Organizing your Budget

When money is tight (and even when it isn’t), the most important step is tracking where your money is going. You must be diligent that all bills are being paid and you aren’t spending money on wants that has to be used for needs.  Money tracking looks different for everyone. Here are three techniques that can be utilized to help you manage your budget.

 

1. Basic Cash Flow Chart

Cash Flow Template

This is my go-to view for my budget. I can pull it up on my computer and see everything that I need to pay, when I need to pay it, and everything that is coming in.  I can make adjustments easily if an amount changes or I need a new line. The goal is to make the two totals even. Let me explain.

We live on a very tight budget, so you will see only the basics (with the exception of the YMCA) on our expenses. If we had more wiggle room, you would see a line for savings and possibly one for weekly fun money or date night. You can add lines for anything – Daily Coffee, Weekly Lunch Ordering Out, or Kid’s Allowance. If you plan where every penny goes before you earn it, you know that it has a place.  When you decide you want to do something that isn’t in the budget, it makes you look and see where you can take that money from.

For example, suppose I decided I want an Iced Coffee when I am out with a friend. If I get it, I subtract that amount from my grocery budget for the week. That way, my expenses still match my income. Now let’s look at another way you can organize your budget.

 

2. Calender/Monthly Planner

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A calendar can be a great visual to know when money is going out and when it is coming in. This can help you plan grocery shopping and know what weeks may be a little tighter because they have more expenses.  If you Google “Calendar Budget Template” you will get a number of free templates that can help you organize.  This one is from EPrint Calendar.

Prefer something tangible? Get a monthly planner and you have a budget map that can go anywhere with you and is readily available even if your computer is turned off. Organizing this way can encourage sitting down and planning once a month so you are prepared for the next month. [BONUS: If you share your finances with someone else, this helps keep you on the same financial page.]

 

3. Cash System

When my husband and I first started budgeting, we took Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University.” One of the biggest things we walked away with was using cash for all in-person purchases. It really helps makes the budget tangible. You take the cash out of your account and organize it based on where it fits in the budget; Gas, Food, Fun Money, Clothes, etc. When you purchase something that is not in the budget, it is used from another area. This provides an immediate cause & effect.

Going back to the iced coffee example from above, I would spend the money directly from my food budget and it would be immediately gone.  That way I don’t forget when buying food and spend more than I have left in the budget. Mr Ramsey sells a fancy envelope system. We went with a 6-pocket expandable coupon folder from Dollar Tree.

<– Only $1!!!! Talk about staying in budget. 🙂

 

 

No matter how you organize, it is important that you do some organization. Budgeting on the fly results in miscalculations and stress. Money doesn’t have to stress you out.  You can be in control. There is no shame in saying “I’m sorry, that just isn’t in the budget this month.”

Do you have any budget organizing techniques? Please share them in the comments!

DIY All Purpose Cleaner

Boy-O loves to clean the bathroom. Believe me, I know how lucky I am! He started at 4 and hasn’t stopped.  What Mom wouldn’t let their kid step in for this decidedly icky chore? The problem, of course, is the chemicals involved.  Moderation certainly isn’t part of his vocabulary.  He follows the “more is better” philosophy of cleaning.  If I am not worrying over the long-term effects of the chemical exposure, I am fussing over the bleach spots on his clothes.

One of my friends introduced me to this simple homemade cleaner and I can’t help but share it! It cleans toilets, sinks, mirrors, counters, tables, ovens, microwaves, and whatever other non-porous surface you can think of.

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Supplies:

1 TBSP Borax

4 TBSP White Vinegar

1 TSP Liquid Dish Detergent

Water

32 oz Spray Bottle (I reused one from an old cleaner that I washed out)

 

Put some warm water in a pourable container (I used a liquid measuring cup) and dissolve the Borax in it. Stir in the vinegar and liquid detergent. Fill spray bottle halfway with water than add borax mixture.  Fill the rest of the way with water – The less you have to add at the end the better, it can get bubbly. Swish around until combined and VOILA! You are ready for cleaning.

