Month: February 2018

Take Control of Your Finances – It’s All About Mindset

Feeling overwhelmed by your financial situation?

For most families, during the child-rearing time of our lives, expenses are high as we are still growing our careers, building income, or sacrificing income to be home with our kids.  Nerdwallet recently did a study and found that the average American household has a credit card balance of $15,654, of which, on average, American’s are paying roughly $904 in credit card interest every year.  Additionally, with the explosion of the internet, there are hundreds of personal finance websites advising on how to handle your money including saving for retirement, building an emergency fund, paying off debt, setting financial goals, and honestly, it can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, we can take control of our finances, and it all starts with attitude and mindset.

1. Wherever You Are…It’s OK!

I think we all have a tendency to think we are not stacking up.  We should be further along in our career, making more money, saving more, or something else.  I’m here to tell you, truly, wherever you are, it IS okay.  Whatever situation you are in, you are presented with a great challenge to turn it around.  In fact, life would be boring if we didn’t have challenges.

If you have no credit card debt or $80,000 of debt, YOU are going to be okay.  You may have different decisions to make, but you will still be okay.  I’ve seen friends, family, acquaintances turn around even the most dire situations and also have fun along the way.  But first, accept the situation you are in.  Then, once you have accepted it, embrace it.  Love it.  Be thankful for the lessons you are about to learn.  They are the stories you will be able to tell your grandkids about “walking to school uphill both ways.”

2. No Need to Keep Up with the Jones’

I can’t stress this enough.  I don’t even know who the Jones’ are, but I don’t think I want to be friends with them anyways.  But seriously, it is really easy to get caught up in trying to keep up, and sometimes not keeping up may make you feel like you don’t fit in.  I think in many ways it is harder when you have kids, because your kids will complain when their friends get to do things that they don’t.

Take stock of where you are, what you are spending money on, and question whether you are doing it for you and your family, or doing it so that you can fit in in whatever social circle you find yourself in.  It’s not always obvious, you may be spending money on certain things because you feel like you should, it was the way you grew up, or other reasons, but if it doesn’t fit with your current financial profile it’s okay to cut it.

Lastly, I think as parents we get extremely concerned about making sure our kids have the best future imaginable.  It’s a competitive world out there and we want to give our kids every opportunity and advantage.  However, there is great value in being honest with your kids on what your financial situation and goals are, if they are old enough, as they will learn that life is not always easy which will help them develop healthy financial attitudes as well.  If they’re not old enough to understand this, then they are probably content just spending time with you and could care less about the Jones’.

3. Having Less Spending Money Leads to Creativity

Try this.  Pick a weekend and vow not to spend any money, or give yourself a budget of $10 or less.  What will you do?  You can either think about all the things you wish you could do, go out to eat, take the kids to a museum or the zoo, OR you can make it a big challenge that your kids are in on too.

I guarantee you, you will come up with so many things that you never would have thought of by putting this boundary on yourself.  Try it – let me know what you come up with.

4.  Fun Stuff Really is Cheap or Free

This goes hand in hand with #3, but fun stuff really is free.  It costs nothing to go for a walk, to the playground, to the library or do some crafts.

When I was younger, my happiest memories were of sitting in my grandparents’ screened in porch and talking.  We would play I Spy, alphabet word games, sing, do puzzles, and just be together.  When we wanted an activity, we would go out in the yard and play whiffle ball.  When I wanted to work, my grandparents would give me chores and pay me a quarter per chore.  As a kid, I remember those times as the happiest times, so if you are worried about making sure your kids get to see every museum and event, remember, all they really want is to be with you.

5. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin, Pick One Money Goal and Do It

This is a big one to me.  There is so much financial advice out there that it can be overwhelming knowing what advice to follow and where to start.  Additionally, if you have limited funds, you can’t do everything, and you won’t accomplish anything if you are trying to do a little bit of everything.

If you aren’t sure where to start, check out my financial roadmap which outlines the steps to building a happy, healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

6. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Affirmations and Gratitude

Life is a journey.  Every situation that comes your way is helping you to grow.  The more you resist with worry and stress, the harder it is to turn the situation around.  However, if, when a challenge comes your way, you can be thankful for it, you will absolutely overcome it.  Car break down with no emergency fund?  Say a thanks for bringing this challenge to you as well as for the means to solve it.  Then, get to work on solving it.  If you need that car fixed right away, you do, but then grab that sidehustle to make that money back quickly.  In serious debt?  Be thankful that you have a challenge to overcome, then get to work.  Whatever creative ways you come up with to get out of debt, I’m absolutely sure you can write a blog about it later :-).

