Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Five Money Tips for 2013

The year two thousand thirteen is almost upon us. This is the time of year for reflection and goal setting. Money management is an area that almost everyone wants to improve in. For this reason I'm going to do a little series of posts about improving your money/budgeting skills for 2013.

First up, my top 5 money tips.

1. Set an appointment with yourself. Once a week make it a point to sit down and pay your upcoming bills, update your budget and make sure however you are tracking your expenses is up to date. Think about it this way, if you have a TV show you always watch once a week, you can set aside a half hour or so to keep your money in order. By making this appointment with yourself, you'll avoid late fees on bills, you'll be more likely to stay within budget, and you will have a better sense of your money as a whole.

2. Track your expenses. (Look for an upcoming post elaborating on this.) A lot of people don't do it because they think it's too restrictive or it's too time consuming. I honestly feel that it's more freeing because when I'm shopping I know how much I can spend and still be able to pay my bills when I get home. As for the "it's too time consuming" excuse, there are so many ways to keep track of your expenses that it really doesn't have to take that much time. Plus if you set an appointment with yourself to keep up with it once a week, it really won't be that much trouble at all.

3. Realize your money spending weaknesses and come up with solutions to fix them. Whether it's spending too much on fast food because you don't have a plan for dinner, or always paying late fines because you forgot about a bill, library books, etc. Try to come up with a simple solution to fix it. The fast food fix? Maybe you have some homemade chicken noodle soup frozen in the freezer so you know when you're running late you can just heat and eat it for dinner. (I did this last winter and it worked like a charm, one evening I made chicken noodle soup for dinner and just made a lot extra, then froze it in individual serving size sandwich bags. Dinner could be made in under 5 minutes, you can't beat that.) As for the late fines that brings me to my next point...

4. Use your calender. Lots of people use some sort of planner or agenda (paper or electronic) to keep track of their work or social schedule but have you ever thought about writing down some budget reminders on there. Write on your calender your weekly money management appointment with yourself but also write down when your cable bill is due, when your library books are due. This way when you see these things coming up on your calender, you can take the necessary steps to take care of them on time.

5. Set goals. I am definitely going to devote a whole post to financial goal setting but its definitely something worth mentioning here. Having goals gives you something to work towards and something to measure yourself against. If you're married then it's important that you and your spouse are working towards the same goals. Whether your goal is saving a certain amount, paying off debt, or finishing your basement you definitely need to set a goal, write it down (and post it somewhere you can see like the fridge or if you don't want everyone who comes over to see it maybe some place like inside a kitchen cabinet door) and then come up with a plan of how you are actually going to achieve that goal.

I hope these 5 tips help at least one person out there achieve some of their 2013 financial goals. So what are some other areas you are making New Years resolutions in?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hanging Backwards

I did it! I hung all of my clothes backwards! (Okay, so that's not really a statement that deserves an exclamation point.) But it is one of the first steps in improving my wardrobe. Allow me to explain...

By the end of 2013 I want all of the clothes in my closet to be pieces I love. In order to have a closet full of loveable clothes only, I have to weed out the not so loveable clothes. I saw the idea to turn all of your hangers backwards (on Pinterest but the link led me to this blog ) and decided to try out this closet clutter cleaning method. Once you've worn something you can hang it back up in your closet normally. This takes very little time and is an easy way of seeing what you're wearing and what you aren't wearing.

If you change out your clothes seasonally then I would donate all of your clothes on the "still facing backwards" hangers in the summer (which means you haven't worn them all winter long) and then again at the end fall (which means you haven't worn them at all in the summer or fall.) I do not change out my closet seasonally (all my clothes are available all the time) so I'm curious what will still be facing backwards by the end of 2013. Although, if I notice something is still backwards after a few months and I know I'm never going to wear that again. I'll probably donate it then instead of waiting all the way till the end of the year.

Another step I'm adding to this process is after I buy something new I'm going to hang it up backwards until I wear it once. On more than one occasions I've purchased a new piece of clothing thinking I'm sure I'll wear this and then never ever actually end up wearing it. It's sad really, and a waste of money. Hopefully this will help me stop this pointless spending in the future.

