life decisions – like moving, changing jobs, big financial purchases, parenthood, etc.

Before any big decision I like to think about my family.  “Is this the best choice for them?”  “Will this help us reach our long-term goals?”  Make your family a priority.  You should put your spouse and your children before your job and before other commitments.  It’s easy to say to put your family first, but it’s a lot harder.  When you get caught up in projects, presentations, and other events it can be easy to let a few things slip.  Remember why you’re working so hard, why you put in those long hours – it’s to better yourself and your family.  To help your kids do more than you were able to do, but don’t forget that your family needs to be a unit.

habits for a better life

Plan your days.

I make fun of J all the time for being the man with the plan, but he’s right.  Now, I don’t want to go overboard with the planning.  I like to have a little bit of adventure in my days or my trips, but I do like knowing where I need to be and what time I need to get there.  I like having my planner updated with appointments, a daily task list for work and home, and a to-do list of things I’d like to get done.  I usually rotate items off my to-do list and onto my daily task list when I’m ready.

When you plan your days, you’ll be able to do more and be more dependable.  You won’t have unexpected pop-ups happen that prevent your from keeping appointments.  Usually before I put anything on my planner, I check my planner.  It’s a simple concept.  Make sure you’re actually available the day and time you’re being asked to do something.  That way you’re able to keep your appointments, be on time and make a good impression.

how to spend your tax refund

Manage your money

Successful people know how to work their finances.  They know how to budget their money and are working towards their financial goals.  Most of our spending habits are automatic.  We have to mindfully manage our money and change our habits.  You need to find out what works best for you and your family.  J and I use a cash envelope system for our groceries and eating out.  Mainly because those are two areas we used to unintentionally overspend in.  By using cash, we can’t overspend.  Once the green stuff is gone, we can no longer spend.

Make it a habit to review your bank account along with your budget on a weekly basis.  By creating a habit to check-in to your finances then you’ll know where you stand.  Make sure you keep track of your spending, too.  I like to use Google Sheets to track our spending.  I can access it from anywhere and can know just how we’re doing.  I also compare our register to our online bank statement every few days.  It takes about 5 minutes each time, but it reassures me that all of our bills are being paid and we don’t have anything unexpected coming out of our account.

Setup a savings account.  J and I have two separate savings accounts.  One for our emergency fund and the second one is for our irregular payments, like property taxes, home insurance, etc.  That way we can budget for it on a monthly basis and have it ready when the bills come due.

5 habits to better your life

Stay hydrated.

Letting yourself get dehydrated can have a negative effect on yourself.  You get tired, feel hungry, can get headaches and even get yourself sick.  You can feel hungry even when you don’t need food.  Typically when you think you’re hungry you make poor, unhealthy decisions.  So make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day to keep you on track.  I usually have a glass on my desk that I try to drink every few hours and then refill it.

There are so many benefits to drinking more water – more energy, better skin, etc. Did you know when you first wake up each morning your usually a little dehydrated?   It’s true.  You should make it a habit to drink a full glass of water first thing each morning.  It will rehydrate you and get your day off on the right foot.

Small habits throughout each day will help your mind stay clear and sharp.

Rest.

It’s true that sometimes all our minds and bodies need is a little bit R&R.  If we let ourselves get run down then we tend to get sick more often.  We are no good to anyone, including our family.  Make it a habit to let yourself unwind and put yourself first sometimes.

Rest doesn’t have to be literally sleeping.  It can come in many forms, like reconnecting with a friend, a bubble bath, being alone, or spending time doing something you enjoy.  Find something that makes you happy and be sure yo allow yourself the chance to do it.

Say “no” more often.

In a world of instant gratification and constant yes, it’s okay to say no.  You have to prioritize what’s important to you and what you want to spend your time on.  So if something comes up and it’s not something that will better one of your goals then say no.  The world won’t end if you pass on a get together, another project, or commitment.  By knowing where you want to spend your time then you’ll better be able to say yes only when you actually want to.

