Life in Mascara: June 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016

FEED YOUR FREEZER: SAVE TIME & MONEY


It's not even about a dreaded case of the Monday's. It's more like time seems to get away from me in unexpected bursts. I can look at the clock and see that I have two hours until dinner time, blink (minor nap may or may not have happened), and the next thing I know husband and the kids are rolling in hungry as can be. 

I work a full time job, run this blog, and carry my home. As much as a planner as I am, things can and do get away from me. When I get home at the end of the day, sometimes cooking is the last thing that I want to do. It is literally go, go, go as soon as I get home because bedtime at our house is 8:30 p.m. for everyone. Yes, including me because I am up around 5 a.m. each day and I need to sleep to function. In order not to fall behind on all the other house and life duties, I started to think how I could save myself some time, hassle, and in the end money while attacking dinner since ordering out is just that easy. Here is what I came up with:

1. Meal Planning: Keep it simple. Yes we all love a grand meal but during the work week simple dishes work best. Save yourself the headache of using every pan you own to create your masterpiece. Instead, save it for the weekend when you have more time. Sometimes, I actually like to save it for date night. Husband and I will break out a bottle of wine and cook a delicious meal together. That way the work load is shared and we enjoy spending time together.

2. Crock-Pot: Now don't laugh but in order for this to work you actually have to plug in your crock-pot to turn it on. I can't tell you how many times I have set it to low and ran out the door only to come home to an uncooked meal. This will result in loss of money as this food is no longer safe to eat and chances are you will order out. There are a few full meals that I like to make but I also find it really helpful to make a batch of food that will later be used for a variety of things. For example, if I make a big batch of beans then I have them to accompany meals for the week. I also like to cook chicken and then shred it to make chicken salad, tacos, or soup. Be prepared though. Crock-pot cooking often leads to large batches of food which leads me to my next point. 

3. Feed Your Freezer: Take full advantage of those large crock pot meals and immediately set a side a dinner/lunch portion that you can freeze and enjoy later. When we make large batches of soup, I freeze half of it and then enjoy it a few weeks later. I can not tell you what a blessing they have become! I am so thankful that on nights when I just can't even think straight, dinner is literally sitting in my freezer waiting for me to be heated up. Plus it makes me feel good knowing I didn't waste any leftovers, I made this meal, and in nearly no time, we are all sitting around the dinner table as a family. Now remember they don't have to be crock pot meals. Like my friend says, "You can freeze anything." I don't think I need to mention that her lunches are the envy of the entire lunchroom.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

SUMMER READING LIST


School is out and soon I will be too! As the kids headed out for their summer break, our librarian distributed to them a list for fun summer reading. It made me think what a great idea this would be for adults as well. I like to take on less serious books, easy reads if you will, during the summer. It just adds to the air of lightness that comes with everything fun in the sun. Here is a mix of books that have been on my to read list for a while and a new one coming out later this month:







What will you be reading this summer? Tag me on Twitter @lifeinmascara.

Friday, June 3, 2016

HOW I STAYED FINANCIALLY FIT IN 2016


I had this general idea to post an update on my New Year's Resolutions come the beginning of July. Almost like a check in to myself of where I stood. As I started to look back, I realized that while I may have shared bits and pieces of my goals this year, I never really actually shared them with you. Much less how I actually divided them into three parts (because one just isn't enough): Financial, Personal, and Business. Over the next month, I will be sharing with you what the goals were and where I actually stand. Right, let's get to is!

Finances

This is a topic that I am very passionate about. As I've mentioned before, I have a very heavy financial background. But I would like to point out that I am not exempt from financial mistakes. Let's take it back 12 years to college age Mayra (this hurts). I can remember being in class and my teacher telling us to take out as many student loans as we needed for our education because though our first job we would all be set to pay it off in no time. Call me naive but I did just that and maybe a tad bit more. I believed her. I thought it really would all be taken care of for me. Enter the recession and fast forward to present date, I am still paying on those student loans. The plan is in place and I hope to be done within the next three years if not sooner. Yet when I look back, I shudder thinking of how irresponsible I was with my finances. 