We have all had those moments where we need to try on a few outfits before we decide what to wear. If I try something on a backward hanger on, and then end up not wearing it, I will hang it up backwards again until I actually wear it somewhere other then my closet.

What do you think? Anyone else going to give this idea a try?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

I love Christmas (I've said that before I know) but I really love everything about Christmas.

This year my hubby and I had the opportunity to visit some of his out-of-town family. After traveling through some scary weather we finally made it to his grandmothers house. It was so nice just to relax and visit with everyone. I enjoyed getting to know my husbands family even better.

We came home for Christmas and our cat Ellie was so excited to see us she has barely left our side.
Here is me and Ellie on Christmas morning.

We spent rest of the day with our families. I snapped a picture of my parents dog hiding from the Christmas chaos.
He's such a good dog and didn't even blink an eye while I was snapping pictures of him.

I hope everyone had a safe and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I'm spending the day with my family but I wanted to leave you with a few more Christmas song lyrics to celebrate this glorious day!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The True Meaning of Christmas

Sometimes a Christmas song says it best.

O Holy Night!
The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviors birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees,
Oh, hear the angels voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night,
O night divine!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Prep!

I took the afternoon off of work today so I could start finish my Christmas shopping. I am officially done. Next comes all the wrapping, family gatherings and eating.

Since I procrastinated I had to shop in the cold windy rain. My umbrella actually turned itself inside out as I was crossing the street with my arms full of packages and my glasses were covered with raindrops so I couldn't see very well, which made me nervous I would trip in the middle of the street. I really hope someone waiting at the stoplight got a good laugh. To make myself feel better about being in the middle of an embarrassing situation I came up with a new phrase to remind myself. It is (drum-roll please) people have see weirder. And when I realized that, I don't feel so bad about my inside-out umbrella - soaking wet - arms full of stuff - can't see through my glasses self.

Speaking of "people have seen weirder" when I was in college I saw two people dressed up as bacon and eggs walking across campus. No, it wasn't Halloween, it was just another "normal" day.

So now I need to get my wrapping on, I am running out of time!

And as promised, here's a picture to show you just how small our tree looks in our family room.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Books I Love: Organized Simplicity


A few weeks ago I finished reading Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider. I am a fan of her blog Simple Mom and when I found out she had written a book, I had to read it.

My favorite idea from the book is the family purpose statement. It is a short statement focusing on your families values and goals. Once your family has established this; it will help you with decision making, life planning, budgeting and more.

 This idea was like a lightbulb going off for me. The business world talks a lot about "mission statements". Growing up I went to a school that had a mission statement. The schools mission was framed on the walls, on paperwork sent home to parents and repeated over and over by the principle. At the time, I didn't really get why the administrators were so attached to this mission statement but now I have a better understanding. When your making decisions that effect the education of thousands of kids then it's good to have one goal, one idea to focus on. You can ask yourself, "if we do things this way, will we be in line with the mission statement we've established." Having this mission statement gives you something to focus on, something to refer back to and keep you on the right path.

Tsh Oxenrider's idea of having a family purpose statement is similar to the mission statement from my school age days. She explains simple steps to create a family purpose statement specific to your own family. I absolutely love this idea. There are so many decisions in life, both big and small and without guidance these decisions could have your family going in a million directions at once. But if you had a small phrase to refer back to; something you and your family have decided is your purpose, wouldn't that make decisions making so much easier? It would be much simpler to sort through which activities you want to participate in, how you should be spending your money, and how much time you're willing to commit to a project if you had a family purpose statement to refer to whenever these situations arose.

Aside from the family purpose statement, Tsh Oxenrider has a wonderful plan for getting your house together too. "Ten Days to a Simpler, More Organized Home" is a section of the book that is full of ideas to sort through your living space room by room. The idea of having a home filled with only possessions I cherish, instead of cluttered with stuff seems like the ideal house. I haven't actually made time to do the ten day clean up (especially with Christmas around the corner) but I definitely want to incorporate many of the ideas little by little until there is time to do a big deep clean like her book outlines. Spring cleaning, anyone?

