How to Stay Productive When Your Overly Stressed

stressed

Today was one of those days. You know the type I am talking about. The kind of day when so many thoughts are spinning through your head that you cannot keep anything straight. When you literally feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Days like this make staying productive difficult at best, and impossible at worst. I want to share with you my best tips for staying productive when you are overly stressed.

stressed

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Take a Time Out

First, before you try and do anything else, you need to take a break. It can be a small break or a rather long one, it does not matter. What matters is that you remove yourself from your obligations and stressors for a few moments and just breathe.

This is always where I start. Depending on whether I am at work or home will depend on how long of a break I take. Weather permitting I will take a a short walk outdoors and breathe in the sunshine and fresh air. Just find something, anything that will get you out of your own head.

On days when I find it particularly hard to clear my head, I will use a guided app like Headspace, Curestress, or Pacifica. All three are downloaded to my iPhone for this use.

The most important part is to move away from your workspace for a minimum of five minutes. This gives your mind a decent refresh and allows you to come back to your task with purpose and a clearer head.

Prepare When You Can

Preparation is not always possible. Sometimes stress piles on us later in our day without warning. But if we can prepare, if we know its coming, take advantage!

In this case, we are looking for mental preparation. We need to get our minds and bodies ready for the task at hand. There are two ways we need to do that. One, sweat it out! There is nothing better for a stressed mind than an energy release through exercise. You can take a quick morning jog, throw on a workout dvd, or even try a yoga app. Sweat for at least 30 minutes.

Secondly, eat a good breakfast. I LOVE breakfast. It is seriously my favorite meal. Ok, maybe it has more to do with my love for coffee, but I love it just the same. Breakfast will help fuel your mind and body to take on the day.

Make a List

Ok, so we may or may not have prepared, but we have definitely taken a breather. So whats next? Oh yeah, we have to get to work.

When you return to your work area, take a piece of paper and make two columns. In the first columns, write down everything you have to do. In the second column, write down all those things that are causing you stress. Now compare them. You can even use lines to connect them. Connect the stress items to the to-do items they correlate with. If you want a pretty version, get my free printable here.

Now write a new list. On it, add all your to-dos that were connected to stressors. Get those out of the way first. In this way, you are essentially killing two birds with one stone. By removing items that are causing you stress, you will therefore have less stress when you go on with your list. Makes sense doesn’t it?

Once you add that first group, you can then add any other to-do items that are not causing you stress, but that may be time sensitive as group two. Finally, add any remaining to-do items as a third group.

I work my way down the list in this manner. Any items that are not causing me stress and are not time sensitive will likely get put off until the next day. This is just fine. You will still get them done, but they are not important on a day like this.

Plan Out Your Work

Look through the first section of your list. How much time do you think each task will take? Are there tasks that can be grouped together by location or other similarity? What is the best order to put your items in to get everything done in a way that makes sense?

Be realistic about this. Are you going to be ready for lunch in an hour? Do you have to pick-up your child from school shortly? Is there a conference call you need to attend at a certain time? Don’t pick a three hour project that is going to get interrupted in an hour. Instead, pick something that you can finish in the allotted time.

Now number your items in order of which you will get them done. When you finish with the first group, move on to the next group on your list (time sensitive). Do not bother with the third group today. If you have extra time to get some of these done, great. If not, we are not worried about it for now.

Don’t Try to Multitask

Seriously don’t. You won’t get anymore done by attempting to multitask than you would by taking one to-do item at a time. In fact, experts agree you will actually get less done. If you have trouble sticking to one task at a time, keep a notebook or piece of paper near by. Any time an idea, distraction, or side thought should pop in your head and work to sideline your progress, “park it”. Parking it simply means jotting down a quick note about it on a separate piece of paper and then move on back to what you were doing previously.

When not actively using them, turn both your to-do list and your parking lot list over so you can not read them. This will help keep further distractions at bay. Staring at that to-do list is not going to help get anything done any faster.

Have a Clear Workspace

Ideally, I would like to tell you to have a clean and organized workspace. However, I find that the days that I am overly stressed are the days when neat and organized are no where to be found. Organized and neat took a wrong turn, got lost, and are sitting on a back road some where in la-la land. Maybe they are hiding behind the several looming piles and loose paperwork to be attended to.

Have no fear. We may not be able to get neat and tidy, but we CAN get a clear space. This is the only time I will advocate to moving those piles and loose papers elsewhere. Make a pile on another work surface out of your direct view, or a pile on the floor out of the way. Anywhere that is not your direct line of sight while you work is perfect. Yes, I did just give you permission to make a mess elsewhere. Its ok. We can clean it tomorrow when our stress is lower and we can get back to our usual productive habits. (If you find yourself moving stuff elsewhere on a daily basis, we need to take a look at organization overall my friend)

Do Not Forget to Eat

I have thought of moving this to number one, but have refrained for obvious reasons. Although I still think it is so important. I can’t be the only person who gets hangry. So we need to make sure we eat. Stress will cause all sorts of havoc on your body, including draining your energy. Eating will replenish some of this.

Plan out breaks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (if needed). These should be real breaks. Meals that you eat while you continue to work do not count. Minimally take 20 minutes to eat and once again breathe. Enjoy your food and give your body a chance to feel like it got fed. No eating at your desk either, it is just asking for you to end up working while you eat (yes, this means you!).

