November 20, 2014

How-To: 31 Days to an Organized Home

With every ring of a new year, new resolutions are made. For some it's to be healthier. For others it's to budget better (which was our resolution last year: Our Debt Payoff Plan). For me, in 2015, I want to be organized.

Organization is not an easy task and every parent knows that the balance of happy children and a clean/organized home is a tough one.

However, next year I will be challenging myself to become an “Organized Modern Mommy”. I definitely won't be able to organize everything all at once, but I do have a 31 day plan for December that I hope will help me reach my goal. By the time the new year comes around, I will have a clean bill of organization that I can hopefully maintain throughout the new year.

All I have to do is tackle ONE area of our home each day in December. 31 days. 31 areas. It’s as simple as that.

Well, actually it’s really not that simple because, for many, organization isn't something they’re born with. It’s not something that comes easy for them. And like me, there just never seems to be enough time!

Nonetheless, I do believe that every person is capable of accomplishing at least one task each day. Don’t overwhelm yourself with 50 million things on your to-do-list (like I normally do). You will only discourage yourself from your ultimate goal. By focusing on only one area each day and finishing it in its entirety, I know that I personally would feel much more accomplished than if I was able to do 2 or 3 things on my to-do-list but still had 9 other things that I wasn’t able to get to.

In essence, I am trying to trick myself. It may seem like one small accomplishment, but with each task I complete, it will ultimately accumulate to the point where my ENTIRE house will be clean and organized within only 31 days!

I am challenging myself and asking you to join me!

I have divided the areas of my home into 31 different sections. My goal is to organize one section each day until my whole home is done! My motto: Slow and steady wins the race!

Challenge: I do work full time, Monday-Friday, and I am also attending night classes 4 times a week until December 11th, so it will be a very difficult challenge for me, but there are some smaller tasks (such as purses and candles/scents) in my challenge that I know I will be able to fit within my small window of free time during those days. I will probably save the more complicated things (such as our garage and backyard) for the weekends. Also, since I don’t want to take any precious time away from my husband and kids when I'm home, this will definitely be a group effort and be a learning lesson for our whole family. As long as I follow this plan, I should have a clean and organized home by the time 2015 rolls in and you can too!

TIP: I will most likely not do it is in this order. You can adjust the list per your needs. As long as you are able to do one thing each day, you will stay on track to an organized home! What I'll do to keep track is probably write one task each day on my December Calendar and make sure it is something I can do per my hectic schedule.

Please take this challenge with me and share your personal organization tips and tricks in the comments section below!

September 3, 2014

DIY Lunch Menu (Free Word File)

No more lunch complaints! This "DIY Lunch Menu" allows our daughter to have a say in her lunch options but still gives my husband and I full control of what she can choose from! Yes, we are sneaky!

We no longer hear, "Peanut butter and jelly AGAIN?!" or "Lunch wasn't very good". Instead, our daughter chooses what she wants based off the menu we made together and now we are ALL happy. She can choose her lunch depending on what she's craving and we know that she's choosing a balanced meal.

We let her choose one protein, a carb, a fruit, a veggie, and a treat. We only let her drink water at school, so I don't have a "Choose a Drink" portion, but any parent can easily modify theirs to have it!

Here is the lunch menu that we made with our daughter:
The DIY Lunch menu we made with our daughter
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The proteins that have an asterisk (*) are only allowed to be accompanied by chips since we felt like the meal already had a lot of carbohydates. If she chose a protein that didn't have an asterisk, then she could choose a carb to pair with it.

We used the menu for the first time on her 1st day of school and I was able to prep everything the night before. In the morning, I just had to put everything in her lunchbox with her ice pack and she was good to go!

It's also a great shopping list when you go to the store so it helps you make sure to always have these ingredients on hand! 

Our daughter's most recent lunch choice: Ham and cheese sandwich, chips, straw berries, carrots w/ ranch, and a rice krisie treat!

