Ballin on a Budget – Date Night Style

Can you believe it? Tomorrow is already August 1st! That means, my 6 year anniversary will be less than 15 days away! I’m so very excited but at the same time I’m freaking! What in the world are we going to do? With baby #2 coming in less than – say what?! – 9 weeks, late night dancing is out of the question, and any crazy adventures are definitely a no-no, plus anything that would seriously break a budget is really unspeakable right now.

#TBT back when we were just "Ballin"

#TBT anniversaries away from home!

Since I’m all about spending time and money where it matters most, I think a date night that won’t break the bank AND is with my honey buns is definitely the answer! Problem though, what is a “good” date night for an anniversary that isn’t entirely “cheapo status?”

We’ve had more than enough of movie night and takeout so anything that is you know, miles from that type of idea would be great. We can’t do anything too difficult thanks to this watermelon in my belly and it needs to be close to home and not too late since we have our lil’ man to think about (Yes he’s almost 2 & no I will never leave him over night anywhere until he’s like 30 – and that’s if he’s lucky).

Thanks to this pregnancy I’m overly picky about, well everything, so if I could pretty much plan out the entire anniversary date that’d be fabulous – did I ask the Man how he feels about that yet? – nope and I’m not going to! I figure while Googling some ideas for my “ballin’ on a budget date” I should also keep tabs of ideas to do in the future. With two little ones and all those diapers to buy, I doubt anything Ichiban status is going to arrive soon.

With that, here are our top 3 ideas (because I broke down and had to collaborate with the Man as he’s sitting here next to me all sick and stuff – had to cut him some slack):

  1. Red’s Old 395 Grill (a yummy local eatery) has these AMAZING GINORMOUS chicken wings and deep fried cheesecake that we both adore! Going out for that and then –ugh I know I said no but – a matinee would be doable. The only reason that a matinee is okay is because TMNT is coming out August 8th..don’t judge!
  2. The Groupon date! <<oh yes she did!>> So I pretty much am hooked to Groupon, LivingSocial, and all that jazz. I figured a potential idea: we each have a budget of $xyz. I’ll be in charge of picking a place to eat (my tastes seem to change quite frequently, I boycotted chicken the first 3 months of this pregnancy so..)and a gift for my Man, and he’ll be in charge of finding some activity for us and a gift for Mwah! It’s easy, it’s cheap, but it’s still good stuff!
  3.  Become tourists! It’s never a bad thing to go local! I’ve been wanting to check out the West Street Market in Reno, NV. Apparently there are some great local places to eat at and get some souvenirs aka unique anniversary gifts.

    Photo Credit: Awful Awful & Fries

    If all else fails, we can hit up the Nugget for the famous Awful Awful (oh yea, you know you want some!)

So tell me, what are some frugal yet entertaining date night ideas you guys have done or have wanted to check out?

Ballin’ On a Budget Date + Once a Year Event = Don’t Mind If I Do!


Attempting Structure Amongst the Chaos

Oh Mondays, why must you torture me?! ambitionFor me, Mondays are my week beginnings. My time to say, this week will be different. This week I will get those tasks done, this week I will be the most amazing mom ever, this week I will not procrastinate on homework, this week I will….and the list goes on. But is THIS actually the week? From a life coach’s perspective maybe. From a realistic full-time Family Manager (aka mommy and household coordinator) perspective, probably not.

When I say it’s time to gain structure amongst the chaos, I mean it’s time to get me, myself, and I all on the same page for once. Do you struggle with this? I’m going to let you in on a little secret, you ready? I am extremely scatter brained. Phew! Okay it’s out there. Now that you know that, you can correctly assume that I am that type to work on project A, see a butterfly, and zip off to project C because I completely forgot what project B was.

