I love sharing my real life on budget through my blog, Jessi Fearon in hopes of inspiring others who are walking down the road to financial freedom. My goal is to use the natural gifts that God has given me to coach others to do the same. This is where I share our family's real life on a budget so we can encourage you to realize your dreams and experience financial freedom.
The question I get asked the most often on Instagram is how I’m teaching my kids about money. If you’re new here, my kids are currently, 7, 5, and 3 years old. Throughout the years as a parent, I’ve tried many different approaches to teaching my kids about money. Some have worked well and others not so much.
For me, it’s tough navigating the different personalities of my kids and with one of my children having ADHD, it’s even more challenging to teach these concepts. But, regardless, I want to teach my kids about money because I’ve coached several adults who don’t know the first thing about money. I don’t want that for my kids. So, currently, we’re using the “modeling method” for teaching our kids about money.
What is the “Modeling Method”?
The Modeling Method is just basically being intentional about modeling how YOU use money. So instead of strict financial lessons, you’re more or less teaching as you live life. Which, as a mom to three very active children, this is the best speed for my family!
Now, to be honest, I have no idea if the Modeling Method is a real thing or something that I just made up. I haven’t read about it or studied it in any shape or form other than Rachel Cruze’s “more is caught than taught” motto. But it is also based on my own personal life growing up.
My parents didn’t really give us any hard and fast financial lessons. Sure, my mom bought my brother and I those fake bank checks to teach us how to write a check and tried to teach us how to balance a checkbook. However, my parents more or less modeled how we were supposed to use (or not use) money by what they did or didn’t do.
Why I love this method.
I love this method because it is easy to implement especially if you already have a solid hold on your finances. So if you’re already budgeting, saving, and planning for your future via retirement and goals, you’re already using this method. The only thing you’d really need to do is to bring your kids in the conversation by letting them see you sit down to budget or reviewing your retirement accounts.
In my honest opinion, this makes money (especially in the eyes of a child) something that is apart of everyday life. It is not a mystery nor is it something to fear. It becomes more like something that mom and dad do just like going to work. It also encourages questions from your children. I encourage you to answer those questions the best you can. You don’t have to have all the answers. And I’ve discovered that the simplest answers are the better ones anyway.
What this method is lacking.
This method isn’t perfect. But I do believe it is a good building block to build on as your children grow. What the Modeling Method is lacking is in formal instruction and practical application. Even though your children are watching you pay with cash in the grocery store and hear you talk about budgeting, they aren’t necessarily hands-on with the money.
But, I do strongly believe, that this method is the best starting point. The reason is that it gets those money conversations going. I’ve coached dozen of grown adults who have no idea how money is supposed to work. Each one has told me some variation of “my parents never talked about money”.
Keeping money a mystery from our kids does them more harm than good. We can’t allow money to be some big mystery that they are all of a sudden expected to understand when they leave our home. We have to teach them that money is just a tool – just like a hammer is. We get to use that tool to better our families’ lives or make them worse by not using the tool effectively. When we teach them by modeling how money works in our own homes, it is less scary and it becomes one of those things that “adults do”. Your kids will grow up expecting to have to know how to manage money when they become an adult. This thus makes an interest in learning much easier.
How to teach kids about money.
There’s not really a hard and fast way to implement this method. However, there are some things that make it easier. If you want to use the Modeling Method, here are some things to have to first have together:
You need a budget. If you don’t already actively budget then this is where you need to start. You don’t have to wait until you have it all figured out to bring your kids in the discussion. When they wonder what you’re doing, tell them. Say “mommy is learning how to budget the family’s money”. They may not know what all that means, but by using the “b” word you are setting an amazing example for them to grow into. If you’re looking for budgeting help, I have a free budgeting course that you can sign up here for.
Use cash. When we were deep in our debt-free journey, I always shopped with cash. And by shopping with cash you make teaching your kids how money works so much easier on yourself! How? Because when your kids see those dollars moving from your wallet to the cashier’s hand, they are seeing the transaction of money. It’s not a mystery. You buy things with money, but if your children never see you use real dollars and cents, they won’t have a concept of what the exchange of money looks like. Also, using cash makes keeping you in line with your budget so much easier. It allows you to explain that your budget is only $20 so you only have $20 to spend.
Communicate openly and honestly. Do you and your spouse dream big? If so, include your children in on the conversation. Let them know that mommy and daddy are working towards some big goal. Examples: saving to take the family to Disney or to purchase a new car. By allowing your children to see the inner workings of trying to achieve your big goals, you allow your children to understand that a magical unicorn isn’t just going to toss all of your dreams into your lap. You have to go for them.
Live your life by your budget. The final thing you need to do is to just live your life in accordance with your budget! I know that sounds super simple and honestly, it really is that simple. While you’re living your real life on a budget, involve your kids to experience what mom and dad are doing. You don’t need to give some big financial lesson. Answer questions when they ask them and ask them questions about what you’re doing to see what they notice!
Other things you can do.
