Monday, February 28, 2011

Weekly Money Check Up

Every week, MPP over at My Pretty Pennies hosts a financial fill-in post. If you're new, click on over to check it out.

1. The most I spent this last week was on  $60 on groceries. :)

2. Today I feel really excited/motivated towards money. I got my first tax refund, haven't spent much of my bonus, and am doing great on my fast food spending fast!

3. Money can't buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was work on a bookmark I'm cross-stitching for a friend (update coming soon!) and took my puppy for a walk (it hasn't been warm enough for that in ages!).

4. I will consider this week a success if I go to the gym more than once. ;)

5. My favorite thing about spring is wearing shorts and sundresses is right on the horizon!

February Goal Review

Starting this past December, I started recording monthly goals to try and help myself get things accomplished. At the end of each month I post a goal recap to make myself a little more accountable for the goals I set in the beginning of the month.

How is it March already!!! Even though I have no idea where February went, I did somewhat better on my goals than in January. (In January, I pretty much set goals and then promptly forgot about them. I'm pretty sure I did that in December too...). But, like I said, this month a few more were accomplished! And I only out and out failed on one!

February goal recap:

1. Develop CSCS study plan. Check!
2. Register for CSCS exam. Fail. :(
3. Find a wedding dress. Check!
4. Develop and begin 1/2 marathon training plan. kind of
5. Track fitness progress using weight and resting heart rate on each workout day. kind of 
6. Go to (at least) 1 exercise class per week at the YMCA. Check!

#2: There's apparently a lot of paperwork involved in registering to have my employer pay and/or being reimbursed for my exam. Honestly, I didn't feel like dealing with it this month. Maybe in March. :)

#4: I found a 1/2 marathon training program online, but I have failed to do anything but go to one exercise class per week at the Y. Which is better than nothing I suppose...

#5: I did manage to record my weight a few times, but completely spazzed on the resting heart rate part. And, lets face it, I only worked out one day per week so there wasn't a whole lot to record. :)

Did you set goals this month?! How did you do?

Check back tomorrow for my March goals!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happiness Bookmark (in progress)

I am currently stitching this for a friend (who shall remain nameless because it's a surprise). But I did feel the need to share my progress because it's really cute!

I'm hoping to finish it today or later this week!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

dSLR, come back to me!

I got really spoiled using our super awesome dSLR to take pictures for the blog. And now that I can't even find the memory card or charger for my point and shoot...I'm stuck with my phone camera and my pictures just make me so sad. I feel like reminiscing so here are some of my favorite pictures from previous posts...

Sigh. The pictures were just...better. Even the random pictures added to posts just to make them prettier were just soooo much better. And, yes, I know I'm whining but I can't wait for the camera (and Manny!) to come back!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Small Victory

photo credit

Today I accomplished the very first thing on my 2011 Goal list! I used Facebook, my memory, and my MobileMe calendar to create a Master Birthday Calendar, complete with reminders! And, of course, it's all set to repeat every year so I should be good to go for a while! Yay, me! Hopefully this will help me get cards and presents out in time and not forget any more birthdays!

Fast Food Spending Fast

Recently I complained wrote a post about how much money I've been spending on fast food lately (and vowed to end it forever!). But it's not that easy and so I've been looking at my fast food spending triggers. I realized that most of my fast food spending is due to a lack of planning! More often than not, I bought dinner and/or lunch out because I had not taken the time and effort to use food already in the house to plan for these meals. (Which also resulted in some unnecessary food waste. Sigh.) Big. fat. fail.

So what am I doing to change my habits? I'm engaging in a Fast Food Spending Fast. I'm going to do my very best not to buy any fast food (especially during week days). I don't mind spending money on food when going out with friends, but I'm putting the nix on weekday I'm-eating-it-because-I'm-lazy fast food spending.

How am I going to accomplish that you ask?...well, I've made you a list!

