I’ll reveal to you the #1 cause of our money management problems and give you a quick review of four different tools to how to manage money easily. You’ll also get a free downloadable cash flow worksheet to get you started! As you know, there are massive loads of information about how to manage money, how to budget, how to save money, and how to live a debt-free life. It can be overwhelming and paralyzing! Let’s keep it simple and focus on the top four ways to how to manage money easily.
What’s the #1 Mistake?
When we leave the house, we make one big mistake. I’m going to make this simple for you. The very first step to doing anything with your money is to know what to do with it before you leave home or get online.
When it comes to keeping track of our money you either love it, hate it, or are half-*ssed about it. And for most Americans, this can be a real pain in the butt. It’s not really the task at hand, but it’s the mind that messes with us. We know we need to do budget, but we just don’t want to. Hence, we find ourselves in a hole deeper than we want to be.
conducted by Slickdeals.com asked 2,000 adults last August about their money
habits. Topping the list of categories
where respondents overspend is online shopping, followed by grocery shopping
and subscription services. Take a look at their list, you may find some
Trusting your brain with all the figures is not a good idea. We get distracted; we cheat and lie to ourselves. Then we hear the forbidden word “Budget”. Whether you make $30,000/year to $1,000,000/year everyone needs a budget, no one is excluded, not even a homeless person. To make this more fun I’m not going to use the word ‘budget’, it sounds super boring. Instead, I’m going to use “harmony”…that’s sounds kind of corny but when there is harmony in our finances, everything works together. And gosh, when we get jammin’, financial freedom will be a #1 hit for years! Isn’t that what we’re all aiming for? On a side note, no pun intended, when you go off-key you’ll TRY to believe the harmony still sounds nice, but in reality it stink-ith. Stop lying to yourself. Developing a routine saves us a lot of hard-earned cash.
How do we fine-tune our money?
First and foremost, I want
to make this clear, a ‘harmonic wallet’ (B-word) isn’t created to punish us and
hold us captive; it’s here to simplify
life and set us free.
Money management has a few different layers. One layer is keeping a record of every single expense. This may sound tedious, but it’s the most important step to understand where the cash flow holes are and where the money mountains prevail. However, keeping track is where most people fall. WARNING! People will manage money for a few days then stop. Just like a diet. Listen up friend, you’re not a quitter. If you want this bad enough, you’ll make it happen. I believe in you. Keep up the good work, it will literally pay off. This is the difference between living debt-free and frugal living. There is nothing wrong with frugal living, but when you depend on it to live every day it can be an exhausting life.
This leads me to the know-hows. Over the years my husband and I have used a few techniques that have helped us manage our money. Most importantly money management helps us understand what’s going on. Our money management techniques kind of mimic our camping life. We started with a tent, then we moved to a small camper, yet got a little larger trailer, and now we have a 5th Wheel. We’ve learned something in every phase until we found our jam. In which our jam got us a 5th Wheel! Below are the four tools we’ve benefited from over the years.
Tracking Tool #1: Old School
Good old pencil & paper. There are LOADS of downloadable printables online; finding one that fits your needs is the hard part. It’s overwhelming. My rule of thumb: Keep It Simple. Think of your finances like a business, in fact, treat it like a business. All businesses start out with pen and paper. Grab the old college-ruled notebook and a No. 2 pencil to get started. You can also get a Budget Planner which brings a little ‘pretty’.
5 Steps with Old School
Step 1: Dust off the old notebook; rip out your old psychology notes, sharpen your pencil and jot down all the categories that take your money. For instance: groceries, autogas, utilities, insurance, phone, memberships, or subscriptions. This is the first step. Just list the categories in one column.
Step 2: Start saving receipts and keeping track of what is EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer every month). Even if you’re putting these things on a credit card, keep the receipt. Remember this is a gradual approach to finding harmony.
Step 3: Pick a regular time once a week to go through the receipts and bills that were collected. Maybe Sunday afternoon or Thursday night. Write alongside the category of how much you spent that week. Keep the list going for the whole month.
Below is an example of what your paper might look like…this is for one month. Note the tallies for coffee.
Step 4: Don’t forget your income! You can put your income on the top or bottom of your sheet. List all your paychecks for the month.
Step 5: It’s math time! Add up all the amounts from each category (row) and write in the total for that specific category. Then the scary part happens; add all the expenses together (column), then subtract that from your income.
PRO: Anyone can do it. All you need is a calculator.
CON: This method takes a bit of time. Generating a report would take forever and require a lot of math.
Here is a nice budgeting book if you’d like to go this route. Click the picture to check out more details.
Tracking Tool #2: graduate to desktop
The Small Camper
After we mastered the pencil & paper method, my husband and I decided to move up to a computer accounting program. I’m not talking Google Docs, which is a really great way to keep track; many of my friends use Excel these days. Do what fits your lifestyle. If you like Excel I have a free spreadsheet download below!
