3 Month-end Actions for Continued Budgeting Success

month-end actions

Month-end Actions for Budgeting Success

Since you’ve already asked yourself three questions concerning your goals for the month (if not, go back and read Get Those Goals! 3 Qs to Ask Yourself Every Month first) and set up your monthly budget. Now that the month is about over it is time to evaluate how you did this month. Don’t worry if it didn’t work out so well! The first few months can be bumpy when you’re just getting started, but it gets easier with time. Here are three simple month-end actions needed in order to set yourself up for continuing budgeting success.

1. Finish Tracking All Income and Expenses

This isn’t difficult if you have done this all month. If you haven’t been good at logging transactions it will take some time. I like to do it on a weekly basis so I don’t get too far behind. If you use a budget tracking app such as EveryDollar that can connect to your bank account you can download all the transactions at once and simply allocate them to budget categories. I use EveryDollar, but I do not have the Plus version. It is $129.99 a year.

If paying for the convenience of downloading all your bank transactions makes the difference in whether or not you budget by all means pay the fee. I choose not to for the savings as well as the added accountability. You feel the money more when you have to enter it yourself.

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If you are using the cash envelope system you may just find it easier to track spending with pen and paper as you go. Just keep a notebook with your cash. You don’t have to spend money on fancy envelopes; I use the bank envelope from the initial withdrawal for our cash sinking funds. If you do choose to invest in an envelope system be sure to buy reusable envelopes. I am personally not a fan of printable envelopes because ink costs money and I prefer to print as little as possible at home. We’re trying to be frugal and sustainable at our house. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get organized.

2. Calculate Actual vs Budgeted Amounts in Every Category

After recording all transactions and assigning them to their budget categories it is important to analyze the total actual spending and income versus budgeted amounts. Chances are you will need to readjust.

If you come in under budget in one category consistently and over in another you can simply “borrow” from the category you were under and reallocate it to the category with the overage. It may seem tedious, but these month-end actions are important if you want your budget to succeed. The goal is to eventually be able to put some of these categories on auto-pilot and not spend as much time calculating the budget. This takes time and practice.

Once you actually see what you spend in a given month on certain expenses (cable, lattes, and dining out are good examples) you can decide whether or not to make room in the budget or buckle down and pack a lunch, drink homebrew, or stream your favorite shows. If you need help deciding what to cut check out my article Cut it Out! 7 Budget Cuts to Make Now.

3. Reevaluate Monthly Spending in Relation to Your Monthly Goals

Look back at the monthly goals you wrote out earlier in the month. Were your budget expectations realistic? Did your budget help you make progress toward your goal? Did you follow your budget? These are all important questions and you need to be honest with yourself. If the answer to any of these is no don’t give up! This is the perfect opportunity to reevaluate how realistic your expectations may have been or face your bad habits head-on.

If it seems overwhelming just pick one problem category in the budget and tackle it. Say you spent too much money eating out; pack your lunch and meal prep (bonus points if you batch cook and freeze for later) some easy dinners and repeat after me, “We have food at home!” Say it again now, “We have food at home!” We probably have coffee at home too if we’re being honest.

If you did really well and didn’t spend all the money in multiple categories or just have a few bucks left over, great! Excellent work! Take that money and use it to get you one step closer to your goals! Make that snowflake payment, transfer it to your new sinking fund, or simply cash it out and set it aside for spending money next month.

Practicing These Month-end Actions Makes Progress

This isn’t about perfection. Implementing these month-end actions and using them consistently every month will help you get the traction you need to achieve your goals. It will take a couple of months to get into the rhythm of things, but it does get easier with time.

Chances are it will take a few months of consistency before you can start to see the bigger picture. Each month you should see improvement in your budgeting skills, strengthening of your new habits, and progress toward your goals! The momentum may build slowly at first, but keep moving toward those goals! Financial independence is not an overnight destination.

Don’t Give up!

The important thing to remember is not to give up! It can be discouraging when you first get started and don’t see how it’s possible. Feel free to email me if you need help! I want to see you succeed! I am available for encouragement, can help you get set up on a budget, or just cheer you on.

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Get Those Goals! 3 ?s to Ask Yourself Every Month

get those goals

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Each Month to Get Those Goals Accomplished!

If you’re like me you set goals on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly… fill in the blank basis. Sometimes I set a goal for what I can get done in the 30 minutes or hour I have before I leave the house or pick up a kid somewhere (please tell me I’m not the only one who finds it easier to get stuff done when they’re not home).

That’s all well and good, but what about our big goals? Our game-changing, earthmoving possibilities we entertain? What are we doing about those? Slowly but surely we are working on ours. Here are three questions to ask yourself every month to help ensure your monthly plan and budget are helping you achieve your goals.

