Category Archives: Tips

Having An Emergency Fund Pays

J and I have been talking money lately, working on saving money, and paying off debt.  Luckily we have been able to listen to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University before we get married (if you haven’t heard of FPU, you have to check it out!).  The first baby step is $1,000 in the bank.  Seemed easy enough, right?  It took budgeting and being diligent, but we reached our goal at the end of September.  Awesome!

Then comes the first Monday of October… dun dun dun and my tooth starts to ache.  I try to “live” with the pain, but it just got worse.  I caved by Friday and had an appointment with the dentist.  The outlook of my teeth was not so great and the final cost for the repairs – $1,050.

Without our emergency fund, we would not have been able to take care of this bill without sacrifice.  We do not have to give up food for the month or better yet, I do not have to live in pain!  It’s hard to see that $1,000 we worked so hard to achieve walk away so quickly, but at the end of the day that is why we have it.

We did not plan for my teeth to have a meltdown, but things happen.  Life happens.  We must adapt, take care of ourselves, and move on.  That is exactly what we are doing.  Starting with our first paycheck of October we will commence the rebuild.  In a short time we will have our emergency fund back to full again and start working towards paying down our debt.

I have to admit that it feels pretty good to be able to take care of this medical bill without help from family and without having to put it on a credit card to pay interest on.  It feels real good.

Want to know something that I find humorous?  The week after we get married is when J can apply for insurance through his work and since we will be married, so can I.  His work has basic dental coverage and if only my teeth could have lasted a bit longer that $1,050 may have only been $700.  But that’s the way life goes and we keep moving.

If you do face a dental emergency like me then do not be afraid to ask questions:

1) does this office do payment plans?  Most would like payment up front since the work is done at that time; however, there might be a Care Credit option that you can apply for.  That way you get the work done and pay a minimal amount of interest.

2) does this office offer a discount plan?  My dentist does!  It was great to learn about it.  For a small annual fee they discount all of the procedures.  I asked for an example – my cleaning and exam that day would normally be $300, but with the plan it was only $175.  The plan more than paid for itself in that moment.  I looked through my costs of what I need done and without the plan it would have been $1,700 or more!  That’s crazy!

3) does your work have to be done right away?  A lot of dentists will be honest with you and tell you what are emergencies and what aren’t.  Those are nice dentists.

It pays to talk to the office staff to learn more.  Each place is different and at the end of the day they need your business.

Cheers!

5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Graduating College

The other day I was having a conversation with my parents about life, childhood, and the fact that I am getting married, which blows my mind.  We were talking about life in college and how I could always hear my parents advice in the back of my mind, which guided me.  Or as I like to think kept me from having too much fun, until that one day at a local bar where a friend of mine got drugged because she took a drink from a cute guy.  The cute guy’s friend offered me a drink that looked eerily similar to my friend’s and I turned it down because I heard my Dad’s voice telling me not to take a drink that I didn’t see get made.  At that moment,  I couldn’t understand why the guy instantly lost interest in me… I was cute, I was funny, but why did he stop talking to me?  The next day as my friend was really sick and couldn’t remember the night… it hit me, I know he lost interest because I turned down his drugged drink.
5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Graduating CollegeI really think that with their guidance I have made it pretty far in life with not many bad moments or memories.  My parents always helped and were there for me, sometimes they would let me figure things out on my own; and those moments were harder for me.  Once I graduated with my Masters and started really thinking of my career is when I realized I still had quite a bit of learning to do.

I always hear advice from family, friends, and sometimes even strangers about life.  Sometimes their advice is solicited and sometimes it is not.  So I listen to learn.  There are times that their advice misses the intended target or I have to learn on my own.

Here are 5 things I wish I would have known about before graduating college:

1) Trust your gut when it comes to your career.

it’s important to know that it’s okay to walk away.  Do not waste time in a career that is not right for you.  Now I am not suggesting quitting a job without any source of income or another job.  So, bide your time, look for a new job and when the time is right for you, make your exit.

