Life on a Budget…

Many times in my many years I have had to live by a stricter budget than I would have liked. It took me a while to change my perspective on tightening my belt to make the bills and still live an adventurous life. For so long, it felt similar to a diet. If you are anything like me when it comes to dieting, you adhere to it for about two days, then spend two days being resentful and then you fall off the wagon. Funny how both budgets and diets sound like swear words to me. I’ve lived much of my life on the edge of one of the things that set me off in the wrong direction quickly, is anything restrictive or seeming to feel claustrophobic.

Once I figured out that I was feeling this way, it was time to change my mindset, but how? Here are the facts:

  • There is only so much time in a day
  • There is only so much income coming in

So all of the above considered, how do I turn this struggle into an opportunity for adventure? Well, it does take some creativity, but more so it takes a complete change in your thought process. Now, I share this with you not as an expert, but as a lady who has lived a bit under many circumstances and learned a few things along the way. I have friends that are well off. I have friends that are single moms and work their tails off to provide. I have friends that have done well and then fallen on hard times and friends that have come into money unexpectedly. I have watched and even experienced a bit of these myself, and above all have learned it is an attitude and mindset that lets us all get thru to the finish line.

So, back to the idea of making this into an adventure and even a challenge. A competition with myself if you will. I have a goal in mind and I want to reach it. So that goal needs to be the finish line. I need to work back from there. What items do I need with me at the finish line? Money? Stuff? People? All of these things need to play into my plan to get to the finish line and be winning. For this particular goal, I need to have a bit of extra cash in reserves at the finish line. So, I need to add that to my goal and then work backwards If I were to add stuff or people, then I would need to calculate the costs of those in as well.

Now that I have my finish line marked, I need to add a time frame to it. Without a time frame, is it really a race to the finish and how will we know if we have reached our goal. I will set mine at 30 days. It is aggressive for this particular goal, but I am motivated. That brings me to my next subject; motivation. There has to be a reason for the goal or you will lose your inspiration quickly. (Like the diet analogy and falling off the wagon). The motivator has to be big enough, intense enough, to not fade during the race to the finish line. Mine is a lifestyle change at the end of the 30 days. One I have dreamt of for many years. It is close enough now that I can actually see myself living in this new way. No wavering here.

Ok, we have a goal, set a timeframe, and have determined we have a strong motivator…. now what? Well, this is where the rubber meets the road. I’ve got to take a hard look at the steps I need to take to get there. The long jumps, the hops, and even the baby steps and ensure they are in the correct order to be successful. Since this is a money goal, it has to do with income, bills due and the extras needed to get all the way across the line. This part takes a bit of time. It requires number crunching, applying dates and amounts to each item along the way. This also requires thinking on a micro level. In my case, how much do I anticipate spending on gas, groceries, and any other things that take away from the bottom line. Manicures! I almost forgot. This is not a need, but something I do for myself every two weeks. Yep, into the budget that goes as well.

It does help to take a historic look at your bank account. Have you ever really looked at all the times your so easily swipe that little plastic card. Have you ever added up all the funds spent at starbucks or McDonalds? After I did, I realized it was a lot of fish-filet sandwiches and maybe I should change my eating habits! YIKES! Ok, I digress. The point here is to bring to the surface the reality of your spending. Now take pause here to do a reality check. This historical look at your spending it not meant to get you down in the dumps. It is meant to just bring you into the realization of what your day to day really is. There will be no time here to pause for longer than needed. There is no time here for poor babies or sad faces about reckless spending. This is where you really jump in and roll around in those thoughts for a while, but then dust yourself off and be sure not to lose focus. Afterall we are facing forward not back.
A LITTLE self-analysis is never a bad thing.

Ok, back to the task at hand. I’ve now got my path set…

  • Goal, what my end result needs to be to turn the page to the next chapter
  • Timeframe starting now and taking me all the way to the finish line
  • Motivator, what it is that will keep me inspired to stay focused on the task at hand
  • Budget plan with times / dates of each item to be paid along the way.

It’s go time! Now, lets put the plan into action. For some a daily journal helps. For some, a checklist of things to do each day or week helps. For me, I need a spreadsheet and to check it daily. I have also found a few tricks that will help me. I am one of those people that is quick to shop on line or swipe my little plastic card without thinking. To prevent these things from derailing me from reaching my goal, I need bumpers up. What are bumpers? Well if you have ever taken a child bowling, you are familiar. These are the guards on either side of the lane that help the ball roll down the center rather than falling off into a gutter. In my case, the gutter is on-line shopping and easy swipes of a credit card. So what will my bumpers be?