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Three Questions

1. What is your goal?

What are you focusing on this month? Maybe you have two smaller goals you want to accomplish this coming month. Maybe you have short term goals as well as one big, longterm goal (financial security on anybody else’s list?).

It’s going to be pretty hard to get those goals accomplished you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve. Am I right? It may seem like a no brainer, but stop and think about how often you set a monthly budget or fill your calendar for the month with no obvious goal or overall plan. I am so guilty of this. Part of being more intentional (my word for the last four months of this year since I forgot the word I started the year with) is having a goal. Your plans should help you move toward that goal. So write down your goal or goals you hope to accomplish in the next month.

2. What action(s) do you need to take this coming month to move you closer to accomplishing this goal?

Figure out what actions you can take this next month to bring you closer to your goal and then if necessary, build this into your budget! If you set a goal of saving $1,000 by the end of the year but do not add savings to the monthly budget what will that do? Not much. If you don’t have a budget, you need to get one set up ASAP! I encourage you to email me if you need help.

We recently started a sinking fund for auto maintenance. You can read my article, How to Fund Auto Maintenance – Our New Sinking Fund for more on that or check out all posts on that category by clicking here. I’m clearly a fan.

Anyway, we wouldn’t be able to set up the account if we didn’t put in the budget. Furthermore, we won’t make the account grow if we aren’t intentional about budgeting money to deposit going forward. So you include your goals in your budget. No, it may not be comfortable, but it is necessary.

If your goals do not require money you need to budget time to accomplish them. One of my goals for September (which I actually started early, yeah me!) is to fit in some sort of physical activity every day. Even if I do not go to the gym I need to get off my butt and move to get those goals!

Yesterday I walked a few laps up and down our driveway. It is a long driveway, but it didn’t take much effort and I felt better.

3. How will you measure your progress with this goal? Bonus points if you ask for an accountability partner to help you get those goals.

If you’re going to set a goal and work toward it you have to have a way of measuring your progress. If your goal is financial you can set an overall goal to accomplish, divide by the number of months you think it will take, and put that number in your budget. Then every month you can look at what you managed to save, compare it to your goal, and adjust the next month so you stay on track.

If your goal is more related to how you will spend your time and not your money download a fun calendar online and check off the days you meet your goal. Visuals can be great motivators; start a goal journal to chronicle your successes.

A lot of people do these on social media for additional accountability and motivation. Add a daily or weekly update to your stories and cheer others on while you’re at it! There are even accounts that share goal setting visuals.

The #debtfreecommunity is a source of great encouragement and support. Check them out on Instagram! They’re also a funny bunch. No online community seems complete without the meme accounts. These people cover it all; they even have a fitness hashtag!

Now You’re Ready to Get Those Goals!

Yes, it really is that simple to get started! The key is being intentional in the day-to-day. But if you have a plan and you commit to that plan and you make yourself accountable I have no doubt you can reach your goals! You may even surpass them!

What are you waiting for? Go get those goals! And find a Life on a Dime on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to let me know how you’re doing. I would love to cheer you on!

How to Fund Auto Maintenance – Our New Sinking Fund

fund auto maintenance

If You Own Vehicles You Need to be Able to Fund Auto Maintenance

We own vehicles. Three in fact. We each have our daily driver plus a spare vehicle we can haul a trailer with and use if a daily driver is down for repair. They are not new cars, in fact, the newest is a 2013 model. They are however good cars, and since we’d like to keep it that way we decided it was high time we set up a fund for auto maintenance.

If you are like us and live in a more rural area, commute to work, or just don’t like public transportation you probably own an automobile. If you live in a more densely populated area with mass public transportation you can probably get by quite comfortably without one. That’s awesome too.

Kudos to you if you paid cash or are on your debt-free journey to pay the thing off early! We financed every vehicle we’ve bought in our adult life and paid them off two to three years early. We hope one day to put ourselves in the position to pay in cash for reliable vehicles.

Cost of Driving Older Vehicles

AAA estimates the average newer vehicle will cost an owner $1,186 a year to repair and maintain. That’s almost $100 a month. Expect to pay a bit more than that if your vehicle is older; vehicles can need additional services once they reach a certain mileage to keep them in good runing order.

At just over 100,000 miles on the odometer, my vehicle is due for a transmission fluid change. This expense spurred us to set up a separate account to fund auto maintenance. We budget a certain amount every month for potential auto needs, but we do not separate the money out. We typically reappropriated unused funds to another budget category at the end of the month. Not anymore! We have a sinking fund in place now.