Have a few snacks on hand as well. Make sure they are healthy snacks. These you have permission to eat while working.

Get Moving (or Sit)

Your body does not like to do the same thing for hours on end. This is especially true if your work involves sitting down. Your joints and muscles are meant to be used in multiple different ways throughout your day. So give them what they want!

If your tasks involve sitting work, you need to make sure you move at least once per hour. When your work involves standing and/or moving then do the opposite and sit/rest at least once per hour. These do not have to be long breaks. In fact they don’t really need to be breaks at all. You can transfer yourself to a different position and continue your work.

Since most my work involves sitting, both in my day and night jobs, I know how much better I feel when I go for a short walk. Sometimes I simply walk down a hall and back, or I go outside for another five minute breather. I don’t allow myself long enough to get distracted, just enough to allow by body to move a different way.

Find Something to Play With

I couldn’t get through my days without my fidget toy. I swear by them. There are dozens of different ones out there. Stores even have whole sections dedicated to them. Fidgeting with an item or toy while you work will actually help to keep your mind on track. There are dozens of theories as to why this works, but no matter the theory it really does work.

The item should be small enough that it can fit in your hand easily. Or, in the case of those who type, you can even find a few that are safe to chew on. As a former paperclip chewer, I can attest to a few of the “chewable” toys. Among all fidget toys, this one is my personal favorite. I have four of them total!

Work in Some Breaks

Read any post or book on being productive, and they will tell you that working in breaks every 25 minutes is the best way to keep your brain focused. I am going to tell you that this is even more important on days when your stress is taking over. The hard part is to not let your brain drift back to stressful matters during these breaks. Well how do you do that?

Have items on your breaks that are equally distracting, fun, and can be done in a small timeframe. Let me throw my two cents in here that playing on your smart phone is not recommended. Ok, maybe your phone is fine as long as you stay off the social media. Take a few minutes to play a game. Read a blog post that you saved just for your break. Take a few pictures that you can use later (when we finally have time again for Instagram). Or my personal favorite, look at cute pictures of animals (I work in a veterinary hospital, what did you expect?).

After you complete each to-do task, or every 2 hours, take a longer break of at least 15 minutes.

Regardless of what you do, your break should be short. It should be fun. And it should be something that you look forward to doing.

Ditch the Distractions

Distractions and time wasters are not only counter productive, but they will also add to your stress when they diminish your time. Get rid of them. Today is not the day to allow them to intrude. Crush your phone, delete your email account, lock yourself in a windowless room. Ok, well maybe lets not go that far.

It is true though that cell phones, emails, and social media accounts are some of the largest distractions in today’s society. On days when the stress is at its highest and remaining on task is important, we need to take extra measures that these items do not come into play. Put your phone out of reach and place notifications on vibrate. Close your email and don’t let it run in the background. Close the blinds on any windows that look outside if distractions lurk there as well.

stressed

Set a Reward and Know When to Quit

I put these two things together since they go hand in hand. On days when you are this stressed, have a reward in mind! After all, you deserve it after making it through today in one piece. Treat yourself to your favorite dessert! Watch that Netflix show you have been dying to see. Screw the chores tonight and put your feet up, you made it! But first, we must know when the say when.

Days like today aren’t necessarily work till you drop. We made our list, we trucked through most of it. Now we really need to re-evaluate. Do we have to finish the whole list today? Are we now just trying to squeeze in those category three items to feel more productive? Stop it! Do not do that to yourself. Know when to quit. Go home for the day. Move on to your reward. Let your mind finally have its real break. Jot down tomorrow’s list and step away from the desk. We are done!

Now, speaking of knowing when to quit, it is time for me to find my couch, remote control, and double fudge brownie. Hey, this girl knows how to reward herself!

What are your tips for getting through those stressful days?

 

 

 

 

Why You Need a Life-cation ( Life Vacation ) Right Now

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I just returned from the most AMAZING week! It wasn’t a trip to the islands, some fancy resort, or even a theme park. No, I took a Life-cation. Yup, you heard me right. I took a one week long vacation from life and I am going to tell you why you need one too!

life vacation

What is a Life-cation?

A life-cation is exactly that, a complete and total break from life. It is a time when you get to shut everything off and focus on your inner thoughts. Or not focus on anything at all. Other than that, your life-cation can be ANYTHING you want it to be. You just need to disconnect yourself from all of your regular life “stuff”. You can go anywhere and do anything you please as long as it does not involve the things you do on an everyday basis.

So what did I do during my life vacation? Well, I packed up both my dogs and headed south! Ok, not that far south, only about 2 hours. But my dogs and I headed south to the farm where I worked at as a kid. I stayed the week with my grandparents (neither of which are retired yet), so I had the house to myself most days if I chose. But, most the days I worked my rear end off. Physical labor is GREAT for burning off those things that might stress you out. AND I got to play with LOTS of animals. And who doesn’t love animals, right? Evenings were spent reading some great books and journaling.

Let me also tell you what I did NOT do during my life-cation. I didn’t do anything work related, no emails, no management responsibilities. I did not look at any of my financial accounts or worry about money (I took enough cash with me to buy meals and that was it). My husband also got left behind, although I did talk with him every evening and of course sent “good morning” texts. And I did not blog for the week. This was a hard one for me because I like to brain storm post ideas, it is one of my many creative outlets.

self-care

When should you take a Life Vacation?