1. Make sure to have easily packable food in the house. Lack of this is usually not the problem, but it is essential.

2. Put away leftovers properly so that they may be used for lunch the next day.

3. If not packing the night before, at least plan in your head what you're going to pack the next day.

4. Just do it. So many times I take an extra five minutes to sit around in my pajamas when I could be doing something productive, and those five little minutes cost $5 - $1- (depending on what I buy for lunch).

I have a million and one excuses for not packing my lunch more regularly, but they all suck. It literally takes less than five minutes and will literally save me lots of money!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Handwriting Meme

I saw this on Cate's blog recently and thought it was really interesting, and then Elizabeth tagged me in hers and I was super excited to participate! I think handwriting is an interesting little peek into someone's personality, like a little window you don't normally get to look through. Especially these days with so much technology, you hardly get to see someone's actual handwriting. My parents were sticklers about handwriting and I actually wasn't even allowed to write in print until high school, everything had to be cursive. But now that I'm an adult, I've actually received complements fairly often on my handwriting. My everyday handwriting is nothing to write home about (heehee), but my cursive can be very pretty when I want it to be. I digress. Here's a little peek into my handwriting by answering the following questions...

1. What is your name/blogger name?
2. What's your blog's name/URL?
3. Write "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog"
4. Favorite quote?
5. Favorite song?
6. Favorite band/singers?
7. Anything else you want to say?
8. Tag three to five other people.

I've tagged Bre, Amber, and Brandy. Come on girls, show us what you've got! :)

So what do you think about my handwriting? Does it reveal anything? Do you even think handwriting says anything about a person's personality?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Crappy Trip to Petsmart

Today Louis and I took a mother-son trip to Petsmart. He needed a new pad for his kennel and a new toy (or two). :) It was rainy and icy and disgusting when I got home from work but we really needed to go so I grabbed Louis and off we went! Immediately upon arriving Louis set to work sniffing everything in sight. Seriously, he is the sniffiest dog I've ever met. We had already gone to the back for his kennel pad and were making our way towards the toy aisle when the most obnoxious child I have ever seen is standing in the middle of the aisle, squeaking toys (yes, plural, he was double fisting the squeakies) at every dog that passes. He is also carrying on a yelling conversation with his mother across 4 aisles about where he is. Um, just follow the migraine-inducing squeaking lady. Anyway, I initially avoided this aisle because of above mentioned obnoxious child, but I really wanted to get a toy and get out of there so I went around to the opposite end from the child.

Note: Parents, if your child is being so obnoxious that people are avoiding entire aisles in stores because of him, do something about it please!

Anyhow, apparently the random child decided he wanted to pet the cute little spotted puppy. Perfectly understandable, Louis is adorable and everyone wants to pet him. ;) But most people understand that when you walk up to him and he hides behind my legs, you should approach him nicely, because he's a puppy, and he's scared. Noooo, little obnoxious boy wants to run up to the dog and squeak toys in his face. Louis is petrified and hides behind my legs and barks. Sigh. I try to gently tell the little brat that he is just scared and maybe he doesn't like the toy.

The child runs off and I think we're safe. None such luck. The kid comes running back over making (loud) dinosaur noises and shaking a giant purple octopus in my dog's face. Well, kid, thanks, you just scared the shit out of my dog. Literally. You scared the poop right out of my dog's butt. Please get the hell out of my way so I can clean up my dog's crap and go home. Sigh.

I completely understand that when you bring your dog to Petsmart he will be subjected to people wanting to pet him and talk to him. But parents, please do not let your children terrorize my dog. Maybe the next time we're in Macy's I'll just attack your child with a parka! :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Death of Money Monday

Some of you may have noticed that I didn't do a Money Monday post today. I feel that my last few posts have been lacking and I'd like to revamp the way I blog about personal finance. I haven't exactly figured it out yet, but I hope for it to be much more fun and interesting! Stay tuned!

Weekly Money Check-Up

Hosted by My Pretty Pennies, this is a weekly financial fill-in post.

1. The most I've spent this last week was on new work shoes at Target last night. I broke two pairs last week and was a little desperate.

