Organize Your Finances

 

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To have an abundant life you really need to give yourself a financial check-up.  By not being responsible with money now can lead to a bleak financial future.  You can change your future by changing the way you handle money today!

 

Disorganized finances can lead to late payments, bad credit, interest charges, and diminished savings just to name a few.  Take control of your finances today.  It is a big chore, but once you get yourself organized and on the right track you’ll never regret it.

 

Just like any organizing project, breaking down the HUGE task {of budgeting your finances} into smaller pieces, it makes it easier and less daunting.  You won’t’ become so overwhelmed that you’ll want to quit.  Well, you might still want to quit, but DON’T!!

 

This week’s goal:  

 

1.  Gather all your bills and organize them in ONE spot.  

Make sure you have the space to keep it organized, or they will just end up in a basket or bag in a closet somewhere not being paid.

 

2.  Make a list of all your income and expenses.  

You can do this online or on a good ole piece of paper.  

 

Tip: Mint.com is a great online resource that can be accessed online or any mobile device.  You can also use Quicken or Excel to track your expenses.  

Don’t forget:

  • Mortgage/rent
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Utilities
  • Mobile devices
  • Savings
  • House Maintenance
  • Auto & maintenance
  • Gasoline
  • Grocery/Food
  • Credit Cards
  • Personal
  • Entertainment
  • Charitable Contributions
  • and Anything that You Spend Your Money On!!

 

3.  Make a Budget showing your income and expenses

 

Tip: By using the online software, you can have all your expenses tracked in one spot, it’s easy to read, and you’ll have it all organized for tax time.

 

4. Pick one day of the week to pay bills and check over your budget.

Make any necessary changes and/or add anything you may have forgotten or had to add along the way.  Picking the same day each week takes the guess work out of when to pay bills.

 

Tip: Set up automatic bill payments to never miss a due date again!  Just make sure you keep your checking account balance sufficient to cover those payments so you don’t incur overdraft fees!

 

5. Contribute to your savings account or investment account.  

It’s never too early to start saving for your future.  Many employers match contributions.  TAKE ADVANTAGE of that, but only invest what they are matching dollar for dollar.  Also look into Roth IRA’s and other investment options.

 

6.  Still need help?  Find a trusted friend or hire a professional to get your finances in order.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.  There are more people in the same boat than you could imagine.  It’s not a big deal, but it can be if you don’t get yourself if financial shape today!

 

 

 

Once a Month

  • Balance your checkbook
  • Review your credit card statements
  • Make changes to your budget as needed

 

Tip: You can get a FREE credit report and credit score from creditKarma.com.  It’s totally free, no strings attached, and they offer tons of tips on how to improve your credit.

 

 

Once a Year

  • Update your budget.
  • Check over your investments and savings. Increase your giving and saving as your finances improve.
  • Get your forms and paperwork together for taxes.

 

 

 

 

Homemade shower cleaner that really works

I live in the country, so we have well water which means we have HARD WATER. Remember my post this morning HERE that said I was doing my bathroom cleaning today? So, I tried a bunch of different homemade shower cleaner concoctions to see if I could find one that would get the hard water stains and soap scum off of my shower. First I tried ammonia and water and other than clearing out my sinuses, it didn’t do much for the hard water spots. Then I tried vinegar and baking soda which worked but not as well as I would’ve liked. Finally, I hit the bullseye! Here’s a recipe for homemade cleaner that worked awesome and it left my shower sparkly clean! P.S. My husband is going to be thrilled when he sees I sprayed ammonia on the shower head and it took the finish completely off! But anyway, here’s the recipe for the cleaner that worked. It worked so well that I used it on my sink too!

HOMEMADE SHOWER/SOAPSCUM/BATHROOM CLEANER

1 cup apple cider vinegar (or distilled)
2 TBSP cornstarch
2 TBSP dawn dishsoap
Mix together in a spray bottle and soak your shower with it, let it sit for a few minutes and scrub, it left my shower sparkly clean!
shower cleaner

 

Simplify your emails with Unsubscriber!

 

Sick of those unwanted emails clogging up your mailbox?  Check out Unsubscriber, a new service that unsubscribes to those unwanted emails for you!

 

Unsubscriber is the simplest way to stop emails you don’t want. Just move unwanted messages to the Unsubscribe folder and Unsubscriber takes care of the rest. It’s a satisfying way to simplify your inbox.