  1. Use cash. Since I have estimated my grocery and gas spending, simply take those amounts out of the bank and keep them handy. This puts a rule into place of no more swiping that card unless NEEDED.
  2. Delete the auto filled passwords on my on-line accounts. I can write them down and put them into the safe so I don’t forget them (because I will). This puts a little stop in between my shopping and the check out process. This should be enough to give me the opportunity to pause and think about what I am doing.

Now I have all the things in place. By doing the above, I have also found confidence and the feeling that my goal is attainable. But there is one more thing, and probably the most important. It’s is the ability to turn this plan into an adventure. If this goal is attainable but not fun, will I really stick to it? If I am honest, the answer is no. So how do we add a little fun into it? Here are a few of my ideas…

  1. Cash back apps. There are a million out there! I personally use “get upside”, “rakuten”, and “coinout” but there really are so many to choose from.
  2. Memberships! There are so many loyalty programs out there. Making your money work for you can be fun AND rewarding
  3. Piggy banks. Yep, an old fashioned piggy bank. It is rewarding to see the piles of change add up and then there is a little fun for a rainy day. I personally have always had a piggy bank and from time to time have cracked it open for a fun day.
  4. Creative meal planning. There are do many ways to save money with a little creative cooking. Take a look in your pantry and have fun with some recipes that may not be traditional, but they do help to clear out the pantry and freezer and even maybe spark your creative side.

I hope this helps someone else as I know it has helped me to organize my thoughts and really formulate my plan for the next thirty days. If you are out there planning a budget, tightening belts or just having to cut back, I wish you the best of luck. Many times circumstances are not as we would hope, but that doesn’t mean it is a dismal time. It simply provides us an opportunity to turn things around and add a little fun challenge to life.

This may not sound like an adventure in the traditional sense, but with all of the above combined, it will consume your time and energy and you will soon find yourself immersed into the goal of charging forward and even find yourself new ways to cut corners. Maybe even include your friends in the journey, after all, a family style meal is more fun than dining alone. Maybe a potluck meal? Also, shopping together for groceries is certainly more fun than doing it alone. Maybe make it a community effort and all the while focusing on your cost savings to reach your end goal. Also, at the finish line… smash that piggy bank and do something unplanned and fun! Afterall, you deserve it!

Change your mood by adding some color

Did you know colors could affect your moods, feelings and behavior?  There have been many studies done on how exactly colors can affect us and of course, you must take into account your personal culture and experiences.  There is a great article found on www.verywell.com about this very subject where the psychological effects of color are examined.

To keep it simple, think of your own life situations.  Does the color blue make you think of calm and cool things?  Does the color red trigger a sense of urgency or excitement?  Have you heard the saying “Green with Envy”?  Either try adding colors into your décor at home or work to adjust your moods.  This little “life hack” can also be used in the business world for marketing purposes.

How do people respond to different colors? Take a look at the list of colors below and possible effects and reactions:

Black: Used in fashion as a slimming quality and with formal wear.  Is associated with death or mourning.  It is associated with villains and evil characters in films.

White: Many people associate white with purity or innocence.  Bride wear white as do small children for religious ceremonies.  It is also associated with being sterile, clean, and adding space.

Red: Red evokes a lot of emotion.  It is associated with love, power, anger, and intensity.  In fashion, it is usually a bold statement of confidence and self-acceptance.

Blue: In general, blue provides a calm serene feeling.  It can even make you feel a cooler temperature at times when used in décor.  It also represents sadness as an emotion.

Green: Green symbolizes nature and health.  IT also symbolizes luck, money and jealousy.  It is thought to relieve stress, be a sign of fertility and growth.

Yellow: This color is bright, cheery and warm but can be the most exhausting due to its brilliance of color.  Yellow can increase metabolism as it increases your energy level but can also increase your frustration levels.  It is a very attention grabbing color.

Purple: A sign of wealth and royalty due to it being hard to find in natural settings and frequently requiring dyes and a great deal of effort to obtain the color.  This color is often perceived as mysterious and even spiritual.

Brown: Brown is a sign of strength, reliability, security, and safety.  Brown can bring to mind conventional and natural dispositions.

 

Do you make every penny count?