2. Today I feel happy towards money. Even though I feel like I've been spending a lot lately, I've still be able to make small, consistent contributions to my savings goals.

3. Money can't buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was play a really intense game of Catch Phrase with my family, best friend, and fiance.

4. I will consider this week a success if I can make a To Do list for the house and stick with it so that I'm not stuck with a marathon cleaning session Saturday or Sunday.

5. My favorite meal of the day is breakfast. Breakfast = coffee. Enough said.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Frugal Habits

When I was in high school, and then again in college, I had to read the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (maybe it was Teens, but it's basically the same thing). I've actually been thinking of reading the adult version for a while now, in order to remind myself that productivity is a conscious decision, not just something that some people are (or aren't!) born with. Anyway, I was cruising around on CNN today and found this article about how to relate the 7 Habits to frugality! Upon further investigation, it's actually a post from this finance blog called MoneyNing.

I always enjoy finding even more ways to be frugal and stretch a dollar! It has some good ideas but also reminded me of some of the things I'm doing right! Being frugal, saving money, and being in control of your finances is definitely a conscious decision that takes a considerable amount of work. But if I do say so myself, it's totally worth it! Yes, I am a little obsessed with my budget-tracking Excel spreadsheet...but it beats the hell out of stressing about whether or not I'm going to have money at the end of the month!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day Cookies

So I know this is a day late but here's a picture of my Valentine's Day cookies!

Everyone at the office said they were really yummy and I have to say, I agree. I tasted several during the baking and they were pretty wonderful. I wish I had a better picture but I just snapped this one with my phone real quick before collapsing into bed the other night.

Sugar Cookie recipe can be found here.

For the red and pink cookies, icing recipe can be found here. To get the color, I added varying amounts of red food coloring.

For the purple and white cookies. I used Microwavable Melting Candies in the white and orchid colors (both vanilla flavor). And to get the drizzle I used a little candy decorating bottle.

This was the first time using the melting chocolates and the decorating bottle, and I loved it! And the chocolate covered cookies tasted amazing, maybe even better than the iced ones! I'm super excited and am looking for another reason to bake and decorate cookies. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekly Money Check-Up

Weekly Money Check-Up is a weekly finance fill-in post hosted by My Pretty Pennies. If you're new, click on over and check it out!

1. The most I've spent this last week was on plane tickets. I am very tired of buying plane tickets. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind spending the money to go home and see family, go to weddings, etc. But it seems like every other paycheck I'm spending money on airfare. I am looking forward to that slowing down soon!

2. Today I feel a little anxious about money. I get paid Friday (yay!) but I need to basically not spend money this week to stay within my budget (except for getting my hair done tomorrow!).

3. Money can't buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was clean my entire house! Seriously, I just feel a lot better about things when everything is clean.

4. I will consider this week a success if I don't spend any more than the expenses I already have planned!

5. This Valentine's Day I am going out to dinner with a friend. Her husband is deployed and my fiance is away at training getting ready for a deployment. Girls night, anyone!?

Money Monday

Ah yes, money time again. So my budget this paycheck went a little haywire. It's a long story, I was going to explain, but it's not all that interesting. :) Anyway, here's the budget rundown as of today. 

Gasoline: 3.4% left (and I brought my budget back down!)
Grocery: 9.5% (I'm hoping to decrease this budget by being a more conscious shopper!)
Other: 29.15% (except I have a hair appointment Monday, this one's going over)
Wedding Fund Contribution: done (kind of)

It's a good thing I get paid Friday

The "kind of" about the Wedding Fund contribution is that I've sent it electronically to our joint account, it just hasn't arrived there yet.