YUM! She loved it!

Below is the word file of the menu template we made. You can download it and either print it out yourself (we printed it on cardstock and hung it on our fridge door) or modify it to accommodate your family's lunch choices!

I hope this makes lunch prep a lot less stressful! It has helped make lunch prep at our house a more enjoyable experience! There are no longer any complaints about what our daughter had for lunch! Make sure to create the menu WITH your children! Good luck!

June 29, 2014

I'm Proud to Run "Like a Girl" and You Should Be Too!

I never thought I would be so inspired by a tampon commercial, but this really hit a nerve with me!

I have no idea what this really has to do with tampons, but it definitely kept my attention!

I have a daughter who is 7-years-old and I NEVER want her to think that doing anything "like a girl" is embarrassing or less than!

I am proud of my daughter for doing things "like a girl"! She's amazing!

My daughter does things "like a girl" and is proud of it!

Me and my 3 sisters were raised to be strong, confident women! I want my daughter and all little girls to grow up the same way! The stigma that comes with the phrase, "like a girl" is hurtful and needs to stop! But, the only way for that negative connotation to go away is to show the future generation of women that doing anything "like a girl" is not something to be ashamed of!

If you have a daughter, this video is a must see! Watch it together!

May 29, 2014

How-To: Car-Themed Birthday Party on a Budget

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We threw our son a car-themed birthday party this past Memorial Day weekend and he, along with our wallets, appreciated it!

We wanted our son to have an awesome 2nd birthday party, but since we are currently in the middle of our $15,000 Debt Pay-Off Plan in 18-Months, we had to get creative on how we could do more with less!

Therefore, Pinterest became my co-party planner! You can view my car-themed Pinterest board here: Liam's 2nd Birthday Party. I was able to find other mom's party ideas and they inspired me come up with a few ideas of my own! You can find more information under the captions of each photo!

In the end, we were able to budget all the decor, invitations, cake, goodie bags, activities, drinks, AND food for only $125 out of pocket, which isn't bad considering in previous parties, I used to spend $120 on just the cake and catering alone!

I probably could have spent even less, but some things I had to pay someone to make for me (like the car photo booth and banners). It's not that they were hard to make, but since I had finals for school and was busy at work, I needed the extra help to make sure everything was ready in time!


Here's a cute photo idea for invitations: Our handsome boy posed with toy cars (many of which I borrowed since I didn't have enough) shaped in the number 2 for his birthday invitations! I took the photo myself and e-mailed the invitations out to save on printing and photography costs! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $0

Car Photo Booth: This was an idea that I found on the site: See Suzy Spin. She created a car shaped photo booth that I loved! I wanted to incorporate it in our son's party as a fun way to keep record of every guest that came and for them to have a fun memento! We even threw in some props to make it a little more silly! I had my sister take the photos for us as a "gift" to our son rather than spend money and rent an actual photo booth or photographer! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $17 - $15 to have the car made (you can save even more by doing it yourself out of cardboard) and $2 for the props (bought at the dollar store).

Photo Booth Backdrop: As a backdrop for the photos, I decorated the wall with road signs that I printed and a banner that I custom ordered! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $5 for the banner - You can easily make it yourself with cardstock and ribbon!

Here are some samples of the fun photos our guests took in our photo booth! We placed the photobooth at the entrance so it would be the first thing everyone did!

It was a big hit! I plan on printing each picture and making an album as a keepsake for our son!

