Monday, April 28, 2014

Funding Your College Education

You may or may not have heard about the Duke University freshman student, Miriam Weeks, working in the porn industry, under the name of Belle Knox, to finance her way through college.
I, like many others upon hearing this news, was surprised to hear working in the porn industry was one of the few avenues she had to pay her college tuition, according to her interviews with the media. Not wanting to take out loans (Duke costs reportedly $60,000/year) she sought out another route, thus leading her to the porn industry.

I can applaud her for not wanting to join the majority of students who take out massive loans and graduate with a large amount of debt to repay. However, I argue that you can finance your education and graduate debt-free without aspiring to be a porn star!

How do I know this with absolute certainty? What, you are doubting me? I am 100% sure you can go to college and graduate debt-free because I did it! I did.

I actually did more than that! I graduated with my master's degree (6+ years of college) debt-free! You are probably wondering how I did this? Well, I would like to share that information with you, along with ways that you can graduate debt-free as well!

While in college, I documented my money saving journey. That journal sat in my room until I recently stumbled across it. After wiping the dust off, I read my writing, and realized what I did was just too good not to share! So, with a lot of time, late nights, and several drafts later I have to share with you, my book:

If you are considering going to college or are a student already, this is the book for you! I share with you ways that you can save money in college along with my personal story of how I completed 6 years of education and graduated debt-free! I took out about $6,000 in loans during that time but paid them in full prior to graduation. I truly believe that you can do the same! Let me help you on your journey!

Thursday, April 24, 2014


This week, I seem to find myself overwhelmed because, to be completely honest, there are more things on my to-do list than I can handle. My husband told me this morning he hasn't seen me all week, and he is right! I sometimes forget that I am just one person. Do you ever do that?

So, when all things become chaotic and I am being pushed to my limits, what do I do? Well, I want to panic and create massive to-do lists so I can see everything I have (over)committed to but that only increases my stress. This is actually the perfect time to focus on decreasing my stress. 

Even 10 minutes of relaxation can make you feel more calm and help you to refocus on your tasks at hand. Here are 5 ways to relax:

1. Make a list and do 1 thing!

Okay, so I said I wanted to write down my massive to-do list that is stressing me out, but that will only increase my stress! Instead, write a list of at least 5 things that calm you down. That could include: going for a walk, talking to a friend, listening to music, taking a bath, etc. Now, pick one thing off that list and do that activity right now!

2. Breathe

Take a whole minute (yes, 60 seconds) and breathe in deeply through your nose, hold that air in for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale. Repeat this exercise until your minute is up. Focus only on your breathing during this time.

3. Work those muscles

Starting at your toes, clench your muscles as tight as you can and then slowly release. Do this, working your way up the body. So I, start with my toes, then legs, then stomach, move to hands, and lastly clench and release my arms. You will feel much better afterwards! Repeat as needed!

4. Stress Ball

Stress balls are very inexpensive and easy to find (or make). With a stress ball, clear your mind and squeeze the ball in your hands for 60 seconds. Close your eyes if you need to!

5. Unplug

Give yourself a moment (or 10 minutes) by stepping away from the electronics. This includes your phone, computer, and television. Let the room be silent and still. Take a seat (or lay down, it makes no difference to me) and be in the moment. Clear your head and just sit still. Maybe take a nap?

The point is, it is nearly impossible for you to be stressed and relaxed at the same time. If your body is relaxed, your mind will be "tricked" to relax, too. Even if only for a moment!

So, what way did I relax? I took several deep breathes and cuddled my little one! Now, I feel much better about tackling my to-do list!

How has your week been going?

Monday, April 21, 2014

You're A Hoot!

Over this weekend, we had Payton's first birthday party! It is bittersweet to think of our baby turning 1 in a mere few days. Where does time go?

The party was very stressful for me for some reason. Maybe the combination of hosting an Easter dinner, throwing a birthday party, and having a house full of people was just a tad overwhelming for me! I move much slower with a child in tow! In any case, it was a relaxing weekend and there were no major problems (except the minor issue of forgetting to pick up the special ordered meat for Easter dinner, uh, a minor glitch, maybe).

Payton's party was owl themed! She has a toy owl she latched on to shortly after birth and still loves today, so we felt the theme would be quite fitting! In combination with Easter weekend, we chose the colors of the party to match. Thus, the focus was on pink, yellow, and green with a touch of burlap (I totally love this current trend). An owl cake, made by yours truly, tied it all together.

The weather was so amazing, we ended up moving everything outside! This worked out well when Payton got to enjoy her first sweet, a chocolate birthday cupcake. I don't think she ate much but she sure got it everywhere!

We started to clean her off outside, but learned quickly the best way to clean her was to just give her a quick bath!

