How To Stay Motivated

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Today, I want to share with you how to stay motivated when it comes to budgeting and paying down your debt.  Let’s be honest for a second, talking about money all the time with your spouse or thinking about it can be draining.  Very draining.  Eventually you just want to throw your spreadsheets down and say screw it!  We’ve all be there.  But you have to hang on. 

Just for a bit longer.

You totally understand the importance of tracking your spending so you can finally start making a dent in your debt.  You get it when you hear how important it is to have an emergency fund built up so you don’t have to be completely shaken when a financial setback happens.  You are a rock star.  And it’s okay that sometimes you loose a little bit of focus, but you have to stay motivated with your eyes on the prize.

It’s going to be so worth it.

To jump ahead check out my video with my TOP THREE motivation tips when it comes to budgeting.

However, when those moments strike and you find yourself so completely unmotivated, you need to remember these few tips:

Know your strengths and your weaknesses.

More than likely one of you is probably more of a saver while the other one is more of a spender.  So during times you find yourself struggling or pulling the reigns back a bit too tight then take a step back.  Allow your partner to take over for a bit so you can recharge.  I know in our house I am more of the saver while J is more of the spender (not crazy, out of control spending).  So when I find myself obsessing over the budget and draining all the fun our of our lives, J is perfectly able to step in.  He lightens the mood and gets us back on track with enjoying life while paying down debt.

Talk with your partner.

When you find yourself some uninspired and just want to give up then talk it out.  You may be surprised with how your spouse feels and it can change your whole outlook.  Just have an honest conversation about what’s going, your thoughts and concerns then you can have a real conversation about what to do as a team.

Set small, easily reach goals.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated when you’re staring at a huge goal that seems way too far in the future.  So break it down.  Create small goals that can be reached in a week, a month or even 3 months from now.  You will feel like you’re making headway and that can be a huge motivator.  For instance, you’re trying to save for a down payment on your first home.  You’re goal is to put 20% down, which means you need about $30,000 in the bank.  Set smaller goals and then reward yourself.  Create a goal sheet where there is an increment of $5,000 all the way up.  Each time you hit a new $5,000 goal then you can color it in.  Now you can visualize yourself actually reaching your big goal and those $5,000 increments seems so much more attainable. 

Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate.

Sometimes goals change.  What you wanted a year ago may not be a good fit today.  You can’t be afraid to allow yourself to make changes to your goals – no matter their size.  It’s okay to remove something from your wish list and replace it with something new.  Let’s say you dreamed of owning a loft in the city by the time you were 35.  Now here you are at 30 years old and find yourself married with a toddler.  Well your new goal may be a small house with a yard so you can have room to play.  That’s okay.  Goals are fluid and constantly shifting.

Know it’s okay to make mistakes.

Most mistakes won’t be the end of the world, so allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes.  Each mistake is just a learning opportunity.  If you make misplace a $100 bill by accident don’t beat yourself up.  I know it can be really frustrating and depressing to lose money, but it’s not the end of the world.  Just take a deep breath and count the blessings that you do have in those situations.  It will put it into a better perspective for you.

Stay strong.

Know that it will all be worth it.  You have to have will power to reach your final goals.  You can just give up when things get tough because you will never make any progress.  So remember it’s worth fighting for.

Remember the end goal.

When things get really tough and you find yourself just wanting to pull the sheets over your head then it’s time to remember why.  Why are you working so hard.  What goal are you striving to achieve.  Is is so you can pay for your children’s college costs without them having to take out any loans?  Well why?  Why are you working to do that?  It might be because you graduated with some serious debt and know how much of a head start your kids will get if they are debt free.  Or maybe you want to pay off your credit card debt so you can finally start taking the extra $500 a month and use it to buy your dream home.  

Just remember what the end goal is and you will keep focused.

20 Easy Ways to Save Money

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Are you looking for some easy ways to save money?  

Well you’re in luck!  I am putting together my best list of ideas, tips and methods that will help you save money fast.  I don’t know about you, but Summer is usually a bit harder for me to save money.  Maybe it’s because there are a lot of fun things you can do with your family during the warm months or maybe you have school-aged children that you’re desperate to entertain for a few hours (I know I will be there soon!).  I had a realization the other night, if I made sure my budget was on track for the big stuff – groceries and eating out then that would give us a little more wiggle room for the fun fund.  So I put together a list of 20 really easy and simple ways to save money.  

No matter if you follow all 20 of these tips or just a few, you will find yourself saving money and being able to do more with your kids.  

Cash Back Rewards

If you use a credit card then make sure it’s one that offers cash back rewards.  We typically use a credit card for gas or really large purchases (our debit card has a $300 max per day).  Now we can build some cash back to use on vacation, Christmas shopping or just because type fun.