PRO: If you want to print a report or reconcile your account, an accounting program makes it so much easier…especially for taxes. Essentially it’s a glorified check register with the ability to print reports. Another feature I really like is that you can have multiple accounts. For instance, we have our personal checking, savings, health savings, and our son’s account all in one program. And they are from all different banks! We use Quicken Starter. It’s a simple way to start. Unfortunately, you do have to pay for it, but they have a 30-day free trial.
In our household, I’m the one who updates “the books”. I pay the bills, I keep the receipts, I reconcile the account. My husband analyzes the reports and strategizes. We have our roles figured out…SUPER IMPORTANT! With Quicken Starter I have enjoyed the program; it’s easy and clear.
CON: It doesn’t automatically update your account in real-time. So if you go to Taco Bob’s for lunch, Quicken doesn’t know that right away. Plus you have to pay for it but it’s not that much for what it does.
Click on the picture for more details.
Tracking Tool #3: now to an app
The Little Bit Bigger Camper
We then experimented with Mint. It’s an online-only app for managing your money. Mint is FREE! But it’s a bit more complicated. You can see all your transitions, but in order to itemize them, you need to wait until they clear. It’s great for budgeting, tracking, and bill reminders, but it doesn’t have the reconciliation feature and reports can be a bit tricky. Again, do what fits your lifestyle, but please keep it simple. Other Apps to checkout are YNAB (You Need A Budget), nerdwallet, and mvelopes.
PRO: It’s free and on your phone.
CON: It’s free and on your phone. No reconciliation option or easy access to reports.
Tracking Tool #4: The best of both
The 5th Wheel
We’ve now moved up to Quickbooks Online. If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, do it the simple way with this program. It’s an online check register, with reports, and account reconciliation. My husband and I have been using it and are loving it! I can’t believe how much fun he has with this program. The downside of this program is that you have to pay for it. But, don’t look at that as an expense because the program and its capabilities can actually save you a lot of money. Worth it.
Click on the picture for more details.
PRO: You got it all here. You can access it from your phone or computer. Reconciles on its own. Captures expenses. Has budgeting tools…oops…I meant ‘harmony’ tools. And it’s easy to use. Many businesses use this program.
CON: You have to pay for it. You can only use accounts from one bank. It can be kind of confusing.
The Bottom-linein how to manage money easily
To create harmony is to understand where your money is going and how you will process that information. What needs to change? And how are you going to do that? David Bach says, “The solution to your money problems isn’t more money; it’s new habits.”
Make harmony with your money by looking at your habits and experimenting with new ways on how to change them without losing your lifestyle. This is the most effective way of how to manage money easily.
Here’s a free Excel cash flow worksheet to help you get started. Simply click on the link and it will download automatically. Then in the lower-left corner, click the up arrow and click ‘Open’. You can then save it on your computer and start plugging away! Har-Money Worksheet.
Let’s save money on Valentine’s Day this year. You’ll get my 6 simple ways to save money on Valentine’s Day along with a little history about February 14th. Explore my simple and inexpensive gift ideas for you, your family, and your friend; but first I gotta tell you what I learned about this ‘loving’ holiday, it certainly surprised me!
Valentine’s Day originated from a Roman festival. It had nice intentions of celebrating the coming Spring. Because as we know, with Spring comes rebirth. The Romans capitalized on this season and promoted fertility at this time. Side note; if you have a November birthday, your parents probably practiced the Roman tradition. LOL! Anyway, what I didn’t expect was a dark side to this ‘lovers’ holiday.
The Dark side of Valentine’s Day
This Roman festival included, what sounds like, arranged marriages by a lottery. Say what? All I can picture is taking a ticket at the meat counter and waiting for someone to call my name and hope and pray I was attracted to him. This does not sound very romantic, but they did it!
And according to legend, there was a priest whose name was Valentine. The story isn’t clear of whether the priest secretly married people behind the emperor’s back to spare men from war, or if the priest signed a letter to a jailer’s daughter “from your Valentine” which created havoc. Either way, the emperor, Caludius II Gothicus, martyred him! Yes murdered the guy named Valentine.
As for cupid, he represents the Roman god of love. Are you as confused as I am? This holiday is messed up, murder, love, lottery, and a naked baby with a bow n arrow. The Romans back then had some mental issues.
What We’re Spending
I get it that we’re celebrating this guy, Valentine, but “Be My Valentine” or “Will you be my Valentine?” sounds weird to me now that I understand the back story. Frankly put, these days, retailers use the holiday to get more business. In 2019 53% of all Americans spent a grand total of $30 billion. Heart-shaped candies and decadent chocolates get me all the time, but I spend maybe $25- $50 on Valentine’s Day, that’s including dinner. However, the average person spends about $225 on one person. There is nothing wrong with that. Your significant other’s love language may be ‘gifts’. But if you’re on a tight budget there are other ways to go about showing your love.
