UPDATED Essential Monthly Planner

Can you believe it’s been FOUR years since I blogged about my monthly planner and how I keep all my bills and events organized in one place? I noticed recently that it’s getting a lot of hits on Pinterest and I thought I’d post about how I’m keeping my planner now.

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Currently, I’m using highlighters and small post-it notes to keep everything together. I’m not sure where to start, so I guess we’ll go from left to right.

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On the border on the top left I use pink post-its with blog post ideas that I may want to blog about that month.

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Then, once I blog about one of those ideas, I move the post-it to the day that I posted the blog, which isn’t necessary but is helpful in case you want to go back to previous months and look at what you’ve done.

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On the bottom left margin I use these pale yellow (or as I like to call them, smoker’s teeth yellow) post-its with things that I HAVE TO get done during the month. And yes, I moved to PA from NJ back in May and I still have not gone to the DMV to get my license plates transferred. I just REALLY hate the DMV! Anyways, once I get an oil change or get my license plates registered, I’ll move that post-it to the day that I did it.

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In my planner, I write when a bill is due. Since we moved, we’ve got a lot of credit card bills to pay off. So for example, I write down on the 4th that my Home Depot credit card bill is due, then under that I put what the balance is that I still owe. Then under that I write “New Balance” so on the 4th when I pay that bill, I write what the new balance is after making the payment. Then I take that new balance and put it on the next months post-it under “Still Owe”. This makes it easier to know where you’re at with each of your outstanding credit cards without having to look each one up online.

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As for our other bills, like the mortgage, car payments, electric, etc., I just write down on the day that I pay them and then cross them off. I also highlight it in green, or in my case I highlight it in yellow and blue because I don’t have a green highlighter – haha!

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I use these teal colored post-its for any kind of photo sessions I might have. I would just write that appointment in my planner but since moving to Easton, I have not required clients to pay a deposit to hold the appointment, so the appointment days change a lot. With the appointment being on a post-it, I can just move the post-it to any day they may change it to. It keeps my planner pretty so I don’t have to scratch out anything.

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I use the bright pink post-its for fun events like birthday parties, people coming into town, events in the community, etc.

Btw, you can get these convenient post-its on Amazon and they’re super cheap. Pick them up here.

And that’s about it. I feel like my monthly planner has become a lot more efficient in the last four years and I hope it helps make your monthly planner more efficient as well!

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Cheapest Way to Update a Room

The first time I ever painted a room was when I surprised my mom with a home office a few years ago. You may remember that I blogged about it. If not, check it out here. I swore, after painting that entire room TWICE all by myself, that I’d never paint again. I HATE painting. I’ve already painted our guest room and I knew I’d only need one coat so it wasn’t THAT bad. But when I finally made the decision to paint our dining room, I knew it was going to be a problem.

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Here’s a picture of our dining room right after we moved in. The color was nice but it made the room feel so dark and small. Sam actually liked this color and it truly wasn’t a bad color but I wanted my dining room to be light and airy. So after sampling about 6 or 7 different colors, we finally picked one! We landed on French Beige by Behr.

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I painted the whole damn room by myself. And you know that rickety, old ladder I was talking about in my last post about our office bookshelves? The one I refused to get on? Well guess whose big ass was up on it risking her life to paint around the ceiling. ME! But it came out so nice! We had to spring for the more expensive Behr Premium Ultra Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Extreme paint but it was worth it because I painted the whole dining room with ONE coat and ONE can of paint! Would definitely recommend the Behr Premium Plus Ultra for any tough paint jobs.

The next thing we needed to do was get rid of our small counter height table for two and get a dining room table that would sit more than just Sam and I. I went on Target.com to order a mirror and ended up buying a dining table and chairs. Isn’t that always the way?! But this table and chairs is amazing and I’m so pleased with our purchase.

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Moral of the story is that you can really make a room feel so much bigger, nicer, rejuvenated, etc. with a can of paint and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg! Unless you’re using an old, unstable ladder. Then it might cost you your life! -haha!

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Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram! 

@katiewelshphoto1

Travel Fund

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably noticed that Sam and I went to Boston for the weekend to visit some family. We had so much fun, even though it felt like it was below zero outside! But we survived and ended up eating and drinking our way through Boston.

Yes, that is our mess. We are pigs!

Yes, that is our mess. We are pigs!

I haven’t shared it on my blog yet, but my father passed away in early November of last year. He was pretty young and I think about him constantly! Anytime Sam and I are planning on going somewhere or doing something I think to myself, “Hmm, I wonder if my dad ever had the chance to do this, or go to this place.” Not sure if that is normal or not but whatever. I made my new years resolution to experience more things and go to more places.