The Modeling Method isn’t perfect. But it is a great building block when it comes to allowing our kids to see how money flows in and out of our homes. To make this method work even better for your family, you can try a few of these resources:
Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Junior Program. We tried this one a few years ago. Although it worked okay, it did prove to not be a right fit for our children at those ages. We are looking into trying this one again in a couple of years. So we’ll see if it’ll prove more beneficial when our kids are older. But we do own the books in the Junior series and it helps facilitate money questions with my kids. You can check those out here.
Ultimate Kids Money Book. We haven’t read this one yet but I keep hearing that even though this book is over 20 years old, it is a great resource for helping kids understand how money works. It’s definitely one that I plan to check out at the library and I wanted to make sure I mentioned it here.
My Budget Planner for Kids. This is a software program designed for kids to help them learn how to budget money (with mom and dad’s help). If you have computer saving kids this may be a great option for your kiddos especially if mom and dad budget via software!
FamZoo. I’ve actually met the creator of this software and I absolutely LOVE this dad’s heart! He’s a dad of five kids and he’s used FamZoo with all five of them. This one works via prepaid cards and helps your kids budget their money and allows mom and dad to be the bankers. If you pay your kids for their allowance or any birthday money via the app and then the kids get to budget it and spend/save it accordingly! My kids are still too young for this one, but I’m excited for the day they’re old enough to use it!
Okay, so I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your kiddos when it comes to teaching them about money! If you’d like to share, please let a comment below!
Back in 2016, my family and I took our first ever official family vacation to Tybee Island, GA. It was in celebration of my husband and I paying off over $55,000 of consumer debt in just 2 years. It was a wonderful, paid in cash vacation that I’m so grateful for. And the best part is, that this trip was our 4th one and as such, we’ve gotten to know our island home pretty well!
So if you’re interested in planning a family trip to Tybee Island, read on for some helpful information in planning your trip! And if you want to know how we make traveling to Tybee on a $1,000 cash budget a reality, head to this post.
Tybee Island Beaches
Tybee has three beaches and each one offers its own special charm and unique traits. Here are the three beaches and the pros and cons of each:
This is also known as Savannah River Beach as its the beach on the shores of where the Savannah River meets the Atlantic Ocean so it has brackish water instead of salt water.
The waves are much smaller on River Beach than any of the other beaches on Tybee which makes it a great beach to bring really small kids to because they aren’t going to get tossed by the waves.
You can actually walk to North Beach and the Light House from River Beach!
This beach is usually way less crowded than North or South Beach which again, makes taking the whole family for the day so much easier!
Dolphins! You will more than likely get to see dolphins at this beach.
Charlotte at River Beach:
Due to the brackish water, there can be a lot of jellyfish during certain times of the year. I speak from experience as I was stung by one our first year at Tybee and it hurts. But I also now never go to any beach without a bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar in my beach bag. Again, speaking from experience, nothing cuts the pain of a jellyfish sting faster than vinegar. The lifeguard stands on North and South Beach have vinegar for any jellyfish stings.
There is no lifeguard on duty at this beach.
There is no way to drive up to this beach. You’ll have to park and walk.
The large container ships coming in and out of the Savannah River can cause huge wake to happen. This isn’t a super big deal as there’s typically only one an hour or less that comes through and you’ll have enough time to get your stuff and move once you see the ship coming by. But seriously, the wake is crazy so just be prepared for it!
One of the container ships (this was during low tide):
North Beach is the beach at the north end of the island and is where the lighthouse is located.
This is a more family-friendly beach than South Beach so your kids are going to have a ton of kiddos to play with!
The waves are bigger than River Beach but not (typically speaking anyway) so big that your older kids couldn’t play.
You can drive to this beach – there are several parking areas (you will have to pay to park).
The sand is more sandy than River Beach (River Beach has more of a shelly sand).
There is a lifeguard on duty (although they don’t have them all the way down on the beach just closer towards the lighthouse).
Just like at River Beach you’ll more than likely catch a few glimpses of dolphins!
The waves being bigger can be a little tough letting small children play in the water without an adult to hold them.
Rip Tides are at both North and South Beach and are definitely something you need to be aware of.
This beach can get really crowded on the weekends.
South Beach is located at the south end of the island and has the large pier.
If you’re a wave junkie, then this is the beach you want to go to as the waves can get huge at this beach.
There is a lifeguard on duty.
There is a lot to do around South Beach like the science museum so you can sign your kids up to go on a beach exploration tour with the science museum and they’ll take the kiddos out and explore the different inhabitants of the beach.
South Beach is right by what is referred to Tybee’s downtown area, Tybrisa Street where you can find all kinds of shops and restaurants.
The pier at South Beach offers an awesome fishing spot, viewing spot, and has a few food and shop areas too!
South Beach is the party beach – this is one where you’ll find a lot more intoxicated folks, loud music, and some not-so-family-friendly things going on.
The waves are really overpowering at this beach and is why we don’t go to this beach often because both my husband and I have been swamped by the waves.