Racetrack Cupcake Cake: I am a HORRIBLE baker, so rather than risk getting everyone sick (lol), a friend of mine volunteered to help me with my son's birthday cake! (Thank you Heather!) She made vanilla and chocolate flavored cupcakes from scratch and organized them into a 2! She also made extra cupcakes since the "racetrack" only consisted of 15 cupcakes. Then the next night we went to her house and had a Frosting Party where we worked together with my sister-in-law to frost all of the cupcakes! She added food coloring to the frosting to create the road and piped the frosting to create the green shrubbery and white road lines. Right before the party, I added the cars , made a "start" and "finish" sign for the track, and put checkered flags on the cupcakes to give it a more uniformed look. The cake turned out yummy and everyone thought it was super cute! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $5 - $4 for the frosting and $1 for the toothpicks. I already had the cars, my friend already had all the cupcake ingredients, and the flags I made myself so I saved a lot that way! I printed the checkered flags on paper and taped them onto the toothpicks! I used an old baking sheet covered with tinfoil as the cake base.


The Snack Bar: This was our table display of all the food. Note: The paper plates in the colors of a stoplight was a fun extra detail! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $65 - This includes the cost of not only food but also for plates, napkins, utensils, and the table cloth (which was bought at the dollar store to save money). Since we made many of the food ourselves, we were able to create a menu within our budget. Howerver, 2 of the dishes were catered but I saved money on them because I asked my mother to pay for them as a "gift" for Liam. It helped our costs greatly and ensured that we had enough food for our 60+ guests!


"Veggie Vehicles" - Made of celery, carrots, and peanut butter!

"Veggie Vehicles" - The celery was covered in peanut butter and the toothpicks held the carrots to create "wheels". A small carrot was placed on top for the "seat."

"Wagon Wheels" - Mac & cheese, but rather than using traditional macaroni, I used wheel-shaped pasta to stay within the theme!

"Saucy Signals" - We wanted the dips to remind people of streetlight signal colors, so we used salsa (red), queso dip (yellow), and guacamole (green) to create the illusion of a streetlight!
"Mater's Taters" - Potato chips for the saucy signals!

"Rubber Tires" - Chocolate covered donuts!

"Streetlights" - We put strawberry, pineapple, and green grapes on a skewer to match the color scheme of a stoplight!

"Steering Wheels" - Tortilla pinwheels made with ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, and romaine lettuce with a cream cheese and bell pepper spread. They were the first things gone! I will be sharing the recipe on my blog soon! Cheap and very easy to make!

"Gasoline" and "Antifreeze" - For the gasoline we made lemonade and for the antifreeze I bought Hawaiian Punch Blue Polar Blast juice!


Food labels: I found a blog that created awesome Car themed printables. You can download the labels for free here: Yvonne Byatt's Family Fun. I just downloaded them and modified them in Paint to match my specific menu! Then I printed them out on cardstock and they turned out great! OUT OF POCKET COST: $0

Here is a cute checkered banner that I custom ordered for my son's birthday party! I used it as decor above the Snack Bar and Photo booth. OUT OF POCKET COST: $5 You can easily make it yourself with cardstock and ribbon!

Banner and Road Signs: I printed a bunch of road signs that I googled on the internet and used them as decor all over the house! As for the banner, I printed it on cardstock and used it as decor in our backyard. OUT OF POCKET COST: $0

"Road" Walkway: As soon as you enter our house, there is a long hallway you walk through, so we decided to make it look like a road! Another reason we did it this way was since most of our house is carpet and the party was both inside and outside, we didn't want people to have to keep putting on and taking off their shoes! With this "road", they were able to keep their shoes on the whole time without making my carpets dirty! We made a road from the entrance that led into the main area of the snack bar and also a road that led to the bathroom. It added to the ambiance of the theme and also gave a functional use! - OUT OF POCKET COST: $13 - We bought black plastic sheeting (found in the paint section of Walmart) for $10 and bought yellow painters tape for $3. Then we just cut the plastic to fit into our areas and used the tape to separate the roads. It was super easy and I loved how it turned out!