Make it a habit to say no more often.  Try not to overcommit yourself during the day so you can focus on what you really love.  If you can’t say no to a project at work, which is totally understandable, then perhaps you have a team that you can use.  Get others involved so you can share the workload and make it less stressful.

habits for a healthier life

Eat right.

It’s true that you can really feel better just by cutting junk out of your diet.  Now, I’m not one for extremes so I’m not suggesting completely cutting out foods you love.  I’m just all in favor of moderation.  If someone told me that I couldn’t eat ice cream anymore then I’d probably pass out of shock.  That just won’t do.

If you don’t enjoy the food and it doesn’t reap much benefit, then there isn’t a need to eat it.  Find recipes that you can cook together as a family and make if fun.  Make a habit out of spending time together, not just eating dinner, but also preparing it.  When I was little, my role was washing the veggies and potatoes so my older sister could finish preparing them.  My mom was very good at putting us to work.  I’m sure when we were younger we actually caused more work for her, but she was always good about making us feel like were apart of something.

Don’t be too strict with yourself or your family.  Allow some yummy tasting treats in moderation.  You’ll have long-term success when you don’t deprive yourself.  Your mind will feel clearer, you’ll have more energy and will get sick less with a healthy diet.

5 habits to better yourself

Get up early.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a morning person.  I prefer to sleep in until my natural alarm clock wakes me up.  I don’t want to hear any buzzing, barking, or any noise.  I know I’m not alone here, right?  Who’s with me?  But we have to realize that we cannot be successful starting each day at 10am.  It just doesn’t work.

You need to wake up and give yourself time to adjust each morning.  As we get older, the less we’re able to set the alarm for 15 minutes before we need to walk out the door.  We need to time to wake up our body and our mind, we need coffee, water (make sure we’re hydrating ourselves!), food, time to get dressed, shower, etc.

Make sure you’re waking up about the same time each morning, including the weekends.  We have our dogs as our weekend alarm clocks.  Like clock work each morning, the pups are up at 6am.  Our body needs to get into a habit of waking up at the same time.  That way we have the right amount of time to allow ourselves to gently wake up and get ready.  It’s best to start your day off with no stress and a little consistency.

You also should go to bed at the same time each night too.  Creating habits for yourself to get up earlier can really help you be more successful.  If you’re tired then go to bed earlier, don’t push yourself too far.

habits to better your life

Be organized.

Keeping your house and your workspace clean can make you less stressed.  You’ll feel better just putting away your shoes, making your bed, and cleaning off your desk each day.  My mom had this saying when I was growing up and it got burned into my brain, “keep your work area neat and clean.”  One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that she was right.  But please, please don’t tell her that.

You don’t have to spend hours each night tidying up, but a few minutes through out the day will really make a difference.  Before going to bed do a quick sweep through the main rooms to make sure blankets are folded, shoes are put away and the dishes are taken care of.  Try to get the whole house involved – everyone gets a task.  You can take care of the dishes, husband takes care of the family room and the kids put away their toys before bed.  Making it a family effort can really help the pressure from building up because you won’t feel like it’s all your responsibility.  Here are 5 tips to become more organized that can make a huge difference.

Make time for yourself.

This one kind of goes with the rest section, but it’s very important.  You must have so many different things pulling at us every day – kids, work, home, other family commitments, committees, etc. You name it and you probably have to face it.  You probably have a tendency to put everything and everyone else ahead of your own needs.  It’s okay to make time for yourself.

You have to find something that you’re passionate about or something helps you recharge your batteries.  It doesn’t have to be daily or even weekly, but you need to allow yourself some downtime.  You’ll be able to focus on what’s really important and give gratitude to your blessings.  A great habit to develop that can change your attitude for the better is giving gratitude.

Having time to reflect and show appreciation for the great things in your life can really positively affect you.  Making a habit to remember why you’re blessed can be beneficial for your soul.  It can be as simple as making yourself your favorite meal, taking a long bubble bath, having time to read a new novel, or just being alone.  Find something that gives you a chance to be thankful and hold onto it.