We opened presents after the bath and the hubby and I were so excited about one of our gifts. We made, together, a child-sized picnic table that converts to benches! Okay, my hubby really made it and I helped when I could! Have I told you how handy he is? 
She loved the table and surprisingly seemed to understand its function better than we had anticipated!
She is such a big girl! We really wanted a good gift she could grow with for her first birthday. I think we nailed it, literally!

After opening presents, everyone lounged around outside enjoying the perfect spring weather! I am already thinking about themes for next year's party!

What party themes have you done?

As for the forgetting to pick up the meat for Easter... we didn't realize until after the store closed! We had a few minutes of panicking and then pulled out some steaks! We were not traditional this year for our Easter meal, but there's always next year to get it right!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Keeping the Marriage Alive: Money Matters

Studies show the top 3 reasons for divorce come down to the following issues in marriage: money, sex, and conflict in child raising. In my line of work (mental health counselor, therapist, whatever you want to call me) I see each one of these play a role in majority of relationships! For each couple, the conflict may look a bit different, but typically it does come down to at least one of these issues. So today, let's talk money!

I can't tell you where the balance will be with finances in your relationship(s), but I will tell you that you must find balance! Finding a way to be mutually satisfied with where your money goes (and how it comes in for that matter) must take a priority in your life. 

I know what it feels like to not agree on finances. If you remember my post earlier about how there is typically a saver and a spender in every relationship? Our house didn't get passed, we are total opposites with money! 

It took my husband and me years to find our balance and to both feel satisfied with our financials. Still, we have hiccups occasionally. For instance, recently I have noticed that the two of us sometimes flip roles. As the saver, I all of the sudden am spending more while my husband spends the month saving money! 

So really, how did we make it work for us? Well since we have a spender and a saver in our house, there had to be compromise between both parties. As the saver, I have to give up money each month to my husband that he can spend as he sees fit. My husband (the spender) in turn knows that each month there will be a dedicated amount put into savings. This works for us!

Again, what works for another couple could look insanely different. For instance, we have friends that keep their finances separate and split all the bills evenly. They have been together as long as we have and love this system! You must take the time to listen to what your spouse needs and help each other meet both needs.

Bottom line, there are two people in the relationship that must feel satisfied with your financial situation.

So, tell me, how do you make your finances work with your significant other?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Our Weekend Recap

Summer feels like it is finally making it's appearance! We have had perfect weather this weekend... well, sorta! Friday and Saturday made it into the 70s, but Sunday we got a snowstorm! Oh yes, we did! One day we were outside in shorts and tank tops, the next in snowsuits!

We had another quiet weekend which is awesome because our schedule is about to get BUSY! We will soon kick off the season with a combo of weddings, birthday parties, moving, and of course all the daily life stuff, like working. That last one isn't as fun to talk about!

But speaking of work, have I mentioned my hubby has to go to Germany for work for a week in May?!?! His job sounds horrid, doesn't it? I would like to go, too but we aren't ready to leave our little for a week and a 15-hour flight doesn't sound very appealing with a (almost) 1-year old either! I am still deciding what I will do, but I am thinking of taking the week off, seeing some girlfriends, taking the little on a fun trip (zoo, maybe) and possibly also seeing my family! 

Okay, all of that stuff has yet to be decided and I will keep you posted! Until then, let's talk weekend recap! 

On Friday, I packed up a little picnic (avocado egg salad sandwiches, chips, and oranges) and we made an impromptu trip for dinner at the park. Impromptu ideas are more my style these days. Believe me, you would be shocked to hear that if you knew me BB (Before Baby). This idea turned out great and Payton loved the food, playing on the playground, and our walk afterwards! An extra bonus was... she slept like an angel that night!

Saturday, we lounged during the morning and then kicked it outside for a bit! Don't you love her paradise we created?!?! 

Sunday brought a snowstorm, so I made brownies and we chillaxed inside where it was warm! The highlight of the day, a snow removal truck knocked down our mailbox! No kidding! 

How was your weekend? Share your weekend recap with me, I would love to hear it!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Are You Here Yet???

Is it just me or has winter this year felt like it has gone on fooorrreeevvveeerrr?!?! Seriously! I needed some fresh air and a warm, sunny day!

Then, we got one beautiful day! Not even kidding, it was 78 here yesterday (which is crazy when our most recent high for months was 60 and gloomy). It was phenomonial to get a little taste of summer again! It only lasted a moment as today is back down into the 50s, but we made the day count and wanted to share some pictures with you:

Can a momma ever take enough pictures? I don't think so!

Our day was filled with a walk, running errands, just playing on our deck, grilling, and visiting with friends. We finished our night off sitting on our patio with our neighbors. 

I hope you had warm weather where you are and enjoyed it to the fullest as well!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Essential Steps to Preparing for Your Move

With our big news that we are moving, I now get the joys of preparing for the actual move! Yeah, me! Uh, not. Moving is my least favorite experience but having moved 4 times in 7 years I have become quite the pro.

