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…

Sources:

Dave Ramsey

Nerd Wallet

Investopedia

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…

Sources:

Top Secret Recipes

SheKnows.com

Practicing Gratitude

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

I have been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers since 1997. If I could only stick to it, I’d STILL be a non-paying member but, alas, life happened and I’m a few pounds over my weight goal.  I’ve recently recommitted myself to dropping some weight and getting myself healthier so I’ve started attending weekly meetings. One of the things I absolutely LOVE that Weight Watchers has incorporated into their meetings actually has very little to do with food and EVERYTHING to do with attitude. Get your mind right and the rest just falls into place. Each attendee receives a small printed pamphlet each week dedicated to a different life lesson. The one I received this week I felt was worth sharing. It involves practicing gratitude.

It’s so easy sometimes to get caught up in the hustle & bustle of a busy life. It’s also VERY easy to focus on the negative in the world and forget how blessed we truly are. According to Forbes Magazine, an attitude of gratitude can improve both physical and psychological health. My own experience shows this to be true-I feel so much better about the world and my place in it when I make a conscious effort to stop and think about the good things in my life.

The suggested exercise for incorporating practicing gratitude into your routine involves listing out 3 good things that happened in your life in the last 24 hours. Write them down in as much detail as you can, and then write down how you felt during and after experiencing these good things. They don’t have to be big things; for example, one of the things I regularly observe in my world occurs when I’m pumping gas in my car. I can regularly fill my tank (even at the sometimes higher-than-I-like prices) without giving a second thought to how I’m going to pay for it. Some people have to trade off putting gas in the car or putting groceries on the table. There once was a day when I may have had to make that choice, but it’s not that way now. For that, I am truly grateful.

My challenge to you is this-set aside a few minutes 3 or 4 times per week to practice gratitude. It’s not always easy to see the good in life but it’s so important to your well-being to really make a conscious effort to look around and feel gratitude for the good things in your life. Even in your most challenging times, the good is there. Maybe it’s a little hard to see it, but it’s there. It might not be anything more than seeing a beautiful flower in bloom, a colorful butterfly perched on your window, or a happy child at play. Make it a habit to regularly focus on being grateful and before you know it you’ll start feeling more energized, more optimistic, and more positive. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Beauty Products on a Budget

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…” 1980s Pantene commercial

I have it on VERY good authority the markup on beauty products is, well, how should I put this and still keep this post “G” rated? Let’s just say the markup is astronomical! So how do we look as good as we can and not spend a fortune in the process? Know your vendors and plot a money-saving strategy!

Two of my favorite sources for salon quality beauty products are ULTA and QVC. Let’s review them one at a time…

ULTA has both in-store and online shopping. They are my absolute go-to for salon quality hair care products. The best deal to be had is their Jumbo Liter event, when liter sized bottles of salon quality shampoos & conditioners are available at crazy low prices, up to 50% off regular prices.  A little goes a very long way with these shampoos and conditioners, so a liter bottle will last you a very long time. They even sometimes throw in a reusable pump with the bottle for free or very low-cost. If you can’t get it for free, it’s worth a couple bucks to buy the pump make the shampoo & conditioner easier to dispense in the shower. Trust me on this one! The “buy one get one” or “buy two get one” free deals on salon quality styling products are also a great bargain. Keep an eye on your supply and stock up when a sale comes-your wallet will thank you.

Mom Deals has put together this fabulous ULTA sale calendar for reference. It’s also worth your while to sign up for the ULTA rewards program. I’ve never been a Diamond member, but the basic membership offers a good discount and you’ll also get a member’s only head’s up on their best sales. A word of caution-don’t spend just to “up” your membership level unless it’s for things you are going to use, anyhow. It’s very easy to get caught in the “but I’m getting rewards-it’s OK to spend the money” trap. Self control, people!