Best Places to Eat on Tybee with Kids
Okay, so really almost every place on Tybee is going to be kid-friendly. Tybee is still a very family-friendly island and most restaurants aren’t that clean – just being honest. But these are a few of the places that my family really enjoys on the Island:
The Crab Shack
This is my favorite restaurant on the island because you can literally show up in your bare feet and no one is going to care. It is super kid friendly and perfect if you have younger kids. I will tell you that this is not super budget friendly if you’re like me and love to eat crab!
Crab Shack does have a fantastic view, an alligator farm where the kids can see and feed the Gators as well as an exotic bird sanctuary where you can get up close and personal with birds like a Macaw (my kids loved getting to see this bird as they saw it so many times on Go Diego Go when they were little).
This is my kid’s favorite restaurant because, well, pizza. This is also one of the very few places on Tybee that delivers which is why we like it! But I’ll say that this one is also not super budget friendly either. The pizza is good but I think it’s overpriced. Again, my kids love this place and its a special treat that we let them have when we go to Tybee.
This is probably the most budget-friendly restaurant on Tybee (or at least that we’ve found so far) and the best part is that the food is actually really, really good! But…and this is a BIG but, the restaurant is very dive-barish and is truly not a clean place. So if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, you may want to skip this restaurant. My husband likes that the food is good and cheap but he can’t stand eating there because there’s literally dust everywhere.
The Sugar Shack
Another one of my kid’s favorite places! The Sugar Shack is another restaurant that needs some serious remodeling and good scrub down, but the homemade ice cream is sooooo worth it! Seriously, it’s amazing! They do serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner here but we’ve only ever eaten their ice cream so I’m not sure how the rest of their menu is, but the ice cream is wonderful!
My kids enjoying The Sugar Shack:
Coco’s is the kind of place where you can get a good mix of food and it boosts the best sunset viewing spot on the island (they even do a sunset toast every night)! The food is really good and you get a lot for your money! The downsides here are the parking lot is super small and crazy and they don’t serve straws with the drinks (which I understand why they don’t because they kill sea turtles, but it is weird drinking straight from a cup in a restaurant).
Things to do on Tybee
Okay, so not all of these we’ve done but these are the things that you can do on Tybee while you’re staying there.
You can climb the lighthouse and tour the museum. I still haven’t been able to convince my husband to do this one yet! Here’s to hoping to next year.
Okay, so we’ve never paid for one of these tours because we bring our jon boat down to Tybee and get to see the dolphins all the time. But I know lots of folks have loved going on these dolphin tours and like I said, at some of the beaches you’ll get to spot the dolphins without having to pay for the tour!
My kiddos fishing and looking for dolphins on our boat:
Like I said before, the Science Museum has beach tours that they do with the kids which can be super fun for your kids that love all things marine life! Also, the museum is a great thing to go do on a rainy day on Tybee.
Again, we bring our boat so we get to do the charter tour for free, but if you don’t have your own boat or it’s out of the budget to rent one, you can take the charter tours and hit up the beaches that are only accessible by boat. My family and I every year go to Wassaw Island and hang out with practically no one else! Seriously, the most that have ever been on Wassaw with us has been 5 other families. So 6 families total on a beach! It was like being on a deserted island! Super fun! So if you’re over the crowds on Tybee, hit up a charter tour and go on your own beach adventure!
Oh and totally random but if you use essential oils, this blend smells soooooo good! So even if traveling to the beach this year is out of the budget, you can transport yourself there with this super amazing blend! It seriously smells just like how the beach does in the early morning hours!
Have you ever wondered how that mom over there gets it all done or how your co-worker seems to be so ordered and clam all the time? Most of the time, when someone comes off as put together, it’s really just a matter of self-discipline. One of the biggest struggles I hear from folks when it comes to managing money is how they “wish” they could be more disciplined so they could stick to a budget.
But here’s the reality – discipline is not something that you’re born with. Discipline is something that you have to actively choose to do every.single.day. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m amazing and have all of this figured out because I don’t. But I have been working on my own self-discipline for years now and so I wanted to help out other fellow mamas out there struggling to make it happen.
1. Identify your weaknesses.
We all have weaknesses and if we identify them, we can prepare ourselves to avoid falling victim to them. For instance, I’m super tempted to go back to bed if my bed is unmade. I don’t know what it is, but if my bed is unmade, it just looks like it’s saying, “hey, girl, you didn’t really need to make those phone calls today or write that chapter in your book, just jump on in and take a snooze.”
So for me, I have to make sure that I make my bed every morning if I want to actually accomplish the things that I’ve set out to do. Maybe for you, if your goal is to stop snacking so much at work, you start by bringing an apple to work so if when that midday slump hits, you avoid heading to the vending machine and just eat the apple instead. Little things like that will make becoming more disciplined easier.
2. Set Goals
If you’re wanting to become more disciplined, you’re going to have to set clear goals. For instance, becoming debt-free doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re wanting to become debt-free, then you’re going to have a plan for it, execute the plan, and have the strength and discipline to achieve the goal. I go over this in more detail in my new book, Master Your Life.
