Thursday, January 31, 2013

Books I Love: Money Secrets of the Amish

Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving

I "read" (listened to the audiobook actually) of this book in the summer. I love budgeting and family financial management, but I am always intrigued by the simple life of the Amish. When I saw the title of this book (I don't even remember where I heard of it) I knew it was a book for me.

The audiobook is read by the author (my favorite kind of audiobook) and let me tell you, Lorilee Craker is funny. Really, I was frequently laughing in my car while listening to this book.

The number one lesson I learned is the catch phrase of the book, which is "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." There is a section of the book dedicated to this phrase, but she brings it up many time through out. This one phrase really got me thinking about what things in my life am I not using up or wearing out.

One of the smaller ways I've started using things up is with my makeup/beauty products. The liquid foundation I wear has a pump dispenser. My foundation got so low that the tube part that brings the foundation up to pump it out (am I making sense? I don't know if these things even have technical names, I've never written about them before.) Anyway, it got too low to properly use the pump. Normally, I'd consider it empty and get a new bottle of foundation, but then the words use it up went through my mind and I realized there is still a whole heck of a lot of foundation in that bottle. I ended up unscrewing the cap and using the little tube thing (whatever it's called) to scoop out the rest of the foundation. Guess what, I got another month of use out of the foundation bottle. Seriously, I was pretty shocked myself. (Note: I don't use that much foundation each day.) I've also started cutting my hand lotion bottles open and using up the rest of it lotion inside. I had no idea how much lotion was left behind after it's not easy to squeeze out anymore, crazy.

I hope to make blog posts about how I am applying "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without"  to my life on a regular basis. I'm sure there will be many more situations arising in the future where it would be useful.

Overall, I love this book. It is full of practical tips for saving money and it was so entertaining that I didn't want to get out of my car when I got to my destination. I highly recommend it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

High Five for Friday


1. Seeing Les Mis with my littlest sister was so much fun. I need to hang out with her more.

2. There has been an abundance of cake/cupcakes at my house this week due to my birthday last week. I like cake :)

3. Wednesday was National Pie Day. My co-workers and I celebrated by having a pie pot-luck. Yes it's exactly what it sounds like. Everyone brought different kinds of pie and it was AMAZING. I made a chocolate chip pie but my favorite was the peanut butter, yum.

4. Once Upon a Time is my favorite show and I loved this weeks episode. I am sad I have to wait until after the Super Bowl for a new episode though.

5. Clear blue skies.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Five Ways to Save More Money

It's back to buget basics and today I'm going to talk about saving money. I know some people are naturally spenders and some are naturally savers but everyone should be saving money, even if it's only for a rainy day.

Here are five ways to save more money:

1. Make it Automatic.  With online banking making saving automatic is easier than ever. You can set up a reoccurring transfer from checking to savings. Or if your paycheck is directly deposited into your checking account, try talking to the human resourses or payroll department where you work to see if a percentage of your paycheck could go directly into your savings account. You'll be surprised how much money you'll accumulate in your savings account this way!

2. Use the "Leftovers." Leftovers? How could there be leftover money? Let me explain. If you work hourly and you usually get the same hours per  week but some weeks a little more and some weeks a little less, find what is an "at least" paycheck for you and when you get a paycheck that is more than your "at least" paycheck, put those leftovers in your savings account. Here's a basic example: your  paycheck is usually at least $100, but this week it's $117 so you would move those $17 leftover dollars into savings and next week it's $101, then move that $1 in your savings account. Your "at least" paycheck is the lowest amount you typically get. You don't want to overextend yourself budget wise so base your budget on what you usually at least receive and then put the leftovers into savings.

3. $5 Bill Savings Plan - I don't know who first thought this up but it's a great idea. Every time a $5 bill falls into your possession, save it. Put it in a piggy bank, coffee can, envelope, etc. do whatever you have to do to set it aside and not spend it. This thought process can apply to any amount of money. Every time you get a $10 bill you save it, or every time you get a quarter you save it.Whatever works for you is best (obviously.)

4. Spend Less Somewhere Else, Save the Difference. If you are out shopping and buy something on sale and the bottom of your receipt says "YOU SAVED $10 TODAY" then move ten dollars to your savings account. If you're a normal coupon-er (as in not extreme coupon-er) then that $15 or $20 you save each week with coupons could be moved to your savings account. You would really see how spending your time couponing can add up. This also applies to your budget categories. If the month ends and you've got $8.76 left in your entertainment budget category, well then transfer that $8.76 to your savings account. This could possibly encourage you to come under budget sometimes. (The better you get at sticking to your budget the easier it is to come in under budget.)

