Category Archives: Finances

2016 Goals update

2016 goals update, plus a special bonus treat!

I love goals. I love to set them and I haven’t always been so good about the follow-through part. When I was single, I had a few goals that I accomplished (graduating school, paying off my car quickly, etc), but I have never completed goals so quickly as to now that I am married to the Master Goal-Crusher.

So far in the just over two years of marriage, we have pared down our belongings to about 1/3 of what we (I) had when we moved in together, paid cash for two cars, and destroyed our savings goals. We have also purchased a portable washing machine and just this week ordered a dryer (should arrive by the end of the month!).

Because of all the moving expenses and getting settled, we weren’t able to make any progress on our savings goals in February, but we didn’t have to go backward at all, which I am most excited about!

I have always admired Crystal Paine (aka, the MoneySavingMom) and how many goals she accomplishes. In a similar fashion to my own experience, she credits her husband for teaching her the critical steps and discipline of effective goal-setting. Together they have reached insanely awesome goals, like paying 100% cash for a house, going as a very broke newlywed couple living in a teeny tiny apartment to 13 years later owning 3 rental properties, an incredible blogging business, and funding multiple schools and aid in poorer countries. They inspire me daily.

Earlier this year Crystal and her husband Jesse decided to share their wisdom by teaching a 4-week tele course on goal setting called Makeover Your Year. This is typical Crystal courses (like the insanely popular Makeover Your Mornings course I blogged through here), but with her husband and you get to learn the wisdom they both have. There have been so many requests for another course (the first was live), that they recorded the sessions and now they are available for purchase! From March 18-March 21 (Monday) the whole course is only $25 (regular $29). This is so worth the investment if you are wanting to live intentionally in 2016. It’s definitely not too late to start goals and crush them!

I’ve spoken with several people recently who have mentioned to me they wanted to set goals and reach them with their spouses, so I had to pass along this info for you! I would love to know what you think of the course and how it benefits your family!

How Much can you Earn with Swagbucks?

Can you earn free gift cards with Swagbucks?

Each month I will recap my progress with earning Swagbucks and using them to supplement our food budget.

I will admit that in January I really wasn’t very proactive in earning bucks. I know, bad me! It’s only the first of the year and I’m already slacking. Anyway…

I ended January with 2,061 Swagbucks and another 518 pending. This was earned almost entirely by using the “shop and earn” feature. Any time I needed to order something online (and I need to order lots of supplies for work frequently) I log into swagbucks first and use that link to go to the Amazon account. It costs absolutely nothing and I can earn points! The pending 518 is because I purchased a Groupon to get an eye exam and some contacts (after two years in glasses, I’m finally starting to feel like myself again!). Those will be deposited in 30 days or so.

Plans for my gift cards:

I’ve decided I’m going to save up to $50 in either a paypal or a Visa gift card this time and make my first purchase from Thrive Market. Your first order doesn’t require a membership, you get free shipping if your order is over $49, and I’ve just really been anxious to try them out because I’ve heard wonderful things. I want olive oil, cacao nibs, coconut, collagen….all the things to improve pieces of our diet that are usually pretty expensive are so cheap on Thrive Market I had a hard time finding what ELSE we would want to get that would get us to free shipping! Yes, I have my cart filled, I’m just waiting for 2,500 more points first so it can truly be a budget supplement instead of an excuse to buy extra health food because it’s “discounted.”

Things to keep in mind:
  1.  When doing the shop and earn rewards and it says Amazon is up to 7 Swagbucks per $1 spent, the “up to” is important. I was a little disappointed after all the things I ordered when what I purchased didn’t actually qualify for the full 7 Swagbucks/$1 special. Just keep that in mind. I didn’t have any trouble with my groupon converting easily though.
  2. Sometimes it takes forever for the points to show up as pending. And when that happens, the customer support team is ready and happy to help you, you just have to email them.

In Februrary I’m going to be better about answering the daily polls and the “No Obligation Special Offers” and setting up my phone to play the videos to earn more points at a faster rate. I don’t really have time to play the games for possible points that I used to, and they got rid of mahjong so I don’t really care for the games anymore anyway. However, if I am consistent with the videos, NOSOs, and the polls each day I will be adding a daily 39 points, plus a few bonuses here and there. That’s more than enough points for a $10 gift card every month! Add your online orders to that and it adds up!

Do you use Swagbucks? What gift card would you want if you were to consistently earn $10 a month just by searching and answering questions?

2016 Financial Goals: January Update! 

Financial goals report: January 2016

It’s time to recap our financial goals for the month! Better late than never. It’s been so crazy over here and I can’t wait to update you all on the happenings!

As of February 1, 46% of our 2016 savings goal has been met! This has been accomplished by careful budgeting and throwing any extra money we earn at our savings account.

Here’s what else we did in January:

  • Paid for college for Peter. WE PAID CASH!
  • Contacts for me. I have wanted to wear contacts again since we got married, but we haven’t had vision insurance, just major medical. Thanks to Groupon, I was able to get a full eye exam and a free pair of contacts for less than $80, then went to 1800contacts and ordered a year’s supply for less than $90 (free shipping for your first order). It’s so nice to be able to have contacts back! I purchased my Groupons through our Swagbucks account, which was enough points for a $5 gift card.
  • Updated my wardrobe. I have lost so much weight after Tristan was born that my jeans no longer fit and I felt like a frump. One $20 trip to Plato’s Closet later and I had 3 new pairs of beautiful jeans that fit (all on clearance!) and a 1st edition hardback of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Because we needed it, that’s why.
  • Bought a baby gate to finish the baby-proofing of the apartment. It’s really nice to not have to worry about Tristan playing in the toilet.