Save Money on Valentine’s Day with Simple Ideas
The average cost of a Valentine’s card is $4.99. That can add up with kids and even pets. Yes, they have cards for pets. Three kids alone plus a dog could cost $20. Ouch. Here’s a different idea, back in the day, my husband and I were strapped for money, and so instead of buying each other a card, we took a picture of the card in the store then shared the pictures with each other. I know that sounds lame, but it was actually quite fun. There are many benefits to this: it’s inexpensive, saves the environment, and you can keep it on your phone forever! In fact, if you found more than one perfect card, you can take a picture of that one too!
As for kids, homemade Valentine’s are the best. Any kind of gift made with our very hands means so much more than something you buy. You can Google a joke or cute saying and incorporate that into a homemade card.
Unless it’s your birthday on Valentine’s Day, big gifts are out, at least in our home. Money doesn’t buy love. Time does. Time with your spouse, friend, kids, and pets says a lot more than the latest video game. What are they going to remember more? The gift and who got it for them? Or will they remember the memory of playing Battleship and Clue and the epic popcorn-launch-in-your-mouth game? Actually, the Game of Clue might be appropriate for Valentine’s Day…remember Roman times? Here’s my skinny on gifts and what we do in my family. Candy.
Candy is instant, enjoyable for everyone, and easy. Get whatever is their favorite sugar bomb. I know it’s not the healthiest, but skip dessert and have the candy instead…don’t forget portion control. My son loves those Sweetart Hearts, my husband is all about Nerds, and me, well, my hands-down favorite of all favorites is See’s Candies. Seriously, these are the best chocolates I’ve ever had. AND they are gluten-free! If you don’t have a retailer near you, you can order online, believe me, it’s worth it. They are SO good!
If candy isn’t your thing, flowers do make a great gift. Here’s the kicker. Keep the flowers simple. They don’t have to be red roses. The jester is what counts. Recently, my husband stumbled upon white roses at Trader Joe’s. He got a dozen for like $7.00. Can’t beat that, and they lasted a long time. They were beautiful. Thank you Trader Joe’s! The other option with flowers is to go for the carnations. They are a simple flower that comes in a variety of colors. A large bouquet is about half the price of a dozen roses (roses not from Trader Joe’s). I personally like to mix carnations and roses together like in this picture.
Besides the gift of time, sweet treats, and flowers, touch is just as important if not more. Touch is another language of love. It’s definitely my husband’s. Intimate time with your spouse or boyfriend is probably all they want for Valentine’s Day. Stop spending your money on other things, just give him some lovin’. As for kids, snuggles or tickle-attacks while watching “Be My Valentine Charlie Brown” serve the best of both worlds for child and mom/dad. Feel goods with hugs and laughs with tickles are a joy to the heart.
Save money on Valentine’s Day dinner
Let’s talk about dinner. If it’s just your spouse/friend with you, you’ll spend an average of $50 at a restaurant. And don’t forget to tip! Oh, did I mention the babysitter? As for time, Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest nights at restaurants. You may have to wait for a table. I didn’t even mention traffic or weather. A different option is to have a candlelight dinner at home. This saves time and a great way to save money on Valentine’s Day. I know it may sound boring, but that’s up to you. Dress up, get some music playing, and have your kids wait on you and play restaurant at the same time. It’s something different to try this year. At the grocery, you’ll spend at least half of the amount on a meal than at the restaurant. Get some steak, salad, and garlic bread. Start up the grill and “By the Power of Grayskull, I HAVE THE POWER!” Yes, I have dated myself with He-Man. Dinner at home can be fun for everyone!
Final Tips for a Great Valentine’s Day
Lastly, decorating with construction paper hearts tapped on the sliding glass door gets everyone in a loving mood. This is an easy way to save money on Valentine’s Day. You don’t need to go all out with decorations. Keep it simple. It’s a gentle reminder that Valentine’s Day should be fun and not filled with a martyr. Now, don’t forget the chocolate! For more ways to manage money, be sure to check out my post on money here!
How to simplify my life is more than just throwing your stuff out. In fact, simplifying can be complicated, especially if you want to organize it as you go. We’re not going to organize today. We’re going to focus on simplifying our space by knowing how to do it simply. This is will save you a lot of headache and time in the long run.
If you want to have peace, experience freedom, and have more space, let alone functional space, it starts with who you are and how you operate. You are a smart person, you’re creative, and you have an amazing future. So this task of simplifying is going to need your mind, creativity, problem-solving skills, and an understanding of yourself.
Are you ready? Let’s break through the clutter to seriously unleash your potential to live a do more than exist kind of life in your space.
The top 5 pieces of advice to simplify my life
1. Simplifying your life is a lot harder than you think.
To make simplifying work for you, you must include your brain. To make this experience a fantastic one, you’ll want to do two things: get in the right frame of mind and understand your motives.
Do you want to find things easier? What about getting rid of sour memories to make room for sweet ones? Do you want to create more space? Clean up? Do you want to live lighter? Or do you want to downsize? What is your motive in simplifying?
