20 Items to Remember to Budget!

Ever built a budget for the month and realized later that you forgot about something so obvious? Been there! If you’re like me, you had an extensive meeting with your spouse to make sure every detail was cared for, but yet something came up that you probably should’ve expected and should’ve discussed in that “extensive meeting” and just didn’t.

Well here’s a list of basic things to be sure to add to your budget so you can build your best budget possible. It works for our family of 2, but I think it will be a decent guideline for any size of family (food is still food and bills are still bills, right?). I’ll start with the obvious and move to the less common.

Side note 1: we use a free app called Every Dollar for our budget, and we love it!!

Side note 2: get out your calendar for the month so you have an idea of the extra items like birthdays you’ll be spending money on!

Side note 3: for extra tips on saving money on your bills, check this out!

Here we go! (and if you use Every Dollar, you can choose to have your budget copied from last month, create an entirely new one, or edit your last month’s budget for the coming month…so no need to remember these items each time!)

1. Mortgage/rent

2. Food – groceries and restaurants (will you be having company at all this month?)

3. Gasoline

4. Electricity/gas

5. Water/garbage

6. Phone bill

7. Car insurance

8. Car maintenance/savings for car maintenance

9. Clothing – dry cleaning or needed items

10. Entertainment (Don’t forget your friends asked you to go to that show with them!)

11. Gifts (Whose birthday or baby shower is coming up?)

12. Emergency fund (for a flat tire, sudden death in the family, etc; $1,000 is a good goal for this!)

13. Savings

  • Short term funds (for things like computers and vacations that need more than one month’s budget to purchase)
  • Long term savings (for a house, a new car, bigger emergencies; Dave Ramsey suggest saving 3-6 months worth of income for the bigger unexpected things)
  • Retirement (don’t rely only on the government, please!)

14. Life insurance

15. Health/health insurance

16. Travel

17. Home maintenance

18. Homeowners/Renters insurance

19. Education

20. Miscellaneous

Bet you didn’t think the list could be so long for “basics!” Let me know if I missed something!

Photo credit: Pictures of Money | Cropped

Join Me for (My Version of) a No Sugar Challenge!

I did this version of a no sugar challenge for a month with a friend, and I just loved the results. I felt better. I had plenty of energy (despite not having coffee!). I lost 5 pounds. I kept off the weight easily after going back to sugar (and I didn’t go back “heavily” but wasn’t necessarily careful either). It was an all-around great challenge for me.

This challenge is coming up again for me, come January 10! If you’d like to join me, I’d be more than happy to have the accountability, and I think you’d enjoy the results like I did, even if you don’t lose weight.

Potential perks:

Having more energy


Losing weight

Saving money

Learning to tell yourself no

Having the decision made before the temptation comes (“Do you want to go get ice cream?” Nope)

So below is the list, and I tried to be as specific as possible so as not to leave any questions about this challenge. Fruit and honey is okay, but even those should be in moderation. Here are the no-nos:

No candy or chocolate

No brownies or cookies

No cake, cupcakes, donuts, or muffins

No pastries

No Little Debbie Snacks

No ice cream or milkshakes or frozen yogurt

(Need I say more about no desserts?)

No sodas

No sweet tea

No flavored creamer

No sugary cereal

No chocolate milk

No hot chocolate

Basically nothing with “sugar added” and none of those nasty sugar substitutes.

Of course, these are just guidelines for a 30 day no sugar challenge. Accountability is such a motivator, so this is primarily to help give a guideline and know that you’re not alone as you take the challenge. So adapt this to be stricter…or not as strict as I’ve laid out and have fun going sugar free!

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

Privacy Policy


This privacy policy has been compiled to better serve those who are concerned with how their ‘Personally Identifiable Information’ (PII) is being used online. PII, as described in US privacy law and information security, is information that can be used on its own or with other information to identify, contact, or locate a single person, or to identify an individual in context. Please read our privacy policy carefully to get a clear understanding of how we collect, use, protect or otherwise handle your Personally Identifiable Information in accordance with our website.

What personal information do we collect from the people that visit our blog, website or app?

We do not collect information from visitors of our site or other details to help you with your experience.

When do we collect information?

We collect information from you when you enter information on our site or provide us with feedback on our products or services.

