Friday, March 25, 2016

TGIF: Hoppy Easter!

I thought this day would never come. This has been one of the. longest. weeks. ever. I don't know about you, but I am more than ready for the weekend!


I cannot believe it is already time for Easter! I feel like this year has just flown by! My aunt and uncle invited us over to their house for Easter and I am really looking forward to that. We have been assigned deviled eggs and  I just found the most delicious recipe for pimento cheese topped deviled eggs so I am really looking forward to that! :) What Easter traditions do y'all have?

Spring Cleaning

We moved into our house about three months ago and I feel like we have been unpacking ever since. Granted, it is due in large part to the fact that we have fortunately been receving wedding gifts for about half of that time, so as soon as we think its all squared away, something new arrives. Last weekend my mom came up and she was SO helpful in having us get eveyrhting unpacked and put away. Plus, she works at the local public school at home and was able to take a lot of things we had duplicates of, and were going to donate, back there to give to families that need them, which made it much easier to get rid of things. I'm hoping this weekend, now that all of the wedding gifts have been unpacked and put away, I can get back to getting the rest of the house in order - i.e. the piles of clothes that are still in our guest bedroom. I know we will need to make some major purges to make it all work, and I am actually kind of looking forward to that. However, it is not something that I've always been good at. One of my best/worst traits is finding a reason to keep everything. If y'all have any hard and fast rules that work for you, or other good tips please send them my way. My closet, and my mother, will thank you!

Financial Fitness

Just like there is no wrong time to start a new diet or work out routine, there is no wrong time to start getting your finances in order. In fact, as we approach Tax Day, this is probably one of the the best times to get your finances in order. If anything, just to impress your accountant :) But seriously, being financially fit is just as important as keeping your health in check. Earlier this week I wrote a post about just that. How to assess your finances and how to determine where you stand and what kind of changes you might need to make. As someone with an accounting background I really enjoyed covering the basics - because that's exactly what it was - the basics. But like anything, that's where you have to start. Let me know what y'all think, or if there is a more specific topic you'd like covered in the future!
Financial Fitness

Wedding Photos

We have received about a dozen wedding photo teasers at this point, along with our wedding video (!) and I am dying to see more! I love to scrapbook and do project life, but part of me also just wants a regular old album so that I can keep, look at, and share as many photos as possible. I'm also considering the option of doing both - but that might be a little over the top. What have some of you done with your wedding photos?

FitBit Alta

I've been eyeing this baby since the first email FitBit sent about it a few months ago. (FYI - FitBit: Your Ad Campaign worked on this girl). I love the pink band option that you can choose, I just don't love the $60 price tag just for the band. I currently have the Flex and I've been debating whether I wanted to upgrade to this one, and if it really is an upgrade because it still doesn't measure heart rate, and as far as I can fell it doesn't measure flights of stairs either. But, it does tell you if you are getting a call or text, and it tries to keep you active by reminding you each hour to make sure you've taken at least 250 steps. So the jury is still out, but now that it's available I've had the chance to read real reviews on Amazon and I think it might just be my next purchase - or birthday gift request :) Have y'all seen it in person? Do you have one? I am dying to know all about it! The ads make it look really pretty, but in terms of all the specs and display options I can't seem to narrow down exactly what it does or doesn't do!

Happy Friday, y'all! Have a Great Weekend!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tips to Becoming Financially "Fit"

Everyone seems to be striving to be fit lately. Following the latest diets and exercise trends. But what about your financial fitness? How's that coming along?
Just like being physically fit takes a lot of continuous work, becoming (and staying) financially fit is a lifelong process. Fortunately - they both get easier with time. Today I wanted to share with y'all some of the key factors I consider to being financially fit, and some ways to help get you on your way there. Regardless where you may be on your journey to being financially fit, these tips will help keep your in your best shape!

Know. Your. Finances.

I know, this post is supposed to teach you how. But what I mean is, first you've got to know what you've got. Sit down and write out your fixed monthly income and your fixed monthly expenses. If you are married or have combined finances include all income and expenses.

For the purposes of these calculations, fixed monthly income is what you get on each paycheck after taxes. Your fixed monthly expenses are the expenses that you need or are already obligated to each month. These include things like hours payments (mortgage/rent), student loans, car loans/leases, electricity, water, cable, internet, gym, etc. While some of these expenses may not be considered "needed," it may be more expensive to get out of a contract than to keep paying it, so if you have any of those, assume for now they are fixed and not going any where.