2. Ask yourself questions.
Since I’m on a roll with questions, we’re going to keep going! When asking yourself, “How do I simplify my life?” Ask more questions. Let’s say you come upon your old t-shirt from high school ask yourself a few things:
– Why am I holding on to this?
– How is this going to change my life for the better?
– When was the last time I used it?
– Can someone else use it?
– Is this something I could sell this week?
– Is it worth the space in my house let alone mind?
It’s important to ask yourself these questions when you run into something that might be hard to let go of. When push comes to shove, just remember you can’t take it to heaven.
3. Simplify my life step by step, but not too slow.
Okay, so decluttering isn’t a fun thing for you. I get it. I don’t like washing the kitchen floor. However, what helps me is if I put it on the calendar. I can then mentally prepare myself and start visualizing how awesome it would be to have a clean kitchen floor. With that said, take a look at your schedule and block off some time to start your decluttering project. Get serious about your space.
Yes, this kind of task is a big deal. Have you seen those shows about hoarding? There’s a little hoarder inside of us all. Ha ha ha! Go about this step by step. Maybe tackle the kitchen one day, then the bathroom another day, and so forth. You got this!
4. Get it out of your living space.
When you start to sort through things, get it out of your house and into your garage, barn, or shed. By removing it from your living space you’ll get a taste of how much you really miss it if any; plus you’ll see how much stuff you are getting rid of.
This can be a big eye-opener and can even change your spending and collecting habits for the better! I have been known to do snow angels on the floor after a declutter day.
5. Make 4 piles.
Make piles: keep, donate, sell, and pitch. When you plan on having a garage sale, designate a space to keep all those things…like your garage or closet. Same rule for things to donate or to sell online. As for pitching, start a pile and fill your garbage bin every week until it’s gone.
When all said and done to simplify my life.
We’ve lived in the same house for over 15 years. Within those years we have had four garage sales and numerous trips to the donation center. Every garage sale blew my mind of how much stuff we were keeping and not using! With our quarterly clean-out, I still get amazed at how much stuff we accumulate in a matter of months! As for selling things online, the best place I’ve found to be is to use Facebook Marketplace.
When you get in the right mode for simplifying you’ll be surprised at the things you had kept over the years and the things you still want to keep. This is your living space we’re talking about, so make it the way you’ll love it. When you enjoy how you’re living you’ll be a whole lot happier.
Planners aren’t just for adults, teens need them too! Get a daily planner for teens today and teach them how to manage their time and to develop this amazing skill.
In the 1700s the planner was invented by your very own Benjamin Franklin. And in 1984 the Franklin Planner was brought to our eyes thanks to Richard I. Winwood. One of our most valuable things on this planet is our time. How we plan our minutes determines the outcome of our lives. Let me be bold: No one is to blame, except for you, on how you use your time. A planner is a great tool to help you guide your teen in planning their days, know what to look for and make this year a great one.
Two things that need to happen for a productive life
For you to experience an amazing, productive life there are two things that need to happen. The first is to know yourself to the best of your ability. When you understand who you are and where you want to go in life, directing your time becomes a little easier. And when your time is managed the way you like it, you are at peace. Understanding your identity isn’t an easy thing, we are ever-changing beings. I’ll give you some tips in a minute.
The second thing that needs to happen is for you to have a plan, at least something to go by. As we all know, we can plan all we want, but the Lord directs our steps. Wandering aimlessly is straight-up stressful. Try traveling without a map…this includes your phone navigation. Think about a time when you were lost. Do you remember how that made you feel? Is lost, the source of all stress? Hmm. Yet, there is one thing that keeps on ticking, time.
Teens and tweens struggle with time management, it’s okay, managing time is a skill they need to develop. The other thing that needs to happen in life is encouragement and positivity. I created a daily planner for teens to do just this. To focus on the good things, to give encouragement, inspire, and to speak truth into their hearts.
Identity, how it orchestrates our day
Understanding identity is a HUGE thing right now. People are exploring what they like, who they like, what they believe in, etc. Identity is a controversial topic because it involves all the things people get mad about race, religion, sex, politics, vaccines… The crazy part is that we all want to be liked, so in some weird ways, we go along with the crowd even when we don’t want to. This creates a whole different ball of twine and a blog post, but my point is for us to understand who we are.
As the Bible says, we are to not conform to the pattern of this world, but instead, to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, for then we will be able to test God’s will for our life, his perfect, pleasing, and goodwill (Romans 12:2). In other words, seek your Creator to understand who He made you be, then you will understand where you should go.
That was some fun theology, this is not to discourage you, this is to encourage you. Because when you think you have to do this life alone, that you need to figure everything out yourself, and you have to make every minute count, not to mention, keeping up with what everyone else is doing…give it to our Mighty God in Heaven. Ask Him, your Heavenly Father, to help you, direct you, open your eyes, and protect you. He will. I guarantee it!
