Thursday, April 29, 2010

Show Us Your Life - Money Saving Tips

Welcome to Show Us Your Life - Money Saving Tips.
Thanks for stopping by from Kelly's blog! If you are new, welcome to my humble home blog. I love making new friends. :)

Let me begin by saying we live on a seriously tight budget. This may be revealing too much, but I am all for keeping it real... and honestly, I'd like to look back one day and realize how different things really are for us. Our joint income in 2009 barely reached into 5 digits. Yes, last year we barely made over $10,000 between the two of us. I can honestly say this past year has made us stronger spiritually as a couple and individually and we only made it by through the grace of God. Looking back it is amazing and humbling to see how He has provided. In the fall Trevor and I were both in school. When time came up to register for spring, he opted out to work as a security guard full time. Since then, our income has changed some but not significantly. Despite the difference, we are still using the tighter budget and finally able to save some money. I've learned how to save money and budget and I am still learning, growing and changing. I actually take it as a fun challenge now. ;)

Ways we learned to save money:
1. Set a budget and stick too it. Seriously, it takes a while to get used to it but once you do it will almost be second nature. We researched what percentage of your income each area of your budget should be. Some things had to be adjusted for us... Housing is only supposed to be 20-30% of your income. Ours is a whopping 56.7%... ouch!
Funny story. Tuesday, T and I went to the grocery store before he had to go to work. The young couple in front of us spent $189 and some change on groceries. As the husband was swiping the card, the wife said, "I hope this is enough to last us through the week." She was honestly worried that almost $200 worth of food wasn't going to be enough to feed them for a week? We aren't talking steaks here. It was just a lot of convenience foods and snacks. My grocery budget includes our eating out. On a good week, we have $60 to spend. Yes, $60 on eating out and groceries for 2 people for one week. I am hoping to gradually bring this amount even lower. Trevor turned to me after they left and said, "Baby, I may tease you about the whole budgeting thing, but I want you to know I appreciate that you know how to feed me and keep money in the bank." THAT made all of the effort completely worth it.

3. Cutting back on "spending money". T and I both get $20 a week spending money. This is to cover any snacks/food(at work or, for me, at school) or saving for special things. T likes to spend his spending money on fishing/sports/cars. I like to spend mine on books. ;)

2. Envelope system - this might not work for everyone but it definitely works for us. The only money that stays in our bank account are tithe, housing, and any bills that we pay online or are automatically taken out. There are several main areas that we set aside first, priority areas(tithe, housing, utilities, etc). After that we divide the remainder of the money over the lower priority envelopes. We have always tried to save money but it never really seemed to work before the envelope system. The "swipe it and go" theory IS NOT how I want to live my life.

3. Couponing - for just an hour or so a week you can save big time. Couponing blogs are some of my favorite. It takes more time and effort when you are first getting started but it is definitely worth it. If I can invest 1-2 hours of my time and save more than $20, I consider my time well spent. If I can save $60-100, I consider my time exceptionally well spent. ;) Once my time isn't as consumed with school(oh Monday, please hurry), I plan to spend even more time couponing. For those who have never used a coupon or think it is a waste of time or money, here is something to think about... If you buy 1 newspaper a week at Walmart for $0.99 and only use 1 $1 coupon, then it has paid for itself. Even on slow weeks, it pays for itself. Sounds good to me. ;)

4. Eat at home. Sounds simply, right? Eating out makes a HUGE dent in people's budget.

5. Eat from your pantry/menu planning - During January I took part in the Eat from the Pantry Challenge. I set a budget for $100 on groceries and only spent $85.65. I truly stretched myself. This was hard but so rewarding. After all, the money we saved helped pay for a trip to Disney World. ;o) I plan to try it again in May. Not sure how well it will go but I definitely want to empty out my pantry and freezer before we move.
Want to know more about what I learned from the EFTPC? Check out my first post, last post and all the posts in between. Menu planning goes a long way in saving money. After shopping sales and coupons, I usually only have to buy a few items, if any, to make several meals. This week I bought less than 20 items to make almost 2 weeks worth of meals because of what I already had stockpiled(thank you, coupons!).

6. Pay Cash if possible - we want to pay cash for as much as possible. Unfortunately, we have learned that this is not always a good thing. Unestablished credit is worse than no credit. Apparently our utilities and such aren't enough.
*Please correct me if this is wrong, I am simply going on what I have learned from the people at our bank as well as friends and family members. I welcome any advise or opinions in the matter. I am credit clueless but don't wish to remain so.*We were advised by many people, whom we completely trust, and all of them told us basically the same thing. It boiled down to this: loans, credit cards, etc are not reported on your credit until after 6 months. Also,it apparently looks best on your credit report if you pay only the minimum for the first 6 months and then pay it off in full. If you pay it off in full from the get go it doesn't even make a difference, good or bad, on your credit.
We just got our first credit card and are only paying the minimum for the first 6 months. After that we will not use it at all if we cannot pay it off completely at the end of the month. Also, we plan to make minimum payments on students loans and then start paying as much extra each month as possible. Oh goodness, don't get me started on the interest that accumulates!