In other news, I've decided to engage in my own little spending fast. A few of the blogs I read are doing spending fasts for a multitude of reasons in different areas. My little problem area is fast food. In January I spent $60 on fast food! What a waste! And this month I've spent nearly $30 already! That's $90 I would much rather spend on something else. Seriously, I could get a massage for that amount. Way better than artery clogging burgers. Sigh. And let's face it, fast food isn't exactly kind to the waistline either. So I've decided I'm going to embark on a fast food spending fast. I'm am going to try my absolute freakin' hardest not to buy any fast food for the rest of the month. Cross your fingers!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Wedding Binder

 Technically I already have a wedding binder. I got this super awesome one from my parents for Christmas and it has tons of helpful information and advice.

However, I wanted a place to put all the cool stuff I've found in wedding magazines. The stack of magazines was getting a little insane so I thought I'd pull what I liked out of them (and hence feel better about buying even more magazines) and put it together in one spot. So I went to the store and bought a pink binder, pretty dividers, and pretty paper to paste the magazine cutouts on. I'm so excited!! So after this...

and this...

I finally managed to put together the final product. 

The best thing about this project is that it just keeps on going! There's always going to be more fun stuff to put in the binder!

Random tidbit: Sorry for the sub-par pictures lately, Manny took the good camera with him to training and I can't find the SD card or charger for my point and shoot. So all my pictures have been iPhone pics. They're awesome for phone pics, but definitely lack some luster compared to the ones from the good camera.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Burned Chicken and Crappy Rice for One Please

It's no secret that my culinary skills are less than stellar. In fact, they suck. I thought I was getting better, but I now realize it was just under Manny's watchful eye that I had not caused any disasters in the kitchen lately.

So tonight I came home all prepared to cook the first real food since Manny left. (The first night I had leftover seven-layer dip and last night I just  had canned soup.) I took out my little packet of RiceSides, took my chicken out of the refridgerator (yeah, I remembered to put it in there!) and went to work. I went to take the chicken out of the package and realized it wasn't quite defrosted all the way (our fridge is good like that :/ ). I was to help it along to defrost all the way but then got impatient and figured I'd just throw it on there and it would be fine. Um, not so much. After about 10 minutes, the outside was beautifully brown and crispy...and the inside was raw. FML. So I took it off the grill real quick, chopped it into about a million pieces, and threw it back on. I ended up getting it all cooked and it tasted pretty ok, it was just in a billion smushed pieces (smushed because after the first time, I got paranoid about it being raw and proceeded to squish every piece to see if it was done or not).

Sidenote: Talked to Manny later and was informed that you cook chicken over medium heat, not high. Oops.

In the midst of all this (mind you, I was also getting the shit popped out of my arm by the grease or whatever the crap I put on that grill) I kind of forgot about the rice for a minute and burned the bottom of it. Sign. That's ok, everything on top of the burned layer was fine. It didn't taste all that great, but it wasn't burned. It just didn't taste that great because it's prepackaged flavored rice. (Ok, the Broccoli Cheddar flavor is amazing, but all the others leave a lot to be desired.)

So, yes, tonight I had crappy dinner for one, but I'm determined not to eat like this for the rest of the time Manny is gone. I guess it really is time to learn to cook.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Couponing and Grocery Shopping

Before Christmas I was in a great grocery shopping groove. I or we went about once a week, always with a complete list, coupons, and rarely had to run back during the week for forgotten items. But then, as usual, life got in the way and I fell off the couponing/grocery planning wagon. We got engaged, went home for Christmas, had family emergencies, and then, wouldn't you know, it's practically mid-February and I have no idea how we got here.

My point is that I'm jumping back on the couponing and grocery planning wagon. I may even start menu planning. Especially while Manny is away, I think menu planning may be key to not spending a billion dollars per month on fast food. But for now baby steps, I've been on and Kroger's website several times and am determined to have a productive and frugal shopping experience this weekend. However, I did also just find out that there's an Aldi about 15-20 minutes from my house, and I'm wondering if it's worth the trip. We also have a Meijer nearby. I've always gone to the Kroger because it's right around the corner but I wonder if I would save enough money to warrant going elsewhere. Now would be a good time to experiment since I have tons of time to kill, but I just can't bring myself to spend the time and gas money to go elsewhere when there is a perfectly good Kroger right around the corner.