Since it was a "road" I made street signs at the intersection telling people the direction to the Snack Bar and "Pit Stop" (aka Bathroom). OUT OF POCKET COST: $0


Goodie Bags: For guests leaving, we had goodie bags placed at the "Finish Line". We made the goodie bags out of brown paper lunch bags and used red, yellow, and green construction paper to create the look of a stoplight. - OUT OF POCKET COST: $15 - I already had the construction paper, so I just bought the brown paper bags and goodie bag treats at the dollar store. For just $15 I was able to buy tire yoyo's, bubbles, plastic bugs, and candy to make 18 goodie bags! It was a cute and simple "thank you for coming" gift for the kids.


Since we were on a budget, I only planned games that required no actual money. Two games I came up with were Red Light, Green Light and Relay Race (to stick with the car theme). However, when it came down to it, the kids preferred to just play in our backyard! We had a swing set, jungle gym, playhouse, and mini trampoline, along with a sand table and a few tricycles, so thankfully all of those things kept the kids occupied the whole 3 hours!

The wooden swing set was our gift to our son for his 2nd birthday. It cost about $420, so to help balance the cost, we asked guests if they wanted to contribute towards it, prior to the party. After all the monies were collected, we only had to chip in an extra $50! A huge thank you again to Hugo, Christine, Angelina, Mario, Maui, Papa&Lala, Grandma&Grandpa Hoop, and The McDonald Family for chipping in so we could get him this awesome swing set! All their generosity helped us get our son a gift he loves without having to charge it to credit!

And even though we had a lot of people contribute towards the swing set, he still made out like a bandit in the gift department!


Our son about to blow his candle!

His favorite part of the whole party - lol.

All in all, we were able to throw our son an awesome party without hurting our wallets! Thank you to everyone that came and to those who helped us make our son's birthday a little more special!

  • Don't hesitate to ask for help!
  • Rather than people buying a gift, ask if they can volunteer their TIME towards the party. (Especially if they have a specific talent like baking or photography or face painting!)
  • For expensive gifts, see if you can have guests chip in.
  • Make the decorations yourself.
  • Don't cater your food. Make most or all of it yourself.
  • Bake your own birthday cake.
  • When buying materials for the party, look at the dollar store or 99 Cent Store first! (Especially for goodie bag treats!)
  • And lastly, kids aren't very difficult to please, so think of cheap or free games that can entertain the kids to avoid breaking the bank! You don't always need fancy bounce houses or clowns for the kids to have a great time!
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If you liked any of our ideas, please make sure to "pin it" to your Pinterest board or "share it" on your Facebook wall for future reference! If you have any ideas you've done for a car-themed party and want to share with others, don't hesitate to voice them in our "comments section"! Thank you for reading!

April 3, 2014

How-To: Dry Erase Weekly Schedule Board

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Everyone who visits our home notices our family's "Command Center". It is a section of our house dedicated to keeping our whole home organized. It is where we keep track of meals, chores, and upcoming activities.

One of the centerpieces of our family command center is our Dry Erase Weekly Schedule Board.

This is a great starter project for anyone who has never really done their own projects before. I spent only $9 (since I had all the other materials on hand) and it only took me about 20 minutes. The most time was taken waiting for it to dry!

I found the idea on Pinterest a couple of years ago from this blog post: Dry Erase Weekly Calendar. I thought it was the best idea ever! Very simple, yet cute, so I made one for myself!

Mine is pretty much just like hers, but I modified it a little bit. I put my letters on the frame instead of the actual glass because I wanted more space to write. I also wanted an excuse to use my Cricut cutter, so I made the letters myself rather than use pre-made stickers. But other than that, everything else is the same! You can get more specific instructions on her site:

Below is how I made mine.

  • 8-Frame Collage Picture Frame (I bought mine at Wal-Mart when it was on sale for $9)
  • Scrapbook Paper (Cut to a size that will fit in each frame)
  • Scrapbook Letters (Or, if you have a Cricut like me, I just made my own letters)
  • Mod Podge
  • Paint Brush

Then all you have to do is put your scrapbook paper in the frames, stick your letters onto the border of your frames, apply Mod Podge over the letters to "seal" them in so that they don't fall off (plus it gives it a more finished look), let it dry for the recommended amount of time, and then TA-DA! You have your very own Dry Erase Weekly Schedule Board!