5. Don't Go Shopping. Okay so this one is kind of a trick (and it's completely opposite of tip #4) The best way to save money is to not spend it. No matter how many 40% coupons you get in the mail or how many "blowout sales" there are; the best way to save money is to not spend it. Don't even go to the store or their website (if online shopping is your thing.) If the purchase is not a need then the best "deal" you could possibly get is not buying it and keeping your money in your pocketbook. I know no one wants to hear that, but it's the truth.

As always, I am not a financial expert I am just sharing what works for me with the hope that it helps at least one person out there.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Les Mis

I saw Les Mis with my littlest sister last night.

I love Les Mis. I was first introduced to it when my high school performed in as their spring musical during my freshman year. (Unfortunately I did not participate except as an audience member.) Even with a high school cast / crew / and orchestra I was so connected to the story I balled like a baby.

Then as a senior in high school, I traveled in New York City with choir and had the opportunity to see Les Mis on broadway. Amazing. Seriously, amazing. I was so moved I balled like a baby.

Now, I saw the movie last night. Obviously I know the story but again, I balled like a baby. (Am I sensing a theme?)

*side note* I sang a Les Mis medley when I was in college choir and I, in fact, did not cry like a baby. (Thank goodness because I had a solo.)

Anyway back to what I was originally talking about. Les Mis is such a beautiful story and I can't help being sucked into the lives of the characters. But waking up with puffy eyes this morning makes me wonder why I do this to myself. Why do I enjoy these tragic stories so much that I keep going back to them even though I know they are going to make me ugly cry.

If it's been awhile since I've been around anything Les Mis related I think I forget how sad it's going to make me. But as soon as the first big cords of "Look Down" begin the opening scene I feel all excited again thinking here I go again diving into this amazing story (that is going to make me sob.)

Have you seen Lis Mis yet? Do you want to? Are there any other sad stories that you can't help but love?

Friday, January 18, 2013

High 5 for Friday!

Here are my top favorite things from the week!

1. MY BIRTHDAY!!! Yes I turned another year older this week. Do I have any pictures? No, they are on everyone else's cameras/phones. Oh well. My hubby took me out to dinner, my mom made my favorite meal (cheese ravioli) and we're having some friends/family over to hang out tomorrow. It's been a good birthday week.

2. My sister got me an adorable trench coat for my birthday that I love and cannot wait to wear. It's literally below freezing so I'm wearing my extra warm coats for now, but spring time and trench coat weather will be here soon.

3. My other sister got me Raisinetes. I flipped when I saw them, they are one of my faves and I have not had them in seriously more than a year. (Good thing there are no calories on your birthday)

4. I successfully made an egg sandwich! After my first egg disaster (you can read about it here) I was determined to figure it out. Egg sandwiches might be my new go-to lunch.

5. This week at work there was little boy somewhere outside of my office that was laughing his head off with the most adorable/contagious laughter I've ever heard. I have no idea what was making him laugh so much, because I couldn't see him from my office, but I found myself smiling at my desk knowing that something was bringing that little boy pure joy. It's the little things.

I'm linking up with Lauren at From My Grey Desk for High Five for Friday!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Today's Lesson

I just spent the past 20 minutes cleaning dried egg out of my microwave.

Okay lets rewind. I came home on my lunch break today and wanted to make something quick and easy to eat. I have English muffins and thought an English muffin and egg sandwich sounded really good. When I lived with my parents I watched my mom make them all the time. I mean, watching someone make something is the same as knowing how to make something, right!?

Anyway, making this sandwich involves cooking an egg in the microwave (you don't have to use the microwave you could fry your egg in a frying pan, but in my case the microwave was my fastest option.) I got out my little bowl, sprayed it with some cooking spray, cracked an egg and dumped. I wasn't sure how long to cook it for but I thought to myself I should probably put it in there for a good long time because raw egg is gross so I don't want to take any raw egg chances. Four minutes sounds good I'll do four minutes. So I popped it into the microwave with the timer set to four minutes and got busy toasting my English muffin.

Less than 40 seconds later something in the microwave explodes. It made me jump so much I almost tossed my English muffin. I open up the microwave to find raw egg everywhere. (Raw egg, yuck and exactly what I was trying to avoid.) It's dripping down the mircowave door and on to the stove top below.