ANY TIME YOU WANT! I say this with a lot of enthusiasm. Because really you do NOT need a specific time or reason. There will never be a “right” time for stepping back from your everyday life. If you wait for a right time, you will be waiting FOREVER. Trust me, I know. Was it a good idea for me to take a total break during my $750,000 renovation project at work, our busiest time of the year, the building and almost launch of a second blog, and the start of my and hubby’s sport seasons? Absolutely not! But did I do it anyway? You bet. And I am so much better for it.

So WHY a Life-cation?

Ever sit and wish you had a “restart” button on your life? Well, we may not be able to push a restart button, but we can push the “refresh” button. If you are like me, you find “go mode”to be your everyday speed. I go and go and go, seeing how many things I can fit into each day. After awhile, my creativity starts to wane. My brain goes on autopilot and the work I am doing is not my best. My brain needs a refresh. And that is exactly what a life-cation is. A life vacation is a chance to completely refresh yourself.

The trick to having a life vacation be successful is to take one before you get to the point of burnout. Take it while you still have the energy to really enjoy it. In fact, a life-cation is actually a tool to avoid burnout, never letting it happen to begin with. It can also promote habit change. A life-cation is a great starting point if you are looking to make a change in your life. It was after one of these life-cations that I started working towards becoming a morning person. That one habit has changed my life! If you need to make a change, consider a “refresh” and then get started.

Why can’t a regular vacation do this? Well, regular vacations usually involve plans and other people. You have to put thought into regular vacations. The point of the life-cation is to not have to think. There is no need to plan. And the only people you need to entertain are the ones you absolutely choose. And you can do anything you want on your life vacation. Really, whatever you want. YOU make your life-cation worth it to you as only you will know what will refresh you.

Feel Refreshed!

I couldn’t be more excited about sharing my week with you! Although I was sad to return home, I was greatly looking forward to diving back into my everyday life (and I missed hubby). I came back feeling ready to take on the world. My brain was over flowing with blog post ideas, my manager side was lining up new projects, and the energy was abundant. And this happens every time I take one of these life-cations.

Not every life-cation needs to be a week long. Two days may be sufficient for you. It is more about what you do (or don’t do) on your life vacation that counts. But the important part is that you go do it. Then, reap the benefits.

Have you gone on a life-cation before? What is your go-to life vacation?

 

Ultimate Guide to Cord Cutting- Slimming the Budget Part 1

cord cutting

Welcome to part #1 of my Slimming the Budget series. This series is not for the faint of heart. You will have to make sacrifices and you will need to be determined. But it can be done! For proof, check out my post on how we cut almost $400/month. Some serious money will be saved around your home and instead can be used to pay off those bills. I mean why else would you be reading a post on saving money, right? So lets get you started. Today we are going to talk about cord cutting…on cable that is.

cord cutting

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The size of the sacrifice is up to you.

When I first talked about getting rid of cable my husband’s eyes got as big as saucers. The panic was evident. No cable? What about his favorite TV shows (what will he do without Gold Rush)? And how about the football games? How was he going to survive?

Have no fear. The cord cutting options are plenty nowadays. You just need to decide how far you want to go and what you can (or want to) financially afford. We looked into many options when we were considering it. We could go as simple as 3-5 local channels, or local plus a streaming service, or buy an internet subscription service that would give us live channels.

Start with what you can get for free.

First, we did a search to see what channels were available to us via antenna. You can try this one here. Put in your zip code or full address and it will let you know how many channels you can get from local towers. Some sites will also let you know the signal strength of those channels. The weaker the signal strength, the higher range you will want on your antenna.

Next, we chose an indoor antenna. My personal favorite after reading many reviews was the MohuLeaf 50. The price point was right and we felt the extra miles would be worth it (and we were right).

The antenna plugs right into our TV via a coaxial cable. We placed the antenna on the window next to the TV, but you can also place yours on a wall near it. I have even heard of people hiding it behind pictures. The higher it is placed, the better.

The station search site said that we should expect three channels with mild to moderate signals. We actually ended up getting 12 stations, including the CW. Happy wife right here! This wasn’t going to be enough for hubby though, so we chose to add on more options.

Delayed streaming services.

I am going to call these methods of streaming “delayed”. Simply put, they are not “live” television stations. Instead they are services that have contracted to be able to display the programs a certain amount of time later. You can pick one or more of these services depending on what you want available. We actually have all three of the following, but I am considering dropping down to only two in the near future.

Netflix is pretty well known in the streaming world. Netflix allows you to watch movies and tv shows that are a bit older. Most movies on Netflix are well over a year old and the TV shows are usually the previous season. The nice thing about this service is most of the content stays around for a long time. Read between the lines, binge watching! Netflix makes it super easy to watch several seasons of a TV show at one time. Or over several days. Average cost $10/month

Hulu is another great one with two options. You can have commercials or no commercials for a few dollars more per month. Hulu is a next day streaming service. While still not live TV, you can watch a lot of your favorite shows the day after they air. Some stations also contracted to leave the whole season or last five episodes on at all times. So you practically have a built in DVR. Commercial option is $8/month.

Amazon Prime Video. This service is free with an Amazon Prime account ($12/month). If you are an avid Amazon shopper like I am, this is a great free perk to your Prime account. Prime video is similar to Netflix. They also create their own original content. Plus, Prime Video has a lot more family and kid oriented TV and movies.

