Tuesday, February 28, 2012

If Only Money Grew On Trees: 9 Sm. Financial Steps That Pay Off Big

This is the time of year where I feel like everyone is praying extra hard. Why do I say this? Because it's tax season. I know I said a couple of extra prayers that we'd get some money back! Well I found this great article on Oprah.com from Suze Orman that gives some great steps for putting yourself in a better financial position.

Huge, scary numbers are lurking everywhere these days: The massive federal bailout (now on the taxpayers' tab)…the unemployment rate, which is now at a 26-year high…that daunting sum you are constantly told you will need if you want to retire comfortably…the six-figure mortgage balance you barely chip away at each month.

Listen to me: Stop focusing on the big picture. Given what is going on in the world right now, you'll only fuel your fear and anxiety.

Macroeconomics matter, but your security depends far more on microfinance—the small choices you make with your money. Every financial worry you want to banish and financial dream you want to achieve comes from taking tiny steps today that put you on a path toward your goals. My list of small moves that yield big dividends:

1. Save a Bit at a Time
I get so frustrated when people tell me it's unrealistic to create an eight-month emergency savings fund, or have money saved for a home down payment, or pay off their $5,000 credit card balance. I am not suggesting that you can snap your fingers and have everything taken care of. What I'm telling you is to move toward your goals in steps. Rather than get lost in the big picture—"Eight months? Are you crazy, Suze? I can never do that!"—focus on what is within your power: the sums you can sock away every week or month to get closer to what you're trying to achieve. Put $50 a week into a bank savings account earning 2 percent interest, and in three years you will have saved more than $8,000.
It's very intimidating to try and take it all in at once, and it feels like you'll never be free. Who knew that $50 dollars could turn into $8000 in 3 years?!?! Not me!

2. Have a Little Self-Discipline!
Okay, so where do you find the money to put toward your financial goals? If you're dealing with a layoff or furlough, I know you feel stretched to the limit. But often when families tell me they have no money for their goals, I look at their spending and find lots of "wants" to cut. So pull out your three most recent bank and credit card statements, circle every charge or debit that is not a necessity, and ask yourself, "Can I eliminate this cost entirely?" If not, can you scale it back 30 to 50 percent (downgrade the cable, say, or opt for the less-pricey cell package)? Every time you cut expenses, you can put the money toward bigger goals.
This is one Tad and I have done. We switched out our cable TV for Netflix, and even moved to a cheaper apartment. I gotta say I didn't regret a single decision. The lightening of our load was WELL worth it.

3. Automate
So many financial dreams are thwarted by the failure to act upon good intentions. Even if you commit to step 2 and free up money, using it wisely can be a challenge. Complete this sentence: I had every intention of ___________, but I got sidetracked or couldn't stick with my plan. That blank could be: (a) building an eight-month emergency fund; (b) investing in Roth IRA ; (c) saving for a home down payment; (d) paying every bill on time; (e) all of the above.

The solution is easy: Put your financial life on autopilot as a form of "forced" saving. Your 401(k) is a great example of auto-investing; with every paycheck, money goes into your retirement account. You can set up the same system at a discount brokerage or fund company to help you invest in an IRA, authorizing the firm to pull money out of your bank account weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

Autopilot is also a great way to save for a home down payment. Have $100 automatically transferred from your checking account to a bank savings account each month and in five years at 2 percent interest you could have more than $6,300 set aside. An FHA-insured mortgage requires a 3.5 percent down payment, so $6,300 would be enough to buy a $180,000 home.

And if you suffer from late-payment-itis, set up auto bill pay through an online bank account. This will save you those $39 late fees on credit card payments and lift your FICO score (on-time payment history accounts for 35 percent of your score).
I HAVE to do this to make sure I don't forget things. I have chronic-forgetfulness and I seem to never remember little details like paying the bills. We also have auto-saving accounts. It's been a real help because you almost forget about it, but when you're in a jam and need some extra cash there's a small hoard there to help!

4. Max Out on the Company Match
In a 2008 survey of nearly a million 401(k) participants, the investment advisory firm Financial Engines found that 33 percent don't contribute enough to their company plan to collect the maximum employer matching contribution. That's literally turning down free money. The way a match works is that if you contribute to your retirement account, your employer will throw in some money, too. One common system is for an employer to give 50 cents for every dollar the employee contributes to her 401(k), up to a specified limit, such as 6 percent of a salary or a certain dollar amount per year. Under those terms, if the employee contributed $3,000, the employer would kick in another $1,500. Hello! That's a guaranteed 50 percent return on your investment. And $3,000 spread out over 26 pay periods is only $115 every two weeks. That's a small step toward a big goal.