Remember I'm on my lunch break. I don't have time for this mess, I've got to eat and get back to work. So, I decided to deal with it later and made a bagel instead, making a mental note to ask my mom how the heck she makes her microwaveable eggs the next time I talk to her.

Conviently my mom calls me less than five minutes later (it would have been more convient if she had called me before the exploding egg incident.) Turns out you have to pop the eggs yoke before you mircowave it or they explode. LESSON LEARNED. After sharing my egg mishaps at work when I got back I also learned that you should poke holes in a potato skin before you microwave them or they will also explode. (I'm really glad someone told me this because otherwise I'm sure an exploding potato would be in my future.)

Anyway, I took care of operation egg clean up when I got home from work today and now my microwave is sparkling clean.

So tell me, have you ever had something explode on you in the microwave?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Sister


Everyone needs a little inspiration in their lives. My sister made this graphic of one of her favorite Bible verses. I am super proud because she taught herself how to make it, she even made it available for download on her blog. She also made the banner for my blog and a share button I have in the side bar. She blogs over at Noelle Austin, and you should check her page out.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tracking Expenses

Today in my budgeting series I'm going to talk about tracking expenses. I think budgeting and tracking expenses go hand in hand because tracking my expenses helps me stay within my budget and making a realistic budget is SO MUCH easier when I have kept track of my expenses. If you want to make this a reality in your life the number one key to remember is... you have to find a simple method that works for you.

And because I like lists here is a list of all the ways (I can think of at this moment) to track your expenses.

1. Paper and pencil
2. Excel Spreadsheet
3. Software (software you buy for budgeting specifically)
4. Online tracking
5. Smartphone apps (most of which tie into an online place)
6. Cash envelopes

(I know there are many more)

To be 100% honest I haven't tried all of these methods. (Or I've tried and epically failed.) But I want to talk about my favorite expense tracking method, paper and pencil.

Paper and pencil is my tried and true expense tracking method. I feel the most at peace about my finances when I use this method. When I try a new method and realize that we don't belong together, I always go back to good old fashioned method. (Remember I am no expert, I'm simply sharing what works for me and hoping that it helps at least one person out there.)

I have a binder (I call it my budget binder) with tabbed dividers. Each divider is labeled with one of my budget categories. I have two extra divided sections, one for my checking account and one for my savings account. In the checking account and savings account sections I keep a running total of the transactions made within that account. Kind of like the check register in your checkbook. My checking account and savings account sections look exactly like my online banking transaction list. Why do I do this instead of relying on my online list? Because writing it down in my budget binder makes me acknowledge every single transaction. I am aware when checks clear, or if they haven't cleared I can follow up with them. Running the risk of over-drafting becomes very slim but there are no withdraws to my account that I forgot about (also why I have very few items that auto-withdraw.)

Now, moving on to the rest of the divided sections. Each section is labeled with a budget category. When I am setting up this system I take my checking account balance and divide it between each budget category. (Note: it is good to have a "cushion" in you checking account so leave a comfortable amount in you account that is not allocated into a budget/spending category.) When I spend money I subtract it out of its respective budget category. Every payday I take the paycheck, divide it, and enter it into each budget category according to the my budget plan which I talked about here. If I overspend in one category, I have to take it from another category. (Preferably if you overspend in a NEED category you have to take it from a WANT category.) But this is where self-control comes into play. Just as if you were using cash, you cannot spend more than you have. If you're out of money in the food/household budget then you'll have to get creative with the food in your pantry until you get paid and can fill up your food/household budget again.

It may seem like a lot to keep up with adding and subtracting items but I only do it once a week during my appointment with myself. For me it talks about a half hour to update budget binder and pay any bills for the week.

That's what works best for me and my family right now. I am always looking/trying new things to see if I will find something that will work better. Simple pencil and paper works for me, but you have to find what works best for you.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lil' Peanut

Last weekend I was shopping with my sister and her sister-in-law. We were looking at all the home goods stuff which so happened to be right next to the baby clothes department.

Now, my sister has baby fever so when she saw a cute little dress on the end of the aisle she picked it up to show us and we all ooed and ahhed over it. Then we all saw more things we like and picked them up to show each other. After a few cute outfits I said "that's it, I'm not going in" (as in I'm not going any farther into the baby department) and my sister replied,  "well I am!" and at that we all went head first into the baby clothes picking out little outfit after little outfit.