How do we use your information?

We may use the information we collect from you when you register, make a purchase, sign up for our newsletter, respond to a survey or marketing communication, surf the website, or use certain other site features in the following ways:

  •       To allow us to better service you in responding to your customer service requests.
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We, along with third-party vendors such as Google use first-party cookies (such as the Google Analytics cookies) and third-party cookies (such as the DoubleClick cookie) or other third-party identifiers together to compile data regarding user interactions with ad impressions and other ad service functions as they relate to our website.

Opting out:

Users can set preferences for how Google advertises to you using the Google Ad Settings page. Alternatively, you can opt out by visiting the Network Advertising Initiative Opt Out page or by using the Google Analytics Opt Out Browser add on.

California Online Privacy Protection Act

CalOPPA is the first state law in the nation to require commercial websites and online services to post a privacy policy. The law’s reach stretches well beyond California to require any person or company in the United States (and conceivably the world) that operates websites collecting Personally Identifiable Information from California consumers to post a conspicuous privacy policy on its website stating exactly the information being collected and those individuals or companies with whom it is being shared. – See more at: http://consumercal.org/california-online-privacy-protection-act-caloppa/#sthash.0FdRbT51.dpuf

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Users can visit our site anonymously.

Once this privacy policy is created, we will add a link to it on our home page or as a minimum, on the first significant page after entering our website.

Our Privacy Policy link includes the word ‘Privacy’ and can easily be found on the page specified above.

You will be notified of any Privacy Policy changes:

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Can change your personal information:

  • By logging in to your account

How does our site handle Do Not Track signals?

We honor Do Not Track signals and Do Not Track, plant cookies, or use advertising when a Do Not Track (DNT) browser mechanism is in place.

Does our site allow third-party behavioral tracking?

It’s also important to note that we allow third-party behavioral tracking

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When it comes to the collection of personal information from children under the age of 13 years old, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) puts parents in control. The Federal Trade Commission, United States’ consumer protection agency, enforces the COPPA Rule, which spells out what operators of websites and online services must do to protect children’s privacy and safety online.

We do not specifically market to children under the age of 13 years old.

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The Fair Information Practices Principles form the backbone of privacy law in the United States and the concepts they include have played a significant role in the development of data protection laws around the globe. Understanding the Fair Information Practice Principles and how they should be implemented is critical to comply with the various privacy laws that protect personal information.

In order to be in line with Fair Information Practices we will take the following responsive action, should a data breach occur:

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We will notify the users via in-site notification

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We also agree to the Individual Redress Principle which requires that individuals have the right to legally pursue enforceable rights against data collectors and processors who fail to adhere to the law. This principle requires not only that individuals have enforceable rights against data users, but also that individuals have recourse to courts or government agencies to investigate and/or prosecute non-compliance by data processors.


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4020 E. Lancaster Blvd

Lancaster, CA 93534



Last Edited on 2017-01-05


Our Story

Meet Jesse. He’s my husband, and he’s AMAZING!!! God never ceases to amaze me in His goodness or His omniscience (among many other things).

Jesse and I met in college and were privileged to work on the same staff together after college. We had mutual friends and got to hang out and get to know each other quite a bit before we ever started dating.

In God’s goodness, He healed me from a broken heart from a previous relationship, and in God’s omniscience, He knew I would not only take some time for healing but that I would also need someone who would simply be my friend and be there for me whether I asked for it or not. Jesse unquestionably was that friend.

After some chasing and some flirting and some more chasing, Jesse and I started dating in the summer of 2013. Our first date was Fourth of July, and it was a BLAST! I hadn’t laughed that hard in…who knows how long!

My guard was up, to say the least. I loved spending time with Jesse, and I knew he had zero intentions of hurting me. Ever. But my guard was up nonetheless. I wasn’t going down that road again. One day after we left hanging out with friends, Jesse decided it was time for me to know something: he wasn’t going away. I was behind a locked gate (according to the picture he drew for me), and he was standing outside the door, patiently waiting. There was no rush to open the door. No rush to do anything I didn’t want to do. But he was there, waiting. And he would be there when I was ready to open the door. He wasn’t going away. (Was that a dare? I’m sick, I know…)

When I was about to go home for Christmas, Jesse gave me something I’d always wanted: a free-standing mirror… and then he told me he loved me! I did some serious praying in Texas while Jesse and I were apart. I knew I couldn’t be wrong again. My heart couldn’t handle it. But God – as He always does – gave me direction and peace. He gave me a verse that basically said “trust and obey.” And so when I returned to California, I happily  said, “I love you back.”

