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!