Ebates

I am preached before about how much I love Ebates.  I do so much shopping online – clothes, toys, diapers, wipes, dog food and more that by using Ebates I can get cashback.  It’s simple.  I start at Ebates.com and then click on the store I want to head to.  Then I shop normally and Ebates takes care of all the rest.  Then I get an email saying I earned money from my recent trip.  Afterwards you can get a check in the mail for the amount credited back to you or you can link your Paypal account.  If you don’t have an Ebates account yet, use my referral code to get signed up!

Money Saving Apps

Again, I have shared about how much I love apps on my smartphone that give me money back.  I have to admit though, I mainly use Ibotta these days thanks to the way I shop now.  I still use the Walmart Savings Catcher App, but ever since Walmart got rid of their price matching I don’t shop there nearly as much.  If you live in a bigger city or have more grocery store options then some of the other savings apps I talked about in this post can really help you.  

Stick to Your Grocery List

This one sounds so simple, but how m any times do you find yourself putting items in your cart that aren’t on your list.  My guess is probably at least 3-5 times each shopping trip.  That can really add up.  You need to be strong and have a plan when you step into the grocery store.  Let’s think about how much extra money you’re spending by not sticking to your list.  Say you buy on average 5 items that aren’t on your list and they have an average price of $7 each.  If you shop twice a month and are consistently adding 5 items to your basket then you’re spending about $900 extra each year.  Seriously! That’s a mortgage payment or a huge dent on your credit card bill.

Check Deals at the Store

I am not a huge fan of shopping at multiple stores in one week just to buy my groceries.  I don’t really like spending too much time at the store and for me, it’s not convenient.  Especially with a 15 month old – at some point he’s so over getting in and out of the car.  However, I am a fan of deals.  If there is a deal that it’s just too good to pass up then I buy it.  And I might even buy extra to freeze or put up for later.  You have to know what works for you and your family.  If it’s easy for you to shop at multiple stores then do it!  You can save money by doing that way.  However, if you’re like me and just find grocery stores to be super annoying then just keep an eye out for the killer deals to buy.

Loyalty Cards

Most stores have loyalty cards or rewards cards they offer.  The cards are typically free and give you some sort of point for each dollar you spend.  I have one for a few grocery stores I shop at and even one for my gas station I frequent.  Once we spend so much then we get free sodas and food, which is awesome when you’re craving a fountain diet mountain dew after a long weekend.  

Pay Less for Gas for Your Car

Speaking about gas, have you heard of Gas Buddy.  It’s a free app you can download then search your area for cheap gas prices.  We use it a lot when we’re traveling to make sure we’re getting the best deals on gas.

Take Your Lunch To Work

If you typically eat out during the week then try bringing your lunch a few days.  The savings can really add up.  For instance, you eat out 5 days a week and spend about $8 for food.  That’s $40 a week and if you do that all year long you’re spending over $2,000 a year on lunch.  Let’s face it though, $8 is being conservative.  Most lunch places cost on average $10-$15 per person if you include a drink, tax and tip.  By taking your lunch to work just three days a week then you could be saving over $1,200 a year in eating out costs.  

Eat Leftovers One Night A Week

In our home we tend to eat leftovers at least once a week, sometimes twice.  This way no food goes to waste and we can clean out our fridge.  If you have small children around then you might do this more often, because once you find a food your kid likes you keep feeding it to them night after night.  We made some chicken and rice the other night, our little guy loved it so for three nights we ate it because we knew he would eat it.  Yep!  It’s also a huge money saver because you don’t have to spend more at the grocery store and one night a week your meal plan is already done for you.

Eat At Home More

This kind of goes with eating leftovers, but you can really save some money by cutting your eating out budget.  Typically during the summer we cut our eating out budget by over half.  That way we spend more time at home either cooking in the kitchen or grilling outside.  Think about how much it costs your family to eat out, we’re not talking about a fast food place or even a nice sit down restaurant.  But something in between.  For our family of three that can easily cost around $35-$45 dollars per meal.  If you’re eating out twice a week then that can really sky rocket.  

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Have you seen those thermostats you can control with your smartphone?  I love them!  You can totally program them to save you money.  When you’re home, it knows and starts cooling (or heating) for you.  Then you can set it to kick off or not run as much when you’re not home.  It’s a total game changer when it comes to utility costs.  

Wash Laundry in Cold Water

Most washing machines and detergents these days work just as good in cold water as they do in hot.  So for us, we wash everything on cold.  It saves money because our hot water heater isn’t having to work overtime and the electricity it uses is cut proportionally.  I would recommend buying better laundry detergent (generic is fine still) to make sure you’re getting a good clean though.  I even put together these free dryer balls that have been a huger saver for our family.

