chicken wire display

I can’t really remember where I saw this idea, but I thought it was a great and easy way to display cards, my son’s art, or other items we want to display.  It was very easy to make.  Here is how I did it! Continue reading “chicken wire display”

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budgeting

I would not say I am an expert at budgeting or finances, but I do work hard to keep our finances in order and to pay off our debt.  Although it may sound strange, I enjoy budgeting and financial planning.  I think this is mostly because I like a good spreadsheet (HAHA!) and I have a personality where I enjoy organization, which works well with budgeting and financial planning.  Also, I am not really a big spender, so I don’t see budgeting as something restricting.  I more see it as something that helps my family to be able to do the things that we enjoy. Continue reading “budgeting”

cute summer wreath

While we were away, we welcomed a new member to our family!  I am now a mom of an infant and a toddler (wow!).  I am learning to adjust to the lack of sleep again, but enjoying the extra time with my family while on maternity leave. Continue reading “cute summer wreath”

why I have 7 bank accounts!

As the new year approaches, I always try to think of where I would like to focus my time and energy in the coming year.  I usually end up with a few goals to improve my lifestyle and a few that will improve my family.  One goal I always seem to have is paying off debt and making financial improvements for my household.  One thing that I tried last year was multiple bank accounts.  I have a total of 7 and it works great for my family!

Continue reading “why I have 7 bank accounts!”

making your work commute work for you

Being a mom who works away from the home is pretty tough.  Luckily I am able to telework some days with my current position, but that still leaves a pretty long commute for me to and from work.  I live in the Atlanta area and traffic can be horrible…honestly it usually is horrible.  I did not really realize how bad it was until we moved and then a few months later I got a position where I was no longer able to ride the train to work.  Sigh.  I really struggled with the transition of starting a new position and gaining a new, very long commute.  Currently my commute can range from 40 mins to over an hour.  Here are a few tips that I have found to help me make it through the LONG hours in the car.

Audiobooks and podcasts

If you have not checked out either of these you’re missing out.  When I rode the train to work, I always had a book with me to read while riding.  When I switched to the car I realized I would have very little time to read anymore.  There is little to no time to read when I am home and my commute was the time I had carved out of my busy schedule to read.  I initially thought listening to audiobooks was not really reading so I held off on trying them out for a long time, but now I love them.  I listen to books on the way to work and I am still able to get my “reading” completed.  I usually get books from Audible, but I always check my libraries audiobooks first before making any purchases.  I was so surprised on find so many of the books I wanted to read were available for FREE from my library.  Make sure to check out your libraries site!  I was also able to find podcasts to listen to when I did not have a book available.  There are podcasts on almost every topic imaginable!  Look for your favorite topics from health to fitness to celebrities to social issues.  You can find anything and many of the apps to listen are FREE.

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Phone Calls

This might not seem like a big one, but I did not realize how awesome it is to have time to call friends and family with no interruptions.  I work pretty early in the morning, so most of my family and friends are asleep during this time and I listen to my books or podcasts.  I make most of my calls when I am driving home in the evening.  I call different people on different days.  Being a mom of a toddler, when I get home my son is all over me and ready to play.  There is no time to call friends or family and even if there is he is making all kinds of noise in the background…LOL!  My sister does the same thing and sometimes we talk while we are both commuting home.  I can instantly tell when she gets home because everyone is pulling her in different directions and she usually says, “I have to go now.”  The same is true for me, so I totally understand.  

Quiet time

This might seem obvious, but maybe it is not to everyone.  I rarely have quiet time at home.  When I have free time I usually catch up on chores or shows I may have missed.  Rarely do I just sit quietly and reflect.  During this time you can think about what you need to do at work that day or when you get home.  You can focus on anything that is causing you anxiety or stress or even pray.  You don’t even have to do this for your full commute, but taking a few minutes before you get to work or home can really help.  When you arrive at your destination, you can write down any “To Do” list items you come up with or anything you want to remember.  Keep your planner or a notebook close by to jot things down when you arrive.  Depending on if you have a phone with capabilities to do so (handsfree), you can also dictate things you need to do or remember so you will not forget.

