For the kids, or is it?

for the kids or is it-pinIt’s a month before my daughter’s birthday and I’m pouring over ideas for cupcakes, cake designs, decorations, etc. I’ve got tons of ideas pinned on my Pinterest board. I’ve been inspired by ideas I’ve read in blogs and my “friends” have posted on Facebook. The options for this upcoming birthday party are endless. This is going to be the perfect birthday party from start to finish, or is it? My daughter will be turning 1. Who is this party for?

This exact scene plays out in homes all over the country. If you have not fallen victim then you have seen the results of these parties. They are amazingly themed parties that parents have spent hundreds of dollars on and countless hours preparing for. All of this for a child who is turning 1 and who will never remember the party. In fact they may even miss part of the party because they will be napping or in the tub being cleaned up from their birthday cake mess. You spend hours designing and preparing fancy “kid treats” for the kid who you have to tell daily not to eat the dog’s food or dirt off the ground.

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Debt Snowball Progress – July

July debt snowballBig changes coming in the Gerken debt snowball department.

Yes, we are continuing to work on our debt snowball, but it may be taking a little bit longer to complete, but we are okay with that.

I have accepted a new job, which means a pay cut. Now I know what you’re thinking, a new job doesn’t have to mean a pay cut and in fact it usually means a raise – if you’re doing things right.

Well this time it means a pay cut, but it also means a schedule cut. I am taking a 25% pay cut which nicely corresponds to my over 40% schedule cut.

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Why I Menu Plan and Why You Should Too

menu plan-facebookWhat’s for dinner?

The dreaded question that plagues us day after day and can wreak havoc on a perfectly nice day. I know some people love to cook and enjoy spending hours in the kitchen concocting delicious meals for their family to enjoy.

I am not one of those people.

Even if I didn’t work, had no children, and had endless time to prepare a meal uninterrupted I still wouldn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen cooking. It’s just not something I enjoy. I cook because I need to and because cooking at home is almost always cheaper and healthier than eating out.

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Makeover your linen closet in 4 hours or less

linen closet pinDo you ever wonder how to organize your linen closet?

I have tried several different ways of organizing, but have finally found the one that is most functional for us, and it’s mainly because I decided to take my own advice.

linen closet before    linen closet before 2

 

In the past, every time I organized this closet I would move things around and group like things together. I always liked the outcome, but it wasn’t easy to find things quickly. Plus it never seemed to stay organized.  The trick to success this time was removing everything – I mean everything – from the closet.

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Thank God for Grace

thank God for grace pin

Ever had one of those weeks that you just needed to be given a lot of grace.

A week where it seemed like you were losing it more than you weren’t.

A week where you continually lost your patience with everyone and everything.

A week where you wanted to get yourself under control, but just didn’t know how.

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If you have, you are in good company. The first step is recognizing it and then apologizing to all of those around you, because I’m betting you weren’t the easiest person to live with during that week.

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Host a Secret Agent Birthday Party

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Are you looking for a great birthday party idea for your child’s next birthday? Well then you have come to the right place. This secret agent party has been talked about for the last year by my daughter.

I have a daughter (or two) who knows what she wants and is not afraid to tell you. Her creativity knows no bounds and while some kids are thinking about their birthday and going to Chuck E. Cheese or bowling she is coming up with elaborate themes, games, etc.

Months before her 5th birthday she informed us that she wanted to have a surprise birthday party. What?! How did she even know what a surprise birthday party was? She had never been to one, but she knew all about them and explained how it would work. She would be taken away, everyone would show up and yell surprise when she arrived.  So that year every time we would start talking about her birthday she would say, “wait, don’t talk about it with me around. I’m not supposed to know about it.”

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It became quite comical and we had no reason not to do a surprise birthday party so we planned away and a surprise birthday party it was. I have yet to talk to another parent who was requested to throw a 5 year old a surprise birthday party.

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Birthday Letters of Love

birthday letters-facebookI’m an emotional person who shares my feelings best in written communication. Coincidentally, I also enjoy receiving written communication. I think it’s because when something is written I can always go back to it, reread it and have that initial feeling of love all over again.

As a scrapbooker I spend countless hours reminiscing about events and memories as I preserve pictures and design layouts for my books. Memories are so important to me and I know that over time my memory will fade and I will forget some of the things I never thought I could.

