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Weekly Round Up

Weekly Roundup

Happy Saturday everyone!

For most of us, it was our first full week back after the Christmas/New Year holidays, and for most of us, it was a cold one. The cold weather here in New York definitely inspired my blog series for the week. I started out with a song from the movie, Frozen, discussing the importance of letting go of the past and making smarter financial choices going forward. Then I encouraged a personal “hibernation” to either help you catch up from poor holiday spending or save up for the goals you have for 2014. On Thursday I discussed the potential need for a financial tune up in the New Year to reset your personal finances. And yesterday, I shared another meal for 4 for under $15, and it pairs well with cold weather.

I enjoyed a number of blogs this week, but here were some of the highlights for me:

  • Matt at Mom and Dad Money provided an incredibly well thought out and compelling argument in the ongoing question of Roth IRA vs Traditional IRA.
  • Holly at Club Thrifty reviewed Republic wireless for anyone interested in trying to save money on cell phone bills.
  • David at Young Adult Money shared a three part series focused on 15 ways to improve your finances. I found many of the tips useful, and I have already implemented some.
  • Laurie from Frugal Farmer shared ways to save money on groceries on Frugal Rules. This subject is near and dear to my heart as food consumes a larger portion of my client’s budgets, but it is also one of the “easiest” areas to control.
  • J. Money at Budgets are Sexy shared five different ways to save. Hopefully, you can find the best one that works for you!


Next week, I am going to be discussing credit, why it’s important, how to improve yours and the financial benefits of excellent credit. Enjoy your weekend!



Top Ten Golden Globe Moments


Ever since I was a little girl I have enjoyed watching the Golden Globes because the celebrities always seem to be having so much fun. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but I realize now that the celebrities are having so much fun because they are served alcohol throughout the entire ceremony. Who wouldn’t have fun with a huge bottle of champagne sitting on your table? Since this Sunday is the 2014 Golden Globes, I am highlighting my Top 10 favorite moments.

10) Emma Thompson accepting as Jane Austen


9) Christine Lahti wins for Chicago Hope, but she was in the bathroom when they announced her category.

8) Ving Rhames wins for Don King but gives his award to Jack Lemmon

7) The opening monologue of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler


6) Robert Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech for Sherlock Holmes

5) Tina Fey’s acceptance speech for 30 Rock

4) Jack Nicholson winning for As Good As It Gets

3) Modern Family’s win for best comedy tv show

2) Bill Crystal and Steve Martin at the loser’s table

1) Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig presenting in 2013


FB Foodie Friday – Beef Stew


The cold weather this week certainly inspired my blog, and I thought I would highlight a dinner that is perfect for the cold weather – beef stew. Below is my hubby’s post on beef stew and his recipe for beef stew which is out of this planet!

Beef Stew + Cold Weather = Awesome!

At some point, here in New York, the cold weather eventually sets in. There is no avoiding it. Every year when it really starts to get cold, Shannon requests that her FB Hubby make beef stew. Let’s face it, beef stew is made for cold weather. There is something so warm and comforting about beef stew.

As I was making it recently, Shannon asked me how I learned to make it. It is odd to sometimes try to think of how you first learned to do many things. I have made so many things over the years, that I had to think about this one. I believe it began as a Joy of Cooking recipe. Back when I left home for college, I was either given a Joy of Cooking cookbook or I found it gathering dust on my Mom’s shelf and took it. I do know that the way I dredge the beef chunks in flour comes from that recipe. After that, I have added and subtracted until it became what it is today.

