Monthly Archives: February 2018

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Take A Look At My Phone | My Favorite Money And Time Saving Apps

My Favorite Money And Time Saving Apps, take a look through my phone, phone hacks, meredith rines, merelynne, Money And Time Saving Apps

I’m sharing something really personal today – a peek into my phone. I thought it would be really helpful to see my all time favorite money and time saving apps that you might want to incorporate. Because, let’s be honest, if you’re like me then your phone is your life. It holds all the things.

All the appointments, reminders, coupons, pictures, memories…everything.

As busy moms it’s important to make sure we’re utilizing our phones the best way we can.  Our phones can actually save us hundreds of dollars each year, if we take the time to use them correctly.  In today’s video I’m sharing a look at my phone, my favorite money and time saving apps, too.

I might even be sharing a few hacks to make life just a little bit easier for us.

You can watch online or down below to take a peek through my phone:

For more info on my favorite money saving apps, check out this post.

Also, for more ideas on how to use your phone for memory keeping, check this out.

If you’re interested in looking into Ibotta click this referral link.

I use the Samsung Galaxy S7.  I plan on holding onto this bad boy until it falls apart, too (knock on wood).  I upgraded a few months before our son was born.  It still works great and takes a pretty decent photo.

I think the reason it’s lasted this long is the case I have for it. I went with this OtterBox case, which makes my phone a little bulkier than normal. BUT it still works and looks brand new, plus it has been through puddles, down steps, fallen off tables and so much more.

Are We Having More Kids? How Old Am I? What Was My Major? | Answering Your Questions

deciding to have more kids, how to create content online, meredithrines, merelynne

This month’s Q&A is going to be a bit different.  I wanted to take time to answer some of the more personal questions I have been receiving from you.  Back in December I sent out a four question survey and I offered a spot for you to ask any questions you have – no limit.  So, I’ve been working through those questions last month and now today I decided to lump together the more personal ones.

You can watch the video online or down below:

Here are some of the questions you can find an answer to:

  1. How old am I?
  2. How  many kids do we have?
  3. Are we planning on having more kids?
  4. What do I do for a day job?
  5. What was my major in college?
  6. Why did I start creating a blog and videos about budgeting?

If you’re looking for some of my older budget Q&A’s, take a look at the past months.







Focus on Finances Check In | A New Financial Challenge

creating new financial goals, focus on finances, realistic financial goals, meredith rines, merelynne

We’ve made it! Half-way through February.  Can you believe it? I really don’t know where 2018 is going.  I swear it was just New Year’s Eve and I was crashing before 1:00 am even with people at our house.  This momma needs her sleep!  

Not too long ago (about 2 weeks, if we’re counting) I introduced you to our this year’s Focus on Finances challenge.  Basically I pick the shortest month to set some hard financial goals for our family.  It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.

The bottom line is, this year is rough.  We set a pretty big goal for ourselves of saving an additional $500 this month.  So far, we’re not even half-way there.  But that’s okay.  

I am not in panic mode.

Here’s the deal – I get paid at the end of the month (31st) and the middle of the month (16th).  The end of the month paycheck goes towards all of our bills and expenses between the 1st and 16th.  Then the second paycheck covers the remaining part of the month.

The first half of the month is always a bit tight.  That’s when we’re replenishing a lot we’ve ran out of, most of our bills hit during that time and this month we ended up needing to get a few things around the house and for our dogs.  Luckily I created sinking funds for those areas, but I really hate pulling from a savings account when we have the money sitting there.

The next part of the month should be a lot smoother.  I don’t see any big purchases we’ll need to make coming up.  knock on wood.  The only expense I am anticipating is our Amazon subscribe and save order, but this month it’s a smaller order.

I am pretty positive that next part of the month will be good at us reaching our goal or at least coming pretty darn close.

How are you doing on your big goal for this month?  Are you half-way there yet?  What setbacks have you faced?

Let me know in the comments!

Just remember – do not get discouraged if you’re not close to reaching your goal.  This month isn’t about successes and failures.  It’s about pushing ourselves and our budgets to see what small sacrifices we can make every day to help our financial situations.