If your company doesn't provide a match—or has opted to suspend its match during the recession—you may still qualify for a Roth IRA. I recommend funding the IRA completely before you contribute to an unmatched 401(k). Without the match, a 401(k) is still a good deal, but a Roth IRA is even better. Details follow in the next small step.
Since Tad is only part time we don't qualify for any 'matching' but I have this on my to-do list when Tad starts his career this fall.

5. Invest in a Roth IRA
I love the Roth IRA. Tax-free income in retirement is a truly great deal. That's because income tax rates are likely to rise given all the big federal deficits that will need to be repaid. (And remember: Withdrawals from a traditional IRA or 401(k) will be taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.) If you have modified adjusted gross income (AGI) below $105,000 this year ($166,000 for married couples filing a joint return), you can invest the maximum $5,000 in an IRA (or $6,000 if you are 50 or older). Above those income limits, you can make smaller contributions; you lose eligibility if you have a modified AGI of $120,000 or more, or are part of a married couple with a modified AGI of $176,000 or above.

I know $5,000 or $6,000 is a big deal. And I promised small steps. So break that $5,000 into 12 monthly chunks. Does $416 sound more doable? If it's still too much, save what you can. No rule says it has to be $5,000. You can invest as little as $600 a year at some fund companies through an auto-investing plan, or save until you meet the $1,000 to $1,500 minimum initial investment most mutual funds require.
We have a Roth IRA and every once in a while we like to check the balance and feel a little more secure.

6. Subtract Your Age from 100; Put That Much in Stocks
Now we need to talk about asset allocation. For all your long-term investments, such as retirement accounts that you won't touch for at least ten years, you need a mix of stocks and bonds. Stocks offer the best shot at inflation-beating gains. But stocks don't always go up. That's where bonds come into play: They have less upside potential, but they also do not pack the same risk. So what's your Midas mix of stocks and bonds? Subtract your age from 100 and invest that percentage of your retirement savings in stocks. The rest belongs in bonds. For the stock portion, put 70 percent in U.S. stocks and the rest in international funds. As for the bonds: You should definitely have some lower-risk investments in your 401(k), but rather than invest in a bond fund, look for a GIC or Stable Value fund, which offers a guaranteed return. For your IRA accounts, I am all for owning individual bonds you can hold to maturity instead of bond funds, which are subject to trading and carry more risk.
So I think I've watched too many movies about people loosing everything they had in stocks, because they scare me to death! But Tad (my personal accountant) keeps telling me we will be investing in stocks as soon as he starts his real job. So wish us luck!

7. Spend $50 a Month for Peace of Mind
That's about what it would cost a healthy 40-year-old woman to buy a million-dollar 20-year level term life insurance policy; figure on less if you're younger and more if you're older. But the idea is this: A small amount of money buys your family protection if you die prematurely. You can shop for term policies at SelectQuote.com and AccuQuote.com .
We got our life insurance when we still owned our house so I always feel super secure in that area because whoever got left behind would have extra money to take care of everyone.

8. Create the Four Most Loving Documents in Existence
One of the most tragic disconnects I see is when someone tells me she loves her family to pieces but hasn't set up these four must-have documents: a revocable living trust, a will, a durable power of attorney for finances, and a durable power of attorney for healthcare.
I'm a little embarrassed to admit we don't have a single one of these documents. We've talked about them, but we've never actually made them. Well they are now on my GET DONE THIS MONTH list!

9. Add a 13th Mortgage Payment; Pay Off Your Loan Five Years Faster
If you're in your 50s and plan to live in your current home forever, try to pay off the mortgage before you stop working so you remove that big cost from your postretirement expenses. One way to do so is to make one extra mortgage payment a year. You can even spread the payment over 12 months. Let's say you have a $1,500 monthly mortgage payment and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. If you divide $1,500 by 12, that's $125, so instead of paying $1,500, you send in $1,625 each month. That will cut your repayment time by five years and reduce your interest payments over the life of the loan; for a $250,000 mortgage charging 6 percent, you will save $61,000 ($228,000 in interest payments versus $289,000). That $125 a month may be tough, but it's doable. It's one small step now, and one giant leap toward future financial security.
This is such a great idea. I didn't know that one extra payment would get me out of 5 years of interest! Next time I buy a house I am SO doing this.

