Monthly Archives: March 2016

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What is a Sinking Fund? And Do You Need One?

What is a sinking fund

You might be thinking, “what is a sinking fund?”  Well, I’m here to help you out.  I want to explain what exactly a sinking fund is, why you might need one and how much you should be putting into it.

Simply put a sinking fund is a budget category that you put money into each month, but you only use the money occasionally.

Here are some examples of how we use a sinking fund in our budget:

Personal Property and Real Property Taxes

I mentioned this idea in the post about why your family needs multiple bank accounts.  However, I didn’t actually call it a sinking fund – I called it my tax fund.

Basically I take the amount I believe our annual personal property taxes and real property taxes will be and divide it by 12.  So for example, if I believe our personal property and real property taxes will be $1000 then I divide that amount by 12 (1000 / 12 = $83.33).  Each month I put back $83.33 into our sinking fund (tax fund).  So by December I will have the $1,000 we need to pay our property taxes.

Home Owner’s Insurance

More than likely your home owner’s insurance isn’t due every month.  Maybe it’s due annually or semiannually.  What you need to do is take the amount that will be due divided by the number of months you have until you need to pay it.  Then each month set aside that amount into your sinking fund.

Let’s say your insurance is due end of September and is $650 a year.

If you start the sinking fund in April then you would have 6 months until it’s due.

650 / 6 = $108.33

You need to be putting back $108.33 each month (including September) to cover this cost.

However, if the amount isn’t due until a year from now then the calculation will change:

650 / 12 = $54.17

See if you plan further out for those irregular bills then the monthly contribution will be a lot less.

Home Repair Projects

This is a great reason for a sinking fund.  You put money in each month and then when you need it, it’s there.  We’ve used our emergency fund before when our fridge went out, but a sinking fund could have prevented dipping into our emergency fund.  Basically it’s the same idea as putting money back for an irregular bill.  You and your spouse decide on the amount to put back each month.  Then when the water heater goes out or the AC acts up then you’re able to call a repairman without having to worry about how to afford it.

Jar of Money

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Other sinking fund examples:

Christmas Spending
Auto Insurance
Vacations
Water Bill
Car Expenses (new tires, oil changes, repair, new vehicle, etc.)

A sinking fund is great.  You can really adapt this budget category to fit your needs.  Plus, you can have multiple sinking funds depending on the different bills you have.  We use our tax fund for multiple sinking funds – property taxes, income taxes, and home owner’s insurance.

Here’s how to think about a sinking fund to make it work for you:

  1. Treat it like a monthly bill
  2. Only use it for the expense it’s intended for – don’t use the funds to pay for a weekend getaway when it’s suppose to be for your taxes
  3. Count the number of months until the bill will be due so you can save enough
  4. Add it to your monthly budget

How to calculate the correct monthly amount:

  1. Decide on the total amount needed
  2. Count the number of months you have until it’s due
  3. Take the amount and divide by the number of months you have
  4. Establish this amount as a monthly expense

Does your family need a sinking fund?

Possibly.  Do you have irregular bills that are quite expensive?  Most families do and if that’s the case then a sinking fund can really come in handy.  It can take the stress of a bill off your shoulders.  You won’t have to sacarfice those months that those larger expenses are in.

Do you use a sinking fund for anything?  If so, what is it?

How to Meal Plan to Save Money

How to meal plan to save money

With a baby on the way, I have become very aware of our finances. We’ve been focused on being prepared for the baby, not just with having a nursery completed, but also financially. I would be lying if I said I knew what I was doing when it came to being a first-time mom.

I have no idea!

But I know me and I know my personality. I like everything in order. Not knowing what to do has really screwed me on what I like.

The one thing I can control is the house and our budget. So, I’ve been nesting pretty good trying to get the house ready for our boy. I’ve also been working hard to save money where I can because not knowing how much anything is going to cost and how much we’re going to need is really throwing me for a loop.

My plan is to breastfeed, but what if I can’t? Then what will I do? What if my baby has allergies? I mean, the list can go on and on. I’m doing the only thing I can do – controling our budget.

One area that I have found amazing savings is with our meal planning. I use my hand-dandy meal planning sheet.

2 week meal planner

Download yours for FREE here.

I used to only plan for a week at a time, but I’ve found that I am saving quite a bit more by planning for two weeks. I try to go to the store every other Sunday afternoon. That way we aren’t tempted by high-priced snacks by going throughout the week when I’m tired. I also follow some great tips that I want to share with you on how to meal plan to save money.

Here’s what I’ve found from meal planning for two weeks at a time: Not only is it a time saver, but we’ve been able to cut our grocery budget by over 30%.  That’s a huge savings!  Plus, we haven’t been eating out as often, which is saving even more money.

Tip 1: Make a meal plan that actually sounds good and is easy to prepare.

I know it sounds crazy, but if you go searching for all of these tasty look recipes that require a lot of prep work then your meal planning might as well fly out the window. I like to keep it simple with dinners that take less than 10 to 15 minutes of prep. It’s a lot easier to convince yourself to stay in and cook dinner after a long day.

meal planner - merelynne

Tip 2: Shop your cabinets first.