This is why, much like air and H20, I need a daily planner and a giant whiteboard in my life. It helps me to gain somewhat of a structure amongst the chaos of everyday happenings. I say somewhat because the planner and whiteboard aren’t exactly my be all end all. PLANSMy whiteboard, as you can see, is outlined to help me with a “daily schedule,” important appointments, grocery list, and the weekly meal plan. My planner is for everything else that needs to be remembered. I have a smartphone, but unlike everyone else in the world, I can’t seem to use it to keep my chaos grounded. I tried and I failed numerous of times. This is why I’m stuck in the Stone Age (speaking of Stone Age, has anyone seen The Croods? Was that Stone Age? I don’t know, good movie though either way) with pencil and paper, but I can say I moved up a bit because I’m using fancy whiteboard markers.

Today’s recommendation to save time is to focus on a schedule or plan for every day or maybe just the week. If you want to get started, start today! You don’t need anything fancy. In fact, I got my planner at Goodwill – brand new – for $0.50 and the whiteboard was tossed out from my mom. You can even check online for certain places have diy planner templates! Just know, much like you need a budget to ensure you are spending wisely, you need a plan to make sure you’re staying on top of things and not WASTING time where it doesn’t need to be wasted. This is especially important for parents! I talked with a few of my mommy friends today, some of them Family Managers like myself, others work for big companies, and we all agreed that a schedule is necessary. Now, let’s make sure I am clear. A schedule is more like an outline and shouldn’t really be set in stone. If you tried to do that, I think you’d possibly go crazy. Or at least I would. When my son was first born, I promised myself that he would have structure so I needed a schedule and I enforced that everyone who watched him stuck to that schedule. I was like a schedule sergeant – ask anyone, it was pretty scary! Now that he’s almost 2, I’m realizing I can’t be as strict with him. His happiness comes first and then all the other stuff. We have a schedule but I am lenient. Some days things just don’t work out and I have to say okay and push it off until the next day, or the next, or the next. Especially now with 10 weeks left of pregnancy number 2, most days I just want to sit on the couch and cuddle with my little man while watching Handy Manny. Those days I feel like a failed mom. But then I remember, life goes on and my son is happy so I’m happy. Tomorrow is always a new day to “start over.” Point is, make the most of your time by organizing your chaotic world one way or another, and make sure that if something doesn’t happen accordingly, you breathe, maybe run in place for a bit, and move on. The chaos will always be there but your sanity may not. So, I challenge you, write out your happenings and test out my theory. See if you actually do have more time in your 24-hour period than you realized.

Coffee: Cup of ambition…take twice on Mondays! PHOTO SOURCE

My Suite Vacation in the Biggest Little City: Circus Circus Style

This weekend was a bit crazy for me, what about anyone else? We celebrated the “Tutu Rose Maiki Gilman’s 60th Family Reunion,” hosted by none other than my mommy – good job Ma by the way. Got here Friday afternoon and it’s been nonstop ever since. I am squeezing in some downtime as my son is napping – keep your fingers crossed it lasts longer than an hour.

The last few days has got me thinking. Many people have complained to me that they just can’t afford to do vacations with their families because it’s too expensive or they don’t have the time to take a week off and go jet setting to somewhere new. Well, if there’s a will there’s a way folks. Never a time like the present to check out what is happening in your city! While I’m only 30 minutes away from home, I can say this was a pleasant vacation for my family and me. We got a suite at the Circus Circus because my mom was hosting, and we got to explore a bit while not working on the reunion festivities.

I’d like to encourage you, if you’re needing a break from home or want to do a vacation but can’t seem to get a big enough budget for say Disneyland, then how about looking to what the cities around you have to offer! This weekend a few of the highlights are most definitely Flavors! the buffet at the Silver Legacy (which, okay, yes going to a seafood buffet is not cheap but because I planned for this day I was able to save, making it a well worth it event), visiting the Terry Lee Wells Discovery museum (which was not planned but we got a 2-for-1 admission ticket at check-in, SCORE!), watching my son freak out at the midway (which, again, in our wonderful booklet from check-in, we got tons of coupons for 2-for-1 games),mini circus roundup playing my FREE slot play which is the only time I really gamble (if you’re not, go sign up for a free card to get money to gamble and possibly gain entry into their free slot tournaments – did my first one today – arm is still numb) and getting free drinks at the machines (okay not free FREE because you still need to tip people – don’t get stingy Mingy on me). Oh yea, and of course seeing my wonderful family – saved the best for last. Wink! Wink!

