Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mommy Things: Pretty Printables


In doing a little research on activities to do with my little girl, I came across this fantastic resource for free printables that I wanted to share. Mr. Printables has tons of free downloads that feature clean, simple designs that you can use for teaching, parties, and holidays. I've printed out the color flash cards and the ladybug number flash cards and will be incorporating them into our learning routine. You could also print out a few of their Christmas coloring pages and bind them together for a last minute free stocking stuffer for your little one. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Spender


This is the last of my gift idea posts. It's been fun putting them together, and I hope you enjoyed them.

One of the most memorable things I've ever taken away from reading Suze Orman's books was her idea that we should respect our money, right down to the cash we carry around every day. Her thought is that if we treat our money poorly, just stuffing bills in our purse or pocket or leaving money lying around, it will in turn slip away from us. If we respect our money, keeping it organized in our wallet, all bills facing the same way from largest to smallest, we will be rewarded with even more of it.

With that in mind, why not give someone on your list one of these fun wallets, to help them stay organized with their money? And if you haven't finished up your shopping by now, you'd better get moving! Merry Christmas!

Where to buy: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Monday, December 19, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 12.19.11

It's going to be a busy week here in preparation for Christmas Day, so our menu plan is easy this week. Here's what we're having:

PW Chicken Spaghetti (I made extra last week and stuck it in the freezer)
Bowtie Lasagna
Snacky Dinner
Green Chile Chicken
Breakfast for Dinner (Scrambled eggs, bacon and toast)

Hope you have a great week! Find more delicious menu plans right here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Reader


Here's the second edition of my holiday gift guides. Why not give something to your loved one that they can't put a price tag on – like the gift of knowledge! These books and this magazine are some of my favorites, and they're great for someone just starting out getting to understand their finances. And they're not just great the first time you read them – rereading them every once in a while helps me stay on track and focused with our own finances too.

Where to buy: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unextreme Couponing: Tea Time


Here was my bargain score of the week: tea on sale at CVS, plus manufacturer's coupons, plus ECBs from this trip made the total for this purchase 2 cents. You read that right!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 12.12.11

Hello friends! Hope you had a great weekend. I've got a million things to cross off my to-do list this morning, so I'll just get right to it. Here's what we're eating this week:

Chocolate Chip Chili with Sausage
Baked potatoes with leftover Chili
PW Chicken Spaghetti
Butternut Squash Soup and some french bread
Chicken and Mushroom Quesadillas

Find more delicious menu plans right here!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Saver



I love browsing blogs for their holiday gift guides (my favorite every year are here), so I thought I'd join in. I'll be posting fun and economical ideas for gifts, all centered around finances! Here's my first pick. I think this would be great for a kid or teen to get them to start saving early, or the dream bank would be perfect for a couple who loves to travel. 

Where to buy: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Update: Budget Changes


We did pretty well last month using our new way of budgeting, and are planning to stick with it for a while. Although we were a little bit over for the month due to a dental bill that came in, we still came closer to our monthly cap than we have in months. I think subconsciously it just feels better to keep in mind a set amount to spend for everything, rather than trying to hit certain numbers in all the different budget categories.

This month will be interesting, we always spend more during the month of December. Not on gifts (we save for those separately all year long), but with how busy we are running from place to place, we always seem to eat out more and just splurge more than we normally would. Here's hoping we can still keep it under control!

Image from here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 12.5.2011

I don't know about you, but this month is really flying by for me. Usually the week after a holiday drags on forever but last week it was Friday before I knew it. I feel like I'm just running around trying to keep up. I'm going to make it my mission this week to try to slow down and enjoy the season! Here's what we have planned for dinner this week:

Slow Cooker Barbecue Beef Ribs
French Lentil Soup with Bacon
Beef Tacos
Baked Potato Bar
Breakfast for Dinner

Check out more delicious menu plans right here. Have a great week!

Friday, December 2, 2011

UnExtreme Couponing: Thanksgiving Edition


I ventured out of the house on Thanksgiving Day to score some of the drugstore deals I'd seen online because they were just too good to pass up. I didn't get to do separate transactions because there were long lines at both Walgreen's and CVS, so my out of pocket costs were higher than I hoped. But I got back a stack of Register Rewards and ECB's to use. I got most of it to use as stocking stuffers. Here's my final tally:

Walgreens
Bought Dentek Floss Pak, Crest Toothpaste, Colgate Toothpaste, 2 packages of hair elastics and an Oral-B Toothbrush. I also had manufacturer's coupons for –$2.75.
So I paid 9.71 out of pocket, and got back $12 in RR
$2.29 Moneymaker

CVS
Bought Listerine Pocket Paks, Colgate toothpaste, CVS Flossers, a package of Fiber one bars, a two pack of GUM toothbrushes. I used manufacturer's coupons for –.90, and $5 in ECBs from a previous purchase.
So I paid $9.33 out of pocket, and got back $14.83 in ECBs.
$5.50 Moneymaker

Did you venture out for any deals during the holiday?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Net Worth Update: November 2011

It's the end of the month, so it's time for my net worth update. Already? Did the month of November fly by or what? It was a crazy last day of the month, with the Dow Jones gaining 490 points yesterday. I'll be happy when all this EU debt crisis business is over, and things get back to normal. That is, whatever the new normal is. But all in all, any month we're not losing is a good month, I guess! Here are the numbers:

Assets
Savings: +1,731.36 Yay! Unlike last month, we were able to put a little extra into savings.
Retirement Accounts: –1158.98 I'm actually glad this number wasn't more. With all the ups and downs with the market lately, not losing is what I've come to expect.