If you’re not sure what a sinking fund is or what other categories it may be good to have one for check out my previous article, A Quick Intro to Sinking Funds or just search the Sinking Funds category for all related posts on my site. They can be a very useful budgeting tool. They can help you avoid putting expenses on the credit card or draining your emergency fund (please tell me you have one of those) for routine expenses like auto maintenance.

Take good care of your vehicles and the cost to maintain them should be pretty predictable. It just makes sense

When You don’t Budget for the Unexpected…

Remember our old friend Murphy? He came to visit and decide to extend his initial stay last month. We were already paying off medical bills and were now faced with more. And we were just starting to get serious about that all-important emergency fund when Murphy came knocking.

We didn’t have any particular amount set aside for car-related expenses rather than budgeting for oil changes when needed. Occasionally my husband will inform me of an upcoming routine expense outside of oil changes and we will work those into the budget as well.

But we didn’t have money set aside for unexpected or future auto expenses; when my husband took our daughter swimming and got hit by a deer we were very lucky that not only was everybody okay (except the deer) his car was left driveable.

The headlight is damaged but still works. The small tear in the bumper is not that noticeable… yet. We didn’t have a solid plan in place for car care and therefore both items are just going to have to wait until we have the funds available.

Now that we have an account in place I will be making monthly deposits to the account whether we need work done that month or not until we get it up to a healthy balance. This may be a while as we need the abovementioned transmission servicing, headlight, and will eventually need to address the bumper.

I will be the first to admit this adulting thing is hard! The best way to do it is to learn as you go. So lesson learned, auto maintenance fund started, and we will adjust the budget going forward so we are contributing to this new sinking fund and do not have to resort to credit card use or neglecting our vehicles.

Do You Need an Auto Maintenance Fund?

Do you use a sinking fund to fund auto maintenance expenses? How do you know if you need one? Luckily there aren’t too many questions to ask yourself to determine the answer:

  1. Do you own a vehicle? If the answer is no, then you probably don’t need one. If you want to buy a car you would be wise to start a sinking fund to save up for the purchase. Maybe
  2. Is it under warranty? If so do you fully understand what said warranty does and does not cover? Can you afford the repairs not covered? If the answer to this question is no then an auto maintenance fund may be a good idea.

Get Started

Let me know if you have any questions about auto maintenance sinking funds. Getting started is simple; chose to put ours in the same bank we have our Christmas savings account. We chose a free checking account and didn’t order checks through the bank. The minimum to open the account was just $100. The peace of mind we gained knowing we have a better plan for our money going forward is priceless!

For added accountability, we chose not to link the debit card to our Christmas account or allow transfers between the two accounts. These are two separate sinking funds and they need to stay that way! It took less than an hour to get set up and we walked out with our debit cards in hand.

That’s it for now; I think I’m going to pull up EveryDollar and update the budget! We have a plan now, so time to work it!

Apps I Love and Use on the Daily

apps I love

The Apps I Love and Use Daily

Below are several of the apps I love and use on a daily basis. Apps make life just a little more organized.

I can’t talk about apps I love without mentioning Google search first! It is literally at the top of my home screen on my phone and I consult it several times a day. A whole world of knowledge is at my fingertips. All I have to do is say, “Ok Google,” and I find out what I need to know in seconds.

You might guess, I’m a big fan of Google! I love that I can default my phone pictures to save to Google Photos instead of the phone’s built-in gallery. This way all my photos are backed-up online and accessible anywhere, but when I change phones they are automatically accessible as soon as I log into Google.

And not just my photos, but my email and phone contacts as well!

Budgeting, Rebates, and Surveys

I love EveryDollar by Ramsey Solutions. I have used this almost as long as it’s been around. It’s free and it works so well! It is also really nice to always have my budget with me. I first started budgeting on an Excel spreadsheet and the Quicken at home. This is much more user-friendly. And free! Did I mention free? You can pay for the Premium version and have it linked to your bank account but I like the added layer of accountability I get with entering transactions manually.

I love a good survey or rebate app. I use quite a few. When I have a few spare minutes I scan my receipts or take a quick survey and it adds up to free money. Cash-out once you reach $20. It’s that simple. You can earn cashback in gift cards or cash depending on the app. If you want a signup link/referral code check out my Recommendations page. One-stop for several links and codes.

Visit the Library on Your Tablet!

apps I love

I use a Kindle Fire. It is a great e-reader and tablet, especially considering its budget-friendly price point and our Prime friendly life. However, it is not compatible with Libby by Overdrive. Enter Hoopla to save the day! I can check out ebooks from my local library on my tablet instead of checking them out on my phone and defaulting to read in the Kindle app. Anything to streamline the process! This is also free!