Homemade Brownie mix

I have parents and in-laws that like to just pop in sometimes.  I love that they do! Also, being a pastor’s wife, ladies sometimes just stop over to talk.  I grew up in a family that always had cupboards FULL of food, so anytime someone stopped over, you would offer them food.  I made this homemade brownie mix for those occasions when someone pops in.  I keep mine in a ziplock bag and just add a few ingredients when I’m ready to bake.  Within 25 minutes, I have fresh brownies for my guests.

Here’s the recipe:

HOMEMADE BROWNIE MIX

1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 cups sugar

Simple! You don’t need to even dirty a bowl, just place all of the ingredients right into a ziplock bag.  Write these ingredients on the side of the bag and add them when you’re ready to bake.

1 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs

Grease 9 x 13 pan, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes (check at 20, toothpick must come out clean)

Easy dessert for those times you need something quick for your guests!

How To: Remove Strong Odor From Your Microwave

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Have you ever heated something up, and couldn’t get rid of the smell in your microwave for days?  I have!  I made the mistake of heating up some leftover fish.  You can imagine what my microwave…and house…smelled like!

Here is the best way to get rid of those nasty smells in your microwave.

1. Wipe the top, sides, and bottom of your microwave with warm water and baking soda.  This absorbs any odor that may be attached to particles inside your microwave.

2. Rinse your cloth and wipe out again with plain warm water to rinse any baking soda residue left behind.  Just keep wiping out until all the baking soda is gone.

3.  Add 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 cup of water in a bowl (a cup will boil and overflow) and heat for 3-5 minutes.  Let it sit in the microwave for about 15 minutes before you take it out.  This will help eliminate any odors caught in the filter and vent system.

If the odor is really stubborn, repeat the steps again until it’s gone.

If you have some odor eliminating tips, share away!  I would love to hear them!

Organize Your Purse!

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Organize Your Purse

 

I have to admit, after a long day of couponing and shopping with my kids, my purse can look like a bomb went off inside!  From receipts to tissues and wrappers, my purse is a landing place for all things!!  And I tend to get the biggest purse I can find to fit EVERYTHING inside I could possibly need!  Well, with the size of the “tote” I carry, I have to be organized or it will end up being an endless pit of stuff, the abyss, the land to nowhere…

 

I thought I’d share a few tips on how to organize your purse.

 

First, let’s talk about the purpose of your purse.  It really should be just to carry what you need while you’re on the go.  You should be able to access everything quickly.  Just like at home, everything should have a home, unless it’s only taking up temporary residence until it reaches it’s destination.  When buying a new handbag, remember to look for compartments, lots of compartments to hold all your goodies!

 

Ok, here we go….

 

1.  Completely empty out your purse (or suitcase).

 

 

2.  Throw away any garbage that has accumulated.  

Tip: Don’t let garbage in!  There are usually garbage cans within 20 feet of you at all times.  Throw away grocery lists and receipts you’ll never need at the door on the way out, and to-do lists when completed.

 

 

3.  Go through receipts and papers and file or toss.

Tip:  Use a small envelope or pouch to hold all receipts.  You can go through when you get home, but it will keep them organized in the mean time. 

 

 

4.  Gather all your change.  You can put it in a small change purse, in your wallet, or save at home.

Tip:  Leave change at home.  We have a big change bin where we collect all our change.  This can really add up, makes your purse lighter, and it saves time trying to find the perfect change at checkout.  

 

 

5.  Go through your wallet.  Shred any debit or credit cards that have expired or you no longer use.  Wallet must haves:

  • Identification
  • Health Insurance Card
  • Emergency Contacts
  • Important Medical Information
  • Roadside Assistance Card
  • Emergency Cash

 

Tip:  Make a copy of both sides of each card you will be keeping in your wallet.  (trust me…it’ll be worth it when your wallet is lost or stolen)  – you’ll have easy access to cancel cards, and will eliminate any loss of funds!!

Tip: Just remember, the less you keep in your purse, the less you have to carry and worry about replacing if stolen!

 

 

6.  Organize what’s left.

  • Use a wallet that makes it easy to access cards and cash.
  • Use a small cosmetic bag to hold makeup and accessories.
  • Use another small bag or side zipper to hold medications and/or first aid supplies
  • Keep cell phone in the same pocket each time (no need to dig to find that ringing phone!)
  • Same with keys and a pen and anything else!!  Easy access and keep it in the same spot each time.