Start Working Out

This one might seem a little off, but trust me on it.  People that work out and stay healthy are less likely to get sick.  When you get sick you (should) visit the doctor, which means you have a copay, prescriptions to fill and maybe time off work.  So by taking the time to work out, even if it’s just going for a nightly walk then you will be better off for it… and so will your wallet!

Start a Vegetable Garden

Growing your own vegetables is a great source of saving money.  Produce can be expensive at the grocery store, plus you never know exactly what pesticides they use on the product.  So by growing your own you can control what is being out on the food and you don’t have to pay the large store mark up prices.  

Buy Generic When Possible

If you pay attention to most generic brand items they are usually made with the same ingredients as name brand.  Sometimes name brand factories even make the generic items themselves!  Crazy, I know!  When our little guy was on formula our doctor mentioned how it has to go through so much testing that when it comes down to it most formulas are the same.  You need to find one that agrees with your little one’s stomach, but honestly there isn’t one that’s on the market that isn’t safe.  So I use that same philosophy with most of the items we purchase.  If I can find a generic brand for less then I am going to give it a try.

Shop Around

Did you get multiple quotes on your auto insurance, homeowners insurance or life insurance?  Maybe, but probably not.  You might have just went with the guy down the street or used the same guy your parents’ used forever (I was guilty of this one!).  You should take a few minutes to call around and compare prices.  You could be paying a lot more for the same type of coverage as what someone else offers.  Make sure though when you’re comparing quotes, you’re comparing the same coverage.  Check to make sure you’re asking about the same liability, medical and personal property coverage amounts.

Stay On Budget

I know this one seems easy, but we all know it’s not.  Sticking to your budget can be difficult, but it can be so helpful.  I created a budget spreadsheet that has helped my family and others know exactly what’s left in their categories so they stop overspending.  I highly, highly recommend using a budget spreadsheet or some technique of saying here’s how much I have to spend and here’s what I’ve already spent.  That way you know without a doubt what you have left before your next pay period.  It can help you from overspending, which can help you save money.

Keep Track of What You Spend

This goes along with keeping a budget, but doesn’t have to be too sophisticated.  It’s important to know where you’re money is going that way you don’t spend too much and you can make sure you have enough to cover the important areas – like rent, groceries and car payments.  I recently shared my favorite technique for tacking what you spend.  All it uses is an envelope and a pen – it’s simple and effective.  

Set Priorities

You need to know what’s important to you and your family.  This is where money dates come in really handy because you’re able to talk it out with your spouse.  Finding out what’s a priority will help keep you focused to reach your goals.  Your priorities can change too, so talking about them regularly and reevaluating them is key.

Find Free Activities To Do

No matter what time of year it is, you can always find free stuff to do with your family.  Check out my post for free summer activities and free fall activities.  In all honesty, you just need to keep your eyes open to advertising and special deals.  Most places have days where they don’t charge admittance, which is awesome.  Find a few places your family loves and follow them on Facebook.  Then you can check their page for any free days or special deals they have running.

What are some of your favorite ways to save money?  Leave a comment sharing your tip!  

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.

 

Why I’m Glad Our Son is Growing Up With Dogs

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Before getting into the many, many reasons why I’m glad our little boy has three dogs to call his best friends I want to tell you a story.  This story took place when I was only nine.  My best friend in the entire world was a Rottweiler named Storm.  We did everything together – played in the mud, laid in the grass, played ball, and he even watched over me as I rode my bike up and down our street.  The best thing Storm did for me every day was walk me to and from the bus stop.  Each morning I would load up my backpack and head out the door with Storm right beside me.  He would wag his little stump of a tail as I talked about all the fun things I was going to do in school.  He would sit patiently at the end of the street until the school bus came, then he would walk home to wait until it was time to pick me up again.  No matter the temperature or weather conditions, Storm never failed.  He was always by my side.  

One day while waiting for the bus like we had done hundreds of times before, a man in a red SUV pulled up.  He didn’t live down my street and I had never saw him before.  He rolled down his window and started talking to me.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  There was no one else around, so I answered.  He complimented by dog and me.  At this point Storm was now standing a little in front of me with my hand on his back.  He was keeping a close eye on this new stranger.  He told me he liked to take pictures and would love to get one of me and my dog some day.  I replied with the fact the school bus should be pulling up any minute.  He then asked if I would go with him to get his camera so we could come back to take pictures.  All the red flags and alarms were going off in my head.  This was a BAD man.  