Insanely Easy Packing Hack

insanely easy packing hack, packing hack, toddler packing hack, meredith rines, merelynne

Want in on a BIG secret to make your life a little easier when it comes to traveling?  I’m talking about any type of travel, too. Overnight visit, weekend getaway, vacation, work trip, whatever you have coming up.  This one trick has been a genius lifesaver. 

We’ve been following this tactic for a few years now, we just update it as we change and once our son was born.  You can watch the video online or down below for our insanely easy packing hack:

If you want more packing hacks, check out this post for packing your toddler and this one for packing for a work trip.

Valentine’s Date Ideas on a Budget

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Mommas! I wanted to pop in real quick for any of you that might be late planners like I am.  I shared Monday how I was out of town all weekend and surprised my two boys with a Valentine’s Day cookie cake to show them just how much I love them.  

I mean, what doesn’t scream love like a giant heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie?

But I wanted to share a few budget-friendly ideas on date night you could try out with your spouse.  These ideas are not just Valentine’s Day specific either.  So keep these on the back burner for when it’s your turn to plan date night next.

Here we go, let’s jump into these Valentine’s Date ideas on a budget:

Cook dinner together

I have to admit, I love when J and I work together on preparing dinner.  Whether it’s a simple meal we’ve cooked a thousand times or something new we’re trying for the first time.

You can find a simple recipe on Pinterest using ingredients you already have on hand pour yourselves a glass of wine, and just have fun.

Picnic at home

Once you have your dinner prepared, setup a romantic picnic for just the two of you.  You could wait until the little ones go to bed and have a romantic dessert picnic in the family room.

Go out just for dessert

When money is tight, it’s hard to splurge on a five-course Valentine’s Day dinner.  Especially when most restaurants get booked weeks in advance.  Our solution is to go out for dessert – just to the two of you.  You could hire a babysitter for just a few hours, which should keep your costs down and the dessert doesn’t have to be fancy.  We love grabbing ice cream together.

Movie night at home

One of my favorite things to do as a couple is to just relax on the couch. With work, clinicals, raising a human being, running a house, and all the other demands on our time it’s nice just to be together.  

Put together a scavenger hunt

This one might take a little bit of time to pull off, but it’s so worth it. You don’t have to be elaborate with this idea, either.  Just simple post-its or notes around the house are great.  You can even kick it up a notch to lead your spouse to a nice dinner out, dancing, the movies or some place that they love.

Check out:

30 FREE weekend ideas for your family

Summer activities for your family for FREE

Fun Fall activities

Valentine’s Day Cookie Cake Using Boxed Cake Mix

4 Ingredient Valentine's Love Cookie Cake, lazy cookie cake, cooke cake using cake mix, cake mix chocolate chip cookie, meredithrines, merelynne

I’m going to show you the easiest way to make a Valentine’s Day cookie cake using a box of cake mix and two other ingredients. Your family is going to love this!

Hey Mommas! Valentine’s Day is only 2 days away.  TWO DAYS!?! Where has February gone? Heck, where did January go? I feel like we’ve been moving in warp speed lately. I feel like I’ve barely had time to breathe lately with all of the studying, working, being a Mom, and a wife that’s been happening over here.

I’m not complaining though.  You see, the truth is, I love being busy.  I cannot stand to have nothing to do.  Even when I was a kid I would bring home extra books on the weekends just to make it look like I was super busy – I never actually studied more or longer than I had to, I just wanted to look important.  Well these days, there’s is no pretending to our busy schedule.

I guess that’s what I get.

Well this past weekend I headed out of town for a review prep course for my upcoming exam, so I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to do anything sweet for the two boys in my life.  So I opted for a simple Valentine’s Day love cookie cake.

4 Ingredient Valentine's Love Cookie Cake, lazy cookie cake, cooke cake using cake mix, cake mix chocolate chip cookie, meredithrines, merelynne

J’s dessert of choice (well the only dessert he’ll actually eat) is chocolate chip cookies, so of course that made my decision super easy on what to make.  I did a little baking magic to turn the cookie cake into a heart, but I’ll show you that down below.

