Wednesday, December 30, 2015

10 Ways to Make 2016 Financially Better Than 2015

Are you dreading paying the January bills after overspending on Christmas?  Are you tired of always just making ends meet and never having enough money to spend it on something fun?  Do you want to take a vacation, but don't want to put it on a credit card?  Do you want to stop feeling the weight of being in debt and instead feel the freedom of being financially free?

I've come up with 10 things you can do in 2016 to begin to either start to pay off debt, get rid of that last lingering credit card bill, be better prepared for Christmas spending 2016, or finally pay cash for that vacation you want to take the kids on!

1.  Track your income and expenses.  I do this every month and it allows our family to see exactly where our money is going.  I simply use a spreadsheet where I record all income and then expenses.

2.  Set-up an account to have funds transferred on a monthly basis and do not touch until Christmas.  I always use a Smarty Pig account.  If you are able to transfer $100 a month, by December you will have saved $1200 for Christmas!

3.  Stop eating out so much!  When my family of 5 eats out, we average a bill of about $50 for a sit-down restaurant and $25 for fast food..  I know if I make a meal at home, It can be for about $10.  That is a savings of $15 - $40 a day!  Our family only eats out typically only one night a week.

4.  Earn some quick cash (and a cash flow) by decluttering and selling unwanted items.  I sell all the time on Ebay and Facebook garage sale sites.  On average I make about $50 a month.  I keep a log of what I make every month.  This is an easy way to have some cash on hand and not have to do an ATM withdraw.  Bonus, you de-clutter your house!

5.    If you shop online, earn extra cash by using a cashback site first!  I use EBATES all the time and have earned a lot of money that gets transferred directly into my Paypal account.  You can then use the funds to make online purchases or move the funds to your bank account.  Here is what I have earned:

6.   Consider using cash back apps when you shop for groceries.  The two apps I use all the time are Ibotta and Checkout 51.  Once you reach a $20 balance, you can transfer the money to your Paypal account.

7.  Review your grocery shopping habits and perhaps see if you can switch some of your shopping to a lower cost store.  Look into a monthly trip to Aldi's or another retailer to pick up canned goods and staples that are generally a lot less expensive than at a large grocery store chain.

8.  Couponing!  I know this is not for everyone, but every little bit helps.  I'm in a local group for my favorite store Giant Eagle, and I normally pick up a few free or really cheap items every week!.

9.  Look into a money saving challenge.  This allows you to put cash away every week and increases the amount.  Check out the one here on Simplistically Living.

10.  For daily inspiration and encouragement, follow Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman on Facebook.  They always have all kinds of ideas and insight!

I hope some of these tips were insightful and help out in 2016!  No one likes being tied down by debt and you feel so much freedom when you are able to pay your bills every month and have a little extra left!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

No Is A Complete Sentence

I catch myself all the time, I say “no”, but then have to insert an excuse! 

“No, we can’t make it, I have to work late.”

“No, he can’t come to the birthday party, he has another commitment.”

“No, I can’t help out in the classroom, I have a doctor’s appointment.”

Perhaps it makes me feel better, that I provide a reason?  But really when I think about it, is a reason necessary?  Sometimes the reason is not even true.  I guess the other option would be to tell the truth.

“No, we can’t make it because I would rather sit at home and rest in my jammies after a long day at work.”

“No, he can’t come to the birthday party, because his Mom does not feel like driving 30 minutes out of her way for a 2 hour party.”

“No, I can’t help in the classroom because I have helped the past 3 times, can’t another parent step up and volunteer?”

Don’t get me wrong, I say “YES” a lot but sometimes you just have to say “NO”.  Any maybe it makes we feel better when I explain why.  But really, if you say “no”, no explanation is needed.  Do you provide an explanation when you say “yes”?    I didn’t think so.

I’m learning to say “no” more often when I tend to be a bit overwhelmed.  I sometimes like to overcommit myself when given the opportunity to participate in multiple events and do not want to miss out.  But on the flipside, there are times when there is no need for me to participate and I really just need to say “no”.

So in 2016, I am going to attempt to say “no” just a little more, and try to every once in a while to leave it as a simple “no” with no explanation!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your family all of the blessings of the Christmas season.  May you enjoy time with friends and family celebrating the day that Jesus was born!