3. It takes time.
You weren’t born with discipline, so remember that this whole process is going to take time. Give yourself grace whenever you stumble and remember to pick yourself back up and keep moving forward. Those goals you set are going to be achieved so long as you keep moving forward.
4. Take it one step at a time.
You know what they say about eating elephants…okay, that just sounded totally wrong, but you’ve probably heard that expression about if you’re going to eat an elephant, you have to do it one bite at a time. That is totally true with developing discipline. It’s a one step at a time kind of process. Pick one thing this month that you’ll work on – like maybe making the bed every morning or cleaning up the kitchen every evening. Get that down pack and then move on to another discipline.
5. Celebrate every win.
Every time you achieve your goal, even if it is just making the bed every morning, celebrate! Give yourself a pat on the back and jump up and down for joy because YOU DID IT! The more excited you get about achieving even your smallest goals, the better prepared you’ll be to keep your momentum going.
I’m a firm believer that self-discipline will carry you a long way. But I also know how challenging it is to cultivate a sense of discipline. If you’re looking to achieve your goals, I encourage you to start small and make it a daily habit so you can build upon your momentum. Comment below with a discipline habit that you’ve achieved!
I’m a mom to three kids, and I know how challenging it is to make crucial decisions like where your children will go to school. My kids have been both to private school and public school. Since I’m probably one of the few people that write about finance that will say private school can be money well spent, I wanted to do a compare/contrast of the options and our experience with them.
****Now, please keep in mind that this list is based on our family’s personal experience with private and public school.
We’re going to start with private school. Our kids went to a Catholic school that was fantastic – seriously, it was money well spent. The only downside for us was really that the drive was pretty intense (if you’ve ever been to metro Atlant you know what I’m talking about).
Religious education (if the private school is a religious one).
The learning environment is more geared towards actual learning and not passing standardized testing.
Uniform dress code makes deciding what to wear to school a breeze in the mornings.
Smaller classroom sizes allow the teacher(s) to work more one-on-one with students.
Teachers have more sway with the curriculums.
Smaller school – my son with ADHD really enjoyed this aspect of his Catholic School.
Bullying is more easily caught and dealt with as the class and school size is smaller.
There’s a huge emphasis on handwriting which I believe really helped my oldest learn to read easier. This could just be something that is done in Catholic schools as I know it is a part of their specific curriculum.
Project and service-based learning. Everything was very hands-on – of course, there are worksheets too, but everything is geared towards a more practical application of the concepts.
It costs money (you can usually claim it on your taxes), but it can be expensive.
Uniforms can be expensive. (My kids’ school had a used uniform sale several times a year which was helpful in keeping the costs down. You could even trade in your child’s used uniform for the next size up at the used uniform sale free of charge.)
If you have a child with learning disabilities or other special needs, their specific needs may not be able to be met at a private school.
Having to drive your kiddos to and from school every day (this can be taxing if you have other small children that don’t go to school yet).
Okay, so let’s chat about public schools. I do feel that I need to mention that our public school district is a highly rated one so obviously my opinion may be biased.
There’s no tuition cost (I can’t say free because if you pay property taxes, you’re paying for public school).
They can ride the bus! Seriously, I love that I don’t have to take them to school and sit in carpool.
You don’t have to pay for uniforms.
There are free programs for children with special needs.
There’s no uniform – I actually really loved my kids having to wear a uniform to school.
The class sizes are much larger.
The curriculum is not tailored and the teachers have very little control over what they teach.
The emphasis on standardized testing is insane!
The use of technology is mind-boggling. For me, I prefer my kids to stay off electronics for as long as possible. My kids don’t even know how to use my phone because my husband and I want our kids to have as much of a 1980’s childhood as possible. I know, we’re weird.
Okay, so there you have it – the pros and cons of public vs. private school. But here’s the thing, I don’t believe there is a right or wrong schooling choice for your children. I believe there is only the right choice for you. You have to make that choice and hopefully, this comparison will help you make it.
Should I pay for a private school?
I’m of the belief that if you can afford it without going into debt, then do it! Honestly, we LOVED private school. We only stopped because the commute was killing me. But I can honestly say to you that I do not regret paying for it – not even for a second. That’s why I honestly believe that if it is important to you and you can afford to pay for it in cash, then do not feel guilty for paying for private school for your kids.
I know I’m alone in this opinion in the personal finance realm, but I truly believe that it’s your money and you have to make it work for you. Do I believe that you absolutely must pay for your kids to go to private school or else they’re going to turn out into awful kids if they go to public school? No. My kids currently go to public school and it’s not horrible.
I believe that your home life actually dedicates more of how your children will turn out than what school they go to. So in my opinion, give them the absolute best life at home and train them up to be amazing adults and no matter what school they go to, they will grow up to be incredible adults.
Do you have any advice for a parent looking to decide between public and private?
Summer here in Georgia is crazy. Not only is it humid as all get out, but it is also now only two months long…or at least that’s the case if your kids are in school. Our county’s school schedule has us end a few days after Memorial Day and then we start back by August 1st. So, we have to fit in all of our family traveling in just two months. It’s crazy.