My point is, utilize what is around you in order to get the best bang for your buck even when searching for vacation ideas. We can’t always escape to the Bahamas but we can escape somewhere. If all else fails, it’ll be 5 o’clock soon. 😉 Most hotels in your area will most likely have some sort of coupon booklet or deal going on for other places to check out. Use them! Don’t be like someone I know – mom! – and wait until the LAST day of the vacation to open your booklet up and pout at what you “could have” saved. Take advantage of what is offered even if it’s something that you may not have originally planned to do. When it comes to saving time and money in order to go after what’s important, you have to be willing to wiggle a bit.

& now I’m off to snooze real quick before dinner, yes, all we do is eat, no judging allowed!  Please share with me if you have any tips for vacationing close to home as well, I figure, if people are coming to visit there MUST be something here worth checking out! Go and explore! (oh man, now the Dora the Explorer theme song is in my head…great!)

The D-Word

Warning:  this post is about a bad 4-letter word and may be considered offensive to some. Today, the word is…are you ready for it? Prepare yourself – DEBT! Ahhh! Okay, it’s out there. Let’s talk about you know, that “D-word.” Who loves talking about it? *crickets – that’s what I figured.

Let’s be real though – do you or do you not want to spend your time and money on things that actually matter to you. I’d be willing to bet that debt is NOT something you want to have to “matter.” So let’s not linger for long because I can feel the tension rising in the room ya’ll and boy is it uncomfortable.

Now, let’s make it clear, just because you are in debt does not mean you did something wrong or you should beat yourself up over it. im outstandingYou’re an amazingly outstanding person who just got behind. Frankly, “the biz” happens at some point or another. What’s done is done, time to move towards the light at the end of the tunnel! – unless it’s a train, don’t go after the train, in that case, run away and find some new tracks.

Here is my list of tips to consider:

#1:  Admit you have a problem. Nuff’ said.

#2:  Contrary to popular belief, paying down the debt with the highest interest rate may not be in your best interest. When it comes to the “D-word,” put down your old ways of thinking and get into 2014 people! If you have more than one debt hanging over your head, I highly recommend employing the Debt Snowball Plan outlined by the guru Dave Ramsey.

#3:  Breathe and work towards building that emergency fund…like yesterday! I know, you’re probably thinking, Miss Heather Lambert,  how can I focus on paying off debt AND putting money towards savings  – especially this fairy tale Emergency Fund idea?! You can, you just need to understand the importance of it and that every penny counts. If you need to, start by trying to cut down your grocery budget by couponing and shopping store ads and put the extra money towards your savings. so coupon maybeEvery little bit counts. Just remember to breathe and it will all build up in no time!

Let’s all dream together a little now, if and when you have no more of the “D-word,” what do you plan to do with that extra cash-monies in your wallet?

photo source A

photo source B

Let’s Go Shopping!

But not that kind of shopping, sorry ya’ll. We’re talking about grocery shopping. Dun dun dun! For me, grocery shopping is a dreaded activity. If I had one magical power, it would be to snap my fingers and have a fully stocked fridge.

For my family of 3 and our not so puppy pitbull, we are spending around $50-$60 a week for grocery shopping. This used to be $150 a week. Cutting $100 was the biggest challenge ever. Think it can’t be done? Don’t worry, sometimes I wonder how I do it too.