Chicken & Vegetable Soup (The Get Well soup)

So, it happened.  We made it to February before all four of us got sick.  Little One gets sick every other week, thanks to her thumb sucking and daycare. But the rest of us have been pretty good this winter.  Well, today that changed.  Little One and Boy-O both got fevers, coughs, and sniffles – the whole works! Hubby got the cough and I got the sniffles.  Days like this need chicken soup, Pronto!  I love this soup because it is easy to make, nutritious, inexpensive, and warms you right up.

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Excuse the yellow-y picture – my nice white light went out so I used the regular kitchen light and it does take a funky looking picture, doesn’t it?  Look instead at all that good stuff in there, the chunks of chicken and veggies mixing together in a sea of brothiness. Yum!

Chicken & Vegetable Soup

Olive Oil

1 small onion, diced

1 Tbsp minced garlic

2 – 16oz bags frozen mixed veggies

2 – 4oz Chicken breasts, cooked & shredded

6 cups chicken/turkey stock (I make my own stock, but feel free to use store bought or even bullion)

3 bay leaves

2 tsp basil

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1. In soup pot, Saute onion and garlic in oil until onion is translucent

2. Add frozen vegetables and heat until thawed, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in Chicken, Stock, and Spices

4. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes

That is it – 4 steps!  And that 30 minutes simmer is just enough time to whip up a batch of biscuits to go with it, like the cheddar/ranch biscuit pictured above.  It has a secret ingredient, but the recipe still needs some tweaking.  Maybe it will be my next post?

The Fastest, Easiest, Most Versitile, Crustless Quiche you will ever make – seriously!

Fastest, Easiest, Most Versitile, Crustless Quiche you will ever make - seriously!

Are you looking for a quick dinner that will fill you up and use ingredients you already have? Then this is it. My dear friend passed on her crustless quiche recipe to me a couple months ago, and I have made it weekly ever since. AND it is never the same quiche twice!

Start with whatever veggies you have on hand. We have used brussel sprouts, olives, spinach, tomatoes and cooked broccoli leftover from another meal. Chop them up small and put in a greased pan. My photo is in muffin tins, but I also love making them in my 2.5 qt oval CorningWare dish.

Next you choose a cheese (this step is optional, though I never skip it) The original recipe had 2 1/2 cups of cheese, but I usually only use 1/2 cup total. It is really up to your preference. My favorite cheese to put in is feta, but any shredded cheese you have on hand will work (we have even used a taco blend!) Sprinkle the desired amount of cheese over the vegetables.

Last is the eggs. Open up to a dozen eggs into a bowl and whisk it until all yolks are scrambled. If desired, add seasoning. My friend uses Mrs Dash to avoid the salt, I love Tastefully Simple’s Italian Garlic Bread Seasoning. If I am using feta, I tend to skip seasoning all together. Pour eggs over cheese & veggies and use whisk to blend gently.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until middle is no longer runny.

That’s it! Three steps and done! If you make them in muffin tins, I whipped each egg individually so I didn’t have to figure out how much each egg was when pouring in. You can use less eggs in a smaller container or more in a larger container. Regardless of what size, it seems to always take at least 30 minutes to cook.

Quick and Easy 6-Can Chicken Soup

A coworker of mine couldn’t stop gushing about a 6 can soup she discovered on AllRecipes.  After listening to her for three days, I decided to give it a try; and now I want to gush about it!  This is the perfect ‘beat my cold’ sort of soup, it is hearty and takes 5 minutes to make!  I can’t wait to make it again. 🙂

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Ingredients:

* 1 15oz can whole corn, drained

* 2 14.5oz cans chicken broth (I used homemade stock I had in my freezer)

* 1 10oz can chunk chicken, drained ($1.39 at Aldi)

* 1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

* 1 15oz can diced tomatoes

Open all cans and combine in soup pot.  Heat until the warm.  And that’s it!

