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Virtual Girls Night

Trust me, I get it. You’ve been grinding all week at work, the kids have been running you into the ground, the laundry is piling up and no amount of hours in the day seems to be enough for everything you need to get done! The only thing that can rectify this situation is a night out with the girls! Getting together with your closest girlfriends and unloading whatever has been weighing you down.

There’s only one problem…COVID-19. ‘Rona is a biiiish and has literally interrupted everyone’s regularly scheduled programs. Am I right? I mean, I’m not wrong. Businesses are closed or have reduced their hours, social gatherings are limited to a certain number of people and everyone is social distancing.

Now, I am not saying that these things are unnecessary or overkill. The precautions that are in place are essential to helping our country recover from this pandemic. What I am saying is that it has really put a damper on my girls nights out and this mama is in need of a stiff drink and gossip session with her girls.

Reluctant to venture out into public to satisfy my selfish need and hesitant to give up hanging with my girls, I have found a temporary, yet sufficient alternative…virtual girls night! You may have read my blog about virtual birthday parties for all ages, if not you can check it out here. However, it got me thinking. If I can throw my kid a virtual birthday party and have 10 of his closest friends participate, why couldn’t this work for my girls nights? Short answer is, it can!

Here are a few virtual girls nights that I have put to the test along with a few more that I am looking forward to having in the coming weeks. Now, let me add this disclaimer. I cannot and will not be held responsible for anyone who takes these ideas and determines that virtual girls nights should happen every night of the week. (that actually sounds pretty amazing!) I don’t want to open my inbox to messages from distraught husbands and neglected children scolding me for their drunk mama whose been busy virtually getting lit with the girls all week long and are now hungry and out of socks. I just can’t. Let’s get into it.

The Basics

First, you need a platform. It’s important to pick a platform that is easy to use and readily accessible to all of your girls (and not to mention free). There are numerous group-calling apps available. Simply doing a Google search will bring up a ton for you to explore. Here are a few that are pretty user friendly and, in most cases, are free to use.

  • Facebook Group Video Chat – start a Facebook group video chat and invite up to six of your gal pals. This is done through Messenger. Then you can “go live” with your girls and as long as you’ve accepted the setting to allow group members to “go live” as well, you can all see and talk to each other. Now this doesn’t mean you can only have six of your best girlfriends be a part of virtual girls night. You can invite up to 50 friends who can join to listen, via voice or be on camera however you will only be able to see the first six friends.
  • Zoom – With Zoom you can host a virtual meeting. There are numerous price plans to choose from. However, there is a free plan. The free plan allows you to host up to 100 of your friends for up to 40 minutes at a time absolutely free.
  • Skype Group Video Calling – Skype video chat app allows for group calls up to 50 people for free on just about any mobile device, tablet or computer. Just download the app and get started for free.

Let’s Party!

  • Dinner and Drinks: This is just like it sounds. Grab your dinner plate and beverage of your choice, load up your Zoom call with the girls and get to gabbing. This is what my girls and I did for our first virtual girls night. It was simple, it was fun. We laughed, we cried, we drank ourselves silly.
  • Sassy Spa Day: So what we did was everyone got mimosas, face masks, nail polish, hair treatments, etc and we had a spa day together. With most salons being closed or booked-up due to limited availability, we had fun pampering ourselves while we chit chatted. Heck, I even whipped out my tweezers and plucked my eyebrows while chatting it up with my girls. Not only did we have fun but we ended the call feeling (and looking) better than when it started.
  • Book Club: I miss my weekly book club meetings. Talking about the characters in the book or how we think the plot twist will come about are all highlights of book club night. Thanks to virtual face-to-face calls I still get to enjoy book club with my girls.
  • Heads Up: Ok, I love a good game of Heads Up as much as the next gal, but virtually takes it to another level. If you’ve never heard of this game, you can download it onto your phone. The person who is holding the word up to their forehead will need to close their eyes or make sure they cannot see themselves on the virtual call. I don’t know why this was so much more fun playing virtually, but it was. Oh, maybe it was the shots we took for every wrong answer? 😉
  • Baking Fun: You guessed it! Everyone decides on a recipe to make. The catch is, there has to be a video of the recipe being made. One person will watch the video with the sound off while trying to explain to the group how to make the recipe. They can either choose to make it along with everyone or just sit back and laugh as the other girls try to follow the directions give. Once the final product is made, everyone compares their masterpiece. This can also be done with a craft project, sewing project, etc. The sky’s the limit.

At the End of the Day

It doesn’t matter what activity you do on your virtual girls night. The point is to have fun socializing with your girls. Some of our best girls nights have just been sitting on a Zoom call together, drinking some cocktails and dishing about our lives. Incorporating social distancing doesn’t need to put a damper on your social life, it just gives you an opportunity to think outside of the box.

I hope you enjoyed these virtual girls night out ideas. Let me know in the comments below if you tried any of theses ideas out and how they worked out for you and your girls. Till next time!

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Affirmations to Reduce Anxiety

Here are affirmations to reduce anxiety. Affirmations can be beneficial in many areas of your life. Using positive affirmations help to orient your thoughts into life actions. Whether it be for anxiety reduction, success, happiness or love, affirmations can change your life.