My sister pulled out an outfit and exclaimed "Oh Sam! If you were having a little girl I would so buy this for you." It was an elephant outfit with grey and pink elephants all over it. (Elephants are my favorite animal) It was adorable. There was these little grey leggings that went with it. But the best part was on the tushie of those little grey leggins was an elephant with the words "lil peanut" written on it. At that moment I instantly wanted to buy it, I mean it was only seven dollars and it was so stinkin' adorable especially with that tushie detail.

And then I realized I was being ridiculous. What would my husband say if I came home with baby clothes for our non-existent children? Plus even when we start having kids, who knows if I'd have a girl. Of course my sister was standing next to me saying buy it, buy it, buy it. But in the end I didn't.

When I met up with my husband later I showed the little outfit to him and went on and on with the "adorables, "so cutes," and the "sweets" when talking about it. He laughed rolled his eyes, said someday then kissed me on the forehead.

Anyone else have baby fever? Or actually buy baby clothes before they were pregnant?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Books I Love: The Night Circus

Last year I read a wonderful book called The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

It was recommended to me by some co-workers. I was hesitant to read it at first because I thought the cover image and title made it seem like dark and creepy story (not my thing.) I am happy to say that I was proven wrong. This story is like reading a dream. 
The Night Circus is about two young magicians who are bound to competition that they do not understand. The venue for the game is the Night Circus. A circus that arrives without warning, a circus that is completely black and white, a circus that is only open from dusk till dawn. As the story progresses the competition becomes more complicated then either one of them had ever imagined. Choices have to be made, choices that could have very terrible consequences.

This book pulled me in. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it, wondering what was going to happen next. Erin Morgenstern does such a magnificent job with details that I could create a beautiful image in my mind of the sights, sounds and smells of the circus.

If you're looking for a story to carry you away, The Night Circus will not disappoint.
Note: This post was originally published on my old blog I have done some editing between this post and the original. Seeing as I don't use that blog anymore I decided to publish it here so more people could read it. Plus, I love this book so much it's worth two posts for sure.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How To Make A Budget

 Do you have a budget? If you don't, what's keeping you from budgeting? Too much work, too
complicated, too time consuming?

There are lots of reasons to not budget, but here's my reason for budgeting. Freedom. Yes, I feel free when I budget because know exactly how much I can spend on fun things and take comforting in knowing that I will still have enough to cover all of my bills?

I think budgeting should be simple. I think budgets work best when you budget for one month at a time. Since I like lists, here is how to budget in list form. (For this example I'm going to say we are budgeting for the month of February.)

1. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil (I like pencil because I erase and move things around a lot.) At the top of the page write down all of your expected sources of income for February, including but not limited to; your job, babysitting the kids down the street, overtime hours, house sitting for your uncle, etc. Then total up your expected income, this is everything you can spend or save in the month of February.

2. Next write down your family financial goal. If you want to save $200 a month, write that down as your first "expense" in your budget.

3. Write down all of your other expected expenses for the month of February. Start with the needs like rent/mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, insurance, drivers license renewing fee, childcare, etc. Then move on to the want categories such as entertainment, clothing (as in more than basic clothing needs), expensive haircuts, a gift for your nephew, etc. Total all of your outgoing funds, including the amount going to your family financial goal. (Even if you're putting it in savings, consider it a outgoing fund, so it is accounted for and you cannot spend it on anything else.)

4. Take your total income and subtract it from your total out go. Do you come up with zero? Are you over budget? Are you under budget? Make necessary adjustments so that your income and your outgo are equal. If your outgo is more than your income; start by taking funds away from that "wants" categories. Only take away from the family financial goal category if you really have to. If things are really out of whack you might have to make some big changes to get things back under control. Evey situation is different, you have to do what is best for you. Hopefully writing out a budget it eye opening if you are habitually spending more than you make each month.

5. Write out your final budget and if you are married make sure to talk about the budget with your spouse so you are both on the same page.

6. Match your paydays to you spending. For example, if you are in a two income household and each person makes $1,000 a paycheck and gets paid twice a month (the same two days.) Then you have two paydays in your house worth $2,000 each. You can diving your spending one of two ways. First, you can divide all of your outgo in half and take one half out of each payday For example, your rent/mortgage is $900 a month so each payday you set aside $450 for your rent/mortgage. When you pay the bill once a month you'll have the full $900 available. The second way is to set aside whole spending amounts at a time. For example, your rent/mortgage is $900 a month so the first payday you are going to set aside $900 of your $2,000 total payday for rent/mortgage. It's set aside, (as in it's just waiting in your checking account) for when the time comes to pay your bill. On your second payday of the month you will not set aside anything for your rent/mortgage because you have already taken care of the full amount from you first payday.