We wanted to keep this Valentine’s Day budget friendly.  We’ve been working extra hard lately to stick within our budget (no one’s perfect and neither are we).  I realized I had just about everything we needed to bake a cookie cake on hand, except chocolate chips.  Someone got a little chocolate craving one night and finished off the small bag we had in the freezer – oops!

I’m pretty proud of myself on this surprise though because J totally did not see it coming, which never happens! I’m the worst at keeping secrets from him.

Here’s how I created this sweet Valentine’s Day cookie cake:

Here’s what you need:

1 box white cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 bag mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Buttercream Icing or canned icing
Red food coloring

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, pour into greased pan.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. 

4 Ingredient Valentine's Love Cookie Cake, lazy cookie cake, cooke cake using cake mix, cake mix chocolate chip cookie, meredithrines, merelynne

Valentine’s Tip: To make a heart shaped cookie cake, I used one circle and one square pan.  I did not double my recipe, but you could.  I just opted for thinner cookies and started checking if they were done at around 15 minutes.  Once the cookies are fully cooked, pop out of the pan. 

Shaping the heart is really simple!  All you have to do is take the round cookie cake and slice it in half.  Then place the two circles on the square edges. You can take some icing to help hold it together. 

4 Ingredient Valentine's Love Cookie Cake, lazy cookie cake, cooke cake using cake mix, cake mix chocolate chip cookie, meredithrines, merelynne

For the icing I used my buttercream recipe and just used red food coloring to make it more Valentine-y.  You could also always use store-bought icing as well.

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Frozen Waffle Recipe

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When I was little my Mom would make breakfast for dinner.  It wasn’t often, but it sure was special.  My sister and I never knew when our favorite dinner was coming, but when she would utter those magic words “we’re having breakfast tonight” our eyes would light up.  It was the best!

As an adult, I’ve realized those were the nights my Mom was exhausted.  It must have been a long day at work and I’m sure having two kids, a house to clean and laundry to do didn’t make it any easier.  But she cemented my love for a flip-flop meal.

Now that I’m older, my love of breakfast hasn’t changed.  Breakfast food is my jam.  My all-time favorite breakfast food is waffles.  I’m not crazy about buying the store-bought kind because they always have extra ingredients that our bodies don’t need.  Plus they cost a ridiculous amount! I just don’t want to spend that kind of money on a monthly basis to feed my waffle habit.

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Honestly, waffles are a staple for busy mornings. I pop them in the toaster while I get our son’s diaper bag ready for the sitter. Then he can eat on the way if we’re running really late or he can eat while I finish getting ready.  Either way – they aren’t really messy.  He doesn’t get syrup with them, so as an on-the-go type option, it’s perfect. 

Then the idea of making homemade waffles each morning was just too much to handle. Who has time and who wants to make the time? I sure don’t.  

So I found a good compromise.

A homemade frozen waffle recipe. Yep! I found a freezer waffle recipe then adapted it.  Which means I can have homemade, not junk-filled waffles each morning.

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freezer waffle recipe, waffle recipe, easy waffle, easy breakfast, freezer waffle, homemade waffle, meredith rines, merelynne

freezer waffle recipe, waffle recipe, easy waffle, easy breakfast, freezer waffle, homemade waffle, meredith rines, merelynne

They are delicious!  The best part?

They go instantly from freezer to toaster!

What? No thawing required?  That’s right!  You just pop these bad boys right into the toaster when you’re ready.

I like this recipe a lot because it makes enough waffles for 

a few weeks.  This recipe yields about 20-24 waffles, depending on how much batter you need to fill your iron.  

Here’s how to prep homemade frozen waffles:

First, turn on your waffle iron to heat up.

Then combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.

When the iron is nice and hot, shoot it with a quick spray of cooking spray to prevent any of the recipe from sticking.

Place a scoop of the batter onto the waffle iron.  For my iron, it’s about 3/4 cup.  I have this handy ladle that is exactly 1/4 cup so it’s what I use to scoop.

