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


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

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

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!