5 Ways to Mind Your Money

With school back in session, soccer gearing up, and holidays right around the corner, I like to do some budget planning this time of year.

If I’m being honest here, “like” might be an overstatement. I’m not really a numbers person and spreadsheets make my eyes cross. But I realize setting a budget is important, so I try to think of it this way…

money quote

During this planning mode, I’ve come across some helpful tips and resources. I thought I’d share my top five – in case you’re a little like me and love any help you can get 😉

I realize this might not sound super exciting, so feel free to crack open a bottle of Chardonnay-nay or whip up one of these fancy mimosa mocktails to make this more like a party.


{ONE} Make a Plan


You can order a new Day Designer here.

You might be thinking, “Well, of course I need a plan.” But I didn’t always take this idea to heart – until recently. I decided to sit down with Brandon (my hubs), and and write down all of the things we need, items we’d love and experiences we want to have. Then we assigned costs to each line item and had some serious discussion and brainstorming around how we could make it happen.

This step alone was huge.

We’ve always talked about wanting to send our kids to college, make updates to the house, and travel to Hawaii. Now we have a better sense of what it would take, and we can keep our eyes on the prize.

Drilling down to a monthly view of our finances is also helpful for us. At the beginning of each month we write down our estimated expenses and income. Then we check in at least once a month to see if we’re on track. I tuck receipts into my Day Designer so when it’s time to review they’re all organized in one spot.

PS. If you need a new planner to get you through this upcoming busy season, the Day Designer is really awesome.

{TWO} Check – and Double Check – Rates

credit cards

You know that credit card transfer or store credit card you opened a few months ago because it had 0% interest or gave you extra coupons? If you haven’t already paid those off, and the promotional window is over, you could be paying significant interest – like up to 25%. Not cool, man.

It’s also smart to double check the rates on your home and car loans – since rates are still really low. It might be time to refinance. We just checked on our home loan and realized we could be saving a significant amount of money.

{THREE} Shop Wisely

Have you met my new friend Ebates?! I like using Ebates for my online shopping because you get cash back (like in the form of a check) sent to you just for shopping at places you already shop.

For example, I scored 30% off at Old Navy (because they were having a sale), and also got 6% back in cash because I clicked through to Old Navy from the Ebates website. It’s seriously that simple.

I even used it for booking our hotel in South Dakota and got 10% back. That was some good cash.

If you don’t want to spend tons of money on brand name clothes for you and your family…geez, I sound like an ad for TJ Maxx or something. But seriously, if you want beautiful things like a Coach shoulder bag or a Michael Kors dress, ThredUp is a great place to shop.

They claim to offer up to 90% off the original price. And some of the items are new – with tags. Sold!

Now for groceries…

When it comes to groceries, I’m not a coupon clipper. I like to make shopping as painless as possible. So I started using the Walmart Grocery Pickup.

Y’all. It is so amazing.

I sit and plan my meals, make a quick list and then jump online to order each item. I type what I need in the search bar and up pops my choices. (Once you’ve done this a few times, it saves all of your “favorites”, so it’s even faster to re-order and checkout.) Then I pick a time to go get my things and it’s all fresh and ready to roll.

The biggest benefit – other than saving me gobs of time – is that online shopping keeps me from impulse buying. #moneysaver

The site also shows you “cost per” ounce, roll, etc. so it’s super easy to comparison shop. I love not having to do more math.

{FOUR} Eat at Home

Now that we have our groceries picked up…

These Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps are super easy – and delish.

Yum. Eating at home is not only better for your waistline, but also your wallet. I  know it’s not possible to eat at home for every meal, but it’s good to take a look at your ratio. Does it skew more toward your family kitchen than the family diner down the road?

I did a quick check and was a little surprised by how much we’d “just swing through” places for a meal, snack or drink here and there. It all adds up. In lots of places. (Which is why we had the Whole30 discussion last week.)

Meal planners are a must in my life. Here are a couple I found that are super helpful >>

I like planning my meals a week at at time. And I leave room for eating out on nights like Mondays when everyone has soccer practice (clear across town from each other) and no one is home until 8pm.

{FIVE} Include the Kids


Boy, do they love stuffed animal shopping! <3

This final note is something Brandon and I recently figured out. Now that our kids are tweens and teens, they’re old enough to learn about managing money.

We give them a line item in our budget, which means we set aside a little money for them each month to choose how to use.

They get to experience the true cost of things as they head to the cash register, and they get practice making decisions. Do we go for an ice cream treat after dinner or save up for more stuffed animals?


Something else we’re doing is setting a fun family goal. Do we want to go back to Disney or experience a cruise?

Once we have it figured out, we’ll let the kids help “pay” for it by putting any of their loose change in a basket in the kitchen. {We’ve actually had a change basket above our refrigerator for awhile, so we have a head start!)

