Six Steps To Building A Better Budget


Six Steps To Building A Better Budget

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With the daily-added expenses an expanding family brings, it is important to establish a budget that is easy to follow and actually saves time and money.

Use the six steps to build a family budget that actually works:

1. Create A Budget
The first step to living on a budget is to create a budget. Begin by tracking your family’s income and typical expenses, allowing you to see where your money actually goes each month, and how much more you are spending than you actually need to be spending.

Create a frugal budget, and make it a priority not to stray from the budget. After living without a budget, the first few months of budget-living will be filled with trying to break the habits that tempt you to spend money.

2. Discounts
Check out your monthly bills and see if there is any way you can get a discount. Look into refinancing your home for a smaller monthly mortgage, switch out electricity-expending utilities for eco-friendly products, and look into combining your Internet and cable or satellite bill. Sites like http://www.direct2tv.com/directv-internet.html provide package deals for combining your Internet and TV, which can easily save money in your budget.

3. Coupon Shop
When it comes to grocery shopping, try to purchase items that are on sale or have a coupon available, especially if they are not essential items. Avoid high-priced name brand items and look for store brand products. The quality is usually the same, and the price is usually significantly lower.

Additionally, make a weekly food schedule and stick with it. This way you spend money only on what you eat, do not waste money on throwing out spoiled food, and do not spend more money on extra items when making an impromptu grocery run.

4. Set Financial Goals
Whether you are struggling financially or just looking to be smarter about your money, setting financial goals can help you to manage your money properly. From saving money for retirement, for your children’s college funds, or saving for a home, protecting your family’s monetary future begins with setting and meeting your financial goals.

Meet with a financial advisor and learn how to meet your financial goals.

5. Get Out Of Debt
One of the biggest budget setbacks can be debt. From credit debt to lingering student loans, debt can be overwhelming. Look to debt management plans that teach you how to quickly eliminate your debt in order to be rid of it as soon as possible.

6. Plan For Emergencies
Financial crisis can financially strain even the wealthiest of families. While there is no way to determine if you will have a financial crisis or how much to set aside, even a couple of thousand set aside in savings account can add security when an unexpected expense arises. Moreover, keeping the money in a savings account allows the money to accrue interest over time, which means more money in your pocket.

Sticking with a budget takes discipline, but the end result of financial security is well worth the hassle.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are helping to support my blog. Thank you.

Snow Day Fun: How to Make Snow Ice Cream

how to make snow ice cream

We were hit with a giant pile of fluffy white snow over the weekend. I think it measured close to 10 inches when it was all done. For some of you, wherever you live, this may be the norm. But where we live, this only happens maybe every 5 or 6 years. It practically shuts down the town. The kids just LOVE it! Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 2.52.20 PM As you can see, the street was coated.  It’s sooo pretty, but it seems like the novelty wears off after a day or two, once the kids are all played out. At least it did at our house. Once cabin fever sets in you really have to get creative. So I started Googling fun things you can do in the snow, other than play in it. I stumbled on a page that shows how to make snow ice cream. I thought it sounded interesting, so I gave it a shot. And in case you’re wondering. Using this recipe, we didn’t actually eat the snow. There are feral cats, racoons, squirrels, etc. in the neighborhood, so I just couldn’t do it, but this recipe is still fun and delicious. Snow Ice Cream (recipe adapted from here) Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 2.47.55 PM First, fill a BIG bowl with snow or crushed ice and add about 6 tablespoons of salt to the snow or ice. Mix for 5 minutes. Next, grab a ziplock bag and mix the following ingredients in the bag. • 1/2 Cup Half & Half (or milk) • 1 Tablespoon Sugar • 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract Place in the bowl with the snow and salt Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 2.42.25 PM Let it sit for five to eight minutes. The mixture should freeze into ice cream. Feel the consistency of the ice cream mixture through the bowl. When it feels frozen enough to eat, remove the inner bag and rinse it with water. Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 2.43.23 PM You can now eat the ice cream straight from the bag or eat from a bowl. It’s a little chunkier than any ice cream I have ever had, but it’s sweet and it tasted good. Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 2.43.43 PM My daughter liked it. She gave it a thumbs up and emptied the bowl. I say it’s a winner.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are helping to support my blog. Thank you.

Six Ways to Make your Clothes Last Longer


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are helping to support my blog. Thank you.

Garden Treasure Jar Tutorial

Garden Treasure Jar Tutorial

While browsing through gardening ideas on Pinterest one day, I found this adorable post on making your own garden treasure jars from the Empress of Dirt. “That looks easy enough, I can do that” I thought to myself. I had mason jars, lids (I do believe any used jar with a lid will work though) and dowels on hand. All I was missing were the flat marbles and some clear silicone sealant. So off I went to Lowe’s to get the sealant and the Dollar Tree for the marbles. Once I got back I was ready to do some crafting. My kids were eager to help too.

