How Setup a Budget (that actually works!) in 9 Easy Steps

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Oh hey there! Happy Thursday :) Hope you are having a fabulous week!

Today I want to run through how to setup a budgeting plan in 9 easy steps. If you are new to budgeting, need a refresher or don’t know where to start, this is for you! It’s also for you if you’ve started a budget before but haven’t gotten very far when it comes to actually implementing it (been there done that!)

Setup a Budget (that actually works!) in 9 Easy Steps

Step 1) Define your goals

What do you want out of the next year, 5 years, 10 years etc? Maybe you want to do more traveling, buy a home, pay off debt, or retire early. This part is all about outlining what your short-, medium- and long- term goals are. Also - WRITE THEM DOWN! Goals that are written down are much more obtainable. :)

Step 2) Understand your priorities

Now that you’ve got your goals outlined, what are your priorities? Is it travel? Family? Home? Coffee? Food? Music? Again WRITE DOWN 3-5 of your priorities. This will help when you start analyzing your spending and determining if it is in alignment with these priorities.

Step 4) Get to know your NET income

Net income is everything you make after all taxes and deductions are taken out. If you are a W2 employee then this will be your take home pay. If you are self-employed it will be what is left over after you’ve accounted for all taxes etc.

Step 5) Go through all of your fixed expenses

Start a list (or even better, put it into a spreadsheet!) of all your fixed expenses. These are all the things you pay that stay the same each month (or relatively so!). A lot of times these are things that you auto-pay such as mortgage/rent, utilities, car payments, insurance (including auto, home and life), subscription services, loan payments, and cable/internet. Once you have all of these down, total them up and subtract from your MONTHLY net income.

Step 6) Set variable spending targets

Once you’ve subtracted out your fixed expenses from your net income, the remaining amount is what you have left to spend on discretionary or variable expenses. These are expenses that fluctuate from month to month such as groceries, dining out, entertainment, shopping, etc. Make a row for each and determine what your target amount for each is. When you add up each of these categories, you should not have exceeded the amount you had left over after you subtracted out fixed expenses. These targets can and will change. I don’t know ANYONE who sticks to their budget 100% and thus it’s important to keep an open-mind when creating these targets.

Step 7) Automate what you can

If you haven’t already, pay as many of your fixed expenses on auto-payment. This will save you time and energy from having to write out or log in and pay bills each month. It also will prevent you from missing any payments!

Step 8) Use an online spending tracking system

Being you have spending targets that should not exceed the amount you have left over after paying bills (unless you plan on always spending more than you make - which I don’t recommend ever!) it’s important to know where you are each month when it comes to your discretionary spending. Being most of us hardly every balance a checkbook anymore (sorry mom!) I highly recommend linking your accounts to something like Mint (my personal fav!) so you can keep track of what you’re spending and on what. It’s free and gives you a great rundown of what you’ve spent on which categories which I love. :)

Step 9) Analyze your spending

After a month or so worth of using your new budgeting system, take a look at your spending and determine if it’s aligned with your goals and priorities. If you say you want to pay down debt but are eating out for lunch every day, is debt payoff really a priority? See if what you’re spending your money on matches up with your goals and priorities, and re-evaluate how you want to spend your money moving forward. This can apply to both fixed and variable spending.

Alright - those are the 9 easy steps to setting up a budget! What did you think? Was this helpful? Please let me know in the comments if so.

One last note: Budgeting is like dieting. If you go all-in and deprive yourself of anything enjoyable, you will overeat (or overspend!). The best way to go about both of these is making small incremental changes that will add up to a lot of progress over time.

If you have any questions about setting up your own budget or know you need help, email me at info@katieoelker.com.

Until next time…

Cheers to your abundance!

Katie O.

6 Steps to Increasing Your Credit Score

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I've been reading several people's opinions on credit and credit cards lately and it’s quite disturbing (in my opinion!). Many of these have been on how you should never use a credit card and some have even gone as far to say you should not care about your credit score (gasp)

While I'm not condoning opening up lines of credit that are used irresponsibly, a good credit score can be an incredibly powerful thing.

My mom helped me get my first credit card when I was 16 and I bought gas once/month on it and paid it off in full to start building my credit (thanks mom for introducing me to establishing good credit!)

I took out loans for college and after graduation I took out my first car loan (which I aggressively paid off within the first 6 months of obtaining)

And although yes I still have some student loans left to pay off, I have been overpaying on them and wouldn't trade the experiences they gave me for anything (including meeting my best friends, having the time of my life, studying abroad, and meeting my now husband after obtaining my teaching license in grad school)

By using credit responsibly from a young age, I was able to buy a home on my own at the age of 27. This is not something I would have been able to do so easily without having had established a history of positive credit usage (and funding my Roth IRA starting at age 23)

Regardless of what you’ve heard, establishing credit and USING IT RESPONSIBLY is not a bad thing (key word: responsibly). Having a positive credit score can open the door to tons of opportunities including buying a car, home, and even starting a business. Below I outline the 6 steps to increasing your credit score.