We don't actually close on our new house until next month. You may be thinking there is nothing we can do until then. That's far from the truth! There are actually many things I am doing to prepare for this move! Here are some things you can do before the big moving day:

1. Eat!

You read right! When it comes to moving, you do NOT want to move a fully stocked kitchen! The less food you have to move, the faster this process will take. 

In fact, cold items will require special considerations when moving (like wrapped in paper or coolers and should be last item moved out, but first moved in). Non perishables (canned food) may look easy to move but they get heavy very quickly!

With 30 days of planning, the goal is to make as few trips to the grocery store as possible. No need to add more food that may need to be moved. The focus is on using the items currently in our house for meals so there will be less food to move.

2. Plan meals

Since we are already talking food, I also use this month to preplan meals for moving day (and for the days you will be unpacking). Moving is exhausting, takes forever, and leaves you with zero energy to cook. If you have help moving, you will most likely have extra mouths to feed, too so keep that in mind.

Eating at home is almost always cheaper than picking up fast food or eating at a restaurant. During the move, you will want to focus on quick, easy to prepare meals. I will be planning to have frozen pizzas, sandwich supplies, and a few freezer meals (beef & corn enchiladas, for example) ready to go prior to the whirlwind of moving!

3. Declutter

Now is really the time to do some major sorting. Anything you see that you can part with? Those items need to go, pronto! 

Start with the areas full of items you rarely use and you tend to just shove stuff in. You know what I am talking about! For us, those areas would be bedroom closets and a miscellaneous shelf in the guest bedroom. 

When we are just cleaning and sorting, I will generally keep the stuff. Hey, I may need it one day! With packing for a move you really have to ask yourself, "Do I really use this? If not, is it really worth the extra box to pack, load, unload, and unpack." You may find many items not worth coming on your next venture.

I have already cleaned a storage shelf and closet out. I think I packed 3 boxes, but am getting rid of at least 3 boxes, too! Dang, it feels good to lose some baggage!

4. Pack!

So, if you are working on #3, you may as well pack as you sort. This is the best time to pack because you can take your time. When it's moving day, packing is more like a rat race to the finish line, but packing prior is a slow walk through the park.

Again, focus on packing items you don't need daily. This includes storage items, photo albums, crafting items, hunting supplies, tools, jewelry, shoes, camping supplies, off season clothing, and miscellaneous kitchen items. My personal goal is 1 box per day. Within the month prior to moving, that will give me at least 30 boxes all ready to go on moving day. Don't forget to label each box with what's inside and where it goes!

5. Plan the move

No matter what, moving days are crazy, hectic, and exhausting. A little preplanning can go a long ways though! Create a plan of what you think moving day will look like. This will help you to know what to expect.

For us, we will most likely rent a trailer. The first load to move will be furniture. Our next load will then be boxes. We are still deciding if we will enlist in the help of friends and family or hire movers. These decisions, of course, must be finalized before moving day.

What do you do the month before a big move?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Big, Big, BIG News

Just to keep you in suspense, you will have to hold on a bit for the big news...

When my husband and I married, I knew of two things my husband really wanted in life:

1. Kids (More specifically, to be done having kids by 30. He turns 30 this year, so he may not totally get that one the way he wanted.

You know I love to take any opportunity to put up pics of our baby! She thinks she's hilarious (and I tend to agree).

2. To live in the country.

Now, I honestly am a city girl. I love hearing the traffic and people. People watching is a favorite past time. We live in a small town now, so I imagined my child making neighborhood friends and playing hide-and-seek together.  I thought we were getting the best of both worlds. You know, small town (like the country) but in town (like the city).

My husband continued his search for the perfect home in the country though. And then, he found it! At least, we think it's the one.

So, we are under contract for a home in the country. This move will be bittersweet for me as the house we are leaving has become a home filled with so many memories. A happy marriage, starting careers, finding out we were pregnant, DIY projects galore, and bringing our first child home all reside within this house.  Okay, I am a bit attached!

My days are filled with such mixed emotions as I anticipate this new change. We knew our current home wouldn't be forever as we are quickly outgrowing it. I think I just have continued to hold on to the "end of time" idea.

So what does this mean for the blog and becoming debt-free? Well, I honestly don't know for sure yet how that will change our financial situation. If you read here, we were scheduled to be debt-free within 7 years. All we have is our mortgage left to pay off.

We still want to be debt-free, we just may have extended our timeframe a bit. I will post more on that as I become sure of what our change means!

On the plus side, I anticipate having many DIY posts as our new house is quite the fixer upper! It is a foreclosure and we snagged an amazing deal on it, but it definitely needs some work!

Join me for the ride? I look forward to sharing this journey with you!

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