I love to read and have made a point to learn more this year. I read books on minimalism, finances, motherhood, and the list goes on! Be on the lookout for a Recommended Reading page on this site before too long! I’ve read some good stuff this year.

apps I love

I’ve probably mentioned before that we enjoy Prime at our house. Netflix and Hulu just don’t have free 2-day shipping. Since I do a lot on my phone I also research planned purchases using my Amazon shopping app. If there is something I know I want to buy I can check prices, compare reviews, ask verified customers questions, and do all my research prior to putting the item in my budget. It is so handy! Knowing what things cost beforehand makes it easier for me to stay in budget.

You know I’m frugal. You also probably know by now that I’m oily. I love using the Young Living share app! Want a sample of some of our most popular oils? I can send it through the app. If I need graphics to share or more information on how to use a particular oil that’s new to me it’s all there. There are plenty of DIY tips and recipes for frugal oilers like me as well!

apps I love

Last, but certainly not least I use the WordPress app a lot! I can check my site stats, approve comments, reply to a reader, and even edit posts while I’m out and about! It is great for when I get an idea I know I won’t remember the next time I sit down to work on the blog at home. Are you interested in blogging? Download this app, check out Dream Host for self-hosting, check your budget, and then GO FOR IT! Let me know when you do; I love connecting with other bloggers!

What are some apps you love?

This is just a sampling of apps I love. I have more, but these are most of the apps I use daily. There are a few more I can get into more depth on if I ever post about my experience as a blogger. Let me know what apps you use! I am always interested in free productivity apps! Just haven’t researched them in a while. I just set up lots of reminders on my Google Calendar. Happy app browsing my friends!

Fun at the Fair – a frugal trip to the fairgrounds

fun at the fair

Frugal at the Fair

The Washington County Fair was a few weeks ago! Tuesday night was family night; tickets were $2 each with the donation of a canned good. Our littlest is still free! Total cost for admission was $6. That’s a small price to pay for so much fun at the fair!

As always, the kids had a blast running around the fairgrounds, climbing in different off-road vehicles and tractors, and of course checking out all the animals. One of the goat farmers even brought a sweet little baby out for the kids to pet. We only missed the pigs because we had a hard time keeping the two-year-old off the ground!

We have a yearly tradition of getting a funnel cake to share. This year did not disappoint! If you live in Northwest Arkansas and plan to eat some goodies at the next fair I highly recommend Nacho Momma’s Tacos. Their food is reasonably priced and yummy!

We saved money by eating an early dinner (it was taco Tuesday after all!), filled up some water bottles to help with the heat, and put on our boots! Getting out of the house to do something with the kids doesn’t have to bust the budget!

Technically we could’ve been more frugal by not ordering snacks, but we splurge on fair food once a year. We even brought our own water bottles, so the total cost of this frugal fun outing was just under $20. I can live with that and so can our budget!

Don’t Miss out on the Fun at the Fair Next Time!

If you missed the fun this time, be sure you make it next year! There is good old fashioned frugal fun at the fair! Check the schedule for your local fairgrounds so you are sure to enjoy some frugal fun at the fair the next time it comes to your area!

Cut it Out! 7 Budget Cuts You Need to Make Now

cut it out!

Cut it Out Already!

Chances are if you’re reading this you are already budgeting. If not, or if you are new to budgeting, refer to my Budgeting page and be sure to read my other budgeting related posts. If you want to save some money, pay off debt, and just aren’t seeing how it’s possible when you look at your budget, you’re going to have to take a hard look at a few categories and just cut it out! I’ll say it again; if you need room in your budget and don’t foresee winning the lottery or inheriting a million dollars any time soon you need to make some budget cuts.

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualified purchases.*

You may have already figured that part out but are wondering where to start. If you are looking for ways to simplify your budget and save some money you are in the right place! Here are 7 places to cut your budget.

1. Cut the Cable

You don’t need 150 channels in order to be entertained. According to USA Today, the average cable customer is paying $85 a month for cable! If you have a satellite you’re likely paying about $100 a month. That’s a lot of money! Read my post Emergency! Why You Need an Emergency Fund Now! and you’ll see that the average American family doesn’t have the cash to handle even a $1,000 emergency. $85 a month totals $1,020 a year – enough for that beginner emergency fund to get you started on your debt-free journey.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, but you won’t be bored at home if you cut the cable; there are so many affordable alternatives out there. My family has Amazon Prime and we own a Fire Stick. In addition to free shipping on our budget purchases, we get unlimited access to Prime Original entertainment offerings, movies, and TV shows. The best part is we get to watch at our own convenience! You can also use the Fire Stick for other apps and platforms, turning your TV into a SmartTV. Did you know Amazon has a trade-in program which gives you a 20% discount on the new 4K Fire TV Device when you trade in select Fire TV, Roku, or Apple TV devices? Click here for more details.