In talking with a member of Credit Card Insider, we were both saying how we were surprised that life finances aren't taught in school, whether it be high school or college. I personally know any kind of guidance at that age would have gone a long way. That is why I recommend getting started with Dave Ramsey The Total Money Makeover if you are at this point in your lives. I believe if we teach good financial habits at an early age, people are less likely to commit the mistakes one often does. Credit Card Insider, while also suggesting a variety of credit cards that may better suit your financial needs at this time, also offers financial education on help you understand credit and debt and how to use cards responsible. And whether you opt for the cash only way or the rewards points system, the bottom line is that you are educated enough to manage your money. Here is how I set out this year to become and stay financially fit:

Goal: Pay off my car.
I started this year by sending an extra $50 a month towards my car note. At this point I had about two years left on it and calculated that for every five payments I made, that would shave off a month off of my note. I had every intention to begin to send more towards the end of the year when I finished paying off other things. However, in March when husband received his last bonus from his previous company we sat down and reassessed our finances. By taking a portion of that bonus and paying off my car, that would actually free up the money that would now be coming out of my paycheck for medical insurance and still leave me a little wiggle room. Here is what I did with the "wiggle room"...

Goal: Build a savings account. 
I was notorious for building my savings account and then draining it when I came at a fork in the road. Once I really dove into my finances I really figured out a way to save wisely. I talked all about it here. I started with $0 in my long term savings account this year all because of loss of income. I was not prepared. We were not prepared. And I knew I did not want to live paycheck to paycheck. I have been successful so far in setting up automatic transfers from my checking out to my savings account and NOT touching it. I took that "wiggle room" and increased the amount of the monthly transfer. I didn't even feel the hit in my checkbook because I was already used to that amount of money coming out for my car payment. 

Goal: Create a retirement fund similar to a 401K.
Because I work in the school system, we are not offered a traditional 401K. We do have TRS (teacher retirement system) but we are not able to increase the amount taken nor does the district contribute to it. In the long run, this alone will not get me very far. I called the district and asked if there was something that they offered for its employees that I was not aware of. Sure enough, there was. It is basically the same as a 401K in that it is invested for you with the same structure of aggressive level and you can also select in which groups you want your money working in. It differs in that it is done by monetary amount instead of a percentage of your check and the District also does not match or contribute to it. Still it is something and I went ahead and enrolled. Again, a little bit as I can only do so much but have the option and plan to increase it come next school year. 

Goal: Don't go into next year with credit card debt. 
I shared here how husband and I payed for our wedding. I mentioned the use of two credit cards and our plan to pay them off. We completely paid one off and are well on out way towards paying off the second one. If we stay on course, we will not go into 2017 with any credit card debt. The only debt we will have is one car payment, my student loans, and our mortgage. 

Goal: Charity donation every quarter.
Regardless of any financial woes my family or I have gone through, I still consider myself and us to be very blessed. I have personally seen God's hand in resolving things for me that were completely out of my power . He provides for us on a daily basis and I in turn want to do my part to help those who need to see the light. I had plans to donate to a specific charity each time but God had other plans. There were two families in my life who needed help and I chose to direct our money towards that. It is not charity when you help a loved one. It is simply giving love in monetary form. And if that happens the next two quarters of the year, then my heart will be full knowing that I was able to help others just like countless times others have helped me.

Goal: Look into creating an IRA.
I shared here on how I will be taking this step at the end of the year. 

Goal: Buy stock.
When I worked retail, I would purchase stock all year and let it work. Come Christmas time, I would withdraw what I needed to purchase gifts. Basically I was using it as a savings account but in the long run this isn't smart. For one thing, you end up taking a hit when you sell it and then come tax time you have to declare it as income. Stock is purchased to work for you in the long run. I am hoping to get this going again before the end of the year. 

All in all I have been really conscious of my spending this year. Things such as meal planning, eliminating cable, and lowering our cell phone plan has really contributed to my savings. I thought it would be difficult at first, but now I am excited and less stressed. Watching my finances shift just a bit into the right direction has really given me hope for a financially fit life.  

*This post is not sponsored by Credit Card Insider, however, this post was created in reference to me having talked to them.