Wednesday, July 26, 2017

6 Ways to Stretch Your Money


This post had been residing within my drafts for some time now. As I mentioned in my latest currently post, G and I have been trying to learn how to better manage our finances while paying off some debt that we've acquired. So, right now seems to be the perfect time to share. All the tips that I've compiled below have really helped us in stretching our money over the course of the year! I know I can't be the only one who would benefit from taking a few of these steps. If you have any other tricks to add, feel free to share them in the comments!

GRAVITATE TOWARD THE CLEARANCE SECTION
Now, this isn't something that I started doing recently. I've always found myself being pulled to the clearance sections, especially when it comes to clothing items. The best stores that I've come across for marked-down clothes are Target and JcPenney. There's always a huge selection of items, both in-store + online, for these retailers. I honestly can't remember the last time I paid full price for clothes. I snagged about 3 pairs of jeans from Target's online clearance for $8-$9 a pop, verses the $28-$30 they would normally cost. And JcPenney? Just last week I was able to score a pair of $45 jeans for a mere $5. You really can't beat shopping clearance!

DO AT-HOME MANICURES + PEDICURES
This may or may not be something you're willing to give up. If having your nails done at a salon is something that makes you extremely happy or you use it as a form of self-care, by all means continue to invest in yourself. For me, on the other hand, this is something that I gave up years ago. I just couldn't stand shelling out $30-$40 a visit for mani-pedis whenever I am more than able to paint my own nails in the comfort of my home. Just give me a few different shades of nail polish + a bottle of Essie's good to go top coat and I'm set.

CUT OR DYE YOUR OWN HAIR (IF YOU'RE FEELING BRAVE)
For all you brave souls out there, I've found an endless supply of YouTube tutorials for trimming your own hair. I've actually been doing this on and off for about two years now. It's honestly not as difficult as you may think. It's as simple as straightening your hair, pulling it all to the front of your head + tying it, then tying another hairband right below the section you're willing to chop off. My only advice would be a) make sure the scissors you're using are sharp and b) cut small sections off at a time until you're pleased with the length. You can always cut off more, but once it's cut it's gone until it grows back! If you want to have your hair styled, I would recommend going to a salon for that as it's much more tricky. When it comes to dying your own hair, just pick out a boxed dye at the store and follow the instructions. My go-to boxed dye is Garnier Nutrisse. It's about $7.

COOK AT HOME MORE / EAT OUT LESS
Okay, this one is a must if you're trying to stretch your funds! I never even realized how much we were paying for fast food or restaurant food each month until I sat down and did the math. It was ridiculous to say the least. I understand it may seem more convenient to grab a meal whenever you're on-the-go, but if you could save a bunch of money if you simply plan ahead. Meal planning has helped us tremendously. Not only have we been saving money on groceries each week, but we've actually been using everything that we buy instead of letting some of the items go to waste. Making your meals at home is also a healthier option since you can't always be sure of what restaurants are using in their food. You'd be surprised how many hidden calories are in some of these meals! Believe me, I'm not saying you should cut off eating out altogether. Just limit how many times per week / month you go out to eat (this obviously depends on your personal budget). I will say that since we started eating out less, I've found it to be more special when we do get to go out. It feels like a treat!

RENT MOVIES INSTEAD OF GOING TO SEE THEM IN THE THEATER
Is it just me, or have you guys noticed how much the price of movie tickets continue to go up? I remember when it was $6 to get in, now it's nearly doubled that amount. This is another one that I'm not saying should be cut off completely, rather limit how much you're going to the theater. G and I are avid movie-goers, so this has been a tough one for us! We especially love going to see all of the Marvel / DC movies. The easiest way to overcome this challenge was to prioritize which movies we wanted to view. We had to ask ourselves if it was a movie we'd be willing to wait to watch or did we have to go see it as soon as it made a debut on the big screen? Hello, Wonder Woman. Just like going out to eat, going to the theater less has made it more special.

