Best of the Web – February 13

Hi everyone, time for some weekend reading!  Don’t forget- I’m hosting a giveaway for a $25 Amazon giftcard.  Click HERE.

Usually I only post my favorite links from the past week, but since we were away for 3+ weeks, you’ll get a few older ones.

Most popular Instagram photo of the week. My big 6-yr-old at the top of Mt. Wellington, Hobart.


The Rare Case When a Woman Gives Birth In Flight – Am I the only one who has thought about this?  Interesting read!

Family-Friendly Places to Stay in London–  London is expensive, here are some options for every budget.

Saving Money

15 Things to Buy at Trader Joe’s– I don’t shop at Trader Joe’s often (it’s 30 minutes away).  However, when I do go, I’ve never had much of a strategy.  This is a good post to help you buy only the best products.

The Challenge of Getting Rid of Stuff– I love this so much.  Spending time in Australia made Brian and I realize that Australians live with way less STUFF.  There are no basements or attics, so it’s difficult to hoard.  We got rid of about 8 small boxes of things right after Christmas.  I’ve already started another box. Clutter sucks.  “Remember, an ideal life is one where you get a lot of fulfillment out of how you spend your time and that you have possessions that support that fulfillment. Possessions that don’t support that fulfillment are unnecessary. They just soak up your money and your financial freedom. They fill up space and make you live in a larger home than necessary. They require you to spend more time doing maintenance – dusting, moving things around, and so forth.”  Amen


Any favorite links??  Go to the giveaway!

Budgeting 101

(i.e. How you afford to do the things you want to do)

You can read lots and lots of financial advice.  There are books and blogs and e-courses,oh my!  However, we’ve found that truly the ONE thing you must have if you want to succeed financially is the dreaded B word- a BUDGET!

The months when we get off track with our budget are the months that we lose sight of the big picture.  Creating a budget gives you the space to save, invest, and prepare for emergencies.  Even if your income is small, giving “every dollar a name” (Dave Ramsey stuff right there) and living under your means allows you to do this.

If you don’t have a clear picture of what money is coming in each month and what your set expenses are each month, how can you prepare?   What happens when 2 of your little ones get strep and the Dr visit + the medicine is $190 (hmm, wonder who this happened to?), now your sickness becomes a financial crisis.

Once you budget consistently for 3-6 months, you’ll notice something.  You will hardly check your bank account!  There’s no need to check it- you’ll know that you have the money because you told that money where to go!

We’ve been doing a budget each month since 2006.  It’s never one-size-fits-all.  You must meet each month and discuss the changes for that time.  Utility charges vary by season, kids need clothes and shoes at different times of the year- you must anticipate these things.


A few friends have asked what we have in our budget, so I thought I would post the Excel list of our budget below.  Obviously, you may have more or less categories, but this gives you a good idea to start with!

Here are the items that we budget for every single month, along with some notes:

Church giving
Compassion Int
Automobile Gas
Grocery {Cash}
Blow/Fun money {Cash}
Eating Out {Cash}
Health Insurance
Life Insurance 1
Life Insurance 2
Work expenses
Husband’s spending money {Cash}
YMCA membership
Planet Fitness Membership
Babysitting {Cash}
TOTAL SPENT Should Equal Total Pay


Budgeting Tips:

  1. Some items are not listed (like car insurance) because we’re able to swing them through my husband’s commission.  In your own budget, I would recommend breaking down your larger expenses into monthly expenses (you’ll notice I do this for our term life insurance policies).   For instance, maybe you pay your car insurance twice per year and the cost is $600.  Instead of trying to come up with $600 in June and December, allot $100/month in your budget and then DON’T TOUCH THAT MONEY.  When the bill comes, the money will already be in your checking account.  You can also do this in saving for Christmas or other big purchases.
  2.  You must use (some) cash.  It’s very hard to adhere to a budgeted number if you only use debit or credit.  We take out cash on the 1st and 15th each month to pay for groceries, eating out, blow money (usually ends up being eating out) and babysitting.  Having money that can be physically touched causes a different emotion than swiping a card.  I’ve tried using debit/credit for groceries and I always underestimate how much I’ve spent.  Seeing that there’s only $30 in my grocery envelope shows me that it’s time to buckle down and eat from the pantry or freezer, instead of making another trip to Kroger.
  3.  A budget works better when you stay out of debt.  Don’t look at your monthly budget like, “Oh, we have an extra $165 dollars every month, we could afford an upgrade on xyz.”  Negative, ghostwriter.  You’re looking for money to save, invest, and give.  Stop asking if you can afford the payment and start asking if you can afford IT.  (Notice there are no lines for a car payment?)  You can’t get out of debt if you keep taking on more!  Whatever you need to do to push yourself- do it!
  4. If there is money leftover, start saving for an Emergency fund (if you don’t already have one).  A $1,000 should be enough in the short run to cushion you against car repairs, a leaky roof…or strep throat. 😉
  5.  Notice these are just expenses.  I didn’t add lines for saving, investing, or even vacations.  Add whatever you need to add as long as you aren’t spending more than you make!


