Are You Ready for Christmas?

“Once again we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.” Dave Berry

Christmas comes ever year on December 25. It also happens to be Hubs’ birthday! So, have YOU started prepping for Christmas yet? By now you’re probably looking at your calendar, shaking your head, and thinking I’ve lost my mind. Yes, it’s September but if you’re going to have a Christmas season without a retail hangover with the post-Christmas credit card bill headache, now is the time to start getting ready. You’ll notice I said, “prepping”, not “shopping”. Here’s what I mean…

Who will you be shopping for? How much do you intend to spend on each person? If you haven’t already started, now is the time to start putting a few bucks aside so that the Christmas crunch isn’t quite so crunchy on your wallet. Once you know who you need to shop for and how much you will spend, you can budget for it and put the money aside. Also, the A-number one rule of prepping for Christmas is to WRITE IT DOWN!! Make yourself a list and stick to it, just like any other shopping list.

One of the things from years gone by that is making a comeback is layaway. This makes me very happy since you can use this feature to purchase your gifts and pay over time without going into massive amounts of interest-laden debt. The policies of the stores offering layaway vary so check with them before shopping. I used to use layaway for my Christmas shopping when I was in high school and I’m really glad to see some retailers are seeing the value of offering it to their customers.

If you need a little extra cash to pay for your Christmas gifts, now would be a great time to apply for that part-time job you’ve been thinking about. There’s plenty of work available if you’re looking make a little bit of holiday cash. Most retailers offer an employee discount so you can make a bit of shopping cash and buy your gifts at a discount. Win/win!! 🙂 Elena Peters with Making Midlife Matter has some good suggestions for finding (or making your own!) side hustle. Click here for details…

I hope I’ve given you some good ideas for planning your Christmas shopping without the dread of the bills that inevitably come in January. Do you have any money saving or prepping tips that I haven’t covered here? Please share in the comments!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Some Favorite Money Saving Apps

“The art is not in making money, but in keeping it.” Proverb

I’m all about using technology to save a little money, and there are more than a few app developers out there more than willing to assist in my quest. The following is a list of some of my favorite money saving apps. They are available for download in the Apple Store and Google Play, and some are also available for download directly to your computer.

Flipp is probably my number one favorite app for saving money, especially since I cancelled my local paper subscription. Flipp is customizable based on where you live and provides up-to-date copies of all the sales flyers from your favorite stores. It’s easy to access them even from your phone while you’re out shopping to make sure you’re getting the best price. While I’ve never tried this, you may even be able to use the information in the Flipp app to get a store that price matches to match a competitor’s price on an item. If you have done this, please share how it went!

If your local library is supported, Overdrive is an awesome app to use to borrow books. Ebooks, audiobooks and videos are available for loan. A multitude of devices are supported and it’s a great way to satisfy the bookworm in you and not break the bank.

Are you a magazine junkie? If you are, Flipster is the app for you!!! This app is also supported by local libraries and has digital copies of national magazines available to temporarily download and read from your tablet. I use this one a lot, as I have been cancelling magazine subscriptions to save a little bit of money. It also helps to save a few trees!

I was not familiar with Roomer before I started researching this post so I’m not sure how well it works, but I thought I’d include it since it sounds intriguing to me. Roomer promises amazing last-minute deals on hotel rooms. One of the features that is especially appealing to me is that you can sell your reservation to someone if your plans change. If you have used Roomer successfully, please share your experience in the comments.

While I realize there are mixed views on the need and validity of credit scores, it’s still a good idea to keep track of yours especially if you are job hunting or purchasing insurance, since many insurers use your credit score to set your insurance premiums. Credit Karma offers free credit score monitoring as well as insights to how you can improve your score. They also promise that they store your data securely and will not sell your information to third parties.

With as much as I LOVE to shop there, I really need to learn how to effectively use Cartwheel by Target. Penny Pinchin’ Mom has written a FABULOUS post on how to use Cartwheel. Glad I found it, and now that I’ve shared it with you, let me know if you’ve used it and had good experience with it.

According to Wikipedia, Ibotta is a Denver, Colorado based mobile technology company that enables users with its smartphone app to earn cash back on in-store and mobile purchases with receipt and/or purchase verification. As I write this, I’m in the middle of setting up an account with Ibotta and will let you know if I have any success with it.

So, these are some of my favorite apps to use to save money-what are some of yours? Leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

The Kindness of Strangers

“Rule 39” Leroy Jethro Gibbs

As I write this, I’m sitting at Gate C9 at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport waiting to board a flight home. It’s just a little after 7am on a Sunday morning, and the sun just rose on what promises to be a well-deserved beautiful day for the people in ATL. It’s been a pretty rainy summer here!!

I’ve never been a big fan of flying, especially now in the post-9/11 world, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and do what needs to be done. My mom is having some rather serious surgery tomorrow morning and I have to be there to support her & my dad.

