New Site

I know I haven’t written in a while, but I now have a new site. Www.SwagNotSwine.com please follow me.

My goal with this segment is to not only continue with a pork free diet, but a more healthy diet overall. No more sugary drinks and snacks, and avoiding all other high calorie and fat intake, and depending on healthier alternatives. Not only will I be documenting my personal progress, but sharing positive advice, support and information for all of you to also begin or continue a healthy, positive lifestyle.

Change is good and it’s good to change. Enjoy!

-Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Advertisements

Week 6 of Budget 101

Part 6: Save on the Special Things

Vacations.  Birthdays.  Holidays.  We know they’re coming, and yet it is so easy to blow our budgets just because “it’s a special occasion.”  If you’re still with me after all this time, you should be starting to feel pretty good about your budget.  After all, you’ve been able to make a distinction between your wants and needs, you’ve set a budget for yourself, and hopefully found ways to save some money on the big things (like housing & insurance), the necessary things (like utilities & groceries), & even the fun things (like shoes and wine!)

(NOTE: Before we go any further, if you are new to my blog or missed out on the last five weeks, you might want to start at Week 1 of Budget 101 before starting this week’s assignment!)

If there is no leeway in your budget for those things that only come up once in a while, you may find yourself seriously strapped for cash when the time comes.  Since holidays, birthdays, & vacations are terrible times to be worried about money, it is best to plan ahead.

This week’s assignment:

Keeping your online buying hidden

1. Set a Special Occasions Budget.

Sitting down and actually writing down how much you can afford to spend is a giant step towards saving money in this area.  Too often we get caught up in wanting to “splurge” for something special, but those splurges can catch up with us!  After all, there are a LOT of special occasions throughout the year!  By looking at them as a whole, rather than a once-in-a-while thing, it is easer to see the big picture.  It is also easier to set limits for ourselves when we are not caught up in the moment!

2. Find ways to save throughout the year.

I realized during my college years that coupons DO work. The key to saving lots of money with coupons is to buy things when they are at their rock bottom price, then stock up for when you need them.  This method of shopping has easily been carried over to the rest of my life, and has saved me a lot of money in the long run.

The more you plan ahead & buy things when they are cheapest, and not when they are most convenient, the better off you will be.  Stock up on items for the next year in the post-holiday clearance sales or buy toys & other gifts in bulk when you find a great special.

You can also keep in your purse or wallet, a list of people or occasions you know you will need to buy gifts for in the next year. Make sure it includes how much you have budgeted to spend.

3.  Be on the lookout for good deals!

Once again, this is more of an ongoing assignment, and once again keep in mind there are always going to be more bargains available than you can afford to spend. Stick to the list and to your budget. Last week I listed several of my favorite places to score great deals; those same places apply here.

4.  Shop around & compare prices

This almost goes without saying, but is especially important when you are booking vacation travel!  Because prices fluctuate so much, there are no hard, and fast rules about where to find the best travel deal.  The only constant is that prices change a LOT, so shop around!

If you are traveling to a specific destination, be sure to price out all your different options, and to check a variety of travel sites before you book.  Don’t assume that package prices will be cheaper–sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t– be sure to check smaller, independent airlines in addition to larger travel sites when booking flights.

On the other hand, if you just want to get a great deal on a vacation but aren’t too particular about where you go, you may want to check out some of the daily deal sites like Groupon, Eversave, Totsy, & Living Social that offer vacation deals.  Additionally, Jet Setter is a daily deal site that exclusively offers high end vacation deals for a fraction of the normal price.

5.  Start Working On Handmade Gifts

Consider handmade gifts for as many people as possible.  With more time to plan, you also have more time to put together something really special.  Even better, those gifts will probably mean a lot more–it truly is the THOUGHT that counts!
Even if you’re not that creative on your own, the internet is full of amazing handmade gift ideas.
*   *   *

And that’s all for this week!!!!! Stay tuned for next week’s saving challenge next Sunday.

4th of July Shooters

Celebrate this 4th of July with this flight of three tasty red, white and blue shooters, or as some call them, shots!

America.  Land of the free, because of the brave.  We are a country that certainly has our issues, but we always manage to bond together and work through them.  Always united.  All of our blemishes and accomplishments are what make us the great country that we are.  Always growing, always changing.

The fourth of July is less than a week away! Oh how that crept up on me.  These three shots are not only festive, but also taste delicious!  They take tequila, vodka, and silver rum to a whole new level.  The best part about them is that they can also be made into drinks too if shooters aren’t your style.

The Red

1oz Vodka

.5oz DeKuyper Watermelon Pucker

1oz Cranberry Juice

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice.  Shake and strain into a large shot glass. This shot tastes like a gummy bear!