Cook until nice and done.  About 5 minutes.

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To Freeze:

I then placed my waffles, single layer on a cookie sheet and placed in the freezer.  You will need to flash freeze the waffles for about 20-25 minutes.  Place in a gallon-size freezer bag and place back in the freezer.

To Reheat:

Take straight out of the freezer and place directly into your toaster.  I like mine on a medium-to-dark setting, just because I like mine nice and toasty.  One cycle is usually enough in the toaster, too.  If they’re too thick for your toaster, then you can easily reheat in the microwave.

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5 Things We Don’t Spend Money On

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There are some expenses each month you probably notice that are just wasteful. I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves, shall we? We all do it and we all have those expenses that we don’t need to be spending money on and we aren’t getting the full benefits out of, right?

Once my husband, J decided to go back to school full time we took a good hard look at our budget to see what expenses we could cut. Some of these expense were hard to say goodbye to (hello! it’s more of an emotional attachment and not so much an actual need) and some of them were super easy to kiss goodbye.

In today’s video I’m sharing the 5 things we don’t spend money on each month.  I also am diving into why I think these expenses are just money suckers and don’t actually provide much value to you. 

You can watch the video of the 5 things we don’t spend money on online or down below:

Here’s a recap of today’s video:

These are the expenses we gave up months ago when my husband went back to school full time.  To be honest, we don’t really miss them that much and they weren’t that hard to give up.

1) TV
2) Cell Phone Payments
3) Subscription Services
4) Birthday Cards
5) ATM Fees

For more budgeting help check out these posts:

How To Create A Budget

Free Monthly Bill Tracker

Why You Should Have An Emergency Fund

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

Simplify Your Morning Routine

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Raise your hand if you love routines and order. I know I do! I love knowing exactly how long it should take me to get something done, how often I need to be doing a load of laundry and what my day is going to look like from a quick glance.  However, Moms if you’re deep in the trenches then you totally get why toddlers don’t like routines and usually throw a wrench into our perfectly planned days.

BUT we still need our routines that simplify our days.  WE NEED THEM! Because when you come home after a long, hard day and your house is a mess a routine can help you tame the chaos and re-center yourself. 

In this post, I’m going to talk about a few routines you can create to simplify your mornings.  Let’s face what happens in the morning is what sets the tone for our whole day. If we feel rushed while getting ready then we feel stressed and anxious the rest of our day – and that’s no good.

Recently, I shared our evening routine for our toddler and it has made a huge difference at our house.  It has made our evenings a little more calm and it’s been easier to put our little man to bed each night.  I will admit though, it all started when we spend a few days sleep training our son when he was just a baby.

Let’s get into today’s post – simplify your morning routine – because the sooner you can implement some of these tips then the quicker you will get results.  I do want to share a disclaimer – I try to follow each of these every day, but I’m not perfect.  When you have kids, you have to accept that you won’t be perfect 100% of the time – it’s impossible! In an earlier post, I shared details about how I schedule my day by blocking my time, but here are more details in my schedule blocks. 

Now, you’ll notice some of these routines actually happen at night or the day before, which has been a huge blessing to my mornings.  I actually consider anything that makes my mornings easier part of my morning routine.

Here’s your Sunday routine:

Each Sunday evening or any free time you have during the weekend, spend a few minutes planning your outfits or even laying them out for the next week. I don’t have a ton of space to lay out each outfit for work the next week, but I can at least plan out what I am going to wear. 

If you’re like me and don’t have a ton of free space to lay out clothes, then here are a few things you can do: create a space in your closet that you can physically hang clothes for the week or you can make a written list in your planner with each day’s outfits.

Prepping for the week includes making sure your clothes are washed, pressed and ready to be put on within seconds. Make sure to think of every aspect of an outfit that’s going to be needed – obviously a blouse and pants or skirt, but also include an undershirt, tights, shoes, jewelry, etc.

Here’s your evening routine:

Review your to-do list for the next day. This way you can make sure everything is ready to rock-n-roll the next morning.

Make sure to look over your meal plan for tomorrow’s dinner so you can defrost any meat and get a head start on the meal. 