I read this book through the library, and when I was finished it was due right away so I had to return it. I enjoyed it so much I actually checked it out of the library again because I want to take time to write a family purpose statement with my husband and the book for guidance. Actually, this book might need to be purchased for my own personal library so I can refer back to it whenever I feel the need for a little more organized simplicity in my life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Having Cookies with a Hobbit

Weekend Recap

On Saturday my sister called me to tell me she was at my mom and dads house baking cookies with my mom and our other sister. I spent the afternoon at their house icing Christmas cookies with them. I can't remember the last time I made cookies with my mom and sisters. I think that it's something we should do every year before Christmas (and maybe even after Christmas, and then again in the spring, summer and fall. What can I say, I love cookies.) My youngest sister kept saying it was so nice to have all of us there. I'm thankful for making memories with them.
And yes, that gingerbread lady on the bottom is wearing a bikini courtesy of my sister.

On Sunday we got a group together and saw The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey. My husband and I are big LOTR fans so we had been anticipating this movie ever since it was announced. I'm definitely excited for part 2 and 3. I don't even mind that they are breaking it up into three movies because that means there is still more to come. But back to the Hobbit, this movie was intense and full of action, but what I really loved is how beautiful it was. The colors, costumes, and scenery were so beautiful I wish I could hang up the movie stills as art in my home. We have been watching all of the behind the scenes special features on the extended edition of The Return of the King and it make me appreciate all of the work that goes into these movies so much more.

In other news, I am not ready for Christmas at all. Yes, I know it's one week away but I'm going to be shopping at the last minute, just like I did last year. When will I ever learn?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I'm still trying to get caught up from being so sick last week. I'm behind on laundry, dishes, and cleaning in general. I did find time to make gingerbread cookies though... hmm... priorities...

Tonight I went to a coupon class and now I'm inspired to go grocery shopping! I've tried to do the semi-extreme-couponing thing before and I wasn't all that great. The only thing that really gets me out of the grocery store in budget is when I write my list like this. But I am inspired to try couponing again. I'd like to get more stretch out of my dollars if you know I'm sayin'.

Happy birthday to my sister (she figured out her birthday was going to fall on 12/12/12 a long time ago and has been looking forward to it for years.)

I leave you with a picture of my fall-asleep-during-movies buddy. Aww...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Goodwill Finds

Sorry about the lack of posts last week. I came down with a wicked cold that landed me on the couch with a giant box of tissues and a bag of cough drops. I'm still trying to get over it... (sniffle.)

In between my nose blowing, my husband and I made a quick trip to Goodwill. He was in need of some new dress shoes and I glanced through the women's section looking for some new tops. I hardly ever try on things at Goodwill. I figure its already cheap so if it doesn't fit I sell it to the clothing resale shop and make my money back, I can return it to Goodwill, or I can beg ask my sister to help me alter it, I can re-purpose it or I can give it to one of my sisters. Here is what I found and a little description of how well they fit.

Loft Cardigan - Fits Perfectly

Banana Republic Button Up 
 It's a little too tight on me, but I will either layer it so I don't have to button it up. Or once I practice my mad sewing skills I could turn it into a cute pillow or possibly alter it. It's hard to tell from the picture but it's a light green and white stripe.

So brand (from Kohl's) Long Sleeve Tee

This fits perfect. I already have a bunch of these in different colors and I wear them all the time. I didn't have a pink one though, so I figured why not? and bought it.

Gap Body 

This fits perfect. Actually it's something my husband pointed out for me. It's got a nice shape; especially with the seams down the front. It even makes me look good when I'm wearing it around the house.

Talbots Sweater

This is a little short on me. I tired it on while wearing jeans so I am hoping that with dress pants (which are higher wasted) it will look better. I could always layer it with a button up underneath- which would make it a little dressier for work and also add some length to it.

I saved the best for last. The price of these shirts were $3.29 each. Which means my grand total was a whopping $16.45 for all of these. (Not including tax or the $5.00 dress shoes we found for my husband.) I looked through the racks quickly (as in under 4 minutes) and found all of these gems. Now even my wardrobe is becoming inspired by a good deal.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cookie Exchange Part 2 and My Favorite Cookie Secret

The cookie exchange 2012 was a ton of fun! I didn't win the grand prize of best cookie, but I had a really great time.