QVC is a home shopping channel which, to be honest, can get you into a little bit of trouble if you can’t control yourself with infomercial-style programming. I’ll totally admit to getting sucked in more than once in my pre-OWMM life but since I cut the cable I no longer have easy access to watch the network. It doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shopping there entirely, though-if you know exactly what you want and know when they will offer a good deal, QVC is a great resource. Subscribe to their email list and you’ll be the first to know when the object of your desire will be offered at a great price. My go-to foundation is made by IT Cosmetics. I just LOVE their CC Cream. The only place I’ve ever seen the large size offered is on QVC, and it goes on special twice a year. A large tube of this stuff will easily last 6 months and you can get it for just a few dollars more than it costs for the smaller tube IF you wait for the sale.

Not everything in my cosmetics bag is salon quality, though-one of the absolute best sources for make-up is your local drug store or even your grocery store. My go-to mascara is Maybelline Great Lash, which has won multiple awards as the best drugstore mascara from Allure magazine. It’s available in multiple shades, as well as washable and waterproof formulas. Your local newspaper will have coupons available for Maybelline Great Lash, which makes it a total OWMM Best Buy. L’Oreal Infallible Never Fail eyeliner is my go-to eyeliner. It’s easy to apply and washes off with soap & water. It’s also available at a great price with coupons in your local paper.

My final stop for beauty products on a budget is, wait for it…Sam’s Club! Back in the day when I had a spa membership, the esthetician doing my facials complimented my skin and told me I should keep doing what I was doing to cleanse and moisturize. I use Olay Facial cloths in the shower ever morning-they’re great for cleaning and exfoliating and the price at Sam’s for buying them in bulk can’t be beat. For moisturizer, I’m not married to a brand but I won’t buy off-brand, either. I will shop price and get whatever is the least expensive. I don’t have overly sensitive skin so I can do this and get away with it. The package size of these products at Sam’s is usually double what you can get in a regular store and the price is only slightly higher.

None of the links I’ve included in this post are affiliate links-they’re informational only. I use and love these products and just wanted to share. If you have any resources for good, quality beauty products at a great price, please share in the comments and let us all in on your great beauty secrets.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

I Want My CHEAP TV!!

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.” Groucho Marx

If you’re a TV watcher, how do you get your signal these days? When I was a kid, we had 6 or 7 channels to choose from. My siblings and I took turns being the TV remote, which ever one of us was told by Dad to change the channel or turn the sound up! Fast forward to my junior year in high school when cable TV first came to be-HBO was all the rage. Cinema movies on the home TV-what a novelty! And who among us didn’t say at least once, “I Want My MTV!!”?

Television viewing choices have come a LONG way from the days of the rooftop TV antenna, and with these choices have come some astronomical expenses. We had cable TV from the time we returned to the states in 1991 until 2003 when we took the leap from cable to satellite. Back then I was a BIG football watcher. The installer commented on how great it was that my husband was getting all these sports packages. He just looked at the guy, smiled, and said, “the sports packages are for HER, not for me!”

Cable TV started with a promise of commercial-free TV, but once we consumers made the switch from broadcast to cable, the providers knew they had us. The commercials came back with vengeance and no one cared. It’s too bad the prices didn’t go down when the commercials returned. We had our satellite for a LOT of years and spent a ton of money over the years until we finally decided enough was enough. We HAD to get a handle on how much we were spending on TV! For crying out loud, it’s TV-while it’s nice to have, it’s not exactly the smartest way to spend your hard-earned money. Thankfully, technology has changed a great deal in the last 15 years and our choices are much more plentiful and affordable. I’m not going to detail satellite or cable choices in this post only because I’m thinking everyone is pretty familiar with them, how they work, and how ridiculously expensive most of them are! There are some other great choices out there at all kinds of price points-it really all depends on what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend.

