Month: March 2017

Can You Become a Successful Direct Sales Consultant

So you need a side hustle. Or maybe you are looking for income to allow you to work at home. You process part time jobs but don’t want to commit to a schedule. Internet side jobs really aren’t your thing either. But wait, your friend/neighbor/cousin sells (insert direct sales product here: Scentsy, ThirtyOne, Mary Kay, etc), maybe you can do that! It can’t be too hard right? Invest in a start-up kit and start selling to friends. Viola, instant income. Ummmm…not so fast. Before you jump on the direct sales bandwagon, lets take a look at what it takes to become successful at being a direct sales consultant.

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I enjoy the part time work I do with my direct sales company. It provides additional income each month, it allows me to meet new people, and I have the opportunity to practice my public speaking. Direct sales however is NOT easy money. I went through four different direct sales company before I finally started to gain a predictable income. Yes, this is pretty normal. And yes, it can be done! I earn an average income of $400 a month from my direct sales business working only two weekends a month. So if you want to give direct sales a try, here are my best tips and tricks for doing it right.

Pick a Product You Have Passion For

You can’t sell something that you don’t like yourself. Not unless you want to come off completely sales-y and untrustworthy. The product you pick should be something you use yourself. It should be something that has made a difference in your life, that you can’t live without. For instance, I wouldn’t want to try selling Mary Kay if I never wear make-up. I wouldn’t be able to testify to how great the pigments are or how long the product lasts.

makeup

Consider Your Audience

Your audience in this case is your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Why do they matter? Because this is going to be the first people you offer your product to. You can’t introduce them to great products that don’t fit their lifestyle. For example, if your largest audience is your friends and they are all young and unmarried, they are not going to be interested if you are selling baby products. Think about your largest audience and pick a product that will go over well with the majority.

Do You Have a Direct Sales Mentor

Most direct sales companies require that you sign up under someone already selling for them. This person is part of your “up-line”, every consultant has someone above them that creates this line directly back to the original company. If you already know someone who sells for a company, great! You can likely become part of her team. If not, you will have to find someone you can sign up under by searching for consultants near you, contacting them, and asking them if you can join their team. Find someone who is a personality match to yourself and that you feel will be a good mentor.

What is the Initial Investment

The direct sales company you pick will almost always require you to purchase a starter kit or an initial inventory depending on their selling strategy. Find out what this investment is and weigh out whether this is something that really fits into your budget. If a starter kit is $100 then it might not be a big deal to invest this. But if it is $5,000 and you don’t have that kind of cash, then using credit cards for the investment could get you in big trouble down the line if you don’t stay with it. Invest wisely.

makeup

Look for Additional Costs

Sure, the starter kit might not be a big deal, but what else do you need to really start your business. Do you need business cards? Yes. Does the company require you to pay for a website or monthly mailings to your email list? Probably. Would table clothes and other display items help your set-up? Most likely. Although it can be difficult to figure in all the costs at first, try to look at what others have needed, or talk to the mentor you choose.

Treat It Like a Business

If you want to make money from your business then you need to treat it like one. You can’t think of your business like a hobby. Set times that you will be “working” for your business. Whether your office hours are daily, every other day, or even every weekend, make sure it is consistent, scheduled time to work. Keep track of all your expenses and supplies, you will need them at tax time. Include your business supplies, mileage for client travel, postage for catalogs, etc. Lastly, plan to save some of your income to pay taxes when the time comes. Generally, 10% is recommended.

Make Connections

Direct Sales is just that, Direct. You must make direct connections with people in order to make your sales. Be prepared to reach out to your friends and family to introduce them to your business. Social Media is not enough. You want to call directly, discuss your products over lunch, or even reach out with a personalized note. Don’t expect your audience to come to you or to do their own research. You will be waiting for an awful long time. Put yourself out there! It can be super scary at first, but it gets easier. Most importantly, don’t just tell them about your product, show them. Show them WHY they need it in their life, HOW it can make their life easier, or WHAT problems it can solve for them.

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Social Media is Your Friend

In this day and age, social media is a MUST for direct sales consultants. It is your easiest method to reaching a large audience. Make sure to read your company’s social media policy first, and then make your accounts. Once you have yourself set-up, invite your friends. Yes, I said invite not add them. No one likes to be added to groups without permission, so make your connections and invite your friends to join. Once you have your account and audience, then you can create original content about what you sell. And remember, not every post should be about selling something. Mix it up with some fun stuff too. Check out these tips from the Party Plan Divas.

Learn from Other Consultants

Almost every direct sales company has a group of consultants running their own advice groups. Your mentor will likely add you to theirs or suggest some for you to join. Use these people as your resource to the fullest extent. Learn from them, share with them, and join some great discussions. This is where I learned the MOST about running my business. Check out these great groups.