This won’t pay for the entire trip, of course, but the kids will feel like they’re helping – and that they’re an important part of the family when it comes to making money decisions.

I hope at least some of these ideas were helpful to hear. What are other ways you and your family stay on track with your finances?



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Friday Wrap: Catching Up

Yes. Hello, glorious weekend. I’m so happy to see you again!

We survived the first week of school, which included soccer practices and tons of projects at work. Thank goodness National Pinot Noir day was squeezed in there.

Brandon and I felt like it was our duty to oblige, and we had a nice evening catching up and sipping on a glass of Pinot from Oregon. We also had fun reminiscing about our trip this past fall. #wannagoback

oregon wineAnd speaking of catching up, I thought I’d share a few updates with you this week.

{ONE} The Olympics

Remember when I mentioned that my niece’s boyfriend was diving in the Olympics? Well, he jammed it out. He advanced all the way to finals. (In fact, he placed third in the preliminaries.)

When it was all said and done, he placed 5th. It was so exciting and we are all so proud of him!


This was a screen shot I took during finals.

Ipsen rankings

This shows his rankings from the prelims. See him there at third? BTW, the diver from China ended up winning gold.

This has been a great Olympics all around. We have so many amazing athletes representing our country. I hope you’ve had a chance to watch at least some of the inspiring races and performances.

{TWO} Front Door Decor

With the Olympics winding down and back-to-school gearing up, I decided to change up the front door. Here’s a little snapshot of what it looks like these days.

front door decoration

You may remember this chalkboard from the girls’ birthday? I thought it would be fun to pull it back out. I mean, it’s a chalkboard! 😉

{THREE} Buddy Bracelets

Last week I talked about surprising the girls with mom/daughter bracelets. Here’s what they look like. So far we’ve worn them every day!


The set only had one bracelet that said “daughter”, but Avery really wanted the one that said “love” anyway. Thank goodness it all worked out. #twinproblems

{FOUR} Fresh Flowers

When we got back from our trip to South Dakota, all of the flowers in our hanging baskets had dried up like raisins. I tried to strategically place them near our sprinklers, but the heat was just too much. I dumped the plants and have been staring at empty coco liners for weeks.


I finally filled them with some heather, which should be perfect this time of year. They can stand the heat and have delicate purple flowers that look so pretty on the back porch. I recommend them if you need to fill in a few spots in your garden.

{FIVE} Food & Fitness

Back in June I started a little health kick, which has been more of a shuffle at times than a true “kick.” As an update, I still like the 7-min workout, and have tossed in a bit of walking and jogging when I can. But I haven’t been as committed as I’d like, so I’ve been toying with the idea of challenging myself in the kitchen – my favorite room in the house.

I’m curious if changing my diet can really make an impact on my energy levels, skin, and love handles (which I don’t love).

Fast forward to this week…


I had one of those serendipitous moments when my friend, Allie, asked me to join her in trying Whole30. Initially, the sound of it scared me, because I have to give up cheese, chocolate and wine. But now that I’ve been reading the book, I’m excited to give this a shot.

We’re in the planning phase now, and are going to officially start on Aug. 29. If you’ve gone through this, please tell me how it went and if you have any tips for me. I have a feeling I’m gonna need some support! 😉

That’s a wrap, my friends. What have you been up to? Give me a shout as you enjoy this awesome weekend.




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Back to School Pep Talk: We Did It

Yesterday was the first day back to school for my 13-yr old and 10-yr old twins, which means I have an 8th grader and two 5th graders in my house. How did we get here so fast?!

back to school

All smiles – so far!! We had to do separate pics because of different start times at school. Also, Evan’s pic was taken after school. Long story, which I’m about to divulge.

For our first morning of school, I had visions of waking up super early (which already makes me laugh), getting dressed, braiding the girls’ hair, and then making a solid breakfast of sausage, eggs and toast before proceeding outside for our traditional family first-day-of-school portrait. Then Brandon and I would both escort our children to their schools and lovingly say our goodbyes and collectively pray for smooth sailing on this awesome first day of school.

Are you laughing with me, yet?

Here’s how it went down…

Brandon gets up super early to help get Evan ready for school. He’s in cross country this year, which means he needs to report to school at 6:30 am. SIX THIRTY. That’s way too early for this mama bird.

When the girls get up, they’re not very hungry. Too early to eat. Protein shakes in the blender it is. They want to do their own hair and don’t feel like braids. Clara leaves it down and “flowy” and Avery, my little sporty spice, throws it up in a pony and calls it good.

Meanwhile, Brandon is back from taking Evan to school. I ask how it went, and he explains Evan didn’t want to take in his school supplies. No one else seemed to be walking in with large shopping bags, so he ditched them in the car and walked into school. When Brandon rolled down the window to see if he at least had a notebook and pencil, Evan shot him a desperate “OMG, please don’t talk to me in front of all of these kids” look. So Brandon rolls on – chuckling and wondering if he’ll EVER get those supplies to school.