GoogleMaps and Waze (or other mapping apps)

These two apps are my favorite and although they really don’t “help me get through my commute”, they definitely can make my commute shorter.  If you are not using one of these apps you should start, especially in high traffic areas.  Even though I know my usual route, these apps help to find the fastest way to get to my destination.  They are both real time so they have helped me avoid traffic and find the best route for the shortest trip to and from work. They are both easy to use and FREE.

Finally, always remember to travel safely.  All of the suggestions I have mentioned should be done when you have a hands-free device available.  Do not try to navigate through these apps while driving.  Set up your books, podcasts and maps before you leave so you don’t have to worry about trying to figure out your phone while you are driving.

What ideas and tips do you have to make your commute bearable?

❤ K

my sunday checklist

As a mom who works outside of the home, I have learned a few tips to help my week run a little smoother.  It is hard getting off to work each morning, but these few tips make my week so much easier.  It is amazing to think how much time I now have in the mornings and evenings during the week since implementing this list.

So my checklist includes several simple things.  My goal each weekend is to get these things done before Monday when I start work.  If it is a holiday Monday, I sometimes move my list to Monday.  This is my Sunday checklist.

  1. Meal prep:  I am all about meal prepping each week.  Not only does this make my morning routine quicker, it also helps me to eat healthier during the week.  I prep my breakfast, lunch, and two snacks for everyday I am working outside of the home that week.  I include everything needed in the meal (condiments, side items, etc.) in my meal prep, so in the morning I just grab and go with little, if any additional prep in the morning.  I purposely choose meals that will last for a full week so I don’t have to worry about prepping additional food later in the week.  I even prep my water bottle, since I carry a pretty big bottle and it takes a while to fill. 🙂
  2. Clothes: I try to pull all my outfits for the week (or at least 2-3 outfits to start the week).  This might even mean washing clothes to make sure I have the items I need for that week.  I have found this keeps me from having to wash during the week and in the morning I don’t have to think about what I am going to wear, which also saves time.  I just grab my outfit and get ready.  If you are not able to do a whole week of outfits, at least do a few days, but make sure you have an outfit ready for the next day each evening. This is a BIG time saver for me.
  3. Cleaning: I clean our kitchen, bathrooms, and some of the floors.  I straighten up in other rooms in the house as needed.  My husband helps with this as well.  We try to make sure all the bathrooms and the kitchen get a good clean.  Of course we also clean the kitchen during the week and the bathrooms, as needed.  It just makes me feel good knowing that we are starting the week fresh and clean. 🙂 Plus, if we have any visitors or guests during the week there is less stress and worry about trying to clean things at the last minute.  Having a weekly cleaning schedule really helps alleviate stress for me, plus I get to come home to a clean house.
  4. Change sheets, towels, etc.:  I change all the bedding and towels in the house at least once a week.  This kind of goes along with #3.  It just helps to have a schedule for doing this so I don’t have to think when were the sheets/towels changed?  I know, in general, they were changed last Sunday.  This goes along with starting the week off fresh.
  5. Update my planner/review my calendar: This lets me know what I have ahead of me for the week.  I usually try to do this before I plan my outfits for the week.  I can plan my outfits according to what is going on at work that week, plus I check the weather.
  6. Grocery shopping:  I do this before I meal prep, but this also helps so that we don’t have to run to the store in the middle of the week when we are both tired.  Occasionally, something is forgotten and a trip to the store is needed, but this cuts back on those trips by quite a bit.
  7. Family meeting: I will elaborate on this more in a later post, but a family meeting can help your family get on the same page before the week begins.
  8. Other items:  Depending on your commute and your family, you should prep any items you know you need for the week.  So if you have a long commute each week, you should make sure you have a full tank of gas.  That is one less thing to think about during the week.  If you have school aged kids, you should help them prep their book bags, clothes, and lunches for the week.  Similar to the prep you do for yourself, do it for your kids as well.  That way there is little thought for them in the morning either and this will help everyone’s morning run smoother.  Look for any items you might need for the week on Sunday night.  I HATE when I can’t find an item I am looking for on Monday morning.  I run around like a crazy person trying to find it and then I end up leaving the house later than planned.  It throws off my whole morning.  As much as possible, I try to prevent this by pulling out items I know I will need for the week and planning ahead either on Sunday or the night before during the week.