That took care of all of our big concerns that seemed to loom over us! It’s amazing how a little planning can help your financial situation so much! Peter and I have weekly budget meetings to go over everything and it has helped us stay on track and get excited about saving! Life is much more fun when we are on the same page.

How are your financial goals going so far this year?


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Why I’m not a Target Mom

Why I'm not a Target mom, benefits of minimalism, contentment with finances

{Let me preface this by saying I love shopping at Target. I love the quality of the products, I love the colors, I love the makeup, I love all the baby clothes that seem to always be on clearance. But what I don’t love is the focus on more.}

I always figured I would be “the Target mom.” You know the one. The mom in the yoga pants, workout top and a puffy vest, pushing her cart with her kid with one hand and holding her Starbucks cup in the other. Or the one who is dressed in the latest trends and looks super put together. And pushes her super-put-together kid in the cart while she drinks her Starbucks. But as it turns out, I am neither of those moms (but if you are, my hat’s off to you, I think you’re awesome!).

I turned out to be the mom who makes her makeup and her toothpaste, doesn’t paint her nails much because of the toxins in nail polish, and (probably most importantly when it comes to Target or any other fun store) I am the mom who practices contentment and minimalism.

I want our home to be full of memories, not nicknacks. I rarely buy new anything, not because we can’t afford it (because now we can), but because our value system is different now. We have seen how far our money can go with a little effort.

If we genuinely need something new, we happily go to Target. But I can’t let myself wander because the temptation for more stuff, spending more money, and buying things we don’t need is too strong for me. Even though I do really like those Santa hat-wearing Walrus pajama pants.

As we come in to 2016, I want our focus to be on our family and enjoying every moment of Tristan exploring his world. I have not changed my purse in over a year – why would I want another one? I do not need another pair of shoes. Those things are fun but they take the focus away from what is truly important.

I would like to challenge each of you (and myself) to make each day count this year, and to make more memories than purchases.

How to Set Goals You Will Actually Want to Accomplish: 2016

setting goals to live a better life

I can’t believe it’s almost 2016! As much as I am so not a winter girl, I do love the end of the year because it’s time to set goals again. Being married at this time is even more fun because I get to set new goals with Peter and we can achieve them together!

How to make goals you will actually accomplish in 2016

Everyone posts “how to set goals that actually work” posts around this time. But rarely do I see posts about setting goals that not only may be necessary, but also goals that excite you. That motivate you to get out of bed each day.

Don’t forget to set a reward!

For instance, we want to go to London to see Arsenal play at the Emirates stadium and visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (with the actual movie sets!). But before we even start saving for that, we have a financial goal we want to hit first. So all the scrimping and saving we do this year will help us get to Harry Potter faster! That’s plenty of incentive for me!

how to write goals for 2016

Here are some of our goals:


– by December 31, have a certain amount saved. We are starting the year with about 41% of this goal saved.  Each month I will post our progress!

– pay off all student loans (this will make us debt free!)


– Peter to start learning a martial art

– Peter to finish his degree

– Amanda to get a workout routine down

– Tristan will continue being awesome


– take at least 3 small weekend trips as a family

– gradually transition to an 80% organic diet (made possible by buying our nonperishables online using swagbucks gift cards!) Each month I will post our progress with earning swagbucks and how much we were able to purchase.


-find 4 blogs to feature a guest post

– publish 4 articles

– continue to study blogging, Pinterest, and periscope

– conquer my fear of periscope and actually start scoping

What are you going to accomplish in 2016?

2015 in Review

year ornament snowflake 2015
Last week, Peter and I went to an ornament exchange Christmas party. I got a yeti in a Santa hat, and Peter got this snowflake with 2015 inscribed on it. When he opened it up, he said, “2015 was a good year for us. I really like this.”
Of course, when we got home this called for some reflection on 2015 and for awhile we just sat there in awe of how far we have come in just one year. Here are some highlights:

  • We established a clear budget that worked for us. We had tried several ways of tracking our spending and budget and finally found the way that we can consistently follow.
  • We have never had credit cards, and we never want them. When things were horrible and tight and our car needed to be fixed, we sold things to make it work. This saved us from being in a tighter situation later.
  • We not only met our big audacious savings goal, we beat it! We met our savings goal in September and have saved another 50% on top of that!
  • We bought our washing machine in March and have been able to stay home and save time and money by doing laundry ourselves.
  • We have significantly paid down our student loans (our only debt) and will be debt-free before the summer.
  • Thanks to the generosity of some friends, Tristan has everything he needs until he’s 4, and it’s all nicely organized in his closet.
  • We have questioned, tested, and dissected what we believe and while that is a life-long process, we have really grown a lot in response this year.
  • Peter finished his personal training certification and passed his test! Thanks to our savings, we found out about the class on the last day to register and were able to pay the $700 to sign up easily – and STILL meet our savings goal by 150%!
  • I started my awesome job in August. It has been a growing and stretching experience that I am so thankful to have. I’m learning everything from time management to conflict resolution to dementia care to how to be a manager. And Peter’s stress advice “it’s only a problem if there isn’t a solution” has been a huge source of calm and strength for  me.

We have set some goals for 2016, but those will be in a later post. It’s so fun to look back!

What have you accomplished in 2015?