Set Goals for Yourself

Setting goals is important for keeping your business on track. I am not just talking about “I am going to sell X amount of dollars this month”. Set goals for expanding your business and keeping up with former customers. For example, every month I find one new business to leave my cards and catalogs at. I will take a box of donuts and speak to at least one associate, leave my info with them, and ta-da. Not every office will be a sale, but I have about a 50% conversion rate. I also set an amount of emails I will send to current customers each month, it is a great way to keep in touch.

Have Fun as a Consultant

Who says all work and no play? The nice thing about direct sales is that you can put your own spin on it to make it what you need it to be. Have awesome theme parties. Create fun games and contests. Let your mind run wild and see what you can come up with. Don’t get trapped inside the traditional direct sales bubble. Create your own direct sales personality and watch your customers return time and time again.

Do you have advice for those considering direct sales? Let us know in the comments below.

How I Went from Disaster to Organized in 30 Days

organized

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you purchase through my links.

A few months ago I was feeling overwhelmed. My busy life was getting even busier and everything felt disorganized. I found myself forgetting things, bills getting paid late, and tasks getting completed last minute. I felt like a disaster. As a manager and wife, I knew where this was heading. Something had to give. Welcome to how I organized my entire life in less than 30 days.

Create Command Central

I highly recommend two forms of command central. First, you should create a home center at a fixed location in your house. Here you can place a calendar, place for mail, grocery lists, notes, and so forth. Try combining calendars, white boards, and mail slots. There are some great ideas for home command centers all over Pinterest and other sites. Get creative and make it your own.

Second you should have a travel command central. This will depend on your personal preference and habits. A planner works for those people who rather have paper to physically write on. There are all sorts of planners out there, but my personal favorite is the Happy Planner. It is fully customizable, beautiful to look at, and very easy to make your own.

Other people prefer to use their smart phones and various apps. Evernote is a fabulous app for taking quick notes on your phone or tablet and keeping them for easy access. It lets you note websites, links, pictures and more that you can pull up later. Wunderlist is also a great app for making checklists of what needs to get done. This app lets you set reminders, due dates and times, and more. You can also use a combination of both paper and technology, which is my personal preference.

Organize the Paper Clutter

Or better yet just get rid of it. I had a really hard time with this one. I tend to hoard papers in every room of my house. You never know when you are going to need them again, right? Wrong. Ninety percent of those papers that you hoard are unnecessary clutter that you will never look at ever again. So stop wasting space storing and find a better solution.

Determine what you need to keep for your records, what you can scan for computer storage, and what you can recycle. Here is a great article that you can reference that explains what to keep and for how long. Important documents need to be placed in a fireproof safe. Documents that should be kept in original format can be stored in a small filing system or a binder system. Papers containing random information that might be useful later, like receipts for tax purposes, can be scanned and stored in your computer. I prefer NeatDesk for this task. It is awesome and super easy to use.

Lastly, control that mail! Don’t let mail pile up on your counter, table, or even your command center. I deal with mail the moment it comes into the house. Junk mail or advertisements go into the recycle right away. My bills go into my command center spot for bills needing to be paid. Any remaining mail gets placed in a “to-do” pile or a “to-be-filed” pile. I use a system of cute, labeled clips for containing these piles.

Get a Grip on Grocery Organization

Grocery shopping is the bane of my existence. I much rather scrub the floor with a toothbrush than deal with grocery shopping. This area was a “must” for me.

I recommend first taking inventory of what food you have. Then plan your meals for the next few days to weeks, depending on how much food you have available already. Once you are close to the end of your stockpile, its time to decide how often you want to grocery shop.

I prefer to shop every two weeks, mostly because I despise it so much. Every other Thursday night I sit down and plan out my next two weeks of meals. After that I take stock of anything on the grocery list from my command center that might be needed outside of meals. And viola, there is my shopping list. From here I can go to the grocery store or use my favorite grocery cheat and have my order delivered right to my front door.

Stop Wasting Space in the House

This was a hard one for me to tackle. I tend to be a bit of a packrat, a trait passed down from my grandmother. Who knows when I might need something that I have only ever used once, ten years ago, that doesn’t even work right. You never know, I might right? Wrong.

It wasn’t easy, but I broke the habit during my organizational craziness and you can too. Start by tackling one room at a time. Don’t worry about finding a place for everything now, it is not the time for that. Instead, start by going through the room and making piles. Make one pile for things to “keep”, one for “sell or donate”, and put anything you can throw out in a garbage bag. Once you do this the first time, go through the “keep” pile one more time. Ask yourself if you have used the item in the last 12 months or if it has sentimental value. If not, add it to the other piles.

If you have items that you rather sell than donate, GREAT! This can bring additional income to add to your pocket. Try sites like LetGo, Ebay, or Facebook yard sale groups. Just don’t wait. If you can’t make an effort to sell within the first week of making the pile, donate it instead.

Eventually, you will have a lot less “stuff” to find places for. You can even switch items to different locations in your house easier once you have less “stuff” sitting around. The best part is how amazing it will feel to not have extra clutter around your house.