At this point you should take your total income and subtract your fixed expenses.This is your discretionary income to spend how you choose. Of course there are still necessities that you need to consider that were not included. But - those amounts are not fixed, so you have room to budget and decide how much money to spend on any given item.

Set a Realistic Budget (and follow it)

Now quickly jot down all of the other items that you generally spend money on each month. Clothes, food, concerts, gifts, makeup, coffee dates, etc.

After you've written these items down, consider a few things and try to estimate how much you are already spending on these items each month. It is important for you to be honest and realistic. You, and perhaps a spouse, are the only one looking at this list, so there is no reason to fudge the numbers. Being realistic about what you have and what you can spend is KEY.
Add up everything on that list and subtract it from the amount you calculated above as your "Remaining Discretionary Income."

If you are left with a positive amount - great! This means that you are not spending more than you're bringing in. On the other hand, if you are left with a negative amount - that is your expenses are more than your discretionary income - you need to start considering where you can reduce your spending on certain things.
Depending on the deficit you see when you do this calculation, you may just need to make a few minor changes, or it may require some other major lifestyle changes. Below are some of the best recommendations I have to making changes in your spending. Alone they can each make a little difference, and together implementing any or all of  these options can really make an impact.

Track Your Spending

At this point there are dozens of different apps, programs, and plans you can use to track your spending. My personal favorite is Mint. In my experience Mint is very user friendly and is accessible almost anywhere. Mint allows you to connect (almost) all of your bank accounts and credit cards and will categorize your spending. Most of the time the program can identify what kind of transaction it was - health, gym, grocery, etc., but even if it can't - you can manually tell it what kind of transaction it was, and it will "know" that for future transactions at that location. When I first started using Mint I was shocked at how much I was spending on going out to eat, or getting coffee. Ten dollars might not seem like much for a lunch out, but if you do that a few times a week, every week, it can really add up. Tracking your spending is a great place to start because it also helps you see where you can cut costs, and you can see the actual dollar amount that you are spending on any given category.

Careful Use of Credit Cards

Full disclosure - I do have a "regular" credit card through my bank, along with two or three store specific credit cards. I have always used credit cards for rewards, and generally pay off anything I charge to the card with in a couple of days. I can honestly say I have never used a credit card when I did not have the money already in my bank account.  I know that I am probably in the minority, so for the rest of you, I urge you to use caution when you decide to open a credit card and do your research on websites like Credit Card Insider. After reading countless stories, and seeing first hand with clients (both as an accountant and attorney), credit card debt is a slippery slope and it is hard to dig yourself out. I do understand that there are scenarios when you will use credit cards, without having the money in your bank account, and it is necessary. However, the spending usually doesn't stop there. Once you've used that card and see how easy it is to buy something, knowing you don't have the money, the trend continues until you've racked up a bill that you'll have to pay off over 6 months with sky-high interest. I realize that sounds like worst case scenario, but it is becoming all too common, and is actually far from worst-case. My best advice to you would be that if you don't trust yourself with a credit card, don't open one. And if you already have one, but feel like your spending is out of control, cut it up right now because it will only get worse. It will be a long time before I can really say I'm debt free thanks to student loans and a mortgage, but at least I know that I'm not also having to factor in credit card payments from irresponsible spending for things I didn't really need in the first place.

A Diet for Your Bank Account - Spending Freeze

There is nothing I love more than a good day of shopping. But a few too many shopping trips, and I immediately regret spending so much money. One of the ways I like to combat this habit, and in a sense make up for a few months or two of over spending, is to set myself up for a Spending Freeze (I totally made this term up). In the past I have either set the amount of time at exactly one month, or until a certain event was occurring, but still no less than one month.
During my Spending Freeze, I didn't allow myself to shop for clothes or any other items that I didn't need. For me, this primarily meant clothes and makeup, my two weaknesses. At the end of the Spending Freeze if there was something that I still really wanted, I let myself buy it, but this usually ended up being one item of dozens that I had considered over that time. Making myself wait for it really helped me to to think about whether it was something I actually wanted, or just something I wanted in the moment. I think at the beginning of taking that big leap into budgeting, a Spending Freeze is a great jump start to help you realize what you really can live without.