Liabilities
Mortgage: –257.50 Same as ever, just plugging away month after month. We finally contacted a local mortgage company about refinancing to a 15 year loan. It's in progress.

Total Change in Net Worth:
+830.08 At least it's up. And I would much rather have steady smaller gains than huge gains and huge losses. Yay!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 11.28.2011

Hello friends! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and that it was restful. Ours was relaxing and fun. It will be a little difficult to get back into our routine but having a menu plan certainly helps. Here's ours for this week:

Quiche with a Green Salad
Company Pot Roast and Sauteed Carrots
Chicken with Shallots
Oven Fried Chicken and Scalloped Potatoes

Find other delicious menus right here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Remembering


We'll be heading out on our road trip soon, so I just wanted to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. My husband and I have each been separately writing down things we're thankful for all month, so I'm excited to read through and talk about these during our drive. It's a tradition we started last year, and I've been looking forward to it for this year.

I'm so thankful for so many things: a husband who is kind and supportive, my daughter who brings me the purest joy every day, and family and friends who make me laugh. I think everyday about how my life is better than I ever dreamt it could be. I hope your Thanksgiving gives you lots of reasons to be thankful as well.

Image from here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Recipe: Chicken Biscuit Pot Pies


I had a reader request to post the Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie recipe from this book, that I mentioned in this menu plan. We tried these for the first time last week and they're definitely going to be a staple in my menu plans from now on. I have to say up front: I don't usually follow recipes very closely. In this case, the recipe called for onion, carrots and celery which I didn't have on hand, so I just ended up using some frozen peas, carrots and green beans. I also didn't have white wine, so I used more chicken broth. I just pour things in the pot until they look right to me. Feel free to experiment.

Here's what I used:
A package of biscuit dough
4 tbsp. of butter
6 tbsp. of flour
1 1/2 c. shredded cooked chicken
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 c. frozen peas and carrots
Salt and pepper

Bake the biscuits according to directions. While they're baking, melt the butter in a sauce pan (not too hot). Slowly mix in the flour. Cook this for a few minutes. The flour and butter should form a thick paste. After the paste forms, start slowly adding in your chicken broth (and a little white wine if you want). You want it to be the consistency of the filling for chicken and dumplings. Some people like this thick and some like it runny, so go with your own taste. Next, add in your shredded chicken and frozen veggies. Cook those until everything is warmed through. Take a taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Finally, take your cooked biscuits, split them in the middle, and put the bottom half on your plate or bowl. Spoon in your filling, and cover with the biscuit top. Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 11.21.2011

Happy Thanksgiving Week! It's a short week here for the menu plan, as we will be packing up and heading to my parent's for the holiday. And I couldn't be more excited! Thanksgiving is absolutely my favorite holiday. One of my favorite smells in the world is the smell of my childhood house on Thanksgiving morning. Here's what we're having while we're home:

Parker's Beef Stew
Spaghetti with Marinara

Look for more delicious meal plans right here! Have a great Turkey Day!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Braving the Crowds for a Cute Coat?


I'm not usually one who will battle the crowds on Black Friday. But I've been thinking about getting a new winter coats, and in my research I stumbled upon some of the bright, fun coats that Old Navy has this winter. I saw in an ad they'll be 50% off on Black Friday. That just might make me venture out! Here are the ones I've been thinking about. All are around $30 on sale.

What about you? Do you venture out on Black Friday? Are the deals worth the hassle?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

UnExtreme Couponing


Here were my bargain scores for this week. I got all of this for $2.12. The chips alone sell at my Whole Foods for $3.96, so I was super excited to get two bags of those for 50 cents a piece! (We ate the other bag before I could get a picture!). The canned vegetables and Skinny Cow candies (stocking stuffers) were from Walgreens. I'm happy with the scores this week!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 11.14.2011

We went to eat out last week unexpectedly, so that changed up our menu a bit. I didn't get to make the Chicken Biscuit Pot Pies, so I've moved those to this week. Here's what we're having this week:

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup I've made this before, and it's delicious. And it makes tons of leftovers, so it's good for a few lunches later in the week. We'll have it with a green salad.

Chicken and Broccoli Packets I'm still trying to find ways to use up all my chicken. I thought this looked delicious.

Chicken Biscuit Pot Pies


PW Beef and Bean Burritos These are a favorite, and so easy to make. Probably will serve them with Mexican rice.