Last night was not the best night for sleeping and I’ll admit to being a bit on the cranky side this morning. I couldn’t use the “no coffee yet” thing as an excuse since I’d already had breakfast AND coffee-I was just crabby from lack of sleep. I decided to try the self-tag kiosk to tag my bag (flying Southwest—bags fly free!!) but the scanner was not cooperating. I could not get it to scan the boarding pass from my phone screen to save my life. I started to walk away from the kiosk mumbling, “screw technology” under my breath but apparently I said it louder than I thought. A lady standing in line offered to help me and while I felt I didn’t deserve for someone to be nice to me with my bad attitude, I accepted her help. Her name is Andra, and she was WONDERFUL!! She keyed in my confirmation number, printed out my luggage tag, attached it to my bag, and printed out my boarding pass, “in case your phone dies,” all in a very calm voice with a beautiful smile on her face. She told me she flies almost every day for her job as a crisis manager. It appears to me she’s VERY good at her job!! She did all this for a cranky old lady she’d never met before because, in her words, “it’s just better to be nice to people.” She’s right-it is. I learned a valuable lesson this morning from a stranger whom I’ll probably never see again, but I won’t soon forget the kindness of this person who decided I was worth a few minutes of her busy time. Thank you, Andra. You’re a gem of a lady!!

I also noticed kindness is contagious-a gentleman who observed our interaction allowed us to go in front of him and check our bags. I didn’t get his name but I feel pretty certain he was affected by Andra’s kindness, too. I walked away from the airline counter wondering what I had done to warrant all these strangers being so nice to me. My plan is to pay it forward to someone I encounter who is having a bad day. I’ll let you know how it goes!!

So now I’m sitting at the gate waiting to board. One of my favorite Daffy Duck cartoons is on the gate monitor. They’re showing Boomerang (a division of Cartoon Network) instead of the usual CNN, which is a refreshing change…

[UPDATE] It’s one day later and, as I write this, I’m sitting with my dad waiting for my mom to be moved to her hospital room. According to her doctor, her procedure had the “Best Possible Outcome” and she could be home as early as tomorrow. Prayers answered! 🙂

[UPDATE #2] It’s day 2 post-op and Mom is home and doing well. I’m flying home to my guys today and will be sure to help anyone I see who is struggling with the travel technology. Life is GOOD!

So, have you encountered the kindness of a stranger? Have YOU been the stranger showing kindness to your fellow man with no expectation of anything except feeling good in return? Please share in the comments.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Late Bloomers – Over 50 and Thriving Guest Post

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

I was excited, surprised, and very flattered to have been asked by Sue of Sizzling Towards 60 and Beyond to write a guest post for her Over 50 and Thriving series. Without further ado, here’s the link to my guest post on her blog. Please come back when you’ve finished reading as I have an announcement to make…

One of the recurring themes I’m planning for this blog is to pay tribute the concept of the Late Bloomer. Accomplishments should be celebrated no matter when they are achieved, and I’ll be featuring historical figures, people I’ve encountered throughout my own life, and people suggested by you. If you know of someone who has reached a goal later in life, please let me know about them so we can celebrate them! Send me an email at with #LBHOF as the subject line, and tell me about the Late Bloomer in your life. Thanks!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

A few updates to past posts…

“If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.” Doug Larson

This weekend marks 3 months since my blogging adventure started. It’s gone by in a blur! This Monday also marks the Labor Day holiday here in the US. Sonny is working but Hubs and I have a long weekend. We’ll take Sonny to work and then head somewhere for breakfast. Tradition…anyhow, I thought I’d take this opportunity to update you on some of my past posts…

In one of my very earliest posts I shared something I see on my way to work most mornings-a gentleman out for his morning walk picking up the trash he finds along side of the road. When a good opportunity presented itself I pulled over to tell him that I had noticed what he was doing and to thank him for his efforts. His name is Mr. Todd, and he told me he has officially adopted this stretch of road to keep it clear of trash. He said that he saw a need and just decided to fill it. We should take a lesson from him and be as conscious of the environment around us. Mr. Todd is doing his part to make his world (and mine!) just a little bit better. In my humble opinion there’s a special place in heaven reserved for people like him. 🙂

Something funny happened recently that made me reflect on my post about grocery shopping. Vacation time came and I got a little bit lax in sticking to my grocery list. Once I came to my senses, I got super serious about it and let the guys know-if you come to the grocery store with me, we ARE sticking to the list that is made before we leave the house! You’d better let me know what you need before I head to the store-if it’s not on the list, I’m not buying it! I had to eat a bit of humble pie when Sonny and I got to the store one day and I started eyeballing something I had forgotten to write down. He looked at me and said, in all seriousness, “is that on the list??” Um, no-it wasn’t. He was right and I let him know that. Then I left the item on the shelf. I didn’t call him, “rude”, either!!