The best cookie went to a white chocolate cherry shortbread cookie, and let me tell you, it was a good cookie. My other favorites included a butterscotch chocolate chip, a strawberry whoopie pie and another type of chocolate covered cherry cookie. I really love when chocolate and cherries come together and make my taste-buds sing.

Here's the aftermath with all of my cookies and prizes. The cookies are still in their packaging (there is also an award for best packaging.) The winner for best packaging was the pink box towards the front was made to look like a bed to go with the pink pajama party theme. It even had a little stuffed animal on top of the bed! It actually had a headboard too but I had to remove that for easier transporting. One of my favorites was the Vicki's bag because it's so PINK. (Yes cookies came in it and not... other things.)

Overall it was a blast. I had a good time hanging out with my mom, as well as meeting some new people and catching up with familiar faces too.

I heard from some of the judges after the party that my cookie was up there in the top running and since I won last year I thought I'd share my number one cookie secret. After you're done baking and your cookies have cooled, put them in an air tight container with a piece of bread. After a few hours (or overnight and longer) the bread will get very hard and your cookies will be perfect. Soft without being too soft. Just throw the bread away and enjoy your delicious cookies!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cookie Exchange

I'm going to a cookie exchange this weekend and I have to bring nine dozen cookies. Each person gets a dozen of each kind of cookie therefore I am going to be bringing home nine dozen cookies. Umm... that's a lot of cookies.

Now cookies are my number one favorite when it comes to baked goods but let's take a minute to do the math. 12 cookies in a dozen; times 9 dozen equals 108 COOKIES! If my husband and I each eat half that's 54 cookies!

But we won't eat them all ourselves (at least this month) we will freeze some and/or take some in a work. We'll share cause we're nice like that. Spread the love!

Anyway, I made Double Peanut Cookies from a Betty Crocker Cookie cookbook. The recipe said it would make 4.5 dozen so if I doubled it, I'd have nine dozen exactly. Problem is, I needed to have extra cookies for the judges (oh yes this is a cookie competition up in here.) So just to be on the safe side I tripled the recipe but get this; it only made nine dozen exactly. While baking I pulled out the three best looking ones for the judges and we sampled three of them so now I have only eight and a half dozen. They are completely normal size cookies and I still ended up short. Can't blame myself for enormous cookies or anything.

Here's some cookies chaos
By the way, I'm the reigning champ of the cookie exchange cause I won last year with a Paula Deen recipe for ginger cookies. I hope this double peanut goodness can live up to the hype.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

I love putting up the Christmas tree. We have an artificial tree (I've never had a real tree for Christmas) but I love our little fake tree. We bought it after Christmas two years ago and put it up last year for the first time in our apartment. It was the perfect size for our cozy little apartment living room.

This year we put it up in our new house! We put it in the family room and if you read this post then you might recall that we have a vaulted ceiling in that room and it makes our little tree look even more well... little. But enough jibber jabber here's a picture.

Next time I post a picture of the Christmas tree I'll get a more accurate tree to ceiling ratio shot. All of the Christmas boxes are piled up underneath the tree to serve two purposes 1. Keep my cat away from the tree if possible (and this method is failing by the way) 2. I don't know where else to put all the Christmas boxes. I know I should give gifts in them, but I think they are so stinking adorable I like to keep them. I just don't know where to display them yet. But for now lets just look at the details.

And this is one of my favorite ornaments (that I bought at Wal-mart last year for just a few bucks but I think it has that vintage feel which I love.)

Do you have your Christmas tree up yet? Do you have a favorite ornament? Do you have any advice about how to keep your cat from climbing the tree?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making Our House Into Our Home: The Family Room

We moved a little over two months ago and the last of the boxes are being unpacked. Our house is definitely feeling more and more like home everyday. Last weekend I focused on the family room. Right now, we don't have time/money/energy to completely redecorate the whole house. (Especially since my list is long and expensive; including new flooring and trim.) But I am a firm believer that any room in your home can look great using what you already have.