But, I also don’t want my kids falling behind with schooling and I love having a routine for how our days go in the summer. The routine keeps things flowing and makes the transition back into school life in the “fall” (because August is Georgia’s hottest month, it’s not really fall) easier.
So, today I’m going to share with you everything that we’re going to be using/doing for our kids this summer to keep them “educated”.
We love ABC Mouse! We’ve been using it since my boys were little and it really does help your kids master many of the academic skills they are expected to know in school. You can sign up for a free trial of ABC Mouse here.
Okay, so we’re obviously using ABC Mouse as part of our curriculum this summer, but we’re also using Summer Solutions. We started using these last year and it really helped our boys prepare for their upcoming grade levels. The great thing about these workbooks is that each lesson is only 6-10 problems so you can do them super quick! This is perfect since one of my kiddos has ADHD and struggles with sitting still for a long period of time.
Free Forest School is another resource we’re using. This is a free nature program for kids in our area where we all meet up at a local park and allow our kids to discover nature for themselves. It’s super fun and a great way to meet new folks from your area!
Let them get creative!
I got my kids these draw and write journals and they LOVE them! They’re just like the ones they use at school and instead of making them mandatory, I give them to them during long car trips and while we’re on vacation. This allows them to color, write, and freely let their imaginations flow. I literally do not control any part of what they put in their books, I just allow them to put whatever they want. I do, however only give them to them at specific times. They aren’t allowed to just keep them, because then they would be destroyed.
Make sure you have things on hand for your children to get creative with. Trust me, I hate messes just as much as the next mom, but allowing them to be creative helps them problem solve and engages them in such an amazing way. Just save up some of that junk mail you receive and when it is time to paint, or glue, or whatever, just lay down all those pieces of junk and viola! Problem solved!
And if you’re like me and need help in being creative (for real, I’m not a crafty or creative mom), then grab this summer calendar from The Confident Mom. I buy this every year and LOVE it! She has every day of summer planned out for you – you don’t have to think of any of it!
I grew up camping and lucky for me, I married a boy from Oregon that loves the outdoors even more than I do. I fully believe in allowing my kids all the time in the world to play outside. I want them to discover as much as they can about the natural world that they live in. If you haven’t read the book, Last Child in the Woods, I highly encourage you to – it’ll motivate you to spend more time outdoors this summer!
This is also why, at the start of summer vacation, I head over to Walmart and buy my kids clothes they can destroy. I literally just buy a couple of packs of cheap t-shirts, some athletic shorts, and that’s pretty much it. The great thing is, my kids can destroy these clothes without destroying their still good school clothes. These summer clothes will become their play clothes during the school year.
Okay, so I don’t follow a super regimented curriculum in the summer. I believe summer is for exploring so I try not to make it just like school. But I do know that we have to have a structure to our days or else everything will be crazy. So, here’s a sample of what our typical summer day looks like:
6 am: Mom gets up
7 am: Kids get up
7-7:30 am: Kids eat breakfast and clean up breakfast dishes.
7:30-8 am: Mom gets ready for the day.
7:30-9:30 am: Kids play in the playroom.
8 – 10:30 am: Mom’s work time
9:30 – 11:00 am: Mom kicks kids out of the house to play in the backyard.
11:30 am: Lunchtime
1 pm: Schoolwork time (this is where we’ll do our more structured school lessons – usually 15 – 30 mins).
1:30 pm: take turns on ABC Mouse
2 pm: Nap/Quiet time
3 pm: Snack time
3:30 pm: Mom kicks kids out of the house to play in the backyard.
5 pm: Dinner
6 pm: Whole house tidy up (where we all tidy up a portion of the house)
6-8pm: Free time (they can watch TV here)
8 pm: Storytime (I read a story and each one of my boys reads me a short story from our BOB collection)
9 pm: Mom bedtime
As you can see, on a typical day we don’t do a bunch of school work. I’m a firm believer in doing just enough to keep the information fresh in my kiddos minds.
And don’t forget, before school is out, ask their current teacher what areas your child needs to work on over the summer. And see if your child’s teachers have any recommendations to help you better facilitate their learning at home. I have found that all of my kid’s teachers have been way more than willing to help me help my child.
Okay, so you tell me, what do you do with your kids over the summer break?
It’s been a while since I’ve done a recipe post. After posting on Instagram Stories my family’s FAVORITE meatball recipe, I wanted to share the recipe with y’all.
Now, if you know me in real life, PLEASE DO NOT TELL MY HUSBAND my little secret about these meatballs. These meatballs use turkey instead of ground beef and my turkey adverse husband has yet to notice. However, he LOVES these meatballs. I’m not kidding when I say that my entire family absolutely loves these meatballs!!
They’re super easy to make – they take only about 20 minutes bake time and you can use these even in your kids’ school lunches! My kids love to take these to school and dip in either ketchup or ranch dressing.
This recipe uses oats instead of breadcrumbs so it doesn’t cause me to bloat like crazy after devouring them. So if you’re looking for a healthier meatball option, this one might be the one for you! Also, I double the recipe below for my family because we love them so much! So keep that in mind if you decide to make these tonight for dinner!