7. Adding this a little late. I can't believe I forgot it! Swagbucks. Basically it is a search enjoy, with the same results as google but you when points for your searches. I love cashing in my points for gift cards and have raved about it before. ;)
I am hoping that with graduating and, hopefully, finding a full-time job we will be able to live a little more comfortable. But now matter what, I want to hold on to what I learned, that resting in God's arms is much more comfortable/comforting than any financial status or lifestyle could ever hope to provide.
What are some of your money saving tips?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Snail Mail

I have a list of 130 architectural and engineering firms in Orlando, FL that I am sending my resume to. I have all of the labels printed out, all the resumes printed out and today I will finish printing out the cover letters. My goal is to have the envelopes stuffed and ready to drop off at the post office no later than tomorrow at lunch.

I will then start the list of firms in Dallas, TX and New Orleans, LA. These are some of the growing areas in architecture. Let's be honest, there isn't much going on in Mississippi. Simple example? On, there are 618 drafting jobs listed for Texas and 18 for Mississippi. Big difference! Orlando is probably our first choice. We loved living down there when we worked at Disney and we have many friends who still live down there. New Orleans would be nice because we wouldn't be too far from either of our families. Trevor has never lived in Dallas but that is where I grew up. I consider it my home as much, if not more, than Mississippi. I loved growing up in the DFW area.

It is a big effort and I hate having to pay the cash up front for all the mailing supplies and postage, but it seems like the best option right now. If I only hear back from 1 firm, I suppose it will be worth it.

Just be praying for patience as we go through the waiting process. I want to fully rest in the fact that God has a plan and I have done all that I can on my part.

As for graduation, it is May 13th. I don't have any real significant plans. Just enjoying the moment and spending time with friends and family. Today is our graduates luncheon with our department. I am sincerely going to miss some of the people that I have been with for the past year and a half. But there are some characters that I can do without. ;) I am done with my AutoCAD Seminar in Revit and Structural Design. I should be done with my Architectural Design 2 class before I leave for lunch. That just leave Elementary Surveying. I'm so close to being finished, I can almost taste it!

Friday, April 23, 2010

So Long, Insecurity

I am really excited to be going to see the live simulcast tomorrow. I almost didn't buy my ticket because I wanted to find someone to go with... You know. Because I didn't want to be sitting by myself in a room full of women.

But then I let the title, So Long, Insecurity, sink in... and I figured my insecurity in sitting myself definitely should not stop me from going. Genius, I know. It's something I need to hear for sure.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Share Your Chicken and Veggie Recipes

Kerri asked for recipes on her blog. I decided to pick some of our favorite, easy recipes. Kerri mentioned that she liked chicken and veggies, so the recipes I picked revolved around that theme.I am using MckLinky for the first time and hopefully I won't be left looking lonely and pitiful. ;) Link up and share some of your favorite chicken and/or veggie recipes!

Baked Chicken
1 or 2 chicken breasts
Barbeque Sause or Italian Dressing

This recipe works well with either "marinades". It all depends on what you are in the mood for.
Preheat the oven to 450, cover chicken with sauce of choice(optional: add water for the BBQ), cover with aluminum foil and bake until chicken is cooked(approx. 30-40 minutes).

SO easy!

Roasted root veggies

3 large carrots, cut on the bias
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut on the bias
1/4 cup asparagus (about 4 stalks)
1 small onion
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped chives
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 5 minutes.
6. On a baking sheet, toss all the vegetables in the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add to the oven and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring midway through baking. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Easy, delicious and healthy! Since I found this recipe a couple of weeks ago, I have eaten this 2-3 times a week. And now I think I want this for dinner. Ha

Chicken Rice Casserole

1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Chicken Noodle soup
3/4 cup rice, long grain - raw
4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tbsp Italian Dressing
Dash of salt
Dash of black pepper

Combine the two soups in a medium casserole dish. Add 1/4 cup water and the rice. Blend well. Place chicken on top of rice mixture. Pour Italian dressing over chicken. Salt and pepper lightly. Cover and back in a 350 degree over for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Uncover and brown 15 minutes more.
This is a large recipe but it makes for GREAT leftovers. One of the few leftovers that I can actually get T to eat. Ha

Chicken Stir Fry 
2 Boneless Skinless Chicken breasts
 Teryaki Sauce to taste
 1-2 cups rice
Olive Oil

Choose whatever veggies you would like and cut them into small, bite sized pieces.  
 Cut chicken into small pieces. Cook in oil. Remove chicken. 
Add veggies and cook. 
Add cooked chicken and sauce and continue cooking. 
Serve with prepared rice. 