Some mistakes are gifts 

I have to tell one story about making this beef stew. We were living in Florida, so it usually did not get cold enough to feel like beef stew weather. One night it did drop down to the 40’s. When it drops below 50 in Florida people there feel the way we do when it drops below 0 here. Anyway, it was beef stew time. So I was making it, and as I got towards the end (it is a 90 minute process) I went to add some extra pepper. Well, the top came off and most of the pepper in the shaker went right into the stew. I was standing there staring at it when Shannon walked in and, being the upbeat woman that she is, she promptly laughed her butt off. I was having a little more trouble finding the humor in the situation. I tried to sift out as much pepper as I could, but what we ended up with was a very peppery beef stew. To avoid making dinner a complete disaster, we decided to have it with a nice bottle of Merlot we had been saving. Turns out, it tasted great. Peppery, but great with the wine. Sometimes you have to laugh at what looks like a disaster of a meal, then add some alcohol. (If you know your chemistry, then you will know that alcohol is in fact, a solution).

It also turns out you can easily make a pot of beef stew for under $15 with enough to feed four people. So in the never-ending quest to meet the $15 dinner challenge, here is my beef stew. Enjoy.

Beef Stew Recipe

beef stew ingredients


1 lb stew meat, (I prefer chuck meat over round, it holds up better)

½ cup all purpose flour

3 Tbls olive oil or canola oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

½ shallot, minced

3 cups beef broth

2 carrots, chopped

2 potatoes, cubed (don’t peel and cut until halfway through meat cooking)

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

½ cup sliced mushrooms



Place the flour in a large Ziploc bag with some salt and pepper. Put a few pieces of stew meat in the bag, close and shake. Add a few more and repeat until all the meat is in the bag and covered in flour.

In a stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, and shallot. Simmer for 4 minutes. Add some salt and pepper. Remove the meat from the Ziploc bag and add to the pot, reserving the remaining flour. Brown and stir the meat until brown on all sides, about 3 minutes.

Add enough beef broth to cover all the stew meat along with some salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, peel and cut the potatoes (this is so they don’t sit around and get brown), and then add the potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and peas to the pot. Cook for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 45 minutes, if the stew looks watery, sprinkle in some of the reserved flour until it thickens and serve.

Beef Stew final


New Year – Time for a financial tune up


Financial Fitness is just like Physical Fitness

Almost three years ago I started Weight Watchers as I had about 50 pounds of extra “baby weight” I needed to lose. Granted my “baby” was in kindergarten at this point, but at least I finally “saw the light” and committed to getting myself physically fit. Needless to say, it was not an easy process. In fact, it seemed like I would never reach my goal weight when I was only losing a pound or less a week. Despite the struggles, though, I stuck with the plan and ultimately reached my goal weight within nine months of starting the program. I then went into what they call “maintenance” time. During this period, you are allotted more points and given more freedoms as your goal is now to just maintain the weight you have reached. I lived comfortably in maintenance mode for about a year. But then life got crazy, I got sick and couldn’t work out for a few weeks, then we had the holidays and before I knew it, I had gained back about eight pounds. I still thought I looked fine, so I didn’t stress, but then I recently hit the ten-pound mark and started stressing. So this brings me to today where I have just re-joined Weight Watchers in an attempt to get rid of these ten pounds and maybe another five if I can stay committed.

Sometimes a tune up is in order

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because I see many similarities in achieving and maintaining physical fitness as I do in achieving and maintaining financial fitness. I frequently see clients hit a point where they know they have to focus on their financial fitness and they put in the hard work and get their financial house in order. However, just as I experienced with my weight, life is always full of surprises and people experience financial “surprises” as well. These surprises could include a new job, a move, a child, etc. Sometimes we do not realize that this surprise has thrown us off and made us financially unhealthy until we are in a bad place. This is why it makes sense to CONSTANTLY monitor your financial picture. Just as it will be easier for me to lose these 10-15 pounds over 50 pounds, it is easier to deal with $1,000-2,000 of extra debt than it is for $1,000’s of dollars of extra debt. So what are good things to do to give yourself a financial tune up?

1) Get Your Financial Information in One Place

The New Year is a great time to re-focus on your financial priorities. Find a web-based program or app that makes it easy for you to monitor your assets and your debts in one place. When you have your financial information in too many places, it is difficult to assess it on an ongoing basis. I have found that when my clients have more than three logins, they don’t log into everything and they primarily just review their main bank information if they review anything at all. Think about this check in as your weigh in. You should do this at the very least weekly, but I would advise you to do it a few times a week.