Setting Your Budget

One last piece of advice I have for you - finances are a very personal thing. I don't just mean in a privacy sense, but also in how your lifestyle varies from someone else's, and what you choose to spend money on - or not - will not be the same as everyone. Searching Pinterest for "Budgets" can be very helpful, but it is also important to tailor a budget to your lifestyle. For instance, a lot of the budgets I've looked at include child care, or pet expenses, neither of which I have. On the other hand, most don't include student loans, which happen to take more than 20% of my income every month. It helped me to look at a few different ones and then create one just for me. If that is something you need help with, feel free to reach out. The accounting major in my loves nothing more than a good budget.

Alright, y'all, that's it! Easy, right? Of course not! Taking control of your finances can be a major task, especially depending on where you are in life, and the choices you've been making up until this point. The important thing to remember is that it's never too late, and there's never a bad time to start on this path. And seriously, every little bit helps. I hope y'all have learned a little bit - I'd love to hear some tips or tricks you have to staying financially fit! And as always, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to reach out!

Have a great day, y'all! 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Meal Planning: Week 3

This week might be the easiest so far in this meal planning endeavor I've taken on. Last week I talked about a post I found that had recipes for twenty make ahead crock pot meals - all of which we made last Sunday.

That means this Sunday all I have to do is decide which meals to have which nights. No grocery shopping, no preparing, no stress. Of the twenty meals we made, it is actually ten different meals, each split in to two gallon sized  bags, which is more ideal for cooking for two. My tentative plan is to have one of each before restarting. That being said, here's what's on deck this week:

Meatball Vegetable Soup

Shredded Beef and Carrots


Beef Chili

Beef and Barley Stew

Of the other meals we've tried from this set, I've enjoyed most of them, but there are definitely a couple that I will be adding to my favorites (and some I could do without making again). After we make it all the way through each at least once, I'll post a short review of how each one turned out and what I might do differently.

Do y'all have any go to recipes for an easy weeknight dinner? Please share!

Have a Great Day, Y'all! 

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Friday, March 11, 2016

TGIF: St. Patrick's Day Parade!

We made it, y'all! It's Friday! This is what's been going on around here, what have you been up to?

St. Patrick's Day Parade

Every year Louisville has a huge parade for St. Patrick's Day, as I'm sure most larger cities do. I've only been to the parade here once, but it was a blast. Usually it falls on one weekend of spring break, so we weren't usually around. Well now that school is over (!), we don't get spring breaks anymore :(, BUT that means we'll get to go to the parade and I am SO excited! I think I enjoyed it so much because the early afternoon is basically just spent tailgating until the parade starts, and there are few things in life that I enjoy more than a good tailgate. Does your town celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

My First Fix

Next week I will have a more detailed post, but I received my first Fix this week and I was very underwhelmed. I'd filled out my style profile and pinned things to a board that I shared with them, but I still received items that I just didn't ever see myself wearing. Ever. I plan on being very specific with my comments when I return the items so that I am not disappointed next time. Do any of y'all receive StitchFix? Have you had the same issues, did you think it got better as it went on?

House Makeover

Now that the wedding planning has come to an end, I can really focus more attention on our new home, which naturally means I want to dive right in and change everything. I am (somewhat) realistic enough to know that I need to prioritize certain things and consider the length of each project. I remember watching house hunters and when people would complain about paint thinking they were crazy, like no big deal, just repaint it. And in the grand scheme, yeah, if the house is otherwise what you're looking for, paint colors can be changed. But now that it is my turn to repaint half of our house I have a lot more sympathy. We're already very moved in, so painting will require moving all of the furniture, either out of the room or to the middle, and a couple of days per room. I know, I know, still not the worst thing. But I'm just saying, it would be really cool if I could change paint colors in real life with the ease that I was able to change them when I built a house for the Sims.
Anyone out there a veteran at interior painting with some tips or tricks? Or major regrets?

New Etsy  Listings!

Another thing I'd been neglecting while planning our wedding was my etsy stop. I still had the opportunity to craft, but it was all for the wedding! Now that I am happily married I've had the chance to start creating new things and adding new listings to my shop. (And plenty more are on the way!) I would love for you to check it out! I can also personalize just about anything, so don't hesitate to contact me with questions or requests!