Do you do a budget?  Is it like napkin-worthy or do you really stick to it?  What’s your #1 budgeting tip?

budgeting header

Best of the Web- December 6

There’s still time to get in some weekend reading!  Here are my favorite links from the past week:

Travel with a Toddler: 11 Tips to Make it Less Insane via Around the World “L”… #3 really hit home for me and #6 is a MUST-Do for our family!

7 Common Budgeting Mistakes via Well-Kept Wallet – We are getting so close to a new year and new goals- it’s a great time to change some bad habits.

This isn’t my normal niche, but I could always use some help with fashion!  Cassie’s  tutorials always leave me full of awe!  Cozy Christmas Style via Hi Sugarplum!

I think I can add this list to my Screen-Free printable:  75 Star Wars Crafts for Kids via The Nerd’s Wife  ((Check out the Chewbacca handprint art))!

kids Christmas

Any favorites??


Best of the Web- November 7

I have been MIA since Monday thanks to a fun strep throat bug making it’s way through our house!  I did get a little reading done, though, and I still want to share my favorite links.


To the mom of littles I was 7 years ago via Steady Mom — Such an encouraging read for me!


If you have an AMEX card, these offers are so helpful!  Save $50+ on Airbnb through Amex offers via One Miles at a Time

The best things to buy in November via Frugally Blonde


Sell everything and hit the road with Crazy Family Adventure  I think this sounds fun and ideal, but then I think of living in such a small space.  I don’t know.  What do you think?!  I’m excited to follow along with their family’s blog!

If everyone can stay on the mend, we’re headed to Fort Myers Beach in 24 hours. I’m not sure I’ve ever “needed” a vacation this badly!


Thanks for stopping by!  Have a fabulous weekend!

There’s Nothing Evil about Making Money

Dave Ramsey will often say, “Money is amoral.” It is just a tool.  It is neither evil or good. Can money be used for evil or good?  Absolutely.  However, the $20 bill in my wallet is not evil itself,  it’s just sitting there waiting to be plucked out for groceries or the babysitter.

Oftentimes the Bible is misquoted by folks that say, “Money is the root of all evil.” Negative.  The Bible says, “For the LOVE of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”  (1 Timothy 6:10).

If you love money more than God or people when you make $30,000, you’ll have the same issue (and idol) if you make $130,000.  Or 1.3 million.

If your desire to make more income comes from a heartfelt desire to better provide for your family, but also to be able to give more away, who is to judge your motives?  Let’s give an example: My husband and I, since taking Financial Peace University, have believed that 10% to charity was a minimum amount that we felt comfortable giving.  We don’t believe in the Old Testament tithe, per se, but 10% is a minimum we believe to be a jumping off point.  God has provided us everything anyhow, it is only our money to steward.  

MMM blog header

We could argue then whether that’s 10% of net or gross  income, and we’ve moved from the first to the latter. But for accounting ease, let’s use gross.  Let’s say that first year we started budgeting, Brian and I made a combined $43,000 (I didn’t pull tax returns or anything, but that seems about right).  So that year, let’s say we were able to give $4300 to charity (which may be just a bit high).  The second year I got a different job and was working more hours, as well as had a few part-time gigs, and that year we collectively made $58,000.  So that year our giving would have been closer to $5800.

Now, who would say that I should have not pursued a better job?  How did us as a couple, making $15,000 more per year, hurt anyone?  Would anyone say we were being greedy?