Make sure you’re looking in your cabinets, pantry, fridge and freezer for ingredients you have on hand. I usually take stock of what I have first, then start building a meal plan around it. That way I can really save money by using what we already have. Plus, it’s such a bummer when you go grocery shopping just to figure out when you get home that you already have 2 packs of ground beef sitting in the freezer.

Tip 3: Make a grocery list from your meal plan.

I know it sounds simple, right? But how many of us will try to remember what’s on our plan for the week instead of pulling it out? If you try to go from memory then you will almost always forget an ingredient or buy something you don’t need.

Stick to your meal plan when you’re making your list.

Tip 4: Keep a grocery list in the kitchen.

I have a notepad that we hang on our fridge. Anytime we’re out of something then we add it. If it’s not on the list by Sunday then I don’t buy it and we have to go without. I do make exceptions for toilet paper and dog food, but you get the idea.

Tip 5: Share your meal plan with your family.

I found one of the best things I’ve done is share my meal plan with J. That way he knows what we’re having for the week and he actually likes to help me out. So if he knows how to prepare the meal then he’ll have it started by the time I get home – it’s awesome!

I use my meal planning sheet, but I also put it on our Google calendar so he can see what’s for dinner.

Tip 6: Price match, coupons and money saving apps.

I love to price match. I learned a lot about price matching from Jordan at Fun Cheap or Free. I also don’t mind using coupons, but only if they are easy to come by. I don’t want to spend hours searching for coupons and printing them out. If I see one in the paper or on a product box then I will cut it out and use it.

money savings app

I also am a huge fan of money saving apps for my phone. I’ve written an ode to them in the past! My favorite right now is the Walmart Savings Catcher app. Mainly because that’s where we do most of our grocery shopping and it’s super easy to do. I typically let my savings build up so I can use them on our Christmas shopping. I saved a ton on our Christmas presents this year by doing it that way.

What do you do to save money on groceries? I would love to learn more!

How I Plan My Day (full-time employee, blogger, wife and more)

How I Plan My Day (full-time employee, blogger, wife and more)

I like to keep myself busy. Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be doing something. I can still hear my Dad’s voice in my head telling me, “You better be careful. You’re burning the candle at both ends.”

It use to annoy me so much when he said that. Mainly because I knew he was right.

I used to spread myself too thin. Nowadays I do a lot better prioritizing everything I want and need to get done. I’m better with my time management. No more wasting precious time on things that don’t matter.

My life’s pretty hectic most days, especially during tax season. I wanted to share with you how I plan my day as a full-time career woman, blogger, soon-to-be-mom, student, friend and wife so I can get it all done.

The first thing on my list every morning is to see what I actually having going on. I don’t want to waste my time on things that aren’t important, so I schedule out everything. I mean everything. Thank goodness for Google Calendar and my Purposeful Planner. It helps keep me in check. I’ve shared my tricks with how I stay organized with Google Calendar before, so check it out.

How I use Google Calendar

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become very aware of what’s on my plate. In college I would say yes to everything. So I found myself spending a lot of long nights in the library studying because it was the only time I had left. I never wanted to miss out, so I always said yes to everything.

The fear of missing out still gets to me some days, but I have to be careful. I have finally realized that it’s okay to miss out on what’s not really important. And I have realized that I can’t push myself into exhaustion if something is just not possible.

Alright, here’s how I plan my day:

6:30 am – wake up and get started. J sets the alarm for 6:30 so he can get ready for work. I am not a morning person, but I have started getting up with him. I like to make his lunch and get his breakfast ready – that way I know he’s eating something decent.

I also let the dogs out and feed them. Then I take care of myself. I like to give myself time to wake up in the mornings. So I make myself breakfast and turn on the local news for about 30 minutes.

7:00 am – get ready for work. Living in a small town is so great. I don’t have to leave my house until about 10 til to get to work in plenty of time. I give myself almost an hour to shower, put on makeup and get dressed.

8:00 am – 12:00 pm – work at the local accounting and financial planning firm. I work on client paperwork, calls, etc.

12:00 – 1:00 pm – lunch. I typically grab lunch with my Mom and Dad most days. It’s another perk of living in my hometown. I really love getting to see them as much as I do. I work with my Dad so I get to see him everyday, but something about grabbing lunch with both parents is really nice.

1:00 – 5:00 pm – I do a variety of tasks in the afternoon. Most days I like to study for the CFP® exam. But if I’m not working on the Certified Financial Planner® designation then I can be found working on marketing pieces, the office’s blog and social media platforms or finishing client paperwork.

5:00 – 6:00 pm – dinner with J. We joke that we’re old folks because we like to have dinner so early. But J starts his day an hour before me so by the time he gets home, he’s usually starving. So we just plan to eat by 5:30 and have some time together.

habits to better your life

6:00 – 8:00 pm – downtime with J and working on the blog. I like to spend my evenings at home. We usually catch up on our favorite shows while I’m working on the laptop. I schedule out social media posts, write out blog posts and work on fixing up the blog. I usually take this time to plan out a few more posts to keep me going too.