I make lunches and nearly forget to toss in a love note. The girls are busy making a game time decision on their outfits. They both change shoes, and Clara swaps out her shirt before jetting out the door – with their dad.

After all of the commotion, I wasn’t ready for work, yet. I give my hugs and kisses at the door, feed our zoo of animals, microwave a frozen breakfast sandwich and shove it in my mouth on my way out the door.


Now that I’m sitting still, scrolling through all of the back-to-school Facebook posts, and texting my close friends to see how they’re holding up, I’m able to reflect on my own morning. It was super hectic, and certainly didn’t go as planned.

But, we did it.

And all five of us – plus a dog, rabbit and fish were all surviving just fine. I decided to look back at last year’s post to remind myself of how the first week of school went that time. It was pretty much the same, but with a teething, potty training puppy. What were we thinking?!

I guess the lesson in all of this (for me) is to keep embracing this messy, imperfect, and lovely life.The journey is far more interesting when I allow myself to laugh, cry and wonder along the way.

I’m also reminding myself of this golden gem…


{source} And boy do I love those monkeys.

And this is especially important for all of us mommas to remember this school year…

Here’s to a great school year – for all of us. #letsdothis




Friday Wrap: Back to School Time

Happy Friday! It’s already back-to-school time in our house. Yikes. We had our orientation/ice cream social on Thursday and now we’re making final preps for the big day on Monday.

you got this

I am totally digging these pencils. I don’t know if they’re more appropriate for the kids or me!!

Speaking of supplies…have you seen the new Walmart commercial with the Whitesnake song? It’s darling!! I’m also pretty positive it’s how my kids feel about getting back in the saddle. They want to own that first day armed with awesome supplies, a stylish outfit and an enviable homemade lunch.

I don’t blame them. In fact, I love that first-day feeling. Part jittery, part pumped. So I’ve done my best to help make this whole back-to-school season go as smooth as I can.

Here are five things up my mom-sleeve.

{And note, these are more for my girls than for my 13-yr. old son. He has assured me that he’s “got this, mom” and I believe him 100%. No fancy pencils needed for that kid.}

{ONE} The Outfit

iron on tees

My girls wanted something special to wear for their first day, and we found a few cute things from a mix of Old Navy, Target, Justice and Academy (for PE days). But when it came to “the outfit” for the first day, they decided to make something! Those two apples didn’t fall far from the tree.

We ended up getting some iron on transfers and made cute tees like the one above. I’ll post the official first-day pic on Monday!

{TWO} Fun Backpacks

backpacks full

We searched high and low for a backpack that had all of the pockets, zippers and space needed, PLUS the option to personalize so I don’t have to figure out how and where to label the darn thing. Pottery Barn Teen for the win. I really love how these turned out.

backpacks personalized

PB may have personalized with their names, but the girls made sure to personalize with charms, as well! 😉

Oh, and we found Converse tennies to match Clara’s pack. (She’s obsessed with Converse.) Bonus!

matching shoes

{THREE} Lunchbox Hacks

There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest, but this is one of my favorite compilations if you want a slew of smart ideas in one simple post.

bananas-secret-writingThere’s everything from writing a secret message on a banana with a tooth pick to the more essential hacks of wrapping a pre-sliced apple with saran wrap so it doesn’t get brown.


Another trick I was super excited to find – and will promptly try this year is a snack-contraption that’s made with a Mason jar and empty fruit cup container.

Mason jar lunch box trick

Pretty slick. And you can find some fun recipe combinations here.

{FOUR} Buddy Bracelets

Even though my girls have officially entered the double-digits, they still get a tad nervous about school. I thought this mother-daughter bracelet idea was so sweet.


It reminded me about the worry stones we did last year. Oh, and the Kissing Hands we would do when they were little. The girls decided these bracelets would be a fun twist this year. So…

I’m going to surprise them with matching bracelets on the first day of school for the three of us to wear. They’ll be a gentle reminder that we have love and support around us – even on the toughest days.

{FIVE} Important Notes

I’m a big fan of communication, which means I’m big on notes. Here are some notes for teachers, kids and even mommas and daddies out there sending their hearts out the door to school. <3

For Your Teachers

Student Information Sheet

Most teachers ask for this kind of info on the first day of school, but just in case, you could send this along to make things easy. I also like to jot down a few things about the kids – like what their favorite activities, books, and subjects are. Basically things I’d like to know if I were a teacher! 🙂

For Your Kids


Lunchbox love notes are awesome, but sometimes a silly joke is just what your day needs. Download this and more lunchbox notes here.

first day of school poem

This would be a great way to get kids talking about how they feel about school – and specifically their first day!