In addition to gratitude, I love affirmations.  Whatever you think or believe is what you are.  So if you are worried about money, affirm that your will is strong and you are capable of doing all of the things you need to do to get out of your situation.  If you think you never have enough, affirm that you always have enough and you are lucky to be challenging your personal discipline by living with less.  If you do both of these things, you will have a will of steel and the personal discipline to change your financial picture.

7. No Job is Beneath You

I work in a very professional environment.  I’m around successful people all of the time.  The one thing I have noticed though is that the people who stand out are the ones who will do what is needed to get the job done.  And so it is with life, if you need a financial lift, no job is beneath you.  A job is a job and it worthy of respect.  Don’t worry about what other people think.  The most successful leaders and entrepreneurs out there just did what needed to be done without worrying about what others thought.  Whether it is a part-time job, or trying a blog, or taking online surveys, whatever it is that you need to boost your income, it is fine.  Drop your ego, and you will reach success much faster.

Cut Your Grocery Bills by 30% or More

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Ben Franklin

Just as my good old friend Ben Franklin says, preparation really is the key to sanity.  I used to spend between $250-$300 a week on groceries for a family of 6.  Even though I made a list, I was completely overspending and found that for a family of 6, we can eat well on a budget of about $120-$150 per week.  Here is how I cut over $100-$200 off of my food budget by a little extra preparation and planning.

1.  Plan weeknight meals out in advance

This is the big one.  For a family of 6, I have found that it is really not that expensive to buy food for one week if properly planned.  I pick 4 weeknight meals that I prep and cook on the weekend.  One day, I usually recycle leftovers into something else.  For example, if I make tacos one day, with leftover beans (yes, I like beans with tacos), I use the beans the next day with rice and also make quesadillas.  That brings me to five days.  Then, inevitably, there’s probably a pasta day in there on the day that we are the most worn out.  Planning out the meals has been the single most important change I have made.  On average, it costs about $10-$20 for one meal for a family of 6.  For example, if I make lasagna:

  • Ground beef: $8
  • Tomato Sauce: $2
  • Ricotta Cheese: $4
  • Mozzarella: $4
  • Parmesan: $2 (as this gets multiple uses)
  • Noodles: $3
  • Total: $23
  • 2 days worth of meals
  • Daily Cost: $11.50

For some weekly meal plans, click here.

2.  Prep food on the weekend

This goes hand in hand with number 1.  Food prep on the weekend ensures that you actually follow-through with your plans for meals during the week.  Otherwise, if you are working, and get home tired, late, or other, even the best laid plans may fall by the wayside.  I like to prep whatever I can on the weekend to make weeknights super easy.  I also absolutely live by my crockpot and instant pot.  Examples of food prep:

  • Chop all veggies and put in freezer bags
  • Create spice packs in plastic baggies
  • Assemble baking meals (i.e. lasagna, stuffed shells) and store in fridge
  • Wake up 20 minutes earlier and prep the crockpot or instant pot for slow cooking

Click here to see the easiest meals to prep

3.  Get creative with snacking

I was drowning in snacks, snacks, snacks.  My kids love cheez-its, goldfish, nutrigrain bars, cookies, chips, fruit snacks, popcorn, you name it.  I have found though that beyond the basics, there is a lot that you can do to make snacking fun, recycling the same items over and and over into different uses.  Peanut butter can be used on celery or apples.  Add in chocoloate chips or raisins on top and you have just created 4 different snacks.  Recycle the celery and replace the peanut butter with cream cheese (and a little paprika if you are adventurous) and you have a fifth right there.  Some of my favorite snack ideas are:

  • Apples with honey or peanut butter, with or without chocolate chips or raisins
  • Celery with peanut butter or any other kind of nut butter
  • Celery with cream cheese and paprika
  • Sun balls (peanut butter, oats, chocoloate chips, and honey rolled into balls)
  • Date balls (almonds, dates, and coconut oil in a food processor and rolled into balls)
  • Make your own trailmix (nuts, raisins, chocolate chips)
  • Roasted nuts