These affirmations to reduce anxiety can be used any time you experience anxiety. These affirmations help to release the stress of your day, calm your mind and help place you in a more controlled state of mind. You can pick as many as you’d like to use or you can use them all. It is up to you.

There are many different ways that you can use affirmations. The most common way is to simple recite the affirmation aloud to yourself. You can even repeat each affirmation over and over. Another way to use affirmations is to write them down on sticky notes and place them in places you will see them throughout your day. I actually use a combination of the two methods. I like to choose a few affirmations to recite to myself. Then, I write the remaining affirmations down. I place them on my fridge, my bathroom mirror, on my desk and in my car.

Ultimately, which ever way you decide to use affirmations in your life is your choice.

I hope you enjoyed these affirmations to reduce anxiety. Interested in affirmations you can use in the morning to have a productive day? Check out the only morning affirmations you need to start your day here. Maybe you need affirmations to help with getting restful sleep? Click here to find the perfect list. Don’t forget to stop by my Free Stuff tab for just that, free stuff!

Follow me on Instagram @justmelissajane where I am more active and post a lot of great content.

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Reusable Products That Save Time and Money

Reusable products that save time and money. That’s music to my ears. If COVID-19 taught me anything it was this: we ain’t ready. It is scary how a world wide pandemic can cause immediate loss of jobs, income and freedoms. I am using this time in quarantine to do some budget trimming. My goal is to spend the least amount of money on necessities. I have been looking for any way to trim my expenses and save a little bit more time and money. By doing so, I am ensuring that my family is financially prepared for any future emergencies.

One way I am able to trim my expenses is by looking at frequently used items in my home. I found a lot of disposable items that my family and I use. Surprisingly, quite a few of these could be substituted with money-saving alternatives. I am so excited to share these things with you. I hope that you might find a couple of these items helpful in your life.

Storage Bags

My family and I can easily go through a couple boxes of Ziploc bags every year. We use these disposable bags for things like packing snacks and for storing food in the freezer. I knew that finding a reusable product that could take place of my disposable bags was not only better for my wallet but also the environment. These storage bags have replaced my disposable Ziploc sandwich bags. I bought these off Amazon. They came in a 10 pack.

I love that they come in a variety of sizes. They are also pretty easy to clean. However, I would recommend hand-washing them only. If you must put them in the dishwasher, top rack only and do not use heated-dry. I have found that they can warp a bit otherwise.

Another bonus about using these bags is with freezer meals. I can store food in these reusable bags and toss them in the freezer. When it comes time for me to use the food, I can cook it right in the bag! Frozen green beans? No problem! I toss them in a pot of hot water and they cook perfectly. You can also put these in the microwave. They are BPA-free, leak-proof and freezer safe. What a great Eco-friendly reusable product!

Wool Dryer Balls

At first, I was a little skeptical about using wool dryer balls. The reviews online said they are a reusable product that can be a substitute for dryer sheets and could also reduce energy usage by cutting down drying time. But, do they really work? Could this really be one of the reusable products that delivers what it claims to do?

I figured it was worth the try. I bought 3 dryer balls from Grove when I placed my monthly shipment. I was really excited once they arrived. I popped them into the dryer with a load of laundry, cranked the dial to start and waited for the magic to happen. Only, it didn’t.

My load of laundry did not dry any faster than usual (at least not that I could notice) and my clothes had static cling. This was very irritating. Why were so many people raving about these when they clearly did not work? Well, my good friends, here’s why.

Dryer balls work best if you use at least 6 balls in a load of laundry. Naturally, I ended up buying a pack of six dryer balls. This will provide enough movement within the load to circulate the heat between the clothes. This is how it saves you money on energy. Also, static cling is significantly reduced because the dryer balls are bouncing around in there absorbing moisture from the clothes. I couldn’t believe the difference adding 3 more dryer balls made.

These 6 little fluffy puffs of magical wool cut my drying time down by 10 minutes per load. Since I am a nerd at heart, I calculated out how much money in energy this saves me every year if I were to dry one load of laundry a day. It comes out to roughly $17. Every little bit adds up.

Another perk of using dryer balls is being able to add essential oils to your laundry. I like using a couple drops of lavender oil on the dryer balls. It makes my laundry smell ah-mazing. You can use any scent you like. There are literally hundreds of essentials oils out there and are pretty affordable. I bought this variety pack off Amazon months ago and I’ve barely made a dent in my supply. This will probably last me all year.

Coffee Pods

Okay, this is my language. There are a handful of things I love in this world and my Keurig is definitely one of them. However, the one thing I don’t like is how expensive those delicious coffee pods are! The brand and flavor I use is almost $14 for a box of 24 pods. I knew this was an area of my life that desperately needed a reusable product substitution.

I found the perfect solution! They are reusable refillable coffee pods. You just buy your favorite ground coffee which costs a fraction of the box of pods. Then you fill up the little pod and pop it into your Keurig. When you’re done, you just rinse it out and it’s ready for the next brew. It’s an absolute genius product and I would like to personally shake the hand of the angel that created it.

Now, I buy a 12 ounce bag of my favorite ground coffee for $8 and use my reusable refillable coffee pod. This means instead of paying $14 for 24 cups of coffee, I am now paying $8 for 62 cups of coffee. That is an insane savings comparison.