For example, I thought retail was the answer.  My major in undergrad was Marketing – Retail/Merchandising.  That must mean I wanted to work in retail, right? No.  H-E-double hockey sticks No.  I tried it after college, full-time.  The hours were not great, I missed J in the evenings and on the weekends, and the part that determined my exit was being tossed around and had smoke blown in places that it should not be blown.

2) Don’t lose your best friends.  

My mom always said that there will be friends that go with that phase of your life, but then there are special friends that you will carry through every phase of your life.  It’s important that you keep those people you love, and to keep them, you have to be willing to work at those relationships.

3) Getting an A or a B really doesn’t matter.


I wrote about this in a letter to the incoming freshman class awhile back.  I wish I would have taken it a bit more seriously in college and would have had a bit more fun.  I am not saying that I never had fun, but there are moments that I missed out because I was worried about getting that A.  It didn’t matter.  I’ve never been asked for my GPA or class rank.  I think the degree I earned speaks for itself.

4) Don’t replace the busyness of college with an overwhelming workload.


In college I was actively involved on campus with several clubs and my sorority, and I always had something to do or people to talk to about something.  After college I felt the need to keep myself busy and threw myself into my job.  I wasn’t getting paid that great and there was really no room for me to grow, and I had just set the precedent that I would be available at 10pm Monday-Friday and anytime on the weekends.  When the time came for me to get a life outside of work and I met J, it was hard for my coworkers to swallow that I would only be working 45 hours a week and not 60.

5) How much work it is to be an actual adult without the label of being a student.

I never realized during college how much work and planning it takes to be an adult.  There are responsibilities that come the moment without any hesitation once you walk across that stage and receive that empty leather diploma holder.  I am not talking about bills being due or needing food and shelter; I am talking about the social responsibilities.

Don’t get me wrong being an adult is 1000x better than being a student, but sometimes I wish I could go back to that irresponsible student if only for a moment.

Cheers!

The Perfect Gallery Wall

tips for creating a gallery wall

I love a good gallery wall, they are eclectic and a good way to express my personality. Which obviously consists of a whole lot of mis-match items that when combined create something beautiful.

Now that we are FINALLY in our new place and most of the boxes are unpacked, it was time to hang some pictures.  I promised J that I would keep his beloved fish that was caught by grandpa and passed down the family.  I needed items that can balance out the fish and make it look like it belongs on the wall.  Not like I just stuck it in the corner, behind a door to say that I was good partner because it was on a wall.

create a gallery wall Here are some tips for creating a gallery wall that is perfect:

1) find pictures that are unlike each other – either having different frame types, coloring, or are pictures of landscape, sculptures, and people.
2) lay your arrangement on the floor.  Play with it and make sure you love it.  It took me awhile to get it just right.  A lot of frames came in and out of this arrangement.
gallery wall tips3) get someone’s opinion.  I asked J what he thought before  putting one nail into the wall.  Not that he actually cared what it looks like, but it was nice to have that affirmation.
4) start nailing it! We measured out the wall space to find the middle, then measured out the arrangement to find the midpoint.  Match those two up and start hanging.
5) stand in awe of your awesome gallery wall.

creating a gallery wall

Cheers!

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Budgeting To Have Freedom

Budgeting Tips

I never wanted to be someone that lived paycheck-to-paycheck or had to ask my Husband if I could take a trip to the mall just because.  I learned early on, thanks to my awesome parents, that two people working together to build a life could still have freedom to do what they wanted.  J and I are working towards financial freedom and are taking steps before we are even married.

 For me it was important to not have to ask permission to go to the mall, just like J didn’t want to have to ask permission to grab a beer with friends while watching the big game.  I truly felt like that would ruin us.  I did not and do not want a life where we have to answer to one another about spending money.  It’s not for me. 