In 2020, we faced a dead stop in life with the COVID pandemic. The time came to a screeching halt. Many of us went bananas, others went on an extended mental vacation. There were many things we learned while being at home, some things we didn’t want to know like how lonely we were, how much we depended on others, and how much we needed “me” time. Getting sick wasn’t the only fear going on, knowing what to do with our time competed for first place. To help you with your time there is one thing you can invest in: a planner.
As 2021 came to be, life seemed completely the opposite of 2020. There was a new super speed! Traffic got heavy, people got rude, and many of us tried to fit as much as possible into our days. Were we trying to make up for time lost during the year before? Did we have different priorities? The year 2021, was a transition year and we were trying our hardest to get back to “normal” as much as possible. And now we’re all cranky and have headaches. My planner was definitely full, yet it was a true life-saver in staying sane.
What to look for in a planner
There are a lot of planners out there that not only address our day-to-day, but they also have journal prompts and inspiring quotes, etc. Planners have come a long way since the 1770s; in fact, planners started out as journals. However, depending on your needs, we should be careful of what kind of planner to get; some can be time-consuming, stressful to keep up with, and distracting. Many planners look beautiful and fun, but I worry some people may get too focused on filling out their pretty little planner instead of living life and making things happen. Planners are a tool to keep you focused and sharp.
Download this daily planner for teens today
With that said, I created two downloadable planners in PDF format that is simple and essential to anyone’s life. I prefer the downloadable planner because you can print as many pages as you like! Both Simple Living planners come in three sizes so you can find a fun binder and put your own spin on it…which is great for making it your own.
The Simple Living: All You Need Planner will help you stay on task. I designed it so it still gives you a few daily journal prompts that are fun to do. It is 17 pages. My goal is for this planner to help you get through your days feeling confident and productive. It focuses on the important things that will save us time and headaches.
The second planner I designed is the Simple Living: All You Need Planner PLUS. This 25-page simple planner PLUS is a great way to kick off 2022 and to be strong and successful throughout! I absolutely LOVE this planner because it feeds my mind, energizes my goals, and makes me feel good! This planner is like your personal life coach. It’s filled with healthy mental goodness that anyone can benefit from no matter what age. It has all the same great pages as the first planner, but with bonus pages suited to feed the mind and creative spirit. Designed for a daily planner for teens or tweens but so good for a planner for mom or grandma. Feel the love through this planner, truly a game-changer.
Wrapping the planner up
Using a planner is an excellent way to get the most out of our time, but choosing the right planner is what will make or break you. Start the New Year on the right foot and allow happiness to penetrate your heart. It all starts with your time, organize and utilizing it well.
Making Christmas special is what most parents aim for with their kids. What I’m about to share is something I wished I had learned years ago with my son. It’s the proven, no-fail Christmas gift that is sure to make every Christmas special.
Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. We all know this. And the stores love this! I’ve been sucked into Black Friday, store sales, and crowds; anxiety took residency and what was supposed to be fun turned into frustration. In fact, this year I thought I’d avoid crowds and shop online. It was convenient to shop while eating pancakes, but I soon realized I fell prey to the timed sales and limited deals.
My body temperature increased as the minutes slipped away and my mind swirled not being able to make a decision. Before I knew it I was sweating through my comfy pajamas! What the heck was happening to me? My husband even said, “They got ya!” He got that right. The shopping hoopla had its grip on me. The kick-in-the-pants is that it the time spent got me NOWHERE. In fact, I had taken that whole morning with my face in the computer missing out on hanging with my son and walking our dog. And you know what? I ended up returning half the stuff when they arrived on my doorstep.
Feel the Love.
Don’t me get wrong, gifts are fun to give. Gifting is, in fact, some people’s love language. On a side note, in case you didn’t know, there are five defined love languages and each is unique on its own. If you don’t know your love language or the language of your family members, I highly recommend Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages.” Click on the picture below for more details.
The Best Christmas Gift, what is it?
Picking out the ‘perfect’ toy for your child, something that is unexpected and so exciting is where the magic happens…at least in the moment of buying, wrapping, hiding, and then opening. But then what?
Let me put it this way, in five years is your child going to remember that toy she played with? Is she going to even remember who gave it to her? In some cases, she might. But in most cases, she won’t. The real magic isn’t a tangible item, it’s something more valuable.
An Ultimate Christmas Story
Let me tell you a story I heard years ago that I wished I absorbed better. Here’s my second chance. I hope you enjoy it.
It was in the early evening of December 20th. A father and his young son were planning a trip to the city. They had a checklist of all the things they wanted to see and do; the big Christmas tree, the street decorations, ice staking at the city center, Christmas cookies at Carla’s Bakery, hot chocolate at the “Reindeer Barn”, and most of all the toy store where the son got to pick out his present.
The dad was excited to show his son all the sites and to buy him the perfect present at the store. And the son, well, he just couldn’t wait to get to the toy store. He’d say, “Dad let’s do the store first!” The father would reply, “No. We don’t want to carry the gift around all night.” Yet the son persisted throughout the day leading up to the downtown venture. “Dad, I can carry it. I promise I’ll be careful.” We all know the real answer to that, not happening fella. The dad was starting to get a little annoyed that his son only wanted to go to the store, but he reminded himself that he was just a being a kid.