6 Steps to Increasing your Credit Score

1) Apply for a credit card(s)

But not just any credit card offer you get (believe me, there are lots of bad ones out there!) I recommend comparing credit cards online and looking for ones with zero annual fees and a lower APR (annual percentage rate). Bankrate is a great site for comparing cards. In addition, it may be easiest to obtain a credit card through the bank or credit union that you use for your banking needs. The first line of credit I obtained was through my bank and I was given a reasonably low rate for a first-time credit card user.

Note of caution: It can be very easy to obtain a retailer credit card (TJ Maxx, Victoria Secret, etc.) but they oftentimes have extremely high APRs.

Why is this important? Because although I encourage everyone to pay off their credit cards in full, I know that doesn’t always happen and having a lower APR will help you be able to pay less in interest along the way.

2) Avoid late payments

This is a no-brainer however it can be super easy to miss a payment if you don’t have a system in place to keep track of what is due when. Why is this important? Missing payments not only causes you to have to pay a late fee, it can also increase your APR and trigger an increase in APRs on other cards (even if you’ve never missed a payment!) In addition, even one late fee can significantly decrease your credit score. I strongly encourage you to setup an automatic payment to cover at least the minimum payment in order to prevent this from happening.

3) Increase your credit limit amount

This is the amount of credit that has been extended to you. For example, if you already own a card that has a $1,000 credit limit, give the company a call and see if they will raise your credit limit (and tell them your reasoning is that you’ve faithfully paid off your balance and will be making some larger purchases in the future - even if you don’t plan to!) Why is this important? Because a large part of your credit score is based on the amount of debt you owe vs. the amount that you have left available. The lower your usage rate, the better your credit score will be.

4) Pay off your cards in full

I STRONGLY encourage you to do everything in your power to pay off your cards in full. Yes that may mean you have to limit your expenditures or reign in certain areas of your budget a little more, but it’s a much happier alternative that paying loads of interest on stuff you probably didn’t really need or want to begin with (am I right?)

Why is this important? Not only will you be saving on interest, but credit score companies love seeing responsible behavior and this will increase your score.

If you’re having trouble making payments, give your credit card company a call to see if they will lower your APR (explain that you’re having trouble and are trying to get back on track)

Side note: If you are paying your cards off in full then the APR on your card really doesn’t matter. However, I still encourage you to look for the lowest APR possible to save on interest in the event you do have to keep a balance.

5) Diversify your debt

Up until this point I’ve talked exclusively about credit cards, however it’s important to have other types of debt as well (such as an auto or student loan) Even if you could pay for a car in full, I encourage you to take out a loan. You can pay it down extra-quickly (or even in full!) but the fact that you took it out will still help increase your credit score.

Why is this important? Credit score companies like seeing that you’ve been responsible with more than one type of debt.

6) Keep your cards open and active

This seems counterintuitive but closing credit card accounts can actually hurt your credit score. In addition, if you don’t use your credit card regularly (I encourage clients to use theirs at least every 6 months) the company may close your account. Why is this important? Because as mentioned before, the amount of debt you actually have used versus what the company has extended to you is a major player in your credit score.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got! Any tips to increasing your credit score that I may be missing? If so, drop them in the comments below (or share what you’ve learned about building a credit score too!).

Until next time…

Cheers to increasing your credit!

Katie O.

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P.P.S. - Next blog post on paying down your debt. Sign up above so you don’t miss out!

5 Tips to Successfully Shop Thrift

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I’ve always been a sucker for thrift shopping. I guess you could say it runs in my family.

My crazy grandma would go garage sale shopping and buy one shoe (yes you read that correctly, only ONE shoe!) with the hopes of finding the other matching shoe at some point. Or so the story goes. :)

We had this huge gift exchange for Christmas back in those days. “Santa” (aka our uncle’s neighbor) would ride the snowmobile across the lake with a huge sack full of gifts. My grandma had a LOT of grandchildren (19ish at that point) and would give us the funniest gifts, many of them from garage sales.

I remembered growing up checking out garage sales with my mom and grandma, and still have a hard time resisting a browse through when one happening in the neighborhood.

I’ve never been too good for thrift shopping, and actually find it quite enjoyable. The whole notion of “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” couldn’t be more true, and I love sorting through things and finding that cool gem someone decided wasn’t valuable to them any longer.

I have bought numerous dresses I’ve worn to weddings (and gotten lots of compliments on!), plenty of clothing, furniture/decorations, and even our barstools (for $1.97 total!) at thrift stores.

Yesterday afternoon I had an epic thrift store roundup and wanted to share what I deem to be 5 tips to successfully shop thrift. I know there are lots of people who don’t shop thrift and who are intimidated by the thought of it. I’m hoping this list will give you a better idea of what to look for so you too can find some amazing deals of your own!

5 Tips to Successfully Shop Thrift

1) Look for brands that you are familiar with.

If you’re completely new to thrifting, I suggest looking for brands that you already know and love (or at least recognize!) By doing so you will have a better idea of the sizing, fit and quality instead of buying something from a company/brand you’ve never heard of and are unsure of what to expect. I always look for higher end brands when I shop thrift (as you can typically find them for the same price as what would be less-expensive brands) and the quality is typically much better.

2) Stay away from items that already look worn out.

If you’re contemplating buying something but it is pilling, faded, has holes or other imperfections or just looks worn out in general, DO NOT BUY IT! Regardless of how cheap it is or how much you like the item itself you will get very limited use out of it and end up regretting that you bought it in the first place (speaking from experience here guys!)