We continued to get to know each other more seriously, going on fun dates like riding the Metro to visit Chinatown, adoring the beautiful El Matador Beach, and fine dining at Denny’s.

One particular Memorial Day, we both had the day off, and Jesse said that we could go hiking (that’s my JAM!) and that I could invite a friend or two if I wanted. I picked the place and packed some snacks, and we were off. Oh, and I brought some clothes to change in to for dinner because I know Jesse likes to eat at nice places (that’s his jam!). So after getting to the famous bridge (of The Bridge to Nowhere) and enjoying some waterfalls and some rest, we were starting the 5 mile hike back when Jesse stopped me on the bridge to tell me how much he loved me. And to be honest, it took a little while for me to realize he was actually proposing, considering the whole day was “my” idea (which is what he wanted me to think!). Needless to say, he totally caught me off guard, and that’s all I wanted.

We were married about a year after we started dating, thanks to an amazing mom and sister-in-law who took care of all the details in under 3 months!

The rest is history in the making, and we thank God for the journey He’s put us on together.

Photography that is not my own (first and last picture) is by Autum Vaught Photography. 

DIY Satin Lips Gift Sets for $.91 each

The struggle is real. You know you are friends, but how good of friends are you? Sure, you want to give them something for Christmas, but does your budget want to give them something? You also know that you’ll continue to be friends whether or not gifts are exchanged for Christmas. But that doesn’t answer the question of whether or not you should (i.e. can afford to) give them something for Christmas. The struggle continues.
This year we attempted to do homemade gifts all around. I found this recipe for making homemade Satin Lips, and the price point solved my problem for me!

You can make these gift sets all at once and then have them on hand for last minute gifts (just maybe do a seasonal color ribbon), and the lip balms scents are customizable, so change it up and have some fun with them!

The prices are estimated based on how much of the item I used. Disclaimer: I prefer to read and blog about costs that 1. don’t require any additional buying and 2. that don’t assume you already have these items (because that, of course, changes the cost if you don’t already have it on hand and have to buy it), but there’s sometimes no way around assuming you have some semi-basic household items on hand already. Here’s how I did 15 gifts for my  coworkers and friends for less than $1 each.

One set of plastic cosmetic containers, 50 pieces (I bought these:): $7.75

One package of strawberry Jell-O: $.50

Cocoa powder: $.25 or so

Coconut oil: $1 or so

Sugar: $.20 or so

Coffee grounds: $.50 (if that)

Vaseline (I used generic brand that I had on hand, regular petroleum jelly): $1 or so

Candy canes: $.20

Peppermint oil (I recommend Young living): $2.25

Total: $13.90

Divided by 15 = $.91 each 

Here are the recipes I used:

Mocha lip scrub: http://retrohousewifegoesgreen.com/2016/09/homemade-mocha-lip-scrub/

Strawberry lip balm: http://www.inspirationmadesimple.com/2015/07/diy-jello-lip-gloss/#_a5y_p=4064714

Peppermint lip balm (created on my own, adapted from the Jello lip balm recipe above):
Started with 1 to 1 ratio of coconut oil and Vaseline. Ended up using more coconut oil because I don’t care as much for the feel of Vaseline.

20-25 drops of peppermint essential oil (mine is therapeutic grade, so it goes farther than others)

1. Melt the oil and Vaseline together in the microwave or using a double boiler. Let it cool.

2. Add 10-15 drops of peppermint oil to the mixture.

3. Break up candy canes into chunky pieces and place in bottom of container (this is really just for looks).

4. Pour lip balm into containers after mixture has mostly cooled. Take my advice and do this carefully. When these containers are oily/greasy, they are rather difficult to clean!

5. Add another drop of peppermint oil to the top of the lip balm before putting the lid on the containers.

At this point, if you’ve already made the lip scrub and other lip balm, you can pick up with step #6:

6. Use a doubled over piece of tape and tape each container together, stacking one on top of another, to help the containers stay together when you tie them.

