Budget 101: Take a Financial Snapshot

Whether you don't have a budget, or you need to make serious changes, the best way to begin is by getting an overview of your current financial situation.It’s nearly impossible to make an effective, working budget if you aren’t accurate in evaluating your individual financial situation.

I may wish to pay only $250 per month in gas, but if I have been paying $400 per month for the past year, it is an unrealistic goal. The more accurately the numbers reflect your current income, expenses and debt, the better you can plan for the future.

Whether you are ready to start seriously looking at your finances for the first time, or are in need of a major overhaul, here is a good place to begin.

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How to Survive Their Teen Years

I'd been dreading the teen years since my son was born. Turns out, it's not so bad after all. Here's why this may be my favorite kid stage yet.A long, long time ago, I was pregnant.

When people would ask what I was having, I’d answer, “I’m hoping for kittens.”

I was recently married, and I was in the middle of moving across the country to start a new job. It wasn’t exactly the best timing. Besides, kittens are cute and have tiny heads.

I don’t think all babies are cute. To me, babies look like a cross between grouchy old men and aliens.

Nine months or so later, I gave birth to a boy that I thought looked like an elf. He also had an enormous head. He kind of resembled a lollipop.

Throughout my pregnancy, I had lovingly referred to him as “the parasite.” When he emerged, I renamed him “Aidan,” which means “little fire.” Maybe I should have chosen something that means “tranquil spirit,” or “loves to do chores for his mom.”

I was very familiar with kids. I had babysat all types since I was 12. This was different. This was one I couldn’t give back after a few hours, and they sent me home with no instructions.  

I like instructions. I’m the type of person that will really “read this manual in its entirety before assembly.”
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Patience is a Virtue of Frugal Living

Sometimes Frugal Living is about taking action, but other times it's more about Not Doing something. Here's how being patient can bring great rewards.When I think about frugal living, I think of what I can DO to cut costs and conserve resources. The first things that come to mind are cooking from scratch, shopping thrift stores and reusing items.

These myriad active methods of being frugal are how I save every day. But there is another, equally important way. It isn’t as fun to talk about, share tips or write Top 10 lists about. That’s because it isn’t an action, but an inaction.

If the old saying “Patience is a Virtue” is true, then the true frugal lifestyle is a virtuous one indeed. In the big picture, I save more by what I am not doing, then by all the things I am doing.

Sound confusing? That’s because it is harder to analyze inaction. There’s no satisfying row of canning jars, no receipt that shows how much I saved today, and no cheapskate recipe to share. [Read more…]

Frugal Gift Giving Guide

How do you put a price on giving? Do you give gifts from the heart without concern for budget, or do you practice frugal gift giving? How to find balance.Do you give gifts from the heart or the head?

I was thinking about frugal gift giving as I considered what to give my mom for a Mother’s Day Gift.

After some brainstorming, I felt I had come up with a great gift (which I won’t spoil by mentioning here). However, I quickly went from feeling like I had found her a gift that was so perfect for her, to listening to an internal dialogue of self-doubt.

Was it enough?
Is it too much like all the other gifts I have given her?
Will it make her feel appreciated, and express how much I love her?

Wait, back up. Was I really thinking that? That a present could somehow convey the magnitude of love I feel towards my mother?

Aha! That’s the problem. All the references in advertising to showing someone how much you love them by buying them XYZ were getting to me subconsciously. [Read more…]

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

This delicious Chicken Enchiladas recipe shows you how to create the dish from scratch -- homemade tortillas to tangy sauce to baked cheesy goodness!Bored with Taco Tuesdays?

Try a little something different with these chicken enchiladas, made completely from scratch.

I’ll take you through the entire process: making homemade flour tortillas, creating a traditional enchilada sauce, sauteing chicken and peppers, and then baking it all together.

This recipe also lends itself to making part or all ahead of time, and then simply baking the assembled dish. No more store bought enchilada kits for us! Now they are allergy safe for me, and homemade so our family can enjoy this meal together.
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Stop Negative Self Talk

When we engage in negative self talk, we stifle our unique voices and personal growth. These exercises help change negative thoughts into positive actions.Imagine you are at a football game and in the moments before the field goal is kicked, the cheerleaders launch into a loud chant.

They aren’t shouting words of encouragement, however. They are hurling insults at the kicker:

“Do you REALLY think you can do this? You sure made a fool of yourself last time you came out here.”

“You don’t have it in you. Who do you think you are kidding?”

The kicker looks over at them. A couple of the girls exchange disgusted glances and roll their eyes.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Yet this is the way some of us have to face the challenges in our own lives. We have an annoying, and even cruel, inner voice mocking us. This is called Negative Self Talk.

Lasting Damage of Negative Thinking

Now I know that for some people negative reinforcement does help them to succeed, as they push to prove it wrong. Right now, I’m writing to those who are like me — who flourish when given positive reinforcement. [Read more…]