8:00 pm – I turn everything off and just relax the rest of the night. Again, we’re like old folks here too. We like to be in bed well before 9:00 each night. I know once the baby is here that will change. But for now I will get my sleep while I can.

I do this Monday through Friday without fail. During Tax Season I also follow this schedule on Saturdays.

Sundays are our days to be at home. We like to work on projects around the house. We’ve been busy updating a back bedroom and transforming it into the nursery. I also like to meal prep on Sundays and do my grocery shopping for the next two weeks. I’ve found grocery shopping every 2 weeks really helps us save serious money.

Maybe I should do an updated posts on how we meal plan??? I’ll work on that!

On Sundays I like to take photos for the blog. That’s when I see what posts I have coming up and what images are needed. Then I work on staging those and editing them for the site. It’s hard to take good photos during the week. By the time dinner is done it’s usually dark or getting dark out. Sundays are the best days for me to fit it in.

Most weekends that aren’t in Tax Season are filled with visiting family and friends. Also, we like to travel to the lake to go boating so that takes up quite a bit of time each summer. I try not to fill my weekends with too many work or blog commitments so I can keep my free-time to spend with people I’m crazy about.

That’s it. That’s my day-to-day life. I know at some point I will need to commit more time to the blog since I want to see it grow. During the summer months it’s easier because I work four 10-hour days and have three day weekends. So I can devote Fridays to the blog, but for now this is the time I allow myself. I don’t want to spread myself too thin. Those days of pulling all-nighters are in the past!

Do You Really Need A Budget?

Do You Really Need A Budget

Do you get to the end of the month and wonder where your money went? Well you are not alone. Most families struggle with keeping a healthy balance in their checking and savings account each month. The dreaded “B” word is thought of as un-fun and so out dated. But in reality, it might be just what you need to really get ahead in life. To stop living paycheck to paycheck and start building wealth.

That’s our goal – wealth. No, not like the crazy Donald Trump or the billionaires that have 30+ homes. Simple wealth. You know the kind, right? Where you don’t have to worry about where your money is coming from. You can send your children to college without them or you incurring debt. You live in a home that is paid off. You can have fun with your family and travel to see new places.

That’s the kind of wealth we’re working towards. It’s going to be a long process and will not happen in the blink of an eye – although I’m sure most of us wish for our own magical genie that could grant us three wishes.

What do you want out of your life?

Do you want to stress in between paychecks about how you’re going to pay your bills? What about never getting to do anything fun like a spur-of-the-moment trip because you will never have enough money in reserves?

Once you decide, let’s take a look at whether you and your family really need a budget.

Do you have expenses?

Most people do. I can’t think of any situation where someone doesn’t have any expenses. Unless you’re still a minor living at home with no car.

The average person has plenty of bills to go around – rent/mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance, food, etc. A budget can help you keep track of your expenses so you know where you stand. That way you can watch your spending and know where every dollar is going.

Do you have income?

If you have money coming in to your household then you really need a budget. A budget can help you from overspending and help you reach your goals of accumulating wealth.

Do you wonder where you money is going?

If you’ve looked down at the end of the month and wondered where all your money went, then you need a budget. Most families get confused about where they are spending their money. Did they eat out too often? Are they spending majority of their money on gas? Are the kids’ extracurricular activities costing a small fortune? Having a budget in place can really help you get a handle on where your money is going. Once you see how much you’re spending in one area then you can find ways to reduce it.

Do you want to get out of debt and build your wealth?

If you answered yes then you need a budget. A budget is a tool to utilize to get out of debt and start planning for the future – retirement planning, children’s’ college funding and so on.

If you answered yes to one, all or a combination of these questions then your family needs a budget. I have created a quick 10-minute budget template to get you started. Don’t put it off any longer. The longer you sit in denial the worse your situation can get.

If you’re looking for more budgeting tips and tricks, check out my top posts.

5 Ways To Spend Your Tax Refund

ways to spend your tax refund

It’s that time of year again, tax season.  Working in a CPA office, tax season can be a bit overwhelming especially for someone who is new to the field.  This is only my second tax season and I’m still learning a lot.  I’m in a great position to not only meet all different types of people, but also to help them.

A lot of clients anxiously wait for our call letting them know if they owe money or are getting a refund.  Most of the time those that have to pay in already expect it, but those that get a refund are usually surprised.  I think it’s that old saying “prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.”

One day there will be a time when we are in a position to go crazy with any refund we get.  Fly by the seat of our pants and do something unplanned.  But that’s not where we are right now.  Right now we use any refund to help get us a step ahead for the next year.

Here are 5 ways to spend your tax refund:

Set it aside for real and personal property taxes.

I talked about irregular bills awhile back and how you can set aside a little money each month to not be thrown off track.  Using your tax refund is a great way to be ready for that year’s property taxes.

how to spend your tax refund

Grow your emergency fund.

An emergency fund is crucial for being successful with your finances.  Unexpected expenses pop up and by having an emergency fund ready then you won’t be thrown off course.  Stash the money aside in your emergency fund for those unexpected needs.  I always say that $1,000 is a great starter amount for a fund, but sometimes you need to have a little extra on hand.  Another great use is to actually start an emergency fund if you haven’t been able to yet.  Take a portion of your tax refund and set it aside in a savings account.