3) Don’t buy something just because it is a “good deal”

This goes for all of shopping, but needs to be mentioned especially in the event of thrifting. There are going to be lots of good deals when thrifting, but if you buy just because you are getting it for cheap, you will end up with a lot of crap you don’t love and didn’t need in the first place. Same goes for if you’re buying because you think you’ll like/use the item OR because it was “the best you could find” at that time.

I like to remind myself that if I don’t love it enough to have purchased it for full price, the cheaper price tag is not going to make me love it in the long run (even if it feels good to save initially!) My rule is I don’t buy something unless I truly LOVE it, not because it’s practical or cheap or the “best” option.

4) Take advantage of special sales.

The Goodwill thrift stores have special sales coordinated with the days of the week. For example, Thursday is kids day and you can get 50% off of children’s clothing, shoes, toys etc. I got my daughter’s snowsuit for $2 thanks to purchasing it on a Thursday and those bar stools I mentioned above on another sale day for less than $2. There are lots of other deals like this at thrift stores and I encourage you to take note and shop accordingly!

5) Practice persistence

Just because you didn’t find anything “good” during your first trip thrifting (or even the first few!) doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. There are plenty of times I go to browse and don’t find a single thing worth purchasing. But then there are other times where I find heaps of quality stuff that I truly love. Thrifting is a long term game and can be really fun and enjoyable if you don’t give up!

 My latest thrift store roundup!

My latest thrift store roundup!

Alright, those are my 5 tips to successfully shop thrift. Do you have any of your own to share? If so let me know in the comments below! And until next time…

Happy thrifting!

Katie O.

5 Things I learned from the KonMari Method

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It’s been a few months since I finished reading ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo (founder of the KonMari method)

If you’re unfamiliar with the book or this method of organizing/de-cluttering, I highly recommend checking it out. It all revolves around the premise of asking yourself “Does this spark joy?” and then tossing/donating if the answer is not a resounding “Yes!”

Before starting I had my doubts about a) whether the method actually worked and b) whether it would actually work for me. I can now say the answer is both yes…and no.

Here are 5 things I learned from the KonMari method:

1) The method works, IF you follow the steps

You have to be willing to follow the steps (in order!) and they will definitely take some time and effort. That being said, the steps are easily laid out and the process is very simple. I can 100% see why this method works for so many.

2) Keeping motivation for organizing can be difficult

When I was first reading the book I was super excited and so ready to start de-cluttering our home. It seems that I can never keep our home clutter-free for long, and it drives me absolutely nuts. The dining room table seems to be a “catch-all” where we throw everything that doesn’t seem to have a place (or it does have a place, but we don’t put it there!) Can you relate?!

I dove right in, starting with clothes, shoes, and books like Marie recommends.

I couldn’t believe how many articles of clothing and shoes I was keeping “just because”. There was stuff I hadn’t worn in years, stuff I was justifying keeping because I felt I should (even though I didn’t love it), and stuff that really didn’t suit my style or my lifestyle anymore.

Books was an especially difficult category for me as I love my books and seem to have an emotional attachment to them. I was, however, able to donate all books that did not “spark joy”.

After these few categories though, I started to lose momentum. My energy for organizing was dwindling. I knew there were a lot of categories I’d have to have my husband sign off on the donating/throwing and it delayed my efforts.

If you try out the KonMari method yourself, I suggest creating a calendar of when you will attack which categories and then check off your progress as you go along. When I re-start the process again, I will definitely be doing these things to keep me accountable!

3) De-cluttering with children is anything but easy

The biggest issue I had was how to de-clutter things for my child. I cannot ask her “does this spark joy?” yet as she is only 16 months old and obviously cannot answer that. I know that having too many toys can be a stressor for children, and I definitely don’t want her to grow up feeling overwhelmed with “stuff”.

Also - the fact that we have very little storage and are expecting another child means that we cannot give away certain items that we are going to use again. Which means that the office/guest bedroom has a bassinet, baby swing, baby gates, baby bouncer among other baby items in there. Yikes!

If you have children and are practicing the KonMari method I recommend giving yourself lots of grace along the way!

4) Buying items because they are “good deals” is so tempting

Do you struggle with this too?! You see something on sale and then start trying to determine where it would fit into your wardrobe or home, justifying that you need it just because it’s on sale.

Practicing this method has made me more aware of what I truly NEED vs what I want to buy because it’s a “good deal”, and hopefully it does for you as well.

5) Guilt for having bought things and then not using them is a real struggle!

This guilt delays my efforts to get rid of items I know longer love/use. I think about the money I spent on them and feel so guilty I try talking myself out of getting rid of them!

However that money has already been spent, and the negative energy of holding on to the particular item and causing more clutter is outweighing the benefits of keeping it “just because”.

If you struggle with this too just think of how someone else will benefit from you donating this item, and send it on its way!

Alright, that’s what I’ve got so far for my experiment with the Kon Mari Method.

If you’ve tried this method before and have any insights, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Until next time…

Katie O,

When More Money DOES NOT Equal More Happiness

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Let’s be honest, in today’s society we are all seeking more abundance, bigger bank accounts and more freedom. Am I right?