God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Other Gifts For Kids

Do you struggle during the holiday season to buy the gifts your kids truly want? 

Is your house already "overrun" with "stuff" and you struggle to add more "stuff" to your house?

Do you have friends and family ask what to get your kids and you cannot give a good answer?

Have you considered gifts that aren't necessarily wrapped under the tree yet provide your kids with a fun or educational experience in the coming year? 

Here is a list of gifts that your children may appreciate (or parents) more than the wrapped ones under the tree.  I've provided links that are local to my area (Cleveland, OH), but free feel to research similar ideas in the area you live.

1.  A local zoo membership.
2.  A children's museum membership or history museum membership.
3.  A local botanical gardens membership or science center membership.
4.  A donation to a college fund.  Even if you cannot contribute a lot, if you have one open for your kids others can donate.
5.  A membership to a local recreation center.
6.  A book of the month club.
7.  If you know of an upcoming trip, perhaps offer to buy theme park tickets, airline tickets, etc.
8.  Kiwi Crate - delivers a creative learning box every month.
9.  Local events tickets - sporting events, Circus, theater performance, etc.
10.  Free night of babysitting.

What other creative ideas do you have?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Choosing Not to Continue a Friendship

As I grow older, I’m learning that not all friendships are right for me.  This year, was definitely a year of realization that I really want more true, authentic friendships.  With technology these days, the term “friend” is used in a very loose context.  A friend is definitely someone you can rely on, talk to live and in person, and will support you no matter what life throws at you.

This authentic friendship that I talk about has to be a friendship I can truly believe in and support.  I cannot be friends with someone that chooses values that I do not believe in.  It would be a lie on my part to say I am friends with someone that I do not agree with the choices he or she has made or is currently making in his or her life.

As a Christian, I have struggled with ending friendships.   Am I being mean and not being “Christ-like” by choosing not to be friends with somebody?  The answer I have come up with is no I am not.  I am being true to myself and my values by not supporting a friendship that goes against my values that I hold so dear to my heart. 

I constantly reflect on if I am setting a good example for my children by choosing to end a friendship?  But then I look at the other side, am I setting a good example for my children being friends with an individual that you know has a history and lying, cheating, and stealing?   I have come to the conclusion that the best example I can give my children, is to choose the right type of friends that carry similar values as yourself.  We constantly tell our children to not hang out with the “bad” kids, shouldn’t that premise be carried into adulthood?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Big Guy - Santa 2015

Success!  All three kids looking at the camera and smiling at Santa!  Last year we had a crier, this year she was a little hesitant to get too close.  Luckily her brother saved the day and let our Little Miss sit on his lap!

I feel we are entering kind of an "in between" stage with Santa.  My oldest is 9 and quickly I am noticing he is not as excited to take part in some of the Christmas festivities.  On the positive side, he is ALWAYS a good sport, and does as he is asked.  He is an excellent role model for our younger two and he is the perfect oldest child!

I hope you have a good Santa experience too this year!

For those local, we visited Santa at Petitti's Garden Center.  The line was short and you could use your own camera.  Yeah for free and easy!

May God bless you and your family during this Christmas season!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

This breakfast cake is light, fluffy, ooey-gooey deliciousness!  I used frozen blueberries we had left over from picking last summer, but feel free to use fresh ones too!

1/2 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cups Bisquick Mix
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk with tsp of lemon juice)
1 Tbsp sugar for top

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.
2.  Cream butter and sugar on low until light and fluffy.
3.  Add egg and vanilla.
4.  Add Bisquick slowly to butter/sugar mixture alternating with the buttermilk.
5.  Combine blueberries with flour.
6.  Fold in blueberries.
7.  Spray 8x8 pan with cooking spray.
8.  Spread batter into pan (it will be thick).
9.  Sprinkle top with remaining sugar.
10.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.
11.  Let stand for 15 minutes.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cinderella Cupcake Dress - Celebrating the Big 3!

My daughter will be 3 in less than two days!  We celebrated over the weekend with a Cinderella Party!

I designed her Cinderella Cupcake Dress to match her actual princess dress!