4. Use Ibotta to get cash back

I was pretty skeptical about Ibotta until I tried it myself.  Ibotta is an app that will give you some cash back savings by scanning your receipt.  Warning:  It’s not completely automated, there is some work involved, and you won’t make that much money, but it is pretty much free money back for doing something that you do anyways.  For me, I get on average $1-$2 back per shopping trip.  However, I go to the store weekly, and that money adds up over time.  Using Ibotta does require you to select the purchases that you bought that also match the deals available.  It takes about 5-7 minutes to go through this exercise, and then you have to take a picture of your receipt.  So at $2 back for 7 minutes of work, there’s really no reason not to do it.  I’ve been using Ibotta for about 6 weeks and am up to about $15 in savings.  I’m going to cash out at $20 and it’s $20 that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.  Check out Ibotta here.

5. Add sauces, toppings, and sides to dress up plain meals

I find that sprucing up meals with sauces, toppings and sides makes basic meals more exciting and satisfying.  In fact, I actually use much less meat by trending meals away from one center piece and more to a set of different items.  Examples of great sides include:

  • garlic bread with pastalasagna or stuffed shells,
  • fresh baked bread with soups
  • naan or chapatis with Indian meals
  • tortillas or taco shells for Mexican meals and on and on…you get the point.
  • ricotta cheese on vegetables like baked broccoli or chickpeas
  • plain yogurt and cilantro
  • lemon butter with capers for fish dishes
  • chimichurri sauce on meats

6.  Keep your kids at bay at the grocery store…

I almost always bring my kids shopping.  I am at work all week so want to spend as much time as I can with them on the weekends, which includes a shopping trip.  However, the two boys can derail my best laid budget if I’m not careful.  My secret strategy?  Depends on the age.  For the little ones, I bring a few lollipops and that distracts them.  I also usually let them open one of the snacks we are getting in the store.  Older ones, I mean besides just saying “no” I do usually get them one treat if they help unload the car and put the groceries away.  I think it pays for itself.  The key is to try to stick to the list and keep the kids otherwise occupied!

7.  Check out your local Indian grocery store for cheap, fresh produce, beans, grains, and spices

If you can’t tell by now that I’m kind of obsessed with Indian food…I am.  I always look to find a local Indian store wherever I live, and usually go there every other week.  For one, the produce is usually dirt cheap, usually 99 cents for bundles of fresh herbs, greens or other vegetables.  Also, they have aisles and aisles of beans, dal (lentils), grains, and spices.  You can stock up on dried items for pretty cheap ($4-$8 for 3-4 meals worth of a beans/dal).  Also, instead of wasting a small fortune on grocery store spices, you can buy spices in bulk and refill your spice containers.  On average, I only buy spices once every 2-3 years unless I’m looking for something unique.  Lastly, I always buy basmati rice in bulk for about $20, and use an old animal cracker container to house the rice.  This often lasts me 1-2 months and we eat rice a few times a week.  Bonus: if you’ve never tried Indian tea (masala chai, or ginger tea), this is my guilty pleasure.

8.  Try beans or paneer cheese as the cheaper meat alternatives

I usually have one meal a week that has either beans, paneer cheese (I love Indian food!), or tofu as the main protein.  Beans are super cheap and when combined with a few basics can make for a delicious, hearty, and satisfying meal.  Combine beans with the sauces and sides that I mentioned above, and you have an extremely filling meal.  And paneer.  Well, if you’ve never had paneer cheese, you are missing out.  First of all, it is one of the few cheeses that are recommended in Ayurveda and it is considered easy to digest and high in protein.  It looks like tofu, but a bit more dense, but also less dense than a block of cheese.  It’s indescribably amazing.  It can be sauteed and added to some greens or made in a tikka masala sauce.  Some of my quick and easy favorite cheap, but satisfying family meals are:

  • Great Northern beans with carrots (and ham or bacon if you want meat)
  • Black beans or Kidney and rice with a side of avocados, taco shells or quesadillas and corn
  • Curried chickpeas with a side of onion naan
  • Split pea soup with a side of a fresh sourdough
  • Lentils with carrots with a side of naan or chapatis with a bit of plain yogurt and chopped cilantro to top
  • Paneer tikka masala with a side of naan and yogurt/cilantro puree to top

These meals on average cost less than $10 and are super filling and sides with toppings to make them fun!