For basic television viewing, not much will beat a digital antenna. You purchase one time and watch TV without having to subscribe to anything. Your viewing choices will definitely be limited, but your budget will be free of a recurring expense. I did a search of “whole house digital antenna” and found this wonderful article from Crutchfield New Media detailing what you should look for in choosing the best HDTV antenna for your location. There are a lot of variables to consider, such as the terrain of the area where you live, the direction of the transmitter, and the distance from the transmitter. If you’re unsure of which type of antenna to purchase (indoor or outdoor), they suggest contacting your local television station for a recommendation. They want to keep their viewers happy and will usually give you a good suggestion. Some of the choices are DIY, while others will probably require professional installation in order to be done correctly. Still, once it’s installed, the price for watching TV is definitely right! Hello, FREE!

If you’re looking for something more than standard network television, you’re probably going to want to look at a streaming service. Most TVs these days are equipped to either stream the signal directly or to connect a streaming signal device, such as a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick. These devices are pretty inexpensive and connect easily to the USB port on your television. As for the streaming service itself, this guide published by Consumer Reports offers a comprehensive list of both network apps and streaming services such as DirecTV Now and Hulu. One thing to keep in mind with a streaming service, though, is your internet connection. Buffering is pretty annoying, so you’ll want to make sure your internet connection is up to the task. This article from Nerd Wallet is a pretty good guide to the best internet speed for your streaming needs.

After a bit of experimenting we settled on a streaming service that gives us most of the programming we had on the satellite at about one-third the cost of what we were paying for satellite TV. One of the things I have been missing, though, are a couple of shows on PBS that my sister turned me on to. Alas, my local PBS channel is not on the streaming service. Good news-I just discovered America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country on YouTube. Some of the episodes are behind a pay wall but most of them are the best price ever-FREE! I’ve learned a LOT about cooking quality food at home from these shows and I’m happy to have discovered them on YouTube.

So, are you a TV watcher? Have you “cut the cord”? Share how you did it in the comments. Thanks!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Hubs vs Squirrel – A Handyman Story

“You only need two tools in life; WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and it shouldn’t, use Duct Tape.” Unknown

“And a hammer. You can fix anything with a hammer.” Hubs

Sunday mornings are usually a peaceful time in my house. No alarm clocks, unless you count Lucy! She sleeps in a crate in our room and Hubs and I take turns taking care of her when she inevitably starts barking not long after the sun comes up. This particular Sunday it was my turn, so I got up, took her to do her business, fed her, and got ready to settle in with my breakfast and some iPad reading. No TV or music-just quiet time with my coffee. I’m glad it was quiet, otherwise I might not have heard the noise. At first I thought it was Lucy but she was not in the room. Scratching. It was coming from over my head and, since we live in a ranch-style house, it could only be coming from the attic. Ruh-roh! There’s some kind of wildlife in my attic!

I went and got Hubs out of bed so he could come listen to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Nope-there was definitely something up there. Hubs went back to the bedroom and I sat down to finish my coffee and plot our next move. I thought for sure Hubs was getting ready to help me figure out what we were going to do next but when more than a few minutes passed with no shower noise I went to investigate. He’d gone back to bed!! When he looked at me and realized going to sleep was clearly NOT happening, he got up & took his shower. He also asked me to do a search and see where we could find a humane animal trap. “Oh, GOOD!!” I thought. He’s gonna try to catch it himself instead of calling someone out on a Sunday for a ridiculous amount of money. I found where we could find a trap so we hopped in the Jeep and went to our local DIY hardware store.

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Found the trap-easy peasy!

The search I did had the exact location of the trap in the store and it took us no time to find it. We also looked at some pole saws since some branches that were overhanging the roof were the clear point of access for our unknown critter. Hubs thought he could get a better deal on a saw at another store so we went home, baited & set the trap, and went our separate ways-me to my weekly weigh-in meeting and Hubs & Sonny to the other hardware store for a pole saw.

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Handyman extraordinaire and his trusty assistant!