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11 lessons learned in 11 years of marriage

11 years -pin

The year was 1999 and a boy from the suburbs of Chicago and a girl from small town Illinois crossed paths at a residence hall floor event. That first night he didn’t even notice her, but she still remembers how cute he looked – she assumed he was much older than he was. How wrong she was on that one, as he’ll remind anyone and everyone. [Editor’s Comment: she is MUCH older]

The boy and the girl became friends and he picked on her for living in a small town and she picked on him for his love of all things nerding. Eventually, after deciding they did in fact like each other as more than friends they began dating. After a formal dance they went to together he asked if he could call her his girlfriend. Who knew that this was only the beginning of a long love story?!?

2 houses, 2 kids, 2 dogs, 2 advanced degrees, many jobs, and 11 years later the story continues.

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11 valuable lessons I’ve learned in 11 years of marriage

  1. You will not always like each other, but you should always love each other
  2. Your significant other does not have to be your everything, nor should he/she be. You have your own interests and hobbies and you have friends that fulfill other needs in your life. It’s not healthy to expect your significant other to be everything to you.
  3. You can go to bed mad and sometimes you should. In some instances a good night’s sleep will shine a new perspective on an argument.
  4. You need to continue to date your significant other: get a babysitter, go out, and refrain from talking about children and family responsibilities.
  5. You will find new reasons to love your significant other every year. 11 years ago I never could have known what an amazing father he would be and how much more I could love him for that.
  6. Throw out the gender stereotypical roles that existed in the 50’s. Brian hates mowing the lawn and I hate doing the laundry so I mow and he does laundry.
  7. Do not compare your marriage or life to anyone else’s. You do not know what really goes on behind closed doors. Love your life and take care of your marriage.
  8. Be honest with each other when it’s something major and when it’s not. If we hadn’t been honest in that first year we’d both still be eating disgusting cilantro soup. [Editor’s comment: it wasn’t that bad]
  9. No matter how tough life gets or how bad your day is you still have each other to count on and turn to. At home with this person you can let your guard down and be yourself.
  10. Be each other’s biggest supporter. The amount of support and belief you have in your partner is directly related to what they will accomplish and vice versa.
  11. Forgive and forget. It is not healthy to hold a grudge. [Editor’s comment: except that one time Megan threw out a perfectly working microwave] Oh yeah, there was that one. I’ll never live that one down.

wedding pic later

I feel fortunate that I was able to meet Brian at such a young age [Brian reminds me that I still wasn’t as young as him] and we have had the opportunity to spend nearly 16 years together already. He is my biggest supporter and sometimes he believes in me even more than I believe in myself. In the last year of making this blog a dream to a reality he has been my biggest supporter. When I reluctantly ran the idea by him a year ago he thought it was great right away. I knew it wasn’t just words either because he’d bring it up in conversation and bring me ideas. In the past year at times when I wanted to give up he didn’t miss a beat when he said no. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without his support, encouragement and unconditional love (and I’ll admit I’m not easy to love).

What valuable lessons do you have about marriage?

 

Side notes: My editor is getting much more outspoken the longer he has “worked” for minuteswithmeg. And “much older” is actually 53 days for those of you that were wondering –pretty sure that doesn’t qualify me for cougar status. And the cilantro soup – he’s being nice it was HORRIBLE.

Earn Extra Income When Shopping Online

ebates pinThere are so many ways to earn extra money, but they are not all created equal. It is important to consider the return on your investment and in this case the investment is time. If you are reading this you are probably not a person with a lot of extra time on your hands, but you are a person with a little extra debt or a desire for a little extra income to make your budget a little less tight.

Given my limited free time and my desire to focus more on my family I carefully consider how I spend my time and the return on investment. While I have spent hours clipping coupons in years past, right now it’s not something where I spend much time.

One area I do earn extra money and without much investment of time is with Ebates.com. If you shop online – EVER – and you have not yet signed up with Ebates then you have lost out on a lot of money.

It is not worth dwelling over how much money you could have made – trust me, I went down that rabbit hole and it’s just depressing. You need to look to the future and how much money you will make now.

So here’s the deal. You sign up for your account by doing the following:

  1. Click on this Ebates link
  2. Select your $10 gift card bonus (yes, that’s right you will get a $10 bonus for signing up)
  3. Enter your preferred email address and create a password
  4. On the Ebates homepage click on the drop down arrow in the top right corner next to your name. On this home screen in the middle of the page it states what date (it’s usually a few months) you must make a qualifying purchase of $25 or more to earn your $10 gift card bonus.
  5. From this home screen you will need to click on account settings to set up your mailing address, otherwise they won’t have a way to pay you!
  6. Every time you shop online you need to go to Ebates first and from there click the store where you are shopping.