I hope this article gives you at least ONE good idea to try! I know I got several )

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Recipe Box: Angel Food Cake French Toast

So I had made an Angel Food Cake for making Strawberry Short Cake on Valentine's Day, but then I found myself with half of the cake left and itching to try something new. So I got on Pinterest and found this recipe on HeatOvenTo350, and it looked amazing! So we had it for breakfast and I LOVED IT! Here is what Nicole had to say:

I've had an angel food cake kicking around for a week, waiting for me to stop cleaning and use it. I bought it to make the recipe I'm sharing today - angel food cake french toast. I had made it a couple weeks ago and I'm still thinking about it now. It's delicious. Amazing, really. It's just what it sounds like - angel food cake dipped in an egg mixture and cooked in a pan until golden and delicious. The taste, though, is so different from regular french toast. It tastes almost like a custard, but still has the light and fluffy texture of angel food cake. It's wonderful, and hardly needs any syrup at all. A little whipped cream and some strawberries is perfect on top.

So, I took decided to take Saturday morning off. I took a break from cleaning and ate some of this french toast, relaxing for a little while and watching it snow peacefully outside.

I decided that I'll save just a couple things for my mom to do with me while she's here.

After all, it's pretty fun working with my mom.

Angel Food Cake French Toast

1 7-8 inch angel food cake
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
3 T sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 T butter
Whipped cream or creme fraiche
Maple syrup
Cut-up strawberries

1. Slice the cake into 10 to 12 1-inch think wedges. In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. Soak wedges in egg mixture for 1 minute per side. (Note: I tried this with a homemade angel food cake and it was much more delicate than the store-bought one. If you've got fragile slices, soak for half the time and make sure you have penty of non-stick spray or butter in the skillet before cooking.) In a nonstick skillet or griddle, melt butter over medium heat. Cook 4 wedges at a time for 1 to 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. To serve, top with whipped cream and drizzle with maple syrup, Garnish with strawberries.

Makes 5-6 servings

Try it out!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Can $68 Get You?

What can you buy for $68????

You can get this cute jacket from the GAP. Yes it's super cute, but what could you get from a discount store I wonder?.......


I went to DI (Deseret Industries) and I got 8 shirts, 5 pairs of pants, and 3 pairs of shoes for $68! I did have to spend a couple of hours trying on A LOT of clothes, but I ended up some really great stuff! So before you take your next wad of cash to the mall stop and think about what you could get for your money at a thrift shop!

Which Would You Choose?

My amazing BFF randomly sends me things that reminds her of me, and this was what I found in my inbox this morning. Pure Awesomeness.

Oh, and I'll let you decide why it reminded her of me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2 More Weeks of Meal Planning Done For You

Look at me, I'm doing my second run of meal planning! I went grocery shopping for it and I was once again shocked at how much cheaper it is to meal plan. Not to mention it lowers the number of times I run to the store each week, thereby lowering the number of impulse purchases I give into. Which makes me HAPPY :)


Broccoli Cheddar Soup (recipe here)

Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken (recipe here)

Chicken Wraps (with leftover Teriyaki Chicken)

Pork Tenderloin

Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza (recipe here)


Honey Lime Enchiladas (recipe here)

Crepes (recipe here)

Garlic Bread

Apricot Glazed Pork Chops (recipe here)

Dorito Chicken Cheese Casserole (recipe here)


Sweet & Sour Chicken (recipe here)

Enjoy 2 more weeks of headache free dinner times :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Danielle's Favorite Baby Stuff

Today we are all in for a treat! My very wise older sister Danielle (who we've discussed many times before) has agreed to share her wisdom with all of us. Not only does she teach awesome Childbirth Education Classes, she is constantly finding the coolest, and MOST HELPFUL things, and now I will not be the only one to reap the rewards of her research. Take it away Danielle....