Garden Treasure Jar Tutorial

Garden Treasure Jar Tutorial

My BIG mistake: I didn’t read the Empress’ post well enough. She specifically says to get the GE II Silicone Sealant, clear, waterproof. I didn’t do that. I got a (cheaper) brand called Loctite, but hey, it was clear, so there was that.

Garden Treasure Jar Tutorial

What happened next could have easily turned this experiment into a Pinterest fail. I liberally slathered the sealant on the jar, just like in the picture on the other post. Then we added marbles one by one. This is where the wrong sealant played a huge factor. The marbles were not sticking well at all. They were sliding off and falling off, one by one. It looked disastrous. I was trying to catch them and put them back on, meanwhile, another would fall off, then another. Plop, drop, plop went the marbles. Not to mention the sealant was getting on my fingers and the marbles and my kids fingers. Ack! I wasn’t even thinking of taking a picture of this part, but you can imagine the awful mess. I didn’t give up though. I patiently kept re-adding them on, until the jar was full of marbles and set it aside. This did not stop the marbles from plopping off. I just stuck them back on as needed and proceeded to try my second jar.

Garden Treasure Jar Tutorial

This time, I decided to place a droplet of the sealant on the marble instead of slathering it on the jar. WRONG! This was worse than the first experiment. The marbles slid down the jar immediately. So I did another sticky, marble juggling act to get them all on and set it aside. Needless to say I had to keep checking on it often to reposition the marbles. Luckily, it took a full day to dry, so I was able to kind of move everything into position in the end. Once they were dry, I washed the sealant goo that was left on the marbles from my sticky fingers to give it a nice appearance. I now think that if I had slathered the jar with the sealant and left it alone for a couple of hours, then added the marbles, that might have worked better. I cannot be sure though, since I haven’t tried it.

Garden Treasure Jar Tutorial

Once the jars were dry, I took the lids and the dowels and drilled holes in them. I connected the lids to the dowels with a screw. Then I placed the dowels in the garden where I wanted them (I had to use a hammer to really get it in the dirt) and add the glass jars on to the top. Don’t forget to add some treasure to yours first.

Garden Treasure Jar Tutorial

That’s it. Woo hoo! I now have home made garden art. My kids have really loved having these in the garden too. They love checking them for goodies. So what do you think? Did I nail it or fail it? Will you be trying this craft? Or have you done it already? Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about it.

If you want to make these yourself, I highly recommend following the Empress of Dirt’s tutorial.


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are helping to support my blog. Thank you.

Home Made Weed Killer Recipe

Home Made Weed Killer Recipe

If you’re battling weeds in the garden like I am, I wanted to share an alternative to Round Up for getting rid of those pesky growths.

My big fat greek wedding

Disclaimer: Somewhere along the line, I turned into this guy. Remember the guy from My Big Fat Greek Wedding who uses Windex for everything? Well, that’s me, except my answer to all of my problems is vinegar and Dawn soap.  If you need proof of this, see this post and this one and er, this one. There’s more, but you get it I’m sure…

I knew there had to be a way to kill weeds other than spraying dangerous & expensive chemicals on them, and after doing just a small amount of pinning research, I found a good solution.

Home Made Weed Killer Recipe

Mix in a spray bottle:
4 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup salt
2 teaspoons dish detergent

Spray it on the root area of the plants you want to disappear. Take care that you don’t spray it on the plants that you want to keep. It WILL kill grass too, so be careful if you’re spraying near your lawn.  This mixture works best on a hot day. Spray it early and let the sun cook it all day long.

Here is a before and after shot of what it did in my yard. The before pic was from yesterday and the after was from this morning.

Before:

Home Made Weed Killer Recipe before

After:Home Made Weed Killer Recipe after


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are helping to support my blog. Thank you.

Home Remedy for Bee Sting Pain

Home Remedy for Bee Sting Pain

I love summer! Summertime brings fun in the sun, gardening, running in the sprinkler and sometimes bee stings (not my favorite part). One of the best ways I have found to take the “sting” out of the situation is to apply a paste made of baking soda and water to the affected area. Please note that I am talking about your average, non-allergic person. If you are allergic, seek medical attention.

Home Remedy for Bee Sting Pain

Simply take a teaspoon of baking soda and put in a few drops of water. Stir it up to make a thick paste and slather it on the sting, after removing the stinger of course. This really helps alleviate the throbbing. Hugs will also help and maybe some ice cream, but that’s after the fact.

Have you found something else that works for bee stings? Please share in the comments below.



Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are helping to support my blog. Thank you.