7. Measure, cut, and tape ribbon to the bottom of the stacked/taped containers and tie a bow at the top.

I had 5 extra containers of peppermint lip balm, so I gave them out as well, meaning I had more than 15 gifts out of this deal.

I think my favorite part was trying out the mocha lip scrub while I made it. It’s just GREAT, so be sure to make some extra scrub for yourself. You can thank me later. Happy scrubbing and happy crafting!

3 Ways to Save $2,400 a Year on Bills

TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read): Call or shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible on your monthly bills.

Ever looked at your account and wondered where all the money went? Ever think that it’s disappearing before your eyes? It’s easy to feel that way in a normal day of adulthood and even easier when you don’t have a budget you stick to and check up on. I – of course – would urge you to get a budget if you don’t have one. And if you do have a budget and disparage of your finances still, it might be time to take a look at your bills to know for certain you are getting the very best deal possible.

Here’s a look at some of the ways we’ve saved at least $200 a month on our bills. That’s $2,400 in a year!

Shop around for the best car insurance rate. “We switched to Geico and saved $60 a month!” isn’t just a statement you hear on a commercial! Geico might not be your best option, but for us, switching from Allstate to Geico literally cut our bill in half, and we are getting the same, full coverage! If your insurance rate increases every time your policy is up for renewal, it’s highly doubtful you’re getting the best price. Geico has actually gone down a bit from the time we started. Don’t be bashful or feel bad about calling to ask for a discount. The easy switch saves us $60 a month.

Check your phone carrier’s competitors. We made the switch to T-Mobile and save at least $120 a month! Again, maybe T-Mobile isn’t the best deal for you. When we were faced with a large phone bill for average service and coverage and very average data, we asked AT&T to lower our rate, and when they didn’t, we decided to shop around. T-Mobile was having an excellent deal, and we were able to get unlimited data, talk, and text; 2 lines for $100 total. That is half what our other bill would have been. And there’s no contract. Consider what you could be saving and ask yourself this question: would I rather have great cell service or $100 extra per month? 

Get smart about your utilities. 

  • Electricity – Did you know electric companies charge more per kilowatt at certain times of the day/days of the week or after passing a certain threshold of electricity? It does pay to be smart about your utilities! If you really want to save more on electricity and/or gas, you’ll change your tolerance level for the temperature in your home. It may mean adding or shedding a layer of clothing or adding a fan to your home (look here for even more helpful tips from a real guru). I even try little things like ironing all at once so that the iron doesn’t waste electricity getting heated up each time. Yes, it can be inconvenient, and it might not feel like you’re making a difference, but when you get your electric bill, you’ll know it’s paying off. We recently received a $15 bill for electricity (for our 2 bedroom apartment, to be fair), and I was one happy woman!
  • Gas (natural) – Our heat is from natural gas, so during these winter months, we are especially careful. Personally, I now enjoy bundling up when I go to bed, so I don’t think of it negatively. You might be able to close a vent in a spare room or keep the curtains closed to help keep the heat in. Between the two of these, we’ve cut our gas and electric in half, saving at least $20 a month.

You may not be able to cut $200 of your monthly bills, but I certainly hope you can look at your budget, determine where you might be overpaying, and decide what to do about it. Call the company and ask for a lower rate. Shop around and let competitors know your current rate and ask if they can do better. Figure out where electricity is getting wasted and fix it. Feel free to let me know some ways you save on your bills each month or if there’s something I missed! I’m all ears.

Photo credit: 401Kcalculator.org

Best Free Things To Do in Los Angeles


Living in or just visiting Southern California can get quite expensive, especially if you don’t know your way around. Not only that, but there are opportunities for fun everywhere! It’s hard to know where to start. If you’re in the LA area and are trying to have some fun on the cheap, you need to cross some of these items off your bucket list! Disclaimer: some of these destinations may require a parking fee. If you get creative about your parking and find a good, free spot, please let us know in the comments!

This list could very well apply to all of SoCal. I can only imagine that some of the best things to do in San Diego would include beautiful beaches, breath-taking mountains to hike, and pleasant shopping and social areas. However, I decided to stick to Los Angeles, at least for this post.

Check out these places and you’ll see why we rarely spend money on entertainment.