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

Pay down debt.

There are two approaches for looking at debt. You can start with the smallest amount and work your way towards the largest OR you can start with the debt with the highest interest rate.  Either way works, but you need to find what works best for you.  A debt snowball is a great technique for getting out of debt. I recommend knocking out the smaller debts first, but if you have some that are similar in balance then take a look at their interest rates.  Put your tax refund towards a debt.  It’s a great feeling when another one bites the dust.

Invest in your retirement account.

Once you have your emergency fund and debt paid off, then you need to work on your retirement planning.  You can put aside $5,500 per year (if under the age of 50) into your IRA.   If your employer offers a 401(k) with matching, make sure you’re at least putting in the minimum to get your free money.  After that talking with an financial planner to make sure your doing enough to hit your retirement goals.

Put it towards long term goals/debt.

I put long term goals and debt in the same category for this one.  I’m talking about mortgages here.  If you’re saving for a home or wanting to build one like J and I then this is for you.  If you already have your home then this applies to you, too.  It’s important to have your emergency fund, paid off short-term debt, and your retirement plan is fully funded for the year before moving on.  Once those are done then you can put your tax refund towards the long-term goals.

Tax season only comes once a year so it’s not often we have disposable money on our hands.  Make sure you have a plan for it so your hard earned money can do the most good for yourself.  It’s not really fun to be financial responsible all the time, I know.  As adults, though, we have to do it.

Why I Chose Not To Do A Maternity Photoshoot

Why I Choose Not To Do A Maternity Photoshoot

Some mothers love the way they look pregnant.  They just love looking down and seeing their growing belly.  They’re glowing and feel amazing the whole time (well maybe not the whole time, stupid morning sickness!).  They want to show their family and friends their growing baby and even stand in front of a wall with a chalkboard next to them that lets the world know just how big their little bundle is that week.

If you came here or to my Instagram looking for a shot like that then you will be sadly let down.  You won’t find a bump photo around here, unless it’s hidden under a dog’s face.  I explained why I don’t like the classic bump pictures a few weeks ago and had a huge response to my post.  Huge!  

So I thought I would explain a little more why I decided against doing maternity photos.  

What are you suppose to do with these photos?  Do you share on Facebook?  Do you have them printed to hang on the wall?  What?  I’m so confused by them.

I know I have a few more weeks to go before being full-term, but I don’t want to remember just how big I am.  I mean, seriously.  It’s bad.  I haven’t gained a ton of weight, but my belly is big.  Clothes don’t fit right and I just look awkward in photos.  

Why I Choose Not To Do A Maternity Photoshoot

The expense is not in our budget.  We like to budget our money on paper first and when it came down to it, I could justify the cost.  I am much more likely to save for a newborn photo session than a maternity photoshoot. I know that in 5, 10, 20 years I will still want images of our newborn baby to cherish. I will not want photos of my massive belly hanging on the walls. I can easily explain the rationale behind the cost of a newborn photographer and the cost of having images printed of our little boy, but can’t quite wrap my brain around the maternity side of things.

I fear that I would back out of the session.  My anxiety would just be too high when it came down to it.  I don’t like my body – I never have so that was way before pregnancy.  I couldn’t ask J to go through with the photos if my heart wasn’t in it.  He doesn’t love photo sessions anyway, so when I told him that I didn’t want to do it, he was relieved.  So if I hire someone, pay the deposit then back out that would be no good.  

It’s tax season y’all. Another excuse for not taking maternity photos is for tax season. I say excuse, because this one is not a real reason to stop me.  What I’ve mentioned above are reasons, this one is an excuse.  I’m working 6 days a week and pretty decent hours.  So to do a photo session I would have to either do A) Sunday or B) take off work.  That doesn’t really work for me and since it’s not a priority or even a need/want then I’m not going to sacrifice time off work or my one day during the weekend to get dressed up and traipse around.

20160111_192829

I will take a private bump picture. I had someone mention that I should probably take a bump picture just for me and only me.  I don’t have to show anyone.  That way I can remember the next time around (if there will be a next pregnancy!).  I agree with her and think it wouldn’t be a bad image to have.  But I do not want one floating around the internet for anyone and everyone to see – not like I’m so cool that people are going to search it out, but still it would be around.

What are your thoughts on maternity photoshoots?  Are you a fan?  Why?

Why We Have Multiple Bank Accounts and Why You Should Too

multiple bank accounts

I shared awhile back how we had been using the cash envelope system for quite some time. We have been following Dave Ramsey after we took Financial Peace University before we were married. We loved the simplicity of it and how only spending cash really helped us stick to our budget. We were paying down debt, had built up our emergency fund and were no longer having to stress about any bills that came our way.

The Easier Cash Envelope System, Dave Ramsey

However, I hated. I mean hated having to get cash every few weeks and then having to carry it around with me. Not that we lived in an awful, crime-filled town, but I just didn’t like it. I came up with an easier cash envelope system not too long ago and it has been working beautifully. We switched our cash for debit cards and now have multiple bank accounts to work from.