Well, hello there readers of Candice's Blog. This is Danielle, the older sister here. :) Candice asked me to share some of my favorite baby related items with you all... so here I am. I'm sure everyone who has had a baby finds there are certain things they end up depending on more, or being SO glad they have... well, these are mine. :)

Sleep Sack
As a new Mom I was very nervous both about my child being warm enough, and my child getting a blanket over her head while she slept and suffocating. (I think new mothers worry more than anyone else in the world). So I LOVE these sleep sacks. They can't kick it off and they can't pull it over their heads. It's brilliant :) I have a thick fleece one for the winter and a thin muslin one for the summer.

Bath Tub
Have you seen these upright baby bathtubs?? I love them!
With my first baby, bath time had always been a torture. My baby hated to lay on her back in the water. Her little arms would flail about and she would cry. You could just tell she was scared and unsupported.
When I was pregnant with my 2nd baby I was at a friend's house who pulled out this big bucket looking thing, filled it with water and stuck her baby in. The bucket was just the right size that the baby was fully supported sitting up. Her baby just loved it, splashed water and smiling the whole time. As soon as I got home I found an inexpensive one online and ordered that puppy that day. My daughter always loved it! You can find some pricey ones, but I like the inexpensive Prince Lionheart washPOD.

Mesh Baby Feeder
Every now and then I see something I am sure a mother must have invented, and this is one of those times. I think I have four of these. They are marvelous... you can stick all kinds of food in them that normally would be hard for baby to eat or might be a choking hazard. Grapes were a favorite at our house. Cold baby carrots was also a big hit during teething. My almost 2 year old loved these so much that she still finds them in the drawer and brings them to me. I try to throw them into every baby shower gift basket I give.

Double Stroller

When we found out we were pregnant with our second child I became obsessed with finding the perfect double stroller. I checked out more than I care to remember. I quickly decided against a tandem (that's where the seats are in a line, one in front and one in back). I had a good friend with a Graco Duo and pushing that thing around was like driving a bus! There were some fabulously fancy strollers, and some cheapy ones. I wanted to spend a little more and get something of quality without spending more than we could afford.
When it came down to it I picked the Combi Side by Side.

It's retails for around $200.00 and has some features I loved:
1. It's compact in both open and closed positions (it's the skinniest side by side out there and fits thru doors and between most store aisles, and when it's folded up it takes up no more room than a Graco single stroller)
2. Sturdy
3. One handed push
4. Well padded and has 3 cup/snack holders.
5. Has full recline. Loved being able to lay my sleeping baby all the way down
6. Storage space. It has a basket under the stroller and two big pockets behind the seats.
7. Accepts an infant car seat (tho I prefer to carry those baby buckets around as little as possible)

Though I will admit if I had an extra $500+ I would totally get a Phil & Ted Stroller! The cool thing about their strollers is that it is a single stroller that can turn into a double. You can attach a little back seat to the basket under the stroller. I love it! It's super easy to push and, obviously, as skinny as a single stroller. I think it would be perfect to have as a just in case you need another seat stroller for an older sibling who still might get tired of walking. I'm not sure I can justify such a fancy stroller when I'm not sure how many more babies I will have.. but it's always in the back of my mind.

Food Mill
Baby food is expensive! And a pain to remember to keep with you. Once my babies are old enough to eat more than pureed vegetables I much prefer to use a little food mill. It's light and doesn't take up much room in a diaper bag. (And you can find them for under $10). All you do is put a little of whatever food you are already eating in and grind it up. Viola! Instant baby food. It's great at home because you know exactly what is in that food, because you just made it. And it's great eating out because you don't have to remember to bring food or keep anything cool/hot OR deal messy containers of what's left over.

Purse Hook
I find I always need an extra hand, and while most baby gear has tons of stuff for baby, I find I still need room for me! I love these purse clips that make your stroller that much more efficient. You can find them in a lot of different materials and patterns and prices. I had the plastic C looking ones in the first picture, and it broke from too much weight. But it's such a handy idea I had to get another kind. This is my new favorite. It's called a mommy hook. :) I love that you can use it to carry many bags on it's own, and then clip it onto the stroller or cart.

When thinking of what to put on this blog my first thought was of the various babycarriers I love.. but when it came down to it, I couldn't pick just one.. so I decided they deserve their own post, so you haven't heard the last of me. :) Hope you enjoy my favorites.. is there anything I didn't list that you LOVE? Inquiring moms want to know! :)

I've used several of these items and they were all fantastic :) I especially love the sleep sacks! Danielle just started a new series of Childbirth Education Classes so if you're in the Salt Lake City, Utah area and looking for a fun way to learn more about Childbirth and all it entails give her a call. She's amazing! Thank you for sharing Danielle!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hunger Games Music Video - Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift!