What I Have Learned

Even the smallest changes can make a huge difference when it comes to saving money. Simple substitutions with reusable products like the ones I mentioned above have allowed more freedom with my finances. What are some ways you cut costs in your budget? I love hearing your great ideas and suggestions. Leave me a comment below.

You might be interested in learning how to start an easy to use budget. You can get everything you need right here along with free printable budget sheets too!

Maybe you’re wanting to pay off debt but don’t have the money to do it. I can show you how to do it here.

Some of you may be focusing more on saving money. Here are some tips on how you can become a savvy saver in just 5 simple steps.

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The Only Morning Affirmations You Need

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11 Bedtime Affirmations

Here are 11 bedtime affirmations. Affirmations can be beneficial in many areas of your life. Using positive affirmations help to orient your thoughts into life actions. Whether it be for success, happiness or love, affirmations can change your life.

Here are 11 bedtime affirmations you can recite before going to bed. These affirmations help to release the stress of your day, calm your mind and prepare for a deep and restful sleep. You can pick as many as you’d like to use or you can use them all. It is up to you.

There are many different ways that you can use affirmations. The most common way is to simple recite the affirmation aloud to yourself. You can even repeat each affirmation over and over. Another way to use affirmations is to write them down on sticky notes and place them in places you will see them throughout your day. I actually use a combination of the two methods. I like to choose a few affirmations to recite to myself. Then, I write the remaining affirmations down. I place them on my fridge, my bathroom mirror, on my desk and in my car.

Ultimately, which ever way you decide to use affirmations in your life is your choice.

I hope you enjoyed these bedtime affirmations. Interested in affirmations you can use in the morning to have a productive day? Check out the only morning affirmations you need to start your day here. Maybe you need affirmations to help with anxiety? Click here to find the perfect list. Don’t forget to stop by my Free Stuff tab for just that, free stuff!

Follow me on Instagram @justmelissajane where I am more active and post a lot of great content.

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Pay Off Debt When You’re Flat Broke!

So, it happened. You lost your job, you have a medical emergency or a major unexpected expense, whatever it is, it has left you broke. When I say broke, I mean we are having Ramen for dinner kind of broke. I hate to admit it, but I’ve been this broke before. I remember having my last $3 in my pocket and having to figure out how I was going to feed my (at the time) family of three. It’s not a good feeling. I am sure others have had to endure tough times much worse than mine. I had to figure out a way to pay off debt even while I was flat broke!

Thinking back to that experience, I can recall never thinking about how to pay off debt. My mind was focused more on survival and how I was going to take care of my family. Plus, I grew up in a family where debt was sort of an expected component of adult hood. I grew up without a solid foundation in finances but I knew how to dodge a bill collector. That was one thing I picked up real quick as a kid.

It can be really discouraging to think about debt when you’re not even sure how to make it through from day to day. It is really easy to adopt the mindset of “my electricity bill is due now so that old hospital bill can wait.” I am here to tell you that you can do both. You can pay your electricity bill and that old hospital bill without working more hours or making more money. However, the only way it will work is if you are truly dedicated and focused to sticking to a plan. This post is going to be a bit lengthy but I will lay out exactly what you need to do to pay off debt even while being flat broke. Ready to get this thing started? Let’s get it.

Being Broke Stops Here!

You know what I am going to say. First things first, without a doubt you need to create a budget. Just this topic alone deserves its own post. Here’s some great information on how to start a super simple budget. It won’t take you hours to do and it doesn’t involve any fancy, hard-to-use spreadsheets or software. I know creating a budget may not be the most appealing task to complete to most people, but honestly the only way to know what you have to spend is to see where you are spending your hard-earned money. You can use this free, easy expense tracker to figure out your current monthly expenses.

When you’re setting up your budget, you want to list your necessary living expenses first. These are things like mortgage/rent, utilities, food, gas, insurance, etc. I call these my “Needs” items. Next, you want to list expenses that you don’t necessarily need but like to have. These are things like Netflix, gym membership, monthly subscription boxes, etc. I call these my “Wants” items. These are the items you will sort through first to determine whether you truly need to continue paying monthly for it or if you can let it go and use that money towards your debt instead.

An easy “Wants” item that I was able to remove from my budget was the $17.32 a month I paid for Netflix. I asked a friend of mine who also has Netflix if she would let me use her account if I paid half of the monthly fee. That would have allowed me to save $8.66 a month and throw that all at my debt. However, she is such a great friend that she said she would add me for free. So, now I have an extra $17.32 a month to pay towards my debt and I can still Netflix and chill.

You will see that just by eliminating unnecessary “Wants” you have the potential to reallocate a nice chunk of money to throw at your debt. I know it can be hard to go without some of the luxuries we like to have in our lives, but you can always find an alternative. For example, instead of paying $25 a month for a gym membership, check out your local YMCA or local college for the cost to use their gym facilities. Better yet, workout at home or follow an online workout video on YouTube. Think outside of the box and great things can happen!

Narrowing Down Your Debt

Now, let’s get back to our “Needs” items. Each item on this list is an essential item needed every day. Meaning, you are not able to live without it. This is where you will want to see if you can negotiate with your electricity company or your landlord for a better price. Doing this really freaked me out to begin with. I don’t know if it was my pride or if I felt ashamed for asking for a bill reduction. Then I realized, why the heck am I feeling like this? I work hard for my money and just because I have debt does not mean I am not entitled to live a comfortable, happy life. Plus, what’s the worst that could happen other than being told “no”? So I gave it a try.