The White

1oz coconut Rum (I prefer Malibu but if not available, Bacardi Coconut)

.5oz Lime juice

1oz Sprite

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice.  Shake and strain into a large shot glass. This shot is super refreshing

The Blue

1oz Patron or Jose Cuervo Silver Tequila ……Silver, not Gold!!!

.5oz Lime juice

.25 (literally a splash) of Simple Syrup …..Not Maple, Simple Syrup. Its clear and specifically for drinks.

.5oz DeKuyper Blue Curacao

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Salt the rim of shooter glass. Shake mixture and strain into salted glass. This shot is probably the strongest of them all but the salt, lime and simple syrup help take the edge off the tequila.

Enjoy and remember, Drink Responsibly!

DIY Phone Pouch Made From Old Leggings

Ever had a pair of leggings which you hardly wear anymore but love the color? Why not turn it into a handy pouch or a pencil case instead!

In another of my “Ah Ha moments”, I remembered I got these pair of leggings with a zipper at the bottom of each leg last year. They came in handy for some work outs but since, I have pushed these to the back of the drawer, and placed my new work out gear in the front.

But I really loved the texture and color of this pair (some kind of purple-grey which I’m sure someone has coined a name for). So… since I was short of a braided phone pouch to compliment my hair recently, I decided what better way to re-use this great fabric and turn these hardly worn leggings into something useful! 🙂 It’s also a great coin and pen/pencil pouch.

Grab an old pair of leggings. I think this would be fun if you had a bright or pattered pair of leggings too! Maybe even neon, don’t worry I won’t judge you.

DIY leggings into pouch pencil case 1

Cut off one side, giving some allowance after the zipper ends. This will be the base of your pouch/ pencil case. If your leggings don’t have a zipper, feel free to insert your own if you know how. If not, use an old pouch as a base. Cosmetic counters tend to give a lot of these pouches as free gifts during purchase or you can find some at your local dollar store.

You should have something like this. Note that most leggings taper towards the end, so you should cut a straight line at the base to ensure everything remains even.

Cut off another chunk of the leggings and make sure it is at least 1.5 to 2 inches longer than your pouch zipper.

Cut it open and cut out strips. The width of the strips depends on how thick you want each braid to be.

In this instance, I used strips of about 1 inch in width (using eyeball power of course. If you want it to be exact and perfect, you can use a ruler and mark it out with a pen or chalk).

Pile three strips together, pin the top and start braiding.

I may be taking it for granted that everyone knows how to braid. So if you need detailed instructions in another tutorial, please feel free to let me know!

You should end up with something like this.

Make as many braids as you need to fill up the sides of the pouch. In this case, I used four as I wanted a slimmer case for my phone, loose change and pencils and pens.

Did I fail to mention it also compliments my hair when I wear a side or French braid?  🙂

If you want a deeper pouch, sew on more fabric to the side walls and continue adding on more braids!

Stitch the braids down onto the fabric underneath. The important parts to stitch are the sides of each braid to hold them down, and the top and bottom of each braid row. You’ll want to make small stitches on the outside and use similar colored thread so it’s not obvious.

Repeat for the opposite side. If you’re feeling lazy you could get away with just one side too of course.

Now close the zipper to about the halfway mark and flip the pouch inside out. Sew all around to form your pouch shape.

Once you’re done with stitching all around, cut off the excess edges. Be careful not to cut any threads as everything will unravel! I didn’t insert a lining in this, but you can if you want to make it even prettier.

Flip it back to the right side and you’re done! The braids also provide some cushioning in case you have more delicate items to place inside.

Color Code Your Keys

Nail Polish Keys

Its self-explanatory. Any questions, feel free to send an Email or comment.

Make sure to do two coats on each side. The only task that took up time was waiting for one side to dry before painting the other side.

Week 2 of Budget 101

PART TWO: MAKE A BUDGET

It’s been a week.  How’s that no-spending thing going? Well, here’s the good news:  You can start spending money again.  Of course the bad news is that after today’s assignment, you might not want to. Hopefully last week’s exercise started you thinking about the reasons WHY you’re spending and also got you to start making a serious distinction between the things you WANT and the things you NEED.

(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Budget 101 Part 1: STOP SPENDING before starting this week’s assignment!)

