Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Label Containers

use painters tape to label food containers...it comes off easily and doesn't ruin your container or leave a sticky residue

(how's that for a quick tip)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Real Solutions

We might be making a pretty good effort at making things right in our lives financially speaking, only to give up a few weeks or a few months into the process.  Heck, some of us want to give up in a few days! The real solutions to these problems?  Well, this is where we get stuck and tend to give up.  The key is to be specific about each area that needs fixed financially.  Here are some examples.

INSTEAD of making the broad statement, "I'm not going to go into credit card debt anymore", BE SPECIFIC.  I'm going to cut up my credit cards or I am going to cancel all of these store credit cards so that I won't be tempted to charge something I want but don't need.

INSTEAD of making the broad statement, "I'm going to spend less money somehow". BE SPECIFIC. I will look for used items instead of new ones.  I will meal plan and not eat out.  I will cut coupons and only buy things on sale and only those things that I really need.

INSTEAD of making the broad statement, "I'm going to do a better job saving money", BE SPECIFIC.  I will put $50 a month into my savings account each pay period.

INSTEAD of making the broad statement, "I'm going to be a better steward of my money", BE SPECIFIC.  I will be accountable to a trusted person about my spending, or I will balance my budget every Friday.

INSTEAD of making the broad statement, "I won't buy on impulse", BE SPECIFIC.  If I see something I want, I will wait at least three days to act on it, while thinking through all of the consequences of the purchase and praying about if it is really a need.

INSTEAD of making the broad statement, "I need to manage my money better", BE SPECIFIC.  I am going to take a class at church about finances, or I am going to read books by Larry Burkett and follow the guidelines suggested.

INSTEAD of making the broad statement, "I need to keep a better track of my spending", BE SPECIFIC. I will create a  budget that accounts for all of my expenditures and stick to it.

INSTEAD of making the broad statement, "I need to stop wasting money", BE SPECIFIC.  I will write down how I have been spending my money and see where I can make cuts for all the things that aren't necessary.

INSTEAD of making the broad statement, "I'm going to be debt free", BE SPECIFIC.  Using a budget, and what I learned in class or from the books, I will map out a plan to reduce my debt until it is gone.

The key to following the specific statements and staying focused on the end goal is to decide two things. 
1. The time for action is now, not later.  Staying the way you are will only dig you deeper in debt.  Or if you just make ends meet, staying the way you are will never afford you any savings, retirement, or cushion when things go wrong...and they always do.
2. You can't just SEE that you need to make changes, you have to actually DO something about it.  It is time to make the serious decisions and stick with it.  When you feel like giving up, remind yourself of the end goal and how much better things will look when you get there.  And trust me when I say that after living this way and forcing yourself to stay the course, it will actually become your way of life and you won't have to stop and think about most decisions.  You will already know the right thing to do.  Once you have climbed out of the pit, you will have no desire to jump back in!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Roast Beef Pie

1 pkg refrigerated prepared roast beef au jus, or 1 lb of your own leftover roast
20 baby carrots chopped small
6-7 small (not tiny) red potatoes cubed
1 small onion chopped
2 Tblsp olive oil
2 C beef broth plus 1/3 C flour to thicken
2 C leftover or jar gravy (I used jar au jus)
salt and pepper to taste
1 refrigerated pie crust
1 egg beaten

preheat oven to 375
cut roast into bite size pieces

saute vegetables in olive oil until crisp tender
add beef and seasoning
combine flour and broth until smooth
(or just add gravy)
slowly stir into pan

bring to a boil
cook and stir until thickened, about 4-5 minutes
transfer into 9 inch deep dish pie plate
place pie crust on top
brush with beaten egg
cut slits into top
bake 30-35 minutes

Thursday, April 25, 2013

3 Steps to Boost Weight Loss

Triceps dips
Place palms face down on seat of a sturdy chair and have your feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart.  Use your arms to hold your weight.  Lower your body a few inches toward the floor, elbows bent behind you.  Press back up until your arms are almost straight. Repeat 10 times for 1 set.  Do 3 sets

Single Leg Squat
Hand on hips for balance, stand on one leg with the other is slightly out in front of you with your heel just above the floor.  Bend standing leg as far as you can as if you were sitting down on a chair.  Pause for 3-5 seconds and slowly raise back up.  Repeat 10 times for one set.  Do 3 sets on each leg.