Go on a Social Media Strike

Ok, so maybe not completely. I mean who can live without their daily dose of Facebook memes? What you should try doing is scheduling your social media time. Limit yourself to 5 or 10 minutes a day and set a timer to keep you on track. The first time I did this I was amazed. I thought I would feel cheated, like I didn’t get to look at everything I wanted to. Instead, after a few days I found myself not needing to check my phone all the time. The result was a lot more free time to get my other to-do items done.

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Make Time to Get Stuck in Your Own Head

Being disorganized is stressful, but even being organized can stress someone out. Your brain is not meant to always be on the go. It occasionally needs a time out. It needs a break from thinking, organizing, and planning. If I leave you with one change to make, make this one!

Taking a mental time-out is more than just vegging out on the couch and watching TV. You need to guide your brain into not thinking about all the other things you have to do. Meditation and restorative yoga are the two most common forms of brain time-out. I started using guided meditation to give myself a break from all the hectic stress and I felt rejuvenated and more focused soon after starting.

If self meditation isn’t your thing, try an app. Headspace is my personal favorite, it is easy to follow and the cartoons it uses are intriguing. I have also used CureStress and Pacifica with success. If you want to try a bit of meditation hypnosis, Glenn Harold makes a great series of free hypnosis recordings on topics from better sleep, to curing stress, and even getting over a fear of flying.

Thirty Days Later

I cannot believe how different my life is in less than 30 days! My stress level has decreased ten fold, which has increased my productivity even more. I no longer feel forgetful or like I need 20 more hours in a day. Ok, well at least not all the time. You can get here too. It takes 21 days to create a habit, so get out there and get started!

What is your favorite organizational tip?

Step by Step Beginners Guide to Building a Budget for Couples

budget

Building a budget wasn’t a priority in my young and single days. It wasn’t too hard to figure out how to afford my basic expenses and nights out with friends. Even after graduating college, I still had a pretty good handle on my money and spending habits. My credit rating was great and I never really stressed about much. Once my husband and I moved in together it was clear that a budget wasn’t just a recommendation, it was a necessity. Surprisingly, it was also easy to put one together! Here is step by step on how to build a great budget that you and your hubby can stick to.

budget

Start with the 50/20/30 Rule

Budget builders know this is the best way to determine where your income should be going. 50% of your income should be put toward things you need to live. For example, your mortgage or rent is a need, you have to have a place to live. Other needs might include electric bills, water bills, loans, car payments, insurance, and maybe even phone service.

20% of your income should go toward savings. Savings could include basic savings, retirement, emergency funds, and investments. Debt, such as credit cards, would also go into this category.

30% of income gets allotted to variable expenses. Variable expenses are those that support your lifestyle but aren’t a need. These may include internet and tv services, groceries, date night costs, etc and so forth. This is the hardest category for most people to limit to 30%, but is necessary if you want to get out of or stay out of debt.

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As your first step, figure out your total monthly income for both of you. Only include your take home pay, the money after all your taxes and deductions come out. Next multiply that amount by 50%, 20%, and 30% to get your spending allowance in each category. For example, if as a couple you bring home $5000 per month, multiply $5000 times 0.5 to get your 50% ($2500), then $5000 times 0.2 ($1000), and lastly $5000 times 0.3 ($1500).

Build Your Budget Categories

Start with your Needs or Fixed Expenses list. Your rent or mortgage would be first on this list. Car payments, car insurance, any loans you have, and so forth.You will also have a few things in this category that are a necessity but varies in payment each month. These will come next on your list. Start assigning the 50% of your income that you calculated. For the necessities without fixed costs, use an average for now. In our example we calculated $2500 to be assigned. So lets say that we break it up like this:

  • Mortgage $950
  • Car payment $300
  • Car insurance $125
  • Student loans $800
  • Phone bill $150
  • Electric $180
  • Water $45

You might notice in this example that the expenses add up to $50 more than what we assigned to the category. That is ok for now. In fact, it happens with a lot of young and newly married couples. We will work on fixing this later.

Now move on to your savings. If you have a 401K that comes out of your paycheck automatically, do not include that here. We will only include things that come out of your take home pay. Place your credit card debt in this category with the amount you plan to pay on it each month. Add any other savings that you have, or just qualify the remaining amount as general savings. Savings for vacations and home improvement projects can also go here. If you have high interest debt, concentrate on paying this off before you start putting money away for general savings. We will use this for our example:

  • Credit card minimal payment $400
  • General savings: $600

Lastly, list out all your variable expenses. All of these that will appear on this list can be changed by choice. This is also the category that we will steal from first in terms of money allotted. So we already know that we were $50 short in our 50% category, so we will move that $50 from here. That will leave us with $1450 left in our example to apply to these expenses. When applying costs here, start with the things that you feel you cannot live without. Then once you assign a value to those, list other areas that you may want to spend in:

  • Groceries $200
  • Cleaning supplies $100
  • Cable $80
  • Internet $100
  • Gas for all vehicles: $160
  • Hobbies $400
  • Memberships: $40
  • Dinner out $125
  • Salon costs $200
  • Gifts and other: $45

Making Budget Adjustments

budget

Now most of you are probably looking at this and thinking that $5000 per month might be a little excessive for what you are working with. It is ok, I just used it for a nice easy number to put in our example. If you are working with less, have more fixed expenses, or have more people in your family to work with, you will need to make adjustments. Adjustments should first come from your 30% category. You will want to find areas to cut spending and go with minimal.