On our 4 hour drive up to Boston, Sam and I decided that every year we want to travel to at least 2-3 places we’ve never been before. Doesn’t have to be to some extravagant place and doesn’t even have to be super far from where we live. Maybe just for a weekend trip or a few days longer, but just somewhere that neither of us have been before. I’m pretty excited to start coming up with ideas of places to go, but thinking about how much money it’s going to take makes me a little nervous. We save a lot of money each month and some of the money we save goes into our “travel fund” so that should help cover our trips throughout the year but I’ve also started doing the 52 week money challenge in order to save money that we can use as spending cash while we’re on one of our adventures. I don’t think people understand how easy it is to save with that damn challenge. I love it!

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Where have you traveled to? Your favorite vacation destination? Favorite weekend getaway location? Give me ideas!

Happy hump day!

Three of My Most Popular Budgeting & Savings Posts!

On Thursday I finally reached 100,000 views on my blog! I was kinda freaking out a little bit! Feels pretty crazy knowing that over 100,000 people have come to my blog at some point for some reason. So thank you to everyone for checking it out!

Anyways, in the past three weeks my views have spiked because at the beginning of every year everyone wants to get their budget in order, along with other things like lose weight, adopt a healthier lifestyle, out with the old and in with the new, and all that good stuff. A few of my budgeting and savings posts from 2013 and 2014 were getting a lot of attention because they’re super easy to use so I thought I’d link you to them in one post so that you can easily find them.

1. Monthly Budget Spreadsheet! – Before you can determine how much money you can and should be saving a month you need to figure out your monthly budget! I promise it’s not as painful as it sounds and doesn’t take too long to put it all together. But honestly, it’s a necessity!

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2. Yearly Budget Spreadsheet! – Once you get your monthly budget together the yearly budget spreadsheet is just a place to keep you on track all throughout the year. It’s also fun to see how much money you’ve saved at the end of the year!

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3. The Revised 52 Week Money Challenge! – It’s not your average 52 week money challenge. Believe it or not it’s actually a little more challenging. See which of the three challenges tickles your fancy!

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All of the links to download the spreadsheets and the 52 week challenges are in each of the posts. I hope they help you and happy saving!

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Creating a Home Office/Guest Room!

Well, hello there!

This past weekend I was in Pittsburgh for my little sister’s senior homecoming 😦

I can't believe how big she is now!

I can’t believe how big she is now!

Anyways, my mom works from home 95% of the time and every time I come home I have to be quiet during the day and keep the TV turned down because she uses the dining room as her office. I couldn’t stand how inconvenient it was, not only for her, but for me as well. I knew that she was going out of town the first week of November and I was planning on sneaking into town and turning my sister’s old room into a home office/guest bedroom for her. I got to thinking about it and wasn’t sure if she’d actually utilize it or not, so I figured I would ask first – haha.

This is how the conversation went:

MeMom, do you think if I painted Nicole’s old room and turned it into a home office you’d use it?

Mom – *eyes open really wide**chin drops to chest* Are you kidding? Of course I would! Do you wanna do it this weekend?

MeWell I don’t know about this weekend. I might be a little busy getting Nicole ready and doing her make up and stuff.

MomOh, painting won’t take that long, you could probably get it all done this weekend!

MeOk, I’ve never painted a room before but I’m sure it’s no big deal. Let’s do it!

And the rest is history! My mom gave me a $500 budget. I went to Lowes and spent $70 and got some white paint and some supplies and had to paint over dark blue walls that had purple stars painted around the window and the closet! (I really wish I would have taken a before picture! The room was horrendous!) I thought painting would be fun but it turned into the worst day of my life (ok, I’m being dramatic, but holy shit!). So after two days, three coats of paint, and plenty of cursing, I finished the paint job! It was rewarding to basically do most of it myself, with little help from my sister Rachel and absolutely no help from my youngest sister Nicole. I knew after I painted the room, the fun part would begin!

So on Sunday morning I went to Ikea and got a desk, a desk chair, a bookcase along with some drawers for the bookcase, a lamp, and a cart with wheels! In all, I spent $280 at Ikea. When I got home my sisters and I put everything together which was actually kinda fun. Once we set everything up where we thought it should go we knew it was missing some stuff, so we made a trip to Walmart. At Walmart we got new curtains, new comforter, some throw pillows, a dry erase board, small cork board, and some decorations for the walls. At Walmart we spent about $108.