Grilled Chicken and Veggies

Check out more delicious menu plans right here!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Budget Changes


We're trying something new with our budget this month. We typically use a zero-based budget, where every expense is accounted for and budgeted each month. But we've run into some problems lately where a large unexpected expense comes up (this month, it was the pest control people who needed $200 for their yearly termite treatment), and then we're forced to pay from savings because it hasn't been accounted for in the budget. So this month, we decided to just look at the bottom line of what we have to spend. We've subtracted our fixed expenses like our mortgage payment, utilities, insurance, etc. from our take home pay. And the money left over is what we have to spend. I'm keeping a weekly tally of everything we're spending. Hopefully, this will help us adjust in some areas if we're over in other areas. I'll let you know!

image from here

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shopping the Sales: Christmas Stockings


I looked everywhere for Christmas stockings last year for my daughter's first Christmas, but wasn't able to find anything that I liked for the price I wanted to pay. I knew I wanted matching stockings for the three of us, and I wanted them monogrammed. So this year, I started the hunt early. Yesterday, I got the holiday Lands' End catalog in the mail, and it included a code for 25% off any order plus free shipping. And when you order 3 stockings or more, they take $3 off each stocking. And monogramming is free! So I just picked up three monogrammed needlepoint stockings for $18 a piece with free shipping, which I think is a fantastic price for the quality of stockings we're getting. My husband's family had stockings like this growing up, so it's nice to carry on the tradition. I finally found stockings I like for the price I wanted to pay!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 11.7.2011

It was a pretty busy week last week with Halloween and some travel for us, so I'm hoping to enjoy a little easier week this week. Here's what we have planned for dinner!

Applesauce Chicken I volunteer outside the house one evening a week, and try to have something in the slow cooker for dinner to make it easy on my husband. Thought I'd give this recipe a try. I found it in my copy of this book, which is my slow cooker go-to recipe book.
Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas Trying to find different ways to prepare all the chicken we bought (40 lbs!), and came across this recipe.
Turkey Tacos
Grilled Marinated Chicken I froze about 10 bags of chicken breasts with different marinades that I threw together. I'll just take one of the bags out of the freezer and cook the chicken on our Foreman grill.
Chicken Biscuit Pot Pies I'm using a recipe from this book with a few tweaks. (I've mentioned before that I love this book!) If it turns out, I'll post my version here.

Have a great week, and look for more delicious menus here!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Big Bargains

I've said before I'm not an extreme couponer, but I do love a good bargain. Here's what I picked up this week.

I love to pick up things on sale, but I love free stuff even more! The conditioner was $25, so I was so excited to get that for free. The toothpaste was a moneymaker at Walgreens, and the espresso was from a free coupon at the CVS coupon machine. A good week!


And this was my Walgreen's run for the week. My total out of pocket was $1.04 for all of this!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Net Worth Update: October 2011

This month was a lot better on us than last month. Even though we had to dig pretty deep into our savings account because of some unforeseen expenses, we still came out positive because of our retirement accounts. And I'm really glad we have a savings account we can turn to rather than racking up more credit card debt. I'm going to try to dump a little more into savings in the next few months to make up for what we had to take out.

Assets
Savings: –2267.39 Ugh. Like I said, we had to dig pretty deep. But I need to sit down and set a goal for how quickly to get it ack up again. All in good time.
Retirement Accounts: +8119.21 Hooray! It's so much nicer to see that number go up rather than down. But I'm not too sure we won't have months of big losses to come.

Liabilities

Mortgage: –239.36 Just plugging away month after month. We're planning on refinancing at some point, but haven't made any progress on that just yet.

Total Change in Net Worth: +6091.98 A positive change, even with the huge withdrawal from savings! Yay!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 10.31.2011

Happy Halloween! I took an unplanned blog break last week, but I'm at it again this week. We picked up a 40 pound order of chicken from Zaycon Foods, so we are up to our ears in chicken over here. I found a couple of new recipes that sounded yummy, so I'll let you know how they turn out. Here's what we have planned.

Grilled Chicken with Spinach and Melted Mozzarella
Baked Potato Bar
Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili
Buttermilk Chicken Strips


Find more delicious menus here!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rewarding Reseach

Credit card art image from here
For most of our expenses, my husband and I both use an airlines reward credit card. Now, there was a time when we could barely make the minimum payments on our credit cards. So it's a little hard to believe that we now use a credit card every month for our expenses. The difference is, we now pay it off in full each month! We totally learned our lesson the hard way, but we've found that we're now very disciplined about paying it off, because we never want to end up back where we were before.

There are two main benefits for us by handling our expenses this way:
(1) We can keep track of everything we're spending in one place rather than having to consult a bunch of receipts in order to enter our expenses into our budget tracker.
(2) We're awarded one mile for every dollar spent.

In the past, this worked great for us and we've used these rewards to go on several trips. But since we've had a baby, our plane trips have definitely decreased. I've been thinking about switching our main credit card to a cash back card, since we may see more benefit from that now than from getting miles.

In my research I came across this site, which lets you compare credit card rewards programs based on your own needs. I'm having trouble deciding whether to go with a cash back card, or with this card, which will deposit the rewards directly into a 529 plan for our daughter. For now, I'm still researching, but I'll check back when I decide.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 10.17.2011

Here's what we have planned for this week. Some weeks I'm really glad I've somehow planned ahead and gotten a few things I can pull out of my freezer for dinner.