First, I called my cell phone provider. I know some people may consider a cell phone a “Wants” item but I feel like it is a “Needs” item. I use it to keep in contact with family and friends. I use it to pay my bills online and I am able to use it to call for help during an emergency. Anyways, I called my cell phone provider and explained that I am going through a financial hardship right now and trying to pay my debt down. I asked if there was any way I could switch to a cheaper calling plan. The rep on the phone was so helpful. She told me that there is actually a courtesy option that the company can offer to customers that will provide them with a significant bill reduction for up to twelve months. The only catch is, the customer has to ask for it. Can you believe that? All I had to do was ask for it and my monthly bill of $108.63 was reduced to $64 a month. That saved me a little over $44 ($528 for the year) that I could use to pay off my debt.

Next, call your electricity company, water company, mortgage or landlord and see if there are any options they can offer you. When I initially started this, I wasn’t able to get my mortgage company to assist me in any way. However, my electricity company and my water company were able to help me with some discounts. All in all, I was able to cut down my monthly expenses by an additional $93 using this method alone.

So Now What?

So now what? Well, now that you have cut out an unnecessary “Wants” and have gone through your “Needs” items and received bill reductions or discounts from the various companies, you need to add up all the money you saved. Using my info, I was able to cut $107.32 from my “Wants” items which were $17.32 for Netflix, $25 for my gym membership and $65 for my massage membership. Then, I was able to save $93 a month from my “Needs” items by asking companies for a bill reduction. This gave me a total of $200.32 a month to pay off debt. That means I will be able to pay off an additional $2400 worth of debt in the next 12 months. #winning!

Now, you need to list out all of the debt you are wanting to pay. Since I am a visual person, I like to use my debt tracker sheet to keep everything organized. It allows me to have an over view look of every single debt I owe, the total amount I owe and any payments I have already made or are planning to make. Download a free copy to use here.

There are a couple different ways you can approach this. You can either throw all of the money you have to use toward your debt at your largest debt, pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first, or pay off the smaller debts first which will result in a lower total number of debts you owe. Whew! Does that make any sense? I hope so. Here is what I did. I had 6 debt items I needed to pay that varied from $49 to $1500. I prioritized them from smallest amount to largest amount. The three lowest debts I had were for $49, $102 and $107. I paid the $49 and the $102 amounts in full. This left me with $49.32 which I paid towards my $107 debt making my balance owed now $57.68.

The following month I repeated the process. I took the $200.32 I had for the month to pay towards debts and paid the remaining balance I owed of $57.68 which left me with $142.62. This knocked off one more debt item and left me with three remaining debts that I still needed to pay. The next smallest debt that I owed was for $212. I used the remaining $142.62 and paid it towards this $212 debt. This left me with a balance owed of $69.36 which would ultimately get paid off the following month. I continued to use this process for the next 15 months, which is how long it took me to pay off my debt.

Living Debt Free

I know debt can seem daunting and I know seeing a small amount like an extra $200 a month doesn’t seem like much. It can make you feel like it will take you forever to pay off a debt. Don’t stop now! You can do this! You have to stay positive and stay focused. Chipping away at your debt, little by little, takes patience and perseverance. However, if you’re willing to trust the process and don’t give up, you will make it to the finish line with less debt than when you started this journey.

Living a life debt free and on my own terms is something I am striving towards. Next up on my list, kicking my six-figure student loan debt out of my life forever. I am using my debt payoff methods as well as multiple passive streams of income to help me chip away at my student loan debt. Leave me a comment below if this is something you would like me to share on my blog. Thanks for stopping by!

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6 Things to Do Every Day (for a Clean Home)

There are 6 things I do every day to keep my home clean. I don’t know about you but there’s nothing I love more than a clean home. There’s something about a clean and uncluttered living space that makes me feel like I have my life together. Being able to walk into the living room without tripping over toys, preparing food in a kitchen without a sink full of dishes and relaxing in a bedroom without a pile of laundry on the floor are all things that bring me joy. I know, I’m pretty lame. However, as much as a clean home brings me joy, there isn’t anything else that can have the complete opposite effect on my mood than having to clean my house. I don’t want to spend hours a day cleaning and organizing my home. How can I enjoy my clean home if I am always spending my time cleaning it?

Well, I narrowed it down to the top 6 things I have to do every day that really make a huge difference in the cleanliness in my home. I’m not talking about how I use to clean my room as a kid either. You won’t see me stuffing things in closets or tossing items in “catch-all” baskets. These, my friends, are the 6 things that I do every single day that have leveled up my home and kept me from breaking my back cleaning it every day. Let’s get into it.

Make the Bed

Ok, ok, ok! I know this is a very common “tip” that pretty much every one swears by and recommends. Seriously though, they are not wrong. I was never a bed-maker person (if that’s even a thing). My reasoning behind this thinking was that I was going to waste my precious time and ever-fading energy making my bed, only to mess it back up later that evening. It seemed sacrilegious, honestly.

However, after deciding that I needed a morning routine that implemented things I normally did not do, it felt only natural that I should try making my bed every morning. I promise you, this single act alone changed my life. Not only does it make me feel like I am ready to start my day, it instantly makes the room look cleaner. No kidding. I could have crap all over my nightstand or my husband could have his dirty socks on the floor, it will still look cleaner than if the bed was unmade.