Live streaming services.

These guys are generally new to the market of internet TV and considered “cable replacements”. They work the same as cable television, just across your internet connection. Also, they generally cost less and may give you more options to pick and choose your channel packages. The nicest part is they are pay by month, so you can cancel at any time or pick it back up when you want.

First up is Sling TV, owned by Dish Television. Sling TV pioneered the internet TV market. They have multiple plans and plan combinations starting at $20/month. Some plans overlap though, giving you not many “added” options for more money.

Next up is Playstation Vue. This is generally the service that is going to give you the most television stations that you would also get from cable. For a good reason too. Playstation Vue costs on average about $50/month. It can get even pricier the more packages you add. It does however offer one of the best deals for adding HBO to your package. If you want premium channels without the premium cable price, this might be how you go.

As internet TV gets more popular, other players are jumping in the game. DirectTV Now launched last year, coming in comparable to Playstation Vue. YouTube is also preparing to launch its own internet tv this year. My guess is it will be comparable in pricing and packages to the three previous mentions.

Cord cutting devices.

Obviously with no cable box, we will need a way to watch what we are streaming. Your first option is easy, your tablet or computer can connect to any of the above mentioned services to stream. However, no on wants to sit in front of a computer to watch TV all the time. Luckily, these days there are many options.

If you have young boys in your household, or gaming husbands, you likely have a newer game console around. Playstation and Xbox both have options for streaming services over the game console as long as you have an account. Not all game consoles can stream every service. But Playstation can get you Playstation Vue (its made for it) and Xbox can get you both Hulu and Netflix. We use the Xbox for the TV in the man cave.

TV streaming devices. There are multiple of these available nowadays. Unfortunately, not all of them will be able to get you every service you want. Choose wisely. You can check out this chart here for a daily easy comparison. Our favorite, and the device we chose for our own TV is the Amazon Fire Stick. It was affordable at $40 and could stream the majority of what we wanted. Roku is also another device that gets great reviews, is affordable, and can get a majority of the above services. Google Chromecast and Apple TV are others.

Smart TVs are the last option. Although this one seems like a no brainer, I encourage you to pick one of the other choices. The smart TVs out right now are not as good at streaming and connecting as the devices made to attach to conventional TVs. We purchase one smart TV and still needed to buy a Fire Stick for it so we could get the streaming services we wanted. Maybe they will get smarter int he future, but for now leave the smart TVs on the shelf.

Even more cord cutting options.

Although the above is going to be the majority of your cord cutting solution, there are other options. Depending on the device you choose, you may also have access to hundreds of Apps and websites from Network Stations that allow you to watch episodes, live games, and special events right from them. This will bring you even more possibilities.

My husband and I are loving the fact that we cut the cord! We now save a little over $50 a month! That is an extra $600/year. The best part is we get even more channels and options now than we did when we had only a low grade package from our cable company.

Have you cut the cord yet? What services did you find best?

How to Deal With Sibling Rivalry in Your Marriage

Another holiday has come and gone. With it, another disastrous holiday get together. As the years go by, this is becoming the new norm for us. You see, we have an in-law problems. Particularly, we have sibling in-law problems. But we have gotten very good at dealing with it. Today I would like to share with you how we deal with sibling rivalry in our marriage.

sibling rivalry

Understand its an attention thing.

Just like when you were kids, every sibling wants to look better in mom and dad’s eyes. I grew up the middle child of seven, now thats some sibling competition. But my husband grew up as the older of two. Turns out his sibling situation is worse.

Everything was great the first four years my husband and I dated. We got along with his younger brother great. Any mild sibling rivalry stayed between the boys and didn’t extend into our relationship or our relationship with his parents (speaking of, I adore my mother and father in-law).

When his brother started dating a new girlfriend our fourth year together, we welcomed her like any past girlfriend he had. We weren’t particularly close with them, but we weren’t distant either. But everything quickly changed. Overnight there seemed to be an unannounced couple’s competition. They were engaged within 6 months, married less than a year later, and expecting their first child right after their first anniversary. We were happy for them. But at the same time we were at a completely different stage of our lives.

My husband’s parents have always been partial to both couples, staying neutral at all get togethers. But soon every time we all got together it was an announcement of what his bother and sister in-law were doing better than the rest of us. It became clear early on that attention was what they desired.

Sometimes you have to live your own life.

I LOVE family. Coming from a large one, I enjoy spending time with my siblings, parents, cousins, and so forth. BUT, I also enjoy my hobbies, my career, and my friends. It was great to find a husband just like me. We both enjoy time with our families when we can get it. However, we are at that stage of our lives where we fit in family time where we can.

My siblings and siblings in-law seem to understand where we are in our lives. Maybe its because I come from a bigger family, but it makes it easy. With my husband’s brother, it wasn’t as easy. It was clear that their expectations of what they wanted us to be and our expectations of what we were going to be were at opposite ends of the spectrum. We didn’t have time to be the doting aunt and uncle who spoiled the niece and nephew every weekend.

Our sister in-law was very outspoken and aggressive about what she saw as our “lack of interest” in her family. It made family get togethers uncomfortable and full of conflict. It only got worse when they added another child. Doors were slammed, comments were made, dinners were walked out on. The whole time we would sit there like quiet church mice, neither defending ourselves or giving in.