Spine Extension
On hands and knees...hand under shoulders and knees under hips...keep spine straight in a neutral position.  Lift opposite arm and leg, keeping arm straight and knee bent, lifting only from the shoulder and hip, do not let back cave in.  Hold for 10 seconds for 1 rep.  Do three sets of 5 on each side.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Live Faithfully - Week Eleven

While you wait
James 5:7-12

Highlights from this week:
  • no matter what situation God places you in, one thing you must never do is complain
  • complaining Christians are a bad witness
  • patience is the ability to endure pain, difficulties, and hardships without complaining or losing heart
  • establish means to strengthen, cause to stand, or prop up
  • patience is not just passive, it's also active
  • the tongue only speaks what is in the heart
  • grumble means to bear a grudge; to mutter or mumble something in a low or hushed tone
  • condemn means to declare to be wrong; to pronounce judgement; to convict
  • grumbling is usually a sign of a deeper problem - discontentment with our lot in life
  • a jealous person is hostile, suspicious, or envious of one believed to enjoy an advantage
  • when God eavesdrops at your door, does He hear grumbling or glorifying?
  • if you're in a season of suffering, patiently endure until the season of blessing
  • we don't need to swear by any created thing to prove our sincerity; we prove it by acting with integrity
  • people who keep their word don't have to make promises
  • there's no such thing as a little white lie
  • it's all right to say no to one thing so that you can say yes to a better thing
  • a half truth is a whole lie
On day 4 we read about patience and suffering and are reminded of Job.  God meant for patience and suffering to go hand in hand.  We must persevere.  Persevere means to persist steadfastly despite counter influences, opposition or discouragement.  You cannot persevere unless you face difficulties just like you can't experience triumph without tragedy.  To receive the blessing, you must bear the burden.  HOW we do that is what counts to God.  If you look through the Bible at the prophets, you will see that they prove that we can be in the will of God and still suffer.  They show us that sometimes we suffer BECAUSE we are in the will of God.  But they also remind us that God cares for us when we suffer.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Garage Sale Tips

  • a group sale will have more stuff than a 1 family sale, bringing in more shoppers
  • price items according to how you feel...do you want to get rid of it or do you want to make money
  • make signs with fat lettering...what looks big to you will look small to someone driving by
  • put the nice stuff closer to the road, and the "man" stuff so they are more likely to stop
  • price something anywhere from 10-25% of what you paid depending on its condition
  • DON'T let strangers into your house to try things on
  • you add up the prices of what people are buying...you'd be surprised how many people would like to cheat
  • be prepared for the question, "how much for the whole box" by deciding on amount you would take beforehand 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Generate Income

The key to generating more income is being willing to do whatever it takes.  Using the resources and abilities you have there are ways that you can make money from home or pick up a part time job.  Remember that, depending on your situation, this may only be temporary and you'll need to put up with any inconvenience it may cost you in order to get on the right track with your finances.  You may lose out on playing on a recreational sporting team, you might need to give up a weekly book club meeting, or you may even need to lose a little extra family time for a little while.  Then again, you might enjoy what you are doing so much, it may become your regular job or part time job...that "me" time we are always looking for.  Here are just a few ideas.

  1. Do web or blog design.  If you are savvy in graphic design, there are plenty of people and businesses out there that need you.  Even if you only made blog templates or backgrounds, the number of blogs out there are staggering.  I'd pay $20 for a simple layout design.  And if I would, at least 100 other people out there would as well (as you can see by visiting a bunch of blogs and seeing how a lot of them are using the same design) That's $2000 for designing something only once.  Web design can run much higher, but there is also a lot more work involved designing every page within it.  If you have these skills you can easily make some extra money.
  2. Make jewelry, or any other crafty kind of thing.  I have a lot of friends who have a "store" on ETSY selling their homemade crafts from jewelry to cards to knitted things.  They also sell some on Facebook and local craft events.  They really love creating things, so it's a win win to also be able to sell them.  Beware of starting a new hobby, though.  Start up costs can be expensive depending on what you want to do and you want to be sure you can make money before you sink a lot into supplies.
  3. Maybe you are a good photographer.  Your options are many.  You can take photos for friends and family for events or Christmas cards or senior pictures.  Maybe you can get hired to cover an event for a company.  You can also sell photos to stock companies online.  Just be sure to know all of the ins, outs, and longterm benefits to each option.
  4. Can you sew?  If so, I'm jealous.  I have tried and tried...it's just not my thing.  Making clothes, bags, scarves and other things is really big.  I know a few stay at home moms that make money on the side by sewing 3-4 of the same outfits they are already making for their child and then selling them.  They will also take custom orders.  And people like me would be happy to have something that fits just us.
  5. Maybe you can do some kind of online work from home.  I've heard of people writing reviews and doing editing from home.  Just check everything out first, and be sure you know all of the fine print.  Anything that asks you to pay money to "work" is probably not what you need right now and might be a scam anyway.  Check out legitimate well known companies for this kind of work.
  6. Paint!  Not only inside walls of someone's home, but maybe crafts of some sort.  Whether it be on canvas or repainting furniture to resell, find what you love, are good at, and don't put a lot of money into up front.
  7. Maybe you are really good at organizing...now that would be me!  I have helped a few people completely re-do their closets.  Now that I know I'm kind of good at it and have a system, I can branch out from friends and family and make a little money doing this.  Maybe your specialty is organizing paperwork to make tax time a breeze.  I know some people who would pay for that service!
  8. Clean homes.  We all know HOW to clean, but do you LOVE to clean?  Because there are plenty of people who don't!  Plus, if you can beat the prices of the companies and save people money, everyone wins.
  9. Use your job or everyday skills to fill needs.  Maybe you are a personal trainer.  Get a group of people together from church to lead a class and charge them a lower group rate for an evening or Saturday.  Maybe you are very knowledgeable in the job market.  You could help people find a new job, tell them what skills they need to improve or help them write resumes.  Maybe you have a teaching degree...consider tutoring.  Look around at what holes you see in people's lives or what kind of things you see on the internet.  How can you fill any of those holes for people and make some extra income?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pork Ragu