That's it! Now you have a budget and you have divided your spending to reflect your income. The only thing left to do is live out your budget.

I will be talking about tracking your expenses a little later. Tracking expenses is especially helpful for budget categories used more frequently during the month such as food and entertainment.

Remember your budget categories are personal, it's up to you and your spouse (if you're married) to decide what categories are appropriate. I personally feel that having less budget categories is better. My family has recently combined all of our "wants" categories into one. We call it "other" (I'm taking suggestions for better a name.) When all of our wants were divided into many categories such as entertainment, clothes, gifts, etc. It felt too restrictive for us. For example we would budget to spend $25 a month in entertainment but if we wanted to see a concert that month and it was more expensive than $25 we didn't go. Which felt silly to me if we had another $25 going toward clothing that month but we didn't need new clothes. Instead we have one bigger category and we work together on what we spend it on.

The most important thing to remember is family financial management is personal, you have to find what works best for you.

Have questions or need clarification? Please feel free to ask  general questions in the comments.

Note: I am not a financial expert, I am only sharing what works for me and hoping it can benefit at least one person out there.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Sort of Person You Are


from source via Pinterest

Do you ever hear a quote that just sticks in your mind? I don't know what it is about this quote but I saw it the other day on Pinterest and now it's even a post-it note on my computer. When I see it I am reminded that everyone is different (not like I didn't know that before, but still.) It also helps me realize that it's okay that I'm different from other people. I don't have to like what's trendy. It's completely okay to be me, all the time.

Friday, January 4, 2013

High Five for Friday

Today I am going to do my first ever link up! Lauren @ From My Grey Desk hosts these every Friday. I love reading about everyone's favorite moments during the week and I'm excited to share mine!

My highlights from this week are...

1. Ellie and the adorable meow she makes when she can't get her toy out from under the bookshelf. (And of course she's the one who got it stuck there in the first place.)

2. New calenders. I geek out over agenda/planners and every fresh new calender.

3. New Years Eve and New Years Day celebrations with family and friends. Both my husbands family and my family had a big New Years Day dinner. It was so nice to hang out as one big group.

4. Having a three day work week. I could get used to this.

5. Sticking to my 2013 goals (so far.)


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Books I Love: Lessons from Madame Chic

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris

I recently finished Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott and I absolutely loved it. 

Each chapter is a look inside the chic life lessons the author learned while living in Paris. I learned so much from this book and I am implementing many of the ideas in my life.

The first chapter "Snacking is so Not Chic" felt like it was written specifically for me. I'm a girl who likes her snacks. At work I never missed my mid-morning granola bar or my 3pm chocolate time. When I got home I usually had a snack while making dinner. Of course after dinner comes dessert, and then a late night snack before bed. In the book the author shares that many people she met in France did not snack, but instead had very satisfying meals. (She did mention that an afternoon snack is common.) This idea was eye opening for me. I had been eating over 600 calories a day in snacks. My snack choices where usually sweets so, there is very little nutritional value in them - which quickly left me hungry again. Since I've finished the book I've cut out most of my snacks and instead I am focusing on eating healthy and filling meals. I feel much better since I'm not constantly bouncing between a sugar high and low.

The second chic lessons I am incorporating in my life is from chapter eight "Look Presentable Always." I've never been the type of person to come home and immediately put on my pajamas but adopting this idea has helped me get dressed in the morning. Instead of thinking "I'm just going to my parents house it's no big deal to wear this T-shirt from 5th grade with my grubby jeans" because of course when wear something awful like that it's the time my mom asks me to run to the grocery store for her and then I'm embarrassed because of my sloppy clothes. By looking presentable always I feel so much better about myself (which has amazing effects on my daily outlook of life.) And I’m always ready for impromptu grocery store runs or any other adventure life throws my way.

The most influential lesson of all is the ten-item wardrobe. This chapter is about exactly what it sounds like, limiting your wardrobe to ten items. As I've talked about before, one of my goals for 2013 is to love every item in my wardrobe. I think the idea of pairing down my wardrobe (not only ten items but definitely a good pairing down) would greatly help with my goal of loving every single piece. Plus, by limiting the amount of clothing in my closet it should help me look presentable always because I will only have pieces I love to choose from.

So that's just a few of the ways Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott is inspiring me right now. Have you read any inspiring books lately?