Now let’s talk about those evil people in the 1%.  🙂  Let’s say that they have been thoroughly blessed and they make $250,000 per year.  This enables their 10% to be $25k!  Wow!  $25,000 going to fund missions and orphanages and pregnancy centers.  A single mom walks into their life and they can easily write her a check for $1000 and feel no pain, whereas my husband and I at $43,000 would have felt the ache of giving $1000 to someone.

I just finished an excellent book by Crystal Paine, the founder of  I admire Crystal not only because she is a brilliant blogger and business owner, but because she is a transparent woman who shares her victories (and even a few failures)!  Crystal’s new book, Money Making Mom, is a must-read for every mother, working or at home, that would like to make a few extra dollars – either to help Junior play in the football league, to start a non-profit, or just to take some of the pressure off of her breadwinner husband.

The wisdom Crystal shares is business advice that I can endorse because 1. She  doesn’t believe in going into debt to start a business and 2. She knows the reality of “balancing” a family and a business.  She actually shares how at one point she was working TOO hard and staying up too late-or all night- and letting her health and sanity get out of whack.

After Crystal offers page after page of start-up business advice, she states the following,We should focus on making money to impact our family and loved ones for the better, In addition, our focus for making money should be to help those who are struggling in our community and around the world.”  YES!  We don’t go out there and work hard just so that Skippy can have an XBox and we can live in the nicest house on the street, we make more to SERVE others through our finances, but also through our time that we get back.

money makingmom

It’s not immoral to put money aside for retirement or buy yourself a few nice things. It is wrong though to be so tied to your business or your lifestyle or even your DEBT, that you can’t live for others and give back to your community.  When we love possessions more than people, we are loving money (or what it can give us), instead of pursuing excellence to better our families and their future families.  Crystal sums this nicely with, “If you want to live an amazingly fulfilling life, you must live for something bigger than yourself, something besides material desires, words of praise from others, or a long list of accolades.”  We can fight against the culture by how we live.  We need to stop viewing money as evil and see how WE can be the ones to truly use it for good.


money making mom bookMoney Making Mom can be purchased at Amazon


**As a part of the Money Making Mom launch team, I was given a free copy of the book.  I was not compensated for my views, though, and all opinions are my own.

Best of the Web- Columbus Day edition

This weekend was crazy busy but wonderful!  In the barrage of family time, food, and GARTH BROOKS, I didn’t have time to share my favorite links!  So alas, here they are, just two days late.  Some of you have the day off, so you’ll have the time to read!



There are so many ways to die via Lisa-Jo Baker

best of web header



“Sending the message to women entrepreneurs that we must leave our emotions at home is an outdated concept that needs revision… Often, men are praised by the same women who berate other women for being vulnerable enough to show emotion. If there is going to be a hard-and-fast rule, it must be applicable to everyone. We all have tear ducts.”   I cried on ‘Shark Tank’ last week, and I’m not sorry about it via Inc.  I watched the episode and while I thought Miss Bey’s pitch was weak, it had nothing to do with her tears.  



Saving ALL THE MONEY- personal upkeep via Our Nest in the City

My state made the list!  **sigh**  The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans via Wise Bread



A round-up of fall activities based on your locale.  Fun Fall Activities across the US, Canada, and the UK via Kids are a Trip

6 Ways to Spend a Day in Oxford via Finding the Universe.  I’ve done 3/6 of these, and the photojournalism alone on this blog is enough to make your mouth water for a day in Oxford!


Have a great Monday and a great week!

Best of the Web- October 3

Hi everyone and thank for stopping by!  It FEELS like October around here, as I’m sitting next to the space heater and considering adding more layers!  I’ve got fingers crossed that all of the rain we are getting won’t change the beautiful fall foliage that the weatherman has promised.

bestofweb oct3

Here are my favorite links from this week:


Reaching Your Child in a World of Distraction  I never want to make moms feel guilty, but it is difficult sometimes to walk away from the busy-ness of the day and really engage with the kids.  Hands Free Mama handles this issue so well.


Guide to Consignment Shops  I love these tips from the Simple Dollar!  In the past month I’ve used a consignment shop to sell baby items, as well as a local selling wall.  There are so many great ways to sell things these days, not only does it help us to stash away some cash, but it also helps with the “one item in, one item out” rule we’ve made for housewares, toys, and books!