pic from Google images

3 lb pork shoulder cut into quarters, trim some of the fat
2 14oz cans diced tomatoes, drain well
2 med carrots cut into small dice
1 large onion chopped
1/2 C chicken broth or your own stock
oregano, salt and pepper to taste
12-16oz box substantial pasta, pic shows pappardelle we used rigatoni and very al dente bowties
serve with parmesan on top

combine all ingredients except pork in 6 qt slow cooker
gently add pork
cover and cook 7-8 hours on low, 4-5 hours on high
remove the pork and shred
add back to slow cooker and stir well
prepare pasta, when it is ready, so is the pork
serve pork mixture over pasta

Thursday, April 18, 2013

All Over Toner

I had trouble finding a picture showing exactly what I wanted, but this is close...the only difference is that you should hold the weights with your palms facing out...as if you were holding one big barbell weight.

Stand with feet shoulder width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand.  Try starting with 5 lb and see if you can increase. Hold arms out to the side with elbows at a 90 degree angle.  (think of the first picture with her arms open instead of closed like they are)

Squat as if sitting into a chair but not quite touching the seat, while raising your arms AT THE SAME TIME. (not in 2 separate moves shown)

Do as many as you can in 60 seconds while keeping good form.  Rest for 30 seconds and repeat for a total of 3 times.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Live Faithfully - Week Ten

What you don't know can hurt you
James 4:11-17

Highlights from this week:
  • when we judge others, we are really saying they deserve to be condemned
  • Christians are built up by good speech
  • the law is a great equalizer - we are all guilty
  • the problem occurs when God is left out and His will is not considered
  • 2 reasons why it is foolish to plan without God: 1. ignorance of the future 2. the brevity of life
  • failing to consult God ultimately leads to failure
  • to believe in God yet not consult Him, reveals that He is not your main thing
  • what is the proof of knowing God's will? ceasing to copy the world and start imitating God
  • your will determines how He will respond to you
  • the more we do the will of God the more we resemble Him
  • boasting can express valid joy or it can parade one's own accomplishments
  • boasting in our pride and arrogance is evil
  • the mark of a true believe is to hate what God hates
  • knowing God's will but choosing to disobey expresses the sin of willful pride
  • with knowledge comes responsibility
  • it is sinful to know the truth and not do it
  • there's really no excuse for failing to do good
  • passively avoiding doing what's right is as disobedient as actively doing something wrong
My favorite story this week was the one told on page 230 about church camp.  The campers were given a rock to carry around and anytime they were about to judge someone they were to touch the rock then go ahead and say it if they felt that no one could throw a stone at them.  You know a stone could always be thrown at you, because we are not perfect.  And just as God gives us grace, so we too should extend that to one another.  And that's way more easy to type than to live, but I'm gonna try!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Quick Cleaning Tips part 2

  • make it easier to clean your microwave...take a cup of water with some baking soda in it and microwave until it boils.  it eliminates odors and makes it easy to wipe off dried on spills.
  • clean away cobwebs with a sock on a yard stick.  this also works under stoves and the frig.
  • got ring around the toilet? drop in a denture tablet and leave for 30 minutes or overnight.  the stain should swish right off using your toilet brush.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Shop Wisely

My name isn't Frugal Franny for nothing!  Besides eliminating spending, I learned to be a wise shopper and save money on all the things that I can't eliminate from my life.

