Be More: Financial – Plugging up money leaks

I’m back with another in the Be More series of posts.  Today, I want to discuss the idea of “money leaks,” although I think in our case, the term should be money floods.  I think of money leaks as those places where you don’t really think about how much money you’re spending until you sit down to look at the totals.  Then, you’re shocked at just how much money is going out of your pockets and into someone else’s.  In 2017, I want to make plugging up these money leaks a priority in my life.  So, I thought I would identify my top five money leaks and then report to you on how my plumbing project is going in 2017.


  1.  Eating out.  This is the real flood threat for our family.  We eat out constantly.  When my husband works a full day, he sometimes eats breakfast ($7.50) and lunch ($12-13) out.  That is basically two of his eight hours of pay gone.  Such a waste.  But, it isn’t just him.  I often get fed up with cooking and cleaning the kitchen and will voluntarily go out instead.  With the three of us, that is often between $30 and $40 a pop.  Today, we went to lunch and although we ate relatively cheap, my husband had two beers and it brought the tab up to a hefty $45!  We had a $25 gift card to the restaurant, but that was still $20 even with the gift card.  I’m tired of this money flowing out of my wallet into the pockets of others when we often don’t enjoy the food or the experience all that much. When I was younger, eating out was a weekly event.  And I do mean event.  We went out almost every Friday (when my dad got paid) and it was seen as a big deal.  When my dad was off work, we did NOT eat out.  And I don’t remember ever going out for lunch or breakfast much.  I want to make eating out something that is an experience, not something done out of desperation.
  2. Food waste.  Seriously.  This is another flood threat in our house.  I throw out so much food.  It makes me feel a little ill and very guilty.  I just can’t figure out how to buy efficiently.  I buy too much of some things.  Other things I buy planning to use them and they don’t get used because we eat out instead (see #1).  Still other things, I think I’m going to use, so I don’t put in the freezer and they go bad.  I want to be a meal planner and in fact, I’ve signed up for Plan to Eat‘s Make Ahead Meal Challenge for January.  I am a horrible meal planner.  But, I am bound and determined to make it work in the new year so we will eat at home and save money.  If you’d like to join me at Plan to Eat, they are having a 30 day free trial for new members right now and it gives you access to all their recipes for the challenge.  You can look me up as a friend and we can share recipes!  I’m under 2ndheartmom and I focus on cheap and easy food stuffs!
  3. Cell phones.  This is an area I really struggle.  I feel like I NEED to have a smartphone with data plans, etc.  Because I travel so much for work and I’m constantly going places, I feel like I need to have one to access email, etc.  But, obviously, NEED is a strong word for that.  I could live without a smartphone with a data plan.  I definitely did not need to have an iPhone 6s that is costing me an exorbitant amount of money each month.  I’m going to look into Freedom Pop in 2017.  I need to figure out if I can get out of my current contract, how much that will cost and what the trade-off will be.  But, I have a feeling that getting a limited plan would really save me quite a bit.  We spend over $200 a month for two phones.  That, my friends, is ridiculous.  By the end of the year, we’re spending $2500 just to have a device that 15 years ago, we survived without just fine.  Plus, I feel like my phone sucks up a lot of my time and attention that I could be spending on other more meaningful things.
  4. Stupid Taxes.  That’s a Dave Ramsey phrase, but it totally fits these things.  I pay a lot of late fees, overdraft fees, parking tickets, and other such nonsense each year.  I am afraid of adding it all up as it would easily be thousands of dollars.  I’m too smart to be paying so much in stupid tax.  I need to get my sh*% together and start doing thing the right way: on time and paid in full.
  5. Coffee and things at coffee shops.  It is a close tie between this and books, but I think this wins out.  I love me some Starbucks.  I have a Gold Card.  I keep track of stars.  I buy food there.  My daughter likes to get snacks there.  Sometimes I even buy bagged coffee there (pretty rare, but I do).  I get a latte almost every day I work at some point during the day.  That is three or four lattes a week at $4.25 a pop.  That is somewhere around $15 a week.  Now, there are weeks where I don’t get that much, but there are also weeks where I get much more than that.  So, on average, $10-15 a week is no exaggeration.  And the funny thing is, I make coffee at home almost every day as well.  But, I often want something later in the day or something stronger or something more fun.  So, I go to Starbucks.  Next year, I want to start drinking the coffee I make at home and nothing else UNLESS I have a gift card balance I can use.  And even then, I would like to make it only once a week (because gift card balances don’t usually go real far).  I also want to find cheaper drinks there (see this Pin related to this idea – I need to study up).  Finally, I will not buy food there (because it is outrageously expensive).