Oh, and also, these are super tasty in the Swedish Meatball recipe in the 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget cookbook. I make these meatballs and then make the sauce from that recipe in the cookbook. I also use these meatballs in spaghetti and meatballs; the rice and meatballs recipe from Trim Healthy Table.
Okay, so if you’re looking for a super easy dinner idea for tonight, this is it! Seriously, it doesn’t take much time and will quickly become a family favorite! Oh and if you have a stand mixer – use the paddle to mix the ingredients and you’ll be able to whip these up even faster!
Family Favorite Meatballs
A delicious and easy-to-make meatball recipe that is also healthy!
I don’t know about you, but I could really have used way back in high school a personal finance class that could have helped me figure out what I was supposed to do with my money when I became an adult. But, your high school probably didn’t offer that – neither did mine.
Now as a personal finance coach, writer, author, and speaker, I get to teach folks all around the world about money management. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this process, it’s that personal finance is personal. Meaning that the way money flows in your home is going to be different than the way it flows in mine.
And that’s totally okay! We’re different people so it would be ridiculous to think that our budgets should match. BUT, there are a few financial “must haves” that everyone needs to have.
1. A Budget
I mean, c’ mon you knew I was going to start with this one didn’t you? The key to money management is in a budget. I mean, you can’t save money, pay off debt, pay for that vacation, or anything else without knowing how much money you have or don’t have. So, we have to start here.
I’m a huge fan of keeping it simple with budgeting – I don’t put a whole bunch of categories in my budget because I would never want to actually record all those transactions. But you do you – if you don’t know how to make a budget, head here and sign up for my free budgeting course to learn how.
If you’re a fan of spreadsheets but don’t want to take the time to meticulously go through each one, try out Tiller. Tiller downloads your transactions into a Google Sheets document and helps to categorize everything for you.
After creating a budget, you need to make it a priority to set up and build up an Emergency Fund. Without a solid savings account in place, you’ll find yourself with limited options in the event of an emergency. An Emergency Fund is your ticket to financial freedom, so if you don’t already have one set up, let’s get it done TODAY.
For real, don’t wait.
You need to start with at least a $1,000 in your Emergency Fund, but ideally, you need to build it up to at least 6 months of your living expenses. Oh hey, there’s that budget again. Going over your budget and looking at all of the “must haves” in your budget – so your rent/mortgage, insurances, groceries, transportation costs, utility payments, etc. Determine on average how much you spend every month for those bare bones expenses and then multiply by 6. Now you know how large you need to grow your Emergency Fund.
I suggest keeping your Emergency Fund at an online bank because 1) it’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind so you’re not going to be as tempted to dip into it every time you hit a little bump in the road. And 2) they usually have a much higher APY meaning that you get to earn more money on your money by keeping the money at that bank. And 3) with online banks it typically takes about 3 days for the money to be transferred to your checking account, so it really forces you to evaluate if it is truly an emergency or not.
Nothing affects your Net Worth like debt. Think about it. You buy a home that’s valued at $300,000 but you owe $250,000 – guess what your Net Worth on that investment is? $50,000. Not to mention the fact that debt can pretty much strangle you and crush you.
I know how heavy the burden of debt is. My family is now 100% debt-free which includes our home. It took us YEARS to get here and I’m happy that we’re on the other side now and I hope that you’ll want to join us over here. If you’re looking for financial freedom, this is the way to it.
List out all your debts, starting with the smallest balance debt and working down towards the largest balance. Then, look over your budget (there’s that “b” word again…) and determine how much extra you can squeeze from your budget in other to throw at the principal balance on that first debt.
And then start throwing every extra penny you have at that debt until it’s paid off. Then once it’s paid for, start on the next debt on the list and keep going until you get to scream that you are DEBT-FREE!!! It’s incredible. You’ll be amazed at how much more money you have by paying off debt.
No joke, when we got rid of my fully-loaded Tahoe and purchased in cash a well-loved Sequoia, it was we gave ourselves a $450 monthly pay raise by getting rid of that car payment!
4. Have Sufficient Insurance
Okay, so now we’re going to move on to a little bit more of the heavy stuff. You need to have sufficient insurance – period. If you don’t have health insurance because it is too expensive, don’t worry, because I feel you. My husband is self-employed and if we had an ACA policy we’d be broke – for real. We have a Healthcare Sharing Ministry instead and it literally saves us thousands!
So, if you don’t have health insurance, make sure you check out a sharing ministry to see if they’ll work for you. But aside from health insurance, you need to have life insurance. I don’t care if you’re a stay-at-home mom like I am – YOU NEED LIFE INSURANCE!
Just recently an old friend of my husband’s died in a very tragic car accident, leaving behind a wife and 3 children. He didn’t have life insurance and his wife couldn’t afford to pay to even have his body cremated. She also found herself now having to pay for daycare for their children including their 8-month-old and their regular bills.
Please, please do not leave your family in this situation – get life insurance today.