Now, about those dirty socks. Making the bed every morning also, strangely enough, makes me want to tidy up the rest of the room. Usually, after admiring how pretty my bed looks once its made, that stinky sock catches my eye. How could I leave my beautifully made bed to exist in a room with dirty socks?! Completely uncalled for and unheard of! Those socks end up in the hamper and my room looks pristine once again.

“Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.”

~ Charles Duhigg

Manage Clutter

Boy, oh boy! I use to be the Queen of clutter. I saved everything and I mean everything. I had beer labels that had been folded into hearts 17 years ago that I refused to toss out. Did you hear what I said? I saved beer bottle labels. In other words, I saved garbage. No joke. When we moved 2 years ago to the house we are in now, I decided I was going to finally free myself of the clutter. I had no idea how much this clutter was weighing me down. I swear, I probably made 12-15 trips to Goodwill to drop off donations before our move. They do say that one (wo-)man’s trash is another (wo-)man’s treasure. The last thing I wanted to do was pack up a bunch of unnecessary junk and physically move it with us to the new house.

Not only did this save time when it came to moving but it drastically cut down the time it took for me to unpack once we were in the new house. Everything had a place. Honestly, even if my stuff was not in it’s place, I didn’t have enough physical stuff anymore to make my living space look cluttered. This instantly makes my home appear cleaner.

It also had an affect on the vibe of my house. I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. Does it make me crazy to say that I even feel like the air in my home is lighter and more crisp? LOL It’s so true. It feels like negative energy has been removed and replaced with positive vibes. Positive vibes only please.

“Clearing the clutter in your physical space will go a long way toward clearing the clutter in your mind and relationships.”

~ Peter Walsh

Sort the Mail

This is a big one. I know earlier I said there is nothing I cared less for than cleaning my home…but I forgot about mail. I use to have stacks of mail all over my house and in my car. I will say though that my intentions were good. I always intended to sort through it later when I had time but you know what? I never did find that free time.

Now, what I do is sort the mail as soon as I get it. Let’s face it, we all kind of skim through our mail when we first get it right? Use that time that you’re skimming to sort the mail. Put all the junk mail in a pile to be thrown out and the rest of the mail in another pile. This is where I take it a step further.

I use a mail organizer that has three slots. I put all the mail that needs my immediate attention into the first slot and everything else in the second slot. The third slot is where I put mail for the other members of my family. They know to look here for their mail. Not only does this method keep me from having piles of mail all over my house but it also lets me organize my mail in a cute way. This is the exact mail organizer I use.

“Discourse is fleeting, but junk mail is forever.”

~ Joe Bob Briggs

Clean as You Cook

Have you ever found a delicious recipe online and decided to make it? However, once your masterpiece was completed, were you left with a huge mess in the kitchen? Flour and sugar sprinkled on the counters, egg shells strewn about along with every seasoning bottle in your kitchen? We’ve all been there and it isn’t pretty. This is why I am an advocate for cleaning as you cook.

When I am cooking, I put every ingredient I use back to it’s rightful home immediately after I use it. I will even take it a step further. Once I am done with a pot, pan, cutting board or spatula I will wash it, dry it and put it back. By doing this, I am left with a clean kitchen even after I just prepared dinner for a family of five. This is probably one of the most effective cleaning tips I use that keep my kitchen clean.

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“This is a self-cleaning kitchen. Clean up after yourself!”

~ Unknown

Wipe Up Spills While They’re Fresh

This is something I wish every member in my home would adopt, but they haven’t. This is probably why I insist on doing most of the cooking. Cleaning up dried food splatters, burnt casserole dishes and sauce pans that have been sitting over night take some serious elbow grease. Elbow grease, which is something that I do not want to muster up to be honest. Yet, here I am, wanting a clean home.

I always keep a microfiber cloth next to the sink that I use to wipe up spills as soon as they happen. These are the cloths that I use and let me tell you, they have changed the game. I prefer to use these instead of paper towels. Not only are they more cost effective but they are better for the environment. That’s a double win, my friend. The really come in handy for any spills or splatters that might happen. The best part is when they get dirty, I just throw them in the wash and they are as good as new.

“Never cry over spilled milk, because it may have been poisoned.”

~ W.C. Fields

Sweep the Kitchen Floor

I do this every night before I got to bed. It only takes a couple minutes and I don’t have to worry about all the crumbs and dirt plotting against me throughout the night while I slumber. It is especially quick and easy with my dustpan. I did not think one appliance could have such an impact on my life. I’m obsessed with my EyeVac and it was the best money I ever spent.

Not only does this prevent debris build up on the kitchen floor but it also prevents pests. There is nothing worse than seeing a marching line of sugar ants coming into the kitchen because of a chocolate chip morsel from yesterdays cookie bake-off that fell onto the floor unnoticed. Is it weird that I find it fulfilling? There is something about sweeping up the “dirt” from the day and throwing it away that brings me inner peace and keeps my home clean.

“Do you want to be great? Pick up a broom and sweep the floor.”

~ Mother Teresa

There you have it! Try implementing all or some of these tips into your daily routine and see if it makes a positive impact in your life. I certainly feel like these six tips have changed my life and my home. What are some daily routines that you do to keep your home clean?