PW Chicken Spaghetti I'll be grabbing this from the freezer since I made a double batch last time.
Chicken and Cheese Sliders This recipe is so delicious and easy. And I think it would be tasty even without the chipotle pepper if you didn't have that on hand.
Grilled Garlic and Lime Chicken
Pasta and Meat Sauce I'll be using some ground beef I browned last week along with some onions and garlic, so most of the cooking is done!

For more delicious ideas, check out the menu plans here! Have a great week!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011 Goals...even though the year is almost over!

Image from here
I've posted before about our monthly goals, but we also have long term goals we like to set each year. I keep these goals written on the bottom of my budget spreadsheet, so I'm constantly reminded of them.

These are our goals for 2011. Some have already been completed. And some may not be completed by the end of the year, but we're shooting for it!
1. Eliminate furniture store card. Complete. We bought a mattress two years ago with a 0% interest store card. But I got sick of having that debt on our spreadsheets, so we went ahead and paid it off ahead of schedule.
2. 10K in savings by the end of July. Complete. Since we had concentrated on eliminating debt, and then went to just one income, it left us with savings that were a little low. We're on the way to building that back up, and we completed this earlier this year.
3. Build Emergency Fund to 8 months. In progress. We're slowly making our way towards this one. We've set a goal to complete this by the end of next year.
4. Start a Roth IRA. Complete. See this post.
5. Come up with money for a new computer. In progress. We've had our computer for 6 years, and are trying to save enough to buy a new one before this one goes kaput. So any extra cash we get our hands on (like gifts or side income) goes in a drawer to go toward the new compute. We're about 3/4 of the way there.
6. Complete a Legacy Drawer. In progress. If you're wondering what a Legacy Drawer is, here's the explanation. I actually just added this to the list of goals recently, but I am wanting to finish before the end of the year.

So, there they are!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Five Under $5: Gone to the Dogs

Why should us people have all the fun? Pooches like a little surprise every now and then too! This iteration of Five Under $5 was put together in honor of man's best friend.

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Monday, October 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 10.10.2011

Image from here
Whoa! It's set to be another busy week this week, and we'll only be eating at home 3 nights this week. Here's what I'm planning on cooking up:

Zucchini Parmesan
Baked Potato Bar
Smothered Green Chile Chicken

For more delicious ideas, check out the menu plans here!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Finance Fridays: Welcome Decisions


My husband just found out he’ll be getting a 3% raise at work, and that leaves us trying to figure out what we should do with the extra money. We currently contribute 6% to his 401K, which is matched 100% by the company up to 4%. Side note – We used to just contribute up to the match, but instead of taking last year’s Payroll Tax Holiday and putting it into the economy like we were supposed to, we upped our contribution to the 401K.

So, we have several options for this extra money that I can see:
-    Increase our 401K contribution another 3%
-    Add to our Roth IRA contribution
-    Beef up our cash savings
-    Pay down our mortgage quicker
-    Blow the money on Starbucks and new clothes!

Although the last option sounds pretty tempting, I’m thinking it would probably be best to beef up our cash savings until we meet our 8-month emergency fund goal, then start adding more to the Roth. Which reminds me – I know I've posted here before about our monthly goals, but I haven't ever posted on our long term goals. Next week! Happy weekend!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monthly Goal Update: September

Image from here
I wanted to post an update on the little goal I set last month to stick to our $300 grocery budget. I not only accomplished the goal – I also had $37.95 left over for the month! As a little background on our grocery shopping – I do most of my grocery shopping at Tom Thumb and Whole Foods. Last month, there was a livingsocial deal for $10 for $20 of groceries at WF. I used two of those in my shopping (saving $20 right there), and also saved a total of $69.34 at Tom Thumb by shopping sales and using coupons.

Now for the month of October, our goal is to stick to our eating out budget, which is also $300 a month. We usually go over by a lot, so we’re hoping the focus will help us stick to our number. I’ll let you know how we do!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 10.3.2011

Hi, sorry I'm late for Menu Plan Monday Tuesday. It's already been a busy week and it just started! Here's what we're having the rest of the week:

Baked Tilapia and Veggies
Chicken Spaghetti I'll make a big batch so we have leftovers for one night.
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Grilled cheese sandwiches

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Net Worth Update: September 2011

Well, it's the end of another month, which means it's time to update my net worth. Which isn't a whole lot of fun when your net worth continues to go down.

Assets
Savings: –$257.88 We bought a new chair for our living room, and took some of the money out of savings for this, so our total went down.
Retirement Accounts: –$6585.45 Ouch.

Liabilities
Mortgage: –$243.43 I need to figure out why our mortgage principal goes down more some months than others. You'd think the smaller the principal owed the more it would go down, but it went down $200 more last month than this month. I'm confused about that. Maybe it has to do with payment dates?