Tip:  Use your smartphone for lists, memos, reminders, etc. so you don’t have a bunch of notes and lists floating around your purse.  If you don’t have a smartphone, use a small notebook or your planner to keep track of these things.  

Tip: Handbag Organizer is a great tool for keeping your items organized.  They are also super handy for switching from purse to purse.  Just pull it out and place in a different handbag.

 

7.  Test drive your purse.  Put it on your shoulder, and see if it’s too heavy.  If it is, you may need to leave something behind.  Trust me, you probably won’t miss it, and your shoulder will thank you for it!

 

 

 

Fun Fact:  These are a few of the things you’ll find in my tote!

(wallet, checkbook, keys, lip gloss, grocery list, coupons!, baby wipes(even though I don’t have kids in diapers!!), tweezers, nail clippers, band aids, chap stick, tissues, dental floss, hand sanitizer, fun things to keep my kids occupied, snacks,  a water bottle, a book, sunscreen, medicine, eye drops, gum, phone, and lotion)

 

 

Yes, that’s why I need a tote!!

 

 

Summer-ize Your Vehicle

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Now that summer is here, most of us will be driving more frequently.  With all those fun summer activities we’ll be in the car a whole lot more.  Let’s face it, we all want to have a clean and uncluttered vehicle to drive around in.

 

Here is a spring cleaning checklist to help keep your vehicle clean and tidy!

 

  • Remove all items that don’t belong….including the garbage floating around
  • Clean out the glove compartment and center console (make sure you have the latest insurance and registration info included)
  • Vacuum the carpets  and seats
  • Put all DVDs and CDs in their place
  • Wipe down all interior surfaces
  • Clean inside of windows
  • Place a small trash bin, car charger, tissues, and umbrella in your vehicle (preferably under the seats)
  • Don’t forget the trunk
    • empty out items that don’t belong
    • vacuum
    • stock with first aid kit and sunscreen
    • update emergency kit (include flares,  flashlight, spare tire, etc.)
  • Child kit – these can be small fun boxes or bins with toys, books, paper, crayons, puzzles, etc. that can keep your little one occupied when traveling
  • Ensure your inspection is up to date
  • Check oil and other fluids and add/change if necessary
  • Check air pressure in tires
  • Clean the outside of the vehicle

 

 

Now that your vehicle is all set, enjoy your summer!!  Make sure you keep up with clutter, and make sure your kids keep their “boxes” picked up.   Once a week, empty anything that has accumulated.

 

Happy Summer!!

 

 

Time Saving Tuesday: Not Enough Hours in the Day?

not enough hours

 

 

Welcome back to Time Saving Tuesday!  

 

Have you ever had those days where you could hear yourself say, “I wish there were more hours in the day, or I could get such and such done if I had just a little more time”?  I certainly have!  Actually, my to-do list for today is pretty long.  *sigh*

 

Well, I’ve found a few things that have helped in along the way.

 

1. Get up Early

It doesn’t sound like a whole lot of time, but just an extra 30 minutes can help you jump start your day, and give you a couple spare minutes to get out the door instead of rushing, and hurrying your kids.  It can make for a more peaceful morning for everyone, and can set the tone for the rest of the day.  Remember to keep in mind what you are trying to accomplish so you stay on task and don’t just lose that extra sleep.  If you are more of a night owl, try going to bed 30 minutes earlier.  That extra sleep can help you to be more productive.  Use your most productive time of day to get things done.  For me, I am a morning person, so I get my important tasks done then.  I save the other stuff for the afternoon.  Schedule your day for what works for you.

 

2. Stay Organized

Notice I didn’t say, “Get organized?”  That is key, but once you have yourself organized, figure out what works best for you to stay organized.  Remember, staying organized isn’t just about getting rid of old bills and receipts, it’s about knowing what to keep and how you are going to make it easy to find when you need it.  This will save you a lot of time everyday even just going through your daily mail.  You will know what needs to be kept and filed, and what can be immediately tossed.  Don’t let mail get stacked up to deal with later.  Don’t be afraid to toss something.  That goes for online mail as well.  Don’t let your inbox get bombarded with messages.  Unsubscribe, delete, and really pair down those messages.  With today’s technology, it’s generally pretty easy to replace something that you may need.  When was the last time you really needed something you threw away anyway?  If you are questioning something, put it in a pending file to check on in a week or month.  Decide then if you really need it.  Make sure you help your kids to stay organized as well.  This will save both of you time!