We budget everything, including our no-questions-asked-blow money.  Each month we get $50 handed to us that we can do whatever we want with, for you it might be $200 or it might be $25.  That is what we can comfortably afford.  We can save it or we can blow on the first day – the best part is that it does not matter.  It is my money.  It is his money.

It’s nice to have some freedom when we are being careful with every other dollar we make.

Cheers!

15 Super Easy Ways to Save Money Without Thinking

I’ve learned saving techniques from my Dad at a young age.  I mean, what 12 year old was given “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason as a free-time read?  I was.  And… I loved it.  

Easy Ways To Save Money

I learned at an early age that saving was important.  You want something, you save for it.  You want to go somewhere, you save it.  It is a no brainer.  I have learned to trick myself into saving money on top of the obvious ways to save.  Let’s get it started: 15 Super Easy Ways to Save Money Without Thinking

Savings in the Bank

1) Transfer 10% of each paycheck into a savings account off the top.

2) Get any bonuses or work overtime? Put directly into savings.  You have live off an income without the bonus, so why not save that extra dough?

3) Cash in spare change. J has the worst habit of leaving spare change everywhere.  I find it on the coffee table, the kitchen table, the dresser, the washing machine – everywhere.  It adds up.  Right now we have about 2 steins and 1 change jar full of coins.  It’s about time to wrap it and trade it in for some cold-hard cash.

4) Tag-along on a yard sale.  I will be the first to say that throwing a yard sale just seems like too much work for me.  However, I am happy to bring my items over to a friend who is hosting.  She gets the joy of my company all day and I do not have to find folding tables, hang flyers, or post on Craigslist.

Spend Less

Easy Ways to Save Money

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5) Pay cash.  On average people will spend less when eating out, buying groceries and just about anything when they pay cash.  It hurts more to hand over that green bill then it does a ‘magic’ card.

6) Calculate your grocery List.  When I go into a grocery store I have my list, a pen, and my iPhone in hand.  As I put items in the cart, I look at the price tag and enter it into my calculator.  We budget $75 a week in groceries and ever since I started calculating the prices, I spend on average $65 a week.  That’s a savings of $10 a week … or $520 a year!

7) Find a coupon site.  I have been known to get an entire dinner table to download a coupon app to save a few bucks on a meal, so it should come as no surprise that I search for coupons to almost everywhere and for almost everything.  I work on our grocery list for a few days before we go and look for printable coupons on the brands we buy.  The savings can add up.

Vehicle Savings

8) Save on miles per gallon costs.  For the first week or two in our new home I had the opportunity of working from home and J had to drive about 20 miles to work.  One day as we were heading to meet family, I had the light bulb moment and asked J why he was not taking my car.  My little SUV compared to his big ol’ truck saves quite a bit in gas.  My car sat in the driveway most days and even when I do go into the office it’s not as far away as J’s work.  Now he drives my car to work and if I need to go in I take his truck.

9) Shop for lowest gas prices.  I downloaded the app GasBuddy.com for my iPhone and check local gas prices before I fill up.  Usually driving an extra mile will save me $.05 a gallon and we fill up J’s truck that’s a big savings to us!

10) Improve your gas mileage.  Have you air-filter changed, make sure your tires are inflated properly, and don’t have a lead foot.  Simple, small changes can help add up and make your gas last longer.

Around the Home and Bills

11) Turn off lights.   This one was a big one for me to learn.  J used to clap for me whenever I would leave a room and remember to turn off the lights – that’s how rare it was!  The longer we have lived together, the better I am getting about turning off lights.  The savings from turning off lights and not leaving every single light on for hours and hours will add up.

12) Stay on the family’s cell phone plan.  It’s no lie that a family plan is the way to go when looking at phone plans.  J’s work provides his cell phone at no charge, which is great for the budget but also means that he is on call at all hours of the day.  My parents are willing to let me stay on the family plan for a while longer.  My portion is cheap compared to a plan by myself.

13) Become healthier.  By picking up healthy habits you can avoid getting sick often and that means less doctor appointments, and in turn less co-pays.