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You can use any dry erase markers to write on the glass. After each week, you can easily wipe the marker off and start all over! Our family uses this to keep track of all of our activities, appointments, schedules, and when bills are due. Plus the To-Do-List section comes in handy when we have to remember to buy or do something.

  • There are only 7 days in a week, so since there are 8 frames, you can use the last frame for your "To-Do-List" or "Grocery List" or you can use it to display a picture of your family!
  • Use light colored scrapbook paper or else the things you write on it may be hard to read.
  • Choose scrapbook paper that will match your area's color scheme so it has a more uniform look.
  • Hang this in a location that is central, so that everyone will know what's going on throughout the week.

I hope you guys enjoy this project! I will post more about our Family Command Center in later posts!

January 31, 2014

Divorce Is Not The Answer

I'm not perfect. I am impatient. I can be selfish. I can be moody. I am stubborn. I don’t always think before I speak. I stress over little things. I can be a nag and be overbearing. I expect too much. I don’t always appreciate what I have.

But, no matter what, there he is, always at my side.

My rock. My partner. My best friend. My husband and the father of my children.

I love him very much.

However, I know there are times when I treat my husband like crap.

I don't know why.... he doesn't deserve it.

Even in the midst of a fight with him, I often catch myself wondering, WHY?

Why am I yelling at someone I love?
Why do I always have to be right and have the last say?
Why do I want him to feel bad for making me feel bad?
Why can’t I just let it go?

I know when I'm tired or in a bad mood or if I had a bad day, I find myself directing my anger and stress at my husband. Sometimes the chaos of life causes me to push my husband's feelings to the side.

However, no matter how much strain gets put on our relationship, DIVORCE IS NOT THE ANSWER.

I need to remember to always prioritize our commitment to one another. It is that commitment that started this whole journey that we share together.

We are one. We are a team. We are husband and wife. We need to face all of life's challenges together rather than trying to take it out on one another.

One thing I always tell my friends when they ask how Eric and I have made it work through all these years is that,

"Communication is key."

To me, communication is the most important part of a relationship. Some say it's trust, but if you communicate everything with one another, what is there NOT to trust? It just comes hand-in-hand.

However, sometimes communication can be a Catch 22 because when we do communicate, there are times when it does lead to an argument because one may not be happy with what the other person has to say.

When we argue, I know that I personally don't react to it well. I get very defensive and emotional. I become hard headed and easily annoyed. Everything sets me off. After I say my piece, I shut down. I don’t want to hear what anyone else has to say.

Yes, I am very childish that way and I admit it.

But even though some may be with a person like that and want to end it, my husband knows that DIVORCE IS NOT THE ANSWER.

He usually is very patient with me and level-headed and just lets me rant. Sometimes that's all most people need, just to be listened to. And I mean, REALLY listened to.

However, there are times when I am guilty of not always handling my husband's outbursts as kindly and as understanding as he does to me.

Eric doesn’t get mad at me often, but when he does that’s when it gets bad.

My pride gets in the way.

I fight back. I don't listen. I try to be tougher and I want to win.

Eventually, we become two very angry people who are just trying to one-up each other.

There is a great quote on a "Marriage Rules" plaque that I got from my aunt that states,

"If one of you has to win an argument, let it be your spouse."

I need to be the bigger person, like my husband usually is to me. I need to let him communicate his thoughts to me without getting upset. I need to be there for him and REALLY listen to his problems, his wants, his concerns.

I need to remember that I am in control of my own happiness and I can choose my reaction to any situation.

If an argument arises, I shouldn't let my emotions get the best of me. I shouldn't take my husband's opinions and problems as an attack. I shouldn’t hate him for saying what's on his mind even though what he’s saying may make me want to. I shouldn't bring up the past and I should never attack his character.