  1. Meal planning!  I've said it before and I'll never stop saying it, planning well when it comes to meals can save you more money that in most any area of your budget.  There are a lot of different ways that different families do meal planning.  Try a Google search to see what you come up with.  I've tried different ways over the years based on my lifestyle at the time.  When I had a very low paying job, I planned my meals around what was on sale at the store that week.  That can work well for some people, especially when the stores plan items on sale that also have a coupon in your paper that week.  Some people buy items at warehouse stores and then do what's called "power cooking" or once a month cooking.  They spend a day making multiple meals, then package them for the freezer.  That way something can be pulled out quickly on those busy school/work nights.  But for me, I found an easier way.  I made a list on my computer of all my family's favorite recipes and next to each in a smaller font, I listed out all of the ingredients except for things like water, salt and pepper that are always in the house.  I post this list on the frig and highlight all of the meals that I have all of the ingredients for.  I then start watching the sales ads and coupons for ingredients I need for the other meals.  As soon as I have all of the ingredients for something else, I highlight it.  When I make that meal I check it off.  When all of them have been checked off, or close to all of them, I print out a new list and start over.  There are about 30 meals on this list.  So I could go for a month without repeats, and that doesn't include nights we have leftovers or maybe grill something from the freezer.  I also use this list as a reminder on what things I can stockpile.  I have 7 recipes that call for petite diced tomatoes.  Obviously when those go on sale I buy them in bulk.  I have only 2 recipes that call for sour cream, so I buy one container on sale that is big enough for both recipes and be sure to have them both before the sour cream expires.  Occasionally I will try a new recipe, but not if I have to buy specialty ingredients, or a bunch of things I wouldn't otherwise use.  You don't need to have 100 recipes (or 20 cookbooks!).  Get really good at the ones your family really like, and work up to enough in your rotation that your family doesn't get bored.  You can always throw in a few easy nights of breakfast for dinner, spaghetti or tacos to make it stretch even further.
  2. If you have kids, figure out a system for hand me downs.  I have a friend who has 3 brothers and sisters and they all have kids staggered out a little bit.  They trade clothes throughout the whole extended family.  So my friend might hand down 10 outfits to a cousin, and then they pass along those 10 outfits to another cousin and so on.  By the time my friend gets 10 outfits for her next kid, there might be 2-3 of the original outfits, but also some new to them outfits that were bought by someone along the way either on sale or as a gift.  You could set up something like this with a mom's group, or friends from church.  There are a lot of consignment sales now and swaps, where you bring your clothes, pay a certain amount to get in then swap as many clothes as you have for free.  Do an internet search in your area or ask other mom's what might be available.
  3. Try bartering for the services you normally use.  For a little while I cleaned the place where I got physical therapy in exchange for using the therapy pool.  I heard of a mom that cleaned the dance studio where her daughter got lessons in exchange for the cost of the lessons.  Work with your neighbors exchanging skills and machinery.  We own a pressure washer that our neighbor uses regularly and he watches our dogs for us when we have to go out of town so we don't have to pay to board them.  Maybe a friend can clean your house and you can cook her some meals.  Check with friends and neighbors to see how you can meet each others' needs and save each other money.
  4. Check out your local library.  You can get on a waiting list for a bestseller and read it when it becomes available instead of running out and buying it.  Do this especially if it is a kind of book you are only going to read once.  The library may also have DVDs and music that you can check out as well as ebooks.  Some libraries offer all kinds of services like genealogy classes and computer classes.  Your library might have all kinds of passes to local events as well as a lot of programs for the kids.  See what your library has to offer to make your entertainment dollar stretch further.
  5. Consider paying your bills online through your bank.  I now pay almost every bill through my bank's website rather than write out checks and use stamps, both of which you have to pay for.  Some places will offer you a discount to go "paperless" like this.  Some places will also offer a discount if you let them take it out of your account automatically.  I don't recommend going to each company's individual website and paying that way.  To do that you have to enter your banking info through their website.  I have had a friend lose money TWICE paying this way.  Set up bill pay through your bank's website and you are entering account info for each bill into one more secure site.  You may not even need to enter your entire account info.  For example when paying a credit card bill, you might be able to say "account ending in 3581" rather than typing out the whole account number.  It's worth looking into.  I'd much rather my bank have my cable account number than my cable company have my banking accounts numbers.
  6. Be smart about buying gifts.  You usually know who you will have to buy a gift for throughout a year and when.  I used to keep a "gift bin" and bought things on sale, place them in the bin and when it was time to give a gift, pull something out of the bin.  This worked well for some things but not for others. I once got something for a great deal from Pampered Chef thinking this will make a great gift.  It sat in the bin for over 4 years.  Buy just what you need, but buy smart.  You know your daughter's birthday is in October, so watch all year long for sales and coupons for things you know she would love.  Do the same for any other person on your list.  There really isn't any need to buy a bunch of maybe things to keep in a closet to maybe pull out one day.  It's a waste of money when it just sits there, and it's also a waste of money if it's something the recipient doesn't want at all.
  7. Consider how much money you spend on vacations.  I know it would be great to take the kids halfway across the country to a famous amusement park, but when it costs thousands of dollars for one week of entertainment, is it really worth it?  Find something closer to home that's still fun.  Maybe there is a "smaller" large amusement park within driving distance.  Or maybe it's 4-5 hours away, but with advanced planning you can get a great deal on a hotel room and cut that vacation down from $4000 to only $1000 for the park, the room and your meals and gas.  Hey, saving $3000 can refill your emergency fund 3 times!!  At the same time, do you need to go AWAY for vacation every year?  My husband and I are taking a 3 day vacation for the first time in 3 years.  We don't feel deprived.  We took a few one day road trips and saw some interesting things.  Sure we would love to spend a week on the beach, but at this point in our lives, saving the money was more important to us and we found more creative ways to entertain ourselves that created just as good of memories.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pretzel Brownies