Does anyone remember the HGTV show Freestyle? It was one of my absolute favorites! They would bring a professional decorator into a space and have them completely transform it using what the client already had. There were so many good ideas on that show, I wish they were still making new episodes. I tired to keep that Freestyle mentality while I was unpacking and setting up our space. I don't need to run out and spend money on new decor items when I already have a lot of cool stuff.

I don't have a good before picture because at first it was empty, then it had the couch and some boxes. Not much to see, but now that I've added some accessories like pillows and hung up a photograph* and "styled" the end tables (I put styled in quotation makes because the thought of me styling anything makes me laugh) it looks much more finished.

*The photograph will be replaced considering it is extremely small compared to the wall. The ceiling in the family room is vaulted so that wall is about twelve feet high. A more proportionate piece or pieces of art going to happen in the future.

The candy dish on the end table is from a thrifty store, the books are from a library book sale (many libraries have used books sales a few times a year) the pillows are the standard pillows that came with the couch and my mom made new covers for them with some fabric I bought online. I hope this room will grow and change as my design tastes grow and change.

I have since put the Christmas tree up in this room and I hope to share that in a few days!

Monday, November 12, 2012


My mother-in-law gave me some beautiful Lusterware this weekend. I had never heard of it before, but now I am in love. She gave me a few of these beautiful orange teacups and a few white pieces as well.

Wouldn't' the orange look great in a fall display? I told my husband we need a china cabinet or a buffet/sideboard or something quick because I love beautiful serving ware and I need a good place to store it when it's not on display.

She also gave me these two bowls, which are not Lusterware but they are Fire-King. I'm still trying to learn about all these different pieces so forgive me if I am incorrect. These little bowls are adorable, and that's a fact.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Extra Money for Christmas Gifts

Christmas season is soon approaching which means Christmas shopping is about to take over my wallet! If you are one of those people who planned all year long for the holidays, I think you're awesome. I am going to aspire to be just like you next year. BUT if you didn't save for Christmas all year long (like me) then this post might help.

While writing out a list of all the Christmas gifts we want to give our family and friends this year, it was easy to see that we were going to run out of funds before we ran out of friends. We do use credit cards but we pay the balance off every month so CHARGE IT was not an option. I put my thinking cap on and thought of a few things we could do to make our dollars go farther this year. I'm not going to personally use all of them, but I wanted to share them all hoping that it might help someone else.

1. CASHBACK BONUS BABY! This is one of my favorites because it's quick and easy. If you have a credit or debit card that earns you cash back or rewards points, cash that baby in! Go check and see how much you've got stored up in your cash back or rewards points. You might be surprised and find a hundred bucks just sitting there waiting for you. Many of these programs allow you to cash in your rewards for gift cards or actual physical items. You could redeem these and gift the item or gift card to your family and friends.

2. Sell something. This doesn't have to be complicated. Ebay and Craigslist are always good options for turning your unwanted items into cash. Personally, I haven't sold anything on eBay or Craigslist yet but I have taken items to resale shops and got cash on the spot. Actually just a few weeks ago I took some clothes to a local resale shop and got twenty bucks back. That's enough to buy at least one person on my list a Christmas gift. Resale shops that sell childrens' items and clothing would be a great option for a family who wants to turn some of their unused items in to new Christmas gifts for their kids. (You could even do some Christmas shopping there with the money you make, saving you from full retail price at a regular store.)

3. Request a reimbursement from your employer (if they offer such things.) At your company, do you get reimbursed for driving to off site meetings or purchasing supplies? If so, awesome! Add up what you are owed and turn in all your paperwork so you can get your money back before December. Don't wait until the week before Christmas, depending on the size and efficiency of your company they probably won't have enough time to process all of your paperwork and get your money back to you before the big day.

4. Find some seasonal work. This is more of a time commitment but it would definitely be a solution to finding more money for Christmas. This article says that Kohl's is hiring 50,000 seasonal jobs this year. This would be perfect if you only need seasonal money. Other places to look for season work would be the mall, local retail stores, places that offer seasonal gift wrapping, local community events (light shows, zoos, parks and recreations events, etc.) Another way to earn some seasonal income might be to babysit for a mom while she does her Christmas shopping, or offer to wrap gifts for a family (this is a great idea for a family your regularly babysit for), pet/ house sit for your neighbors while they are out of town visiting family, offer your babysitting services (again) to families who have company Christmas parties or other holiday soirees to attend. Offer to clean someones house before they host a holiday party. People are usually busier this time of year and their full schedule might equal more green in your wallet.