Eating Out Savings

Easy Ways to save money

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14) Pack your lunch.  It may seem easy to just run through a drive-thru and eat off the dollar menu every day, but that adds up.  Let’s do the math – $3.50 a day for lunch is about $17.50 a week, which is about $910 a year!  Most grocery stores will have deals on lunch meat and bread each week, plus any coupons you can find.  Let’s say a pack of lunch meat for $1.80 and a loaf of bread for $3.50 will make about 7 sandwiches, give or take a sandwich.  For all of the work days throughout the entire year you will have to buy 45 packs of lunch meat and loaves of bread, which is only $238.50 a year for sandwiches.  That’s a savings of over $670 a year! Whoa!

15)  Share dinners when eating out.  Restaurants’ portions are outrageous and most of the time, they can feed two people comfortably.  Use the the portion control and size guide for an idea.  Some restaurants may have a plate sharing fee but typically that’s just $1 or $2.  So, order one entree and split it.  It’s the right portion for your stomach and your budget.

Cheers!

10 Bad Working From Home Habits to Kick

bad work habits to break

Lately I have had the pleasure to work from home some and I found myself picking up some bad habits.  Let’s face it, we all have bad work habits and I am no longer in denial about mine.

Here we go, 10 habits to break when you are working from home:

1) turning on TV.
2) sitting on the couch, not at a table or desk.
3) not setting alarm as if you had to go into an office.
4) not logging onto your work center at 8:00 so you can see everything that you need to get done for the day.
5) getting distracted by other sources of entertainment, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, or OMG! Yahoo
6) spending time during the workday doing laundry or other household chores
7) not forcing yourself to continue working until 5:00 or the agreed upon quitting time from your boss.
8) getting annoyed with people back at the main office – you do not know what their day is like and therefore, cannot get upset when they have you do something that only takes 30 seconds and they could have done it in the time they took to send an email asking you to do it… yes this one might be a bit passive aggressive, but it’s a habit to break.
9) procrastinating
10) taking too many breaks

I know I am guilty of some all of these from time to time.  I’ve made it a priority to refocus my energy and pretend that I am in the swankiest office.

Cheers!

Organize Your Desktop, simple easy steps with a template

organize your desktop

I have seen on Pinterest a few organizing tips to cleaning up your desktop icons.  I thought it was genius, but there was not a template that quite made a place for all of my icons.  Of course, I decided to create one on my own, because that’s just what I do while J and I watch TV.

First, I looked at my desktop and arranged them in categories that made sense to me.

Second, I created an image in Photoshop with labels for all of my categories.  My favorite is the Money one, mainly because I used dollar signs…

Third, any icons that did not fit into my new categories got deleted from the desktop.  My thoughts were that if I didn’t need a category then I did not need an icon junking up my screen, simple as that.

I have added the image I used and an image with the category titles removed.  Hope you find it useful!

organize your desktop organize your desktop

Cheers!

 

Open Letter to the Incoming Freshmen Class

open letter to incoming freshmen

Yes, that’s me …on a mechanical bull.
One of those nights.

I loved college to the max.  It’s where I discovered that I am, in fact, an extrovert, found some of my best friends, became adventurous.  I developed a love for sushi, the hair poof, dancing like a crazy person – even when sober, and where I learned to speak my mind.  I am not the wisest person or the most eloquent, but I do have some advice for freshmen that was willed down to me.

Dear Small Freshman,

You are about to embark on the best years of your life.  You will drink too much, stay up too late, not study nearly enough as you think you should, and make some of the best memories ever.  To be successful and get the most out of your short time, you have to:

Develop a schedule.  Have specific nights that you stay in, do laundry, get caught up on homework and studying then have nights that you don’t do any of the boring stuff.  For me, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were the fun nights, which meant Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday I stayed in and worked on all my class assignments.   It’s about moderation.