But here’s the catch: at what expense are we striving for these things?

Although we took nice vacations growing up, had a nice home and basically could afford whatever it was we wanted we were definitely not what I would have considered super “rich”. (Compared to the rest of the world’s population though, most every American is “rich”)

That being said, in my adult years and having met and worked with people of all levels of wealth, I’ve come to this realization: rich people are just people with more money.

Rich people are not immune to any of the heartbreaks and heartaches that people without as much money experience.

My mom is an amazing seamstress and has some very wealthy (read: multi-millionaire) clients whom have become dear friends. She also has some friends who live in very wealthy areas (again, we are talking millionaires).

Some of these people have committed suicide. Some have gotten divorced. Some never had children and regret the choice now that they are in their 50s and 60s. One wealthy couple she knew even became a suicide-homicide case because the woman had filed for divorce (or so they concluded).

I'm not telling you these things to paint a gruesome picture of wealth or to mess with your money mindset.

It's not money’s fault that these people were unhappy and I do NOT believe that more money equals more problems.

BUT more money does not protect wealthy people from problems. It does not sugarcoat life against depression, anxiety, anger, stress, fear, regret or other undesirable emotions.

Money can't do that.

Mark Cuban on an episode of Sharktank once said something along the lines of “if you were miserable before you won the lottery, you will still end up miserable afterwards”

It’s true. The majority of lottery winners end of getting divorced or ending up right back where they were financially (or worse!) You even hear stories of professional athletes or actors/actresses who had to file bankruptcy.

So do you stop pursuing your dream of making lots of money and becoming “rich" one day? Of course not. 

So what to do instead?

1) Continue to pursue your dreams and big wealth (or little wealth - whatever you are after!) but take care of yourself and your loved ones along the way. 

2) Know that more money is not always the answer. It won't fix you. It won't fix your relationships. It won't bring you more happiness and joy if you don’t already have that

3) View money as neutral. Of course it can add joy, flexibility, choices, and freedom but money itself is just paper (or plastic or metal!) and is neutral. Money used for good is good. Money used for bad is bad. Take money off a pedestal before it clouds your judgement and taints your happiness.

4) Make sure the money you spend is in alignment with your values, priorities, and goals. A lot of times it has less to do with how much money you make, and more to do with how you use your money. If you are stuck buying material goods instead of experiences or blowing money on things that aren’t adding to your happiness, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Does this make sense? If so, let me know in the comments below. I know this post was a bit of a darker subject but it is one that I felt needed some attention. 

Until next time…

Katie O.

How to Survive on One Income After Baby: Part 1

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Today I want to talk to you about something that has been heavy on my mind lately…

I see a lot of individuals who dread going back to work post-baby, or wish to stay home after another child is added to the mix and it honestly kind of breaks my heart.

Now while I know this isn’t feasible for everyone nor does everyone desire to stay at home part- or full-time with their child(ren), today I wanted to share my story of how we are surviving on one income post-baby, and how you might be able to as well.

You see, I never expected to up and quit my job after having a kid. I have always worked and genuinely love working. Working gives me purpose.

Even as a teacher and having the summers “off” (if you will..teachers know that’s not entirely true!) I would always get a bit of the summer blues without having a set purpose each day.

Sounds strange for those of you who loathe your jobs and hate working, but I know I’m not the only one.

So while I quit teaching to go into financial services over 3 years ago now, I didn’t expect to leave the industry after the birth of our first child.

I’ll be the first to admit that leaving a steady-paying teaching job to take on a commission-only role is scary.as.hell. Those 2.5 years in the industry were definitely more of a challenge than when both my hubby and I had stable jobs, but I wouldn’t take it back. It opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship, helped me begin this career as a financial coach, and has helped shape me into who I am today.

After our daughter was born in May of 2017 I took 5 months off from financial planning with 6-weeks of short-term disability. I resumed my high school soccer coaching job August-October and returned once the season ended. It started with 4 days back, then I dropped down to 3 days, and finally it went to 2 (before saying “goodbye” officially in February)

I know everyone is different and has different viewpoints on childcare and I am definitely not here to change your mind one way or the other.

This article is for those who are like me. Those who were “career-driven” and then surprised that they wanted to be home with their child more than building their career. Or those who already know they want to stay home with baby #1 (or 2, 3, 4 whatever!)

I wanted to give you a run through of how we have managed to survive on one income. (Although I do pull income in it fluctuates depending on the month and we have come to view that as “extra” and do all of our bill paying and planning off of my husband’s income.)

So here goes…

How to Survive On One Income After Baby

Step 1) Don’t upgrade until AFTER you’ve had a child

So I know this might be unreasonable for some people, but this has really helped us. We bought the home we currently live in over 4 years ago when I was still teaching. We absolutely love this home, but now adding a dog and a baby it has become quite cramped! However, we refused to upgrade until we knew a little bit more about how our financial situation was going to play out post baby. If you think you may want to stay home with baby part- or full-time, I recommend not making any major moves until after baby has arrived and you can evaluate your financial situation.

2) Understand there will be trade-offs

My husband and I love to travel and since dating have always taken an international trip once/year (at least!) We would go for 1.5-2 weeks and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

Since having baby we haven’t made any international or extended trip plans, and don’t have any plans to do so in the near future (especially with baby #2 arriving next March!)