I'm pretty sure that if I keep up with the coupons and sales, going to my Kroger will be just fine. One thing I'm sure of is that I need to shop purposefully in order to be frugal. I need to know when there are sales and stock up when and where I can. This weekend will be my first re-try, so we'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Very First Guest Post

Hey everyone! Today I'm guest posting over at New Girl on Post! Click on over to read about what I'm planning to do while Manny's deployed.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Money Monday

Hi everyone! It's Monday again! It doesn't really feel like Monday though because we were off of school for four days last week! We still had practices and games Friday, but I'm still a little out of it. However, last Friday was payday (with bonus included!) so that's always good news! Anyway, here's my budget rundown...

keep in mind, I got paid 3 days ago...
Gasoline: 85% left
Grocery: 51.16% left
Other: 93.64% left
Wedding Fund Contribution: still needs to be done
Plane ticket: 12% under what I budgeted for!

Ok, so here's what I'm stressing about today...I got a bonus with this last paycheck. Super exciting, right?! But now I'm stressed about what to spend it on. I'm definitely going to get my hair done, but what about the rest? I don't want to just piss it away, I'd rather spend it on something I really want/need.

I'm trying to decide whether to just take some of it and go on a little "me" shopping spree, or to put it aside for when I decide what I really want to spend it on. Or is getting my hair done enough of a "me spree"?

Weekly Money Check-Up

provided my My Pretty Pennies, click on over and check it out!

1. The most I've spent this last week was on making a payment to the dentist. (Only a couple more payments to go! Thank goodness I now have dental insurance!)

2. Today I feel cautiously optimistic towards money. I got a bonus with this paycheck, but I'm also buying a plane ticket for a friends wedding. And I was able to contribute a little towards my personal savings but I'm worried I'll have to take it right back out again. Sigh.

3. Money can't buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did this week was hang out with friends twice in one weekend! And both times were at someone's house, so other than bringing some food for the Superbowl party, it was free!

4. I will consider this week a success if I manage not to be too sad that Manny is leaving for 6 weeks of training.

5. For the Superbowl, I went to a friend's house with a bunch of other friends! I love that I'm finally making some friends here!

Click here to go to My Pretty Pennies for the original post!...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Flower Wall Hanging

This pattern was not necessarily intended as a wall hanging but after I finished stitching and it sat in a box for 3 months, that's what it became. :) I've decided to send it to my mom since it's my first ever cross stitch project (not first "finished", but my first stitched).

design from DMC Color Variations booklet (Pink Flower)
stitched on oatmeal 14 count Aida
with suggested color choices

Friday, February 4, 2011

Baby Wall Hanging

One of my cousins recently had a baby, so I made her this wall hanging for the baby's room. It was actually a really quick and easy project but it's adorable if I do say so myself. :)

design from DMC Color Variations booklet (Ducks)
stitched on white 14 count Aida
with my own color choices

I used a hodgepodge of techniques to finish it, I'll post a tutorial later. :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Savings Goals

As you may or may not have noticed, I have added a sidebar labeled "Savings Goals." (If you haven't, check it out real quick!) One of my biggest money stressors when I didn't have a "real" job was that I never was able to save up for anything. I was only even able to make ends meet because my parents helped and you can forget building up any sort of savings. But now that I've had my real job for a few months (and Christmas is over), it's time to put some serious effort into saving!

Just like with anything else, I've divided up my savings into categories. There are a few things I've been wanting to save up for and I'd really like to get that ball rolling!

Wedding Fund: This is the goal we're most aggressively saving towards right now. We have a set monthly amount that we're both contributing in order to reach our goal in time for the wedding.

Emergency Fund: My emergency fund is something that's been really neglected here recently forever. And I'm sad to say that there have been a couple emergencies recently that other people have had to help with because my one and only savings account was still recovering from Christmas. I'd really like to be self-sufficient in case of emergency.