Here's the scoop from MyDailyNews:

Taylor Swift showed some love to fans just before Valentine’s Day, releasing the video for “Safe & Sound,” her single from “The Hunger Games” movie soundtrack featuring the Grammy-winning duo, The Civil Wars.

The ballad, which Swift wrote as a “death lullaby” to match the mood of the books, debuted to much fanfare on MTV Monday night.

Though the the three-minute-23-second video doesn’t feature any scenes from Lionsgate’s upcoming film adaptation of the popular Suzanne Collins book, it captures the feel of the dystopian tale about a teenage girl, Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence), joins 23 other young “tributes” in a battle to the death for the ammusement of the capital city of Panem.

A barefoot and disheveled Swift wanders a burning forest, before stumbling on a Mockingjay pin — a major symbol in “The Hunger Games” — inside an abandoned cabin.


Swift told MTV News she “fell in love with the characters” after reading all three books in two days when she signed on for the project. She also said she had originally envisioned a more rocking tune before reading “The Hunger Games.”

“When I got the call, I thought from what I’d heard about the movie, ‘It’s an action movie, right? We're probably going to be writing a song that’s like, “We’re going to win,”’” she told MTV News. “And then I read the book, and I thought, ‘No, we’re going to have to write sort of a death lullaby, it’s so different from what I thought.’”


Monday, February 13, 2012

Seriously Good Low Calorie Red Velvet Cupcakes!

If you're looking for a great treat that wont make you feel extra guilty this is it! I found this on The How To Mommy, and here's what she had to say:

Being on Weight Watchers often means choosing an apple instead of the brownie you so desperately want.

However, these Hungry Girl Red Velvet Insanity cupcakes will fulfill any sweet craving you might have and you won’t have to feel guilty when you’re done!

These are by far my very favorite dessert and in my opinion, better than many of the red velvet cupcakes I’ve gotten at professional bakeries.

And with less than 200 calories per cupcake, I’ve even been known to have two {or three}…

Low Calorie Red Velvet Cupcakes

12 servings
Calories: 140 Fat: 3 grams
PointsPlus® Value: 4 {but you can have two for 7 PointsPlus®}


Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 cup moist-style devil’s food cake mix (1/4 box)
  • 1 cup moist-style yellow cake mix (1/4 box)
  • Two 25-calorie packets diet hot cocoa mix
  • 1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 T. red food coloring
  • 1 tsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetner (granulated)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Frosting Ingredients

  • 6 T. Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme (this is a generous 1/3 cup, but not quite 1/2)
  • 6 T. fat free whipped topping
  • 1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 T. Splenda No Calorie Sweetner (granulated)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Set out frosting ingredients to come to room temperature.
  3. In a tall glass, place half of the mini-chocolate chips and both cocoa packets. Add 1/2 cup boiling water and stir until chips and cocoa mix have dissolved.
  4. Add 1 cup cold water and mix well.
  5. Pour mixture, cake mixes, egg substitute, remaining chocolate chips, food coloring, Splenda and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Mix until smooth and blended. {Batter will be thin, but they will puff up once baked}
  7. Line a muffin pan with baking cups or spray with nonstick spray {I prefer foil cups, as the paper seems to stick to the batter}. Distribute batter evenly. {about 1/3 cup per tin}
  8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cupcakes will look shiny when done.
  9. While baking, combine all frosting ingredients except whipped topping and mix well. Once mixed, fold in whipped topping and put in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate until cupcakes are ready to be frosted.
  10. Allow cupcakes to cool completely, then evenly distribute frosting by cutting the corner off of the bag.
    I had left over batter, so I made mini cupcakes for the kids!
  11. Smooth frosting and enjoy!

This recipe does call for a lot of ingredients and is a little time consuming, but it is SO worth it. If you have more will power than I do, I recommend quadrupling the recipe to use a majority of the ingredients, and freeze the ones you don’t use.

They freeze really well and it’s a perfect treat to pull out when you just need a little something sweet!

I made these for a V-Day Treat and I was so happy with how they turned out! I got nothing but compliments! HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...