Although yes we both love traveling and exploring other countries and cultures, this is just something that is not in the cards for us on one main income and we are OK with that. We know we will return to internationally traveling (likely with the kiddos!) in the future and are happy with our long-weekend trips when we can sneak them in.

3) Know your numbers

I highly suggest people understand what is coming in and what is going out every month. We use Mint to categorize our spending and track budgets, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It helps me understand where we’ve overspent, what we can cut back on, and how we’re doing financially at any given moment in time.

4) Find ways to save money that will work for you

For us, it’s menu planning and grocery shopping on the weekends. If we don’t have a solid game plan going into the week, it is FAR too easy to grab take out or go out to eat after a long day.

For others it might be going down to one car (something I have actually thought about!), cutting out unnecessary subscriptions, or buying used goods instead of new (fellow thrift shopper here!)

5) Plan ahead

If you know you’re going to three weddings in the Fall (that’s us!), have a vet appointment coming up, or are paying your bi-annual insurance premiums, mark it down so you have an idea of what will be spent so you’re not caught blindsided with the expense when the time comes.

Try adding a savings category for “unexpected” expenses (not emergency fund, that’s different) as I’ve found that unexpected things tend to happen every month!

6) Adopt “short term pain for long term gain” as your mantra.

Sure you many not be able to take all the vacations, buy all the things that you used to be able to, or save as much for retirement as you’d like currently. BUT the satisfaction of being able to be home full- or part-time with your kiddo if you desire will be totally worth it.

Alright, that’s a wrap! For those of you already at home part- or full-time, anything you have to add? For those of you who aren’t but would like to, what questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Katie O.

P.S. - Need help organizing your own finances? Set up a free 20-minute consultation call to see if it’s something I may be able to help you with! Book here: https://bit.ly/2oZbed6

My Biggest Trick to Saving More Money

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There are so many money “gurus” out there giving you advice to save more and spend less.

Clipping coupons, shopping at discount stores, automating your savings, and sticking to a strict budget are a few that come to mind.

But despite all of these things, I found that there was something missing in my quest to save more.

Something unconventional; something that no one is talking about.

So what’s my biggest trick to saving more money?

Not giving a $hit about what other people think.

Wait, what?

Yep, you read that right. By not giving a $hit about what other people (or society!) think, you can save yourself a whole ton of money.

Think about it…

How many spending decisions do you make based on what other people (or society!) have have made you feel is cool? Trendy? Necessary?

(Isn’t that what the advertising business is all about?)

Getting your hair/nails done, buying new outfits, upgrading your home, saying “yes” to that dinner invite.

All of these things cost money.

And all of these are usually impacted by how we want others to view us.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were headed to a wedding. Usually for weddings I get my nails done and was about to do the same for this one.

But then I started questioning why I wanted to get my nails done. It wasn’t because I truly wanted to. It was because I was embarrassed of what other people would think if my hands weren’t nicely polished. (insert face palm emoji here)

Isn’t that dumb?

Dumb? Yes.

Uncommon? No.

(btw I skipped the manicure and decided to not give a $hit)

Lots of us are walking around buying into a certain ideal that we feel we need to be living up to (hello keeping up with the Joneses), and it’s costing us.

Always having the newest gadgets, clothing, shoes, homes, cars, whatever (the list is seriously endless!) is darn right expensive.

So the next time you’re about to purchase a product or service, ask yourself these questions:

1) Am I doing this for me or am I doing this because I care about what other people think of me?

2) If I truly am doing this for me, is it for a version of myself that I feel I have to be because of society/others?

3) Is whatever I am buying just a facade?

4) Is this purchase going to make me happier in the long run?

Once you start using this tactic, you’ll find that you aren’t buying as much and thus, are saving more. You will begin to care less about who you’re supposed to be accordingly to others/society, and more about your long term goals (which may include being financially free, retiring early, or buying your first investment property)

Tell me in the comments: Does this make sense? What have you purchased recently because you felt you had to live up to other’s/society’s standards? How will you use this tactic in the future?

Until next time…

Happy saving!

Katie O.

How to Free Up $10-$100 per Month Using this Simple Trick

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You ready for this?

Check your subscriptions..

Yep, that's right, it's that easy.

This morning I asked my husband if he still uses Audible and Evernote (that we are paying for) and his response? "No" to Audible and "we are paying for that?" to Evernote.

*palm to face emoji* inserted here

My hubby doesn't check the bank statements/accounts ever (thank goodness he has a wifey that does!), so how would he have any idea about these things?

How many of you are paying for subscriptions that don't make your life happier or easier?

How many of you are paying for subscriptions you *gasp* no longer use?

How many of you have no idea what actually comes out of your bank account (what I like to call ostrich syndrome)?

No judgement here, we are all guilty of this at one point or another. Automation and technology have made it so easy to sign up and subscribe without realizing how much we are actually paying for various things each month.

Have you had a recent *aha* when it comes to what you've been paying for without realizing it? If so, leave me a comment and let me know. I would love to hear about it!

And if you aren't sure, here's your friendly reminder to glance at those statements and figure it out.

(and if you really need help with this, comment below and let me know that too - I can give you some ideas on how to get started!)