2 1/2 C crushed pretzels
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
3 Tblsp sugar

1 pkg brownie mix (9x13 family size)

Jill's Fudge Icing (click the link to go to that recipe)
1 stick butter
1 C sugar
1/3 C evaporated milk
3/4 C chocolate chips (make half of them peanut butter chips!)
1 tsp vanilla

combine crust ingredients in a smal bowl
press into ungreased 9x13 baking dish
bake at 400 for 8 minutes, cool on a wire rack

prepare brownie mix according to package directions
pour over pretzel crust
bake 35-40 minutes, do not overbake toothpick in center should have moist crumbs stuck to it
cool completely on wire rack

prepare Jill's Fudge Icing
pour over top (or use any frosting you like)
let cool completely before cutting

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Stretch it Out

Quad Stretch
stand with feet shoulder width apart
hold left ankle (not foot!) with left hand
gently pull heel toward your butt keeping knee pointed down
you can hold the back of a chair for balance
hold for 30 seconds and switch sides

IT Band Stretch
cross right leg in front of left leg
extend left arm over your head
place right hand on your hip and reach to the right
push gently on your hip so you feel the stretch down the left side of your hip
hold 30 seconds and switch sides

Hamstring Stretch
sit on the floor legs straight in front and feet flexed
bend forward keeping your back straight feeling the stretch in the back of your thighs
grab your toes if you can
hold for 30 seconds

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Live Faithfully - Week Nine

War of the Worlds
James 4:1-10

Highlights from this week:
  • uncontrolled desires for pleasure causes great conflict
  • lust is desiring things that are contrary to God's will
  • to covet is to wish for what one does not have
  • God doesn't always give us what we want, He gives us what we need
  • idolatry is the replacement of God in the mind of the worshipper
  • grace is undeserved favor
  • no matter what situation you may find yourself in, God has more than enough grace to help
  • but Biblical humility grows out of the recognition that all we have and are comes from God
  • submission speaks of lowering, humbling or being compliant
  • people who have made themselves friends of God have become satan's enemies
  • God ranks spiritual rebellion among one of the worst sins
  • repentance is not just feeling sorry for yourself but being sorry you've sinned against God
  • repentance begins in the heart
on Page 211, 9a says...
Idolatry is putting anyone or anything before your devotion to God.  Describe a potential area in your life that could run into idolatry. (example: I always put my children first.  If their sporting events are on Sunday, we skip church.  I'm so busy with their schedules that I don't have time to read my Bible and pray.)

 That example really got to me.  When you think of idols, you tend to think of other religions that actually pray to idols, or you may think of money, drugs or alcohol...any kind of addicting thing that tends to run our lives.  But our activities? Our KIDS!?  But it's true.  I know a lot of people like this.  In most areas they would turn to God first, but when it comes to what they or their children want to do, they will tell people at church they can't help this weekend, or say that can't go to the extra prayer meeting because their kid has practice.  Who knew Soccer could be an idol?  Anything or anyone who comes between you and God...and you let it, follow it, crave it...is an idol.  Wow.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Quick Cleaning Tips part 1

  • use a coffee filter to clean glass and mirrors instead of paper towels, they leave no streaks or lint and they are way cheaper
  • musty shower smell? spray it down every time you get out with a combo of vinegar and water in equal parts.  it really absorbs odors and the vinegar smell goes away in about an hour

Monday, April 8, 2013

Eliminate Spending

When you finally make the decision to do whatever it takes to get out of debt, it pretty much requires going into survival mode.  Here are some ideas to eliminate spending.