Travel: I'd like to do a bit of traveling to see friends this summer but I can't do this without money...

Christmas: Like I mentioned before, Christmas bled me a little last year and I would like to be more prepared this year. Especially since we're getting married right before Christmas, I want to make sure I have money set aside.

So there you have it. I'm sure I'll add or takeaway some categories here or there, but as always, I'll keep you posted. :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why the CSCS Certification?

As you've seen in my February and 2011 Goals, I'm working towards obtaining my CSCS certification. For some reason, athletic trainers seem to love collecting letters behind our names. (Maybe it's not just us?) Maybe it's that we don't really know what to do with ourselves if we're not studying something. Right now, the farthest I can stretch it is BS, ATC/LAT...but I never write the BS part. Anyway, many athletic trainers are also EMTs, have a Master's degree, doctorate, and/or have any other various certifications. I, however, have not collected any additional certifications since obtaining my athletic training certification and license. Sad face. In light of this and partially because my employer is recommending it, I am working towards obtaining my CSCS, which stands for Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

Wait! Before those of you who don't know me confuse "Certified Athletic Trainer" with "Personal Trainer" please read this post or visit this website. Seriously, read it.

Ok, are we all on the same page? Anyway, even though athletic trainers are allied health care professionals, not fitness professionals, we still seem to have a lot of cross-over because we work primarily with highly physically active individuals. And we like to know what we're talking about. We're annoying like that, we want to know everything about everything. And if you ask, you may subject yourself to a lecture about any number of topics we just happen to posses knowledge about. I digress. My employer puts on this summer performance enhancement program and has decided that all the athletic trainers (most of whom already have their CSCS) are the perfect people to direct and teach this program. No problem, we love being know-it-alls on yet another subject. ;) My point is, this is primary reason I'm getting my CSCS. It also opens up job opportunities for a future military wife who will need to be able to find a job in a variety of locations/situations. And, of course, I need some more letters behind my name. ;)

In order to obtain this certification, all I have to do is take a test. The only prerequisites are that you hold a bachelor's degree and have a current CPR certification. Oh, and I should probably study. ;) There were several, very expensive study packages available online but there is also a free study guide. So what did I do? I bought the text book and downloaded the study guide. No way am I going to pay $400+ for one of these fancy study packages when I could just read the book myself. So the book is in the mail, and as soon as I get it I'm going to set to work studying away so I can get this certification before summer (hopefully). :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ice Storm

Today I'm home from work because of a big ice storm. It's actually really pretty albeit extremely slippery. Here are some pictures from around our house.

pretty tree

frozen bushes

icicles on the lamp post

teeny litte weeds that somehow stayed upright!

That's all for now, time for some hot chocolate!

February Goals!

February Goals:
1. Develop CSCS Study Plan 
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. But look for a post about the CSCS and why I'm getting it coming soon!

2. Register for CSCS Exam 
I'm planning on doing this direct through the hospital so that I don't have to pay for it and then be reimbursed but that takes a fair bit of paperwork. So, I'm getting started now and hoping it will get done by the end of the month.

3. Find a wedding dress
I'm heading home later in the month to go wedding dress shopping with my mom, step-mom, and sister (also maid of honor)! I could not be more excited and really hope I find something!

4. Develop and begin 1/2 marathon training program
So you may have read that I'm running a 1/2 marathon in September...but right now I'm horribly out of shape. So I need to get started now!

5. Track fitness progress by recording weight and resting heart rate on each workout day.
Some of my fitness goals (besides just being able to complete the 1/2 marathon of course) is to lower my blood pressure, resting heart rate, and track my weight. I'm not really all that concerned about losing weight, but shedding a couple pounds wouldn't exactly hurt my feelings. ;)

6. Go to (at least) one exercise class per week at YMCA.
One of the reasons I'm so excited about the YMCA is that they have all sorts of group exercise classes that are FREE for members! They have yoga, cardio kick, and all sorts of other stuff that looked really fun!

Do you have any goals for February?