 

3. Multitask

Sometimes this is easier said than done.  Remember it’s only productive if the things you are working on together aren’t imperative.  Putting away laundry and listening to that saved bible study CD can be multitasked, where working on your budget and making dinner while helping kids with homework may be counterproductive.  You get the point.  Giving your full attention to one important task at a time is always more productive that trying to do it all at once, time saved.  Plus, you won’t have to go back to fix mistakes that you made along the way, time wasted.

 

4. Enlist Help

As much as we like to think we can do it all, and no one does it as well as we can, this super-mom mentality is not productive or effective.  We can’t do it all efficiently all the time, and it doesn’t help our kids when we don’t teach them responsibility and let them do their part around the house.  So when you look at the dusting job your 6 year old just did, just remember it may not be as good as you would’ve done, but it’s a little extra time for you to get other things done (as long as you don’t go back to re-dust!!)  😉

 

5.  Slow and steady wins the race

This is the same idea as with multitasking.  When you are working on an important task, slow and steady wins the race.  It’s not efficient to rush through something only to find out you missed something along the way or made a mistake that will cost you even more time to fix.  You can work fast when cleaning your house or making dinner, but when it comes to paying bills, making out your will, or doing something else that is of utmost importance, taking your time is key.

 

6.  Limit your electronics time

Have you ever researched something online, read through Facebook, or checked those tweets?  A few minutes can easily lead to an hour or more if you’re not careful.  Keep yourself in check, limit your time on electronics, and you’ll find you have more time for other things.

 

7.  Master to-do list

I love lists.  They help me get things done, and I can look back at it to see all the things I accomplished.  The key is having a realistic list.  Having too much on your daily to-do list can seem daunting and overwhelming.  It will bog you down.  Instead, have a master to-do list that can be a mile long with everything that needs to be done.  Then, have a daily to-do list that only has 3-4 items on it.  Conquer those, and then you can hit up the master list.  This way, the most important things get done first instead of the easiest things done first.  Make sure you schedule your day to fit in those 3-4 items, or you will find yourself running around in circles figuring out what to do next.

 

8.  Break it down

If you are avoiding that huge, daunting project, just break it down.  Instead of “Clean out garage,”  break it down into, “organize sports equipment and wash cars” one day, and “put holiday stuff away, organize tools, and sweep garage” another day.  It will help you stay focused and will save you from going from one thing to the next, and not completing a thing.  Also, work on these projects early so the rest of your day will go smoother.  Getting those hard tasks done first makes every thing else seem easy!

 

9. Schedule, schedule

Once you have your master list and daily to-do lists, schedule the times for each project.  This will give you a general idea of when you’ll be done with each project or task.  This will help you schedule your day, and you’ll have an easier time saying “no” to something else that comes up when you know you won’t have time.

 

10. Give yourself grace

If you have done everything you could to gain a little more time in the day, and  it still doesn’t happen, give yourself grace.  You got a lot done no matter what, and there is always tomorrow.  Don’t use this as an excuse to get lazy though, just a reminder that life happens and it’s ok to have days that it doesn’t all get done.

 

 

You can check out more time saving tips here!!  I would love to hear how you gain more hours in your day!!  I can use all the help I can get!  🙂

 

 

Wednesday Q & A – The value of having a will

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What is a will?

A will (“last will and testament”) is a document that states your final wishes. It is read by a county court after your death, and the court ensures that your final wishes are carried out.

Do I need a will?

If you have children under the age of 18, assets, or care where your money or property goes after you die, then yes, you need a will.  You wouldn’t drop off your children to just anyone, right?  So why wouldn’t you want to make provisions for them if anything happened to you and/or your spouse.  Life happens, and it’s a reality that something could happen to you and your spouse, leaving your children behind.  There are about two-thirds of Americans that don’t have a will.  Don’t be a statistic, get a will today!!  If you don’t have one, the courts get involved, and they decide with whom your children will be placed.  By having a will you reduce the stress and tension of an already difficult situation.

 

What does a will cover?

  • leaves instructions about what should happen to your estate after you die
  • Names an Executor (person named to carry out the instructions of the will)
  • Names guardians for children and their property (if assets left to them)
  • Provides for pets (you should never leave property to a pet – yes, it has happened!!)
  • Instructions for businesses owned

 

Do I need a lawyer, or can I do it online or myself?

There are a lot of options online these days, but I strongly suggest you use an attorney.  You never really know who you are giving pertinant information to on the internet.  An attorney can help you with the process, and answer any questions you have along the way.   They can also ensure your paperwork and forms are filled out correctly.  Make sure you find one in your state that is familiar with estate laws.