Try not to take from your 20% unless you absolutely have to. Your savings are more important than flexible spending. This is especially true if you are still paying off high interest debt. My only exception to this rule is once you are able to be adding a substantial amount to savings and have at least a 6 month emergency fund, then you can use some of the excess money in the savings category to pay extra on student loans, car loans, and mortgages.

Stick with it.

Your budget might change monthly, in fact it is expected. My recommendation is to sit down the last Sunday of every month and build your budget for the next one. A budget needs to be a living document. You want to use it and use it often. Record all your spending habits for the month and keep all your receipts. This will not only allow you to see if you are staying on track, but it will allow you to make adjustments for the upcoming month. Own your budget and don’t give up!

Personally, I use budgeting work sheets in my planner. This way my budget goes with me everywhere that I go and I can’t forget to record spending. My personal preference is the Happy Planner since it is so easy to add and subtract pages to. You can also use these budget worksheets for the Happy Planner or you can make your own. Some find it easier to use computerized budget tracking programs or apps. Regardless of your preference, find a method that works for you. Since implementing our budget, we have found numerous ways to cut spending and start paying down our debt. I know you can too!

How to Share Expenses Once Your Married

Expenses

For some couples, splitting expenses after getting married or moving in together comes easy. Other couples struggle to find a system that works for them. Research your options. Talk to friends to see what worked for them. Read some blogs about it. There are so many ways to share expenses once your married and you will want to find the right one for your marriage. My husband and I tried a few of the following before we found what worked for us.

Combine Everything

First, my husband and I tried combining everything. We opened a joint checking account and put both our paychecks into that account. All the bills were deducted from the joint account as well. It worked okay for awhile. The problem was that both my husband and I have hobbies that can be pretty costly. Each hobby has different needs at different times. In order for us to not overdraw our account, or leave it lacking to pay bills, we had to have extraordinary communication. Now my husband and I do communicate well, but this took it to a new level. Too many of our conversations became about money.

This method make work for your marriage even if it didn’t work for hours. If you are both great at budgeting, no one really spends money outside of average expenses, and you have great expense communication, then this method should work fine. It would also benefit you to have only one person doing the main bill paying for easy tracking of the account.

Keep Accounts and Expenses Seperate

My husband and I kept everything seperate when we first moved in together. This was also the style that worked for us the longest. We each kept our own checking accounts that we had from when we were living seperate. Our living expenses were added up and split among the two of us. Individually we were responsible for paying the bills we had assigned to us and balancing our accounts. If we ran into unexpectedly high bills one month we could transfer money between the accounts to even things up.

With this method you can either split the bills equally or do a percentage split. For example, I brought a high number of student loans and a car payment with me. My paycheck is higher than my husbands, but the money left is very small. Where as he didn’t have any loan balances coming into our new home. We chose to split the bills based on what percentage each of us could afford to pay.

This is an easy way to be able to pay what needs to be paid without worrying too much about where your significant other is spending their money. Since my husband and I had been independent for so long, it was also the more comfortable method for both of us. Eventually though we ran into some complications when it came to paying for home improvement projects and other “shareable” expenses. Going out to eat even became a pain. We would always end up debating who was paying. It began to feel like we were still dating.

Have Multiple Accounts for Expenses

This method can be a little trickier to get set-up, but generally it seems to work well for some couples. My husband and I have one checking account that we pay our household bills from. Then, we each have our own seperate checking accounts for personal spending. The majority of our paychecks go to the combined account for bills, groceries, house improvement projects, dinners out, etc. We then use our personal spending accounts for our hobbies and any other personal spending we might want (like my occasional Sephora binge).

To get this method set-up well, I suggest first starting with a budget. Figure out where both of your money is gonna go every month, then assign it to the correct account. Extra money over your budget can go in either the joint account, your personal account, or in some form of joint savings. In our case, we budget a certain amount of the excess to “home improvements” and place it in the combined account, “our future savings” is a set amount that goes to a joint savings, and then we each have a small dollar of extra we put in our personal accounts for “fun”.

Find What Works for You

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to sharing expenses in marriage. The trick is to find what you and your husband are the most comfortable with and that is going to keep you both on track. Don’t forget, the method you use might change over time. Re-evaluate when you need to and keep a running budget. You will be sure to find success! We did.