  1. Stop eating out!  People spend more on food than any other area in their budget, besides housing.  In some cases people spend more on food than they do housing!  This is the quickest and easiest way to eliminate some spending.  Start cooking at home more and save eating out for treats and special occasions.  Click HERE to read a previous series, "cooking on a budget".  It talks about menu planning, shopping, and how even the busiest people can cook at home.
  2. If you have a membership to a warehouse store, figure out if you are really saving money.  Personally, I found that I could get better prices on items in a regular grocery store using their sales and coupons rather than buying bulk items from Sam's or Costco.  It might be different for your family, but it's worth doing the math to see if you could save that membership fee and even save money at a regular store.
  3. If you already have a cell phone, it might be time to get rid of your home phone.  We did that and saved around $47 a month.  We still have a landline plugged into the wall, because it's the law that even if you don't pay for home service, you can use a landline to call 911.
  4. Look into other ways to bundle or restructure bills.  Start shopping around.  All of the cable companies offer bundle deals for cable and internet...and phone if you can't part with that land line because maybe you don't get good reception in your house.  Always ask for a better deal and do your homework.  If they say this is the best you can do let them know that another company has offered you something better but you prefer their service.  Once they know you are thinking about going with a competitor, they will usually offer you a better price.  If you are trying to get a deal from your existing company and the person you're talking to isn't offering you anything, ask to speak to the customer retention department.  One caution, do not threaten to leave unless you are ready to say, ok, go ahead and terminate my service.
  5. How brand loyal are you and is it time for a breakup?  Food brands, clothing brands, shampoo...anything.  Is there a specific reason you are brand loyal?  For example, I have extremely sensitive skin and have only found one kind of shaving cream that doesn't make me want to scream from razor burn and itching, so I'm not going to try anything new.  But do you really need to have someone's name stitched on the label of your sweater?  Do you really need to spend more than my phone bill on salon shampoo and conditioner?  Did you know that a lot of store brand foods are actually made by the same company that makes the name brand stuff? Think about buying generic or non name brand items to save money.  Sometimes you can get the name brand food cheaper when it is on sale and you have a coupon.  Also, you can find designer labels at thrift stores that might be like new or just need a button sewn on or a stain removed.  Look around and see what really saves you money.
  6. Think about how much gas you are using.  I drive a full size truck...yes, really...and I cut my monthly gas bill down by $200.  I did a few things to get to this point.  There are some activities that I cut out because they were so far away.  There are more than one grocery stores in a certain chain, so I go to the closest one to whatever I'm doing the day I go to the store, or I give the list to my husband who drives right by one everyday to and from work.  Try carpooling the kids to school, going to work, going to church and other activities.  Plan days to stay at home and do cleaning and laundry or family activities.  When you go to do errands, plan your route so that you go to the furthest place first, then work your way back home in the most direct route without backtracking.
  7. Limit what you do for your kids.  I know them's fightin' words for some of you, but remember, it's time to get serious, and if kids know they are doing what they can to help out, they almost always want to.  You might need to stop or cut back allowances.  You might need to tell them to pick only one sport or one lesson.  What do they enjoy and/or are really good at.  Stop paying to belong to every league, and to take every lesson that their friends take.  We are done keeping up with the Jones' as all that has done is help get us into debt.  Kids don't need elaborate expensive birthday parties, especially when very young and they won't remember it.  Keep it low key and fun.  Memories are more important than matching tablecloths and fancy $30 a dozen cupcakes.  It's time to meet their basic needs, not their every single want.  This won't be fun or easy if your kids are used to getting a lot, but again, if they know it's for the good of the family, they will usually be on board.  Sticking to it will be well worth it.  Studies show that after food, most of the budget goes towards kid's activities and purchases that are not essentials.
  8. Limit clothing for the whole family.  How many outfits do you have for each season?  How about your kids?  I recently asked my husband to keep only 12 of each item in his closet.  12 polo shirts, 12 button down shirts, 12 sweatshirts, etc.  I picked 12 because that is two weeks worth of work clothes plus Sunday.  Saturday is usually spent in camo pants and a torn or stained shirt of some kind.  Even then if you consider 12 long sleeve shirts in with the 12 sweatshirt like shirts he wears, he could actually go a month without repeating outfits.  Do we really need that many clothes?  If the seasons are only 3 months each, and if you follow a rotation, the most you will wear something is 3 times a year.  I'm not going to tell you how many times you have to wear something or not, it's just a guideline we use to keep our closet from busting at the seams.  I still feel we should cut down even more, but it's hard.  What is easier is to say we obviously do not need to buy any clothes...even something on MEGA sale.  Spending $5 on a shirt we don't need is a waste of $5.
  9. Above all, think through all the services you are paying for.  The gym, nail and hair appointments, dry cleaning, housekeeping, subscription radio, newspapers and magazines, clubs, you get the idea.  What can you do without?  What could be stretched further, such as haircuts every 8 weeks instead of 6?  For example, I got rid of everything in my closet that said dry clean only and I won't buy anything new that requires this.  That may not work for everyone.  You might have the kind of job where you have to wear a suit.  But could you air it out in the dryer and get another wearing out of it before it has to go to the cleaner's?  Can you find deals, coupons or ask for a discount there?  I quit paying for a gym membership as it was very far away from my house and I could only use the pool due to my physical limitations.  With gas and membership, it was costing me over $10 every time I went to use the pool for an hour.  Not worth it to me.  
You have to decide what will work for your family.  I can tell you everything I did, but you don't live where I do, have the same size of family that I do, have the same amount of time that I do, etc.  That doesn't mean that you should say, my family needs all of these things so we're not giving anything up.  Chances are if you are reading this, you need some kind of financial help, so you DO need to figure out what you can do and where you can eliminate speding. Like I said it may not be easy or fun, but once you get to a financially stable place, it will be soooo worth it!