Also, I always use dried beans and pressure cook them in the Instant Pot, which, if you don’t have one, I highly recommend as it will pay for itself over the course of one week of savings.  Amazon prices are reasonable and there are often specials. See here for the Instant Pot on Amazon.  This is the model that I use and I probably use it 5 out of 7 days a week.

 

My First Blog – An Integrated Life

It has been about a month and I have been learning all about the online world and in particular, the blogging world.  Some people make blogging seem so easy, but I have had cold feet over getting started myself.  

What would be my niche?  Will people even care what I have to say?  Hasn’t everything I have to say already been written?  

I have found picking a niche to be the most mind wracking exercise.  I don’t want to be too broad – people will get confused.  I don’t want to be too narrow – I won’t have enough to write.  I am interested in so many different things, and I wear so many different hats – Mom, consultant, cooking enthusiast, natural living aspirer, crafter (is that even a word?), organizer of household things, book lover, runner, field hockey player, music lover, skier, snowboarder, sporty girl?, and the list goes on and on and on…

To make matters worse, once you purchase that domain name, you can’t turn back.  At least not for about a year if you do the shortest term.  I was agonizing over purchasing the wrong domain name and losing that $10-$15.  I mean money is money, right?  Also, my nature with new things is to jump in head first and I’ve made some stupid purchases by doing that in the past so I have been doubly unsure about how to get started.

Picking the Niche – The One Theme

Instead of choosing a topic or specific niche area, for me, I actually drew on my work experience.  As a consultant, it’s less about being smart or even more experienced than anyone else, although you do get to see a lot in a very short period of time.  What makes a good consultant is the ability to quickly extract key themes and organize information.  So, instead of a niche or topic, I thought the thing for me that made the most sense was a theme – the theme of my life and something that I continually try to work toward – Integration.  For some reason, at work, I’m in charge of integrating different teams together, and in my personal life, I’m constantly trying to do the same.

By definition, integration means “An act or instance of combining into an integral whole.”  In real life, it means, understanding that all aspects of our lives are interrelated, and we need to integrate and balance them to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled.  So what does that have to do with this blog?  Well, you can’t be healthy and fit, if you don’t focus on diet and exercise, and you can’t focus on diet and exercise if you don’t have time to cook and workout, and so on.  And if you have 3 kids, the one thing that you don’t have is a lot of time, and that impacts all of the other areas of your life.  So this blog is about how I try to make it work, with observations or tips for the different areas of life that I’m constantly trying to integrate and keep in balance.  Whether it is healthy eating and living, feeding your creative side, organizing your home, finding fun activities for kids, balancing work and home life, staying sane, side hustles, budgeting & saving money, dealing with grief, or some topic yet to be discovered, I’ll probably write a post on it.  

With that said, off to blogging…

About Kim


About Me

Hi Everyone!  I’m a full-time working mom of 3, consultant by day, mom by night.  Our life is hectic, chaotic and fun, and I’m constantly trying to keep up and stay organized.  Being a working mom is exciting, tiring, and challenging.  Some days I love it, some days I want to crawl back into bed.  And many days, I have visions of leaving the day to day grind behind and buying a farm and living off the land.  Maybe someday!

Not So Simple Living

I have grand dreams of living as a minimalist and living more simply, but with 6 people in our family (Me, husband, 3 kids, and sister-in-law), it’s not quite as easy at it sounds.  We are all busy and having 6 people is like running a small business.  Ironically, in my day job, I help organizations manage operations as their companies scale, and have been able to apply a lot of the same principles for our growing family at home.  I have started cataloging all of the things I have learned along the way from meal-planning, to recipes, to finding time for fitness, to money-saving tips, to delegating, and more and wanted to share everything I’ve learned over time.  I feel most relaxed when I try to balance all of the key pillars of life; health, relationships, finances, work, and FUN and so I’ll be sharing how I attempt to do that and what seems to work and not work.

What to Expect

Well, I’m not sure I even know what this blog will turn into, but at a minimum I hope that some of the posts will be relevant or helpful in your daily life.  If nothing else, I hope to connect with great people along the way and have something different and creative to put some of my energy into!

If you ever need a hand or have ay questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.

All the best,

Kim