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100+ Cheap Date Ideas When Your on a Tight Budget

Cheap Date

Cheap Date

Living on a tight budget shouldn’t be a reason to cancel date night. Instead, it should be used as a reason to get creative. There are tons of cheap date ideas that require very little to no money and are still loads of fun! Depending on your interests, the list below has something for everyone. My husband and I are working our way through these 100 cheap date ideas!

100+ Cheap Date Ideas

  1. Volunteer or Fundraise with a group or organization.
  2. Bake a cake together. Try it from scratch. You can ice the cake and then each other for fun.
  3. Cook dinner together. It can be tons of fun to try out new recipes.
  4. Have a movie day. Rewatch all your old favorites. Create an at home theater complete with popcorn and snowcaps.
  5. Have a board game night. Chutes and Ladders gets a lot more fun as an adult.
  6. Go on a picnic. Even if the only place you go is your backyard.
  7. Teach each other a new sport or hobby.
  8. Go to a park and feed the ducks.
  9. Check out your local flea market. See if there’s is anything cheap you can upgrade for your own home version of “Flea Market Flip”.
  10. Take a hike or go site seeing.
  11. Find free activities in your local neighborhood. A lot of communities now have websites or Facebook pages that list the local events.
  12. Have a yard sale! You may even make more money for your next date night.
  13. Camp out…at home. Put a tent in your backyard.
  14. Have an ice cream sundae night. Whipcream is mandatory.
  15. Look up free museums and zoos.
  16. Go to a local hangout with a pool table and do a husband vs wife tournament.
  17. Each of you make a “Dream Big” list then compare them.
  18. Play strip poker, strip chess, strip anything really.
  19. Have a home spa day and pamper each other.
  20. Make a fire pit in your backyard (check local ordinances first). Toast marshmallows and make s’mores.
  21. Find free exercise classes at local gyms. Most host them a few times a year.
  22. Go to a karaoke night at a bar or restaurant. Even if you don’t get up and sing you will still have plenty of entertainment.
  23. Find a trivia night.
  24. Go sledding when there is snow.
  25. Watch a local high school sporting event. Research who has sports teams that are doing really well.
  26. Tour open houses. You might even get ideas for your own home.
  27. Read to a local youth group.
  28. Attend local free concerts.
  29. Browse your way through local car dealerships.
  30. Go to a “you pick it” farm. Apple picking season is our favorite.
  31. Fly kites.
  32. Make your own pizza. Find my favorite pizza dough recipe here.
  33. Do a word puzzle together. Sudoku also works.
  34. Put together a cheap art project.
  35. Attend a poetry reading or book reading.
  36. Color. See who still hasn’t learned to stay in the lines.
  37. Research a topic.
  38. Check your couch cushions and then go to the arcade with the spare change you find.
  39. Make a couples bucket list.
  40. Your a local winery or brewery. Bonus, most give your free samples to taste.
  41. Write down your dream vacation.
  42. Take a bike ride.
  43. Go fishing or crabbing together.
  44. Get a cheap puzzle and put it together. The more pieces, the better!
  45. Paint together. Channel your inner Picasso.
  46. Have an at home photo shoot. Just remember to delete any nude ones.
  47. Play video games.
  48. Find a local airport and watch the planes.
  49. Bring out your inner bartender and make cocktails.
  50. Play the penny game. Flip a penny at each stop sign or red light. Heads is right tails is left. See where you end up!
  51. Have a nerf war at home.
  52. Attend an Amatuer Comedy Night.
  53. Star gaze. Try to name all the constellation. Or just make up your own.
  54. Go to a local beach or lake.
  55. Make chocolate fondue at home. Ps, it can double as body paint.
  56. Cook indoor s’mores.
  57. Play twenty questions. You can always find out new things about each other.
  58. If it’s winter, build a snowman.
  59. Look on sites like Groupon for free introductory offers. Often you can find good ones like free rock climbing or massages.
  60. Bring back old memories, look through old yearbooks.
  61. Have car wash day. Bonus feature, help each other out of the wet clothes after.
  62. House clean for FUN. Feather dusters anyone?
  63. Play frisbee.
  64. Create a game of follow the clues.
  65. Make the ultimate playlist of your favorite music that you both enjoy.
  66. Pull an all nighter just because.
  67. Get dressed up fancy, then just stay home.
  68. Take a walk, don’t worrying about where you are going.
  69. Plant a garden. Seeds are fairly cheap and you might save on veggies.
  70. Find a good restaurant deal.
  71. Build a blanket for the in your living room. Sleep in it for the night.
  72. Create a time capsule and bury it in your yard.
  73. Attend a free DIY class at a local store. Lowes and Home Depot host them regularly.
  74. Paint each other’s nails.
  75. Find a cheap local mini golf course. Loser does the dishes.
  76. Go on a ghost tour.
  77. Try geocaching. There are dozens of websites dedicated to it.
  78. Do you have a Wii or Kinect? Challenge each other to a game.
  79. Play a game of twister.
  80. Make homemade pretzels. You can also try making beer cheese dip.
  81. Create a family tree for your future children.
  82. Do a small home improvement project.
  83. Have a sunset dinner or sunrise breakfast.
  84. Volunteer to dog walk at your local animal shelter.
  85. Create a photo collage.
  86. Go Go-Carting.
  87. Play horse shoes. Make interesting bets for even more fun.
  88. Give each other fake tattoos. We drew on each other with markers. Take note, not all washable markers wash off skin easily.
  89. Download a free yoga app and have a couple’s yoga session.
  90. Make saving money a challenge. See who can come up with the best deals on this week’s groceries. Winner gets to buy their favorite candy or treat.
  91. Look up couple’s workout moves and try them together.
  92. Search “how to” videos on youtube. Look for ones that interest you and are cheap.
  93. Build the ultimate domino rally around your house.
  94. Try a craft class. Michael’s sometimes hosts two dollar craft classes.
  95. Let your husband do your makeup. Make it even more fun my having it video taped tutorial style.
  96. Find local firework displays to watch.
  97. Locate historic buildings in your neighborhood. Go look at the building and then research its history.
  98. Check out your local railroad.
  99. Go to Walmart and “people watch”. You can even make an “I spy” list ahead of time
  100. Make a home movie. No not that kind! Make a fun one that you can show your children when they get older.
  101. Have a water balloon or snowball fight. Build your own forts in your backyard and see who can hit who the most.