I would highly recommend anyone wanting to tackle their budget to setup multiple accounts. It really has streamlined the way we run our household and has made everything so much easier.

In your budget you (should) have multiple categories for expense, right? So why not do that with your bank accounts? It makes sense to actually separate out your money just as you do on your budget.

You might be asking yourself….

How do you track multiple bank accounts?

Well, it’s really not that hard and not any different than tracking one. Actually, it makes seeing where your money goes a lot easier. On our budget we have a category for each group of expenses: food, misc. bill paying, emergency fund, tax, etc. Then we have a bank account for each category.

I found that when we had one checking and one savings account it was harder to track our spending. We would have to go back to add up how much we were spending on eating out, how much on gas, how much we were saving, and so on. Now, the charges are separated out.

We track our accounts online. One our banking website there is a master dashboard that we can access each account. So it’s nice to login and see what’s been spent out of each account. So much easier to track then having to dig through our budget and check register each month to add up the totals.

If your accounts are not with the same bank then I recommend using mint.com to track your spending. This free online platform will help track your spending and categorize expenses that are similar. It even has pie charts and graphs to help you visualize how much you’re spending in each category. You can input your debt to track how you are doing on paying off your bills. It’s pretty handy.

Does having multiple accounts hurt my credit?

No. Unless you don’t pay your bills and overdraft your account(s). That will hurt your credit. But if you’re careful with your spending and make sure you never draw out more than you have, then you will be fine.

Does it cost money to open multiple accounts?

If your bank charges you to open multiple checking and/or savings accounts then you need to switch banks. When we opened ours there was one rule – keep a minimum of $100 in your savings account to avoid any penalties. Other than that, we could open as many accounts as we needed. We just know that each savings account has to have a $100 balance at all times. So we deposited $100 and treat that has our new zero balance amount. It’s nice because we also have an extra few hundred dollars that we don’t use or try to tap into.

Here’s the Multiple Bank Accounts Your Family Needs:

multiple bank accounts

Emergency Fund:

Just as it sounds – this savings account is for emergencies only. Not weekend trips out of town or new shoes you saw online, but emergencies. I’ve shared how our emergency fund really helped us when we woke up to a broken fridge one day. If you follow Dave Ramsey, he suggest starting with $1,000 emergency fund. Which is a good number to start with. If your car breaks down then you will have some money to get you going again. If your heater goes out in the middle of winter then you will be able to have the repairman out to fix it and not have to cut into your house payment or grocery money.

J and I like to have enough to cover our deductibles in our emergency fund just in case anything should happen to us. That way if we’ve been in an accident then we will be able to get our insurance going while we figure out what to do.

Once you have most of your debt paid off (everything, but your house) Dave Ramsey suggest bumping your emergency fund up to 3-6 months worth of living expenses. That way if you or your spouse lose their job then you will not have to disrupt your family life while you try to find more work. I’m a firm believer in having 6-12 months of living expenses saved up. Anymore than that then I feel like you’re not having your money work for you. Any extra money should be placed in some sort of interest-bearing account (IRA, money market, retirement plan, etc.) and should be helping you reach your long-term goals.

Tips for building your emergency fund:

Have the money withdrawn automatically from your checking account into your savings account. I recommend having this setup the day your paycheck hits your account so you won’t even miss the money.

If you have a habit of withdrawing money from your emergency fund for non-emergencies then move the account to a separate bank. That way you can’t login to the online portal to transfer money. You have to actually make an effort to do so. There are online bank accounts that give a higher interest rate and when you need to withdraw money it takes a few business days to get to you. Online bank accounts are great if you’re passed the $1,000 emergency fund stage. But when you’re just starting out I would recommend keeping the funds within a car ride of your checking account.
Save at least 15% of each paycheck or more until you reach the $1,000 emergency fund level or your selected amount. Once you have reached the first phase amount then start putting extra money from your paychecks to paying off debt.

Tax Savings

Taxes are apart of life. You can’t really avoid it. This tax savings works for both income taxes that are due in April as well as personal and real property taxes that are due in December. Your state might be a little different on personal and real property taxes, but ours are due by December 31st of each year.

I take our previous year’s amount, add 3% for any increase that might happen then divide by 12 months. So if we pay $1,000 in personal and real property taxes in 2015 then I would add 3% (1000 * 1.03 = 1030) then I would take our new amount of $1,030 divided by 12 (1030 / 12 = 85.83). So each month I put back $85.83 so that by December 31st I will have enough to pay for our county taxes.

For income tax time, the goal is to not owe anything and to not get a refund. That’s the magic formula, but it’s hard to achieve every year. So I like to have a little put back just in case.

I also use this account for our home insurance that’s due in July. I take the amount and divide it by 12 then put that amount into this account to cover that cost, too.

Dave Ramsey envelope system

Family Checking

This account is our hub. All of our income comes into this account. Most of our bills are paid directly out of this account. I have our car payments, internet, utilities, car insurance, and any other bill setup to automatically draft out of this account.

This is where your money starts and then is allocated to other checking and savings accounts for the family to use. I make sure that we keep enough to pay all of our bills and then transfer our miscellaneous spending., food budget, savings, etc. to our individual accounts.