I suggest a Term Life policy (agents may try to sell you on Whole Life because they earn more commission on it, just FYI) which is typically a much cheaper policy. The recommended amount to insure your life for is at least 10 times your income. Even if you’re a stay-at-home parent, you can insure your life because if something happened to you, your spouse would now be left responsible to pay for childcare. You can count the cost of childcare and any debts you carry (like student loans) as part of your financial obligation.
You also need to have auto and home insurance or renter’s insurance if you rent. Trust me, if you’re a renter you want to have renter’s insurance. When Katrina hit in 2005, it completely wiped my Grandmother’s home off the foundation – nothing in the house could be salvaged. Thankfully she had renter’s insurance and was able to fully furnish her new home with the insurance money.
Other insurances to consider Long-term Care Insurance (for hospice and nursing home care); Umbrella Policy (especially if you have a lot of assets or a high Net Worth).
5. Get a Will
Okay, after obtaining life insurance, you need to get a Will. My Daddy passed in 2015 without a Will – thankfully, my brother and I are really close so there was fighting over who got what. But my Daddy’s truck sat at our Aunt’s house not being used for 4 years and finally I was asked to take ownership of (long family story but essentially I was originally not to have anything to do with the truck).
The problem was that my Dad died without a Will, so I have no documentation to prove I could take ownership of the vehicle. I had to jump through many hurdles and pay the State of Georgia a huge tax bill on it (which I would not have had to do had I “inherited” the vehicle in a Will). I mean, we couldn’t even scrap the truck legally without it being in my name because my Daddy isn’t here to sign over the rights to the truck to a junkyard.
All that to say, get a Will. If you have under a million in assets, you can just get a Will online (we used LegalZoom for ours). If you have more than a million, then hire a lawyer. But regardless, get a Will – your family will thank you.
6. Save for Retirement
I know you know you know this one. But are you doing this? For years my husband and I weren’t saving for retirement and I will tell you that it is one of our biggest regrets. Don’t let it be one of yours! Start saving for retirement today!
You can get started with your company’s 401(k) plan by calling up HR and discussing enrollment. If your company offers an employer match, TAKE IT! Example, if your company offers a 6% match that means they will match 6% of your income into your 401(k) so long as you invest that 6% in the 401(k). It’s free money and to your advantage to max out that match.
If you’re self-employed or your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k), then open up a Roth IRA today! There are several companies that you can go through – my top two favorites (and the two that I use) are Vanguard and Etrade. Etrade allows you to get started with less money that Vanguard but Vanguard has a better market history.
7. Increase Your Income
Let’s be honest, sometimes we get complecent…we get too comfortable with things. And if you’ve been at your job for a really long time and have a proven track record but haven’t received a raise in years, then it’s time to ask for one. I know that sounds scary, but it’s a simple question that they will either say yes or no to.
You can also start working side hustles – I walked dogs for almost three years while we were working our way out of debt. There’s no shame in working a side hustle to achieve a big goal. The extra income should do something for your future self – so saving up your Emergency Fund, saving for retirement, paying off debt, or just saving for a vacation.
Okay, so now you’re all set with your crash course in personal finance must haves! You tell me, what would you add to this list?
I’ve been at this blogging game for 7 years now, I absolutely love blogging! But when I started my blog all those years ago, I wasn’t making any money it. I mean, I knew that it was possible to earn an income online because some of my favorite bloggers were doing just that (Money Saving Mom and A Bowl Full of Lemons).
But the reality is that creating a successful blog is a lot of work and it’s not nearly as easy as I first thought. In fact, for me, it took me taking Elite Blog Academy to start earning an income from my blog.
Hold up…I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Earning an income from a blog is fantastic, but that’s a conversation for another day. Today we’re going to talk about setting up a blog because if you’ve never created a blog, then this is new territory.
Step 1. Pick a Blog Name and Register Your Domain Name
Honestly, I think this might be the most challenging part – picking a name. When I started my blog, I was The Budget Mama and I truly loved that blog name, but after a few years, and failing to purchase the domain names that were similar to TBM, I ended up being crowded out by all the other “budgeting” blogs out there.
All that to say, don’t worry if you pick a name you end up not loving – you can always rebrand later as I did. The key here is to brainstorm all possible names that your blog could be. In fact, I recommend you do this step with step number two below. This will help you determine a blog name better.
As far as registering a domain name, check here to see if your particular domain name is available. If it is, then purchase your domain. I recommend Name Cheap for cheap domains, but you can really go anywhere for a domain name. One bit of warning though, you want to make sure that where you purchase your domain name is different than where you set up your hosting. This will add an extra layer of protection against hackers.
Step 2. Brainstorm Niche Ideas
A “niche” is your topic of choice for your blog. Think of your niche as a target board – the overall target is your overall niche and the bullseye is your target-target niche.
So, for example, my blog’s overall niche is personal finance, but my bullseye is debt-free living. So everything that I talk about in the realm of personal finance, comes back to the bullseye of debt-free living.