Make lunches before going to bed and have the lunchbox packed with anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. 

Your morning routine:

Try to get up at the same time each morning – even if you don’t have to. That way your body can get used to following the same routine each morning, too.  

Follow the same steps each morning to help make everything more streamlined:

  1. wake up and shower
  2. put on makeup and style hair
  3. get dressed
  4. review any appointments that you have today
  5. make breakfast
  6. wake up kids and get them dressed

By following the same steps in the same order, you can have getting ready down to a science. You’ll know exactly how long it takes to do each step, which means you’ll know when you’re running behind.

Don’t check social media first thing in the morning. Wait until your little ones are up and dressed to get on social media. You can lose so much time by scrolling on FB and IG, so make sure to avoid it until you are completely ready.

Don’t check emails until you’re at the office. Again, this is such a time sucker. For me, I have personal email, work email and then business email that I like to check.  I try to get to work a few minutes early each day so I can check my personal email and business email before my work day starts.  If I spend too much time before I’m finished getting ready on the computer or my phone then I almost always run late.

Make breakfast easy on yourself. Try not to over-do it on breakfast during busy mornings. Sure you want your little one to eat a healthy meal, but who has time to cook a gourmet breakfast each morning?  Here’s a few tips to make breakfast simple:

  • cook a big batch of scrambled eggs on Sunday and put in the fridge for the week
  • make a batch of freezer waffles to pop in the toaster on the weekends
  • grab fruit at the store for those easy morning breakfasts
  • find simple foods your little ones can finish in the car when they take FOREVER to eat

These simple steps can really help create order in your morning routines. As a mom who is constantly running around from meeting to appointment to family time and everything else I need something that I can follow each day to help tame the chaos.  


How To Increase Your Credit Score

increase your credit score, how to get your credit score, credit report, credit score factors, meredith rines, merelynne

Lately I’ve received a few questions from several of you wondering about how to increase your credit score. We talk so much about paying down debt, building a savings and paying cash (or using debit cards) for most of our spending that you’re wondering how that affects your credit score.  I put together a few top tips on understanding what your credit score is, how to access it and ways to improve it.

First – Check Your Score and Report

Experian, Equifax and Transunion are three places that offer one free credit report each year.  What I would recommend is setting an alert on your calendar (I use Google calendar) to remind you every four months to print out a new report.  That way you’re checking it multiple times a year and it’s not costing you anything. 

You can also signup for a free service like Credit Karma to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity and to get an idea of your credit score.

Second – Know The Main Factors To Your Credit Score

Payment History – Make sure you’re making your payments and that they are on time

Amounts Owed – Your total balances on your accounts make a big difference for your score. The amount you have available is weighted pretty high.  For instance, you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit, but carry a $9,000 balance.  That will hurt you more than carrying the same card with only a $2,000 balance.

Length of Credit History – Another portion of your credit score is made up of how long your accounts have been opened and how long it has been since you last used the account.

Types of Credit Used – Are your accounts installment or revolving?  This will be taken into consideration.  

New Credit – The last piece to your credit score is if you’ve tried to open any new accounts – credit cards, loans, or others recently.

Third – Take Steps To Increase Your Credit Score

If you’re wanting to improve your credit score then you can do a few simple things now that can have a big impact in the future.  These are just a few tips:

  • Pay your bills on time.  You could setup auto pay for your bills to make sure payment is sent on time and to avoid any late fees.
  • If you’re running behind on any bills – get up-to-date.  If you’ve missed a payment or two and are behind then you need to work hard to get caught up.  The longer you pay your bills on time AFTER you’ve been late then the more your score will increase. 
  • Collection debts stay on your report for seven years, so avoid having any bill go to collections.  Even if you’ve paid the debt off in full, it will stay on your report for seven years.
  • Keep balances low and pay off each month
  • If you’re wanting to raise your score for the short-term then don’t close any paid off cards.  If you’re looking more for long-term reasons then closing an account may not be a bad thing, but in the short term it could hurt.
  • Don’t open too many accounts at one time.