Let's wake up to what we are actually spending our hard earned money on, so we can buy more of what we REALLY want.

Peace, love and feel-good finance vibes,

Katie 

How to Spend 4 days in Charleston, SC

The hubby and I just spent four marvelous days in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a much needed break from the regular grind of our everyday lives. With a new puppy and baby on the way, a few days away from responsibility, agenda, and the Minnesota cold were exactly what the doctor (or midwife in my case!) ordered. 

We chose Charleston because we heard it was a laid-back city with a great food scene. And the weather is obviously warmer than it is back home for us. That was all we needed to book the trip and go. Between my flight voucher I still had to use up and the husband's frequent flier miles, we were able to fly basically for free, which is always a bonus. In addition, staying at AirBnB's over hotels freed us up some money to use towards eating delicious food. Which you can sure bet we ate a lot of!

Here's a rundown of our itinerary, including and most importantly, what delicious morsels we devoured along the way:

4 Days in Charleston, South Carolina 

Day 1 (Saturday):

Arrived late and took a Uber to our AirBnb in Mount Pleasant. Was a one bedroom decorated in the most elegant way. According to the husband, it had one of 'prettiest bathrooms' he had ever seen. There were not one but TWO chandeliers in the bathroom! 

 I was loving on the marble statue in the center. This bathroom is more elaborate than my entire house combined! 

I was loving on the marble statue in the center. This bathroom is more elaborate than my entire house combined! 

 I so wish I would have taken advantage of this bathtub - it's so big and beautiful!

I so wish I would have taken advantage of this bathtub - it's so big and beautiful!

After sleeping for a few hours we got up and took an Uber to Sullivan Island. There we walked along the beach. It was sunny and in the 70s, and my heart was rejouicing! 

 Look at those curly bangs!

Look at those curly bangs!

After our nice stroll we had lunch at The Obstinate Daughter. Highly recommend for the food, atmosphere, and service. We split the shrimp roll with geechie grit frites and the shrimp arugula pesto pizza with olives, grilled artichokes and lemon. Both were delicious, but the shrimp roll and those frites were out of this world!

 Fries made of grits, who would have thunk?!

Fries made of grits, who would have thunk?!

 Helloooo herby shrimpy deliciousness. 

Helloooo herby shrimpy deliciousness. 

After another walk on the beach, we took another Uber up to Boone Hall Plantation. We took a open-air tractor ride (well that's what we would call it here in MN!) around the grounds to see all of the crops they still plant. It's still a major farm, and was really cool to see where they put everything and how it grows. Afterwards we toured the house, which was featured in the Notebook as well as a few other TV shows/movies. It was interesting to hear all about the history of the plantation, who it's owners were/are, and learn more about the role slaves played during different periods of time. 

 Do you remember this house from the Notebook?

Do you remember this house from the Notebook?

 I captured a picture of the sunset and this tree, which is between 400-500 years old! 

I captured a picture of the sunset and this tree, which is between 400-500 years old! 

After our trip to Boone Hall Plantation, we took another Uber back to our place and got ready for the night. We had dinner reservations at Butcher and BeeWe ordered the warm bean dip  with their homemade pita bread, cauliflower with green tahini, curried cashews, and pickled raisin, and bacon wrapped dates for starters. First course was crispy sweet potatoes with tamarind chutney, yogurt, and cilantro. Main course we split the Whole Grilled Sea Bass with turmeric coconut curry, chickpeas, and Israeli couscous. The fish and that curry sauce was some of the best I've had. But I could have even just had the chickpeas and couscous with the curry, it was that good. We also had a custar-like dessert with local strawberries and meringue drops that was fabulous. 

Day 2 (Sunday):

We moved Airbnb locations this day, so after we got up/ready we took an Uber into downtown Charleston where we were staying to drop off our bags. From there we went to brunch at Poogan's PorchWe had the she crab soup (crab soup with sherry vinegar- our Uber driver told us we had to try it once!) and biscuits and gravy to start. The biscuits were so fluffy and light and the gravy was not too thick with big chunks of sausage in it. Best biscuits and gravy to date. 

 She crab soup. Not to be confused with He crab soup. :)

She crab soup. Not to be confused with He crab soup. :)

 Are you drooling yet?

Are you drooling yet?

After that we split the Tennessee Hot Chicken and the Shrimp and Grits. The chicken was perfectly crisp on the outside and so juicy on the inside. It was served with blue cheese Brussels sprouts slaw and a brioche bun and was so SO good! Of course we didn't snap any pictures as we dug right in. 

From there we walked the downtown area to explore. So many beautiful homes and so much history in that area. We stumbled upon Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier and indulged in some drinking chocolate and treats. The hubby had these fruit bites made of pureed fruit (apricot and strawberry) and rolled in sugar, and I had a earl grey dark chocolate truffle. 

 Forgot to snap a pic till after I took a bite....naturally. Look how pretty the shell on this earl grey dark chocolate truffle is!

Forgot to snap a pic till after I took a bite....naturally. Look how pretty the shell on this earl grey dark chocolate truffle is!