So, there you have it.  My five major money leaks that are threatening a flood.  I’m hoping that I can do some plumbing work and get those leaks fixed in 2017.  What about you?  What are your major money leaks?


Walmart Beauty Box – Winter 2016

No affiliate links in this post – just sharing some product information with you all this time!

So, I’m not much into fashion or makeup.  I’m far too lazy to take much time each morning getting dressed or doing my makeup.  I was a subscriber to Birch Box for a while, but I found that I used about 10% of the things they sent.  Mostly the hair products.  And when I did find something I liked (this one exfoliating face wash was awesome), I would find the price of the product to be well out of my range of acceptability ($57 for exfoliator – that should scrape my dishes as well as my face for that price).  So, I now subscribe to the Walmart Beauty Box.  It is quarterly and only costs $5 and most of the products are under $10 if you want to purchase them.


These are my kind of products.  I love Dove products and this box has samples of their Advanced Hair Series – shampoo, conditioner and mask – as well as this yummy smelling body wash: dove-body-wash

The name sounds fancy too – mandarin and tiare flower scent.  I’m a sucker for anything that smells nice.  Living in a house with two dogs, a cat and a child will make you appreciate good smells much, much more.

I have received the Pond’s Rejuveness product before in one of their boxes and I really like it as well.  I don’t take care of my skin the way I should, but this stuff is easy to use, not greasy or painful (some of the anti-wrinkle creams seem to burn my skin slightly).  And it is cheap!  At Wal-mart it is only $8.07 for 7 oz.  Much better (and more realistic) than $57 for 4 oz. that the Birchbox exfoliator was going to cost me!

I also am looking forward to trying the Curel Hydratherapy wet skin moisturizer!  Do you put on lotion before drying off?  I learned that trick many, many years ago when I swam competitively.  The chlorine would really dry my skin out, but putting lotion on after showering and before drying off cut down on the dryness quite a bit.  But, most lotions aren’t actually MADE for that purpose.  This one is.  So, I’m curious to see if it locks in moisture better than my everyday lotions.  I also like using good smelling lotions before drying off because they leave your towel smelling great!  It is the small things in life people!

The box also came with a full-size Covergirl Lashblast mascara and a sample of Aveeno Body Yogurt in Vanilla and Oats.  The mascara alone would have cost me more than the $5 for the box, so I feel like it was a good purchase.  I will use all of the products without question and I’m even excited about using most of them!  And it is a bit of a self-care reminder to get the anti-wrinkle creams and moisturizers.  I don’t often think about my “beauty routine,” probably because I don’t have one!  But, I know at my age, I should be moisturizing much more.  I just don’t always think about it.  But, this gives me a quarterly reminder (and push) to do it with the “freebies” in the box.  It also gives me ideas for products that I would actually use that have a price tag that fits into our budget.  So, if you’re looking for the fun of a subscription box without products you couldn’t afford to buy full-sized, look no further than Wal-Mart’s beauty box.  I have seen that Target is now doing something similar, but I haven’t tried it yet and it looks to be unavailable at this time.

So, tomorrow, my skin should be a bit softer and in two weeks, I should have less wrinkles!


Be More Organized: I Make Piles

First off, I would like to warn you, do not do a Google search for “I make piles” without some additional term like “organizing” or “cleaning”.  Turns out, pile is another name for hemorrhoids.  Who knew?  But, now we all do.