In the past, we had Hulu and have considered Netlflix. We watched Hulu on the Fire Stick and the kids loved access to Disney shows. We did cut the Hulu from our budget but have talked about bringing it back. Most entertainment subscriptions add up to $10 a month or less plus tax. You can even use Sling and only subscribe to the live TV networks you watch. That’s a $75 savings on top of cable! What are you waiting for? Cut it out already!

2. Quit Leasing Your Mobile Phone

You don’t actually need the latest and supposedly greatest smartphone on the market. You especially don’t need it if it comes with a $1,099 price tag like the Apple XS Max. Seriously, it’s a phone. You can buy yourself a Dave car for that price!

We don’t even have cell phone contracts anymore and it is great! I have a smartphone I paid for outright on a month to month unlimited talk, text, and data plan that costs $45 a month plus tax. That is just over half the monthly average of $80 most Americans pay for their service! I have no complaints about my phone or service.

You can even buy an unlocked smartphone online. Get out of your contract if you can! With so many options for wireless service without a contract, you’re sure to find the right plan for you.

3. Cut the Home Phone Line

Chances are you aren’t saving as much money as you’d think to bundle your home services. If you cut the cable you might as well cut the home phone out as well. Chances are you just use your cell phone anyway. If you aren’t willing to cut the cord completely there are also plenty of options out there more affordable than what the cable company offers.

We had a Straight Talk home phone line for a while, and it was under $15 a month with tax for unlimited nationwide calls and all the bells and whistles. Most even let you keep your number when you make the switch. We canceled ours since it didn’t get any use.

While we may add a home phone line when the kids get older and want to talk on the phone more, but we’re just not there yet. Bottom line, if you keep a home phone line you can find a better deal. You just have to look. Start with this Google search link.

4. Cut Back on Your Coffee Shop Habit

Yes, I went there. I love my coffee, but I just don’t love to pay $5 a cup for my daily habit. I drink homebrew instead. Every once in a while I still get myself a mocha as a treat and there is nothing long with a monthly catch-up with a dear friend over a fancy latte.

However, stopping at the drive-thru every day can absolutely kill your budget. And your waistline; look up the calorie count in your favorite cuppa if you need more motivation.

Do yourself a favor and drink some homebrew every morning. Treat yourself once a week, month, or quarter as your budget allows. You can get a decent coffeemaker for under $25. So just do your budget a favor and take a long hard look at what your coffee habit truly costs every month. If it fits in the budget, great. If you still need more breathing room cut it back if not out.

5. Evaluate Memberships and Subscriptions

I’m not saying you have to cut them all out, I’m just saying you need to look at them. Ask yourself if you’re getting any value out of them. Do you really save money going to the big box membership store or do you totally lose your mind (and your budget sense) when you walk in and see all the “amazing” and “exclusive” deals that await you when you walk in through those oversized doors?

Do you have any redundant subscriptions/memberships? Get rid of the one that offers the least value. For example, when we were looking for additional ways to cut our budget we cut out one of our two entertainment subscriptions. Hulu just doesn’t offer free 2-day shipping on anything and we could stand to spend a little less time in front of the TV anyway.

Are you paying for a membership you no longer use? Use it or lose it! Get your butt back in the gym or cancel your membership STAT.

6. Cut Back on Dining Out

If you find yourself hitting up the drive-thru on the daily (maybe ordering sous-vide egg bites with that latte) or reaching for a takeout menu almost every evening after work you may have a problem with this area of the budget.

Cut back to dining out once a week if you need to taper down. If you find you have no self-control in this area you may need to stay out of the drive-thru. or restaurants for a while. Do what works for you and your budget. Your wallet may not be the only one to thank you; your waistline and stomach may be a lot happier for it too!

7. Get the Junk Food and Convenience Groceries out of the Shopping Cart

Say hello to batch cooking and goodbye to the convenience section and the frozen meal aisles of the grocery store! Not only will you cut out extra spending, but extra sodium, calories, and other preservatives as well! You don’t have to cut them out altogether, but don’t plan your week around frozen and deli foods.

Cook a double batch of a favorite meal from scratch once a week and freeze the second half. The next time you’re too tired, worked late, or life threw some other curveball at you just before dinner you can reach for a home-cooked favorite from the freezer instead of a carryout meal. It may even help you spend less on medication and doctor visits if you change your diet.