5. Empty your change jar.  Do you have a jar of change sitting on your dresser? Roll it up and take it to the bank. You might just have fifty dollars sitting right there. Or if you've done the five dollar bill savings plan (every time a $5 bill comes into your possession you hang on to it) the holiday season might be the right time to make good use of it.

Here are five ideas for helping your come up with some extra cash at Christmas time. (I know I said Christmas over and over again but they would definitely apply to any kind of holiday giving.) Do you have any ideas for coming up with some extra money this time of year? If so, please share!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Making Cents with the Dollars

I'm really passionate about family financial management, personal finance, monthly budget planning. Whatever you want to call it, I like planning and tracking money. I'm not perfect at it by any means but I'm constantly looking for a better way to keep track of my families finances.

I'm not talking about major financial planning, investments, 401k's etc. because honestly, I don't know much about all that stuff (but I am learning.) I'm talking about budgeting and expense tracking. Although budgeting is extremely important, I'm going to skip over that to talk about expense tracking. I feel you hear a lot about budgeting, but not a lot of information about how to stay on budget. No one wants to get to the end of the month and realize they went wayyy over budget in one (or more) categories. I think the hardest part about tracking your expenses is finding a system that works for you.

A method of expense tracking I always go back to is plain old pencil and paper. After a paycheck is deposited in our account I divide the amount into each budget category. During the week I save all receipts then I subtract each receipt from each appropriate category. My favorite tip for keeping up with this is to make a weekly appointment with yourself. I've kind of fallen off track with this lately, but Saturday morning used to be my money time. I would divide the amounts from payday into each category (based upon my budget, which I can talk about later.) Then I would pay all the bills that were due that week and BOOM, done. Done with stressing about finances, done with worrying about paying bills on time. Done wondering about how much I can spend in the upcoming week. Let me just say, when it comes to money knowing is a lot better than not knowing. I like knowing exactly where I stand, and this method has helped me a lot.

(Side story: I took logistics and six sigma training classes in college. They focused on continuous improvement when it comes to supply chain management. Coming up with answers to questions like, "How can I produce these widgets more efficiently? How can I reduce the cost of production? How can I reduce the production time? etc." While I learned a lot in the classes, one of the things that stuck out to me most was the words continuous improvement. It made me realize that there is almost always room for improvement in lots of areas of life. Budgeting and expense tracking being one of them.)

So, true to my side story I am looking for ways to improve my expense tracking. I plan on using this blog to talk about how I am inspired by numbers. How I take my budget it and use it as a tool to live the best life. I want to talk more about different budgeting methods, different expense tracking methods, tips and tricks etc. and also how I'm using these tools to be creative, have fun and smile everyday.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wicked Workout

This is a short post just to say listening to Gaelic Storm and pretending you know who to Irish dance around your living room is a great workout. My Irish dancing looks like a lot of awkward hopping but wow, my pulse is racing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finding My Motivation

We have lived in this house for more than a month and yet there are too many things still unfinished. I know, getting settled in a house takes some time but, when I do have time, it's the motivation I am lacking. I'm the type of person who loves a neat, clean, well organized and well decorated home. But lately, when I see our piles of "I don't know what to do with this" stuff strewn across the living room, I get overwhelmed and walk away. I know that this is just avoiding the problem and it is by no means helping me solve the situation at all. Yet sometimes, I just can't bring myself to do anything about it.

Although, slowly but surely I am finding myself getting things done, little by little. This is how I am motivating myself to accomplish these seemingly overwhelming tasks.

Set a timer. When I look at a room and think about how much time it will take to get this room cleaned up, I definitely don't want to dive right in. I've been setting the timer on my phone for fifteen minutes. If I can take fifteen minutes to organize one drawer, empty one box or sort through one pile of papers I consider that an accomplishment. When my timer goes off I let myself flip through a magazine, read a chapter of a book, or check pinterest (for the millionth time.) BUT I've also found myself setting the timer again for another fifteen minutes. Once I've gotten over the mental hurdle of this is going to take a loooong time I'm on a roll, I get into the groove and I want to continue working and see what else I can accomplish.