So, I’ll admit it.  I make piles.  Everywhere I go.  I have piles on my dining room table, piles on my bar area, piles in my garage and piles in my office at work.  My husband also makes piles.  My daughter is quickly learning to do the same.  In some ways, it feels like a little bit of organizing.  After all, stuff isn’t spread out all over the place.  It is in a nice, neat pile.  Well, okay, it is in a pile (not always so nice or neat).  But, at least it is in one place.  Sometimes I even put my piles in a basket.  Doesn’t that look nice?  The problem is, the piles seem to multiply.  Piles begat piles.  I ended up getting rid of our living room coffee table because it was just a magnet for piles.  We now have limited space to put our drinks or snacks, as I talked about in this earlier post.  But, the question I have to ask is, does that outweigh the fact that I don’t have as many piles in the living room now?  It is a difficult question to answer.  The problem is that I can’t get rid of every flat surface in our home, so at some point, I have to figure out how to control the piling.  Here are my top three ideas for getting out of the piling habit:

  1. Act immediately and make it quick.  We are a family of procrastinators as well as pilers.  When asked to do something, we will often say, “I’ll do it in just a second.” or “As soon as I finish this…”  The problem is that we often forget by the time we finish what we are doing or get the motivation to actually get up and do the task.  I often come in with mail and instead of just going through it right then and there and throwing 90% of it in recycling where it belongs, I will throw it on our dining room table.  There it sits.  Weeks later, it still sits.  And there are a number of piles around it and on top of it.  I have paid late fees because of this habit.  And it takes only a minute or two to actually go through it and figure out what needs action, what needs recycling.  I will also pile dirty dishes in the sink throughout the day.  It would take literally seconds to rinse the dish(es) and put it in the dishwasher, but instead, I choose to pile it.  At the end of the day, I have a daunting pile of dishes with crusted on food or sticky residue and it takes me a lot longer to get them rinsed and loaded.  If I were to just act immediately on something that needs to be done and then make it as quick as I possibly can (avoiding perfectionism, which sometimes gets in my way), I would have things DONE at the end of the day rather than piled up.
  2. Purge and purge more.  We are also a family with a lot of stuff.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say we are hoarders, but I have a whole walk-in closet full of scrapbooking stuff, my husband has a garage half full of competitive shooting and fishing supplies, my daughter has the other half of the garage full of books and toys.  We have many of those same things in the house.  We all have a lot of clothes.  I have a lot of pans and dishes and such.  I tend to have a lot of papers to grade for my classes (although I’ve tried to go as electronic as I can).  We have photos and trinkets and blankets and lots of food stuff.  When there is this much stuff, it can seem challenging to find a place for everything and put everything in its place.  I realize this.  I have been decluttering.  But, what I really need to do is purge and purge more.  So, what’s the difference between decluttering and purging?  Well, to me, decluttering is getting rid of stuff you don’t want anymore.  Stuff that isn’t useful or attractive.  And trust me, we had a lot of that type of stuff.  But, purging means getting rid of stuff even if you still want it, just to lower the volume of stuff that you have floating around your house.  That is what I need to do.  Because with a family like this, if we have a lot of stuff, we’re going to have a lot of piles.  I need to shift my perspective towards purging stuff that is NOT NEEDED.  Not just the stuff that is not wanted, but stuff that is not necessary to our day-to-day or month-to-month lives.  My daughter learned all about wants and needs in first grade last year and I need to live like a first grader in 2017.
  3. Embrace space.  As a communication professional, I often focus on the value of silence in all its awkward glory.  Silence creates space for people to think and sometimes for people to talk who otherwise would not get heard.  I need to think of surfaces like silence.  It will feel awkward at first.  It will draw our eye and we may feel the desire to make a pile since it isn’t being used for other things.  But, instead, we need to view it as a space to give us room to think and breathe.  We need to view it as a space to let things be noticed that otherwise would be lost in the chaos of piles.  A family photo.  A meaningful trinket with an important memory tied to it.  So much we own does not hold any of that value or meaning.  They are taking up valuable space and silencing what is really valuable and meaningful.