Before we go any further, I want to make a quick but important distinction that just because something is a “WANT” instead of a “NEED” doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It’s okay to want a pretty comfortable house with all the amenities, vacations or cute shoes. What’s not okay is to want all those things at the expense of your financial well-being,  your marriage, relationships, your children or anything else that we know is more important than stuff. It’s okay to WANT, but not to GET if you are not at a stable financial stance to do so. ***Don’t go on vacation, then come back and not pay your electric and gas bills. Don’t go out shopping with your friends and then go and tell your family you’re struggling*** If you are not struggling with your spending or find that you have plenty of money leftover for your savings, life & retirement accounts at the end of the month, have no trouble paying all your bills on time, know exactly where all your money is going, have great credit and don’t stress out over unforeseen expenses, then you probably don’t need to be reading this series.  In fact, you probably could write it better than me because you are obviously doing something right. I have multiple bills including a retirement and savings account, life, funeral and health insurances that I pay towards monthly, and I don’t have school or credit debt so I say I am pretty financially stable BUT…… most of us, including I struggle with money or budgeting, at least in some area. Believe me when I tell you there is plenty of room for improvement. This week’s assignment is going to require a little more effort.   The hard truth is that no one can fix your budget for you.  There are no magic solutions or ten-minute fixes that will have permanent results.  Improving your financial outlook will require change, and change is HARD.  Do it anyway.

As I tell my stepson, never neglect to do something just because it is hard, because it is the things you work hardest for that will reward you the most. Don’t let fear stop you either. It can be very scary to open up the Pandora’s box otherwise known as your finances, especially if you’ve been turning a blind eye.  In some ways, ignorance is bliss.  But if you’re still reading up to this point, you probably know, deep down, that this is something you need to do.  Take a deep breath, muster up your courage, and just do it.  You’ll be better for it. And now that the pep talk is over, it is time to get down to business:

HERE IS THIS WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT:

                      CLICK TO DOWNLOAD MY PERSONAL BUDGET WORKSHEET

1. Assess your income and fixed expenses

Print out the nifty budget worksheet above, then grab your bank statements, your bills, your check register, & any other financial information you can think of.  A calculator might come in handy too.  Then grab a glass of wine, sit down (with your spouse if your married), and start crunching the numbers.  Use worksheet number one to list all your sources of income, as well as all those key fixed payments you MUST make each month

Use worksheet #2 to add up all the subtotals of your fixed expense categories, then subtract that total from your income.  The remaining number is what you really have to work on creating a budget for.
In the coming weeks, we will work on finding ways to lower both your fixed AND variable expenses, but we need a place to start from, and this is it.

2.  Create a budget for your variable expenses

Use a pencil to fill in each category with what you are currently paying each month, then add up your subtotals and see how it compares to the number you are shooting for.  Then go back and lower different categories as necessary.  Obviously some things, like your water and electric, won’t be adjustable, but other things can probably be cut significantly.   Include SOMETHING in your savings budget, even if it is just a small amount.  If you have credit card payments, include those in your household expenses as well.

3. Take some time to self-reflect

This step may be the hardest, but it is also the most important.  Complete worksheet #4 and make some concrete decisions and goals based on what you’ve discovered through this budgeting exercise.

Maybe you’ve realized it is time to cut up your credit cards, or, at the very least, put them on ice. (Fill a bowl with water, put your credit cards in, and freeze.  If nothing else, it will slow you down!)  Maybe you’re ready to start packing a lunch instead of going out or to give up cable.  What you spend your money on is a very personal decision that only you can determine for yourself (or with your spouse.)

4. Track your spending

The last page of the PDF packet is an expense tracker.  Print out as many as you need, and use it to keep track of everything you spend.  At the end of each day, and then again at the end of each week, go over your expenses to make sure you are staying on track.  The more frequently you “check in,” the less likely you will be to let your spending get out of control.  Little things add up quickly!

.

Whew, what a week!  I know this probably seems like a lot, but please don’t give up on me!  I promise it will be worth it in the end, and your bank account will thank you.  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and remember, I want to hear from you!  How did your first week of the challenge go?  What did you learn about yourself or your budget?
Keep in mind, once again, that I am not a financial expert.  You are welcome to use these worksheets to help you–they are what make sense to me–but there are lots of other budgeting books, worksheets, & software available that might work for you better

Home Made Ice Cream Cake

Can’t decide between cake or ice cream, or are in the mood for both? Have both!

Ice cream cakes are some of the most satisfying, and easy desserts to put together. You can even make them with your children to make it an even more special treat, and fun activity.

This version made out of ice cream sandwiches takes the cake, literally, because the layers are almost pre-made for you. Simple and pretty when cut and served, it will be love at your first creamy bite.

This recipe is so easy, no directions are needed, its all self explanatory. And depending on your personal preference of toppings, you can add however much you would like.

This recipe is basic and includes ice cream sandwiches, whip topping (not whip cream, because it’s too creamy), peanuts, chocolate syrup and caramel. Get creative and go funky, add crushed Oreos, strawberry syrup, candy, etc….the options are endless.

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake Recipe Real Simple

 

Mmmmmm! Enjoy!