We knew this couldn’t go on. We shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for living our own lives. So we decided we wouldn’t be. We started handling things differently. Here is how we turned around our sibling situation and moved on.

siblings

Dealing with the sibling rivalry in our marriage:

  • Its ok to be at a different place in your life. Just because your brother or sister is getting married and starting a family doesn’t mean that you have to be there too. Don’t apologize for this. Try explaining to your sibling or siblings “We are just at a different place in our lives that you are. Someday we will get there, but for now we will have to disagree”.
  • Discuss without blaming. Try having a discussion couple to couple. Do not use blame words. Instead, use “I” or “we” words. This is how “we” feel when we get together with you. Or this is how “we” feel when you say “x”. Keep the conversation civil. If the other side starts to blame, end the conversation by agreeing to disagree.
  • Don’t poke the bear! There were many times that I would have liked to have said not so nice things to my sister in-law. Like when she decided her husband would not be participating in our wedding. Or when she slammed the door because we didn’t personally say “hi” to her individually at a family dinner. I could have said lots of things. But this is what she wanted, the attention, so I ignored her instead.
  • Fake it till you make it, when you must. Family get togethers are not the place for drama. The two worst things you could do would be make a scene or not show up at all. Attend the events that you have to and do what you must to keep things civil. We attend the event, make social niceties, and then deliver our attention to our parents and the kids. This seems to keep everyone happy.
  • Do NOT take it out on the kids. We LOVE our nieces and nephews. I enjoy the little time that I get to play with them. The kids did not cause this, it is not their fault if their parents can’t get along with their aunts, uncles, and/or cousins. Make the memories with the kids, you won’t ever regret it.
  • Don’t pull others in. It is so easy to engage our parents or other relatives into the rivalry that seems to exist. Resist the urge. Discuss it with your husband but that is it. You will only make matters worse or add more fuel to the fire if you bring others in.
  • Know that it is ok to go your separate ways. Family is important in life. But it shouldn’t disrupt your life or add a significant amount of negativity to it. There may come a time when you choose instead to retain a certain degree of separation from certain relatives. This is ok. We eventually decided to go our separate ways with our siblings in-law. We see my husband’s brother’s family at the required Christmas and Easter dinners. But we do not go out of our way to create a relationship with them.

Moving on.

It took us a few years to get where we are now. Ending in-law rivalry doesn’t happen over night. But we are much happier with our marriage and our relationship with both sets of parents now than before. I encourage you to evaluate your relationship with your siblings. Try to discuss with them how you feel, and then move on if necessary. Your relationship with your husband is what matters the most. Someday you may be on the same page again and there may be a chance to repair the relationship. Until then, feel free to live your own life.

Have you dealt with sibling rivalry in your marriage? Leave a comment below with your best tips for getting through rivalry with your in-laws.

 

Top Ten Must Haves From Our Wedding Registry

I remember the day we put our wedding registry together. My husband had way too much fun with the registry gun. I had fun removing all the silly stuff through the online registry later that night. I would like to think we did our best to pick useful items for our home. Now one year later I can look back and see what could have been left off and what should have been added. Here are our top ten wedding registry must haves AND our top ten items we should have left off.

 

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

wedding registry

Top 10 Must Haves:

  1. A good set of non-stick cookware. I know everyone has a preference, but I am going to recommend non-stick simply for ease of cleaning. Get yourself a set that includes at least one 8qt pot, 3qt saucepan, 3qt saucepan, and a frying pan.
  2. A set of cookie sheets. These will come in handy for baking dessert and meals. A little tip when cooking meats and non-dessert dishes, cover your pan with non-stick aluminum foil for easy cleaning.
  3. A cooling rack set that is oven safe. We find we use ours a lot.
  4. A high end crock pot! My favorite registry item to date. Do you know how much time you will save with a crock pot? No? Well then I challenge you to find out. My only regret is that ours is not programmable.
  5. A great knife set. This is an absolute must have. Cheap knives will dull fast (as we found out the hard way). A good set of knives will last for years.
  6. A coffee maker you can schedule. If you read my post on becoming a morning person, then you know how much I LOVE my coffee.
  7. A higher end set of everyday dishes. We were torn on this one. Get two sets (cheap and fancy) or get one middle of the road set. We chose the middle of the road set and haven’t looked back. They are classy enough for guests and normal enough for daily use.
  8. A good mixer. You can choose your preference between a stand mixer, like a kitchenaid, or a hand mixer. Mixers are useful for baking needs, sauces, and even shredding chicken!
  9. A high quality vacuum cleaner. You want one of these bad boys that is going to last for years. Since these can be pricey, try to get one as part of your registry.
  10. A great set of bed sheets. Two in fact! Good sheets can be pricey. Trying to wash and dry your sheets in one day can be stressful if you are like us and super busy. Register for 2 sets so you always have a back-up!

cooking

Top Ten Things We Didn’t Need to Register For:

  1. Throw Blankets. You seem to get these naturally by some unknown force of nature. Don’t waste your time registering for one unless you have a specific style in mind. Last count we were up to about twelve of these around the house.
  2. A pyrex box set. It sounds great in theory, but we never use even half of these. I cook all the time and enjoy baking even more. If I don’t need them, then you can trust me that you won’t either.
  3. A food processor or fancy blender. Unless you know you will be cooking like Rachel Ray, you will find that these items sit in a cabinet or on a shelf more than they get used. There are other ways to get similar results with less expensive equipment that won’t sit around.
  4. Anything His and Hers. Oh it was all so cute at first. Now it just sits. People will buy them for you because of the cuteness factor. Let them buy you stuff you actually need instead.
  5. A cheese board. Unless you have friends over every weekend for wine and cheese, use a regular cutting board instead. Specialty items often sit aside and take up space. Margharita makers, panini makers, and fondue pots also fit into this category.
  6. Fancy stemware. No one is really going to look that closely at what they are drinking out of at your house. Buy some middle of the road glassware. The kind that won’t make you cry if they accidentally get broken by your cousin’s out of control two year old.
  7. A mandolin. Seriously, just don’t. We have one from our registry. It has sat in a box for an entire year plus. Not one single time have I even thought of bringing it out. And I cook a lot.
  8. Photo albums. These fall into the same category as throw blankets, you will get plenty of them. People will find cute wedding themed frames and albums to pick up as gifting “extras”.
  9. A bar set. Unless you have a home bar or really like to entertain, this just isn’t worth it. We entertain once or twice a month and we have never had a need for it. We even make mixed drinks all the time, but have found the full bar set useless.
  10. Fancy napkins and matching rings. Even when entertaining, it is much easier to set-up and clean-up without worrying about washable items. Besides, you can get cute holiday disposable napkins now that are much easier to use.

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There you have it. Our best recommendations for things you will and won’t need on your registry. Have fun putting together your registry!

Do you have items to add to this list? Let us know yours in the comments!

15 Ways We Cut Our Budget by $400 a Month

The marriagemoneymayhem household has been hard at work trying to find ways to cut our budget down. After months of research and changes, we are FINALLY getting places. What kind of places? Well, our January budget was $10 over what we would have made that month. Our April budget was $400 under (which meant $400 more to throw toward those credit card bills). So how did we find an extra $410 in three months without bringing in extra income? Check out all these ways we found to cut our budget and save money!

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

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  1. We cut the cable cord. Not literally, but we did stop our cable subscription and instead bought an HDTV Antenna and an Amazon Fire Stick. I really thought we would miss cable, but was surprised we haven’t. We can get more than 20 channels with the antenna so my husband doesn’t miss a football game. I get to watch all my favorite shows through Hulu and Netflix. Money saved $52/month.
  2. Meal Plan. Grocery shopping always involved a list. A list of all the things we were out of or running out of. Dinner every night was always a question (What do you want? I don’t know, what do you want?). Basically we had all this extra food around that sat around. By making a menu, I can shop for EXACTLY what food we need for our meals. I don’t need to grab extra items. I was able to cut our grocery bill down to $120 month by using meal planning and coupons together. It has saved us more than $50/month. I also use Ibotta and Checkout51 to help earn money back from our grocery shopping.
  3. We started unplugging all of our unnecessary appliances. Items like refrigerators need to stay plugged in. But other items like hairdryers, toasters, and cell phone chargers don’t need to be. They will draw small amounts of electric continuously even when “not in use”. So we unplug them to help save a few dollars a month. Approx. money saved $5/month.
  4. We wrapped our windows. Window insulator kits can help keep cold air out and heated air in for the winter. They are generally easy to install and only require a hair dryer to shrink wrap them to the inside of your window. Help keep your heating bill lower by not allowing cold air in or your heat out. I am not sure the exact amount this saved us since we combined savings ideas that month. However, I was able to feel more comfortable at lower temperatures in our house.
  5. We lowered our thermostat. Speaking of saving on heating. We lowered our thermostat by two degrees this winter. This was a hard one for me since I am always cold, but wrapping our windows helped keep the temperature even. Total heating bill savings $35/month.
  6. We combined cell phone plans with family. Some people run from this idea. But if you have responsible family, go for it! We dropped our plan and joined with my mother and two siblings, evenly splitting the bill total. Our bill went from almost $180/month to $85/month with even more data than we had previously. Monthly savings $95.
  7.  We stopped going out to eat for date nights. Instead we started eating at home and then going out for a free date instead. If we really want food from a restaurant, we do curbside pick-up since we seem to spend less money this way. You may be shocked at how many free date ideas there are. Check out my ultimate list here. Money saved each month: $50-$80/month.
  8. We went solar. Solar isn’t for everyone, so do your research first. In our case, we leased a system for a fixed payment each month. The payment ended up only being $10/month cheaper than our normal spring/fall electric bill. BUT it is about $100-$200 cheaper than our cold/hot months bill when our heat pump runs a lot. We also get credits back to use later if our solar makes more electric that we use in a day. It should average out to about $40/month in savings. The best part is there were no up front costs with the lease, not even for installation. Check out Solar City to see if solar might work for you.
  9. Change to energy efficient lightbulbs. When we bought our house it came with a closet full (I only wish I was exaggerating) of regular old school lightbulbs. We would never have to buy bulbs again! But these bulbs are not efficient, they suck electricity like little energy vampires. So we sucked it up and bought new LED bulbs. They are brighter and use less electric. Average electric saved $5/month.
  10. Change your own oil in your car. Really, it isn’t that hard. Every time I went to Jiffy Lube I ended up paying at least $70. Buy my own stuff from PepBoys and it cost about $20-$25 depending on which vehicle we are doing. We change our oil about 4 times a year with the amount of driving we do, so that equates to about $15/month savings. Plus it can be a fun hubby/wife activity.
  11. Utilize gas savings programs. Oh I am so bad at this! But I have had to learn not to be. Many convenience stores and some grocery stores offer points that will lower your cost per gallon on gas. These programs are often use them or lose them from month to month. So use them and save on gas. Average monthly savings using Giant’s Gas Points: $4.
  12. We stopped buying coffee. Ok, you have probably all heard this one before. But seriously do the math. I will even give you the benefit of the doubt and go cheap on this one and say $2/coffee 5 days a week will cost you $40/month. If you are a dunkin or Starbucks drinker than could even be DOUBLE. Make coffee at home, in a to go cup. Even lattes can be made with the same few minutes it takes to run to your favorite coffee shop. We spend about $25/month on buying coffee to make at home with all the trimmings. Unfortunately we were those $4/coffee drinkers, so average savings here: $55/month.
  13. We installed a low flow shower head. I was very worried about this one. With long hair, my concerns over being able to get the shampoo out of my hair were valid. I kept picturing myself standing in the shower fighting the soap suds for hours. But no worries, the water pressure didn’t change all that much, just the amount of water coming out. For those of us that take long showers, this shower head was great. Saving water = saving money. Our water bill dropped $10/month since we bought it.
  14. We dropped our big box store membership. Cotsco, BJs, Sam’s Club. They can be great for larger families and for some items. However the yearly memberships generally are not worth it for small newly wedded couples. Save your money instead. Use it to purchase store brand items or dollar store finds. You will save more money this route.
  15. Negotiate with your credit card companies. This really didn’t “save” us any money in the budget, but it did help us in paying down the principle faster. Some credit card companies are willing to work with you and give you a lower interest rate. You can then put the same amount of money each month toward the bill and know you are paying down more of the principle balance.