I need to just let it go and not make it bigger than it needs to be because DIVORCE IS NOT THE ANSWER.

We can't allow petty arguments to grow big enough to destroy our relationship.

I have seen so many great relationships end and I don’t want us to be another statistic of high school sweethearts who didn’t make it.

I am not perfect nor will I ever be perfect. I am thankful that my husband has always accepted me through all my imperfections. But I know he can only handle so much before he reaches his breaking point.

I need to make a change within myself.

For some, change can be difficult. It may at times seem easier to not put in the effort and to just give up, but DIVORCE IS NOT THE ANSWER.

As long as your love was created with a strong foundation of communication, faith, humility, compassion, and respect, it will be strong enough to withstand all of life's tribulations.

Our love is beautiful and the life that my husband and I share together is something worth saving.

Don't ever take our love for granted. It is something that requires constant work and commitment and needs to be nurtured to continue to grow.

My husband deserves a woman who builds him up and supports his dreams. He deserves a woman who appreciates him and respects him. He deserves a woman who allows him to voice his feelings and concerns without judgement. He deserves a woman who gives him hugs & kisses and tells him "I love you". He deserves a woman who wants him and needs him. He deserves a woman who is patient, understanding, nurturing, and kind.

I will strive to always be that woman.

I shouldn't allow the stresses of life to prevent me from treating him with the love that he deserves.

He makes me want to be a better version of myself.

And that's what spouses should do:

"Inspire each other to grow and be better every single day."

Photo credit: Michael Yenor Photography
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January 22, 2014

How-To: Payoff $15,000 of Debt in 18 Months

Between my husband and me, I'm the more responsible one when it comes to money. I mean, I do splurge once in awhile on a Starbucks drink or a pedicure or I buy the kids extra toys or outfits, but overall, I know our budget and I'm better at sticking with it. So, I'm in charge of our household finances. I make sure the bills are paid, I know how much extra money we have each month, and I'm the one who makes sure we maintain our savings.
However, during Christmas and Black Friday last year, my husband and I both went a little overboard on our spending. We both ended up charging things to our credit cards with money we didn't have. Also, last year we bought a new home, so we splurged a lot of our savings on new furniture, appliances, home decor, etc. What we couldn't afford, we charged to our cards. So, because of that, we had accumulated over $10,000 of debt all in a course of 1 year!
Thankfully, we were able to get some extra money and were able to pay it down by the end of the year to about half that amount.
Okay, so now that we're left with $5,000, it doesn't sound too bad, BUT if you add that to the $10,000 of debt we ALREADY had... yeah... looking at over $15,000 of credit card debt is now a bit more daunting!
My husband and I were tired of spending almost $1,000 a month towards credit cards that seem never-ending. So, both of us sat down and came up with a plan together.
Now that it's 2014, we have to do some damage control to do!
The first step prior to establishing a budget is to cut back on your monthly expenses.