By the time I arrived home the guys were in the backyard hard at work clearing the branches away from the house. It was at this point Hubs realized he may have tried a bit too hard to save some money at the expense of getting the job done, as the saw he bought was too short for the job. He hadn’t gone out to look at how high the branches were in relation to where they originated on the tree, and the 10′ saw he bought was WAY too short, even with a 10′ ladder. So, back to the hardware store we went to get the correct sized saw. The shorter saw is going in the fall yard sale…

I have to digress a bit here. We shopped at Lowe’s for the trap and that’s where we returned for the longer pole saw. I didn’t notice this on the first trip, but when we returned I saw this sign in their parking lot. Service members hold a special place in my heart, especially since I’m married to a retired service member, and this sign melted me. Well done, Lowe’s!

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Thank you, Lowe’s!

So we got the correct size saw and Hubs was back on the ladder in no time clearing the rest of the branches away from the house. The 14′ saw worked like a charm and, while there are still a good number of branches that probably need to be cleared, the Squirrel Express access to the Penthouse suite has been permanently closed.

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Sorry, Mr. Squirrel-the Penthouse suite is closed! 

The craziest part of this whole story is that we never trapped anything! Hubs put the trap in the attic and has been checking it a couple of times a day. It’s been empty every time he’s checked it. I swear I was NOT imagining the sounds I heard, as Hubs heard them, too. I’m glad we didn’t need to spend the money for a pest control guy to come out on a Sunday, as that would’ve been ridiculously expensive and completely unnecessary. Hubs had a handle on this and I’m grateful he’s not afraid to tackle a job he’s certain he can do. Sonny did his part, as well. All’s well that ends well, and if we ever do catch that squirrel, or whatever it was, I’ll be sure to let you know!

I’d love to hear about some of your crazy adventures with wildlife in your house. Ever had a bat or a bird fly in? Or worse? Leave a comment and let me know!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Letting Go

“The cold never bothered me anyway…” Idina Menzel-“Let it Go” from the movie Frozen

This blogging adventure has taken me places I never thought I’d go, all without leaving the relative comfort of my desk or my couch. Some of the locations have been physical, while others have been inside my own mind. Today I came across a blog post that caused me to look inside and see how far I’ve come. Fellow blogger Michele shared a blog about conquering criticism and it brought back a rather unpleasant memory, but it also showed me how I’ve finally managed to pack up the unpleasantness and move on to bigger and better things…

I’m in my 3rd grade classroom, circa 1971. The desks are all lined up-4 or 5 rows and probably 5 desks per row. The class was full and the teacher was in front of the class asking questions about whatever subject was at hand-I think it was geography. I thought I knew the answer to one of her questions so I raised my hand. The teacher did not hear my answer clearly so she repeated what she thought I said, out loud, for the whole class to hear. It was NOT what I said, but by that time the damage had been done and the whole class was in stitches. I don’t think the class ever heard my actual answer because the laughter was so loud. You can be sure it was a VERY long time before my 3rd grade self raised my hand in that classroom again.

Third grade was a lifetime ago and it amazes me how vivid this memory still is in my mind’s eye. While I don’t remember the exact subject matter, I can still hear the almost mocking tone of the teacher’s voice when she said what she said, and I’m sure she had no idea at the time what affect her words would have on me. For the longest time I was afraid of revealing too much of myself publicly because I was deathly afraid of ridicule. I can still remember how it felt to hear that laughter knowing without a doubt it was directed squarely at me.

I still hold my cards pretty close to the chest in a lot of instances but it has taken a HUGE leap of faith for me to share my experiences with the world. I do so in the sincere hope that I might just inspire someone to take their own leap, follow their heart, or possibly to keep someone from making the same mistakes I’ve made. I’ll probably never know if I’ve succeeded in any of these things, but in all honesty I don’t need to know. What I do know is that I’ve been true to myself and I’ve “let go” of the fear and dread of the past. Look out world…

Have you had a similar experience? Please share in the comments-I’d love to hear from you! Thank you.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…