There are just so many choices when it comes to cheap date ideas, you don’t have to do any of them twice! Or at least not for a long time. So get out there and have some fun. No couch surfing here!

The Truth About the Marriage Muffin Top

Marriage

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We have all heard of the freshmen fifteen. Those nasty fifteen or so pounds of weight that sneak up on you the first year of college. I prepared well to face those and survived. Ok, so I only gained ten of the fifteen, but I still did something about it and came out generally unscathed. However, no one told me about the other sneaky weight gain that is even more damaging. Let me introduce you to what I like to lovingly call the Marriage Muffin Top.

The Marriage Muffin top comes into your life under the cover of darkness. It sneaks in undetected like the masked bandit in the night. Its intent is to make you fluffy, cause your clothes not to fit, and make you miserable. I mean after all, you haven’t changed a whole lot in your life so why should you be gaining weight? This was my thought as I watched the scale climb 10, 20, and then 30 pounds!

At first I was in denial. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Maybe I had a thyroid problem. Or maybe I was bloated from some underlying condition. Nope. There was no easy blame game here. It took over a year, but I finally fought back against the marriage muffin top. I still have a long road ahead, but I feel confident that I can win this war. You can too, with a little work and research.

Face the Reality and Set Reasonable Expectations

The age at which you get married or settle in with a significant other is going to affect how much you gain. If you are in your early 20s, you may only notice small weight gains. But if you are closer to or in your 30s the number of pounds will likely go up. This is because your body tends to change in your early 30s anyway, your metabolism naturally slows and you are more likely to put on the pounds.

Your genetics play a large role in your Marriage Muffin top. How are your parents and grandparents built? My mom is teeny tiny. She might wear a size three jeans on a “fluffy” day. Dad however, is built closer to a linebacker than a runner and both my grandmothers are bottom heavy. Its no surprise that I am pear shaped and have enough booty to rival J-Lo. I can not change my genetics, but I can make realistic expectations based on them. Make sure you do the same.

Look at the Small Changes You Made After Marriage

I didn’t feel like I made enormous amounts of changes when we moved in together. Looking back, I can see that it was really just a small amount that added up over time. These changes I was making were all hidden under the “happy marriage” category. They were things I did for or with my husband that I wouldn’t have normally done for myself.

I cooked meals. Notice I didn’t say breakfast, lunch, or dinner. New wives are often super excited to show hubby that we can cook! So there I was cooking full recipe meals, complete with sides and homemade dinner rolls. Of course, we then ate as much as we could. Why let good food go to waste? But prior to getting married I would only eat small meals, with lunch usually being my largest. Those extra calories add up.

As husband and wife we tend to catch up in the evenings over dinner and tv. My husband loves discovery channel shows. We are either watching someone build Alaska, buy Alaska, dig for gold, fish for gold, etc and so forth. I love “our time”, but I never watched that much tv before marriage.

House chores started to over shadow working out. Prior to owning a house, I would spend 45 minutes to 2 hours doing full body workouts. Once home ownership came into play there were so many things to do. Whether it was regular housework or home improvement projects, working out hit the back burner.