Within moments he had started opening his door.  My hand left Storm’s back and next thing I know my protector had jumped through the car window towards this man.  I took off.  I ran as fast as I could back to my house.  Screaming for my Mom and Dad.  By the time I reached the front porch Storm was by my side.  

I told my parents what had happened and they immediately called the sheriff’s office.  To this day I’m not sure exactly what happened next, but the man did live in the neighboring subdivision and within a few months he moved out of town.  

Storm saved my life.  I truly believe he saved me.  I know I couldn’t have out ran this grown man at only 9 years old, but because of Storm I got away.  

That story is the main reason I want our son growing up with dogs.  Dogs that will protect him, walk with him and keep an eye on him.  Just like Storm did for me all those years ago.  

Now there are many other reasons I want our son growing up with dogs, which aren’t as scary as my story.  

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Dogs are loyal.  The moment we brought our son home our three dogs knew he was theirs to take care of.  They get up through out the night to sleep by his crib or just to peek their head in to make sure he’s okay.  Tiny, who is my scared-of-everything dog has to be near him at all times.  She follows him, and if he cries she’s the first on by his side – often pushing me out of the way.

Dogs teach responsibility.  Dogs are a huge commitment.  It’s important for our son to learn to care for another being.  He is learning how to pet gently, play with them and will eventually learn how to feed and take care of their water bowl.  At an early age it can help your child feel needed and they can learn the importance of having a few small jobs around the house.

Dogs help with learning new skills.  I can remember sitting on the front porch until it was too dark to see reading a new book to Storm or one of my other dogs.  Reading out loud to your dog can help your child learn new cognitive skills.  Kids who talk to their pets show improved cognitive skills and imagination.

Dogs can help your child be healthier.  Dogs want to play, a lot.  Chase toys, run in the backyard or just keep your child moving around the house.  By having a dog (or in our case three) we’re never short of a dog wanting to play.  Taking our son outside in the backyard with a bunch of dog toys will keep him and our dogs occupied.  This give him a chance to be outside in the fresh air, play with more than just those annoyingly loud baby toys and shows the dogs just how great their new human brother is.

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growing up with dogs, dogs and kids, dogs and babies

Dogs can boost a child’s self-esteem.  This goes back to teaching responsibility.  By having our son help with a few tasks each day he can feel proud of what he has accomplished.  Not only is he taking care of a living being, but he’s helping out Mommy and Daddy around the house.  I can think back to where my job growing up was cleaning up the yard (you know what I mean….).  It was dirty and smelly, but I knew it had to be done.  I felt proud knowing my dogs yard was clean and healthy for him to be in.  My parents were proud because I helped (and because they no longer had to do it).  I knew what it mean to pitch in and help out, and that was pretty great.

I know it’s important for our little man to have dogs in his life, just like I did growing up and just like J did.  To me a dog is a best friend, someone who knows all of your secrets and never judges you.  Someone you saved the last bite of your grilled cheese for and laugh when you get slobbered with kisses after being gone all day.  That’s the love I want our son to know and feel.  The protection at the bus stop will just be an added benefit and will give me a peace of mind.  

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Why You Should Be Checking Your Monthly Statements

Why You Should Be Checking Your Online Statements

Are you checking your monthly statements on a regular basis?  

I’m talking about not just your bank statements, but also your credit card statements, too.  All of your monthly statements.  My guess is you’re probably not checking them often, well at least not consistently.  So many of us forget to reconcile our accounts with our statements, and it’s not completely our fault.  We just were really taught how to do it quickly.  Plus, we always find excuses… right?  We just don’t have the time and we feel since we’re tracking our spending then everything is okay.

But I am here to tell you – it’s not okay.  Because you could be missing a lot of mistakes that are costing you money.  Recently I discovered a huge mistake and it could have cost my family about $200.  I’m sure you can relate when I say $200 is a lot of money and we really could be using that somewhere else, like paying down debt.  By checking your monthly statements you can make sure to catch any forgotten charges and mistakes retailers can make.

Watch the video below to learn what mistake I caught on our monthly statement that was costing us $200.  I’ll share with you what we did to get the error corrected, too.  I also have quick tips on how you can streamline your budgeting process from tracking your spending, checking your statements and paying bills.

How often are you checking your statements regularly?  Leave a comment letting me know!

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.

Get Your Budget on Track

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It’s summertime and I don’t know about you but family vacations, weekend fun and being lazy by the pool sound so much more fun than keeping up with your budget.  However, you can quickly derail your summer memories with poor budgeting choices and overspending.  So I’m sharing with you my 4 quick tips to get your budget on track so you can enjoy the rest of these warm days.