Let me share with you some tips. First, I have had to seriously pay attention to store sales. Anyone else think what a tedious task that is? For me, I have nine stores that I need to compare prices to. In the beginning, I was so overwhelmed! I was spending hours working on the grocery list. My boyfriend would be yelling at me, “Heather who cares just go to Wal-mart, they’re known for low prices all the time!” I would sit at the dinner table and lay out all the ads and try to figure out, is this a good deal or is that? I figured, if it was in the sales ad it MUST be a good deal. I was wrong. So learn from my first mistake. Luckily, there are plenty of websites that are helpful in determining good sales prices. My favorite is at GrocerySmarts. So easy! You go to the site, enter in your state and it breaks down the sales for you! Seriously, talk about a timesaver! Just think, what could you do with that extra time? I say, NAPTIME!

The second tip, is yes, if you can, get into couponing. Plenty of bloggers have posted great tips for beginners. You don’t have to get too  – or you can – get down with your bad self if you like! I have gotten some serious savings from couponing and like to incorporate it into my weekly shopping trips. .90 eachThis picture to the left is an example of a recent trip I did. Nothing too “cray cray” but at $0.90 for each item, I was happy! Biggest tip if you do decide to go after couponing, don’t go after every deal from the very beginning. More on this later! Just make sure you create your budget accordingly and follow it. Join groups on Facebook, find #extremecouponers on Instagram, and follow bloggers. I’m not going to lie, it will take some time to save money at the grocery stores but in the end it’s worth it. What would you do with that extra $100 you could possible save on groceries every week?! Let me know!

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Not All Budgets Are Created Equally

The first step in trying to save for what the experts call “financial freedom,” is getting that budget back in line. We all know the story, live within your means and you will be good to go! Much like attempting to avoid that triple layer chocolate cake, it is much easier said than done.

Everyone flubs, I flub more times than I care to admit – don’t tell my boyfriend, I must keep my perfect image intact. But with a structured budget it gets much easier to get back in line when mishaps do occur. Since I am all for saving money and time so you can use it on something much more important, I will say that I do not think it is necessary to go out and buy any books on budgeting or even hire someone to do that for you. If I, Heather Lambert, can do it from using good ol’ Google, than you can too.

Now, let’s realize, there are SO MANY, and I repeat, SO MANY different budgeting ideas out there. That’s why I tell you, not all budgets are created equally. You could seriously sit for hours searching the net and reading books on how to create the perfect budget. When I first started on my journey of making one income work, I attempted to create my own personal budget by taking what was brought home each month and deducting “bills” and then saying, “Alright, the rest is mine! Mwahahaha!” can't affordThen I realized, that wasn’t going to cut it because then things got very overwhelming. Ever get that feeling? You did your budget only to find at the end of the month something came up and now you must choose, between the dog or the cat?! Personally I’d choose the dog but to each their own. Now, let’s get back on track >>>

The first outlined budget system I utilized for my household was the “50/30/20 budget fix.” [May I interject once again, use your resources people! Simply google search budget help and voila! Oh the FREE help that comes up] Now, this idea worked for me for a little bit, but then the wants overcame the needs, and the savings ended up getting depleted, and everything kind of fell into a big fiery mess. So then, I found a much simpler idea. “The 60% Solution” created by Richard Jenkins. It was perfect! – or so I thought. I got out my checkbook and started restructuring my budget to get everything to fit into the 60/40 rule. This ended up being too much stress as well. I finally thought, what in the world Heather, get yourself together and stick to a darn budget already.

That’s when the light came at the end of the tunnel and I was like, alright then, let’s get down to business with the 60/40 rule “Heather Style!” (Anyone else have “Gangnam Style” playing in their heads now? My apologies). Again, not all budgets are created equally. This style that is working for my household may not work for anyone else. Heck, I don’t even know what my style is. The point here is to find a system that you think could work for you and tweak it! Go from thinking it could work, to making it happen. Once your budget is on track, then we can start getting into more ways to save for vacations and retirements.

Write your budget in your checkbook, keep it in excel, create some fancy shmancy document somewhere, the point is to have one and have it readily available so you can know where your money is going! Am I right or am I right?! Anyone, else have some budgeting styles that works or didn’t work for them? Or some advice for those who may be struggling to keep on budget? Please share! Sharing is caring!


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