I have started using brown rice whenever we have rice. I like the Minute Rice Ready to Serve bowls and I am going to try the boil in a bag brown rice. For SUPER QUICK AND EASY Stir-Fry for 1 person, try I ReadyServe bowl of rice, 1 box Green Giant Immunity Veggies and Low Sodium Teryaki Sauce to taste. Yum!

Chicken Bake
1-2 Boneless Skinless chicken breasts
2 potatoes - peeled and sliced
4-5 carrots peeled and cut
green beans - 1 can
italian dressing - low fat, 1/4 bottle

Spread chicken in the bottom of a baking dish.  Put potatoes, carrots, and green beans on top of steak.  Pour italian dressing over the top of the vegetables.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour, until potatoes and carrots are done.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Scents of Walt Disney World

What are your favorite scents from Disney World?

I follow WDW Daily News on twitter and saw that they had updated a post on WDW Central that immediately caught my attention: Top 5: Scents of Disney World.
I have always been one to associate scents with good memories and it always seems to make them more distinct. One smell can send you through a thousand memories. I love it!
These are the Top 5 that they listed on their post. 

5. Spaceship Earth (Burning Rome): A great smell that is distinctly “Disney”. A classic that most can recognize – it had to make this list!

4. Soarin’ (Orange and Pine): Soarin’ is one of my favorite rides ever. And anytime I’m in the “real world” and get a whiff of orange or pine scented air freshner or spray, it instantly takes me to Soarin’.

3. Monorail (Air Conditioner): You know the smell. You are waiting in line for the monorail in the hot Florida heat. The monorail finally pulls up and you enter the wonderful ice-cold monorail car that has that air conditioner-ish smell.

2. Hotel Rooms (Clean scent): You’ve walked up stairs or taken the elevator with luggage. Hunt your room down, and when you find it, you walk in to that clean smelling (most of the time) room that welcomes you to relax and turn on the TV to watch Stacy.

1. Water Rides (Chlorine/Water smell): Any ride that has water: Living with the Land, it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean and the like. Walking into the building that houses the ride, you get closer and closer to the actual attraction and the smell of chlorine in the water lets you know you are there.

Some others that stand out to me...
- Turkey legs
- Smoke from Stitch's Great Escape(a not so pleasant smell, but definitely unique and distinct)
- Stink Bug smell from It's Tough to be a Bug(yet another not so pleasant smell).
- Rock N Roller Coaster - I don't know what the smell is or how to define it... but it has a smell. Yeah. I'm sticking to that.
- Carousel of Progress - Yes, it smells old and musty but I love it anyway. It's like you can smell the history as you go through the different time periods.
- Apple Pie in Philharmagic - Oh how I love me some Philharmagic.
- The Christmas store smells(Downtown Disney and MK) - It's a deliciously happy cinnamon scent.
- A Mix of the scents from the Main Street Bakery and the Ice Cream Shoppe. Between the sweets at the bakery and the waffle cones baking - yum!
- Casey's Corner - not sure if the "lovely" scent is the hotdogs or what. But you can definitely smell it on a hot summer day from a mile away. Sadly, it might make you lose your appetite. ;)
- The Grand Floridian - If elegance has a smell, the Grand Floridian has captured it.
- Yak and Yeti at Animal Kingdom - on a hot summer day when everyone everything smells yucky, their food smells so delectable and over powers most of the negative smells.
- Everest - The smell in the queue, most likely from the artifacts and items themselves, and the ride. It's a unique, rustic, almost rusty, smell.

My goodness, I am sure I could go on and on but that are the first few that struck me.
It's only been 2 months since we went and I already have Disney fever. Oh. Dear.

Friday, April 16, 2010

5 "Happies"

5 things that make me happy
(I apologize for poor picture quality. Most pictures were taken with my iphone.)

1. Camping
          - We are going camping this weekend and I am SO excited. There is just something so marvelous about stepping away from everything and just relaxing. Honestly I need some down time. Between school, work and balancing one car, I have been running on 4-5 hours of sleep a night. We all know that doesn't work well. You know it is bad when you are so exhausted that when you have free time to actually get things accomplished at home, you are so tired you can barely function. Yeah, housewife fail. I am looking forward to sleeping, fishing and reading this weekend.

2. Coach and Lady
           -These sweethearts have kept me company while T has been working and vice versa. I am looking forward to the day when we will have a yard for them to play in. I hate that the poor things are cooped up in the apartment all the time. P.S. I am longing for a home, a place to really call our own.