Another area of my life that I like to keep “clean and organized” is finance. I use different budgeting sheets to keep me organized. All the sheets I use I have uploaded to the ‘Free Stuff‘ tab above for you to download for free. Also, if you’re interested in starting a budget or maybe you just want to simplify your budget, here are a few tips on how to do just that!

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Virtual Birthday Parties While in Quarantine

Hosting a virtual birthday party while in quarantine is a real thing. In today’s day and age, social distancing is causing a lot of uncertainty in pretty much every aspect of our lives. Never in my life did I think I would ever blog about this topic, you know? However, it was recently my nephews birthday and it got me thinking about how we would be able to celebrate together…but apart. Consider this it’s your birthday, so naturally you planned on spending the day with friends and family celebrating the day you came into this world, right? Only now, you are suppose to stay in your home and avoid large gatherings of people. How do we get around this? Social distancing has caused a lot of us to rethink where we spend our time and who we spend our time with.

Although this is in the forefront of most peoples’ minds, it does not need to hinder our ability to still enjoy birthday parties and celebrating with friends and family. It will just take a bit of thinking outside the box (as if a virtual birthday party while in quarantine is not cool enough!) Surprisingly, there are actually numerous ways you can do this and still keep it fun and exciting for everyone.

The Quarantine Plan

Just as you would with an in-person birthday party, there are certain factors you need for virtual birthday parties while in quarantine. One of those factors is a a guest list. However, you need to consider each guests technological strengths and weaknesses. Your great-aunt Millie may have difficulty navigating the web to join your party without help. You could arrange to have a member currently in her home to help or maybe you could walk her through it over the phone. This is just something to keep in mind when making your guest list.

After you have your guest list, it’s time to send out the invites. This can be accomplished with a group email or group text. Another way you can do this is through the social gathering app you select to use. Most of these apps have a feature that will allow you to send invites to the people you want to allow access to your group. Now, it’s time to pick a platform for your party.

Pick a Birthday Platform

It’s important to pick a platform that is easy to use and readily accessible to all of your guests on your list (and not to mention free). There are numerous group-calling apps available. Simply doing a Google search will bring up a ton for you to explore. Here are a few that are pretty user friendly and, in most cases, are free to use.

  • Facebook Group Video Chat – start a Facebook group video chat and invite up to six guests. This is done through Messenger. Then you can “go live” with your guests and as long as you’ve accepted the setting to allow group members to “go live” as well, you can all see and talk to each other. Now this doesn’t mean you can only have six guests. You can invite up to 50 people who can join to listen, via voice or be on camera however you will only be able to see the first six guests.
  • Zoom – With Zoom you can host a virtual meeting. There are numerous price plans to choose from. However, there is a free plan. The free plan allows you to host up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes at a time absolutely free.
  • Skype Group Video Calling – Skype video chat app allows for group calls up to 50 people for free on just about any mobile device, tablet or computer. Just download the app and get started for free.

Time to Leave the House – Virtual Trips

Now, it’s up to you how you want to spend your birthday. It’s your party after all. With video chat you can still enjoy the moment when your guests sing happy birthday to you and watch you blow out your candles. You can merely group video chat with your guests and celebrate that way, or you can all leave your houses virtually. There are a number of free and pretty cool places you can all travel to together. Here are some ideas:

It’s Your Birthday Party

Don’t let social distancing be a cause for lack of celebration on your big day. Using alternative methods and technology to bring people together can still create long, lasting memories and make you feel special on your birthday. Honestly, having a virtual birthday party while in quarantine will probably be one of the most unique events you remember most. Take advantage of the time you have and the technology available to have a fun and exciting birthday.

Interested in learning what essentials you need while quarantined? Better yet, want to learn DIY hacks you can use to drastically cut your cost for these essential items? Check out my list of quarantine essentials here and start saving some big bucks!

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Don’t Achieve Your Goals…Hack Them!

What Exactly is a Goal?

Goals are nothing new. Goals are short-term or long-term objectives that we set in order to obtain a specific result. It’s safe to say that everyone has had a specific goal they wanted to achieve at one point in their life. Goals can be major confidence boosters when achieved. Think about New Year’s resolutions (and why they suck). This is a very common form of goal setting. However, what about when we don’t achieve our goals? Boy-o-boy it can really take a dump on our confidence levels. This is why I choose to hack my goals.

So, how do we ensure we have the highest probability of achieving our goals? How do we set ourselves up for success? Well, my eager, goal-setting friends…we don’t, we hack them! That’s right. Around here, we don’t achieve our goals, we hack them! I am going to explain exactly how we do it. Don’t worry, it’s not all the current mumbo jumbo that’s on the web now. You won’t find any “write your goal down every day” or “expect to fail and prepare for it” nonsense. Ok, maybe nonsense is too harsh a word. Ummmm, maybe it isn’t.

Why Rational Thinking Sucks

Hear me out. Personally, I have set a bazillion goals in my life thus far. Everything from losing weight to obtaining my dream job have been among my repertoire of life goals. Generally, I would type my goal into Google and search for “secret-tips” on how to achieve it. I tried writing my goal down in a journal every night before bed. I tried visualizing myself achieving my goals every morning. I even tried establishing reasonable goals that I knew I could achieve. I literally LOL-ed when I typed that. This was actually one of those “secret-tips” I had found online when I was trying to get my dream job. Really?! If you set a reasonable goal that you already know you can achieve, then is it really a goal?