Track Your Spending

I’ve shared the easiest way to keep track of your spending that doesn’t require anything more than an envelope and pen.  It’s so simple to know exactly how much you have left in your grocery budget before the weekend comes or how much you have remaining in your fun money.  By using an easy method to know what’s left then you won’t be scratching your head at the end of the month wondering where are your money went.

Use Cash

If you’re having trouble keeping with your budget and find yourself a little too swipe-happy then put away those cards.  Keep your debit and credit cards at home during the week and weekends.  Start using only cash for dinner out, the movies and groceries.  This will help you stay focused.  Once your cash is gone, it’s gone.  No more overspending or assuming you have $5 left in your budget for the week.   Cold hard cash won’t lie to you and make you feel better about your impulse buys.

Set Payments to Auto Draft

This is one of my favorite and it’s the most easiest ways to stay on track.  If you can set it to automatically come out of your account then do it!  Now when you’re out by the pool you won’t be worried about whether or not you mailed in your car payment.  It’s already done and it won’t be late.  I recommend setting your mortgage, car payment, insurance, utilities (if able), school loans, credit card payments, personal loans, store cards, internet, and cell phone bills to automatic payments.  Not only will you save time, but you will also save money.  If you have to mail in each of those payments listed then you would be spending close to $5 (more if you have more than one credit card, car loan, etc.) each month that isn’t even making a dent in your debt.  That’s close to $60 a year, which could be a good payment on a debt.

Do A Spending Freeze

A great way to get your budget back on track is to do a spending freeze.  It’s probably the easiest way to do a quick reboot of your budget.  It puts you and your budget into perspective because you aren’t able to do any of those impulse buys or fast food drive-thru runs.  

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.

 

Cheap Summer Fun

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We have been having a ton of fun this Summer.  Lots of memories being made and since our little guy is just a year old, I’ve been taking lots and lots of pictures to share with him when he gets older.  At the beginning of Summer, J and I sat down for one of our money dates to talk about what we wanted the summer to look like.  We knew we wanted to have fun, make memories, but not go crazy overboard on our budget.  So we started planning and even made a Summer Bucket List to go off of.  We scoured around Southeast Missouri for fun activities to do as a family and we even traveled to St. Louis a few times to see J’s family.  

Grant’s Farm

Earlier in the Summer we went to Grant’s Farm, which was actually the first time I had ever been there.  I traveled to St. Louis so much as a little girl to visit my grandparents, I’ve been to the Zoo countless times and to the arch, but I had never been to Grant’s Farm.  So I had just as much fun as our little guy did wondering around.  

We ended up going later in the day, which worked out perfectly.  There were hardly any lines to see the animals or feed the baby goats and we didn’t have to fight crowds while sweating from the heat.  The best part is the price!  Grant’s Farm is actually free to get in, but you have to pay for parking and if you want to feed any of the animals.  But all of those prices were really cheap.

Petting Zoo

On a boring Saturday afternoon, J and I decided we did not want to stick at home all day.  He found a petting zoo that wasn’t too far away and totally within our summer fun budget.  So we took off.  We let our son walk around the whole time and he was just amazed by the animals.  He thought it was fun to tell the baby goats off when they came nibbling on his shorts.  The best part was a deer that just fell in love with our son and he loved him right back.

Swimming

We’re lucky that my parents have a pool and my SIL has a pool in her subdivision.  So we have been able to take our little man swimming this summer.  I had plans on getting him into some swimming lessons before summer really got started, but I missed the deadline by a few days so we’ll have to wait until next year. Being by the water is one of my favorite things to do and it was really important to me that our little guy love the water, too.  Last summer we took him to the beach twice before he was even three months old, so I wanted to keep the momentum going this year.  We even went to the beach for a few days earlier in May, which was a blast!

We bought him a highly rated life jacket to have around the pool and when we go out on the boat, but it’s definitely not his favorite.  He gets a bit of an attitude when he has it on for too long and luckily the pool we go to is never crowded so we’re able to use other rafts and rings so he can have a little bit more fun.  But I am determined to get him used to the life jacket so he will have fun when we’re on the boat.

Baby Pool in the Backyard

We threw a fishing themed first birthday for our little guy at our home, the best attraction of the whole party was this little kid pool I bought for less than $10 and filled with this fishing activity from Amazon.  Since that party, we have pulled the pool out of storage a few times and filled with water.  We let our little guy splash around and around.  The dogs even like it too.  I’m waiting to come out one day and find at least one of the dogs laying in the middle of the pool on a hot day.  I know it’s going to happen!