Friday, April 5, 2013

French Onion Beef Stew

pic from Google images as mine didn't look good :)

1 - 1 1/2 lb stew meat
14oz can beef broth or your own stock
1 C apple juice
1/2 lb baby carrots cut into 1/4 inch or smaller pieces
2 onions thinly sliced
3 Tblsp flour
salt and pepper to taste

combine broth, juice, carrots and onions in 5-6 qt slow cooker
season beef with flour, salt and pepper
add beef and and left over flour to slow cooker, stir to combine
cover and cook 7-8 hours on low, 4-5 hours on high

serve with cheese toast, as shown

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Walk it Out

Walking, among other weight bearing exercise, is great for building and strengthening bone.  It can be an all over toner, and good for the cardiovascular system.  And the great thing is that it can be done almost anywhere and you don't need any equipment except a good pair of shoes.

If you are starting for the first time, start out slow and on flat ground for just 10 minutes at a time and build up from there.  Here is a sample plan from the Mayo clinic.

WeekWarm-upBrisk walkingCool-down
15 minutes5 minutes5 minutes
25 minutes7 minutes5 minutes
35 minutes9 minutes5 minutes
45 minutes11 minutes5 minutes
55 minutes13 minutes5 minutes
65 minutes15 minutes5 minutes
75 minutes18 minutes5 minutes
85 minutes20 minutes5 minutes
95 minutes23 minutes5 minutes
105 minutes26 minutes5 minutes
115 minutes28 minutes5 minutes
125 minutes30 minutes5 minutes

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Live Faithfully - Week Eight

The Moral of the Story Is...
James 3:13-18

Highlights from this week:
  • Wisdom is revealed by what you do with what you know
  • Wisdom is the ability to judge correctly, taking the best course of action based on knowledge
  • Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom
  • Wisdom not demonstrated in righteous acts is as useless as faith without works
  • Bitter envy describes the worst kind of envy, one that completely disregards the feelings and well being of others
  • A Christian who exhibits arrogance reveals a lack of divine wisdom
  • The 3 types of worldly wisdom correspond with our 3 enemies: earthly symbolizes the world, sensual the flesh, and demonic the devil
  • Worldly people are so earthly minded that they are no Heavenly good
  • The self seeking person is selfish and loves to stir up strife in order to get ahead
  • nothing good and everything bad are the results of envy and self seeking
  • One who is gentle will patiently listen and easily yield her will to follow God
  • When we fail to yield to God's will we are likely to wreck our lives
  • Those reconciled to God experience spiritual peace and well being
  • Christinas shouldn't strive to bear fruit, they should simply abide in Christ
  • God often uses His word, His spirit and providential circumstances to prune His children or help them become more productive
Each day this week we started our lesson with a little fable.  I really enjoyed those until the last day. The one about the scorpion and the ladybug still bothers me.  The way the scorpion says he cares about her but at the same time so callously says about stinging her that it is just his nature.  While true, our nature is not to do every single thing that is right in the world, we cannot hide behind that as an excuse for our bad behavior.  God can change our natures, but we must be pliable, then fight against our nature to stay in His will. We don't have to be the scorpion!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Leftover Cardboard Rolls