After making it home, we got ready and headed out to an early dinner at Rodney Scott's BBQ. They were out of a chicken, ribs and cornbread (what I really wanted!), but we had some pulled pork, mac and cheese, coleslaw, hush puppies and beans. The beans were phenomenal, but other than that, nothing I would go back for. We've had just as good of BBQ here in Minneapolis. It's likely you could find other/better places in Charleston, and I'm sure there are some good ones out there. Either way - if you go, I wouldn't necessarily waste your time/money at this place.

From dinner we headed to Charleston Pour House which had a funky hippie vibe. The outdoor bar was open and there was a great band playing. People with dreads and bell bottoms everywhere. The best part? You can bring your dog! There were several dogs running around chasing/playing with one another. My dog loving hippie spirit was in heaven. 

Day 3 (Monday):

Monday we woke up and stopped at the famous Callie's Charleston Biscuits for a few biscuits. We sampled almost every kind they had (6 total) but our favorite weren't the buttermilk biscuits themselves, but the shortbread ones. Especially the shortbread with blackberry preserves inside. One of the most delicious bites of biscuit I've eaten. Hubby seconds that.

 Of course this was the only picture I took of the place/actual biscuits!

Of course this was the only picture I took of the place/actual biscuits!

After that, we walked down to the ocean where we caught the ferry just in time to see Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter was were the first shots of the Civil War were fired. It was chock full of history, but the best part (for me at least!) was the dolphins that rode our wake the entire ride back. 

Once back to shore, we were starving and headed to 167 RawThey are famous for their lobster roll, but the waiter we had suggested the scallop po'boy (as did the lady next to us!) and so I went with that. Best decision ever! One of the best seafood sandwiches I've ever eaten, and that's not a joke. Scallops were cooked perfectly (I'm not usually a big scallop fan due to the texture) and they were topped with beet reduction, some sort of green sauce (sorry - that's the best I can do!) and microgreens. The hubby and I shared some shrimp cocktail to start and he had a swordfish taco that he loved.

 Scallop Po'Boy with beet reduction. On a perfecly toasted buttery bun. Heaven indeed!

Scallop Po'Boy with beet reduction. On a perfecly toasted buttery bun. Heaven indeed!

From there we made our way to the Rooftop Bar at The VendueEnjoyed a few drinks (basil strawberry lemonade for me) and some good people watching. You could see the ocean from afar, and the weather was perfect. Recommend checking out if you're looking to soak up the sun and kill some time. 

We continued walking from there and stopped to get some happy hour deals at Pearlz Oyster Bar. The hubby had 1/2 dozen oysters, pork rinds, and I had the corn fritters dusted with powdered sugar. The food was good, but nothing spectacular. Hubby loved the pork rinds (not my thing) and I enjoyed the take on corn fritters. Was a good place for a quick/cheap bite to hold us over till dinner. 

For dinner we had reservations at Husk, the James Beard award winning chef Sean Brock's restaurant. Every ingredient is sourced from the South (even the olive oil is from Texas!), which was really unique for us. We started with some drinks (I had a non-alcoholic drink made with shrub which was fantastic) and the pig-ear lettuce wraps. They were mentioned as a must-try in Charleston, and the waitress recommended them as well. Although good, I couldn't quite get over the texture of pig ear (I also felt like my dog!) and wouldn't eat them again. However, it was one of those unique things you just kind of have to try!

 Crunchy, salty pig ear lettuce wraps. By far the most interesting dish I ate this trip. 

Crunchy, salty pig ear lettuce wraps. By far the most interesting dish I ate this trip. 

For the main course I ordered the pan-fried catfish with Carolina gold rice, and the hubby had the pork shoulder with pork belly inside. They were both really good, and really unique. The catfish was done perfectly and the husband drooled over his pork ("one of the best pork dishes I've had ever" - can you sense a theme going on here this trip?!).

 Catfish and Carolina gold rice with a side of rapini. 

Catfish and Carolina gold rice with a side of rapini. 

Overall the food was a bit on the salty side for me, but my husband likes to remind me that I have a low salt tolerance (or so he thinks!). The dessert was my favorite part. Olive oil cake with local strawberries and fresh whipped cream. If you would have asked me before this pregnancy if I wanted dessert I would have answered "no, I'm not much of a dessert person". Boy how things have changed.

 That cake was so perfectly moist and delicious. I am currently obsessing about how I can make a version of it here at home. 

That cake was so perfectly moist and delicious. I am currently obsessing about how I can make a version of it here at home. 

 Outside Husk. Can't you just feel the Southern Charm oozing from this place?

Outside Husk. Can't you just feel the Southern Charm oozing from this place?

Day 4 (Tuesday):

On our last day in Charleston we rented a car so we could take a day to explore on our own terms (and it was cheaper than taking multiple Ubers throughout the day!). Our first stop was breakfast at Early Bird Diner, which had been featured on one of our favorite shows: Diners, Drive-In's and Dives. I ordered the Chicken and Waffles and the husband had the biscuits and gravy. The chicken and waffles is what they are known for, as the chicken is drizzled in honey mustard dressing and the combo of the two are spectacular. Although the fried chicken wasn't as good as the Hot Tennessee Chicken we had at Poogan's porch, the combo of the dressing and the syrup was so scrumptious. The waffles were so light and fluffy on the inside and perfectly crisp on the outside. I don't order waffles out a lot, but these were some of the best.

 Look at that plate of fattening goodness!