Be adventurous.  It took me the whole first semester before I got this part down.  You will have so much fun if you are up for random road trips, staying up late, or heading to that random dive bar that no one has ever heard of.  Only say no the illegal, try everything else.

Avoid the “Freshman 15” by all costs. In my case it was the “Freshman 15” then “Sophomore 20.”  Workout, join the (probably free-to-you) gym on campus, go for a run with your friends.  It took me 2x as long to lose it all after college then it took for me to gain it all.

Make a connection in each of your classes.  Eventually as you work through your degree program the class sizes will get smaller and you will see the same faces in majority of your classes.  It’s best to make alliances early so when you’re sick or miss class for “whatever” reason then you have someone to call to get notes or turn an assignment for you.

Here we go, pay attention to the next part.  It’s probably the most important to your academic career: Talk to your professors.  Go to your professors during their office hours to ask an assignment question, test question, or anything.  You want your professors to know your face, think you are dedicated to your studies, and in turn, they will be willing to help you succeed or bump you from that 89.2 to a 90.

Most of all, do not stress too much.  Everything will be fine.  My Dad told me one thin that stuck with me “You will not remember in 20 years if you made a C, B, or an A on that test, BUT you will remember that random night when you went out with your friends.”

Have fun!

Yours truly,

Older and Wiser Ex-College Student 

Tips to Simplify Your Life

merelynne tips to simplify your life

I am always drawn to articles, books, and readings about simplifying my life.  I run around all day like a chicken with its head cut off.  I’ve always hated that saying because I literally imagine a cartoon type chicken running around without a head in the middle of the desert.  Why the desert you might ask?  I have no idea, perhaps too many episodes of Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner as a kid.  Anyway back to what I was saying.  An article that promises to calm my life with just a few simple steps is like a magnet to my A-type personality.

I have learned through college, working, and then family life a few tricks that always work for me.  Now that I’m getting older I have found that these tricks are even listed on most of those fancy-shmancy articles.  I’d like to think I’m that smart, but it’s probably because I’ve read so many of them.

Here we go my top 5 tips to simplify your life and enjoy your life more:

1) Prioritize – sounds simple right?  You need to pick 1-3 tasks per day to complete each day.  Spend a few minutes each morning or when you arrive at your desk to think about your whole day and what all needs be accomplished.  Highlight 1-3 tasks depending on the time you have and the time you assume each one will take.

I keep a running to-do list of items at work, for my Etsy shop, for the home, and for this little blog.  I then pick 1-3 things that I need to do.  Usually the days I work I pick 1-3 to do the 8 hours I’m there and then maybe only 1 to do from home, Etsy or blog for when my work day ends.  I’m not saying pick a hobby task over your actual job – you gotta make that money, honey.

2) Pick What Makes You Happy – it is super easy to get swallowed whole by work; try not to let that happen.  Select 1-2 things each day that make you happy and fulfilled.

A few months ago I switched up my job to work at a local retailer.  Most days I would not get home until 9:30 and I realized that I missed having dinner with J.  Now I make it a point to have dinner with J every night.  Also, I chose Crossfit.  I’m new at it, it will always be challenging, but I am absolutely enthralled by it.

3) Block Out Distractions – get your environment ready to crank out your top priorities.  For me, it’s  not only turning my phone on silent but turning it over and popping in my earbuds to listen to some Pandora.

4) Just Say No – remember that drug prevention club in middle school?  Just Say No to Drugs… Okay, well maybe your school wasn’t as cool as mine, but anway you get the point.  Say no to things that are not a priority.  Keep yourself single-minded when it comes to tackling.  Don’t take on too much.

5) Breathe – I have a habit of running around like a crazy woman when I get stressed so I am still working on this one.  Every once in awhile remind yourself to breathe.  The world will still be here tomorrow even if you do not get everything done on your list.  It’s okay, be forgiving to yourself.

Now, I think this post might be more for me then it is for anyone else.  It’s a simple reminder to simplify your my life so that you I can enjoy more and stress less.

Cheers!