I made it 7 can by adding a can of sliced mushrooms, along with some green onion I had in the fridge to be used.  The original recipe had a 10oz can of diced tomato with green chiles instead of the larger diced tomatoes, but I had 5 minutes until Aldi closed and didn’t spot the green chile can, so I subbed for the other.  I loved it and bet the zest from the chile would be delicious as well.  My coworker served it with tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, and sour cream.  What ingredients would you use? I would love to hear your ideas for mixing and matching the cans in this soup, so please comment below.

Keep your eyes peeled for my next post, I made my own dishwasher detergent and will soon be sharing the results of the adventure!

Easy Halloween Ghost Decorations

Easy Halloween Ghost Decorations

It may only be October 4th, but my kids are excited about Halloween. My son is gearing up to be Link from the Zelda games (the geek in me is doing a happy dance right with him) and my daughter is ready to be the cutest Snow White there ever was! To keep the excitement rolling, I decided we needed some decorations. So, we made our own! It was easy, fun, and they are adorable. All you need is:

-White Tissue Paper (Yay dollar store!)
-White Yarn
-Black Marker
-Clear Tape
-Scissors

Start by having the kids ball up pieces of tissue paper, one for each ghost you want to make. While they are balling the paper, cut pieces of yarn into varying lengths. Tie a piece of yarn around each ball of tissue paper. Use the scissors to cut a slice into the middle of a full piece of tissue paper. Pull the string through and tape the tissue paper around the ball. Let your children create whatever face they want on each ghost. I used the tape to affix it to the ceiling.

VOILA – Halloween comes home. 🙂

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Have you ever noticed how expensive Laundry Detergent is?  After a well-meaning relative went through a detergent that was supposed to last for 96 loads in one day, it really hit me how much I was spending.  I was buying the big Wegmans detergent for $12.99.  It lasts me two months, so I was buying 6 a year.  That is $77.94!  So, when I heard about laundry detergent that costs $28 for a year, if you do 6 loads a week, I had to try it.

You start by collecting your ingredients:

1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borox – Found in the detergent aisle

1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda – Found in the detergent aisle

1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean – Found in the detergent aisle. (This is optional but I highly recommend adding it)

2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Zote Soap – Found in the detergent aisle (You can also use Fels Naptha, we weren’t able to find the Zote Soap)

1 (4 lb) Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda – Found in the cooking aisle (You could also get four 1 lb box, I couldn’t find the larger 4lb box when I went)

1-2 (55 oz) Bottle of Purex Crystals Fabric Softener- Found in the detergent aisle

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Once you have the ingredients, the only thing you need to prep is the Zote Soap/Fels Naptha.   This needs to be grated.  I tried to use my food processor and found the grating attachment was broken.  I have a hand grater I could have used, but decided to try another option.  The microwave!  I cut it into smaller pieces, put it on a large plate, and microwaved it for 1.5 minutes.  It then looks like this:

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WARNING: It is VERY HOT!  I tried crumbling it right away and burned myself.  I found if I put it in the freezer for about 5 minutes, it was cool and crumbled easily.  It does not crumble well when it is still warm.  Once you have all of the soap crumbled in a bowl, you get to the fun part!

Edit: The microwave method is very stinky. Both my microwave and freezer  stunk for weeks. The next time I made it, a year later, I used the hand grater. While it took for effort, I preferred the texture and the lack of stink. 

Layer your ingredients and mix in a large container.  I had a 30 qt rubbermaid bin and it worked really well.  I did about 1/4 of each ingredients at a time to make sure it mixed well.

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Once all the ingredients are in and mixed, you are done!  This detergents is safe for HE washers.  I filled the OxyClean bin with the detergent so I don’t have to open the large bin every time.  You can also put it in the Purex bottle.

To use, measure 1-2 tbsp into your washer with your laundry.  That is it!  A little bit goes a long way.  It does not sud like traditional detergent, which is actually better for your wash.  I will note, if you keep the measuring lid from your Purex you can fill to the middle line for 2 tbsp.  I, however, managed to purchase the one bottle without a lid. 

We also took a minute to practice shaping letters in the mix.  She may be home sick, but that doesn’t mean she can’t learn! And now our hands are super soft. 🙂

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