2) Schedule Weekly Check-Ins

Are you avoiding this check in because you don’t like what you see? I used to do this with the weigh in. I did not weigh myself for years because I didn’t want to see the number staring back at me. If you feel this way about your finances, then it is probably time for you to do something with them. Just like the scale, numbers don’t lie and if yours aren’t pretty, it is so much easier to deal with them now then later when it gets more difficult to manage. Put this time in your calendar and use it wisely.

3) Make SAM goals for your finances

I give my clients what I call “SAM” goals. These are Specific, Achievable and Measurable.

  • Specific – Don’t just say, “I want to save more” or “I want to spend less.” Say, “I want to save $20 a week” or “I want to have five hibernating days a month.”
  • Achievable – I needed to lose 50 pounds, but I could not try to lose it in two weeks. This would not have been an achievable goal and would have set me up for failure. So, make sure your financial goals are achievable. The best way to do this is to start small and push yourself to work harder (i.e. start by saving $5 a week, then $6, then $7, etc.) I did not lose 50 pounds overnight, but I did over 9 months.
  • Measurable – During your weekly or regular financial check ins, measure your progress to goal. If you struggled one week, can you work harder the next week to make up for it?

4) Celebrate Your Success

As I lost every 5 pounds, I would give myself a little reward like an extra glass of wine. The rewards helped keep me focused on my goals, and made it seem fun along the way. As you hit your financial goals, give yourself little rewards to help keep you motivated and have fun along the way. Financial fitness and financial tune ups are difficult, but important. Despite the hard work, you want to make sure that you enjoy the journey, so you will be more likely to stay on it.

Do you need a financial tune up? What are you going to do to make it successful? What works for you?

Hibernation – Not Just For Bears


The Value of Hibernation

During the winter, all species of bear will hibernate or den. During this hibernation period, the bear has the capacity to live without food or drink for 100 days. I think that just as bears and other animals “hibernate” in the winter, this is a great exercise for people to do to either catch up or get ahead on their finances for the year. Every month I check in on my clients to see if they are on track for achieving their goals, and last week I had a few clients who had a “rough” holiday season. We agreed that the best course of action for them was to lay low or hibernate for the winter. During this period of time, they will focus on staying in and building up their finances. Even for my clients who did not have a rough December, I think winter is the perfect time to get ahead of their finances for the year. A number of them have travel plans or home buying plans, and the money saved from hibernation will help them reach their goals even faster. In New York (where I live), it was 7 degrees yesterday and the windchill made it feel less than 0. Rather than going out with friends and spending money, we should be home, warm and focused on our financial health. So I encourage you to learn from our fuzzy friends and opt for a financial hibernation this winter. Here are some things you can do while hibernating:

7 Things to Do While Hibernating

1)   Netflix – If you have not done it already, you can sign up and get one month free, and after that it is only $7.99. Use this hibernation period as a chance to catch up on all of those shows you wanted to see. For me it is How I Met Your Mother, Sons of Anarchy, Big Bang Theory, Orange Is the New Black and MadMen.

2)   Cooking Challenge – Challenge yourself to create yummy, healthy, inexpensive meals. I have started a weekly blog post about it, and I would love your recipes!

3)   Reading – Catch up on books that you wanted to read or discover books you didn’t even know you wanted to read. I follow a few book bloggers, and I love that they highlight self-published authors that are great storytellers with books for less than $2.

4)   Discover new apps – I recently discovered Free Fall which is the Disney version of Candy Crush. When I get frustrated with Candy Crush, I play Free Fall. I also love Heads Up. We played that for hours as a family over the holidays.

5)   Home Mani/Pedi – Practice giving yourself the perfect mani / pedi at home.

6)   Start a Blog – There are a number of great resources on the best ways to start a blog. Two bloggers that I follow have created specific posts to help you.