So there you have it, quick ways to shave some money off your monthly bills. Our journey isn’t over. We will continue to look for more ways to save each month. And of course share them with you! Join our email list and be the first to get them.

How to Practice Self-Care When Your Married

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

Congratulations! You walked down that isle and brought yourself home a husband. Now you have a built-in partner in crime. Someone you can talk to, spend time with, bounce ideas off of, and more. This is an excitedly wonderful time in your life. There will be lots of learning together and growing together and maybe even creating together. Your life will become a whirlwind of couple time, family time, and maybe eventually even time growing your own family. In all this time there is one thing you MUST do, make sure you take time for YOU! Here is how to make sure you practice self-care when your married.

Create Your Own Space

Sharing a living space can be fun. My husband and I had a great time decorating and organizing our space to suit our style. We didn’t agree on everything, but still had a great time figuring it all out. One thing we knew was important to us, was creating our own spaces that were only ours. Everyone’s space is different, so you will have to create your space with what you have. We have a small house, but I was able to set-up a home office/craft area/yoga studio in a spare bedroom. My husband made himself a man-cave in a small area of the basement. Most importantly, we generally stay out of each other’s area. It isn’t that we can’t share the space, its that we know how important it is for each of us to be able to spend a few minutes away.

Your space may be different than ours. It might be a chair on the deck, a desk in the corner of room, or even the bathroom (all my make-up junkies out there). It doesn’t matter where your space, its that you have one. Remember though, your space isn’t an escape. Its an area for you to utilize for self-care and then return to sharing space with your significant other. Be careful not to take it too far and use your space as a complete get-a-way. Shared time is just as important as self-care time!

Mental Self-Care

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Your mental health is so important and often overlooked in our marriages. We often concentrate on making our significant other’s feel mentally secure, but we put our own metal health on the back burner. Don’t be one of those people! Practicing mental self-care is so important.

When you picture mental self-care, do you picture yourself sitting quietly, meditating in a dim room? Meditation is a great way to practice mental self-care, but don’t get caught up thinking it is the only way. There are multiple ways to practice mental self-care that might appeal to you. Check out these to find what might be right for you:

  1. Meditate (if its your thing). When left to my own devices, I fail at this. A guided meditation from an app like Headspace, Pacifica, or CureStress work wonders for me. Take 5-10 minutes out of your day and take your mental break.
  2. Journal. Keeping a diary or journal is a tradition as old as time, and there is a good reason for it. Journaling allows us to express ourselves in a way where we feel safe and protected. You can start in a blank journal of your choosing or try a guided journal. Some people also like to incorporate journaling into their planners (if you like this idea, try the Happy Planner, my favorite!).
  3. Find you “Why”. Not to get all Simon Sinek on you, but it IS important that your life has a purpose. What is your own personal mission statement? Your reason for living? Put it into words, study it, and love by it. Need help getting started?  Check our Simon’s book Start With Why. It focuses on the why in leadership, but also has some great advice for why in your personal life.
  4. Get some extra shut eye! It can be easy to get caught up in our husband’s sleep schedules, even if ours don’t naturally match. Marriage experts generally agree that going to bed together is the best for couples. However, if it interferes or distracts from your own sleep schedule, it can leave you feeling exhausted. Get creative with your scheduling and get yourself a solid eight hours a night.
  5. Read a book. There is nothing that gives me a mental refresh like a good novel. Although spending ALL day on the couch reading is generally no longer an option, stealing an hour every day during the week is completely possible. I tend to read when hubby is camped in the man cave. Excellent “alone” time for both of us. The best part is that you can download a lot of great novels for FREE through iBooks and Kindle.
  6. Watch the sunrise (or set). I have this daily habit where I plan my entire morning routine around eating breakfast at the exact time everyday. I take my morning coffee, bowl of cereal, and cell phone to my bay window overlooking the sunrise where I eat, drink, and then meditate all while watching the most beautiful display of nature.
  7. Develop your self. Self development is not only a great use of your time, it is great for your mental well being. Books, Webinars, and Ted talks are a great way to start. Try reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to start! It will be most helpful in making the changes needed for self-care.