Walks Around the Park

For Christmas this past year my sister and brother-in-law gifted our son the coolest trike ever!  It starts as a trike I can push and steer, but as he grows it becomes his very own trike to pedal and steer.  So cool!  We like to take that with us to the walking trail.  It’s free to walk and he just loves people watching, trying to talk to other kids and just being outside.  I get some exercise in since it’s a mile lap just to get around once and we get some quality time together.  Sometimes J will come with us, but I really enjoy just having some time with just the two of us.  

Once I tried to bring one of my pups with me (we have three, but one is a little overweight) when I put our son in the stroller.  Half way around, the dog gave up on me and just laid down.  I couldn’t for the life of me get her to get up!  I tried everything… I said “let’s go home!”, “let’s go get a treat!”, everything!  And she still wouldn’t budge!  

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Swinging at the Park

There is another park in town (well 2 actually) that have pretty decent gyms to play on.  Our little man is still a bit too small to climb all the way to the top, but that doesn’t usually stop him from trying.  One of his favorite things to do at the park is just to sit and swing on my lap.  Now I’m sure if he was old enough or big enough he would prefer to do it without my help, but lucky for me he ins’t quite there yet.  The parks are only about a 5 minute drive from our house, so we try to hit them up early on the weekends before they get too busy with older kids running around.

BBQs

Another favorite of ours is to just have a BBQ in our backyard or go over to one of my parents’ houses for dinner.  BBQ is super easy to prepare and it gets us outside for a bit.  I just hate being cooped up inside on a nice, sunny day.  So I’m always looking for something fun to do.  Sometimes we mix in the baby pool while we BBQ to burn off even more energy.

What are some of your favorite activities for some cheap summer fun?

 

How To Track Your Spending – The Easy Way

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If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say “it’s too hard to track my spending” or “I don’t have time to track every purchase” then I would be a very rich lady.  Because those are just excuses.  It’s not too hard to track your spending and it doesn’t take a lot of time if you do it consistently.  Tracking your spending doesn’t even have to be rocket science.  You don’t need fancy apps on your phone or complicated Excel spreadsheets (although I do love using Google Drive as my check register).  All you need is a pen, paper and to know your budget for the specific time period.

Want to know how to track your spending? You know what it means to keep a running total right?  Well that’s basically all you’re doing.  You keep start with your beginning budget and then subtract each purchase thereafter.  Now you know at a quick glance how much you have left in your grocery budget or the eating out budget.  This makes life so much easier!  No more guessing or trying to remember.

Let’s run through an example to give you an idea of how easy this method is.

It’s the beginning of the month and you just got paid.  You have a family of four and your grocery budget is $400 for the whole month.  You get paid twice a month so you typically budget $200 for the first 2 weeks and then $200 for the rest of the month.  You take an envelope and write the month at the top then you draw a line down the middle (vertical line).  Next write $200 in the left column and $200 in the right column.  

Now each time you go to the grocery store or pharmacy you take out your envelope and write down the total.  Let’s say you ran to Aldi and spent $62.  You will subtract that amount from $200 and write down the total.  This leaves you $138 for the rest of the two weeks to spend on grocery items.  Now grocery items also include any consumable products and paper products, too – I created a video that goes all into what’s actually included in your grocery budget each month.  This $138 will last you for the rest of the budget period.  Each time you run to the store or have to pick up something at the pharmacy you can quickly glance at the envelope to see how much you have left.  

TIP: What I love about using an envelope is that you can keep your receipts tucked inside for the whole month.  If you keep your envelopes for the whole year then you can have your records for tax purposes or just have them on hand in case you need to return anything.  

If you don’t have any envelopes laying around you can always use a sheet of paper that you tuck inside your wallet.  I’ve even used the old check register that came with my box of checks to keep track of my budgets.  I used the top half of the sheet for groceries and the bottom half for eating out.  It worked really well and then I just paper clipped my receipts to it.

TIP: This method works best for everyday purchases such as groceries, eating out, or misc. type buys (haircuts, clothes shopping, fountain diet mountain dew runs, and so on).  I recommend using auto-drafts for all your other purchases – mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc. 

You’ll notice I talk about tracking groceries and eating out more than anything else, especially when it comes to tracking your spending.  These are typically the areas will most families struggle and overspend.  If you don’t eat out, like ever then you probably don’t need an “eating out” category.  One of the categories I don’t mention is gas for your car.  This one is another area you can track using the envelope method, but to me it’s hard to cut myself off once I reach my gas budget.  We typically stick to the same routes and same trips on a regular basis so I know how much to budget for each month to come out on track.  J will text me or give me a receipt whenever he buys gas so I can track it in our register and our overall budget template, but I don’t use the tracking system I talked about above for it.