So, that’s it.  In 2017, I am going to focus on purging.  I used to do the Flylady system and some things have stuck with me despite me not really using her program anymore.  I still do things in 15 minute increments much of the time.  I think I’m going to go back to her 27 fling boogie each day.  Purging 27 things each and every day in 2017 would yield 9855 less things in our house.  Even if I take a week off here and there it will still make a significant difference in the volume of stuff in my home.

Here is to a 2017 with less piles and more smiles!


More Follower Mondays

I’ve decided to start a “more” themed post on Mondays in 2017 – More Follower Mondays at More at Forty!  My hope is that we can help each other by generating more followers for our blogs and social media.  I am doing it as a Linkup so we can actually see a blog post that you’d like to drive traffic to, but you can also link to a social media account if that is where you need followers.  I’m new to this Linkup thing so be patient with me, but I think I have it figured out.  My plan is to make the first linkup available on Monday, January 2 and to have one each Monday.  Some Mondays, I may add a theme, but to start, we’re just going with an open-ended invitation to linkup and get more followers!


homemaking, Uncategorized

What’s for dinner? Trader Joe’s Edition

I followed through with making dinner tonight (one of my DO items for 2017, but getting an early start).  My daughter and I went to Trader Joe’s to pick up some premade burger patties for my husband to put on the smoker and I always taste test (and usually buy whatever it is).  Tonight, we seemingly hit the holy grail!  My daughter’s favorite soup is the black bean soup at Panera and they were serving their Latin Style Black Bean Soup with their precooked pork carnitas.  So, we bought the supplies for both the hamburgers and the soup and came home.  BTW, for hamburger patties (4), hamburger buns (8), pork carnitas and black bean soup, along with a bag of fuji apples – and a second bag to boot because there were a few bruised apples in it, so the cashier said he would have to damage it out anyways and we could just take them, SCORE! – it was only $26.  Not bad for two meals plus (we have a ton of leftovers from tonight).  I let my daughter decide which meal for tonight and she chose the soup.  I thought it was a little watery when we tasted it (I like thick black bean soup), so I added a can of black beans and a can of corn (both drained of liquid), heated up the carnitas in the microwave for three minutes and shredded it into the soup and heated it all up again in the microwave.  Total prep time, probably 10 minutes!  I took three of the hamburger buns (since we only have four patties for tomorrow) and made those into garlic bread and served them with the soup.  It was all very yummy, super easy and pretty cheap.


Little box of magic


I do feel like if I went to Trader Joe’s every day just to do the taste test, I would be a better cook.  They always have super easy recipes and all the fixins right there.  Sometimes they are serving something I would never eat, but most of the time, it is tasty and somewhat healthy.

If you are interested in a few other recipes for the Black Bean Soup, you might want to try the following.  I probably will!

Black Bean Nacho Soup

Another one similar to mine



Redefining “homemaker”

For those who have been reading the blog for the past couple of weeks, you have read that I have chosen my “one word” for 2017 as “home”.  I talk about why and what it means in this post.  So, this campaign from Pine-Sol and Take Part grabbed my attention.  As a word person, I love the idea of redefining “homemaker” (which is what I truly wanted my one word to be, but felt like it held too much baggage for me to embrace it for a whole year) and modernize it into #makersofhome.  It really captures the sentiment I want without having to bring all the baggage along with it.   I understand that homemaker is not a bad word in and of itself, but I still like the idea of redefining it from someone who cooks and cleans the house to someone who makes it a “home”.


The campaign itself is broad and the sentiment is lovely: “From a blended family with adoptive children to a single mom to a family with a special needs child, these stories show us that even as families have changed, love has not.”   We’ve always shared love outside of the traditional family unit, but I like that we are not just recognizing it, but celebrating it with this campaign.