These habits don’t have to be too complicated, but they’ll take thought at the beginning.  It takes 21 days to change or make a new habit.  So give yourself three weeks.  Also, don’t try to make too many changes at once.  It can be overwhelming and you can get discouraged.  Keep yourself positive and remember why you are trying to create new, healthy habits.

Quick and Easy Apple Crisp Recipe {Single Serving}

quick and easy apple crisp

The other night I was seriously craving some apple crisp. I’ve been doing great with counting my macros, so I wanted something that would fit in and not derail my whole day. So I went online searching for a quick recipe…. and you know what I found? Nothing.

No simple, quick and easy apple crisp recipe existed. I took matters into my own hands. I found a few, beefed them up a bit and created my own.

My next issue was nothing was single serving. I just couldn’t catch a break! Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to have an entire apple crisp all for myself, but I didn’t NEED an entire apple crisp all to myself. That would just be silly.

So again, I took my new quick recipe and made into a single serving recipe. Now this apple crisp recipe is as easy as pie (pun intended!).

apple crisp recipe

Here’s what you need for this quick and easy apple crisp recipe:

1 apple, peel and diced (I used a Gala apple because that’s what I had laying around)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoon oats (old fashioned or quick is fine)
2 1/2 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I used a toaster oven so I didn’t have to waste electricity on my big oven. Spray a ramekin with cooking spray and set aside.

Once your apples are diced, place in a medium-sized bowl. Add cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir until it’s well combined. Pour the apple mixture into the prepared ramekin, set aside. In the same bowl (because who wants to dirty a bunch of dishes?) combine, brown sugar, oats and flour. Add the butter to the brown sugar mixture. Using a spoon or fork, cut the butter into the mixture until small chunks form.

Place the oat mixture on top of the apples. Bake for 20 minutes at 350.

quick and easy apple crisp

Enjoy!  It was tasty.  It seems like a lot because it really filled my ramekin up to the brim.  So it was a nice treat that didn’t completely undo my day.  If you are wanting to cut back on the carbs, you can leave off the brown sugar-oat topping.  It’s still tasty, but it doesn’t quite feel like the apple crisp I love.

easy apple crisp recipe

Nutrition Facts for the whole recipe: Calories 355 / Total Fat 4g / Carbs 81 g / Protein 3 g / Fiber 6 g

Turning a Dream into a Success

inspirational quotes, motivation, business success

 

While browsing my Instagram feed I came across a similar idea.  I loved it.  Like a lot.  Some of the wording wasn’t quite me, so I had to make some adjustments.  Then I had to make it pretty… because, well, that’s just me.

I love the thought behind it – how to turn a dream into a success.  You have to think, plan, and then take action.  Trying once isn’t going to do anything for you.  You have to keep trying and trying, then you will get it.  Turning a dream into a success takes time, but we’re willing to put in the hours.

So here’s to all of us out there who are busting our butts, working hard, putting in long hours for success.  Cheers!

How to Multitask Better

how to multitask better

Let’s face it, we are pulled in a thousand different direction every week.  I mean, if we’re going to be really honest we can wear many different hats each day.  I’m a wife, a dog-mom, a friend, daughter, sister, financial advisor, assistant, marketing director, blogger, etc.  Those are just the hats I wear on a daily basis, not even the only ones I wear.

Let’s not forget about the things I want to learn or be better at.  I want a closer relationship with God, I want to be a better photographer, I want to be a business owner.  There are so many accomplishments I want to reach in my lifetime.  We all have so much going on.  As women and professionals, we need to be able to handle a lot.

Multitasking is the one task we need to master before we can be masters of our world.  I’ve been working on some great tricks and tips so you can perfect your multitasking skills.  If you have any other multitask tips to get an edge, please share below.

Here’s how to multitask better so you can get more done in less time:

how to stay on top of it all

Make lists.