Total Change in Net Worth: –$6609.10 Yuck. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to update this! Hopefully next month the stock market will treat us a little better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Five under $5.00: In the Kitchen

I'm spending lots of time in the kitchen lately, so here are some kitchen inspired trinkets for this week. 
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Monday, September 26, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 9.26.2011

I can't believe this is the last week in September, can you? Time is flying by! It's already time for this week's menu plan. We hardly did any grilling this summer because it was so hot, but now that it's finally nice outside, we're going to fire it up this week. Hope it's a great week for you!

Fruit and Cheese Plate
Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Grilled Steaks and Campfire Potatoes
Sloppy Joes

Have a great week and check out more delicious menu plans right here!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Drugstore Game: Breakfast of Champions

Here are my drugstore game scores from earlier this week. Sorry the picture is blurry, I was in a hurry! I know I don't do as well as some people who are able to buy 84 items for a dollar, but I really try to only buy things we actually use!

Kellogg's Special K Red Berries Cereal on sale 2/$5
Gain Dish Detergent on sale for .99 each
Used one MQ for $1.00 off 2 cereals, used $.50 MQ off each Gain, and used $1 Register Reward. I also had to get a caramel as a filler item (not in the pic because I ate it!)

Out of pocket: $4.34

Not super cheap, but I eat this and one other cereal, and it's usually $2.99 for one box, so I think I did ok!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 9.19.2011

via
This week will be a little less busy than the previous weeks, so we'll be mostly eating at home. I'm trying a few new recipes this week that I'm excited about. I'll let you know how they turn out! Here's what we have planned.

Taco Soup
Chicken and Cheese sliders
Herbed Balsamic Chicken with Bleu Cheese
Steaks with Balsamic Mustard Sauce

Have a great week and check out more delicious menu plans right here!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Finance Fridays: Opening a Roth

Well, I did it! I talked about my reasons for opening a Roth IRA in this post. Well, I went ahead and did it, and now I'm wondering what I waited so long for! After researching our different options, we decided to go with USAA, who we have our homeowner's and car insurance with, and we also have a credit card with (that we don't use! I promise!). The fees seemed to be lower than opening with an independent brokerage firm or with T. Rowe Price, who my husband's retirement plan is with, and we also wanted to to try to streamline the number of accounts we have at different places. Plus, we've always been happy with the customer service at USAA. And it was super easy – it took less than 5 minutes online. Now, I'm just tweaking our budget to actually fund it.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Missoni for Target Scores

Instead of Five under $5 today, I'm showing you what I've been saving my Blow Money up for for a couple of months! I was super excited when I heard about the latest designer collaboration with Target, Missoni for Target. They are a legendary Italian brand, and I've always thought their bright patterns and color combinations were beautiful. But obviously, an $800 sweater is not in my price range right now (nor would I ever pay that much even if I had the money!) So when the lookbooks came out a while back, I figured out what I wanted to get my hands on. Little did I know there would be a line outside my store yesterday morning before it opened, and it was a stampede to get in! The debut even brought down the Target website. I'm glad I got there early, and was able to get almost everything I had been hoping for!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 9.12.2011

Another busy week. My husband is out of town for work for a few days, so I'll just scrounge up something for myself those nights. And I'm hitting a swanky event one night with a friend, so he'll be on his own as well! Here's what we'll be having the nights we're home:

Scrambled Egg Toast We love to have breakfast for dinner every once in a while, and this new recipe I found looks like a fun twist on what we usually make.

Chicken Tacos with Salsa Fresca

Baked Potato Bar I usually just wash a potato, rub it with some olive oil and sea salt, and throw it in the oven for an hour or so. Then we can top it with whatever we want. I like to do this when we have chili or barbecue leftovers because they make a yummy topping.

Have a great week and check out more delicious menu plans right here!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Surprise Find

I've been stalking this pillow for over a year, and had made up my mind just to buy it at full price since we're refreshing our master bedroom a bit and I thought the color would be perfect. So when I pushed my cart around the corner of the aisle at Target, and spotted my beloved pillow on sale for 50% off, my heart jumped! How sad is that? What can I say? I love a bargain!

See how cute the pillow looks here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Five Under $5.00: Cooling Off

We've had a little cold front move in, so I'm even more excited about the coming fall. I'm ready to be able to turn the oven on again and do a little baking! See all the Five Under $5's here.
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Monday, September 5, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 9.5.2011

Hope you are having a relaxing Labor Day! This weekend, a "cold front" blew in and temperatures will only be in the 90s (!), so I'm hoping fall is on its way. We'll also be celebrating Labor Day at a cookout at the pool, and celebrating my birthday with dinner out, so I'll only be cooking a few times this week. Here's what's on the menu:

Sloppy Joes I cooked several pounds of ground turkey last week and froze it, so I'll be throwing this in for the sloppy joes. This is the most delicious sloppy joe recipe there is. Hands down.
Bowtie Lasagna
Apple, Cheese and Arugula Paninis

Have a great week and check out more delicious menu plans right here!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Finance Fridays: Net Worth for August

Since this Finance Friday finds us at the beginning of a new month, I thought I’d share something we keep track of ourselves at the end of every month. I calculate our net worth each month, both as a way to track our assets and liabilities, but also to help us set goals for ourselves. And it’s a whole lot of fun to watch that number climb each month, which is what usually happens. But, that’s not what happened this month. Even though we saved a little into our savings account, and paid a little more off on our mortgage, we were still down this month because of that darn stock market!