For the most part this was pretty simple and inexpensive.  I was able to get the tiara at Target for $1.99.  The beads were simply silver beads from a local craft store that cost less than a $1.00.  The candy flowers for the bodice were $6.99 from the craft store and I added some white sprinkles.
My daughter loved it!  She had an amazing 3rd birthday party.  I will definitely be trying this out again.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Oven Baked Tacos - Easy, Fast, Kid-Approved

Themed nights make dinner time a snap!  Taco Tuesday is the current phenomenon in our house.  Please do not attempt to make something other than tacos on Tuesday, the natives (or kids) will not be happy.  Instead of plain, boring meat in a shell, I have been making this recipe which is a hit in our house!

1 lb ground turkey
1 can of refried beans
1 (8oz) can of tomato sauce
1 packet of taco seasoning
12 pack of hard shells
2 cups of shredded Mexican cheese blend
Toppings:  lettuce, sour cream, and salsa

Brown the turkey and drain off the fat.  Add the can of refried beans, sauce, and seasoning mix.  Cook on low until combined and hot.  Line taco shells on a 9x13 pan.  Fill each shell 1/2 with meat mixture and top with shredded cheese.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350F.

Meat mixture can also be made ahead of time and then added to shells, you may just have to add on to the baking time.

Add toppings and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pizza Baked Ziti - Easy, Fast, Kid-Approved

I am that woman, the one who loves pinning away for the perfect recipe (not kidding, check out my boards).  I then spend hours in the kitchen prepping and preparing only to have my family tell me it was okay??  The way we judge new recipes in our house is, first did you eat seconds? And second, would you want me to make this again?  So many of the recipes I make we eat once and never again.

So I had some pepperonis in the fridge and I had some extra ground beef left over from making a dinner to take to some friends who are going through a rough patch right now.  Quickly, on a Monday night, my Pizza Baked Ziti was born and man did my family love it!  My husband had leftovers and exclaimed how wonderful this was!  My son ate his second helping as a bedtime snack and told me to make sure there was some leftover when he got home from school tomorrow!  Guess this one is a keeper! Not only is it quick and easy to prepare, it come in at less than $5 to feed a family of 5 - 6.

1 box of Ziti, cooked to package directions
1/2# - 3/4# ground beef
1/2 an onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 - 1 jar of prepared spaghetti sauce
1 - 2 cups of shredded mozzarella

Brown ground beef with onion and garlic.  Once pasta is cooked, return to pot and add cooked beef mixture and spaghetti sauce and mix well.  Pour into a 9x13 pan (or use a foil pan for easy clean-up).  Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and pepperonis.   Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

Enjoy with a side a breadsticks!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

New Dial Miracle Oil Body Wash - Review & Giveaway

The day I received this sample in the mail, it was -20 degrees Fahrenheit!  Yes, it was that cold in Ohio and yes the body wash was frozen!  However, I can happily report it thawed out nicely and I was able to try this little "miracle" product on my dry, hasn't seen the sun in 4 months skin!

New Dial Miracle Oil Body Wash is infused with caring Marula oil for beautifully, soft skin.  This new body wash is formulated with Micro Oil Technology for a luxurious, clean-rinsing lather that leaves skin feeling clean, soft and smooth.

I love soft, healthy skin and I love a skin care routine that allows me minimal time in the shower in the morning.  Hey, I have 3 kids, two of which have to catch a bus in the morning!  I love this new product from Dial and it truly did help heal my dry skin.  Now if only the sun would come out and heat up past 20 degrees!

Do you want to try Dial Miracle Oil Body Wash for yourself?  Three luckily readers will win a coupon for a free bottle, just leave a comment on this post on what you most look forward to in spring!

Thanks for reading and good luck!

I wrote this post on behalf of Purex Brands Company. Spend Less 2 Save More received Purex products in exchange for an honest review. This is not a sponsored review, all views and opinions are of my own and were not influenced in any way.  Spend Less 2 Save More is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Monday, February 23, 2015

Top 10 Parenting Tasks I Depise

Don't judge me, but there are some parenting tasks that I truly do not enjoy!  I love my children dearly and I love being a Mom so much, but sometimes I wish I there were things I did not have to do.  Since my kids are now 9, 6, and almost 3, I feel I have gathered enough experience to finally put this list out on the Internet.  I'm sure there are some you agree with and others that may not bother you as much as they bother me!

For dramatic effect, I'll count backwards from 10...

10.  Cleaning Up Kid Vomit - baby spit up is fine, everything else is not!

9.  The Stage When Kids Need to Nap Yet They Don't Want to Nap - this goes from when they go from 2 to 1 nap and then when the nap gets eliminated.

