Monthly Archives: November 2017

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What To Pack Your Toddler For Your Next Trip | Tips To Staying Organized

It’s no secret I love to-do lists and planners. I pretty much have my whole life over on Google between using the calendar to keep our lives organized and with having our expense tracking on Google Sheets. I love having my life organized and detailed out.

There should be no surprise then that I have a go-to list for when we travel with our young son. We travel quite a bit, between visiting J’s family, to seeing friends and just getting away for awhile. We love going on adventures.

I realized early on that in order to not forget anything, I would need a list. With working full time, running a house, being the best mom I know how and a wife – I needed help.

I put together a list over on Google (duh!) and every time we go on a trip, I pull it out and print it off. In this list is a detail of everything we need to bring for no matter how long we’re going to be gone or no matter which part of the country we’re going to be going to.

You can watch this video online or down below to see exactly what I like to bring along on any trips for our son.

For more information you can check out these posts:

Tips For Road Trips With A Toddler

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Traveling With A Baby

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How I Get It All Done

how to do it all as a mom

How We Stay Motivated, Chores For Our Toddler, and Budgeting for Christmas | November Budget Q&A

How We Stay Motivated, Chores For Our Toddler, and Budgeting for Christmas, meredith rines, merelynne, budgeting for christmas

Can you believe how close we are to Christmas? I have to admit I was feeling pretty proud of myself on Black Friday because of two things: One – I stayed home all day and didn’t step foot into one store.  And two – I finished 98% of my Christmas shopping while sitting on my couch.  

The best part of my Christmas shopping is I am way under on our budget for gifts, which is awesome! That means the money we saved on gifts can be put towards debt or savings or anything else we want/need.  It’s a good feeling to have a plan and stick to it.  Now I just have to sit back and wait for the gifts to start arriving.  

Once the gifts arrive I have a few craft projects in mind to make them even more personal, which is the whole goal of Christmas (in my opinion).  Don’t get me wrong, I love giving gifts, but I love the idea of giving something one-of-a-kind that actually means something to the recipient.

In this month’s Q&A video I’m going in depth on how we stay motivated with our budget – what our number one tip is for other couples. 

I’m also talking about chores for our little guy. At 19 months there are a few things we let him help us with around the house. It takes a lot of patience, which I talk about in the video below.  

Finally, I‘m talking even more about how we are budgeting for Christmas and just how I make it all possible.  You can watch the video online or down below:

Check out September’s Budget Q&A and October’s Q&A.

For more help with your budget check out these posts:

How To Create Your Budget

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What We Use Our Credit Card Rewards On

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How Much We Spend On Gifts

how much to spend on birthdays, how much to spend on birthday gifts, birthday budget, budget for birthday gifts



Don’t Shop Black Friday

Friends! I am going to save you so much time and hassle this shopping season.  Make sure to watch today’s video before it’s too late.  I’m sharing all the reasons I HATE shopping on Black Friday and what I do to make sure I get the same great deals without the stress.

You can watch the video online or down below:

Let’s face it the stress and competition of going to the store on Black Friday is enough to send me running in the opposite direction.  Now by utilizing our Christmas Budget I can have a plan in place that helps me stay focused and I can do everything from home.

Before you do any shopping, make sure to create your plan.  You need to know who you are buying for, what you want to get them (even it’s just an idea of what you want), and a budget on how much you want to spend.  From there then you can look over your favorite online stores to come up with a plan on what you need to buy.

I gave up in-store Black Friday shopping years ago and I’ve never looked back.  Honestly, it was the best decision I made to keep my stress levels down during this time of year. To help with how overwhelming online shopping can be, we tend to only pick 2-3 stores to shop from for everyone.  Now we’re not always perfect sticking to only two to three stores, but it makes things a lot easier to narrow your list down.  Watch the video to see which stores I prefer to do all of my Christmas shopping at.

For more helpful tips check out these posts:

Why I Love Ebates and walmart savings catcher, making money shopping

Holiday Budgeting Help

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How Much We Spend on Gifts

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What We Use Our Credit Card Rewards On

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Easy Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

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This year, I’m all about taking back the holidays. No more self-induced stress over a dinner or worrying about something that is out of my control. 

I started this laid back attitude around Halloween. I choose an easy DIY NASCAR driver costume for our little man to wear and I decided not to dress in a coordinating outfit. I knew I didn’t have time to put something together and realized the night before Halloween I wanted sleep more than anything else. I opted for a camo shirt and called myself a fan. Ha!

Next I realized Thanksgiving could get a little stressful and chaotic for me. Work is usually a little busy this time of year and with J back in school I knew he would have finals coming up. I knew his school and my career were more important than a perfect Thanksgiving. 