Those left over cardboard tubes from wrapping paper, paper towel and even toilet paper can really come in handy.  Roll a tablecloth or table runner around a long tube and store in an under bed box.  Wrap winter scares around paper towel tubes to keep folds and wrinkles out.  My favorite idea is to take a toilet paper tube and cut it lengthwise making a cuff out of it, then place the cuff around partially used wrapping paper to keep it from unwinding on the roll.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Start Your Budget

The first step in preparing a budget is getting organized.  To create an accurate budget, you must list every bit of income and expenses.  Figuring out the income is the easy part and takes mere minutes. Figuring out the expenses takes a little longer.  It's easy to figure out how much your monthly bills are, but it's the other things that trip us up.  How do you budget for groceries and clothes?  The easiest way to do this is to start by figuring out how much you've spent in the past.  Look over your credit card and checking account statements for the past year and figure out how much you spent on what things, like groceries, clothes, entertainment, car maintenance, giving, saving, etc.  You may be shocked at the totals, but that's in the past, and we are only going to look forward from here!

Let's begin...
1. list your income
2. list your monthly expenses

  • giving - tithing
  • saving - retirement, etc
  • expected payments - monthly bills, utilities, house payments, usually fixed amounts
  • variable payments - groceries, medical, clothes, gifts, hair appts, entertainment, and yearly things such as vehicle insurance, and car plates
  • debt - credit cards, hospital bills, student loans, car payment etc.
3.  decide who will be the CFO of the family and let that spouse decide what plan he or she will use
4.  work TOGETHER to develop your spending plan 

Now to allocate money to each category.  Chances are if you are following this series, you are spending more than you are bringing in, so those totals you have from last year are going to have to be cut down.  If you are living paycheck to paycheck, things will be tight until you can get some of your debt paid off. Also, if you are very tight due to debt, I recommend not worrying about savings and retirement until debt is paid down, then the amount you were paying on debt can go into retirement and savings.

Let me do a sample budget to get you started

Income per month $5443
Tithing - $544
(skip saving right now)
expected payments
electric - $175
water - $25
phone - $71
House - $1000
life insurance - $106.88
cable and internet - $171
Debt (minimum payments)
car payment - $350
hospital bill - $380
credit card - $120
Variable expenses (yearly things, divide by 12)
car plates - $5.17
car insurance - $113.42
fire protection - $17.50
safe deposit box - $2.50
students loans - $250

right now we spend $3331.47 a month, leaving $2111.53 to divide among the following

Cleaning products and "beauty" supplies
Hair appointments

To fill in these amounts, we need to figure out what we have spent in the past year, divide by 12 and see how close we can get to filling in these gaps.  Chances are you will have gone over $2111.53.  So you'll have to figure out a number that fits, and that you can live with, keeping in mind, it would be best to have some left over that you can add to the minimum payments for debt, and eventually have enough for savings and retirement.  Here's what I came up with...

Groceries - $450
Medical/dental/vision - $380
Clothes - $100
Gifts - $50
Cleaning and "beauty" supplies - $100
Hair appointments - $75
Gas - $330

now leaving us with $626.53.  Using the snowball effect mentioned in a previous post, I would put as much of that as possible on the debt with the smallest balance until it is paid off, then move it to the next one.  You may not want to put the entire $626 on the debt for the first three months to be sure that the variable amounts you came up with are doable or if you need to put a little more in one category.  I caution you though...do not look at the $626 and say, "look at all that...I could buy a few more clothes!" Remember our goal is to eliminate our debt, not spend more, needlessly. 

Remember, communication between husband and wife is an extremely important part of developing an accurate picture of your household budget.  Put everything out on the table, or it won't work.  The monthly budget is like a written contract between you and you both must agree to stick to it no matter what.

Also note that I do not have any money allocated for movies, eating out, or vacations.  If you did that, the $626 would be gone in a flash and again you wouldn't be moving on your debt at all.  It may sound harsh for a while, but fixing a problem is rarely fun and games.  Find out what things you can do for free in your town, for vacation be a tourist in your own town or one within a short driving distance, and if there is a special occasion where you really want to eat out, use part of the grocery budget keeping in mind you will need to scrimp for the rest of the month.  

Trust me when I say that this is totally doable.  Due to medial bills, a husband out of work, and using credit cards to get through that, we were once $22,000 in debt.  We completely got rid of that in just under three years.  It took self control, and only one mini vacation during that time, but it was so worth it.  You will feel so good about yourself when you get to that point.  You'll feel lighter and less stressed, I promise.

Now get to work on your own budget and see what you can do!!