As you know by know I am a HUGE advocate for paying it forward AND for making every penny count.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a woman who likes to shop and loves a bargain so I’m always on the hunt.  I wanted to take a minute and chat about reward programs, opportunities to save and opportunities to pay it forward.

In today’s day and age there are a million ways to cut costs and the majority of us could use a leg up in this area.  Here is a list of reward programs that I have found helpful.

  1. Digital Coupons – many grocery stores and pharmacy stores have a reward program or on-line membership (free of charge) and linked to those programs is a digital coupon option.  If you make it a habit of logging onto those sites once a week and digitally “clip” the coupons to your account, you have an opportunity for potential savings you may have missed.  Here is an example.  I frequently shop at Publix and Walgreens for various items.  Once a week I jump on-line and click on as many coupons as the program allows.  I may or may not use them all, but if they are in my account (linked to my phone number) all I have to do at check out is enter in my phone number and any applicable coupons are applied instantly.
  2. Ebates – If you have not signed up yet, you are missing out!  If you do any on-line shopping this is a great program to be a part of.  It costs nothing to join and you are rewarded with cash back when you shop.  There are tons of stores linked to the program and there is even an option for in-store shopping if you choose to link your credit cards.  To date, I have received over $130 back for shopping I was already planning on doing.
  3. Piggy Bank – This is another app.  As you are browsing on line, if you have signed up for the piggy bank on your phone or computer, it will pop up and let you know if coupons are available or cash back is available.

This brings me to paying it forward.  How many times have had loose change rolling around the bottom of our purses or the floor of our cars?  How many times have you found a couple of bucks in the washer or dryer?  These are all signs that we are not as careful with our money as we think.  Sure, we are penny pinchers when it comes to larger purchases or even something that may be $5 vs $1.  But what about all the unused change?  My point here is that the next time someone at the check out counter asks if you want to “round-up” for a charity, say yes.  Think of all the times you have foolishly spent money and here is an opportunity glaring you in the face to share forty cents with someone in need.

Are you an Amazon shopper?  I am for sure!  I am convinced they have everything!  I am proud to say I am now an Amazon Smile shopper.  What’s the difference?  Well if you log into http://www.amazon.com you are shopping at amazon without the opportunity to help the charity of your choice with proceeds from your purchase.  If you shop at http://www.smile.amazon.com you can create a profile and select the charity of your choice to help.  As you shop you will notice various items are  “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation”.  If you choose these items, The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases. How great is that?  Same shopping, and you are helping the cause of your choice.

There you have it a little saving and a little donating.  Keeping balance in every aspect of our lives is so very important.  A good level headed perspective is what keeps us all moving in a positive direction.  As I have said before.  It is a great place to be when your feet are firmly planted on the ground and your head is happily in the clouds.

First Aid Kits (Home, Travel, Office)

Do you have a first aid kit in your home or car?  When is the last time you opened it?  The aspirin may be expired and the liquid items may be out of date or worse, dried up.  Once a year you should make it a point to update your first aid kits, refresh them, and add any notes about medication changes.  (In Florida or the south, I would suggest doing this in June as that is the start of hurricane season.)

First aid kits come in many shapes and sizes. You can purchase one from the Red Cross Store or your local American Red Cross chapter. Your local drug store may sell them. You can also make your own. Some kits are designed for specific activities, such as hiking, camping or boating.I would suggest having a kit for your home, your office and your car.  You never know when or where an tiny emergency will pop up and you will need some sort of medical supply.  Below are some suggestions to customize your kit to your family or needs:

What a kit should include:

 

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket) 
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches) 
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers

Additional items to think about:  Include a list of current medications or allergies for each member of your family.  This should be updated annually.  Keep your first aid kit in a known location in your home and car.  Add any emergency equipment that may be required by your family (i.e., epi-pens, etc.)

First Aid Kit Review:

  1. Include personal items such as medications and emergency phone number or other items your doctor may suggest.
  2. Check your kit regularly
  3. Check expiration dates and replace any used or out-of-date items.
  4. Store your kits in a place that is out of reach of children, but easily accessible by adults

Ouch! Paper-cut! Simple solutions for small boo-boos

It’s summer and many of us have kids (or grandkids) running around and getting into all sorts of things.  Little “boo-boos” happen all the time.  Here is a great list of home remedies for the little ones in your life.  Always first assess the situation of a boo-boo.  If your child has a cut or sever pain, medical attention from a professional may be required.