The beaches (here are some favorites):

Redondo Beach. Such a beautiful beach area! The vacation homes are so fun to look at and dream about. We actually saw Troy Aikman (famous, former Dallas Cowboys player!) on vacation with his family there! We had fun just looking at the homes and talking about what we liked about each of them. (Sorry, my pictures don’t do it justice!)  Cost: gasoline and parking money

Santa Monica Pier. With their recent enhancements, this is a big tourist attraction now and rightfully so. Come here to experience a care-free fun time, seeing different performers along the pier, just hanging out at the beach, or fishing from the pier. Cost: gasoline and parking money

Photo credit: Pacheco

El Matador Beach. If you’re looking for some scenic beach pictures, this is the place to go! There’s not a lot of room between the cliffs behind you and the water when the tide starts coming in deeper, but the rocks makes for some great pictures! Cost: gasoline and parking money 


  • Griffith Observatory. This is a fun place to go to see LA from a higher perspective! Parking is free, and there’s some educational displays and potential hiking (particularly if you don’t get the parking at just the right time). Cost: gasoline

Photo credit: Frank Steele

  • UCLA performing arts. We went to a free symphony and enjoyed their fabulous music, twisted with a little drama. On a separate day, we went and explored their beautiful campus.  Cost: gasoline 


  • Hiking trails. If you enjoy the great outdoors at all, the possibilities are endless!!! Here are some of the places we’ve hiked: 

The bridge to nowhere. The waterfalls at the end of the trail make it all worth it. Warning: it’s a 10 mile round trip hike. Please don’t go if you’ve never hiked before or if it’s been a while for you. And take lots of water. There’s a river along the way to help you stay cool and welcoming waterfalls at the end (did I mention I love those?). My husband and I got engaged on the bridge, so it’s somewhat sentimental to me :).

Malibu Beach area. It’s so nice to hike right along the beach!

Vasquez Rocks. A season of 24 was filmed here, as well as several other popular movies and shows. This place will suit all your exploring desires with trails, vast hills, little coves, and rocks that beckon you to climb them.

Seriously, endless possibilities in SoCal. Cost: gasoline (just be sure to plan your drinking water and meals properly)

  • Shakespear plays at the park. This was a neat little experience for us! Take a blanket to sit on and maybe a pillow or two for comfort. The actors did a great job, and the sound quality and staging was pretty good as well! Cost: free


  • Snow! I absolutely love the snow in Tehachapi in the winter months. Just wow. There’s also Wrightwood, but I find it quite overwhelmed with tourists, as is Big Bear. My husband found this amazing area of Tehachapi where we saw next to zero snow-deprived Californians, and if there had been many people, there would have been plenty of snow to go around. It started snowing while we were there… I was in heaven!!! We didn’t have to pay for parking, and there were even bathrooms with toilet paper along the snow-covered trails (always a plus, right?). This only required gas and warm clothes, and we made some AMAZING memories!!! Cost: gasoline



  • Downtown Disney. Parking is free for the first two hours. Walking around and getting the essence of Disney without the price of Disney is great for us. Visit the lego store and other fun shops (this girl has awesome pictures!). Just don’t get so carried away that you forget about your car’s time limit! Cost: gasoline and potentially parking
  • The Grove. This is such a beautiful shopping area to walk around in. They have lots of shops, a nice fountain, and a little bridge. My best friend got engaged on the bridge; her fiancé sang and played his guitar and then proposed. It’s especially romantic at night if that’s what you’re going for. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking

Photo credit: Prayitno

  • The Americana (Glendale). While this place is awesome all year round, I have to say that Christmas time is the best!!! They have a beautiful fountain running through the middle of the outdoor shopping area, and at Christmas time, the lights make it even more inviting. As my husband and I were enjoying the scenery, we hear “Let it Snow” by Michael Buble, and snow starts falling from above!! It was fake of course, but it was still magical! Just magical. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking
    This is certainly not a comprehensive list (and I hope to keep adding to it!), but I hope it helps some locals to figure out inexpensive ways to create family memories! Yes, some of these places may tempt you to spend money. However, the goal is simply to give you some fun destinations that don’t require a huge entrance fee and certainly don’t break the bank. Now, please. Let me in: what are some of your favorite, inexpensive things to do in LA?