OJ Simpson vs. The People

If you are looking for a new show, or a Saturday afternoon's worth of binge watching you should check out OJ Simpson vs. The People. Obviously we all know the outcome, but I think the show is still very interesting. I am just barely old enough to remember when the trial was on TV, although I didn't really understand what was going on. Honestly I remember thinking it was so boring that they were just broadcasting this trial all the time. I have seen and read a lot of articles and photos from the actual event and it is amazing how well the producers have replicated so many aspects through the show, even down to the wardrobe of OJ and his attorneys. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Have a Great Weekend, Y'all! 

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

10 Things I Learned in My First Week of Meal Planning

The grocery store is really crowded on Sunday afternoons.

Last week we went to the gym around 9am, headed home, picked out the recipes and decided to wait until about 4 or 5 to head to the grocery, thinking the "after-church" crowd would be back at home by then. Well, maybe they were, but around 4 or 5 the "we went home after church and took a nap and now we're at the grocery" crowd was there, in fulllll swing, kids in tow. 
This week, I picked out the recipes before we went to the gym, so that we were able to get to the grocery by about 10am. With a lengthy list we were there for about an hour or more and it started to get a little busier, but still nothing compared to last week. 
Takeaway: Go as early as reasonably possible, or wait until 8pm. Unless of course you enjoy large crowds, people blocking entire aisles with their carts, and children running wild. 

If the package says "Hot" Italian Sausage, take is seriously.

Two of our recipes last week called for Italian sausage. Fair warning - there are different levels of heat when it comes to Italian sausage. Luckily my husband and I both enjoy spicy foods, and spice is a great way to add flavor when you're trying to keep the calories down. That being said, if you are not the type who enjoys some added heat to the dish, read the labels. 
Takeaway: Even in a crowded grocery, it is worth reading the labels. 

Be thorough when making your grocery list.

One recipe called for canned cherry tomatoes, which honestly I didn't even know existed. Well, when I made the list, I only wrote/typed "cherry tomatoes," thinking I would remember. Turns out I didn't remember, and didn't even get regular cherry tomatoes. It may be time consuming while you're making the list, but it is better to spend time on the list than spend time going back to the grocery for something you forgot.
Takeaway: Take your time making the list, it will payoff when you get home (and don't have to go back out).

I have no idea what fennel is.

And the jury is still out on this one. 
Takeaway: If you aren't sure of an ingredient, look it up before  you are in a crowded grocery trying to google it on your phone. 

Crock Pots should be turned on before you go to work.

Because the few Crock Pot recipes we chose only required 4 hours, rather than a full day of 6 or 8 we got in the habit of just waiting to mix it all when we got home. Well even at 4 hours, that still meant we weren't eating until 9 or 10 at night. On some days that's fine, but more than a couple of times a week and it starts to show. Not to mention I tend to get a little hangry if I don't eat soon enough after work or the gym. 
Takeaway: Use your Crock Pot to its full potential! If a recipe says to cook it on high for 4 hours, almost always you can cook it on low for 8. Even after just one meal this week, I can tell you it is so nice to walk into the house and smell the dinner that has been cooking all day. 

You'll be surprised how well certain recipes turn out.

Seriously. There are chefs who can make amazing creations without looking at a cookbook, and then there are the rest of us. If you follow the recipe, you can make something delicious that people will ask for more of. 
Takeaway: Don't be afraid to try something new. 

It feels really great to finally make a recipe from a magazine.

I have been getting the Food Network Magazine for about three years and I love it, and every month I say I'm going to make something from it, and then the next month comes and the cycle continues. Well y'all, I finally did it. I finally made a recipe from the pages of the magazine and it was delicious! 
Takeaway: When you are planning your meals for the week YOU are in control, so find that recipe you bookmarked three months ago and add it to your list. 

Meal planning is only efficient if you can pre-prepare some items.

Last week we bought (almost) all of the items we needed on Sunday, but that was where it ended. We were still left each night to cook and prepare the meal for that day. While it was convenient to have all of the ingredients available for a different home cooked meal every night, it still meant that we were preparing, cooking, and cleaning up every. single. night. 
Takeaway: Do as much as you can on Sunday to prepare your meals for the week. Even if it is just chopping up all of the onions, or making the enchilada sauce, every little bit helps and is one less think you'll have to do the day of.