Make a list. Yes, I am one of those people who writes out a to-do list with things I've already done just so I can cross them off, but I find that making a list really helps me focus. Once I write my list of all the things I want to get done, I re-write it with the most important thing at the top, the second most important thing after that, etc. This helps me focus on what really needs to get done and keeps me from being distracted. Another list making trick is to break down task into smaller pieces. Instead of "clean up the family room" I write clear clutter from family room, straighten pillows and fold blankets, wipe down windows, dust, vacuum. When I cross something off my list as done, am motivated to keep going because I want to cross off even more. It makes me want to have one of those really productive days. You know those days when you lay your head on the pillow at night and think, wow I made great use of my time today, I got a lot of things done, and I feel good about creating a peaceful home to live in. I love those days.

Play some tunes! I know I'm not the only one who loves to listen to music while they are working on a project, but sometimes I forget to turn it on. Music makes your time working feel like it is going faster, especially if it's music you can sing along to. Sometimes I fall into the trap of "oh I'll just turn on the TV for some background noise" but the TV is not just noise. It's a moving picture that draws me in like moth to a flame. In this scenario TV=bad, radio=good.

Ask someone to help you. My mom, sister, best friend and my husband all help me to get motivated. I find that having someone to bounce ideas off of is really help for when you're tackling an organization project (especially a big one like unpacking a whole house!) My mom came over for just a few hours after we moved in and I was so grateful for her help. Having her there helped me get some big things (moving a bookcase upstairs for example) done, and getting some of the big clutter out of the room helps bring the project down to size.

So that's what I've been up to lately. Cleaning, purging, finding things I forgot we had and realizing we've got some pretty cool stuff. What do you do to stay motivated?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

There are certain people in this world that like to keep the joy of Christmas between Thanksgiving and New Years. I am not one of those people. (Neither is the store where this photo was taken in August, but seeing their Christmas decorations up that early pretty much made my day.) I've already busted out the Christmas sheet music and have been playing Silent Night on the piano the past few evenings. My husband (who is one of the Thanksgiving to New Years people) tells me I'm going to "ruin Christmas" by getting excited so early. I tell him I need to start practicing on the piano now so I'm good at it by December 25th. He just smiles and kisses me on the forehead (because he's the best) and then I carry on with my practicing.

 I took piano lessons for twelve years and we (my sisters and I) would get our Christmas recital pieces in September, so it's actually weird for me to not be playing Christmas music already.

All this holiday music prep has me thinking I need to prep for other areas of the Christmas season as well. My first order of business is Christmas cards. We didn't send out Christmas cards last year because, truthfully I didn't get my act together in time. I'm changing this year by starting very early. I want to do photo cards and Walmart Photo Center has adorable holiday cards for only $0.28 each! My husband and I ordered our Save the Dates from Walmart and we were very please with how they turned out. (We only sent Save the Dates to close family instead of everyone for a mini money saving wedding tip.) Since we already know they are good quality, I want to get a new family picture and go ahead and order and address them before Thanksgiving. This way I can send them out right after Thanksgiving and that Christmas task can be checked off my list. Since we recently moved, not all of our family members have our new address so I'm thinking these cards will serve two purposes. The first being spreading Christmas cheer, the second being "oh hey we moved and here's our new address."

Our total for our cards should cost around $15 (not including postage) which in my opinion is a great deal compared to other photo card companies out there. I can't wait to put these together (and to try and get the cat to sit still for a picture.) "Plan ahead" is my motto for this season.

Merry Christmas!

Update: Due to budgetary cuts we are not sending Christmas cards out this year. It's important to have your priorities sorted out when it comes to budgeting and Christmas cards were not a priority this year. Maybe next year.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Man, that's a good lookin' belt!

 This is a story of my favorite kind of wardrobe upgrade; the free kind.