Beating the Marriage Muffin Top

Start by planning meals that are healthy, with smaller portions. It is ok to try new recipes. Pinterest is full of healthy, low carb recipes just waiting for you to try your culinary skills on. Just make smaller portions. Or freeze some of your meal to have on another day. Oh and skip all the sides and the dinner rolls, save them for the nights you have guests. I lost four pounds within two weeks of changing our diet and my husband lost seven.

Drink lots of water. In fact, don’t even buy a lot of other drinks. Funny thing happens when you stop buying soda and other sugary drinks, you stop drinking them. Don’t even give yourself a choice. I fought drinking water for a very long time. Finally, I bought myself two water bottles from Motivational Bottle with hour increments and it worked! You can get one like mine here. I am now an avid water drinking. I gained an enormous amount of energy just by adding water and quitting soda.

Plan morning workouts. Not only do you burn more calories in the morning, but you are more likely to not skip morning workouts. In addition, getting your workout in the AM means house chores won’t interfere with workout time. If your afraid that time will still be tight, do what I did and try a condensed workout program. I did pretty well with T-25, even following the modified workout at first. If your struggling with getting up early, try tips from my post on becoming a morning person.

Workout

Keep TV time minimal. Avoid the pitfalls of dinner or after dinner television. It tends to suck you in. Instead, eat dinner without tv and enjoy conversation with hubby. Then clean the kitchen after dinner and do any other house chores. Plan a specific time that you are going to spend tv time with hubby. Besides, all the good tv shows start around 8 or 9 anyway.

Plan date nights that involve being active. It can be as simple as going for a walk in the park, you will still be burning calories. Even if you are on a budget there are plenty of cheap or free date night ideas that you can try. Our favorite is to use Groupon to find introductory offers. We recently tried rock climbing this way and broke a crazy sweat!

Don’t Give Up

Whether you are trying to prevent the extra weight or you are trying to lose what you have gained,make a plan and stick to it. Pick healthy habits that you and your husband can practice together. Habit change is hard! You may fail a time or two before you reach success. Just don’t give up.

20+ Things to Track in Your Planner to Feel Like You Have More Hours

Planner

Planner

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Why You Need a Planner

How do we get more hours in a day? This is an age old mystery that stumps most people. Finding enough hours to get everything done eludes me on a daily basis. There are so many things I need to do! I have bills that have to be paid, a house that has to be cleaned, meals that need to be planned, laundry to get done, animals fed, hobby time, personal growth time, time with my husband, the list just goes on. Do I start passing on things I want to do to make time for those things I have to do? Nope, just get yourself a planner!

Recently, I learned that the key to feeling like you’ve gained more hours is to plan your day. So, in January 2017 I made a purchase of a new planner and got started (I chose the Happy Planner, by far my favorite). It was a hard habit to change at first. But, now I get things done and don’t feel like I am leaving out areas of my life. My planner has become my daily guide and my key to staying organized. Below is a list of some things you can put in your planner to organize your life and make it feel like you’ve gained more hours in a day.

Things to Put in Your Planner

  1. Weekly Meal Plans
  2. Daily, Weekly, and Monthly House Chores
  3. Bills
  4. Financial Budget
  5. Exercise
  6. Practice/Hobby Time
  7. Connecting with Family
  8. Connecting with Friends
  9. Personal Development/Growth
  10. Significant Other Time
  11. Vehicle Maintenance
  12. TV Time (yes, plan those Netflix Binges and you won’t feel guilty after)
  13. Grocery Time (Not just the shopping, plan the time to make your lists!)
  14. Goals
  15. Books to Read
  16. Health Symptoms
  17. Moods
  18. Projects/Crafts
  19. Meetings
  20. Savings Goals
  21. Pet Care
  22. Places you’ve visited

The list goes on! There are just so many things you can track in your planner. What kinds of things do you track?

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Morning Person

morning person

morning person

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By nature, I am NOT a morning person. Far from it actually. I prefer to lounge around and take things slow in the AM hours.  My snooze button and I are excellent friends that love to meet up three to four times a morning. When I finally do grace the rest of the house with my presence, it’s in slow motion, with my own sense of timing. If you are like me, getting up before 7am is some form of torture you would rather do without. Who wants to me awake before the sun? What good could possibly come from it anyway? Well, actually it could change your whole life.

Once I finally settled into a routine with my husband, I found myself feeling like a real life version of the movie Groundhog Day. Every morning I woke up with just enough time for my morning makeup routine, grabbing a breakfast pastry, feeding my dogs, and running out the door. This had always worked for me pre-marriage so I had no reason to change it. The difference now was that I had more responsibilities to squeeze into my after work hours. After arriving home from work at six o’clock, I then had to cook dinner, clean up the kitchen, take care of the animals, fit in a workout, and get showered. By the time I was finished, it was time to call it a night. I had no time for things I wanted to do. I also had little time for my husband. It was then that I decided to try to become a morning person.

Fast forward three months and I feel super productive. I have more energy to get things done that I need to and time to get the things done that I want to. My days are no longer on repeat, no hamster wheel here! My stress levels have also decreased because I am no longer worrying about how to get more hours in a day. So here it is, my Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Morning Person in 30 days.