Write everything down.  Make lists for every facet of your life.  Have one for things to do at work, around the house, for your blog… everything.  However keeping a list works for you, use it.  I’m someone that has to separate out my lists.  If something needs to be done for the home then it’s on a different list for what I have going on at work.

If you write it down then it will get done.

How does list-making working for you?  Do you keep a short-term list and a long-term list?  Or do you just have one master list for it all?

habits for a better life, how to multitask

Plan your days.

Every successful person plans their day.  You cannot be effective if you do not know what needs to get done.  You can multitask with ease if you do not overwhelm yourself.  Keep it simple.

Use your list that you’re now keeping to help plan your day.  Start by taking a look at what needs to get done soonest or what’s easiest to knock off your list.  From there you can plan you’re whole day.  Plus, you won’t forget about anything you have going on.  No more missed appointments or playdates.  You can multitask better if you know what’s coming up.  If you have an appointment across town and you need to pick up your prescriptions then you’ll be able to take care of both tasks with one trip.  The only way you’ll see the big picture is by planning.

While I’m at work, I plan it down to the hour of what I need to be doing.  That way I stay productive through out the whole time.  If I get behind or something takes me a bit longer then I just bump everything down.  Try to only pick 2-3 tasks to get done for the whole day.  Then fill in the rest of your day with small, easy to get done tasks.

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Use your smartphone.

I’m always amazed when I see someone struggling and yet won’t use their smartphone smartly.  You need to utilize your tools to work for you.  Set appointment reminders in your calendar app and sync your online calendar with your phone calendar so you have it at the touch of your fingers.  Utilize all of the good stuff Google has to offer – Google Drive is amazing.  I use Google Sheets as my check register so I can stay on top of our budget and money at all times.

There are a ton of apps that can save you money at the grocery store, and make you money!  Plus, all the helpful resources at your fingertips can make work easier and less timely.

However…

One recommendation for when you’re trying to get work done – turn off your phone.  A smartphone can be really smart and help you, but it can also set you back.  How many of us find ourselves wasting 10-15 minutes on Facebook, Pinterest, or reading our favorite blogs?  Your phone can really be a distraction.  Turn it on silent, put it in a drawer and don’t touch it when we’re really trying to focus.  You’ll be better at multitasking if you can actually focus on what’s on hand.

Set specific goals.

You need to be smart about your goals.  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely goals.

I’m a daydreamer with the best of them.  I can picture my life in this beautiful home that J and I have custom built on 5 acres of land.  In this dream home I have an amazing craft room with huge windows.  J has a man cave where he can have his buddies over to have a good time.  This is a dream… but it’s also a goal.  J and I have a goal of being able to build our dream home.  To reach this goal we are setting smaller more specific goals as stepping stones.  We are paying down debt and saving money, then we will search for some land to buy.  Once we own the land, then we will start the building process.  It’s going to take time, but we know that we need to reach our smaller tasks first.  That’s what you need to do.

You can break them down into smaller time frames, too.  I also set specific goals each week.  I take a look at our master list to set a few smaller tasks to accomplish.  “Cook more” is not a specific goal.  Try something more life, “Cook 3 dinners at home this week.”  Then from there you need to pick 3 meals, buy the ingredients and then actually cook the meals.

SMART goals are easy to set, but you need to follow through with them to be successful.

5 habits to better yourself

Be cautious of your time.

There are many time-suckers around us.  We need to be aware of them and be protective over our time.  You can’t be a successful at multitasking if you don’t allow yourself the appropriate amount of time to get stuff done.

Be aware of everything you have going on and don’t over extend yourself.  Don’t promise to bring snacks for your daughter’s gymnastics team while you’re suppose to be at a doctor’s appointment and needing to finish a load of laundry.  That’s why planning your day is imperative for success!

You need to plan tasks that can be done together.  Baking cookies while working on laundry is a piece of cake (I must be hungry to relate everything to food – ha!).  Needing to pick up your dry cleaning can be done on the way to dropping your kid off at soccer practice.