That’s it.  Pretty simple right?  The main point is to just track, just write down what you’re spending so you can keep a running total.  It will help you so so so much on not overspending.

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.

 

DIY Sharpie Mugs

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What do you do when you have a ridiculous early flight out and need a ride?  You bribe your sister and brother-in-law to take you to the airport.  Well technically I didn’t need to bribe them, but I still wanted to say thanks for getting up super early, driving us to the airport and still making it to work on time.  

Of course, I was trying to stick within our budget especially with our Florida vacation that we were flying out to.  I opted for a simple homemade gift.  I love homemade gifts.  I have made quite a few over the past few months.  Usually I save them for Christmas, but I’ve been known to break out my crafting skills when the occasion calls for it. 

Seriously – I have an addiction to homemade gifts.  

Here are just a few of the others I’ve made over the years.

DIY Front Door Wreath

DIY Ribbon Wreath

DIY Mother’s Day Picture Frame with handprints gift

DIY Father’s Day with Handprints gift

DIY Christmas Picture Ornaments

Let’s get back to this DIY project – making Sharpie mugs that are super easy. 

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All you need is a plain mug and a few sharpies.  The best sharpies are the oil-based Sharpies, but when you don’t have them then you make it work.  You can be as creative or be as basic as you want.  I wanted to keep the message simple – best aunt ever and best uncle ever.  

Once you have the design on your mug, just let it dry for a few hours.  I let mine dry overnight before baking.  After a few hours then you can bake it at 350 for 30 minutes.  

TIP: Put the mug in the cold oven before turning it on.  Once the oven hits 350 degrees then let it bake for 30 minutes.

These mugs should be hand washed (even if using the oil-based Sharpies) to help preserve your design.

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These mugs turned out so cute!  Totally makes up for the early flight, right?  That’s what I was thinking! What thank you gifts are your go-tos?

My Top Productivity Tips

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Mom’s let’s face it the house would fall apart without us managing it.  Right?  I love my husband and he does an amazing job when I work late or have to study or just need a break.  He can cook a great dinner, he does dishes and will even do laundry (although he’s usually too afraid since I’m super picky about my clothes).  He’s awesome.  …. But….

When it comes to knowing what we need to buy at the store, remembering the dogs’ heart worm medicine, pediatrician appointments, when to buy diapers, paying bills, and just overall management that falls to us.  Now, I’m not saying J couldn’t handle managing the house, just like you’re probably thinking your husband could do just find managing your house.  But it’s just easier if we do it.  We don’t have to explain where anything is or how we know when to pay which bill, we just do it.  

With working full-time, branding my own business, studying for the Certified Financial Planner exam, being a full-time Mom, wife and dog mom has taken some serious efficiency.  

And a few times I forget to grab the bottle of milk before heading to the daycare in the morning… oops!

Here are my top productivity tips to stay on top of every detail in your life while making it look effortless. 

Google Calendar

You need a place to organize all of those appointments, reminders and events.  My secret weapon to remembering the dogs’ heart worm pills, changing the water filter for our house, and scheduling appointments is by making an event in our Google Calendar.  You can setup your Google Calendar any way you want, I even created a whole post sharing how our family manages our calendar.  But keep it simple.  Have one calendar for you, one for your husband and one for the family.  Honestly, J probably doesn’t even use his own calendar, but it makes me feel better knowing he has one.  

The personal calendar is just for you.  What reminders do you have each week or month or even each quarter?  Go ahead and write those in and setup an automatic reminder.  In Google you can have an alert emailed to you at your specified time to remind you to do something – that’s how I remember all three dogs’ monthly medicine.  

The family calendar is for everything family or what you need your husband to know.  You can use it for out of town trips with the girls or work conferences, so your family knows you’ll be out of town.  Use it for family doctor appointments and events you need everyone to be aware of.  It’s great when your husband is trying to plan a weekend camping trip with the guys he can quickly look at his phone to see when there is a free weekend.  

No more having to re-plan or move something that’s been on the calendar for weeks. Your communication is now clear.

Google Drive

Google Drive can keep all of your important information.  You can keep your budget and check register in Drive, like my family does.  Which is great on the road because you always have access to your check register so you know exactly how much money you have in your bank account.  

The possibilities are endless with Google Drive.  Here’s how it helps my productivity:

House Projects – we keep a running list of projects we want to work on around the house.  That way if we have a free weekend or a day off work there’s no guessing of what needs to be done.  You can pull up the list and get to work.

Budgeting – I mentioned this above, but it’s my favorite reason to use Google Drive.