Emotional Self-Care

Some people classify emotional self-care in the same bucket as mental self-care. I however like to put them in two separate categories. Emotions can be changed from day to day and moment to moment. When we talk emotional self-care, our directive should be to strive for what makes us happy, content, and positive. Think of the things that make your feel this way and make a list. First, cross your husband off, we already know about him. Now how much time do you devote to these other items daily? Weekly? Monthly? If your answer is less than daily, then you are not taking care of your own emotional needs. Take a look at these idea for some inspiration:

  1. Spend time on your hobbies. My hobby makes me more than happy. It brings me great joy and gives me something to look forward to. Although everyone has different hobbies, the joy your hobby brings you will help take care of your emotional needs.
  2. Enjoy some comedy. Laughter is good for the soul! And for your emotional well being. You can find some great comedy on TV or Netflix. Even YouTube has some worthwhile comedy. Find some you like and take the time to get a good laugh in. If you have a smart phone or tablet device, you can even take your comedy around with you while you do house chores.
  3. Spend time with family and friends. A huge key to many people’s emotional health is time to work on relationships with family and close friends. Your husband is one of these people, but there are likely many others in your life. Take time to enjoy these people, and not just in group settings. Make a quick call to your grandmother, FaceTime with your best friend, meet a co-worker for Sunday morning coffee. You will be surprised how you feel after each of these events.
  4. Enjoy things you consider beautiful. This may sound silly but there is scientific evidence that simply looking at beautiful things can change your emotions in a positive way. Take a walk in nature on a sunny day, visit a gallery or museum, watch videos of puppies! Whatever you consider beautiful, find it, take a few minutes to enjoy it, and soak up that emotional positivity.
  5. Volunteer for a great cause. This is one of my favorite activities for my emotional well being. There are a lot of great organizations that will allow you to volunteer on a part time basis. Knowing that your are helping people or animals will boost your soul!
  6. Listen to your favorite music. Music, also good for the soul (ya know, after laughter). Make yourself a playlist of all the music that brings thoughts of happiness and joy. Play it whenever you need an emotional pick me up!

Physical Self-Care

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In addition to your mental and emotional self-care, physical self-care completes the trifecta. Most people think diet and exercise when they think of physical self-care. While these are two big aspects of it, there are so many more! And we all know that staying physically healthy will help us in our marriages (in more ways than one, right ladies?). Here are some of my favorite ways to practice physical self-care:

  1. Eat Healthy. This goes for both eating with the hubby and without him. Dieting is a thing of the past. Diets fail. Instead, plan healthy meals and snacks based on what your body needs. Plan your meals ahead of time, a week or two in advance. Not only will this help with your grocery shopping and budget, but you will be less likely to make last minute unhealthy meals. Need some help with dinner? Try Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or similar meal service. They deliver the ingredients you need to make complete meals for two. We enjoy using Blue Apron time to time when ideas for meals are running low and getting boring. Sign-up and get your first 3 meals for free.
  2. Drink your H2O. You would be amazed at the changes your body will have when you go from dehydrated to plenty hydrated. I gave up my daily soda intake (a ridiculous three 24oz bottles a day) and traded it for water. More energy, better sleep, and glowing skin all greeted me. I felt great! You will too. Need some help, try this app to help motivate your water drinking.
  3. Get your sweat on. You don’t need a gym membership to burn some serious calories. Try some at home workouts where all you need is a tv, tablet, or smartphone. I lost 35 pounds working out at home. Try some of my favorites: Beachbody on Demand, Barre3 Online, and my all time favorite (and best every yoga app) Downdog Yoga App.
  4. Get some sun. But get it safely in small amounts. Sun is good for the body and soul. So get out there and help convert yourself some Vitamin D.
  5. Take care of your skin. Ok maybe this is just a really good excuse to give yourself a facial and purchase a quality moisturizer, but hey its worth it. You want your skin to look good. Make sure you are using spf when going outside. Moisturize twice a day. Keep it clean and rejuvenated. I love giving myself at home facials. First I cleanse with a Clarisonic Brush, then follow with a good quality retinol scrub. Finally, massage in some moisturizer and voila!
  6. Dance. And dance. Dance some more. And who cares if you can’t dance because no one will be watching you. Dancing releases an amazing amount of endorphins. So put on your favorite tunes, some comfy clothing, and move your body. You will feel incredible after.
  7. Consider your health. We get busy in our daily lives, who has time for the doctor. However routine check-ups, dental cleanings, and eye exams are all important for your health.

Make the Time

Some of the items listed above might seem trivial, or only for spare time. Don’t let them be. Taking care of these areas in your life will make you feel more fulfilled as a person and lead to an even better relationship with your spouse. Give him some extra time in the mancave and get your self-care on girl. You deserve it! Still having trouble finding the time? Check out my post on creating a morning routine for some tips and tricks on making your mornings productive.

What is your favorite self-care habit?

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

budget

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

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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!

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