Did you know you can make spaghetti and meatballs at home for around $3 a serving? This is a meal you can have on the table in under an hour (even less if you batch cook and freeze some meatballs). It’s filling, economical, and when eating proper portions and paired with a salad, it’s healthy. It’s not hard. It just takes planning. Stay tuned for an upcoming post dedicated to saving money at the grocery store.

What Have You Cut?

Already done these? Great! What other ways have you cut your budget? Let me know how you cut your budget!

Frugal and Floral Fun – The Botanical Gardens

frugal and floral

Frugal and Floral Fun on a Dime

I don’t know why I hadn’t gone before, but when a dear friend visiting this summer treated us to a trip to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks we had a blast! This frugal and floral experience fits in the budget rather easily. Click here for admission fees and information if you live in or are planning to visit Northwest Arkansas. There is a kid’s section complete with a human-size bird’s nest accessible by bridge, reading railroad, and a wonderful little butterfly house. We will definitely be going back.

Frugal and Floral Fun in the Children’s Garden

This is a beautiful area for the kids to play in with a sculpted cement tree, magnet wall, and even a small pond. The reading rainbow train has couches for train cars. There is also a very large walking stick sculpture that makes for a great photo op if you have multiple kids old enough to sit on it.

The Butterfly House

This small, but beautiful little screened-in oasis was a hit with the kids. There are gorgeous flowers, sculptures, and of course butterflies inside a beautifully designed structure.

Walking Trail and Other Gardens

The paths are easy to follow to the different gardens if you have kids in tow or even a stroller. I definitely plan to go back when it is a little cooler outside. With events and activities year-round from firefly nights to Christmas events we can be sure to find the time for this frugal and floral activity!

There is also a native plants garden, and a chicken coop ( which is almost always a hit with small children), which are not pictured here.

The Japanese garden with the koi pond provides a nice bit of shade to sit in and cool off and looking for fish was entertaining for our bigger butterflies. This is definitely a must-see for Northwest Arkansas. My only complaint is why didn’t I go before?!

Tips for a Less Stressful, Easier Morning Routine

easier morning

Your Easier Morning Starts with a Better Night Before

The first thing you do to ensure an easier morning is to start the night before. Read my post on 6 Tips to Get a Better Night’s Sleep Now. A great night’s sleep helps a lot. But before you go to bed you’ll want to make sure you get a few things done.

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Before bed…

Clean the kitchen at night to avoid overwhelm in the morning. It makes things so much easier. This is definitely worth the effort. I need to be more consistent with this one. It is so much easier when you can just walk in and start preparing food without first clearing space to work.

I also try to go through her backpack and take home folder as soon as we get home in the afternoon. It helps a lot to get this out of the way. Make sure to check pockets for “souvenirs” and “gifts” your child may have received from friends on the bus, including food or candy. We had a lot of surprises in the backpack last year. I don’t want a repeat!

We get the kids bathed in the evenings. It helps a lot to have a plan for dinner and to eat a little earlier to avoid feeling rushed in the evenings. I also keep a Thieves roller on the kitchen counter so I remember to give her added immune support when I pass out vitamins. Anything I know I’ll likely forget needs to be out in plain sight.

It can help to lay your clothes out the night before. If that works for you great! I tend to change my mind in the morning so I just wait until before my shower to pull something out to wear. I have a lot fewer clothes now since decluttering so it takes much less time.

Start a Little Earlier and Don’t Rush

This has taken me almost 35 years to appreciate. I am NOT a morning person. My personal preference has always been a hit the snooze three times and then see how bare-bones my routine can be. I got so good at it I knew how many minutes I’d save if I cut out certain portions of my morning routine.

It just doesn’t work out that way with kids. They don’t really follow your time table. Last week I finally accepted the only solution was to get around before they’re up.

I am now up a full two hours before we have to step out of the house. This allows me to shower, dress, and have breakfast on the table before I go wake up my first grader. When our youngest isn’t up yet I have about 15 minutes to myself.

It also helps that I stick to the same routine when it comes to getting ready of a morning and when I go to bed; I do things in the same order I’ve done them for years. I’ve yet to step out the door without brushing my teeth or applying deodorant, so I’d say it works for me!

You know your child better than anybody and how long they need to get ready; I have learned that my daughter needs 40 to 45 minutes to get out the door. This allows time to make her bed, get dressed, eat, brush teeth, and fix hair. Any longer and she will be sidetracked and we can still end up late!

For an easier morning, you need a game plan

If you don’t want to be stressed you need to have a clue before you turn on the kitchen light. There is nothing quite like a frantic rush to figure out what to feed kids (who aren’t all that patient) to derail your morning.