Family Checking Tips:

Setup auto-pay when possible to avoid any late payments and penalties.

Setup auto-transfers into your savings accounts to streamline those transactions.

I recommend spending your money on paper first in your budget then start moving money around in the actual accounts. Any money leftover should be kept in this account until the end of the month. Then the extra money should be allocated to savings or any other fund where it’s needed.
You need to keep enough in this account to cover your monthly expenses.

Make sure your bills are paid first before you allocate to any miscellaneous accounts.

Wife’s Checking Account

This is my account – I can spend my money however I want. I pay for any haircuts, girls’ trips, shopping, etc. from this account.

Once our monthly bills and savings are taken care of I allocate money from our family checking account to my checking account. I even have it titled with my name on our banking dashboard so it’s easy to follow. I get to spend this money however I see fit. I can spend it, I can save it, whatever I want. I don’t have to talk it over with J before I purchase something.

When the baby comes, we plan on using my account to cover any non-grocery item costs or daycare costs. Meaning when he gets older, I will cover his haircuts and so on.

This account should not include any family expenses – utility bills, car payments, etc. You can add extra responsibilities to this account, if it fits your family’s needs. Here are a few examples:

  • Groceries, if you do all of the grocery shopping then you can add that budgeted expense to the wife’s checking. In our family, I do most of the shopping but not all. So we have a separate account for groceries and eating out.
  • Gas for your car. You can add extra funds to cover gas for the month.

Husband’s Checking Account

This one is very similar to the wife’s checking account, but is for J. He can spend this money how he sees fit. As I shared in our easier cash envelope post, J likes to carry his cash with him. So that’s up to him to get. I transfer the amount on payday and then from there it’s on him. I no longer have to worry about it.

Tip for both Wife’s Checking and Husband’s Checking:

Add up any expenses you want to be covered from these accounts. For example, J bowls on a weekly league. So we make sure the amount for each week is going to be covered by his miscellaneous account. That way he is responsible for keeping at least how much he needs for bowling in his account. There is no double dipping in our Family Checking to cover the cost if he didn’t spend wisely.

Grocery Checking Account

This one is simple – it’s our grocery and eating out fund. You can add this amount to your Wife’s Checking account or the Husband’s Checking account, but we found that it didn’t work best for us. I do majority of the grocery shopping for our family, but sometimes J will go for me or will stop to pick up something. So by having a separate checking account then he doesn’t have to cover an expense not in his budget or vice versa.

For awhile I would just let him take my debit card for my checking account, but we found out quickly that it wasn’t going to work. He would spend more than I wanted to and I would be without money for other plans.

Now I transfer our grocery and eating out budget to this account twice a month. We can either spend the money on groceries or spend the money on eating out. Either way it has to last us and provide for our food.

Having a separate grocery checking account just made sense for us. It’s not for everyone and that’s okay.

Optional Accounts:

multiple bank accounts

Slush Fund

Once you have your debt mostly paid off, you have your emergency fund built up to cover 6-12 months of living expenses, and you’re putting money away for retirement then I would recommend a slush fund. This is where you put extra money from each month that your family can spend on whatever you want.

Right now whenever J and I want to take a trip or purchase something big we save for it. It may take us a few weeks or even a few months, but we work as a team to put money aside to get what we want. However, one day we will have a slush fund.

A slush fund could also be call the fun fund. Want to take a weekend trip on a moment’s notice – use the slush fund. Want to head to the water park on a hot day – use the slush fund. Once our little one is here, we might enact a slush fund a little early just so we can do fun stuff together as a family. But trust me, it won’t be costly. I feel that debt should be paid off, savings should be built and you should be putting away for retirement first.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

If you can setup an HSA then I would recommend it. J and I don’t have one and so far, haven’t had a need. My old employer offered a Health Savings Account so I took advantage of it then. But with Obamacare and Insurance changing on a daily basis it’s hard to know keep up with the rules. Make sure you do your research on HSAs before starting anything.

HSAs are great if you have a high-deductible insurance plan. HSAs cover any medical costs that are not covered by your insurance. HSA money is tax-free and can add up for larger families with high-deductible insurance.

DO YOUR RESEARCH ON HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS THOUGH.

Child Savings Accounts

We don’t have to do this yet, but we will soon enough. Most banks offer a child savings account – our bank calls it a Looney Toons Savings Club. Each bank is different so look on their website or ask a personal banker the details.

I propose opening an individual savings account for each child in your family. It will help teach them how money works and can help teach them to save for something they want. My parents did it for me and I just loved going to the bank with my mom to deposit my savings.

My parents had a weekly allowance that I could earn. I had to complete simple tasks to even qualify for any money – make my bed and straighten my room. Once those were done then I could do extras to earn cash. I could bring in the trash cans from the street, empty the dishwasher, dust, etc. I earned a certain amount for each chore. At the end of the week it was payday. We would add up how much we made, then we put 10% back into savings and 10% into tithing.

About once a month, mom would take us to the bank and let us put our savings into our very own account. I just loved seeing how much money I had and watching it grow – it might be why I work as a financial advisor these days. Money just fascinates me!