Blog Post Ideas – I have a folder where I keep a list of blog ideas that pop in my head.  There is nothing worse than laying in bed dreaming of the perfect new post and convincing yourself you’ll remember it in the morning … and then of course you don’t.  

Meal Planning – we keep a few meal planning recipes in our Google Drive that way when we sit down to create our newest Meal Plan for the next two weeks, we know which meals are winners and worked well for us.

Addresses – I keep an updated address book in our Google Drive for when we need to mail invitations or thank yous to family and friends. 

To-Do List

This one is more of a paper and pen idea, instead of on the computer.  But it really helps to have a giant to-do list you keep with you.  That way when something new pops into your head, you can jot it down and then stay focused on your project at  hand.  I’ve written a post on how I stay on top of it all by having a notebook with me at all times.  It works great!

Wait To Check Emails

The first thing I do in the morning is NOT check my phone.  It’s so easy to get sucked into checking emails, responding, and then heading to Facebook to scroll through everyone else’s lives.  One of the best things you can do in the morning is not check your phone first thing.  Spend some time waking up (without a screen), take a shower, drink coffee and just enjoy the morning silence.  Because we all know the quiet moment each morning doesn’t last very long when you have little ones running around.  Wait until you get the kids off to school or even when you’re at the office, which is what I do.  I always think clearer when I’m more awake and can process things faster.  Keep your productivity up by not getting pulled into the endless email pool – just wait and get ready for the day so you can be on your A game.

Here are my top productivity tips for you.  Simple, right?  But somehow we all need to be reminded of them from time-to-time.  Just keep your day focused by using your energy where you want it most.  For me that’s family, work, and my online business.  I don’t worry myself with too much of the other stuff that doesn’t mean as much.  By setting reminders, having your information at your fingertips and setting boundaries you can be productive with your time and more efficient in your day.

DIY Grandparents’ Day Gift {Personalized Oven Mitts}

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Do you know what is not easy?  Getting a toddler to hold still long enough to put paint on their hands and then take that painted hand to press on an oven mitt.  It’s just not easy!  Don’t get me wrong he loved the part of smearing his hand in the paint, but then he wanted to play with it and not cooperate.  I’m pretty sure I got more paint on me then on the oven mitt or even the plate filled with paint.  

We wanted to create a sweet Mother’s Day gift for my Mom and my Mother-in-law this year.  We were getting ready to leave on our Florida vacation the next day so I wanted something that we could easily create and something that would be easily packed in our already filled car.  

I had been scouring Pinterest for a few ideas and I just love the ones using our little guys hand and feet prints, but I have to admit it was so much easier to get a perfect stamp of his hand or foot when he was just a newborn.  Now at a year old, it’s like wrestling a really strong monkey who makes noises at you and somehow overpowers you.  

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To find these oven mitts I went to the local Big Lots to see what they had.  I had planned to go to Wal-Mart, but Big Lots is so close to our house and I like keeping things simple!  I paid $6.00 for each set, so it was a little over $12.00 with tax.  Next, I dug in my craft bin (which is actually a old tool box) for some green paint and some fabric paint to finish them up.  

These DIY oven mitts were so simple and so easy (minus the toddler making messes).  I made them for Mother’s Day, but you could even make them for Grandparents’ Day or even as a sweet Christmas gift. I just love making homemade gifts – nothing says I love you like taking some time out of your busy schedule to make something.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not super crafty and I am not a perfectionist, which means a lot of my gifts don’t turn out the cutest.  Once our little guy is a bit older I can pawn off the workmanship on him so there will be a good reason as to why the paint is smeared or the something is misspelled.  

Here’s some of my other easy and budget friendly DIY projects:

DIY Sharpie Mugs

DIY Front Door Vine Wreath

DIY Ribbon Wreath

DIY Christmas Photo Ornaments

DIY Father’s Day Gift with Handprints

DIY Mother’s Day or Birthday Gift with Pictures and Handprints

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Funny story – this past Christmas I made a super sweet wall hanging for my Mother In Law.  I took our little guy’s footprints around this nice poem I had typed.  I then framed everything together in this beautiful frame.  After we gave the gift, they were passing it around reading the poem and looking at it.  Someone in the family noticed the poem was about Grandchild’s Hand and the hope for the future…. But I had stamped our son’s FOOTPRINTS on the paper.  What?!?! I don’t even know what I was thinking!  

I remember trying to get his handprint while J held him and he just kept fighting me.  Each attempt was worse than the one before.  The print was smeared or I didn’t get a whole print.  So after what felt like a thousand attempts, I just did his feet.  But it never occurred to me I needed to change the poem!  UGH!

Oh well.  Now I just had to change the poem (which I still haven’t done yet) and the gift will be just fine.