I do cook and clean.  But, I often do it with resentment and frustration rather than as a way to “love”.  I want to change that perspective.  I want my homemaking to become more focused on being a maker of a home.  I want my home to be welcoming and comfortable and cozy and a place where I can celebrate our family and our place in the world.  And our house may change (we will most likely be moving in the next couple of years), but our “home” will remain the same.  Right now, we don’t have a ton of space to host others or much money to invest in decorating and this is a rental, so we don’t have control or permanency to invest in renovation, etc.  But, that isn’t what it’s all about.  It’s about making this a home, in the cultural sense of the word discussed in this Smithsonian article rather than the dictionary definition, which isn’t nearly so meaningful.

A few things I have in the works to reach this goal:

  1. I asked my husband for picture frames for Christmas so I can do a gallery wall with our family photos.  I have one in our stairwell, but it isn’t all that great and certainly is not updated at all.  I think the last picture we have there is from two years ago and most are much older.
  2. I am starting to be more purposeful in my furniture choices.  We basically live in a house of hand-me-downs.  Some that I love and some not so much.  First order of business is to replace our dining room table.  I got my parents’ table when my mom passed away and although it is a beautiful antique that my dad refinished before he passed away, it is also completely out of place in our home.  It is large, formal and the chairs keep breaking (with a seven-year-old and a larger husband, they just aren’t holding up).  So, I’m going to keep my eye out for a good buy on a dining room table that is more our style.  I’m also on the hunt for a coffee table.  I like the open space in our living room without one, but we have problems finding a place to sit drinks and books and work and snacks.  Anyways, I will look for something free or cheap (I got a great office chair free today off Craig’s List that I will use with my desk that I recently moved from my DD’s room to my room to give me a place to work other than the dining room table and the couch) and be patient.
  3. I had a chance to listen to a podcast today while running some errands and the one that popped up was the most recent Abundant Mama podcast with Katrina Kenison.  I had never heard of Katrina Kenison before this, but she truly captured my imagination.  Her story of waking each morning before dawn purely for the purpose of watching the sun rise and how she found out her mom did the same thing because “she didn’t know how many more days she had on this earth and didn’t want to miss one sunrise” just brought me to tears.  The episode focused on her ability to find extraordinary in the ordinary and that, my friends, is what I truly want to make our home.  A place where the ordinary is recognized as extraordinary.  After all, with a daughter who had a heart transplant when she was 5 months old and has been through so much since then, every day really is extraordinary.  We just don’t take the time or effort to recognize that much.  I want to recognize it, not only in words, but also in actions and in our environment at home.

So, as I close this post, I am sitting in a living room with laundry baskets on our love seat and chair full of clean laundry that needs to be folded.  Piles of student papers on the floor and one of the seats of the couch next to me (grades are due in four short days, so these will soon be gone).  A dining room table piled high with a project of my husband’s and mail and papers from the past few weeks that have piled up there as we move them over when we want to eat or play games at the table.  A bar that has Christmas decorations and boxes from Christmas presents and more items from my husband’s project (which he has promised to have cleaned up by tomorrow).  The vacuum is sitting in the hallway where I used it earlier today.  A blanket is on the floor, along with some shoes.  It is by no means picture perfect, but it is a reflection of us.  It is a home that we use (for projects and reading and folding laundry) and one that we snuggle up in (with blankets to keep us warm).  The Christmas tree is blinking with memories on almost every branch.  And my bulldog is snoring next to me.  Would I rather our house be neat and tidy?  Certainly.  But, if it meant that we weren’t using it for things we cared about and loved and needed, than it wouldn’t be worth it.  So, for now, I will take it.  Tomorrow, it may get tidier, but somewhere along the way, it will get messy again.  Perhaps even messier.  But, if it gets more comfortable and it is well-loved along the way, than the mess doesn’t matter.  We are making a home in the Smithsonian sense, not the Better Homes and Gardens sense.