Luckily my family agreed and we decided to have a potluck type dinner. Everyone agreed to bring a dish or two to help out so it wasn’t all on one person. I usually volunteer to bring stuffing and a dessert to family dinners. J’s family has an amazing stuffing recipe that is usually a knockout. So he makes that all on his own… Well the one year I offered to help ended with me shredding a wooden spoon in a blender with the food inside. So we had to start over and ended up being late. Oops! Now he makes that one all by himself.

I end up making a dessert or two to being over. This year I’m keeping it simple and opting for a classic recipe.  One I’ve made hundreds of times and know it always works. I usually like to experiment with a new one, but this year in honor of keeping my stress minimized I decided against it.

Here are some of my favorite go-to desserts I’m thinking about making:

Copycat Pizza Inn Chocolate Chip Pizzert 

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Skinny(ish) Apple Pie with Cinnamon Roll Crust

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Red Velvet Crackle Cookies

red velvet cookie recipe

Easy Cinnamon-Sugar Pull Apart Bread

pull apart bread recipe

Fun Thanksgiving Activities For Kids

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I remember being a little girl running around my grandparents’ home with all my cousins. Their house had a basement with a pool table so we would spend most of our day down stairs attempting to play pool, but none of us were very good at it. If the weather was nice we would head out before dinner to play wiffle ball in the backyard and then after dinner we would somehow find ourselves walking the neighborhood loop. I made some of the best memories with my cousins on any holiday spent at my grandparents. We are all so close in age so no one was left out and we all got into trouble together.

I can’t wait for our little boy to be able to make the same memories with his cousins as I got to. I’m lucky that my cousins all have children who are close in age to our son, so it makes getting together just that much sweeter. Our afternoons are no longer filled with ball in the backyard, but are now filled with watching our kids play together and wobble around the living room. If you have a toddler-aged child then you know just how hard it can be to entertain them for long periods of time. Especially if dinner is taking a little longer than usual or you’re waiting for someone to get off work.

I’ve put together a great list of easy and inexpensive activities you can do with your little ones this Thanksgiving.  These work great for kids of all ages and they don’t cause too big of a mess, which is a huge plus when you have a busy house full of people. 

Let’s get into it, here are my favorite

Thanksgiving activities for kids:

Leaf Art

Collect leaves from outside and glue on pieces of construction paper into various shapes

Paper Bag Puppets

Take brown paper bags, glue on eyes, feathers and pieces of paper to make a turkey face. On each bag have kids write down what they are grateful for this year (you may have to do the writing for them).  Here’s a great tutorial for you.

Scavenger Hunt 

Put together a list of clues that lead to hidden objects around the house or outside in the backyard. You can make this as easy or as difficult depending on the age of the kids.  If they’re a bit older, trying using codes that need to be solved before they’re able to figure out their next location.  The end prize could be some dollar store treats, a new game, or whatever you have on hand.

Thanksgiving Bingo

Put together a game of bingo using this template from The Crafting Chicks.  You can create (or find for free!) so many themed bingo games online. They are so much to play and you can even put a bigger kid in charge of pulling numbers and handing out prizes to winners.

Turkey Feathers

This game looks super fun to play! You can find the tutorial from The Idea Room and it looks pretty simple to setup.  All you need is a turkey cutout with numbers 1-6 listed on it, some clothes pins and a dice.  Each kid takes turns rolling the dice and they place a clothes pin on the turkey for the number they rolled. If you roll the dice and already have that number with a pin then you’re turn is over.  Once you have all the numbers covered, you win!  

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving activities for kids from when you were little?  

Getting Your House Ready for Thanksgiving Dinner

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I have this dream of hosting family dinner and it looks like a scene from a movie. The table is set perfectly with lovely place holders, crisp white table clothes and beautiful centerpieces. The food is served out of sterling silver and everything is cooked to perfection.  Then after dinner, everyone moves into the family room where miraculously there is enough seating for everyone. We watch football, but don’t really pay attention and spend the rest of the evening telling stories and catching up.

But that’s not reality, that’s just a dream. So let’s talk about a real Thanksgiving dinner looks like.  Kids running around making memories, everyone showing up at different times because people have to work, the tables are usually a mix of folded card tables, kitchen tables with chairs, bar stools and piano benches laid out everywhere.  There are no centerpieces because no one has time between raising a family, working until the last minute and having to cook a few dishes to bring. The biggest concern is making sure you don’t forget anything you were supposed to cook…. well at least that’s my biggest worry considering I did forget to bring a dish I said I would one year… oops!

Why do we have these picture-perfect standards that only cause our stress levels to go up? Why do we do this to ourselves?! Well this year, I say enough is enough! This year I’m forgetting about the image you see in a movie and am embracing my reality. A reality filled with chaos, laughter and very loud voices. 