I’m Fine…Could be better. What should I do?  via Afford Anything.  For those who feel like we’re living the average life but want/can do more.


Because I love budgeting (oh, and wine). 🙂  Wine Tasting Destinations for Every Budget via Drink Tea & Travel

Just back:  Queenstown, NZ


Enjoy your weekend.



Best of the Web- September 26

Doing these blog round-ups every Saturday makes me realize how quickly times passes! Here is yet another weekly review:

full moon w quote


We have busy weeks, but for the most part our schedule is fairly minimalist.  It’s not survival mode, but it’s what I must do to survive.  I love this perspective.  Moving from Survival Mode to a Minimalist Schedule



6 Ways to Efficiently Start Your Holiday Budgeting Now– Because we’re 3 months out from Christmas.  Insanity.

If you have savings in your 20s, you’re doing something right– Mr. Hamm debunks an Elite Daily article.  This is lengthy, but worth the read.



What’s YOUR travel personality?  Can I be 4 of 4?

Copenhagen and London made the list!  The World’s Top 20 Cities, according to the dude that visited every country.

A weekend in Tuscany – If nothing else, you’ll drool over the photos.

I think I mentioned my affinity for Canada.  Here’s a fantastic blog about Banff (and the photos are drool-worthy as well).


That’s all for this weekend!  Thanks for stopping by!


Best of the Web- September 12

Hi everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful week!  It’s the weekend again- Hooray!

Here are my favorite links from this week.


Life/ Faith

I was just talking to a friend last night about this very topic (and the book).  It’s hard as a mom to purposefully step away and take some time for yourself.  I’m working on just about everything Amy mentioned- Mama, it’s okay to take care of yourself



5 Frugal Things I Did Today that Saved Me $300– Some helpful reminders that may save you some cash!

Washington is freaking out about the student debt crisis – And so they should! We saw the mortgage bubble crash, this may be the next big one.

Because we adore pizza and Chipotle-   How much it costs to eat at every major fast food chain



Until I started researching travel hacking, I didn’t realize that American Express cards offer discounts.  Important information here if you’re wanting to escape to a Westin – Save $50 on Westin stays via new Amex offer

Kids Travel Bag Activities – I love these ideas from Kimberly!  I am going to start collecting some of her suggestions!

8 Fabulous Fall Getaways in the Northeast

Thursday I was featured over at Suitcases and Sippycups talking about what it was like to grow up in Amish Country, OH- and what things you might do when visiting with 3 little ones. Buggy ride, anyone?


Thanks for stopping by!



Labor Day Financial Check-up

Most people ring in the end of summer with a day by the pool or campground, but we chose to use a morning at home to do a financial check-up.  It’s never a bad time to review your yearly finances, but the unofficial end of summer seems even more timely!  The calendar is showing a slow-down to pop-up cookouts, weekend roadtrips, and high gas spending, so we can evaluate where we’re at and what expenses we have coming up.

labor day financial check-up

We also talked about 2016. This year is two-thirds completed so there’s no harm in focusing on big expenditures that will happen in the new year and how we can best budget for them.

Topics we covered:

  1. Are there any expenses we can cut?  Can we rein in spending on groceries, eating out, etc?
  2. Are we budgeting enough in some categories?  (For instance, when I made a 2015 overview budget, I underestimated medical expenses and clothing– these kids don’t stop growing)!
  3. What plans do we have for the house in 2016?  Are the planned renovations the best use of our money and time?
  4. What charities have we supported this year- what goals do we have for supporting those charities next year?
  5. Will we replace my minivan in 2016 or should we drive it until it falls apart?  (Or maybe both will happen at once?! ;))
  6. What travel goals do we have for 2016?  How much money are we willing to allot for travel?
  7. How can we be intentional about contributing as much as possible to our Roth IRAs?  How much more do we need to contribute this year?

I feel so much better after this conversation!  I think it’s so important to “cast a vision” with your spouse so you are both on the same page, but more importantly, so you have peace that you are being good stewards of your finances!  We believe that God gives us everything and it’s our job to manage it faithfully.  Budgeting is really the ONLY way to do this!  You must must must must must have a budget.  Got it?

What do you think- Did we forget to cover something?  Maybe you had a financial check-up, too?  

(This was obviously our conversation as husband and wife, but I think it would work for singles, too)