I hope that your home is one of love and beauty and kindness in 2017.  Please let me know in the comments what you think is the #makersofhome.



Be More…active – 5 things I am going to DO in 2017

I’ve decided to embrace this blog’s title more actively.  I will be doing a series of blog posts in 2017 that focus on the idea of being more of something.  The first focus is going to be getting more active.  I’ve realized just how totally sedentary I am as a human being.  And my daughter is now also becoming sedentary.  And I want her transplanted heart to last as long as it can, which means keeping it and her healthy.  We are a tech family, so getting off the couch and out from behind the screen is a bit of a struggle.  I often have work as an excuse.  And in all fairness, I do have a load of grading to do, but I don’t have to be online to do all of it.  I also have this blog, but I don’t spend that much time on it each day that I need to sit on the couch, staring at a screen for hours and hours.

So, how am I going to get more active?  I’m thinking broadly here.  So, it isn’t just “getting more exercise”.  That is so generic and not very helpful from past experience.  So, I’m focused more on getting off the couch and DOing things.  I’ve picked five things I want to do each and every day:

  1. Walk the dogs.  They are bored and overweight and need some good exercise.  I often use the weather as an excuse, but really, unless it is raining torrentially, there really is no reason not to get them out and walk them around the block.  They love walks and are so happy when they get one, even if it is short.  But, I would like to take them on longer walks as well.  But, just walking them every single day, even short ones, would be a step up.
  2. Cook meals in my kitchen.  We eat out way, way, way too much.  And often it is simply because I’m too lazy to get up and cook something in the kitchen and clean up afterward (see number three).  If I did cook meals in my own kitchen each day, we would be healthier, save money and also eat tastier food.  Most of the time, when I do cook, everyone likes what I make.  But, I find it a struggle and I think I’ve identified for so long as a “non-cook” that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  3. Do basic clean up in the house each day.  I’ve been pretty good about this lately.  But, when school hits and I’m gone for hours at a time and I have grading to do and other prep, I often will just forget about the basic daily cleaning.  I love this relatively simple list of daily chores to get done.  I need to ensure that the basics get done daily so I feel better about the house and don’t get bogged down in clutter and mess.  I function much better all around when my house is at least tidy.
  4. Actively play with my daughter.  This is a biggy.  I don’t do nearly enough with her on a daily basis and she spends way too much time behind a screen.  I’ve noticed that she is not as willing to sit and work on a craft or a puzzle or a coloring project for as long as she used to be.  She is still pretty good about reading for a time each day, but I want her to be creative and well-rounded.  I want her to color and craft and build legos and play outside and do…well, MORE!  So, each day, I will take at least a few minutes – 10-15 if that is all I can fit – and I will play with her.  A game.  Outside.  Buidling things.  Coloring.  Each and every day.
  5. Get active in my community.  Each and every time I see a homeless person in our city, I think that I should do more.  When I see commercials about kids and families who are dealing with food insecurity, I think I should do more.  When I see groups in our community doing good (beyond good – in some cases amazing) things, I think I should do more.  Yet, here I sit.  I could go to the homeless shelter and volunteer for mealtimes.  I could figure out how to volunteer at my food bank.  I could give blood.  There are so many simple things I could get involved in, but I sit on my couch and make excuses instead.  I don’t need to do something each and every day, but I should be able to.  Even if it is just having some homeless gift bags in my car to hand out with simple items or some gift cards for McDonalds or something so they can get a meal.  There are easy things to do.


So, there you have it.  My five things to be more active in 2017.  I believe that humans are controlled by the Laws of Motion.  And my body is at rest when not actually doing my job.  I need an outside force to nudge me along and I’m hoping this blog will do it.  I will be trying to check in on my various “be more” lists in the new year, so look for that!  I think having a simple list – Walk dogs, Cook meals, Clean up, Play and Community will make it easier for me to check things off each day.  In fact, I’m going to go and write the list in my planner so I don’t forget!