My husband and I already had minimized many of our expenses last year when we bought our second home, so we didn’t really have to cut back on any of our normal expenses. The biggest thing we had to cut back on was our excess spending on things we didn’t need and we had to stop using our credit cards.
However, to the left are ways you can cut costs for your family.
To help you earn some extra money, you can always sell your possessions that you don't use anymore. I do that with every season as my kids outgrow things and I also sold many of our old possessions before moving into our new house, so that's a great way to not necessarily cut costs, but to help put a little extra money in your pockets.
Shortly after the New Year, my husband and I sat down together and came up with a plan that we both agreed too. If you have a significant other, I highly recommend that you sit down with him or her before making any big decisions regarding money or changes in budgets. That way both of you are on the same page and are working together to reach the same goal.
Here are the steps we took to determine our monthly budget:
  1. We calculated our monthly income (after taxes).
  2. We made a list of all our FIXED expenses every month (such as, mortgage and car payments, credit cards, groceries, savings, etc). These are the expenses that are always the same every month and have to be paid every month.
  3. We then made a list of all our SEMI-VARIABLE expenses (such as cable, utilities, childcare, gas, etc). These are the costs that are typically within a $50 average variance every month. (Childcare for most people would be under FIXED expenses, but since my husband and I like to go on date nights, sometimes we have to shell out a little extra each month, so I categorized Childcare under semi-variable).
  4. Finally we made a list of all our HIGHLY-VARIABLE expenses (such as purchases, fun activities, restaurants, etc). These are for costs that are never the same every month and not a necessity.
Then I kept track of everything on an excel spreadsheet. Below is the template that I created for our family. You can easily modify it to fit your family’s needs:
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Click on image to enlarge photo
Once we finalized our monthly budget to the point where we actually were able to carryover a profit every month, we made a promise to not deviate from the budget, unless it was to actually spend LESS than what we budgeted for.
I know things do come up and sometimes you have to pay a little extra towards some expenses each month, but that is why you need to have a good enough buffer between your profit and extra monies from your envelopes and other categories where you actually were below budget.
Set your budget to a point where you are comfortable and not necessarily living paycheck-to-paycheck.
And don't forget to always contribute to your savings! Make sure to find a way to fit that in your monthly budget! I can't emphasize this enough. Even if you are only able to save $25 a week, do it because in one year, you'll be able to save over $1,200! A little bit can go a long way in case an emergency arises.
PLASTIC IS BAD. That is what a lot of my older co-workers would tell me and I never listened. I have finally come to the realization that CASH ONLY is my best bet.
In order to stay on track to pay down our debt, my husband and I decided that we are going to stop using not only our credit cards, but also our debit cards
So, for 2014, my husband I will only use our checking account to pay for our fixed expenses, like our utilities, childcare, mortgage, and car payments (either online or by check).
The rest of our expenses will be paid for in cash. Once we run out of cash, WE ARE OUT OF MONEY.
An easy way for us to keep track of our cash was to divide them into envelopes.
My envelope categories are as follows:
  1. Groceries
  2. Sam's Club
  3. Miscellaneous
  4. Allowance
Groceries: We budget our groceries at $80/week so since my husband and I get paid on opposite weeks, every time one of us gets paid, we go to the bank and withdraw $80. We then put that money in our envelope to be used for that week's groceries. Anything we don't use, we can add to our grocery budget the next week, deposit it into our savings, or we can transfer it to our miscellaneous envelope as a little reward to ourselves for being below our budget. For more advice on saving costs at the grocery store checkout my blog post: How-To: Cut Costs for Non-Couponers.
Sam's Club: We budget $120/month at Sam's Club. However, rather than take out a big amount at the end of the month to make our Sam's Club run, we withdraw $30/week at the bank and put it in our envelope. Once we reach $120, we then use it to stock up on our meats, cleaning products, snacks, diapers, wipes, etc. Anything leftover can be saved for the next month or transferred to another envelope.
Miscellaneous: This envelope is used to go out to eat or do something fun together. It can even be used towards unexpected expenses. I don't have a set budget for this envelope every month. I only go to the bank to withdraw funds for this envelope if we have extra money to spare and have planned for it in advance. If we have any leftover money from our Groceries or Sam's Club envelopes, we may add it here as well. If not, it will remain empty and we will have to just find some fun free things to do. Nothing wrong with that!
Allowance: My husband and I have our own his and her envelopes. We get either $15 or $20 each per week that we can use on lunch at work or we can save it up and he can buy a new video game or I can get a pedicure or buy a new outfit. Either way, that's our spending money that we can use on whatever we want. (I know some may think that it's kind of embarrassing to be adults with an "allowance", but in order for us to pay off our debt in a timely manner, we have agreed to make this sacrifice for a little while).

Now that we had our monthly finances under control, we worked on our Debt Pay-Off Plan.