Learn to say “NO” more when you simply can’t get things done.  The one thing that can derail your ability to multitask is over extending yourself.  Know your limits.

 

 

 

What are some of your multitasking tips and tricks? I’d love for you to share.  Leave a comment below!

Buffalo Chicken Fries Recipe (RE-DO)

buffalo chicken fries

It’s been a pretty crazy week over here. I’ve been working long hours and we’ve just had a lot of stuff going on. I’ve been trying to find easy recipes to cook so we don’t have to spend all evening in the kitchen. If I get home and I’m exhausted then the chances of me cooking are pretty slim. So that means we end up going out to eat. It’s not healthy and usually not very cheap.

J and I have been trying hard to eat better and be more mindful about our spending.

At the beginning of this week we sat down and found a few easy go-to recipes for dinner. I’m not going to lie when I tell you that 2 of the recipes were for the slow cooker. That little gadget is like a gift. It’s easy to use – just put the ingredients in, set it to low and then walk away. Plus, my slow cooker bowl can go into the dishwasher (most, if not all of my kitchen items can go into the dishwasher! I’m just not a big fan of hand washing anything!).
As we were brainstorming recipes I remembered this buffalo chicken fries I had made. I pulled out my old recipe and decided to give it a green light. I even posted the recipe on here before, but it’s been close to a year ago since I made these buffalo chicken fries. I just can’t believe it! I mean, they were such a big hit with J and I actually thought they were pretty good, too. Did I forget all about them? I don’t know what made me think of them this week, but I’m sure glad I did. You can find my old recipe here, but I tweaked it a little this time around. And I have to pat myself on the back because these turned out even better than before.

Here’s my revised (and better) ingredient list for buffalo chicken fries:

6 oz. cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
1/3 cup buffalo sauce
2 potatoes, cut into slices (I used one russet and one sweet potato)
cooking spray
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Optional ingredients:
sour cream
feta cheese
chives
hot sauce

Set your oven to 450 degrees. Slice your potatoes into thin slices or wedges, place on a foil-lined baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. The potatoes get pretty stuck to the foil, so I recommend spraying it down with cooking spray. That way cleanup is still a breeze! Make sure the potatoes lay flat and are not overlapping one another. Lightly spread the EVOO on top of the potatoes. You can use a pastry brush or sauce brush. Sprinkle on the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place in oven for 15 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown and begin to get soft. Once the fries are done, remove from oven and turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

buffalo chicken fries - potatoes

Place the cooked chicken into a shallow bowl with the buffalo sauce. If you want a little more heat you can add a few drops of hot sauce. I don’t like my food too spicy so I skipped the hot sauce. Toss the chicken to cover evenly with sauce.

Cover the fries with the chicken mixture and top with cheese. Place back in the oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
You can top with feta cheese, sour cream and chives, if you wish.

buffalo chicken fries

If you’ve seen my original recipe then you’ll notice that I cut back on the buffalo sauce. It was a bit too much last time. J likes his food pretty spicy, but even he thought it was a little overdone. I also changed the amount of chicken to 6 ounces. I try to position the chicken so that his russet potato and my sweet potato each had approximately 3 ounces of chicken.

This time around the buffalo chicken fries turned out perfect. I think I found the best recipe!

5 Financial Habits to Learn in Your 20s

5 financial habits for your 20s

As children we learn most of our habits from our parents and family members.  We continue developing our habits even as high schoolers.  Once we’re in our late teens and early 20s, most of our habits are set.  However, there are a few important ones that we need to continue working on to set us up for financial success.

Not to get too deep on you, but what you do now will help develop a path for the rest of your life.  Now that we’re out of high school, we have to start acting a little bit more responsible.  That means knowing where our money is going, helping others, and focusing on those in our lives instead of ourselves.

Here are my tips for the 5 financial habits you need to develop in your 20s:

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Learn how to budget your money.