There are lots of different ways to keep track of your net worth. Some people include cars or other assets, but since our cars are paid off, I just keep them out of net worth calculations for simplicity’s sake.  Here's hoping that next month, we'll be in the positive! Have a great weekend!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Monthly Goal: Grocery Budget

image found here
I've talked about goal setting before, and since it's the beginning of the month, I thought maybe I'd start something new on the blog where I set one small goal at the beginning of the month, and update my progress at the end of the month. This month, I'm tackling our grocery budget.

We budget $300 a month for groceries, which is a pretty substantial amount, especially for just two people and a baby. I've seen other families get by on less. But we love food. What can I say? It's been difficult for me to stick to this amount, and I often find myself reworking the budget in the middle of the month to let us eat out more, or head to Whole Foods for one more trip. So this month, I'm challenging myself to only spend this amount. I'll let you know how I do!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Five Under $5.00: Rainbow Brights

For previous 5 under $5's, click here. Ok, so the ring is a little bit of a splurge, coming in at $5.97, but totally worth it!

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Clean hands for free!

I wish I had more coupons to work this deal! I had a MQ for Dial hand soap, and it was on sale at Kroger, so I got it for free!

Dial Soap $.88

Used MQ for $.35 off, which tripled at Kroger.

Out of pocket was $0!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 8.29.2011

Here's my menu plan for this week:

Slow Cooker Rotisserie Style Chicken This should make plenty of extra chicken for us to use for salads or wraps for lunch.

Cheddar Chicken Tenders with Wilted Spinach This is a new recipe I haven't tried before, but it uses chicken and Cheez-its, and I have both of those on hand, so I thought I'd give it a try!

Turkey Tostadas I don't follow a recipe for this, just brown some ground turkey with chile powder, garlic, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper. I serve it on tostada shells with refried or black beans and whatever toppings we want. 

Pioneer Woman Chicken Spaghetti I made a double batch of this last week, so I'll just be pulling this from the freezer. (It freezes really well.)

Green Chile Chicken This recipe is so easy and turns out perfectly every time I make it. The chicken never dries out. We'll have this with some spanish rice.

Have a great week and check out more delicious menu plans right here!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Finance Fridays: Saving for retirement when you're a SAHM

As a stay at home mom, I worry sometimes about my retirement. These years staying at home with my daughter are absolutely priceless, but lately I've been wanting to do something about the fact that I'm not contributing to retirement while I am at home. So, I've been researching opening Roth IRA's for both me and my husband, which will allow us to contribute $5K a year each, and that money will grow tax free until we need it.

If you're unfamiliar with a Roth IRA and its benefits, a fantastic resource is this guide to Roth IRAs from one of my favorite money blogs Get Rich Slowly.

I'll post an update once I've completed the process! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Drugstore Game: 8.21.2011

Here's my win from the drugstore game this week at Walgreens. This deodorant is the only one I've found that works on me, and it hardly ever goes on sale, so I'm happy to get it cheap!

Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste $4.99
2 Degree Deodorants 2/$4.00
I used a $1.50 off MQ for the toothpaste, $1 off MQ for one of the Degree's (I wish I'd had one more coupon and would have gotten them even cheaper!), then I used my $3.00 in Register Rewards from last week.
Out of pocket: $3.49
Register Rewards for next trip: $4 for the toothpaste, $1 for the Degree

Score!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Five Under $5.00: The September Issue

The fall issues of my favorite magazines are out, and they've got me ready for summer to end! Here are some fun fallish things I'm thinking about spending my mad money on this week.
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Monday, August 22, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 8.22.2011

Our busy week last week got even busier, so one of our meals from last week will be pushed to this week. I'm also celebrating the Pioneer Woman's premiere of her new show on Saturday on the Food Network by making a couple of her recipes this week. I have yet to make something I've found on her blog or in her cookbook that I haven't liked! Have a great week!


Pioneer Woman Chicken Spaghetti / Green Salad I usually make two of these at once and freeze one of them.
Baked Pork Chops / Cinnamon Apples I had planned on making baked pork chops, but as I was writing this post I looked on PW's home page and saw this recipe. I may be frying them in the pan!
Creamy Chicken with Scallions I didn't get a chance to make this last week, but I have the ingredients.
PW Beef and Bean Burritos
Dinner Out

There are also lots of great menu plans and recipes at Menu Planning Monday.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finance Fridays: Keeping Track

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Before we got debt free, we had no idea where our money was going each month. We ate out a lot, went shopping a lot, went on lots of trips. So after we got debt free, when I knew we were going from two incomes to one, it was clear that we had to start tracking our spending and stick to a budget, or we were going to end up right where we started, which was not an option.

There are all kinds of ways to track your spending. Some people write everything they spend down in a notebook, some use Quicken or other online programs to keep track. Our way is kind of a hybrid of those two things.