Sunburns – Use Aloe Vera to soothe sunburns. It contains compounds that reduce pain and inflammation. In fact, it’s earned the name “burn plant” for being the perfect natural remedy for sunburn. Additionally, it’s a refreshing way to cool and moisturize skin during those hot summer days. SIDE NOTE: Get an ice cube tray from the dollar store and fill each cube with aloe vera gel.  When you need it, you will have the perfectly portion size for little hands.  It will melt and the coldness will help in addition to the aloe’s healing qualities. NOTE ABOUT BURNS IN GENERAL: Don’t apply butter or other oily substances to the burned area, and if blisters form, don’t break them- both of these things can cause further damage to the sensitive area. Encourage kids not to peel skin resulting from the burn to reduce scarring.

Insect Bites – A baking soda paste can soothe the pain from bee stings and itchiness from insect bites. Baking soda neutralizes the acidic venom from the sting. Mix up a baking soda paste by using baking soda and water. Remove the stinger and leave the paste on the sting or bite for at least 15 minutes. ADDITIONAL REMEDY: Rub toothpaste onto your child’s bug bites to stop the itching

Bee Sting – chop up a white onion and rub one of the raw pieces on the sting site for 5 minutes. This will help to prevent infection, while also reducing pain, as it draws the poison away from the sting.

Bumps and Bruises – Epsom salt has been used for centuries as a home remedy for all sorts of minor muscle and skin pains. Epsom salt relaxes the muscles and relieves the pain from bruises.  Add 1 cup of Epsom salts to a bowl of warm water. Soak a clean towel in the water and wring it out so there is no dripping. Place the warm, moist towel on your child’s sore area. To maintain its warmth, place a hot water bottle on top of the towel. The warmth boosts the magnesium content in the body which leads to a reduction in swelling. ADDITIONAL REMEDY: Rub some vanilla extract onto a bump and your child should stay bruise-free.

Cuts and Scrapes – Apple cider vinegar contains proteins, enzymes, and germ-killing bacteria that can help fight infection. To help heal and soothe your kid’s minor cuts and scrapes, add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath. It’s also good for rashes that your kid may be prone to during the hot summer months. They may not be happy about the smell, but they’ll be happy to feel some relief.

Hives, Eczema, or just itchy skin – give your child an oatmeal bath. Grind oatmeal into a fine powder and pour into the warm running water as it fills up a bath. Let your child soak in the tub to alleviate the itching associated with these skin afflictions.

As always, have a happy day.  Stay safe this summer and have fun!

 

A Tidy home – a little cheat sheet of suggestions to save time and money

Keeping your home clean can seem like a constant battle, especially for a large family or people with little one’s in their home.  (This is also the case after guests come to visit).  House-keeping is a constant and never-ending chore.  Here are some great tips (life hacks) for keeping up with your home and making the tasks easier or more efficient.

First, you need a few regular items on hand.  I try to get as much as I can from the dollar store and rags can come from the thrift store or even recycled clothes or possibly that one sock the dryer forgot to eat.

1.       Fresh lemons.  They last a while and are a great additive for a cleaning agent. 

2.       Kosher Salt (or table salt of some kind)

3.       Vinegar (White)

4.       Baking Soda

5.       Old socks

6.       Hair Dryer

7.       Olive Oil

8.       Cream of tartar

9.       Dryer sheets

10.   Chalk

11.   Plastic Bags

12.   Lint Rollers (Dollar Store Purchase)

13.   There are countless other items that are handy so feel free to add to this list and personalize it.

Here are some house-keeping life hacks to give a try and see what fits nicely into your schedule allowing for more time and some cost savings:

1.       Vinegar and baking soda = clean oven

2.       Vinegar and water (50/50 mix) and an old sock = clean blinds

3.       Lemons = clean facets and sink handles

4.       Lemons and salt = clean cutting board and clean coffee pot

5.       Cream of Tartar = clean stainless steel appliances

6.       Dryer Sheets – adds a fresh smell to your freezer or refrigerator (change monthly)

7.       Dryer Sheets – clean and protected baseboards

8.       Plastic bag filled with vinegar wrapped around shower heads = clean shower heads

9.       Toothpaste = clean jewelry and clean sneakers

10.   Lint Rollers = clean lamp shades

11.   Hair Dryer and Olive Oil = clean drink rings on a wooden table

12.   Baking Soda = removes oil stains from carpet

I hope this either makes things a bit easier, solves some mystery for you, or just changes up your routing at home to get your house neat and clean.  As always, have a happy day!

 

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