I find my kids don’t fill up on cereal. It’s all they’ll request of a morning, but 3 bowls later and they’re still hungry! Oh, and someone has a tummy ache. I try to feed them scrambled eggs, muffins, or other heartier options rather than cereal. They don’t always cooperate, but a full belly is always better than a hungry or hurting one. Smoothies can also be a great, frugal option.

My planner has meal options already planned out through the rest of the month. I pick a breakfast or lunch option listed on a day prior to my next planned grocery trip and I should have the ingredients.

When my daughter informed me this morning, the day before grocery shopping day, that she wouldn’t eat the lunch I was going to prepare yes, I winged it. But I did know what I had on hand so it didn’t slow me down. Much.

Aim to get out the door 5-10 minutes before necessary and always have the diaper bag

If you aim to be early it’s harder to be late. I typically try to be ready to leave 10 minutes before necessary and you know something? I’m rarely early! But I’m late much less often than in the past.

With babies and toddlers, it is always best to bring the bag in every evening and repack it then. It is no fun to get somewhere, have an epic diaper, and be unprepared. I’ve been there, done that, thrown away all the evidence. Don’t do that to yourself! I take my son’s bag with me just to drop off his sister at school just in case. We’re only planning a 30 minute round trip back home, but you never know, right?

These are the tools I’m using to help get out the door on time and with less stress of a morning. What are your tried and true ways to keep an easier morning routine?

6 Tips to Get a Better Night’s Sleep Now

How to Get the Best Sleep Ever

If you’re like me you’ll do anything to get a good night’s sleep. I’ll be honest; I’m pretty good at some of these tips, but terrible at a few as well. Read on to for a few very simple tips to get a great night’s sleep now. This is a perfect time to discuss a good night’s sleep since kids around the country are going back to school this month! Mine starts tomorrow!

1 – Ease into an earlier bedtime

We could all probably stand to go to bed earlier, but don’t rush it. If you typically go to bed at 11 PM don’t expect to start hopping in bed at 8:30 and start getting lots of sleep. It’s probably not going to happen. Make a goal to go to bed up to half an hour earlier at a time until you find your ideal bedtime.

We started two weeks before school started getting our daughter accustomed to a regular bedtime. It’s a good thing we did because what we thought would work well turned out to be a little too late and we still had to tweak it some to avoid morning meltdowns. She is now accustomed to going to bed at 8 PM and getting up between 6:30 and 6:45 AM.

2 – Turn off Your electronic devices

I am one of the worst at this. I know you don’t fall asleep as fast if you’ve been staring at the TV screen, tablet, or cell phone before bed. It really should be off at least an hour or two prior to trying to get some shut-eye in order to ensure the best sleep ever we all know we need.

If you’re not willing to shut it off early in the evening at least turn on the blue light filter and reduce the strain on your eyes. I keep mine on my phone all the time with no problem but only use it on my Kindle Fire if I’m reading later at night. The screen turns an orangy tone and I find that distracting during the day. Do yourself a favor and put your screen down a little earlier. This goes for me as well. If reading helps you fall asleep it’s best done the old fashioned way – turning the pages!

3 – Get yourself some lavender for the best sleep ever

Lavender not only smells great but is great for sleep support. I diffuse lavender and cedarwood every night at bedtime and I fall asleep faster than I ever. I have also decided to make it a priority to budget for a diffuser or our problem sleeper’s room in order to help him get his best sleep ever at night and quit interrupting ours. If you don’t feel like a diffuser is your style but still want some natural sleep support a dab of lavender with a carrier oil behind the ears and/or misting your pillow can help you drift off as well. Click here to receive free samples of three of Young Living oils.

4 – Cut off caffeine after dinner

If not earlier. Everybody reacts differently, so the more affected you are by caffeine, the earlier you need to cut yourself off. Try to get all your hydration needs in well before bedtime so you’re not waking up because you gotta go in the middle of the night.

If you have to have something to drink after dinner stick with water or herbal tea. I love a good cup of hot tea a little before bed. There are also several herbal blends specifically designed to help you sleep.

5 –You’ll get your best night’s sleep in a dark room

White noise is really the only noise you need. A ceiling fan and the sound of the diffuser are more than enough for me, but our six-year-old also uses a small fan on top of her armoire for white noise.

Also, make sure it is dark enough so your brain knows it’s supposed to let you sleep. Our master bedroom is closest to the driveway where we have an LED light on the electric pole. You don’t have to worry about stubbing your toes on furniture in our room at night! We have thermal curtains but they aren’t enough so I am researching the cost of blackout shades like these. We have large windows, which is great for letting in natural light, but a little harder on the budget to buy blinds or shades!