That’s the checking and savings accounts I have and would recommend to your family.

Getting your money in order can be super beneficial to you. It can really make budgeting and tracking your money easy. Your goal for your money should be to have it work for you!

Let me know how having multiple bank accounts works for you and if you’ve found anything easier. I love to know!

Crescent Roll Pizza Recipe

Crescent Roll Pizzas

The other night on my way home I called J to see about what time he was going to be getting off work.  He sounded frantic and mad on the phone.  He had stopped at a gas station to fill up and now his truck wouldn’t start.  I rushed to him thinking that I could help, but in reality, knowing there was nothing I could do.  

After about 10 minutes of messing with it after I arrived, I’m still not sure how long he was trying to get it started before I arrived, the truck started.  Then died.  Then started again.  After a few minutes of idling we were able to pull away.  He drove two doors down to our local mechanic, who luckily was still open … for about 5 minutes.

We told them what happened, left his keys and then headed out the door.  At this point, I was starving. So was J.  I asked him about dinner and we decided on pizza.  You see…

…J and I both love pizza.  Him a little more than me, but it’s always one of our go-to dinner ideas.  Usually we would just call a pizza place and place an order for delivery, but lately we’ve been more mindful of our budget.  We headed home to try to put together a dinner that would hit the spot.  I had all of the fixings for pizza, except the crust and I was NOT about to make a homemade pizza crust.

Crescent Roll Pizzas Recipe

I found a package of crescent rolls in the fridge and the next thing I know we were eating delicious crescent roll pizza.

They were delicious!

We used ground turkey and sausage in ours, but the stuffings are limitless with these little bad boys.  You could use pepperoni, green peppers, tomatoes, ham, only cheese… whatever. The sky’s the limit!

Here’s what you need for these super easy crescent roll pizza:

1 package of crescent rolls
shredded cheese – any will do, we used mozzarella and sharp cheddar
toppings – you can use anything really, we had ground turkey and sausage –  make sure it’s cooked through
pizza sauce
butter, melted
garlic bread topping
Italian seasoning
Oregano

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  On a prep surface, I used a cutting board.  Unroll your crescent rolls.  Pile some cheese inside, about 1-2 Tablespoons per roll, but you can use as much as you want.  Top with your meat or toppings of choice.  Roll up and pinch the dough to seal any openings. You don’t want any cheese or toppings to fall out!

Crescent Roll Pizza Recipe

pinwheel pizza

Melt your butter and brush on top of the rolls.  Sprinkle garlic bread topping and your other seasonings on top.  Bake for 10 minutes.  

Crescent Pizza Recipe

Heat up your pizza sauce and pour into a little serving dish.  Enjoy!

J smothered his with pizza sauce, while I dipped mine.  It’s whatever you want.  By the time I finished snapping pictures of the final product, J had already devoured two of these!  I just kept hearing him go on and on about how good they were.  Of course I was busy trying to get a good shot so my mouth was watering by the time I sat down.

Crescent Roll Pizza

The Beginning of A Boy’s Nursery

rustic boy's nursery

We have been making some great progress on our little boy’s nursery.

The first step was coming up with a theme, which actually wasn’t that hard. It all came together when we found a rug.  This rug.  I fell in love with the colors and the chevron pattern.  Then we based every decision off of that.  When I say we, I mean that I found something I liked and then confirmed it with J.  But he really didn’t care.

boy's nursery rug

The one thing J and I agreed on was having a room he could grow up in and one we wouldn’t have to change after a few years. So we avoided all the little baby themes and prints. No Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse here!  We picked a few colors we liked and went with it.  I wanted more of a rustic theme, so we selected a few items that would pull that in.

We had quite a bit of work ahead of ourselves and we made a plan to knock out something each weekend. With it being tax season, I’m working 6 days a week right now so we didn’t have a ton of time to put it off. I knew I would be exhausted and not able to keep up with work and home obligations if we put off the nursery for too long.  Plus, the thought of being close to 9 months pregnant and trying to get the nursery finished just wore me out! So…

We made a game plan for our boy’s nursery.

We started with a priority list and then just starting knocking tasks out.

I’m a planner and J is a planner.  So we made a list of everything we needed to do. Here’s what we have on our list:

First was the closet. We had to switch closets around in the house since I was using the nursery one as my overflow.  We had a lot of rearranging to do.

We went through our closets and made a huge, huge pile of clothes to donate. Then we purchased a closet organizer to install in the nursery. I would love to have an organizer in each closet, but that’s something we’re going to save for.  It’s just not in our budget right now.

We discovered HGTV’s Fixer Upper.. I know, I know, where have we been? This show has apparently been on for awhile and has taken over like crazy, but we were sitting in the dark. So of course once we found Joanna and Chip Gaines, we had to have #shiplap in our home.

I was going to do a tutorial on how to this look, but I ended up working the day J and my brother-in-law put up the wood so it was just easier to let them go then to worry about creating a tutorial.   I did find one of my favorite tutorials from Mandy Rose and decided to share her awesome DIY Shiplap video with you.