Uh-Oh! Or Not So?
After brushing a fresh blanket of snow off the car, they hopped in their seats and performed their ‘system checks’. “Hat?” the father asked, “Check” replied the son. “Gloves?” “Check”. “Phone?” “Check”. “Wallet?” “Check”. All systems were a go. The key went into the ignition, the dad’s grip got stronger, and turned key upward. Nothing happened. He tried again, but this time he pushed on the gas just to see. Complete quietness. Not even a click. The dad took in a big breath, looked at the son, exhaled and said, “Looks like we need a new plan.”
The son thought the trip was off, no toy store, no nothing. His eyes started to sting and his throat got tight. They headed back inside the house, the son sat on the couch and flipped channels. After about five minutes the dad looked at his son and said, “Grab your boots, we’re not going to let a broken-down car stop us!” They put on their hats, gloves, and coats and started to walk down the sidewalk. The son asked, “Are we going to walk there? It’s so far!” His dad said, “Nope, we’re going to ride the city bus. We’re just walking to the bus stop.”
The best Christmas gift
When the father and son got on the bus, they sat in the middle side by side. The bus driver announced they were headed to the heart of the city, and off they went. During the ride, the son and father played “I spy”, they talked about the silly dog sitting in the seat across the aisle, they looked at Christmas lights on buildings and homes they passed, they played a game of “Would You Rather”, and lots of giggles where shared.
They made it to the city and saw the beautiful tree. Lights alone the sidewalk sparkled. They ate Christmas cookies and drank hot chocolate. Everything on the list was being checked off. The last stop before heading home was the infamous toy store. The son walked through the doors and his eyes got wide. They spent at least an hour in the store before the son carefully picked out his present. The father with a full heart bought him the gift and they walked back to the bus stop.
On the bus ride home the son asked, “Would you rather ride Rudolph or be Rudolph? Would you rather drink one cup of hot chocolate every day for a year or eat 10 candy canes in an hour?” When they arrived at their final stop, they wished the bus driver a Merry Christmas and started to walk home. As the son and father held hands, the dad asks his son, “What were your top three favorite things of the whole night?” The son replied, “Playing ‘Would You Rather’, laughing, and the best of the best was riding the bus with my dad.”
This melts my heart. The son didn’t mention the toy; he didn’t mention cookies or hot chocolate. His son said that it was the time his dad spent with him that was the most special. The dad didn’t see that coming. My friends, ‘time’ is the real magic. It’s a gift that will last a lot longer than a plastic toy or video game for that matter.
Merry Christmas. May you enjoy many “bus ride” moments this Holiday season.
How can we make a quick healthy meal on a budget? When it comes to meals I use five criteria to measure success: taste, health, speed, digestion, and budget. Let’s jump right in.
My secret ingredients to flavor
Have you noticed when you eat something that tastes good, stress doesn’t exist for that moment? Bland food is quite boring and can leave us unsatisfied. Let’s fix the “blaa” with a little “bam-bam”. Here are some of my favorite flavor touches that are easy to use and budget-friendly:
My husband is Mr. Hot Sauce. He enjoys: Red Hot and Sriracha.
I make my own garlic bread with fresh garlic, I simply use a mincer. It’s a much cleaner and healthier way than garlic powder or garlic salt.
This herb helps fight bacteria, it’s high in antioxidants, helps reduce viral infection and many more benefits.
We love our salt but need to watch the blood pressure and bones. Salt helps with fluid balance, nerve transmission, and even muscle function.
Methods for a healthier meal
My second criteria for reducing stress in the kitchen is to concoct a healthy meal using the right tools. I have five main ways to cook healthy meals:
The oven. Baking fish and starches instead of frying save us a lot of heartaches…literally…and calories for that matter. Roasting potatoes, squash, and even cauliflower are super easy and a healthier method. All you need to do cube the veggie and toss it in olive oil with a little salt set the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes with a little toss mid-way. Simply test with a fork for your liking.
The Air Fryer If I’m in a hurry yet want a break from the microwave, I opt for the Air-fryer or the toaster oven. I love these things! I use them for warming up homemade waffles, a small batch of cookies or brownies, garlic bread, a small pizza, and chicken nuggets. Both cooking devices automatically shut off when the timer is done, so I can put my dish in it and forget it. The air fryer is awesome for campers and RV’s. We use this one.
The grill. We use our grill all year round and we live in Michigan! To keep grilling safe and healthy, it’s important to keep it clean. Be sure to scrape the grill with a brush before using, and clean the grill at least three times a year if you’re a heavy user; meaning, giving the grates a good soak in Dawn dish soap.
The microwave. Yes, I use the microwave to warm up meals when I’m in a hurry. My main reasons for the microwave are frozen veggies, chicken nuggets, and microwave popcorn.