If you haven’t setup your budget, do it now.  It doesn’t take very long and it can really show you where you stand.  We all want real-time results and budgeting can you give real-time feedback.  Starting a budget is the first step you should take to becoming financially successful.

cash envelope system

Don’t live above your means.

I know sometimes it’s hard to say no, but you have to be realistic.  Know what you can afford, how much play money you have and respect it.  I like using the cash envelope system spending for the areas I have tendency to go a little crazy in.  It keeps me on track and focused on my bigger goals.

Know your credit score.

In your 20s you should know what’s on your credit report and be working towards a good credit score.  Don’t let past mistakes haunt your future.  Plus, a higher credit score means you get a lower interest rate and better deals on loans.  So if you’re looking at buying a new (to you) car or a house having a credit score about 700 is ideal.  Make sure you check your report a few months before needing to take out a loan.  If there are any errors on the report then you’ll have time to get them corrected.

tips on doing the debt snowball, how to do the debt snowball

Pay down debt and student loans.

Now is the time to be paying off debt and knocking out those student loans.  You can take my way of paying down debt, which is the debt snowball.  You will have so much more money for saving or spending when you don’t have debt to worry about.  Just think about the amount of money you spend each month on bills like credit cards, loans, etc.  That money could be spent on saving for a future home, your retirement plan, or even just being able to do more.

Save for a rainy day and the long term.

I cannot preach enough about the importance of having an emergency fund.  It doesn’t have to be some crazy high number when you’re starting out.  I always say $1,000 is a good starting number.  J and I have used our emergency fund a few times when something unexpected comes up then we simply work on replacing it.

As a couple or as a young adult you need to know what’s important to you.  For us, having a solid retirement savings and building our dream home are huge.  Once we pay down more debt then our next focus is saving for land and building our dream home.

I never think that J and I can’t reach our goals.  I know that by creating these great financial habits now then in the years to come we won’t struggle as much.  We will be able to reach any goal as long as we work together and have the same end-goal in mind.  A few months ago, I created the 5 Money Management Tips you need to know.  You’ll notice a few repeats, but that’s just because these tips and habits are crucial to long-term financial success.

The Best Buttercream Icing

buttercream icing

Remember the chocolate cupcakes I made the other day?  Well I promised I would share the buttercream icing that goes with them.  I’m back just to give you the easiest buttercream icing ever.

My family went on and on about how great these cupcakes turned out.  I think they were a little surprised.  To be truthful, I’m a little hit or miss on my baking.  Sometimes I can turn out some tasty desserts that are hard to resist… And others I get distracted and burn my sweets.  Oops!  I try to multi-task a little too much.

classic buttercream icing

I was patting myself on the back with this one.  The finished right on time, the cooled while I blogged a little and then I whipped up this easy buttercream icing to go with.  It was not an all day affair, which is perfect for me.

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-6 teaspoons milk

In your stand mixer, place the putter and powdered sugar.  Turn to low and start to combine.  Slowly add in the salt, vanilla, and milk.  You can add more or less milk to reach the consistency you want.

easy buttercream icing recipe

I wanted something a bit stiff so that I could use my star tip to ice the cupcakes.  This buttercream icing would be perfect for cookies, cake, and other sweets.  You could even add another flavored extract into the icing for a little something different.  I’m thinking a little mint would be really fresh for a summer treat. The possibilities are endless!

chocolate cupcake with buttercream icing

Adapted from i heart naptime.

Melt in Your Mouth Chocolate Cupcakes

cupcake

Last Sunday we headed over to my parents to hang out by the pool, grill some good food and just relax.  I’m not much of a grill master.  Actually I pretty sure I’ve burned everything I’ve ever tried to grill.  So I usually just leave the grilling to J and I work on other tasty items to bring along.