We keep our budget in an Excel spreadsheet. We spend money from two places. As many purchases as we can go on our credit card that gets airline miles. (We've gone on vacation several times with those miles too, and it's all for purchases we would have made anyway. Always make your money work for you!) We pay that card off in full every month (of course). Places or bills that won't take a credit card, like our mortgage, are paid directly from our checking account. So at the end of each week, I copy the purchases from our online credit card statement, as well as our checking account, and go through each one and input it into my Excel spreadsheet. The only cash we really spend is from our blow money category, and I don't track cash purchases from receipts, I just deduct the total amount.

Some people might think this is a clunky way to go about it, but it's what works for us - I am going through every purchase, which helps me to really see where our money is going.

We've been doing this for two years. I can see how it wouldn't for some people. But however you do it, if you're interested in either becoming or remaining debt free, tracking your spending is one of the most important things you can do. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Five under $5.00

So sticking to a budget is sometimes a drag, which is why I like to reward myself sometimes with little things just for the heck of it, not necessarily because I need something. We actually budget a set amount of money each month (called Blow Money in our spreadsheet) for both my husband and I to buy just these sorts of extras. Each Wednesday, I'll be posting five items under $5 – things I've either already purchased or that I have my eye on!

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Drugstore Game

So I play the drugstore game. If you don't know what that means, it's explained very well here.

I'm able to pick up toiletries, household things like paper towels or toilet paper, and other items we use for very cheap, and sometimes free. I'm definitely not an extreme couponer. I don't keep a huge stockpile of stuff on hand, and I'll only buy things we usually use this way, but I've definitely become addicted to it! There are some great resources out there that will help you play the game, and it takes a little practice, but here's my most recent score from this weekend:

Transaction 1:
Revlon Nail Polish   $3.99
Sure Deodorant   $2.99
Used a $2 off Walgreens coupon (WQ) and a $1 off manufacturer's coupon (MQ) on the nail polish, and a 2/$3 WQ and a $1 off MQ on the deodorant, and received $3.00 in Register Rewards (basically Walgreens cash I can use on my next purchase).
Out of pocket: $1.49

Transaction 2:
Pert Plus   $3.99
Caramel   $0.33
Used a $1.00 off MQ on the shampoo, and then used my Register Rewards from my previous transactions. Also received $3.00 in RR from the Pert!
Out of pocket:  $0.35

The original total would have been $11.30, but my total was $1.84 for all four items, plus I have $3.00 in Register Rewards to use next time I'm in Walgreens. These are all things we needed (except for the candy), so I'm happy to get them so cheap!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 8.15.2011

I'll be out of the house two nights this week, one night volunteering and one night meeting some friends for dinner. My husband will be on his own for dinner those two nights, but here's what I have planned for the other nights.

Whole wheat spaghetti with fried onions and bread crumbs The recipe I'm using is from this book which I absolutely love. One of the authors also has a fantastic blog called Dinner: A Love Story.

Creamy chicken with shallots This recipe from the same book above. This dish is really rich, but so delicious. It requires very few ingredients (things I usually have on hand), but it feels like a company's coming over kind of dish. I'll post the recipe soon.

Eggplant Parmesan I got the recipe from this newsletter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Finance Fridays: Keeping it Simple

When I was in college, fine art majors were allowed to take a Philosophy class called "Logic" instead of having to take college Algebra. Which I used to tell myself was a compliment, because my brain found it easier to understand logic than the alternative, Algebra. I could better grasp what was logical than proofs and theoroms. Or are proofs in Geometry? As you can see, I think this was a good move on the university's part - because if they hadn't come up with this little bypass, I'd probably still be in school trying to pass Algebra. So although I love personal finance, I've really grown to hate when pundits on the news start yapping about the numbers just in from the labor department, or the numbers behind the S&P downgrade. My eyes glaze over, my mind wanders. What I want to know is, in simple terms, how those numbers affect me!

So I was interested when I saw this video about the national debt crisis posted at Blonde and Balanced. Although I think it oversimplifies a few things, the way it's explained is "logical" to me! Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Budget Playroom


 
Our little girl has recently started walking, and therefore, getting into everything around the house.  The other day she came around the corner grinning from ear to ear with a pair of scissors. I don't even know where she possibly could have found them! So we're talking about turning our guest room which we rarely use into a playroom. We're starting from scratch, so I need to do this on a budget. Here are some things I've found.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Eyes on the Prize

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I’ve lost around $8,000 since last week because of this.

It’s enough to make me want to take all of our retirement money out of stocks and move it to cash. But I know that would be the absolute worst thing I could do right now. I just have to keep telling myself:

Stay calm and don’t panic.
As a somewhat educated investor, I already have a portfolio with a mix of stocks and bonds that cushions my losses during tumultuous times like right now. If I was all in cash, I would have missed out on all the tremendous gains the market made the last year too. And it might be my instinct to lower our 401K contribution for a while, but right now is the time to BUY! Things are on sale right now, and there are good deals to be had! (It’s the stock equivalent of the NM Last Call sale!)