All of these items do not have to occur on Sunday.  Sometimes if I have a busy Saturday or just want to relax on Saturday, they will all be done on Sunday (it is possible).  It really just depends on how my weekend is going.  Saturday is usually our family day, so we try to focus more on doing things with our family and getting out of the house, so most Sundays this is my checklist.  If I am exhausted, traveling, or have a busy Sunday, some items might not get done, but this is my goal checklist and I try to do what I can and prioritize other items for later in the week.

What items do you include on your checklist that help you have a better week?

❤ K

toddler room ideas

Recently my son turned 3 years old and we decided it was time for him to move to a big boy room.  We were hoping the room would get him excited about moving out of the old room to make way for our new baby.  We have a new baby coming this Spring and we needed to move my son down the hall.  So, for his birthday we decided to give him a room makeover!  We used a lot of items that we already had and bought the rest from IKEA or Amazon.

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We already had a twin bed, dresser, and nightstand (these were mine as a child) plus a few other items we used for decor.  So the picture above shows many of the items we purchased from IKEA (I know it looks like a mess!).

We decided to do a Lion Guard themed room since that is my son’s favorite show right now.  He got a Lion Guard bedding set from my parents for his birthday, plus my husband found some great wall appliques on Amazon.

Here is the finished product:

His bed with the appliques on the wall.  He already had Kion and Simba stuffed animals.  Plus we had a green throw to add to the bed and the lamp (from IKEA) for the night stand.

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All of the bins were from the Dollar Tree.  I love their bins!  They have so many colors and, of course, everything is a dollar. 🙂

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The shelf ($34.99, but we purchased during a sale) for his books and toys is from IKEA and so are the tables ($7.99) I used to make a train/play table.  To hold his books that are on the wall, we used IKEA spice racks ($3.99)!  We got his stool ($7.99) and stool cushion ($4.99) from IKEA as well.  We already had the car track rug and tent (both from IKEA).

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The rocking chair was a hand-me-down from my mother.

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I added a number and alphabet banner to the wall, which we already had (purchased from the Target Bullseye Playground).  The lamp on his dresser is also from IKEA and was in his old room.  We added a few of his toys around the room because we were hoping he would want to play in his room more often.  We are thinking that when the baby arrives we might need to spend more time upstairs and we wanted him to actually want to be in his room.

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He LOVED the room and slept in it the first night.  Since our son is an early riser, we have discovered that he will even play in his room by himself in the morning until we get up and dressed.  He never wanted to do that before and always wanted to come watch TV in our room.

I am so happy with how the room turned out!  My son said “I LOVE my new room” and he walked down the hall and said “That’s the baby room now” to his old room.  It all worked out perfectly! 🙂

❤ Kia

natural hair styles that last

I wrote previously about my natural hair routine, but I also promised to post about different styles I wear after doing this routine.  Here is a list of a few of my usual styles.  I usually can make my twist out style last for at least two weeks (or longer if I really need to make it last).  Of course, all of these styles will not fit everyone since we all have different hair lengthens.  I still hope you can give some of these easy styles a try.

When I left off in my last post my hair was twisted and in a Slap Cap.

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So for a day or two I wore a twisted bun.  Basically I do two flat twists with my already twisted hair and make a bun at the back.  This style is quick and is something you can wear to work as well.

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I also flat twisted my hair and wore it in a higher bun.

Another style is a regular bun to the back.  This is very simple and I just pull my twists to the back into a ponytail.  Then I form a bun from the ponytail.

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Next, I untwisted my hair and wore is down for a few days.  I can usually wear my hair like this for 3 – 4 days before it starts to frizz.

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Once my hair starts to look a little frizzy I will try some updos.  This one is a flat twist in the front that goes to a high ponytail.

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Another simple style is a high ponytail and I use a little edge control gel, if my edges are frizzy.

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My final simple style is a high bun.  I use a little edge control for this style as well.

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Once I make it to the weekend, I usually wash my hair and start my routine again.  

Each night I pineapple (tie on the top of my head, similar to a high, loose ponytail) my hair with a silk tie and then cover it with my Slap Cap.

What are some ways you make your natural hair last?  What styles have you tried?

❤ K

purchase a car with confidence

My husband and I had to purchase new cars about a year and a half ago.  My car, at the time, was pretty old and started to need more for upkeep than we thought the car was worth.  My husband was in a car accident shortly after that and sadly his car was totaled, but at least he did not have any major injuries.  This made us pros at car shopping in a very short period of time.  Here are a few tips that we learned along the way.