DIY Heavy Duty Mop Solution

Mop Solution

If you have a need for heavy duty mop solution, save yourself time and money by using this simple recipe with items you most likely have on hand. Easy peasy. It smells great too. (Not recommended for waxed floors)

Heavy Duty Mop Solution

1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
1/4 cup baking soda
2 gallons tap water, very warm

Directions:

  • Place all the ingredients into a bucket and mix well until sudsy. You really want to make sure you dissolve the baking soda in the water so it doesn’t leave a cakey film on your floor. Mop the area with the solution. Enjoy your fresh smelling, clean floor!

Do you have a favorite homemade floor solution? Please let us know in the comments section below.

If you like this post, be sure to check out my other frugal tips.


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are helping to support my blog. Thank you.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

Clean your kitchen the easy way
Spring is here. Time to clean! As part of our Northwest Bloggers Spring Cleaning Bash, I am attacking my long neglected kitchen. When we bought our house a couple of years ago, we were fortunate that it came with things like a stove and a dishwasher. What was unfortunate was that they were pretty dirty. Cleaning up someone else’s old leftover kitchen goo is not a task one looks forward to, which is probably why I put it off for so long. I also hate cleaning with strong chemicals like oven cleaners, which is another reason why it didn’t get done. Let me rephrase that, I did sorta, kinda clean it, but a deep clean never took place. When this Northwest Bloggers Spring Cleaning Bash came along, I knew what needed to be done. I must clean my kitchen using DIY Cleaning Solutions . So off I went to Pinterest to learn everything I needed to know about cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, lemon and other things…

The Sink

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

The first and least threatening of the tasks in my kitchen was the sink. Everyone loves to have a nice, clean, shiny sink. Right? Mine was pretty dull looking and had some rust stains. After looking through a few pins on Pinterest, it looked as though baking soda, vinegar, lemon and elbow grease were the way to go. I was inspired by this post with the method I was going to try.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

Well, if your sink is already pretty clean to begin with I would agree that these items will work, but I had some old rust stains on mine like the one pictured above. I tried the baking soda and vinegar first, but the rust wouldn’t come off. It was time to call in the big guns.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

So yes, I almost immediately turned from natural products and went for the Bar Keepers Friend. What can I say, it works! And, it doesn’t cost a whole lot for a bottle at Lowe’s. It was less than $3, if I remember right.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

As you can see, it took the rust right off. No problem. Now I can use baking soda, vinegar and lemon from here on out to keep it nice and shiny.

Thrifty tip: Make your own Drano to cut the grease and keep your pipes flowing smoothly. I do this once a month.

The Dishwasher

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

It’s kind of ironic that dishwashers, that clean your dishes get dirty, but they do. Anytime you have water going through something repeatedly you risk the chance of getting mold, like in your shower. Dishwashers are prime targets for attracting mildew and mold. You also want to keep them clean so they will run properly.

I know what you’re thinking right now. The before and after pictures don’t look much different. Don’t let the image fool you, there is a huge difference between these two pictures. I think the bottom rack in the before picture is hiding alot of the problem area. I was inspired by this post to clean the dishwasher and I followed her instructions as closely as possible. Here are the steps to follow:

  •  The dishwasher should be totally empty at this point. Take out the bottom rack and feel around the bottom for bits of plastic, or other things that may be lurking. Wear gloves as there might be glass or other sharp objects down there. If your filter comes out, you can take it out and check it to see if it needs cleaned. Mine wouldn’t come out, or at least I couldn’t figure out how to get it out. Put the bottom rack back in when you are done.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

  • Fill a dishwasher safe cup with white vinegar and put it in the top rack. Run the dishwasher through a full cycle.
  • Sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom and run again on the short cycle on the hottest setting. If you have mildew problems, you can add 1/2 cup – 1 cup of bleach to the bottom. That’s what I did. NOTE: DO NOT USE BLEACH IN YOUR DISHWASHER IF YOU HAVE A STAINLESS STEEL INTERIOR).
  • You may be done at this point, if it looks clean, but if you have remaining gunk after both cycles have ended, you can scrub the problem areas with a scrubber or an old toothbrush. It should come right off. Run a rinse cycle and you should be good to go.

Thrifty tip: Fill your Rinse Aid holder with white vinegar. It works better than actual rinse aid, in my opinion and it’s cheaper too.

The Oven

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

While I was immensely grateful that our house came with a stove, I was afraid to clean what was lurking inside. I don’t know what year it was purchased, but it had caked on, baked on crust that I have not been in the mood to deal with. The pictures don’t quite do it justice. It was gnarly!  I did not want to use oven cleaner, so I looked for another way. I was inspired by this post to try baking soda and some other items to make a concoction that was supposed to cut through the nasty stuff with ease.