Once I decided that this hamster wheel of set-goal-fail-goal was not working for me, I decided to break the rules. After all, my fourth grade Principal will attest that I mastered this ability at a very young age. Here are my “secret-tips” on how I hack every single goal I set for myself.

Put Your Finger on It

First, you need to know exactly what your goal is. Be as specific as you can. For example, instead of “I want to save money”, you could elaborate more and say “I want to save $10,000 by the end of this year to buy a new car.” See this difference? You are turning your goal from being very general into something extremely specific and personal. It is no longer an everyday Joe Blow goal, it’s yours. Own it.

This wraps up a huge chunk of goal setting steps into one.

  • Know your goal and what you want to achieve. I want to save money, done.
  • Set a measurable goal. I want to save $10,000, done.
  • Specify the amount of time needed to achieve your goal. I want to save $10,000 by the end of this year, done.
  • Find the main reason you want to attain this goal. I want a new car, duh.

Congrats! Just by putting your finger on your goal and specifically figuring out your what’s and why’s, you have bypassed more than half the chapters in most of the goal setting instruction books out there today. Hack your goals! Can you believe there are actually courses you can take online that teach you this stuff? Some of these courses cost hundreds (and even thousands) of dollars. Yet, here I am. Giving away the goods for free. LOL So, now what?

Write It Everywhere

I am not exaggerating when I say everywhere. Write your goal down on post-it notes and place them all over your house. Use a sharpie marker and write it on your bathroom mirror (don’t worry, it wipes right off with rubbing alcohol). Write it on an index card and put it in your wallet. Better yet, right it on a piece of masking tape and place it on the front of your debit card as a quick reminder before you swipe. #evilgenius This truly helps you hack your goals.

Now, I have used all of the ideas I just listed above. However, the one I currently use is a goal tracking sheet. I write my goals down on 4 tracker sheets and put each sheet in a cute dollar store frame. Then, I strategically place these frames throughout my home. One frame goes on the bathroom counter, one on my office desk, one in the kitchen and one on the coffee table in the living room. Not only am I reminded of my goals all day long (regardless of what room I am in) but it also looks super cute with my decor. Dontcha think?

You don’t need to use my goal tracking sheet, but if you want to you can download and print a free copy here. Just scroll down until you see this image and click ‘download’.

Right and Wrong

Next, grab a piece of paper and fold it in half length-wise so that when it is unfolded it forms two columns. Column one will be labeled “Right” or “Do’s” and column two will be labeled “Wrong” or “Don’ts”. Now, in the “Right/Do’s” column list out everything you can do on a day-to-day basis that will help you achieve your goal. Using our example goal above, our list might look like this:

Right/Do’s:

  • Keep track of all my spending – log everything you spend. Doing this helps to identify areas of weakness (it’s Starbucks for me) and helps you put into perspective what a “need” purchase is versus a “want” purchase.
  • Start the Dime Savings challenge – implementing simple savings challenges can help jump-start your goal. You don’t have to use this one. Simply Google “savings challenges” and you will quickly be overwhelmed with the thousands that are in existence.
  • Use only cash for purchases – I currently do this. I am less likely to go shopping if I know I have to change out of my pajamas and go to the bank first to withdraw money. Removing the modern day convenience of using a debit card is in fact a huge inconvenience. But, it helps me save money.
  • Start a budget and stick to it – You have to know what is coming in and what is going out when it comes to your finances. You can start a budget with just a sheet of paper or you can download budgeting apps. Again, just Google “start a budget” and you will get tons of ideas. You can also use the budgeting method I use. I found a super simple approach that works for me and I share it with you here.

Wrong/Don’ts:

  • No more impulse shopping – this means not spending money on things you want at first sight. It’s always a good idea to take time to think about whether or not you really need something before buying it.
  • Stop buying fast food this month – this isn’t really hard for me. My biggest vice is Starbucks. However, I solved this dilemma for myself and now I get my Starbucks for free. If you’re interested in doing the same, learn how I do it here.
  • Do not use my debit card – no need for an explanation, right?
  • No online shopping for 30 days – Hands off my money Jeff Bezos!

Be Your Own Hype Man

Now that you know what your goal is, you’ve written it everywhere and you know what your Do’s and Don’ts are, it’s time to tell the World about it. Feel free to share your goal on your social media platforms to keep yourself accountable or write it down in the comments below. The point is to make it known to everyone. You are more inclined to stick to a goal if you know that your peers will be aware of your success or failure, because Science. Hack your goals, my friends.

Personally, I like to work my goal into every day conversations. For example, I’m making dinner at home and my kids ask me, “Why are we having spaghetti for dinner again?” I can then, very confidently reply, “Because it’s cheap and it’s helping me save $10,000 by the end of this year to buy a new car.” #winning. Another example would be in the checkout line at the supermarket. After handing my stacks of coupons to the cashier, he annoyingly says, “you sure have a lot of coupons.” This provides me with the opportunity to say “Shut up and scan!” just kidding. I would say “Yeah, I know. All the money I save with these coupons is helping me save $10,000 by the end of this year to buy a new car.” Hack your goals. There is something about hearing myself verbalize my goals aloud that help me achieve them. Again, Science.