I had been craving some chocolate cupcakes with buttercream icing.  I searched and searched until I found what looked like the best chocolate cupcakes that didn’t take all day to bake.  I mean, come on!  I do not want to spend all day in the kitchen making 2 dozen cupcakes.  It’s just not worth it to me.  I would be better off buying pre-made cupcakes for that time.

chocolate cupcake with buttercream icing

You need to know something about these chocolate cupcakes… I feel like I owe it to you.  You will struggle only eating one.  Seriously!  These are that good.  I couldn’t help myself!  So much chocolate, but not in the struggle-getting-it-down kind of chocolate.  I’m talking about the kind that stays on your mind once you’ve tasted it.

That’s when you know it’s good.

Here’s what you need for melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cupcakes recipe:

1 box of chocolate cake mix (I bought the cheapest box I could find.  I’m not about to spend $3.00 on a box of cake mix when there is one for less than a $1.00 on the shelf)
1 box of chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
3/4 cup of canola oil (any oil will do, that’s all I had on hand)
1 1/2 cups of mini chocolate chips
3/4 cup of very warm water
8 ounces of sour cream

Combine the cake mix and pudding mix in your stand mixer bowl.  Add the chocolate chips, stir to combine.  Put the paddle attachment on and put on low speed.  Add one egg at a time, waiting for them to combine before adding the next.  Mix in the oil and water.  Finally add the sour cream.  Stir on low speed until well mixed.  Using a rubber scrapper, get any mix off the side of the bowl.

chocolate cupcake recipe

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare two cupcake pans with liners and fill with mix 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 30 minutes or until fully done.  I used the toothpick method to tell.  Once the toothpick came out clean then it was done.

The mix will freak you out a bit.  Before you add the sour cream, the batter will look a bit watery.  But don’t worry.  Just keep mixing and add in the sour cream.  Once the sour cream is fully incorporated, it will pull together.

chocolate cupcake

Let cool completely before icing.  I made a delicious buttercream icing to go with mine.  I’ll post the recipe later this week for you.

classic buttercream icing

recipe adapted from i heart naptime.

29 While 29 – A Birthday List

birthday, merelynne, meredith rines

I turned a year older yesterday, which means it’s time for another list of goals to accomplish this year.

Is it just me or does it seem like as we get older the excitement goes away?  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining about getting older.  I just can remember being six years old and not being able to sleep the night before my birthday.  My excitement was overwhelming and I couldn’t wait to wake up one year older.  To party like a rockstar with my friends and celebrate with my family.

With each new birthday that passes, the joy fades a bit.  It’s no longer a holiday, but just another day at work and another day that I have responsibilities.  If I had the option to go back in time and celebrate like I did at 9 or 22, I’d pass.  I don’t want to go back, I just want to keep moving forward.

28 was a great year for me.  I feel like this year has been a real growing year for me.  I have had my ups and downs, I wouldn’t change anything that happened.  Every down has taught me something and has made me a little bit stronger.  I have to remember that God has a plan for me and though I may not know His plan, it’s there and I need to trust it.  Sad things happen, but it doesn’t have to hold me back.  I can’t let one bad thing prevent me from growing and becoming the person I’m suppose to be.

Plus, there were some really great things that have happened this past year.  So I need to focus on the good.

Here’s my 29 while 29 birthday list:

1.  Stay with my healthier lifestyle – this was on my list last year and I did really good with it so I want   to keep it going
2.  Work towards my CFP® designation
3.  Travel to a new city
4.  Go to the lake as much as possible – again this is a repeat from last year, but it’s such a good one!
5.  Work on paying down debt
6.  Save for our future home
7.  Take more pictures
8.  Craft more
9.  Cook at home more often
10. Throw a dinner party
11. Organize our house
12. Do good for others
13. Laugh more
14. Visit friends
15. Become a better baker
16. Train Bud and Tiny
17. Develop a budget series
18. Become more confident in myself
19. Dog photoshoot
20. Grow this blog (I think this will be on every birthday list of mine-ha!)
21. Start video blogging
22. Paint an image to hang in our bedroom
23. Downsize my closet
24. Overcome my fear
25. Create more recipes for the blog
26. Decorate our guest bedroom
27. Become more patient with myself
28. Finish the backyard
29. Journal more to remember the good stuff