 

What are the requirements?

  • You need to sign your will
  • You need to have 2 witnesses sign as well (this is what most states require – check with your state to be sure)
  • Have your will notarized (strongly suggested)

Do I still need a will if I don’t have any assets or property? 

If you have minor children, you will want to have a will regardless of your financial situation.

 

How much does a will cost?

A simple will costs around $250-$300.  A more complex will, one with significant assets or if you own a business, will cost more.  It is well worth the investment to ensure whom will raise your children.

 

How do I get started?

  • Find an estate attorney
  • Make a list of all your assets that you want to specifically leave to certain beneficiaries (you also have the option to not list every asset you have, and  just leave your entire estate to certain beneficiaries to divide.
  • Make sure you give the Executor of your will a copy of the will (or let them know where to locate it upon death, and let them know they are Executor.

 

 

 

Having a will can save your family time, money, and give you peace of mind.  Have more questions about wills?  Feel free to ask below, and we’ll help you along the way!

 

 

 

Time-Saving Tuesday – No Weeds Please!!

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Welcome back to Time-Saving Tuesday!!

 

If you are getting your gardens ready to plant, or want to keep those nasty weeds out of your garden, this post is for you!!

 

I have a TON of flower gardens around my house.  I truly enjoy them, but I have to admit, they are work to keep up with.  My goal is to prevent weeds from spouting before I have to think about killing and pulling!!  I have tried every weed prevention product on the market over the years, and I’m going to share with you what I found for the best weed prevention.  I hope these weed prevention tips will not only save you time, but money as well!!  Note:

 

Mulch

 

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I tried using just mulch around my flowerbeds.  It looks beautiful, but as far as weed prevention, it’s not so pretty.   I had grass and weeds growing up in no time!  I found myself weeding every 3 or 4 days.  Not the weed control I had in mind.  Grade: A for beauty, F for prevention

 

 

 

 Weed Control Landscape Fabric (Note: I tried both the plastic and paper type and found the same results)

I  tried this landscape fabric a few years ago.  I followed the directions, and used it on almost all of my gardens.  I was sure this was the best product out there.  I put it down around my flowers and bushes and topped it with mulch.  It started out great, but by the end of the summer, I had grass and weeds growing right through it in every garden.  I kept up with weeding throughout the summer, but this fabric was a nightmare.  The weeds would get tangled in the mesh, and I couldn’t get down to the roots of most of them.  The following spring I saw bigger patches of grass and weeds growing through it so I tried to rip it all out.  That was not an easy task!!  The grass and weeds were tangled in it, and it was a huge mess.   Grade: F for wasting my time, and another F for the time I wasted ripping it all out!

 

 

Pre-emergent Herbicide

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I hate to use chemicals of any kind on my plants and flowers, but I was desperate.  Most of my gardens are in full sun all day, making the soil not so fun to work with, and my weeds even harder to pull.  I put down a pre-emergent herbicide, and then topped it off with my usual mulch.  I then added a fertilizer with weed prevention.  Perfect prevention right?  Not so much.  It worked for a month or so, and then here came the weeds.  I couldn’t believe it.  It stated right on both containers that it should last 3 months.  It was an expensive option that didn’t have the payoff I was expecting.  I did consider buying more, but I still had to pull the weeds that were already sprouting and taking over.   Grade:  C  (It did seem to work for a few weeks)

 

 

Newspaper

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I read about using newspaper as a weed barrier, and thought I’d give it a try since it was practically free.  I tried it on two gardens.  I used about 4-5 sheets over the area, and covered it with mulch.  I watered it to keep it down.  It does want to fly away so keep stones or water it down a bit to keep in place until you put the mulch down.  I did my usual weeding of my other gardens over the next few weeks, and noticed there weren’t any weeds in these two gardens with the newspaper.  I figured it wouldn’t last, but I was wrong!  It lasted for months, and the only weeds I saw were coming from the little area around the plant I didn’t cover.  Amazing!!  And super cheap!  Who would’ve thought this option would beat the expensive stuff?  It will eventually decompose into the ground so it will need to be replaced after a couple years.   Grade: so far an A (very few weeds and inexpensive)

 

 

Happy gardening!  I would love to hear your gardening tips!  Check out some gardening tips from Marissa here.

 

If you missed last week’s Time-Saving Tuesday, check it out here.