Do a big brain dump of all the things you love to chat about. Think about the things that your friends and family come to you for help with – that’s a good indicator of a topic that you’re passionate about. The thing this, if you’re going to create a money-making blog, you’re going to need to be able to write, and write, and write some more about your topic. If you can’t do that, then it is the wrong topic to chose.
Step 3. Set up WordPress.org
I know that some folks love Squarespace, but I have no experience with them to offer any advice. The platform I recommend is WordPress.org (not the .com version). My tech guy actually has a fantastic free course on setting up WordPress.org so instead of trying to re-create what he has already created (and let’s be honest, he’s the better person to be talking about this), head here to sign up for his free course.
Step 4. Set up hosting
Okay, so I know that every six-figure blogger recommends using Bluehost, but I don’t. I don’t because honestly, I’ve never heard anything good about them other than their generous affiliate commissions so I can’t in full conscience recommend them. However, I have used Black Chicken and absolutely loved them. I only switched hosting providers once my traffic got too much for Black Chicken to handle.
BC’s customer service is fantastic and they are always more than willing to help you. So when it comes to setting up your hosting, you’ll want to chat with them to have them help you get it set up (every hosting company is a bit different). If the hosting company you chose does not help you with this step, then you’re using the wrong company and I’d recommend switching.
Step 5. Choosing a Theme
Along with picking out your framework (Genesis is the most common), you’ll need to pick out your theme. You can totally use a free theme until you have the money to purchase a premade one. Keep in mind, that you don’t need to have your site professionally designed in order to generate an income from it. I started earning a part-time income from my blog using only a premade theme from Restored 316. Which, Restored 316, actually has a quiz you can take to see which theme will work best for you – head here to take the quiz.
Just pick a theme that is easy on the eyes and easy to navigate. I highly recommend asking someone else for their option on your theme before you decide to use it. What might look really awesome to you might hurt others eyes.
Step 6. Write and write some more
Before you go “live” with your blog, I recommend you write at least ten blog posts (you can do this in the Editor on WordPress or in a Word document). The key here is making sure that you have enough to say about your topic that you can at least write ten 600+ word count posts. If not, then you need to choose a different topic to write about.
Don’t worry too much at this stage about proper editing, just focus on writing and honing in your “voice” – this is how you’ll build authority in your niche. Once you’ve written your ten, edit them, format them, and schedule them to post in WordPress. Then, start writing again. Keep repeating this process over and over.
I highly recommend this book for honing your “voice”. The book is geared towards speakers, but I found it super beneficial for learning how to “talk” to my audience.
Step 7. Prioritize
If making money from your blog is your goal, you’ll need to prioritize what is and what is not important for you at this stage in your blogging career. I know it can feel overwhelming when you’re just starting out because you don’t know a whole lot about blogging, so here are a few resources that can help get you moving in the right direction.
BUT, make sure you make a list of what you need to learn and then pick and chose the resources you download or pay for accordingly. You’ll overwhelm yourself if you attempt to do everything at once.
As soon as you’re done writing your blog posts and you feel confident with your “voice”, then it’s time to start building your email list. When Pinterest changed its algorithm in 2016, I saw my pageviews rapidly fall and if it had not been for my email list, I wouldn’t be earning any money at all from this blog (or at least not enough to claim on taxes). In fact, most successful bloggers will tell you the same thing – the money is in the email list.
Now, I prefer Convertkit for my email list, but I know that it’s not the cheapest option out there, but it’s for segmenting your list and being able to “tag” subscribers with certain interests to be able to communicate more effectively with them. It doesn’t really matter who you start with so long as you make sure you’re allowed to use affiliate links in your emails. If that’s a no, then I would suggest finding a provider that allows you to use them.
Once you set up your email list, it’s time to set up your optin – a free download or email series that folks can opt-in to receive. Don’t over think this – go back over those blog posts you wrote and ask what resource could you provide that would make this content even easier for your audience to “digest”. Then create!
Seriously, it could be a checklist, an ebook, or just a series of educational emails.
Step 9. Don’t forget, $$$
Don’t forget that when you do start registering for affiliates and other money making opportunities as you grow your blog, you need to be tracking your income and expenses. This is the spreadsheet I used for years until I had to switch over to QuickBooks when I became an S-Corp.
Also, don’t forget to keep copies of all your expenses so you can deduct them from your taxes.
Step 10. Mastermind Group
I’m a huge fan of Mastermind Groups and I’ve even spoken at a few conferences about the power of an incredible mastermind group because I love them so much. The best thing about mastermind groups is that they are typically free. There are some paid groups, but you can start off with a free one and reap some serious rewards.
The advantages with a mastermind group are that you get the knowledge of the group – so if someone in the group is killer at working Pinterest, you get to pick their brain without forking over any money. If you’re rocking the email marketing game, you get to share your expertise with the group and the group as a whole is better for it.
Blogging is an ever-changing industry. What worked last year may not work this year so keep that in mind as you work to grow and build up your blogging business. This thing takes a while, so keep going.
If you’re a seasoned blogger, what advice would you add below for a blogger just starting out?