Fake It Till You Make It

Finally, walk the walk. What I mean by this is to go about your daily life as if you have already achieved your goal. Act like you already have that $10 grand in your bank account and browse online at the car you will purchase. Altering your mannerisms and your routines to reflect the behavior your future self will have after achieving your goal rewires your brain. This causes your brain to be on the same frequency as it would be when you achieve your goal. Check out this super interesting article from NCBI about The Neuroscience of Goals and Behavior Change. I know, I know. I like nerdy things and I cannot lie but this stuff really interests me.

Now Go Out & Smash Your Goals

I don’t mean to make everyone a believer of how I hack my goals. Nor am I saying this is the end-all-be-all of goal setting. This is what works for me and since I have implemented these hacks, I have slayed every goal I set out to achieve. However, don’t take my word for it. I challenge you to try these hacks out on your next goal and see if it works for you. Then, let me know how it worked out! I love connecting with others and building this community. Now get out there and kick some goal-booty!

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10 Free Things to Do When You’re Completely Bored

Really?

Yes, really. I don’t know about you but sometimes I can’t think of anything to do to occupy my time. This is usually because I’ve done everything already like self-care, house tasks, binging on Netflix, etc. So what can you do when you get really bored and can’t think of a single thing to do and don’t want to spend any money? Here are 10 free things you can do when you’re completely bored. (some of these might surprise you!)

  1. Make iron on shirts using supplies you already have around your home. You will need a printer, plastic wrap, parchment paper, iron and a t-shirt.
    • Print out your desired picture and make sure it fits wherever you’re going to place it.
    • Place your artwork between to large pieces of plastic wrap.  Flatten out any wrinkles and cut away the excess plastic wrap around your printed picture.
    • Place the plastic-wrapped image face-up on your shirt and place a piece of parchment paper on top of it.
    • Iron over the parchment paper for at least 3-5 minutes until you can lift the corners up and your printed picture fuses to your t-shirt.
  2. Create a household budget and get your finances in order instead of being bored. Here is all the info you need on how to create a super simple budget as well as free printables you can use.
  3. Go for a walk or ride your bike & play the ABC game. What is the ABC game, Melissa? Well let me tell you. You start with the first letter of the alphabet “A” and find something you can see that starts with that letter then you move onto the next letter “B” and continue through the alphabet. For example, you’re riding your bike and you see a Honda Accord parked in a driveway. Next, you see a lady walking her Bichon Frises just as a Cat approaches and distracts the Dog. You get the idea. We also play this game on long road trips.
  4. Learn origami! I found an amazing blog that shows you how to make a ton of different origami projects all geared towards beginners. Check it out here.
  5. Bake something! Whether it’s cookies, a cake or some other heavenly baked good, at least if you’re bored you’ll have a decadent treat to munch on.
  6. Watch a new movie or TV series. I don’t mean on Netflix either. Did you know that Amazon Prime has thousands of current movies and TV shows you can stream and watch at anytime? I use my Amazon Prime subscription to watch all of my favorite shows (Outlander, Black Sails) before they air on TV. I’m a total nerd, what can I say? You can get a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime here! You can cancel at any time and are under no obligation to join. Why not try it out and watch whatever you want for 29 days for free before cancelling it? #savage.
  7. Read a book…or better yet, have one read to you! Audible is my ride or die when it comes to audio-books. They. Have. Everything. Really, they do. Sometimes, I just want to listen to a book with my eyes closed or listen to a book while I do other things. This is when Audible comes in clutch. You can try it out for yourself here. Of course, IMO nothing can compare to physically reading a book, the smell of the pages or the feel of the paper (I told you I was a nerd). So this is you too, then you can always check out Kindle Unlimited instead of heading to the bookstore. They offer unlimited reading on over 1 million ebooks that you can read on any device. Pretty snazzy, right?
  8. Make passive income. You’re totally bored, I get it. Why not make money while you’re bored? #winning. Here are 3 passive streams of income you can use right now to start making some cold, hard cash! Use one or use all 3 to earn some extra cash.
  9. Play 20 Questions. However, I play this game with a different twist using just myself and a piece of paper. I write down 20 questions that I currently have. Some examples would be, “is it better to foam roll before or after stretching?” or “when will the new season of Queen of the South air?” Then, I google each question and ta-dah! Just like that, I get answers to all of my questions. Is it weird to admit I like having answers to everything? Yes? Ok, just asking.
  10. Organize your phone apps. I am totally guilty of having tons of apps scattered on my phone. I literally download 3-4 apps that serve the same purpose then end up only using one. However, I never delete the remaining ones that I don’t use. It’s a vicious cycle. Organizing them into like-folders will not only make it easier to find a specific app when you need it but it will also make your phone appear more organized. It also allows you to see the apps you no longer use so you can delete them which frees up space on your phone. Ultimately, we all know that more space = more speed.

There it is There.

There ya go! 10 things you can do when you are completely bored and it doesn’t involve you spending a dime! Speaking of dimes, want to learn how you can save all your dimes and turn it into $500? Check it out here.

What are some things you like to do when you’re bored? Comment below and let’s help each other kick boredom’s booty! Till next time…