Keep your eye on the prize. What’s important is where we finish, not where we are right now. Because we’re still relatively young and retirement isn’t on the horizon for a long while, the finish line is pretty far off. We’ll have ups and downs along the way. But as we move closer to retirement, we just have to make sure we adjust our portfolio accordingly to create an even safer “cushion”.

So yes, I’m bummed that when I update my net worth calculations for the month the numbers will be down. But ultimately, this blip could allow us to come out even further ahead in the future.  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 8.7.2011

It's so darn hot here, I'm trying to not turn on my oven at all. So I hunted down a slow cooker recipe, and will be using my oven top and trying to cook double batches of my meats to cut down on heated stove top time. We don't even want to grill because walking in and out of the house lets in so much heat! I'm pretty much over summer, and ready for fall. Have a great week!

M} Slow cooker Barbecue Chicken
T} Santa fe Chicken Salad Wraps
W} Farfalle with cherry tomatoes, broccoli and romano cheese
Th} Taco Salads
F} Spaghetti with beef bolognese

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Finance Fridays: Smart Goals

My plan for this blog isn’t just to post about the pretty things, although I love those, but also about money things. So every Friday, I’ll be posting about something finance related.

This is probably the best time to note that I do NOT consider myself a financial expert by any means. I’m just a girl who loves to read about personal finance, loves to watch the Suze Orman show on Saturday night, and can’t get enough of checking my budget spreadsheet or updating my net worth.

When my husband and I met, we were both in debt. The story of how we eventually got out of debt is a long one, but the single most important thing we did to allow us to get out of debt was setting the goal. It was easy to complain about being in debt. But until we decided to face the truth, tally up the numbers and know what we were trying to accomplish, we were so overwhelmed with it that we wouldn’t face it, and it got worse before it got better. And the goal setting didn’t stop when we got out of debt. That’s when it really got fun! Because instead of our goals going into the “hole” of debt repayment, they started going towards building the life we really wanted.

To help the end goal not seem so scary, it was helpful to me to set SMART goals along the way.

S = Specific – the goal must be specific
M = Measurable – you should be able to quantify or measure your progress
A = Attainable – the goal should be something you can stretch for and reach
R = Relevant – it must be worthwhile to you
T = Timely – it must have a date for completion

To make this a little more fun, let’s say your end goal was to save $2,000 to take a trip to the beach (yes, please). Here's how I would make sure it was a SMART goal:

Specific: I need to save $2,000.
Measurable: I get paid every two weeks, so I need to set a dollar amount every two weeks that I can save.
Attainable: This amount is something within my reach. Although I might like to go on a $20,000 trip around the world, that's just not something I can do (right now!).
Relevant: I really would enjoy this vacation, and I’m willing to save for it.
Timely: I’d like to do it next year. Let's say 9 months from now.

So now you can say that your specific goal is to save $112 per paycheck, rather than I need to save $2000, which can seem overwhelming. You’re able to measure every two weeks how you’re doing on your goal. You know that the goal is attainable by not eating out a few times a week, or not buying that new outfit every few weeks. You keep it relevant by picturing yourself on the beach each week when you move that money over to savings. And you know that the time will come when you’ll be heading off on your trip, not worried about how much it costs because you’re paying in cash!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shopping the Sales: Summer Clothes

There are some FANTASTIC sales on summer clothes right now, and with the forecast predicting a high of 108 degrees today, I'm not worried about having to break out fall gear any time soon. Talbots was having 50% off any of their markdowns, and Anthropologie was having a great sale too, so I picked up these three items for prices I'm really happy with.

1. Talbots Crinkled Ruffled Dress in Black for $25
2. Anthropologie Saltwater Blouse for $20
3. Talbots Bryce Eyelet shorts in Fern for $15

These are Target prices! I think the stores are trying to clear out their summer merchandise before the back to school rush starts.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Grocery Store Flowers

I was at Kroger the other day, and picked up a mixed bouquet that had been marked down to $1.75. The flowers were a little tired looking, but I knew they just needed a little pruning and fresh water and that they'd perk right up. I brought them home and made these two arrangements. I love having fresh flowers around, and at this price, I can get them weekly!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: 8.1.2011

I've been menu planning for a good while now, and it makes a huge difference in both our stress level and our budget. It helps avoid rushing around trying to figure out "what's for dinner" every night, and helps us cut out last minute trips to a restaurant or for take-out. Every Monday, I'll post what we're eating for dinner the following week. Here it is:

M} Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes
T} Oven Fried Chicken and Artichoke with Lemon-Garlic Butter
W} Beef Stir Fry
Th} Grilled Pork Chops and Corn on the Cob
F} Grilled Chicken and Black Bean Nachos

Welcome to Pretty Penny

Welcome to Pretty Penny, where I'm hoping I'll be able to combine my love of design and style, along with my strange obsession with personal finance!

I worked in advertising and graphic design for years before quitting the "rat race" and starting a little business and then a family. So my previous double income/no kids life went to a single income/with kid life. It's been an adjustment, but I've managed to find ways to make sure the jump wasn't so hard. Here I'll chronicle what I do to live with style and joy, all while sticking to a budget and also making sure those practical things, like retirement savings and emergency funds, are also taken care of!