I had a vision of keeping the shiplap a wood color and doing a nice stain to help it stand out.  But that didn’t happen. … I made a mistake and I don’t want you to make the same one, so I’m going to share it with you.

Don’t walk away from the man at Home Depot when he cuts your boards.

Just don’t.  He cut ours so wrong!  In the end I assumed he knew what I meant, but he obviously didn’t.  So don’t make that mistake.  Stay with the Home Depot associate while he cuts your boards.  Please! boy's nursery, shiplap

We used underlayment as our boards, which made it so much more inexpensive when compared to using pre-cut shiplap boards.  The boards measure about 8′ long and 4′ wide.  We asked for ours to be cut into 8-inch strips that were 8′ long, but that’s not what we got.  Our Home Depot said they could only go as small as 12-inch strips.  So we went with that and decided to use our neighbor’s table saw to slice them down the middle.  I explained that I wanted them cut long-ways and then I walked away.

Big Mistake!! Huge!

He cut them to be 4′ long instead of 8′.  Which meant it went against the grain of the wood.  I was devastated.  A pregnant lady on the verge of tears in Home Depot was not pretty.  My poor husband didn’t know what to do with me.  He was willing to not accept them, but it wasn’t worth it to me.  I felt like I was the one that made the mistake and I just wanted out of there.

I decided to just switch my game plan.  I thought about it and decided to use the gallon of white paint we bought for the small closet and just paint the boards a bright white.  In the end, it worked out better… Our nursery is a bit on the small side, so I think naturally stained wood would have been a bit cave-like.

Overall, the shiplap really fits in and helps with the rustic theme perfectly!  Using white paint helped bring out the seams and cracks between the boards.  Plus, I am not a perfectionist so some of the boards are a little wider than others and I think it looks great.

boy's nursery, shiplap

J, my sister and brother-in-law did all of the work.  My sister painted the rest of the room a pretty gray, while the two guys worked on the shiplap wall.  I am so lucky to have them!  All that’s left for our boy’s nursery is put together the crib and move in the rest of the furniture.  I can’t wait to share the final pictures with you!

Why Sunday Should Be Your Most Productive Day

Why Sunday should be your most productive day

It’s no lie that Friday is probably most people’s favorite day of the week. I mean, TGIF and all! With tax season still in full swing, Friday isn’t the beginning of the weekend for me – that’s Saturday. But don’t get me wrong, I still have an extra pep in my step every Friday. I think it’s just engraved in my brain to love Fridays.

It all started when I was a little girl and Boy Meets World would be on TV. Then came being able to go out with friends on Friday night and sleep overs. I just love those memories.

Now Fridays are just another work day, but I can’t wipe the smile off my face.

BUT… let me tell you what’s slowly taking over as my favorite day of the week. SUNDAY!

Yep, Sunday is becoming my go-to favorite. Maybe it’s because it’s my one day off of work right now. Maybe it’s because J and I get to spend the whole day together. Or maybe, just maybe it’s because I’ve made it the most productive day of the week.

Sunday is my time to get ready for the craziness ahead. Sunday is my day to unwind, relax and rest up for what’s going to happen Monday-Saturday.  That’s why Sunday should be your most productive day.

Here’s my game plan for a productive Sunday:

– We try not to do too many house projects on Sunday. Which is hard right now since it’s are only day off together. But we try really hard to keep the projects small.

– We don’t typically cook on Sundays. Cooking isn’t my favorite and I get pretty tired of it after doing it all week. Sunday is my day-off. We order in or go out to eat.

– We plan out the next week’s meals. I take a look at our calendar to see what we have going on and for the busy nights I like to plan something quick and easy. Then I take stock of what we already have on hand to make my grocery list for Monday night.
Sunday should be your most productive day

– We look at our calendar to see what’s going on. Remember earlier in the week when I shared how we plan out our calendar for next three months? Well planning ahead really comes in handy when we’re getting ready for the week.

– We take it easy. I know I’ve said this before, but Sunday is my one day off of work during tax season so I don’t do much. I like to take naps while J watches football (when it’s on) or while he watches a movie.

– We spend the whole day together. It’s really nice getting to be together and not having to rush from place-to-place. We typically try to stay home as much as possible so we can be with the pups too. They do so good all week, especially Bud since we still kennel him while we’re gone. We like to keep him out and running around as much as possible.

– We catch up on laundry. I’m one of those my-way-or-no-way laundry people. I am very particular about how my clothe
s are done, which is why I’ve been doing my laundry since I was in junior high (I made one rude comment to my mom about how she hung a shirt and it was suddenly was on me to get my clothes done). So, I like to spend Sunday getting the clothes done. Typically J will handle the towels and sheets on Saturday, but we leave the bulk to be done on Sunday.

daily to do list, free printable

– We make to-do lists. I like to take a look at the next week to know what’s going on, but I also like to spend my Sundays making a to-do list for the week. I like to know if I need to make any appointments for me or J, call anyone in particular to wish them a happy birthday or whatever else might need to get done.  If you like my to do list above, click here to download it for FREE!

Sunday is a great time to get ready for the week ahead. You really can take advantage of a quiet day. That’s why Sunday should be your most productive day!