I have seen articles on Yahoo! about many people who have been able to lower greater amounts of debt in shorter amounts of time. However, 18 months is the time frame that my husband and I have decided is the most probable for us. We know our circumstances are not the same as everyone else's, so we made the best plan for our situation and I suggest you do the same as well.

While creating our plan we reached a few realizations:
We couldn't downsize to an apartment or lower our lease because we purchased our home so we were stuck making mortgage payments on it for awhile. We didn't want to just walk away.
We also couldn't sell our cars since we leased both of them and we don't have any investments or assets that we can sell or withdraw money from.

And even though I wish it were possible, neither of us could become stay-at-home parents and live off of a single income.
So, we are literally trying to pay down our debt with just our paychecks.
To help us do this, we have done the following:
  1. We locked away our credit cards and will not charge any more expenses on them.
  2. We created a FIXED dollar amount to pay towards our credit cards each month.
  3. We decided to pay off our high interest rate card first.
  4. We then started a snowball effect to ultimately pay-off all of our debt.
Lock away your credit cards:
Put them in a filing cabinet and hide the key. Or be like my co-worker and stick it in a bowl of water and put it in your freezer so if you ever did want to use it, the hassle of getting it out of ice might not be worth it. No matter how you do it, just find a place for your cards other than your purse or wallet!

Create a FIXED dollar amount to pay towards your credit cards each month:
To calculate this dollar amount, take a look at each credit card account. Write down how much you owe, the interest rate, the minimum payment due, and the due date. From there, you can determine how much you need to at least pay the minimum every month. Then look at your finances and determine how much ABOVE the minimum totals you can sacrifice each month towards your highest rate credit card. So, say your minimum payments equal $300, see if you can sacrifice $500/month towards your credit cards, so you can put the extra $200 towards your card with the highest interest rate to help pay it down quicker.

Pay off your high interest rate card first:
The idea behind paying the cards with the highest interest rates first is so that you pay less back to the bank. Therefore, put whatever extra money you can afford every month towards that one specific credit card and just pay minimums on the rest.

The Snowball Effect:
Once you pay off your card with the highest interest rate, shuffle the dollar amount you used to pay towards that card into your 2nd highest card. The idea is that eventually you will pay them all down quickly by creating a "snowball effect." For example, per the scenario I created above take the $200 extra you were paying PLUS the original minimum payments, you can now pay it all towards your 2nd highest card. Once that is paid, you can then add the total you were paying on that prior card, towards the 3rd highest rated card and so on and so forth. *But remember, as you transfer the dollar amounts between cards as you pay them off, continue to pay the minimum towards your other cards!* Eventually, if you continue with this process, you will pay everything off quicker and quicker creating a "snowball effect."

To help us keep track of how my payments versus my interest rates are holding up, I use a spreadsheet I found on the internet. You can download it here: TT18: Credit Card Repayment Spreadsheet.

The most important step in making this whole "plan" work is for my husband and I to make this sacrifice together. Cutting back on many things we used to enjoy will be a tough. We won't be able to hangout with our friends as often, birthdays won't be as extravagant, family trips will need to be cut back, and date nights will have to become a little more creative, but we must make sacrifices to attain our goal.

Through the sacrifices, we need to make sure we stay committed and dedicated to our cause. It'll definitely be tough at first, but we need to keep seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We hope together we can be each other's beacon as we go through this journey. I wish all of you who are trying to pay down your debt the best of luck and hopefully we all can finally overcome our burdens of debt and be able to breath again!

This is something that my husband and I are currently trying to do. We have not yet proven that this plan is fool-proof. However, based off many internet articles, first-hand stories from friends and family, and the success we've had in the past few weeks, these are the steps that our family will be taking to hopefully eliminate our debt in the next 18 months! I would love everyone's input to help us reach our goal and if you would like to take on this journey with us, go right ahead! Good luck!
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