The other day my husband and I were visiting his family. While we were there his mom asked him if he wanted a few things he left in his old room. She was kind of surprised that he didn't want the group nice belts he decided to leave behind. I took a closer look at them, and asked my hubby if we could take them home anyway. (I figured if they didn't fit him I could use them for some kind of craft, because after all, they are nice belts.)

When I got home I thought, I wonder if any of these would fit me? So, I tried one on and to my surprise it fit and it didn't look half bad. So I quick took a picture and sent it to my sister asking if this looked like a mans belt. She said the buckle was kind of big for a womans' belt but it didn't look bad. So then I asked her if it was an improvement over the belt I have been wearing. Which she agreed it was a most definitely an improvement over my current belt. (I had been wearing a faux leather black on one side, brown on the other belt and the sides were literally ripping apart from each other.) So with the green light from my sister, I tried on all of the other belts and was very happily pleased that they all fit. Most of them actually had smaller buckles than the one I showed my sister, so a women could easily make them work.

Here are my beautiful new belts!
The one I showed my sister is the black one in the middle.

Monday, October 15, 2012

In this moment..

Right now I can smell cinnamon sugar apples cooling on the stove, I'm listening to country music (with a Christmas song shuffled in there every once in a while,) I can hear my husband talking to his friends over Xbox live, my cat is curled up in the corner of the living room, napping. When I'm finished writing this post I'm going to get myself a cup of those cinnamon sugar apples, put the laundry away and then read.

This is my idea of an absolutely perfect evening.

I'm feeling more settled in the house everyday (even though I still have plenty to do.) But this house is really starting to feel like home.

In this moment, I am happy.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jewelry Re-fashion

What to do when you really want to update your jewelry collection but have zero money available? Take something you already own and rework it!

This was exactly my thought process when I will looking through my jewelry the other day. This piece was the target for a refashioning.

I simply took it apart, restrung the beads on three separate stings, braided the stings together, added a chain and a clasp to make it a little longer and voilĂ , a new necklace.

Now I'm eying all of my other jewelry pieces for my next victim I mean candidate for a refashion.

Monday, October 8, 2012

How to Write Your Shopping List When Using Cash

(Or for when you want to stay on budget when shopping with a card)

     If you haven’t been grocery shopping using cash lately, I highly recommend it. It changes your perspective on what you really need and what is an impulse purchase.
     The key to shopping with cash is deciding on what you’re going to buy before you go to the store and once you’re at the store sticking to your list (this is the most challenging tasks for me because I always remember a million things I forgot to put on the list when I get to the store.) Your list is the most important part of your trip, think of it as a permanent list, and do not stray from your shopping list.

     Writing a shopping list that allows you to stick to your budget is easy, just start with this:

1. Start with your normal shopping list. (I'm resisting saying "duh" here, but I guess I just did, ha!)
2. Next to each item on your list, write how much you think each item will cost. Your best guess is good enough. Try to guess high because it's always better to be under-budget than over-budget.
3. Add up your list and make sure you are within your budget. If you're over budget go through your list and decide what you don't need to buy.

Now you are equipped with a budget friendly grocery list. When you get to the store make sure each item is at or under the price you assigned to it.
What happens if you get to the store and an item that you planned on purchasing is more than the amount you assigned to it. Instead of going over budget try purchasing a smaller size or a different brand than you normally get. Whatever you do, do not buy something it if it above the price you set for it. If you’re using cash, when you get to the register you won’t have enough. If you’re using a credit or debit card you’ll be over budget again. I know that a few dollars here and there does not seem like much, but it’s the little things that add up to be big things, so you’ve got to make the little things count.
Whenever I write my list, I try to round up when assigning my prices. For example, I assigned $3.50 for a jar of peanut butter but when I got to the store I was pleasantly surprised that I can get peanut butter for $2.75. When I get to the checkout lane I usually end up spending less than I planned. Having extra money at the end of a shopping trip is always a good thing.
If you get to the store and realize that there is something that you absolutely need that you completely forgot to include during the list making process; get it, BUT take something else (at a similar price point) off your list. If you do not have money for both, you can’t buy both, it’s pretty simple really.
I hope this list making method helps at least a few of you out there stay within your budgeting goals.