You will not pay any extra when you purchase this way, but you will earn a percentage back. The percentages are different at all retailers and sometimes there are specials.  You better believe there are some good deals around the holidays. I was able to save considerably on my holiday cards because of deals Snapfish was running along with their very high percentage back through Ebates.

Another way to make money on Ebates is to refer your friends and family. You earn extra money by encouraging others to join you in this money making venture. They have referral bonuses so the more people you refer in a certain time frame the more money you can make for yourself. Again, the people you get to sign up don’t pay anything, they are just going to earn money and the $10 gift card just like you.

I am not encouraging you to spend more money online, but if you are already shopping online you might as well get a percentage back on those purchases.

One note: At non-holiday times of the year Amazon doesn’t generally generate very much cash back, unless it is on certain items they designate.

Quarterly, Ebates will send you a check for what you have earned that month. (Don’t forget to  add your mailing address!) With all of the shopping I did online this past holiday season my check was very large.

I have yet to find a downfall to Ebates (well except that sometimes I forget to go to that website first before I purchase – but that’s a user error) and I’m not sure why everyone who shops online doesn’t have an account already set up.

To start earning money on purchases you are already making register for your account.

Do you have any other easy ways to make money online? Comment below and join the conversation.

 

 

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. Thank you for your support in this way!

A simpler time

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No permanent job, no car, no place to live and a quickly approaching wedding—recipe for disaster or adventure?

As I reflect back on the year 2005 I am amazed at how out of control my life was, yet how much it didn’t matter. How is it possible, that a person who craves control as much as me, was able to not only survive but remain calm in such chaos? Was I someone different that year or did life spin so out of control that I had no choice but to just hold on tight to the merry-go-round and hope that  I didn’t fall off until the ride was over?

I wish 2016 Megan could talk to 2005 Megan and get some advice on staying calm and having fun amidst the chaos.

As we planned our July 2005 wedding we both lived at our parent’s houses for the previous year saving money. We lived two hours apart and Brian had a full-time job, but not one he wanted to do forever. He had taken the LSAT and was waiting to hear about getting into law school. I spent the year substitute teaching and working at a day care trying to determine if I wanted to pursue a career in teaching. (Spoiler alert—I didn’t.) We didn’t even know where to look for places to live because we didn’t know where we would be in the next 6 months.

We continued planning our wedding, job searching, apartment hunting and car shopping. I forgot to mention that during this time my car had died and I was walking to and from work. I even had to have my brother drive me an hour to meet Brian so we could look at a potential apartment to live in after the wedding.

Brian received his acceptance to law school (and with that acceptance came tens of thousands of dollars in debt – hence our debt snowball journey now), but we knew he couldn’t go if I didn’t have a full-time job. Again, for some unknown reason I really didn’t feel the pressure. We settled on looking for a place to live in the area around the law school in hopes that a job would pan out for me. About a month before the wedding we found a great duplex to rent, we bought a used car and my job searching continued.

We lived on a lot of faith back then. Our new duplex was located only 10 minutes from the law school that he wasn’t sure he was going to attend, but 45 minute from his job at the time, and I still didn’t have a job where we were moving.

Meanwhile the wedding itself was undergoing some chaos too. The florist had a nervous breakdown (literally, I heard her own engagement got called off and she lost it) and our contract was changed on us. My dad was growing fields of sunflowers (my favorite) to take pictures in and to cut some down to be added to bouquets and serve as table centerpieces. Ten days out from the wedding amidst a drought year there were no sunflowers in bloom. Again, miraculously I did not panic. When asked what we would do if the flowers didn’t bloom I simply responded, “I guess there won’t be table centerpieces and the bouquets will not have sunflowers.” I still sit in awe about how absolutely calm I remained about all of it. In the end I knew I was marrying Brian and that’s all that mattered. The rest would work out.

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Work out it did. The flowers bloomed just days before the wedding—the pictures looked beautiful, the centerpieces were stunning, and the wedding was amazing. On the way to the resort for our honeymoon I got a call offering me a job I had interviewed for the week before.  It had all worked out, no worrying necessary.

So what would 2005 Megan tell 2016 Megan?

  1. Have faith. God has a plan and it will all work out one way or another.
  2. Relax, you are way too serious all the time.
  3. You can worry about things, but worrying will add no time to your life and will in fact take away opportunities for fun.
  4. Buckle up and enjoy the adventure, it will make for a good story later.

We are taught to value the wise words of those older than us who have years of experience to speak from, and I don’t disagree. However, we should not underestimate the lessons we can learn from both those younger than us and our own younger selves.

Think back 10 years or more. Could your younger self share wise words to the person you are today? What would your younger self say?