For You!

parent love note

Okay, as a mom, I think this would be THE sweetest thing to receive from a teacher on the first day of school.

holding hands

A little something to remember as we bravely let go a little bit each day to make room for our babies to grow.

My friends, here’s to a successful back-to-school season for everyone. And in the meantime, I have a very important question…

what type of wine




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Friday Wrap: Olympic Proportions

Can I just say…I’m incredibly pumped about the Summer Olympics officially kicking off tonight with the opening ceremonies!


In all seriousness, I do know someone who is competing this year.

Be sure to cheer extra loud at your screens for U.S. Olympic Diver Kristian Ipsen. He’s not only an incredible diver, but the lucky boyfriend of my niece, Lilly. She’s an accomplished diver herself, and I’m super proud of her. <3


This was at the 2012 Olympics in London where Krish landed the bronze in synchronized diving with Troy Dumais.

In addition to watching every flip and turn of diving, I’ll be glued to the tube watching swimming and gymnastics. Those are my absolute favorite sports to watch. (I still remember watching the Magnificent 7.)

In honor of this special occasion, here are some fun facts to know and things to do from now until the closing ceremonies on August 21st.

{ONE} The Meaning of the Rings

olympic rings

Okay, so I knew there were five Olympic rings, but I never really thought about ‘why five’ and ‘why those colors’. Have you? This helpful article explains it all for us. It turns out, it’s not as clear cut as you might expect. Here’s an excerpt…

Baron de Coubertin, a French aristocrat and intellectual, explained his design in 1931:

“A white background, with five interlaced rings in the centre: blue, yellow, black, green and red…represents the five inhabited continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colors are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time.”

Because the rings were originally designed as a logo for the IOC’s 20th anniversary, it’s probable that Coubertin originally thought of the rings as symbols of the five Games already successfully staged.

Now there’s something interesting you can toss into the convo during commercial breaks. 😉

{TWO} Getting All Patriotic 

You know all of those cute 4th of July decorations? Well, thank goodness I didn’t put them away. They’ll be perfect for some USA-themed watch parties. (Three cheers for a little procrastination.) Did anyone else keep their decorations up, too?!

red, white and blue mason jars

These are painted Mason jars – handcrafted by my sweet twins!

Oh, and I’m sure I’ll be whipping up some of these lovelies below at some point, which didn’t quite happen on the 4th. Oops! Good thing we have another excuse to pull out the star-shaped cookie cutter.

star shaped hand pies

High Fives for the Berry Hand Pies!

{THREE} Sampling Some Brazilian Flavor

Speaking of food AND since the Olympics are in Rio this go around, I wanted to learn about Brazilian culture and try some authentic recipes. Here are a few that are both easy and delicious. That’s worth a gold medal in my recipe book!

The first one up is a Classic Caipirinha. It’s made with Brazilian rum, limes and sugar! (You had me at rum.) Get the full recipe here.


PS. The recipe calls for cachaca, which is a type of rum, but it’s not like your typical Bacardi. You’ll want to find the real deal if you can.

Now for some sweets!

This is little number below is called Creamy Brazilian Cornmeal Cake and it’s served at breakfast or even after a meal – like a dessert, I guess. You can find this recipe (and more) on this blog!


Bonus points if you serve up the cake (or anything for that matter) on a ‘gold medal’ plate like this >

Gold Medal Plate

This gold paper plate just has a ribbon glued to the back. How stinkin’ clever.

{FOUR} Dressing the Part

Once the decorations and food are covered, all that’s left is dressing up with some team spirit. Face painting optional.

I decided to make some shirts for my girls with USA-themed iron-ons and soft, white tees. I hope I can stick the landing on these. I’ve had some iron mishaps in my past. #stilltrying

USA iron-on applique

I found these at Hobby Lobby!

{FIVE} Cheering & Playing Along

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think THE best part of the opening ceremonies is the Parade of Nations. I love seeing all of the athletes marching into the stadium with pride and honor. I get chills every time.

Flag bearer Mariel Zagunis of the U.S. holds the national flag as she leads the contingent in the athletes parade during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium July 27, 2012. REUTERS/Jorge Silva (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT OLYMPICS)

This shows US athlete Mariel Zagunis holding the national flag during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

If you get as excited as I do, and you want to follow along with each of the participating countries this year, check out this list. You can even see the name of each country’s flag bearer and what sport they’re competing in.

Then…during all of the commercial breaks, you can create your own version of the Games!

Here’s a great post with some funny ideas. I think Tennis Table Toppling might be my favorite idea. And for the medals >>


My kind of prizes for sure.

That’s it for now, my friends. How are you celebrating the Olympics this year? I hope it’s full of cheers. Go USA!!



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