Grayson at Debt Round Up lays out a very specific plan for starting your blog

Michelle at Making Sense of Cents wrote a post for new bloggers

7)   Pinterest – You can spend hours realizing dreams or discovering new one. These boards will become your inspiration to continue to work hard to maintain your responsible financial habits.

Are you planning a winter hibernation? If so, how do you plan to spend it?




Music Mondays – Let It Go – Demi Lovato


We all make financial mistakes

This song is from the movie Frozen, and although I have not seen the movie, I have found inspiration in this song. Since I have not seen the movie, I cannot comment on what this particular woman is letting go; however, I can say that the concept of “letting go” is a great one when it comes to personal finance. As I discussed last week, many of my clients and friends got a little out of control with their spending over the holidays. This happens with a number of people and if you are one of them, you are not alone. Past spending, though, is exactly that, it is in the past. Just like past eating is in the past. Yes, I wish I did not eat that extra brownie on Christmas Eve, but I can’t take it back. Despite our strongest desires and wishes, we cannot turn back time.

The past is the past 

Your best solution is to let it go. I see too many people live in the past and say, “But I used to make this” or “I can’t believe I spent that” and where it is good to learn from past mistakes, we also have to move forward. The best way that we can move forward is letting go of the past and embracing a better future. Yes, I wish I didn’t eat that brownie, but now I am moving forward and watching my eating to help make up for the brownie-eating incident. If you had a tough time keeping to a budget or controlling spending last month, or the last five months or the last few years, you do not have to keep doing this. Use the beginning of a new year as the opportunity to let go of bad behaviors and activities of the past and look forward to the future. Learn from your mistakes or regrets and when you do, you take a negative experience and turn it into a positive.

A  better you is right around the corner

And the first step to a better, more fiscally responsible you, is letting go of the past and leaving it in the past. I plan to spend the next few weeks on specific strategies and tactics for dealing with the past spending, so don’t worry about the future. Just let go of the past!


FB Weekly Round Up

Weekly Roundup

I have mentioned before that I am relatively “new” to the blog community, but I have been learning fast from some great experts. Every week, I read dozens of blog posts. Some of them are good, some are great and some just reflect a “bad day” for the blogger. We all have bad days, though, and not all blogs can be winners. But every Saturday, I am going to highlight what I felt were the best of the bunch. These are the blogs that helped me feel less “blonde” about any number of topics.

1) Michelle at Making Sense of Cents talked about how we make excuses for not following our dreams. As someone who is in the process of doing this, I know there are challenges, but the rewards are far greater than the challenges.

2) John at Frugal Rules shared an info graphic that illustrated the costs (physical and financial) of not keeping up with your New Year’s resolutions.

3) David at Young Adult Money shared the struggles (financial and emotional) he now has with an older cat. This was a great reminder that pets can bring us great joys; however, they have costs associated with them, and we should make sure we are financially prepared to care for them.

4) The SITS Girls shared 31 writing prompts for January. As I am still new to blogging, I have not yet had writer’s block, but if I did, I love this idea.

5) J. Money at Budgets Are Sexy shared a quiz to determine if you are being financially bullied by your partner. It sounds harsh to say “bully,” however, I have seen this happen frequently with my married clients. It is usually not intentional, but it can happen when one partner has a stronger financial “view” than the other.

6) Shannon (LOVE her name!) at The Heavy Purse shared a great infographic on the importance of budgeting.

I hope you are enjoying your weekend! And to my fellow bloggers, keep up the great work!



Top Ten Snow Day Activities


Well, I am not sure where you live, but I live in New York, and on this Friday, I am currently home surrounded by 10 inches of snow. So, in honor of yet another snow day, here are the Top Ten things that I like to do when it snows.

10) Make hot chocolate

9) Make cookies with my son

8) Sit under a blanket and watch it snow

7) Catch up on personal emails

6) Make soup and sandwiches for dinner

5) Watch summer movies like Summer Rental and Jaws

4) Play games with my family

3) Read a book

2) Sit by the fire

1) Play in the snow