Hosting a family dinner or even friends for Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be this stress-induced moment.  All you need is a plan to get your house in order and a time table to make sure the food is done on time.  In this post, we’re going to talk about making sure your house is presentable to the outside world (especially if you have little ones running around) and it not cost you hours of cleaning to get there.

One Week Before Thanksgiving

Clean and organize guest rooms if you have anyone staying the weekend with you. Change sheets on the bed, vacuum the carpet and dust the furniture.

Childproof your home if you have any small children coming. If you don’t have time to childproof everything or don’t want the inconvenience at least try to place outlet caps in the electrical outlets. It makes life so much easier for toddler-aged parents when they are fascinated by everything they shouldn’t touch.

Clear away any clutter. Go through the main rooms in your house and put away any paper clutter, miscellaneous items, and things taking up space.

Wipe down the bottom of the inside of your fridge and clean your microwave.

Make a game plan for when you need to cook each dish you’re providing.  Some dishes can be started 2-3 days before Thanksgiving.  Try to get done what you can so you aren’t spending all day before dinner int he kitchen.  

Three Days Before Thanksgiving

Sweep the kitchen and vacuum rooms where guests will be.

Mop the kitchen and bathroom floors.

Dust the house. Make sure to take care of the main rooms in your house.

Buy any last minute foods or fresh produce.

Day Before Thanksgiving

Clean your bathrooms – this is probably the most important room to clean before guests arrive (besides your kitchen). Hide any bath toys, clean the toilet and sink area. Make sure your toilet paper is stocked and wipe down the mirror. I like to hide everything on the bathroom counters, too. That way your toothbrushes aren’t in the way and the only thing visible is soap and a hand towel.

Run the dishwasher and put away any clean dishes. Now you’re sink will be empty and your dishwasher will be ready for all those dirty dishes.

Add a box of baking soda to your fridge to help reduce any odors.

Setup any extra tables and chairs that will be needed for dinner.

Morning Of Thanksgiving

Light candles in your bathrooms.

Wipe down kitchen counters.

Make sure to adjust your thermostat before everyone arrives.

Don’t stress over the last minute details. Make sure to enjoy your day.



How to Make Gift Bags from Wrapping Paper

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It never fails – we’re running late and should have left the house 20 minutes earlier.  Our son has decided that he doesn’t want to wear shoes, our dogs know something is up and are following me through the house, I have a gift to wrap before we leave and I can’t find a big enough bag.  

Luckily there is a trick you can do to turn wrapping paper into a gift bag that is just the right size.  Plus, it only takes a few minutes, which is perfect for me since I’m almost always running late and never seems to come easy this time of year.  

I created a quick video you can watch online or below to see just how to make gift bags from wrapping paper.

This technique comes in super handy around Christmas time. I don’t know about you, but it seems that gift bags cost so much more than a simple roll of gift paper.  So to save money, just buy a few extra rolls of paper and make a few bags to have on hand for those last minute gifts.  The gifts will be unique and impressive, but at the same time you’ll be saving money!

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5 Frugal Holiday Tips | Help You Save The Most Money This Christmas

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I’m coming at you today with my top five frugal holiday tips to save you the most money this season.  I know this time of year can be hard.  Like, really, really hard. We have our normal, every day lives to manage and now we have to make sure we buy gifts for a lot of people, host dinners and attend parties.  Not to mention if you have school-aged kids the Christmas programs you have to help with.  This time of year can be stressful.  

To help you out, I’m sharing these top frugal holiday tips so that you don’t have to stress about money.  

You can watch the 5 Frugal Holiday Tips video online or down below:

The first tip is to create a Christmas Budget.  You can read this post from earlier in the week where I shared just how we create our budget, what we track and where we get an idea of how much to spend on every person in our lives.

Your second tip to saving money is DIY. I know this one might seem a little hard, especially if your pressed for time but you can easily find a simple project that takes hardly any time and costs hardly anything.  For me, I love the idea of making something for someone I love over buying a gift.  It seems so much more personal and shows just how much I care.

Here are a few DIY ideas:

  • ornaments
  • wreath
  • oven mitts
  • framed photo

A third frugal holiday tip is to host a potluck instead of exchanging gifts.  Let’s be honest, gift buying can get overwhelming and expensive. So get together with friends or neighbors and suggest a potluck instead of a gift exchange.  Have everyone bring a dish and then just spend time together.  I’m sure having a few hours laughing over a meal would mean more than a gift that will end up collecting dust.

The fourth tips is all about shopping smart.  You can find amazing deals online by using coupon codes and promotional discounts.  Always search on Google for a coupon code before checking out to make sure you’re getting the lowest price.  Another great way to shop smart is by going to the Dollar Tree, Big Lots and other discount stores.  If you’re willing to go earlier in the holiday season you can find some great items for a fraction of the cost as other retailers.