Cast Iron Pan. This is my secret weapon in the kitchen when it comes to speed, taste, and easy cleanup. Everyone should have a cast iron pan. This pan, as my son would say, is ‘Beast’…meaning cool. When it gets hot, it stays hot. And cleaning it is a piece of cake, no soap! Simply rinse and heat back up on the stove to dry. Easy peasy! I love my cast iron pans.
I do love my Crockpot, but I only use it maybe once a week. There are loads of kitchen gadgets promising this or that; we get excited for a few weeks then tuck it away in an abyss cupboard. Keep it simple in the kitchen, stick to the old fashion way of cooking. You’ll find it actually goes pretty fast.
Cast iron pan
I wasn’t joking about old fashion. Like my son says, “It’s beast!”
The old saying to put a wooden spoon on top of the rim of the pan to make the water boil faster? Well, it works. Simply lay a wooden spoon across the top of the pan, kind of like a bridge. In about a handful of minutes, the water is ready for the pasta.
I’m not a fan of freezing meals unless it’s leftover chili or stew. Lasagna is another good freezer meal, but other than that, it’s easier to resort to the grocery’s freezer meals. You should venture into your freezer and clean it from old food every quarter.
There are a lot of factors leading to diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, acid reflex, and cramping. They range from food allergies, food sensitivities, food combining, eating too fast, the lack of digestive enzymes, hormones, bile acid, autoimmune disorders, gut flora, leaky gut, and/or viruses and bad bacteria.
My first strategy in figuring out why I feel icky is to eliminate the most common inflammatory foods: dairy, gluten (wheat), nuts, soy, and eggs. Food elimination will take time, but it’s worth it when you figure it out.
*Please note, I’m not a doctor, nor am I trying to be. I share information I have either experienced myself or are extremely interested in, and then I keep things simple and give you the nutshell version. Please consult your physician before jumping into new things.
Just so you know, it takes about three weeks for cow’s milk protein to vacate your system. For wheat, it takes two weeks to feel a bit better, but around three months for it to be out of your system. For soy and eggs, it’s two weeks. Here’s a good post from All Ways Well on how to go about it. Keep it simple, your body will love you, and you’ll help it heal!
Budget: 6 ways to save on meals
1 – Join store membership
One of the ways I save money on meals is to join the store membership. One of my stores kicks back $7.00 after I reach a certain goal. They also have online coupons. Not to mention member only specials! And you can even shop and scan with the app.
2 – Buy what’s in season
Another way I save is to adjust my menu with what is growing in season. For squash dishes, I delay until fall and early winter. Strawberry pie is good in March. Here is a quick guide to knowing what fruits and veggies are in season so you know when you’re getting the best deal on them. Download my In-Season guide now.
3 – Go to different stores
A third trick is to go to different stores to get the best price. For instance, the coconut milk ice cream I buy isn’t on sale at my normal store, but it is on sale at my secondary store. This may be a lot of running around, so you’ll have to make the call whether it’s worth the gas, but I find this technique helpful. I have about five go-to stores to get the best deals. But how do you remember where you got what? You can download myWhere I Buy Memory Guideand tuck it in your planner or handbag. Now you’ll never have to remember where you got what again!
4 – Buy store brand
Buy store brand. There is not much difference in taste and quality from name brand goods to store brand.
5 – Watch the ingredients
Watch the ingredients! Yes, you can save money by reading the nutrition label. How? Some food manufacturers use ingredients that are addictive, like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and MSG…not to mention salt and just plain sugar. When you eat more, you buy more of it! Steer clear of HFCS and MSG. I know they’re tasty but they don’t do you any favors from a wallet and health perspective.
6 – Don’t skimp the protein
Don’t skimp on the protein. Sure some proteins can be expensive, but so are second helpings and snacking! When our bodies don’t get the protein we are hungry all the time, which can lead to overeating, weight gain, and crankiness…yes, carbs do that. Make a point to eat some protein at every meal. To save even more money, buy protein in bulk at a membership store like Costco or Sam’s. Be sure to look at the price per unit to make the best decision.
Sources of protein include nuts, dairy (unless you’re sensitive), seeds, chicken, fish, pork, beef, turkey, tempeh (soy), quinoa, broccoli, and lentils.
When it comes to meals, use your head not your stomach. My five criteria get the job done for me. I go for taste, health, speed, digestion, and budget. My hope is that you found some new ideas to test out. As an added bonus, here is a 5-day menu plan based on all my criteria. Enjoy!
When economic strife hits do these 9 must-do steps to squash your money problems. There is no way in predicting tragic storms, destructive earthquakes, virus pandemics, a house fire, sudden death of a loved one, or unemployment. If we could tell our money ‘a tornado is coming, hang on tight’, life would be so much easier. In fact, we can tell our money to do that, but what if we weren’t ready this go around?