The next day I went to Target because I felt we were still missing some cool knick knacks and a desk lamp. Little did I know, I was about to have the greatest Target trip of my life!

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The cute blue stool thing had a clearance tag on it that said $24.98. The laser cut metal mirror had a clearance tag for $14.98. The small trash can was on sale for $12.78. And the Threshold white lamp had a clearance tag of $17 something. I get up to the register and the girl informs me that everything on clearance was even lower than the tag price. I THOUGHT MY FREAKING HEAD WAS GOING TO EXPLODE! I told her I might need to call my mom and have her pick me up because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to drive home – HAHA! My total for all of the things above was originally $50 and some change but with a mobile coupon for $5 off home purchases, I paid $45. Felt pretty good!

So, if you’ve been keeping track of the totals from all my purchases, you’d see I only came in $3 over the budget for this room! Pretty spectacular if you ask me!

The end result was pretty awesome for one weekend of hard work! So without further ado, here’s the new home office!

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My mom loved it and I couldn’t be happier because she deserves it and so much more! I heard her the next day talking to people on the phone and telling them how she was working in her new home office that her daughters put together for her and how it was the nicest thing anyone has done for her in a long time. It feels great to make someone’s day!

It’s almost Hump Day! Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Financial Tip Friday – Saving -vs- Investing

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Deciding what to do with your savings can be very difficult. You try to split it up between emergency funds, rainy day funds, retirement funds, college funds, etc. Knowing what funds to put into savings and what need to be investing is simple!

Money that you need to spend in the next few years, lets say 1-5 years, belongs in savings. This includes a down payment for a house, emergency funds, vacation funds, basically anything that you may need to get your hands on quickly. Put it in a low risk savings account or money market account. Try to find a savings account that has a decent APY. As of right now, I use Capital One 360 for all of my savings and the APY is, ugh, just ok. Shop around before opening up any account!

Money that you don’t need for at least seven years is money that should be invested. We’re talking about things like retirement funds and college tuition funds for young children. I am no professional financial advisor and for these kinds of funds, I couldn’t tell you where to invest all your cash, but do it wisely and if you need to dish out some money to talk to someone that’s knowledgeable in investing these things, do it! Totally worth it!

I hope this helps! Have a great weekend!

Repurposing Household Items!

Do you know what I hate? When my Bath & Body Works candles are running out of wax. I’ve burned through them and the pretty jar is now basically empty and coming closer and closer to becoming garbage.

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Do you know what I love? The jars that the Bath & Body Works candles come in. I love the symmetry and plainness of the jars. They’re so cute! So, I’ve repurposed the jar from candle to cotton ball holder! This is how:

Boil some water

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Once the water is boiling, pour it directly into the jar. Sometimes people are afraid that this will shatter the jar but from personal experience, I can tell you that this jar is very sturdy and can definitely withstand boiling water. Once you pour in the boiling water you’ll notice that the water and the candle wax begin to separate.

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After about a minute or two take a butter knife and go around the edge of the wax and also around each of the wicks. The wax should be soft enough and this shouldn’t be difficult. If the wax is still tough, give the hot water a few additional minutes to soften the wax.

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Once you’ve traced the outline of the wax inside the jar you should be able to pry the wax from the bottom of the jar. If not in one big piece then in a couple of big pieces.

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Once the majority of the wax is out you can most likely pry the wicks and the wick stands out very easily. Remove them and allow the remaining wax to rise to the top of the jar.

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Once it’s done separating just pour it out. I usually like to let the wax on top harden and throw that away before pouring out the water below it. The sticker on the side of the jar is easy to pull off. As for the sticker on the bottom, it may need a little extra soaking in order to come off. Once all the stickers are off run a soapy sponge over it and let it dry and then it’s ready! You’ve got a really cute jar to do with as you please!

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Love these small projects that increase my bathroom storage, especially since I’ve got very minimal storage in my apartment.

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Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Retirement Calculator – Are you saving enough?

I’m fairly young to be thinking about retirement, even though I so often dream about those long, leisurely days, but I’d like to be prepared for when the day finally comes. I also want to have a plan well before then so I know how much money I should have saved. Thinking about retirement and the money I want to have saved for all of the things I’d like to do, quite honestly, terrifies me. It’s not on the top of my worry list right now but it’s only a matter of time before it nears.

Today I was surfing the CNN Money page and they have a retirement calculator.

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You enter your age, what age you’ll be when you retire, how much money you have saved for retirement already, and your annual salary and the percentage at which you’re saving and voilà! It lets you know how much you’ll probably need and how much you’ll have if you stick to the same annual salary and percentage of contribution.