8.  Staying With Babies in Hotel Rooms - this never goes well for us, but I won't give it up I love to travel too much!

7.  Reading Books Before Bed - only because I have two children that have to have the same 20 books every night read in the same order, no exceptions!

6.  Holding Down Babies While Getting Shots - its a necessary evil, but it does get easier with more children!

5.  Not Being Able to Give Cold Medicine and Listening to Children Cough Over a Monitor - I hate this sound and I hate it even more that there is nothing you can do!

4.  Buckling 2-4 Year Olds in Winter Coats in Car Seats - I am never so happy when they can go into a booster seat.

3.  Teaching Kids to Tie Shoes - this is just painful and a LONG process!

2.  Changing Crib Sheets - one would think I would find an easier way, but I am not convinced there is an easy way!

1.  Potty Training - enough said, the third child should potty train themselves!

Do you agree, disagree, or have anything to ad?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Kick the Pre-Packaged Mix - 2015 Challenge

Call it convenience, lazy, or just a taste preference, I have a slight addiction with packages of different mixes.  I actually have a whole shoe-box size basket in my pantry loaded with these little envelopes!  Yes they are convenient, however they also contain a lot of ingredients that are really not necessary to make a meal.  In addition, most of the ingredients that you need are more than likely in your spice cabinet.

I am challenging myself to break this habit (and I may not eliminate it completely), I truly want to find out if a homemade mix is truly as good as these prepackaged ones.  I know when I am in a rush,  I will probably still grab a packet, but if I have the time I am consciously going to try at making my own mix!  If I find one I like, I can make a large batch and store it for future dinners!

The internet is an amazing place when it comes to recipes.  So much so, that I do not even think one truly needs a recipe box anymore!  I spent some time trolling the internet for some prepackaged alternatives.  Here is a good list to try!

Homemade Sloppy Joe Mix - $5 Dinners - I tried this and it was amazing!  The verdict?  I will use this instead of an envelop mix!

Homemade Taco Seasoning Recipe - Whole New Mom

Meat Loaf with Homemade Seasoning Mix - Just A Pinch

Homemade Gravy Mix - A Few Short Cuts

Homemade Fajita Seasoning - Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

Ranch Dressing Mix - Untrained Housewife

Beef Stew Seasoning Mix - Budget 101

Chili Seasoning Packet - Family Corner
Homemade Enchilada Sauce - Damn Delicious

Dry Onion Soup Mix - Yummly

Homemade Vegetable Dill Dip - Katrina's Kitchen

Caesar Salad Dressing - Heart Healthy Home

So do you have a favorite you care to share?  Leave the link in the comments!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tax Season

It seems to creep up on us every year, tax season.  As members of The United States we are subjected to yearly federal income taxes.  It should come to no surprise, since it happens every year, at the same time, but I always find myself somewhat rushed and unprepared when all of the forms start appearing in our mailboxes.

I am clearly a Type A personality.  I love to be organized and have everything together.  Unfortunately, being a Wife, Mom of 3, and Working Woman with two jobs, I often have to slack on some of my organizational ways!  Here are some tips that we use in our house to make tax season a lot less painful.

1.  Have a dedicated folder or envelope for all of your tax items.
2.  Throughout the year, when you make any donations, purchase items for a home office, receipts from professional organizations, etc., put all of those receipts into your folder or envelope. 
3.  As soon as you receive forms in the mail, W2's, 1099's, mortgage documents and more, place them all in your folder or envelope immediately.
4.  I create a spreadsheet of all of the items from the previous year that I will need to gather for this years taxes.
5.  Sometime after the first of February, begin to go through your envelope or folder and using your check list to insure you all of your documents. 
6.  If you are missing any interest documents from your bank or loan company, you may have to go onto their website to print the information.

The next debate is often who is going to do your taxes.  Back when we were first married, I did our own with a computer program.  As the years have progressed and our taxes have become more difficult, we find it best to hand it over to our accountant.  Once we drop our documents off, we usually have our taxes back within a week.  He also automatically files our federal and state taxes for us.  Personally for me, it is a huge relief knowing a professional is doing our taxes and I do not have to worry if I missed something. 

What are some other tips to make tax season less stressful?