 3. Adventures in Odyssey
          -  Did you ever listen to Adventures in Odyssey? If you aren't familiar with AIO it is a radio drama that is done by Focus on the Family. Some of the first Bible stories and verses I learned were from this show. We listened to them all the time when I was little. I remember many time frame responses in amounts of Odysseys. We had to clean our room for one episode. Or on long car trips, "5 more Odysseys". My sister, Winnie, has almost all of them on her computer and has recently transferred the first 25 albums to my laptop. I have been listening to them as I clean the house or at school on my breaks. I still love it!

4. Josie, my little Monkey.
          -  I miss her so much. Thankfully things seem to be working out better with her parents but that means that we no longer have her every weekend. I miss our walks, cuddling watching Disney movies and playing. The first picture is her "monkey face" - absolutely hilarious and precious. The second picture is from one of our many walks to the pond to feed the ducks

5. Spring
          - Despite the fact that with spring comes pollen, I love it! The colors, flowers and everything coming alive. It makes me desperately want to take a walk every day. I seriously wish I had the time. Maybe soon. And you know what else spring means? One step closer to graduation! 4 weeks from today I will be receiving my 2 degrees. I am so excited but scared at the same time. I am learning a lot about patience and prayer through this whole process. My type A personality wants everything planned out and to know what is going to happen ahead of time, but not everything can be controlled or planned. Please pray that I find a job soon and if there is a move involved that it will all go smoothly.

What are 5 things that currently make you happy?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Doris Day Love Thanks to Swagbucks

Thanks to Swagbucks, I will be enjoying this little beauty tomorrow on the way to New Orleans. :)

48 songs of Doris Day loveliness. SO excited!
Thanks to Swagbucks giftcards, I only had to pay $0.58 for the album out of pocket.
Don't know what swagbucks is? Swagbucks is a way of earning points towards many prizes through your daily internet searches. It is a search engine just like google with the same results except you earn for your searches. Cool, huh? It is free to sign up. So far I have gotten over $30 in Amazon gift cards.

Tomorrow I will be driving my younger sisters to New Orleans where we will meet my oldest sister, Rachel, to see WICKED. We are going to be eating lunch at Ralph & Cackoo's and hopefully getting some beignets before we head home. I love spending time with my sisters, I love Cajun food and I love New Orleans. =) It should be a great day (especially with Doris Day keeping us company on the road). ;)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Doris Day and my Protein Frappe Recipe

Today is Doris Day's birthday. I love Doris Day. It is a joke with my family that Doris Day and I are BFF's... She just doesn't know it yet. ;)

These two movies are some of Doris Day's earliest. The "Moon" Series pairs Doris up with Gordon MacRae in musical film gloriousness. :)

Calamity Jane is probably my family's favorite. From the moment that "Deadwood Stage" starts until Doris Day sings the "My Secret Love" reprise, it will capture your heart and you'll be singing the songs long after the movie has ended.

Rock Hudson and Doris Day are hilarious in Pillow Talk. If you haven't seen it before, I would definitely suggest you adding it to your list. It is a timeless classic.

These are just a few of my favorite Doris Day movies. If you don't know who she is, or haven't seen any/many of her movies, then shame on you. ;)

Also, check out the "Doris Day Radio" station on Pandora. It's a daily listen for me.

Onto the long promised recipe picture post of my Protein Meal Replacement Frappe.


And please, dear friends, don't make the error of buying the wrong coffee in your haste to make a quick trip to the grocery store while your husband is working out.
Yeah, that is WHOLE BEAN coffee. Oops.
Approx. 96 calories per serving*
- 8 ice cubes
- 2 tbsp no calorie sweetener
- 1 scoop GNLD's GR2 Control Chocolate Dream meal replacement shake
- 1/4 cup 2% milk

- 3 tbsp Community Coffee Dark Blend ground coffee
- 1/2 cup water

It is important that you add the ingredients to the blender in the order they are listed in my recipe. Don't ask me why, but it does not taste the same if you don't. Trust me.

I use my Mr Coffee Cafe Frappe machine. I would assume that you could make the frappe to the same effect using a blender and adding 1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee. The Cafe Frappe simply does the brewing and blending in the same machine. I heart it (thank you, T!).

It is absolute yummy-ness. This past week I have made 2 batches at a time and put them in a clear 1 liter water jug that I got from Wal-mart for under $2. This honestly helped keep my appetite at bay from 6 am until noon. Between the supplements and the GR-2, I have noticed a significant change in my appetite. There are times when the only thing I want to eat is vegetables. Not a bad thing at all. ;o)

Let me know if you try it. Especially if you use the coffee pot/blender method or use a different protein drink mix. If you are interested in placing an order with GNLD. I am now a full fledged believer in the power of adding vitamins and natural supplements to your diet.

*Calorie Count is based on a compilation of the nutritional facts on the labels of each of the products used. I am in no way being compensated for mentioning any of these products. These are my own personal views and opinions.