First things first
First and foremost, remember these times of despair are just that, a time. It’s not forever, it’s not the end of the world; it’s just a season that is visiting for a while. It may seem like an eternity but it will pass like all our other seasons. The hard part is getting through it without much pain. Right?
Your 1st priority
Your first priority is to take care of yourself and your family. If it’s a spreading sickness, do everything in your power to protect you and your family from getting sick. Did a storm hit your house? Then get your family to safer shelter. If you lost your job, then start looking for a replacement job, even it pays less than the work you had before, just get something going so you have a little income.
When the overall shock has faded, this is usually about 3-7 days depending on the severity, you can start working on these 9 must-do steps to get your life back on track and to put your money problems behind you.
1. Clean up the unnecessary subscriptions
Get rid of unnecessary subscriptions: magazines, gyms (unless you’re using it more than once week), weight loss programs (check out My Wellness Way instead), and might I even say cable TV? Look at the numbers and the amount of time you use these things. Is it worth it?
2. Work on your budget
Work on your budget. This is real people. Money problems happen when a budget is not in place. A budget can help you find the holes and to see what holes need to be filled. Think of a budget as a treasure hunt. It doesn’t need to be restrictive, tedious, or confusing. Use this easy to fill-in excel worksheet to help you get organized. Go to Freebies to get yours.
If you want something beefier that has printable reports I highly recommend Quicken. We use it.
Scale down and only focus on your necessities. This may be hard but look at it with a survival perspective. What can I, or we as a family, live without for two months?
These types of tragedies will happen again, be prepared next time. Emergency fund, mental preparedness, essentials in the home, but don’t hoard (enough for two weeks) and reduce debt. Here’s another post about budgeting to checkout. #1 Cause of Money Problems, plus 4 tools to solve it
3. Make extra money
Wipe your money problems away by making extra money. Grocery-store job, shop for others, delivery food, checkout other delivery services like Amazon, UPS, FedEx, food processing jobs, gas station attendant, fast food industry.
Heads-up: Many other blog posts say to start a blog, I do not recommend this. You’ll be spending more money on starting it than making any money on it. They are only telling you to start a blog to sell their blog building tools or to exercise their affiliate programs. Building a profitable blog takes time and money, it’s not impossible, but it is a lot of hard work, especially starting from scratch.
Simply look at what businesses are booming in tough times and then go there and inquire about opportunities. For instance, some call centers for services I mentioned above, or health care.
4. DIY (Do It Yourself)
Do things yourself. Ideas in this arena include selling your crafts and creations on Etsy, cleaning your own house, mowing your own yard, and for minor fixes around the home hopping on YouTube to find ways to fix things yourself. Doing things yourself brings a ton of gratification and confidence too!
5. Cut Costs
This can be kind of fun to figure out where you can cut back yet still be content. Things to try and look at are to tone down the number of hair salon visits, color your own hair, try the natural look for nails and forgo the polish…your nails need a breather anyway, wash your own car, shop at a lower-priced grocery store, be mindful of your utilities: shower or bathe once a day instead of two, turn off the lights when not using that room, turn the thermostat down one or two notches, ‘when it’s yellow let it mellow when it’s brown flush it down’, turn the water off while scrubbing those pearly whites. Things like that.
6. Sell stuff
Sell stuff through Facebook Marketplace. This is a great time to declutter your home and really ask yourself if you need certain things. Selling your things is a lot easier these days too. If you don’t want to hassle with a garage sale, sell things online. I have done well using both methods, and I feel so much lighter! In my last garage sale, I squashed a money problem using my profits. It felt so good!
7. Be smart
Make smarter buying decisions on the necessities. Okay, this toilet paper thing baffles me, unless you have an underlying condition like Crohn’s, colitis, or cancer, cool your jets on the TP. Simply take what you need for two weeks then manage the toilet paper you have in the house. Another idea is to get some cotton handkerchiefs and use those in a pinch. And guess what? You can wash them and use them again! Genius.
8. Whoa-back on large money deals
It’s human to be uneasy during times like these, but only allow yourself a day to ‘freak out’. After that, get your battle face on and make adjustments. However, the one caveat to making change is to not make any major financial decisions in the first 7-14 days. For instance, don’t cash in your 401K or buy a new car/house, or rank up your credit cards. Put your mind to work and figure out some ways how to adjust in ways that help you and not hurt.
9. Emergency fund
When all is back up to speed, start to build your emergency fund for the next time something like that sucker-punches again. One way to do this is to put a little bit away every paycheck. Some people do 10%, others 5%, and so forth. You will be amazed at how quickly this adds up, especially if you put it in a savings account that accumulates interest.
I believe in you. You totally got this. Just remember your first priority is to take care of yourself and your family, what that looks like is up to you. However, please keep your cool around your kids. There is no sense in getting them stressed out and confused. It’s okay to share with them some small details about money problems so they learn how to manage, but don’t tell them your real fears.
One last thing: ask God for help and protection, He’ll guide you through it if you’re willing to listen. Hugs to you.