Look at that plate of fattening goodness!

We enjoyed the biscuits and gravy more at Poogan's porch as well, just because this gravy was a bit on the thicker creamier side and we preferred the chunks of sausage in our gravy. Either way though, still a good taste of Southern home cooking. 

 Rich, creamy gravy atop light biscuits. There's even a homemade sausage patty buried under there!

Rich, creamy gravy atop light biscuits. There's even a homemade sausage patty buried under there!

After breakfast we made our way down to Folly Beach for a walk along the ocean and a stop for a drink at one of the hotel beachside bars. It was cloudy all day, but still magical for us to be on the ocean.

We stopped at Roadside Seafood to split a basket of fried shrimp and fried green tomatoes. I love fried green tomatoes, and both were served with excellent dipping sauces. 

Finally, we headed back to our hotel to nap and get ready for our final meal at FIG (Food is Good), also known for their use of local seasonal ingredients. FIG was by far the fanciest place we dined at, and we were also the youngest people in there! It was one of my favorite dining experiences of the trip. We shared the ricotta gnocchi with lamb bolognese and beet soup with buttermilk and pumpernickel breadcrumbs. I had the seafood stew and the hubby the swordfish with orange, greens, and spiced granola (very unique - and very good!). We also shared the dessert with fresh strawberries (we kept having to order them as they were so good down there!), lavender shaved ice, and strawberry panna cotta. It was wayyyy too fancy in there for me to feel comfortable snapping any pictures, so we dined and chatted our way through the night without any distractions. HIGHLY RECOMMEND this place and making reservations beforehand.

Our last stop of the night was to catch some music at the Tattooed MooseThey are known for their duck club, but being we had just eaten, we split a side of duck fat fries with garlic aioli before leaving (definitely not needed - but worth it!). 

And that my friends, sums up our 5 days in Charleston. It was a wonderful city filled with extremely friendly people, beautiful architecture, hard-to-believe history, delicious food, and a old-world charm you just can't find around here.  

We will definitely be back. But until then, we'll be here. Enjoying the fresh snow and 30-degree weather. Is it spring already?!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Quinoa Granola (refined sugar free)

Happy Monday! Hope ya'll had a great weekend. We hosted a massive brunch on Saturday before we took to the frozen lake for some ice golf. The things you do for fun when you live in Minnesota during the wintertime...

 We had 14 people play overall - with all proceeds going towards the local food shelf. Of course I'm the only one not looking at the camera. :)

We had 14 people play overall - with all proceeds going towards the local food shelf. Of course I'm the only one not looking at the camera. :)

Other than that, the hubby and I mostly relaxed on Sunday (and I may this delicious granola - keep reading!) as we were planning on attending a SuperBowl party at a friend's house last night. However, our little Aussiedoodle Tux, had different plans for us! Right as we were about to leave, Tux stole a sock out of the bedroom (I was finishing putting laundry away) and swallowed it. Off the the ER vet we went! Needless to say, not how we planned our Sunday night to go, but it is what it is. I'm hoping I'll be ready for the crazy things children thanks to him!

Ok so now on to the real reason for this post: Peanut Butter Chocolate Quinoa Granola (refined sugar free). Hello yum! Being I'm just about 22 weeks pregnant, I've had some major candida overgrowth issues (for those of you not familiar with what that is, google it). I was already prone to the infections that go along with it, and usually was able to nip them in the bud when if I started taking probiotics and laid off the sugar. Unfortunately, that didn't work being pregnant. Normally, I only eat one or two servings of fruit a day and hardly any processed sugar, but of course I've been craving sweets and sugar like crazy this pregnancy. Besides the medications my Ob/GYN but me on, I've been really trying to get back to reducing my sugar/carb/dairy intake (basically anything that yeast likes to feed on in the body!). This granola is still made with maple syrup, but it's much less sweet than what you buy in the grocery store.

Originally, I was making this granola into granola bars, but I think I over-toasted it and the poor things just wouldn't hold together! So, I crumbled it up and ta-dah! Granola. Deliciously crunchy, perfectly sweet, granola.

I've been on a big coconut-milk yogurt kick, and this granola is the perfect topping for my yogurt and fresh berries parfait. Coconut milk yogurt has barely any protein, so it's nice to get an added boost from the oats, peanut butter, and quinoa. 

 I hope you enjoy it as much as I am!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Quinoa Granola (refined sugar free)

Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cups rolled oats (I used old fashioned)

1/4 cup oat flour or rolled oats finely crushed (I threw mine in the food processor for a few pulses)

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/3 cup uncooked quinoa 

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup dried fruit of choice

1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped (or other nut of choice)

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I like Lily's brand for no-sugar added)

1/2 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter of choice)

1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed until melted

1/4 cup maple syrup, agave, honey or other natural sweetener of choice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Lay parchment paper into 8 by 8 square inch pan (could also use 9 x 11)

Mix all dry ingredients together in mixing bowl. 

Mix wet ingredients (oil, peanut butter, sweetener) in separate bowl.

Add wet indredients to dry and combine.

Pour granola into pan and press down in even layer with back of spoon or rubber spatula.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges and top are starting to brown.

Let cool completely before crumbling into granola.

Store in airtight container for up to a week, or throw in the freezer for longer.