Recently I shared the adventure Hubs, Sonny and I had when we thought we had some kind of wildlife in our attic. I still swear something was up there-Hubs even discovered that the bait he had put in the trap (peanut butter base with a piece of no-melt bird suet stuck to the middle) was gone when he went to check on the trap. It didn’t spring, so whatever ate that food had a nice meal and then went on its merry way, probably to take a nap. To date, we haven’t caught anything.  Update to the update…while I was out of town Hubs discovered what was scurrying around our attic. Not a cute, fluffy squirrel but icky, nasty MICE! He thinks they got in through the garage door in the basement and crawled up the studs into the attic. He’s caught 3 so far-who knows how many are left. He can’t get rid of them soon enough for me!! As for what we thought was the entry point for the now non-existent squirrel, those branches needed to be cut, anyhow. My story… 🙂

That’s all the updates in my world. I hope things in your world are going well.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Snowball vs Avalanche – Getting out of Debt

“Just find what works for you, what style suits you best, and just be confident enough to rock it.” Odell Beckham, Jr.

I should have titled this post, “Debt is a 4 Letter Word” because it IS. This little monster has caused more than it’s share of stress and sleepless nights, and kept many of us from reaching our life goals. The first step to getting out of debt is recognizing that whatever you’re doing isn’t working and something has to change. Yeah, that old definition of insanity, right? So, how do you tackle your debt? You use the method that WORKS FOR YOU!!

While there are probably as many methods of dealing with debt as there are starfish in the ocean, I’m going to focus on 2 of the most well-known–the Debt Snowball and the Debt Avalanche. Both methods focus on paying off smallest to largest, but the way the debt is listed is where they differ.

With the Debt Snowball, your debts are listed by amount, smallest to largest. You pay the minimum payment due on all but the smallest debt, and throw all your extra cash at that smallest debt. Once that debt is crossed off your list, you do the same with the next debt on the list, and so on until all the debt is paid. More information on the Debt Snowball is available here.

With the Debt Avalanche, you list your debts by which has the highest interest rate, regardless of amount. All your extra cash is put towards the debt with the highest interest rate, while paying the minimum payments on the rest. Once the highest interest rate debt is paid, you move on to the next one on your list, and continue until all of the debt is paid. More information on the Debt Avalanche can be found here.

So, which is better? It depends…according to research, the Snowball has the psychological advantage of allowing you to cross items off your list a little faster since you’re starting with the smallest amount first. Conversely, the Avalanche will save you the most money since you’re starting with the debt with the highest interest rate. This method really takes a good bit of discipline, since it will cost you more money in the long run if you miss a planned payment.

I ask again-which is better? I can’t answer that, since I’m not you. The one that works for you, the one you stick to, is the better of the 2 methods. If you’re not going to stick to your plan, it doesn’t matter which plan you choose. I’m a firm believer in “there’s no ONE right way” when it comes to getting out of debt. If you create a plan and work it with intention, you WILL get out of debt. It takes a lot of planning, budgeting, and discipline (ESPECIALLY discipline!), but it CAN be done. How do I know this? Because I’ve done it. It took a TON of discipline, along with some sacrifice, but it was all worth it.

Have you paid off a good bit of debt? Leave a comment and share how you did it! Thanks!!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…


Dave Ramsey

Nerd Wallet


Eat at Home-Copy Cat Restaurant Meals

“People copy people they look up to, and good products inspire copycats.” Innocent Mwatsikesimbe

One of the most inspiring books I’ve ever heard about is a book called, “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon. The premise of the book is to take ideas from things you enjoy and turn them into your own creation. One of the key rules of “Stealing Like an Artist” is to give full and proper credit to the source of your inspiration. With that, I give to you one of my absolute favorite things to “steal”-restaurant recipes.

If you remember my post about my Top 5 Money Saving Tips from a few weeks back, number 5 was, “Eat at Home”. There’s LOTS of money to be saved by simply staying out of restaurants. That said, sometimes you just crave your favorite restaurant meal. Sticking to a budget and eating at home does not mean you need to totally sacrifice your favorite meals out-you just need to figure out a way to duplicate them at home.

The absolute master of the cloned restaurant recipe is a man by the name of Todd Wilbur. He has written several books on duplicating restaurant recipes, and I’m the proud owner of several of them. To be honest, some of the things he duplicates are just for the sake of it, and in my not-so-humble-opinion, it’s just easier to buy the real deal (Oreo cookies!) than it is to make your own. BUT, if you’re wanting the 9 Layer Dip from TGI Friday’s, Todd’s recipe is the absolute BEST! I’ve made this dip as my contribution to several potluck dinners I’ve been invited to, and it’s rare that I ever bring any leftovers home.

The internet offers a myriad of choices when it comes to duplicating restaurant recipes, as well. Enter the words, “Copycat [insert dish name here] recipe” into your favorite search engine and see what happens! One of the few items I’ll actually eat from Taco Bell is their Cantina Bowl. It’s probably the healthiest item on their menu. Rice, black beans, corn, and avocado in a bowl topped with grilled chicken! I’ll admit I haven’t tried this recipe yet but I still think it’s worth sharing,

So now I challenge you-what are some of your favorite restaurant meals? Do a search in your favorite search engine and find a copycat recipe to fix at home. If you’re feeling adventurous, try fixing it at home. If I feel adventurous, maybe I’ll give some of your faves a try. Either way, please share your results in the comments.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…


Top Secret Recipes