  1. Decide exactly what you want in a car.  Similar to when you are buying a house, determine what is on your must have list.  Do you have to have a back up camera or bluetooth hookup?  Do you have a long commute and need a certain MPG for your car?  Are there certain models you will not consider?
  2. Technically number 1 & 2 are interchangeable or could be happening at the same time.  Go to your bank and see if you can get pre-approved for a loan (if you don’t have the cash to cover your car).  Determine what your payment will be based on the loan and what fits your budget.  If you know you can only afford a certain amount, tell your bank that amount and they can tell you a loan amount based on this number.  They can also tell you different amounts based  on the length of your loan and the interest rate. It is good to get pre-approved by your bank so you have a start off point for a price for your car and so you don’t have to haggle with the dealership about your payment.  If they have a better offer than your bank, you can always consider their financing, but this gives you a start and a leg up during negotiations.  Also, check online for car loan interest rates and make sure your bank has a good rate.  We went with our credit union because it had the best rates at the time.
  3. Begin checking prices for the cars you might be interested in purchasing.  This is pretty easy to do nowadays since so much information is available online.  My bank recommended checking out the Carvana (www.carvana.com) site.  You can buy a car through this site, but I used it to compare prices too.  You can put your criteria for a car in this site to get an idea of the type of car that is in your price range.  If you have a certain car in mind, then you can look up that make and model to get an idea what it is selling for online.  I also check Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com).  This site gives you an estimate of what specific cars are selling for based on the make and model.  I usually start with a site like Carvana first when I don’t know what make and model I am looking for, just to get an idea of what might be in my price range.  Then I move to Kelley Blue Book to get the accurate price.   screenshot_2017-01-21-11-59-32
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  4. You also might consider contacting your insurance as well.  They can give you an estimate of what your insurance might be based on the year, make, and model of different cars on your list.  This can help you when planning your budget with your new car payment.
  5. Now, you can begin looking online or visiting dealerships.  You can check online at places like CarMaxx or you can also consider Carvana.  I looked at both locations for prices and then went to the dealership.  I wanted to see the cars before I made my purchase and there were several dealerships close to my home, so it made it pretty easy.  When you visit the dealership keep you list of must haves in mind.  For example, when I went to purchase my car I saw a car on the lot that was the same year, make and model as a car I saw on Carvana.  The car was much less (by a few thousand) than the car on the Carvana site.  The dealership really wanted to sell me the car, but it was more because it had extra features.  The dealership tried to explain that it was more because of these features, but these were features that were not on my must have list.  I explained this to them as well.  I told them I would happily buy the cheaper car on Carvana and since this was the only year, make, and model of the car that they had on the lot, I was prepared to leave if the price would not come down (ALWAYS BE READY TO LEAVE).  They came down on the price because they saw that I was not invested in getting the car.  I ended up purchasing the car for almost the same price I saw online. 🙂
  6. The dealership will also try to convince you to use their financing and sometimes they will say the price includes their financing or something along these lines.  Check their interest rates and the terms of the loan.  Most times your bank will offer a better deal.  

These are a few of the tips I have learned.  The most important thing is to do your research before you make a purchase.  Go into to the dealership will all the information and be prepared to haggle and walk away if they are not willing to meet the price you know the car is worth.

Good luck and happy shopping!

❤ K

Truly Free Tax Returns

creditkarma

I have recently started working on my taxes and helping others as I do most years and this year I decided to try out a different provider. Typically I go straight to TurboTax and they make things fairly easy, however, the past few years I don’t like the hidden fees and the way they up-sell to get done what you need. This year after getting an email from credit karma I decided to try out their services. Also note credit karma is great for checking your credit scores and looking for ways to improve your score as they give free advice and suggestions. What was great about credit karma is the fact that everything truly was free. They don’t require you to pay for any filing for state or federal and your full refund is 100% yours. The set up is almost exactly the same as TurboTax and they will guide you through the pages that you need to fill out. I had no problems and someone with little to no tax experience should be able to file with no problem. You can register to use their services at http://www.creditkarma.com/tax.

Happy Tax Season All!

❤ A