6 – Get into a bedtime routine

One of the best things you can do that costs no money and requires little effort is to get into a predictable bedtime routine. This can help to signal your body that it’s time to go to sleep.

If you’re like me and you have kids you know your sleep is dependent on theirs, so use these six tricks on them as well, five of them at least. I know mine prefer their night lights, so making the room as dark as possible isn’t the best option for them yet.

How well do you sleep? What are your tried and true routines to help you nod off and get a great night’s sleep? I’d love to hear them!

10 Under $10 to Save You Time and Money

save time and money

Make Life a Little Easier

Life can be hard. And it can be expensive. If you’re living that budget life like I am chances are you are always on the lookout for anything that will save you a little time, money, sanity, or all three. Here is a list of 10 under $10 I’ve curated to do just that!

These items align with goals I have been working toward and at around $10 these items definitely qualify as frugal.

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.*

10 Under $10

10 under $10
  1. Meal prepping and cooking at home can save you a lot of time and money, but if you don’t know where to start, get a meal prepping cookbook like this one by Alea Milham. The Kindle version is only $9.99. A small investment like this one can save you hundreds of dollars a year if not more in the long run.

productivity journal

2. A good productivity journal or planner like this Shine Bright diary for $9.35 can help keep you organized. Write down appointments, bill due dates, even work up your monthly budget and to-do lists on these customizable pages. If you aren’t feeling particularly creative pick out a planner with preset calendar pages instead.

10 under $10

3. I hate using a store’s plastic shopping bags; I have to take them back to Walmart to recycle. That is why I love reusable shopping bags and am looking to replace my Aldi ones – store ones rip. A few sturdy canvas bags like this one for $6.95 seems like a much better option. This one is natural cotton and customizable!

10 under $10

4. If you love coffee a stainless steel travel mug is a must. This Jura 20 oz tumbler is just $8.95 and has an average rating of 5 stars with over 1500 reviews! Sounds like a pretty good mug. It also has a straw and two lid functions. Brew your own coffee at home for pennies a day or take your own travel mug to your favorite coffee shop or convenience store for a discount!

k-cup reusable filters

5. Speaking of brewing at home, if you use a single-serve brewer you know K-cups are not cheap compared to ground coffee bought in bulk. And they generate a lot of trash. Reusable filter cups like these for just $9.95 make life easier and save some cash every month. Just compost those grounds and rinse out the filter when you’re done. Buy a K-cup variety pack to see which blends you like best and then buy bagged grounds of the blends you know you love. You can even grind your own if you prefer. This will can save you about a quarter a day, which can add up to some serious savings on your daily cuppa joe! It can also save space in your cabinets not storing bulky boxes of k-cups.

10 under $10

6. Stop throwing your money out every time you use a Ziploc bag. They may seem cheap, but get one wet and it isn’t reusable and it definitely isn’t environmentally friendly. I like this five pack of reusable bags. At $10.99 it’s just a stretch over my list goal, but I think the variety makes it worth the extra 99 cents. If you don’t trust silicone or PEVA then it is worth it to spring for stainless steel. They’re also freezer safe!

10 under $10

7. Never lose another baby sock or ruin another bra in the wash with these color-coded mesh wash bags. At $5.99 they are definitely worth it. The excellent reviews give me more confidence in them than the cheapo one I bought at Walmart that ripped and lost its contents in the wash.

10 under $10

8. A sewing emergency kit like this one can save you money by extending the life of your wardrobe. You don’t necessarily have to invest in a sewing machine to repair a hem, sew a button back on, or patch a hole. You do however need a sewing kit. Needles, scissors, several colors of thread, etc are included. This is a bargain at $6.99 when you consider how much you could save on your wardrobe over time by simply taking better care of your clothes.

10 for under $10

9. Get a toothpaste squeeze like this one and never waste toothpaste from the tube again! We recently cut open a tube of toothpaste once we thought we couldn’t possibly get any more out. Were we wrong! A 4 pack is just $4.99.

playdoh

10. The last item on this list is solely a sanity saver. If you have kids you probably already know how invaluable a few minutes of your kids entertaining themselves can be. I was not a fan until recently. Trying to keep a class of six two-year-olds happy during Vacation Bible School made me a believer. Play-doh is inexpensive and non-toxic. This 10 pack is $7.99 or you can make your own. I’ve even seen recipes with peanut butter if your kids are prone to eat them. Any inexpensive sensory item is good to have around when you need to get something done or just drink a cup of coffee without a million interruptions.

Pick up any of these 10 under $10 and save yourself some hassle today! What are your must-have items for saving time, money, and your sanity? I’d love to hear from you.