But before I started on that, I took out the oven racks, placed them in a garbage bag and poured about 1/2 cup of ammonia in it. I tied it up and took it outside to brew overnight. (Plan to use the stove top burners for dinner or get takeout if you do this.) Ammonia does stink like pee, so just be warned. And never, ever, ever mix ammonia and bleach together! The ammonia doesn’t need to soak the racks, but it somehow works to de-junk the racks without touching them. It must be the smell. Blah. I took them out the next day and washed them in the tub. I held my breath and used a scrubby sponge on it and the gunk just fell  right off.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

Next came the inside of the oven. For this you will want to mix up  5 T baking soda, 5 drops of Dawn and 4 T vinegar. Then mix into a paste. The vinegar will make it foam a little. Spread all around the inside of your oven and on the door. Then prepare to scrub your arms off. You can let it sit for a few minutes, but really, I don’t think this does a whole lot. The power is in the scrubbing. I had to use this mixture twice over and probably could have done another round, but eh. My arms and fingers were hurting after two times.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

You can use half a lemon with a few drops of Dawn soap on it for some extra cleaning power.

After you’ve scrubbed it to the best of your ability, it’s time to clean up. Wipe up all the junk with a cloth and water. I kept a water bucket nearby so I could easily rinse it. The baking soda may leave some white streaks when it dries, but just go over it with a wet cloth and it should go away.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

As you can see, this mixture did work pretty well. There was still a bit of baked on stuff, but it’s nothing I can’t live with. The gunk you see on the glass is actually on the inside. Some of you might be able to use this trick to get the inside of the glass clean, but my stove isn’t made that way.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

All in all, I was pretty happy with this method. The only harsh smell was the ammonia and that was for a very miniscule amount of time. I do believe I will keep doing it this way for the rest of my life.

The Oven Vent Filter and Stove Hood

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

The underside of the stove hood is some place you don’t look at very often and that’s probably good because it’s one of the grossest places. All the grease from the stove top gets sucked up into a little fan and it just kind of coats the area. I had never attempted to clean the oven vent filter because I didn’t know how easy it was, until I saw this post. This method is so simple and effective, I dare say it will change your life. No more greasy oven vent filters for you.

This is the most exciting to me of everything I cleaned because it was the easiest thing in the world. There was no effort required on my part and that makes me happy. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Get the biggest pot you have and fill it with water. Turn it up to high heat and bring it to a boil.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

  • Once the water is boiling, slowly pour in 1/2 cup of baking soda. It will make the water fizz, so pour very slowly.
  • Take your vent filter and put as much of it as you can in the boiling water. Let it boil for a few minutes.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

  • Next, use some sort of tongs to lift the filter out to turn it to the other side. The filter will be hot, so make sure you don’t touch it. At this point, you should be amazed by the half clean, half dirty filter.
  • After a few more minutes of boiling, you should be set to take out the filter. You can rinse it under the sink for another minute until the water runs clear.
  • Stand the filter up somewhere while it dries.
  • Once you’re done with that, the underside of your stove hood should have alot of condensation built up from the boiling water. Wipe this down with a rag until it’s clean. It should all just wipe right off.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

Ok, so this is totally gross, but this was the water that was left in the pot after I washed the filter. If your water looks like this, you will want to dump it outside, not down the sink. The pot should come clean with Dawn soap and water.

The Stove Top

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

Next came the top of the stove. The biggest problem I was facing here were the metal rings. Ugh.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

I decided to go the ammonia route again, since it worked so well with the oven racks. This time I just used a large ziploc (one ring per bag) and poured a bit of ammonia in. Once they were sealed they went outside overnight.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

Next, I wiped down the whole top of the stove and then lifted up the hood and cleaned under the burner area. It’s kind of like working on a car, huh? Just use the same baking soda concoction you used inside the oven. It’s the same type of surface.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

Then I decided to get the top of the stove clean, the knobs and such. I had never taken them off before and it was obvious that no one probably ever had. It was all so greasy. At this point, I had used up two boxes of baking soda from the previous tasks, so I was fresh out. I didn’t want to run to the store, so I used plain ol’ white vinegar. I rubbed it on each knob and the length of the stove where the knobs were and lo and behold the grease came off. It was actually pretty sparkly when I was done.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

The next day, when I pulled out the rings and scrubbed them slightly, they came pretty clean. They probably could have sat longer to get cleaner, but I wanted to cook with the stove top. I decided they were clean enough since the part of the ring that is exposed looks new.

Kitchen DIY Cleaning Solutions

Here is the finished stove in all of it’s glory. It was so clean I could see my reflection. Yeah!

I did a bit more than I could show you in this post, seeing as how it’s already so long, but that should be enough to get you started on a week long kitchen cleaning rampage. Don’t forget to check out the other posts in the NW Bloggers Spring Cleaning Bash. These will help motivate you to get cleaning in other areas of your house too. Happy cleaning!


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on these links, you are helping to support my blog. Thank you.