No matter how old you are, it’s a great tool to utilize once in a while to keep you on track. It probably sucks to be old but you don’t want to be old AND poor!

Check out the money calculator here.

Brand new goals!

I love setting goals and creating new projects for myself, if you haven’t noticed. Now that the grad party is over and there’s no more planning involved as far as that goes, I can turn my attention to something else.

Sam and I have been trying not to eat out as much as we do. 1) to save money and 2) to lose weight and get healthy. I’m not the best cook. I’ll be the first to let you know and I’m sure Sam will be the second  – haha!.. I come from a family of really awesome women that can cook their booties off but I guess I never paid attention enough and I definitely regret that now. I really want to get into meal planning and learning new recipes.  And when I say “new recipes” I mean ANY recipes at all. Unless we’re talking about grilled cheese. I can make a mean grilled cheese. Anyways, I purchased a few magnetic notepads on Friday that I think will help me stay organized while I try and figure everything out.

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The plain notepad on the side is for any food items or whatever that I need to pick up from the store and the notepad on the right side is for our meal planning. This way we can plan and decide what we’re having from week-to-week.

I need help, though! Gimme some tips, tell me some tricks, send me some recipes, or whatever you got! Help ya girl out, people!

Happy Sunday! Hope everyone had a good weekend.

Tips to get your new grad ready for COLLEGE!

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If school isn’t out already, then it’s about to be out and it’s the perfect time to talk about getting your child, sibling, niece, nephew, or whoever ready for COLLEGE! My younger sister, Rachel, just graduated from high school and you already know that if you’ve been keeping up with my blog for the past month or so LOL. Luckily she’s doing her first year at a community college but if your recent high school graduate is getting ready to pack up and leave for college there’s a few things you may need to do.

Start by getting them to do everyday things on their own. Things that you may be doing for them like waking them up or doing their laundry or doing their grocery shopping. It is now time to have them waking up to an alarm clock, doing their own laundry, and try giving them the grocery list and sending them to the grocery store. You’re not going to be there to walk into their bedroom and rip the covers off and tell them to wake up so make sure that when they need to get up at a certain time, that they’re a custom to waking up to an alarm clock. If your graduate doesn’t know how to do laundry at this point in their life, they really need a wake up call! Show them and have them do their own laundry for the summer. Most colleges don’t have a mommy laundry service. A lot of college students go on meal plans and such but at this point they should have developed some kind of money management skills so try writing out a list of the groceries that the household needs and send them to the store with a budget. Not only will this give you a break but you’ll get to see how they do on a budget, which is what they’ll be working with when they go off to school.

And speaking of budget, if you’re going to be giving your children a monthly allowance while they’re away at school, go to a bank branch near the campus. Talk to them about the monthly budget they’ll be receiving, if any, and discuss how to handle it as far as groceries and everyday expenses go. Also talk to them about what to do if they run out of money. Don’t say things like, “call us and we’ll transfer more money over”. You don’t want to make it too easy for them. Tell them that you’ll figure out things for them to do in order to acquire more money.

Most college students have a dorm mate or a suite mate or something along those lines. Usually they’re able to communicate with their new roomie before hand but they’re not able to get to know each other that well through email, texts, or phone calls. Talk to them about how to resolve problems that may arise regarding their new room mate. Advanced problem-solving will definitely help when confrontations come up.

College is way different than high school especially when the student is away from home. Try printing out or going to the school and picking up their course load for the first semester. Try and put together a game plan of how they’re going to accomplish this along with other activities they may be partaking in. Go over what needs to happen if they can’t make it to a class and the procedure they’ll need to take in order to let their professors know and get the work or notes they may have missed.

How will they get to class and around campus? Do they have a car? If not, transportation may be a big deal. Bikes are a BIG mode of transportation to getting around campus. Normally, everything you need is around the campus and can be reached by bicycle. Ask the campus about bike storage facilities. If they don’t have a car and you’re looking for one, consider buying a clunker.

Make sure your new college student knows where the student health center is and what services are available, including birth control. I know, it’s a touchy subject but sometimes they’re not the ones that need the help. It could be their roommate. No matter what, just have a conversation about all the services that the health center provides.

After they’ve been at school for awhile there may be a little friction when they come home on breaks. They’ve been away and on their own for awhile now and may not want to accept your house rules again. Just realize that this is a new phase for them and for yourself. Sitting and having dinner and not being able to answer their cell phone or go out with friends may be a problem. Just be prepared for the tension!

I hope some of these tips help get your new high school grad ready for this brand new chapter in their lives!