Don't use a new grocery app for the first time when you're making a big trip to the grocery.

I just downloaded an app called GroceryGadget. It is really easy to use and lets you make shopping lists that you can share with your friends and family. It also allows you to save different lists, so if you have an occasion that you cook for often enough and make generally the same things, the list will be saved and ready whenever you need it. I think it can be a very useful app. However, I downloaded it Saturday night and used it for the first time Sunday. It is relatively intuitive, but not that intuitive. And there were some items that I could not find on the pre-made lists - which led to the Cherry Tomato issue addressed above. And then we became the people blocking the aisles because I couldn't figure out how to find the ingredients. 
Takeaway: A good old fashioned paper list is just fine, and probably preferred. I don't know about you, but I get a lot more satisfaction making something off of a list with my pen than I do clearing it from a screen. 

Crock Pot's can get really messy.

It is nice to use a Crock Pot or other slow cooker because it is doing all of the work for you. You don't have to watch for something to boil, or continue to stir, or whatever else. But, you are still left at the end of the day with a huge pot to clean, and depending on the meal, some baked on food you have to scrape off. This can especially be an issue if you have a few days in a row of Slow Cooker meals and can't just leave it in the sink for the next day's dishes. 
Takeaway: SEE BELOW. Game. Changer. 

BONUS: Crock Pot liners exist. 

Do yourself a favor and pick up a pack of these. The ones I have linked are less expensive than the Reynolds ones, and as far as reviews go, they seem to be just as good. Either way, you will thank  yourself when dinner is over and clean up only takes 5 minutes. 

I mentioned yesterday, I really did enjoy having all of the meals planned for the week and a new dinner every night, but there were obviously some things I would have, and will do differently moving forward. What did you learn when you started meal planning? Or what do you wish someone had told you before? 

Have a great day, y'all! 

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Wednesday Showcase | The Creative Corner

Monday, March 7, 2016

Monday Meal Planning: Week 2

Y'all. If you have never tried meal planning, and making that "plan" all on your own, it is certainly more difficult than it may seem.

Last week I decided to try my hand at meal planning, and later this week I plan on sharing with you what I've already learned about the process in just one week. But let me tell you now, if not done well, it can be time consuming. I did end up with a few menu changes during the week last week, for one reason or another, but my goal was to have a fresh new dinner every night, and I did accomplish that. If you follow me on Instagram (@legallysouthernblog), you saw a peak at what dinners we had each night plus the calorie count and weight watchers points. Other than one meal that was pretty high in protein, and therefore high in WW points, each meal was under 420 calories and 8 WW points.

This week, I am totally cheating. As I'd mentioned before, I never really wanted to follow someone else's plan, simply because I just could not find one where I thought I'd like all of the meals. Well, it's as if Pinterest read my mind, and in looking to this week I came across this post. It is a game changer.

It has 10 crock pot meals, all of which are freezer friendly, and most importantly for me, all 10 meals sounded like something I would love to try. The author suggests that if you are only cooking for two, which I am, to then divide each recipe into two bags, each of which will then have two to three servings. So you end up with TWENTY meals. TWENTY.

We spent about 4 hours yesterday chopping, peeling, and prepping, but now we will have dinner for the next 4 weeks. I was SO excited.

Here's what's on deck for this week:

Sloppy Joe's

Italian Wedding Soup 

BBQ Chicken

Meatball Vegetable Soup

Stuffed Peppers

Have y'all come across any other plans like this? I am really hoping to have a great collection of go-to meals that I can prepare and store away for some easy weeknight dinners.

With the next couple of weeks already prepared, I'll have time to create a similar plan with 5 or 10 different meals that I can share!

Have a great day, y'all!

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Friday, March 4, 2016

TGIF: Spring is almost here!

TGIF is no understatement. This has been a long week. That's how we all seem to feel on Fridays, right? This is our first weekend back in town as a MARRIED COUPLE! And I am so so so happy to not have anything really planned. I'm sure there will be a good deal of unpacking presents, and cleaning, but there will also be so much lounging and I cannot wait! Do y'all have any big weekend plans?