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

About Budget 101

My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on a sounder financial footing.  Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget. It is my personal guide, a beginners budget 101. Each week we will tackle one specific area for us to work on, and then complete assignments related to that segment of our financial life. Keep in mind, just as anything you need to do in life, following this series will take some effort & commitment on your part. There are many ways to budget your financial life, and this is the blood, sweat, & tears edition. Okay, well maybe no blood 🙂 Every Sunday will mark a new week towards a better budget. Come join me and save! Click on Budget 101 in the menu scale, and use the drop down to view the series by week.

Disclaimers: 

  • I am not a financial expert or certified financial planner.  I have degrees in business administration, criminal and business law, have studied accounting, and am a certified tax preparer and tutor.  I have no credentials whatsoever beyond my own experience to qualify me for teaching anyone about saving money.  There are plenty of money experts out there who could probably explain this stuff far better than me, and some I will even refer you to.  My only goal here is to try to break down the scary world of budgets and saving into manageable bites.  Yes, this is the baby steps guide to saving. This is my personal guide, and it has worked for me.

Week 1 of Budget 101

Welcome to My Beginner’s Guide to Saving!

My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on sounder financial footing.  Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget. Being that you are reading this, you are starting a lifestyle to a better you, and  better financial situation.

Part One: Stop Spending!!!

Saving is not easy. We live in a crazy consumer driven “have to have it” society, where the latest electronics, cars, fashions and cars are constantly being promoted; and we are made to feel like we’re missing out if we don’t have the latest or the best.  The sheer quantity of stuff available to purchase at any given time is pretty much a bottomless pit.  There is always more, more more! So we want and spend more, more, more!

So what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

Well, it’s pretty simple really:  STOP. BUYING. STUFF.

At least in theory it is simple…….

In practice, it is sooooo much harder……

Our reasons for spending money on stuff we don’t need are plentiful and varied.  It makes us feel good.  We want to look better.  We want our house to be pretty.  We want what everyone else has.  It’s fun.  We’re bored.  We’re lonely.  We want people to like us better.  We want to be “ahead of the curve.” We’re “tech junkies”.  We can’t pass up a “good deal.” We think we might need it someday.  The sales pitch worked.  We’re stressed.  We’re trying to fill a void.  It was on sale.  We’re addicted to Starbucks, tobacco, scrapbooking, shoes, video games, books, fun, etc.

Sound familiar?

The truth is that whatever the reason, much of what we spend our money on is unnecessary, a want rather than a need.  I need to eat, but I want to drink my Keurig K-Cups coffee every day. I need to wear shoes, but I want to have dozens of pairs in every color and style imaginable. I want to get my hair done, but I have student loans and bills I need to pay. I want to take dance classes, but I need to pay for health insurance every month (why is insurance so much anyways?…347.00 a month!)  😦  So much for AFFORDABLE in Affordable Care Act.

It is so very important to realize the distinction between what we think we need and what we actually need. But its not an issue of wants Vs. needs, but wants Vs. Priorities.

It is the first critical step on the path to savings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never spend money on anything, and live an austere and boring life, void of pretty things, entertainment or yummy coffee drinks.

But for the sake of this series, we are going to start by curbing all spending so that down the road we can figure out how to get those things we want in a way that fits our budget.

Which brings me to this week’s assignment:

1.  Stop spending!

Try to go these next seven days without spending money on anything except what is absolutely necessary, as in matter-of-survival necessary.  No clothes, no candy, no quick stops at McDonalds, no craft supplies, no nothing.  Don’t worry, it’s only a week.  You won’t die.  I promise. It is a great way to get your budget back on track in a hurry!

2.  Make a list of wants and needs

Spend your time reflecting on all the things you spend money on in a months time, and divide those things into a “needs” list (i.e.  I need to pay rent, pay utility bills, pay health and life insurance bills, buy food, make car and insurance payment, etc.) and a “wants” list (cable, , Starbucks, etc.)

  •  Don’t just make a mental list.  Sit down and physically write down every single thing you can think of that you spend money on, from the mundane to the major.

3. Get inspired

Read a few financial articles to get yourself motivated.  It will give you something to do while you’re trying not to spend money.

4.  Find new (free) ways to fill your time

Think long and hard about the reasons you spend money frivelously.  If you are using shopping as a way to fill a void in your life then you need to seriously explore other hobbies that don’t cost anything.  Go to the library and check out some new books, make it your mission to explore every park in a 20 mile radius, set a goal of organizing every closet and cupboard in your house by the end of the summer, or better yet, have a yard sale and make some money off the things that you already have that you don’t need.

I think the thing that surprised me the most when I stopped spending money out of boredom was how much more creative I became.  The world is full of free activities. You just have to look a little harder.

And that’s it for this week!  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and remember, I want to hear from you!  If you’ve decided to take this 8 week challenge, or if you have any ideas for fun free activities you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.  Saving money is so much more fun when you have someone to share it with.
Samantha Jonas-Rongo