My final tip for racking up those holiday savings is host a cookie party. Invite a few friends over and each of you bake 1-2 cookie recipes, but make sure your batches are big enough to share.  Then at the end of the day you have about 6 different recipes you can split between you to pass out as gifts. 

How To Setup Your Christmas Budget

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The holiday season is upon us.  The moment Halloween is over, it seems that Christmas is in full swing.  I need time to slow down just a little, it’s going by way too fast.  I can’t believe it’s going to be our little guy’s second Christmas this year.  In a recent Budget Q&A I shared the concept of our Christmas Budget – what we include, how it works and what all I track.  Well in that post I promised I would bring a more in-depth tutorial on how you can setup your Christmas Budget to help you tame the chaos this year.  

You can watch the video online or below:

You need to create a simple spreadsheet in either your journal, Excel or you can even use Google Sheets to create one.  You need 7 columns to get you started:

  1. Who
  2. What
  3. Budget
  4. Spent
  5. Bought
  6. Received
  7. Wrapped


This one is pretty self explanatory, who do you need to buy a gift for.  Make sure to include all of your family members, friends, co-workers, any hostess gifts for dinner parties, mailman, trash pick-up guys, etc.


The what category always takes you a little longer to complete.  This is where you will brainstorm a gift idea for everyone on your list.


Fill in how much you plan on spending for each person.  You can use this guide to help with gift limits.  


Once you buy a gift, fill in this section.  As I said in the video if you go over by a few dollars on one person’s gift – that’s okay.  Just make up for somewhere else. For instance, if I spend $5 more for my sister’s gift than I had budgeted, then I need to spend $5 less somewhere else.  It could be on one other gift or I could save a $1 or so on several different people to make up the difference.  

Bought, Received, Wrapped

Use the last three columns as a checklist.  Now you can look at your budget at any moment to know who you need to buy for still, what gifts you’re waiting on to get in and which ones still need to be wrapped.  These three additions to your budget are a game changer. I promise! No more waiting until the last minute to get a gift for someone because you forgot.  Now you will know exactly who you have left and about how much you still need to spend.  

For more tips and budget help, check out these great posts:

How We Use Our Credit Card Rewards

how to use credit card reward points, Credit Card Reward Points, using credit card cash back, budgeting for credit cards, how to use a credit card

Our Favorite Money Saving Apps

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How To Make Money Shopping Online and walmart savings catcher, making money shopping


Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Are you prepared? This year we’re staying in town and having dinner with my family.  It’s going to be great getting together with my sister (and brother-in-law), my cousins and their kids.  My cousins and I are about the same age and even are kids are close in age.  So it’s great when we all get to be together.  We usually laugh until we get headaches, we tell stories of our past and just enjoy ourselves.  

You may remember from October’s Budget Q&A from not too long ago.  We mentioned taking the time to plan out your holiday budget.  I do have a post all about preparing your Christmas Budget, which includes Thanksgiving dinner coming this week (so stay tuned!). Your holiday budget not only includes gifts you have to buy for everyone, but also anything you have to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, road trips to see families and much more.  

The first think you need to do is to go through your holiday budget and make sure you know exactly what you planned on making or buying for Thanksgiving.  It’s important to remind yourself so you don’t overspend.

Today, I wanted to share with you a few tips for hosting Thanksgiving dinner on a budget:

Have a Potluck

Don’t put the stress and responsibility of preparing every dish on just one person.  Ask for help.  Ask each couple or person to bring a dish or two.  It really helps on the food costs and the time it takes to prepare.  My family does this every year.  That way everyone is contributing some dish to dinner and is helping out.

Prioritize Your Dishes

Make a list of every dish you would like to have at dinner.  From there you can see what people are bringing and then anything left over needs to be prioritized.  Let’s be honest, there’s usually too many dishes and foods at Thanksgiving dinner.  So, don’t be afraid if something doesn’t make the cut.  

Do Without Store Bought Decorations

If you have any decorations or centerpieces from previous years then use those.  If not, then get creative.  You can find a ton of fall decor ideas on Pinterest.  Another option is to head outside and use leaves or pinecones you find in your backyard.  Use a little spray paint or imagination and you can make your own perfect pieces.

Make It Yourself

Obviously hiring a caterer sounds like a genius idea, but they can be costly.  Another way your budget can jump is having a bakery prepare your cakes, pies or other bakery goods.  Do without hiring someone to make dishes and do it yourself, from scratch.  Buying goods from bakeries and stores can be costly, but so can buying pre-made or pre-mixed foods too.  

There you have it! Simple tips to help you stay within your budget and still enjoy time with your family.  It’s too easy to get wrapped up in this idea of the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.  The food has to be perfect, the decorations have to be spot-on and the house has to be spotless.  But that’s not what Thanksgiving is about.  It’s about time with family, being thankful for what’s most important and enjoying the moment.