Start by becoming a productive night person.

The biggest key to becoming a morning person is to plan for it the night before. Set yourself up for success. Plan and layout your outfit for the day and your gym or workout clothing. Pack your lunch so it’s ready to go. Make sure your purse, briefcase, and any other work supplies are by the door along with your coat and shoes. Plan your breakfast and get together any ingredients you can for it. Do the same thing if you need to do any morning meal prep for the next days dinner. Having everything ready to go in the morning will make it easier to get through your morning routine smoothly.

Have a set routine and stick to it.

Having a list of things you want to accomplish in the morning is not enough. You will end up having something go unfinished. Instead have your list and make a plan. Then stick to it. Every morning I do things exactly the same: make the bed, have coffee, feed the dogs, workout for forty-five minutes, shower, makeup (which happens to be an extensively long routine), do a few house chores, and then eat breakfast. I know that if I get these things out-of-order that I tend to run late or skip items, leaving them for the evening.

Get a great nights sleep.

You will never be able to get up earlier on a consistent basis if you are not getting enough sleep to recharge your batteries. Adults should be getting between seven and nine hours of quality sleep per night. Once you know your ideal wake up time, count backwards to plan your bedtime. Plan on trying to fall asleep at this time. Use the hour or so prior for winding down, disconnecting from electronics, and getting ready for sleep.

Find an alarm that works for you.

Most people don’t want to wake up to the loud blaring noise that traditional alarm clocks make. Some cell phone alarms are slightly better, but still not great. If you’re using a traditional alarm clock, set it to a music station alarm. When using a cell phone choose your favorite song or one that motivates you. If you want to go one step further, there are even alarm apps that monitor your sleep patterns and help wake you at an ideal time in your sleep cycle. Try the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock for your phone. I also use my FitBit and associated iPhone app also can identify when the best time to wake is based on my cycle.

Find a way to get light in faster.

Although natural light is best, it is not always an option depending on what time you get up. If natural light is an option, try opening shades right after your alarm sounds or getting to a room with no shades. You can also put timers on bedside lamps or look for sunrise alarm clocks that get brighter closer to your set wake up time. If you have a significant other that wakes before you they can lend a hand as well. My husband gets up twenty minutes earlier than I do. He opens the shades every morning to let some light in before I get up. Try this sunrise alarm clock:

Get a coffee pot with a timer.

My morning coffee isn’t just a staple, it’s a requirement. The sooner I get it into my system, the better. Since my coffee is the first thing I reach for in the morning, I don’t want to wait for it to brew. Having my coffee pot ready to go when I am is a lifesaver to getting my day started. Not a coffee person? Prepare your morning drink or snack of choice so that it is ready to go the moment you get up.

Plan a morning workout.

This was a hard one for me. I never saw myself as a morning workout person, but I was likely to skip my evening workouts due to exhausting days. I started off small by just doing a twenty-minute cardio routine, setting an easy pace. Turns out that I actually had more energy in the morning and soon I was doing my full forty-five minute workout. If you have a difficult time finding workout motivation regularly, try a video series or online instruction. I found T-25 to be a great one for morning motivation. Also, on days when I may be more tired, I do yoga with the DownDog App (by far the BEST yoga app out there). Trust me, it will be worth it.

morning person

Have a reason to be excited.

Give yourself something worth waking up early for. This can be anything you like. Maybe it’s a morning yoga class that you really like. Perhaps you like sitting on a porch, watching the sunrise while eating your breakfast. Or maybe your like me with an addiction to Netflix and you only let yourself watch it early in the morning while getting your day started (on my iPad which I walk around the house with. Don’t judge.). Whatever your excitement, use it to motivate yourself.

Change your wake up time gradually buy your sleep time right away.

You don’t want to shock your system by jumping right to trying to wake up early. You will fail after a few days. Instead, plan on increasing your morning alarm by 15 minute increments every few days until you reach your desired time. However, don’t do this with your bedtime. Instead, when you find your ideal bedtime, jump right to it. The extra sleep will give you a boost for getting up earlier.

Start on a weekend.

What? Wake up early on the weekend? YES! Most people think of starting a new routine on a Monday, but that is not always helpful. Since most people sleep in late on Sundays, it is harder to go to bed earlier, and you might have trouble sleeping all together. If your like me and get cases of the Monday’s, where you have trouble sleeping on Sunday night anyway you will already be a disaster. Instead, start on a Saturday morning. Even if you don’t go to bed early Saturday night, still get up early again Sunday morning. By Sunday night you will be tired and ready to go to bed earlier, making the Monday morning alarm easier to handle.

Remember, even if you fail the first time, keep going! You will find your days more productive and your energy levels increased by getting up and starting your day earlier. Rise and shine sister! We have stuff to do.

 

 

 

 

 

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