Meal Planning

If you saw my post on Monday, you'd know I was trying out meal planning for the first time. It has been really nice to have a brand new dinners and recipes to try out every night. But, I think I will try a different approach next week. This week we had a few crock pot meals, but they all only took 4 hours, so we ended up starting them when we got home - which kind of defeats the purpose. We also had a few meals that just took an hour or less to prepare. While none of that is super time consuming, it is still just another task to have to complete every night. Another meal to prepare, and another kitchen to clean up. I know, life.
I think for this upcoming week I'm going to get the plans together at least by Saturday so that we can go to the grocery on Sunday morning and pre-prepare a lot of items during the day Sunday, even if it is just chopping onions or crushing garlic, that's still one less thing to do during the week. I think it is definitely a trial and error game, but I have been pleased so far! Do any of y'all meal plan? I am still seeking any and all advice on what you think works and what doesn't - please share!

The Bachelor

I'd like to say that this is my only guilty pleasure on TV, but I think the truth is that all reality TV is my guilty pleasure. Oops.
Anyways, this week's episode of the Bachelor was the famous "Fantasy Suite" episode, of which all of the girls took advantage. At the risk of approaching a touchy subject, I honestly don't know what I would do in that situation, as either the contestant or the Bachelorette. I think the bigger news on the episode this week however, was that Ben said "I love you" to TWO girls. That's right. TWO. I'd always assumed it was an unwritten, or actually written, rule that they were not allowed to say it back to the contestants because if it was clear to the fans and audience who was favored, then there was less incentive to continue watching. Well, I guess you get around that by saying it to BOTH of them. I mean JoJo was genuinely shocked, she's watched the show enough to know that normally they just dance around it. I can kind of see where he's coming from, but I feel so bad for both of the girls because the fact that he said it back, right now they both think that they'll get the final rose, and obviously that is not going to be the case. I'll be very interested to see "After the Final Rose" that airs after the finale and how the runner-up really felt about it all.
Unfortunately we have to wait two weeks - this upcoming week will be the "Tell All" episode, which is always full of drama. Y'all, I can't help it. It's like a train wreck that I can't look away from. Please tell me I'm not the only one.

DietBet (again)

Do you know what happens when you go to an all inclusive resort for 6 days? Let me tell you. You will gain at least five to eight pounds. Like a solid gain of five pounds, not just, "Oh, I think I gained five pounds at Thanksgiving dinner." Legit. So I am back on the DietBet train, well actually, I've been on it in a maintainer which requires that I stay within 2% of my starting weight - which I am currently over. For now I've also joined a Kickstarter which requires you to lose 4% of your current weight within 4 weeks. I have completed three of these before, and won two of them. I think my chances are pretty good on this one (knock on wood) because I am going from an almost stationary lifestyle of work and wedding planning to 5 days a week at the gym. Fingers crossed!
To find out a little more about DietBet and my first experience with it, check out this post.

Post Wedding Blues

I have officially been married for thirteen days and it has been more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. We went on a honeymoon the Monday immediately following the wedding, so I am finishing up my first week back at work. I came across a lot of articles while I was planning the wedding that said after the wedding you will have "Post Wedding Blues" because it will all be over and you won't have any planning to do. Well, at least for now, that couldn't be further from the truth. I enjoyed planning my wedding, but it was A LOT of work, and took up A LOT of time. I am so happy to have more time to spend at home with my husband (!), and it's time that we can just hang out and eat dinner and watch TV instead of going to Michaels and Home Depot and making seating charts and painting candle holders and assembling signs and monogramming napkins. You get the picture. I'm sure I will feel a little sadness that it's all over, but it's only over because our marriage is starting, and isn't that what it's all about?

Orange is the New Black

Maybe I watched all three seasons within a week and a half, maybe I didn't. Spoiler: I totally did. And since there are only three seasons, I am desperately waiting until the summer for the new one to air. As with most shows like that, I'll probably forget about it, and rediscover it after it about a month after it's released. Have any of y'all watched it? What did you think? I am super interested in trying to find out how realistic some of the things that happen are, but I haven't had much luck on that research. Only a handful of articles with interviews by the producer and previous inmates.

Hope you've had a great week so far, let's get this weekend started!

Happy Friday!

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