DOWNLOAD APPS THAT WILL HELP YOU SAVE
I'd say I began doing this after I started working at Target a few years back. Once I was introduced to their Cartwheel app, I started looking into other apps that would also help in saving money. A couple of my favorites are Walmart's Savings Catcher app + Groupon. The Savings Catcher app allows you to scan all of your Walmart receipts into their database. Their system then searches the items you bought to see if they were on sale / cheaper at any other store. If they do find that an item was offered at a lower rate, they'll give you back the difference. in reward dollars.You can redeem these reward dollars and transfer them to a Walmart gift card. Genius. So far, we've gotten back roughly $175 through this app in the last couple years. I usually let our rewards stack up to about $20-$30 then use it on meat. And I don't have to say much about Groupon, as I'm sure most of you have heard of it before! I haven't been using it much lately, but they always offer good deals.

I hope that these tips + tricks help you guys as much as they've helped us :)

Monday, July 24, 2017

6 Shark Films to Watch this Summer

 
So, if you didn't know, yesterday marked the start of Shark Week! I'll be honest in confessing that I wasn't always a fan of sharks. I found myself terrified of them at one point in time. So much so that I found it difficult to even look at photos of great whites. Crazy, I know. I'd say my mindset changed whenever I met my husband. He's loved tuning into all the shark-themed television shows + movies around this time of year since he was a child. After watching Shark Week with him early on in our marriage, I was hooked. I learned so much about these impressive creatures. They shouldn't be feared, but they should be respected. It's simple, really. If you don't want to risk being attacked, stay out of their domain. With all that being said, I rounded up a handful of shark movies that I've since enjoyed watching. I'd highly recommend viewing all of these if you have a chance!

JAWS
This one is a classic for shark lovers and cinephilias alike. Actually, I'd even go as far as recommending all of the Jaws films Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D + Jaws: The Revenge. The first two are the best, in my opinion.

THE SHALLOWS
I watched this one with my family about two weeks ago, but it came out sometime last year. It was much better than I initially thought it would be. It kept me on the edge of my seat. Plus, I really like Blake Lively.

This was also one that I watched a couple weeks back. I believe it came out last month. Now, it's not the best shark movie in the world. However, it is pretty decent considering there aren't very many good shark movies out there. It kept my attention, which is pretty hard to do these days since I lose interest quickly.

90's movies, man. They sure knew how to make them back then. This one came out in 1999, but it's one of the best shark movies that I've seen thus far. I even took the time to rewatch it yesterday! It's just that good.

Okay, this one is so much more than just another shark movie. It's actually based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a professional surfer who lost her left arm during a shark attack back in 2003. I had the opportunity to hear Bethany share her testimony at a Christian youth conference I attended when I was a teenager. Her story is truly inspiring, as she pushed through her fear and chased her dream of continuing to surf professionally after the attack. She even went on to place 1st in many surf competitions. I'm not sure I could ever muster up the courage to get back in the water after such a traumatic event.

FINDING NEMO
I just threw this one in for fun. I mean, who doesn't love Bruce and his Aussie mates, Anchor + Chum? Besides, he's one of my favorite characters on this animated underwater adventure. I couldn't help but include it here.

Are there any shark movies that you would recommend I watch? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Currently // July


EATING · Cotton candy grapes. I eventually got my hands on a bag of them at Sprouts Farmers Market earlier this month! I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. They certainly lived up to the hype. I also had a chance to try a few RXBar protein bars. The chocolate sea salt and blueberry are my preferred flavors so far.  

DRINKING · New England Coffee's chocolate cappuccino + cinnamon hazelnut coffee. I've always been a fan of their blueberry cobbler coffee, but these two flavors were just as delicious. I also found a new (to me) brand of kombucha, Big Easy Bucha, at Publix recently that was pretty good. I tried the bayou berry. I'd get it again.

READING · I'm glad I can say that I finally finished up The Circle a couple weeks back. Too bad the ending was garbage (just my personal opinion). I was excited about seeing the movie, but it turned out to be just as bad. Oh, well. On top of that, I completed two other books since then. I'm on a freakin' roll, yo. I'm hoping I can keep up the momentum. At this point in time, I'm reading Stolen Innocence as well as rereading The Night Circus.

WATCHING · It's summertime, so we've been rewatching my all-time favorite show, Fringe. This has become a tradition of mine. I was sad whenever Netflix removed it. Thankfully we own seasons 1-5 on DVD. G and I are still working our way through The Office. We're on the last season, but we both agreed that we'd totally watch it for a third time. I doubt I'll ever get tired of it. Other than that, I'll be tuning into Shark Week in a few hours!
 
LISTENING TO · New instrumental finds by Rupert Gregson-Williams. He is the composer that arranged film scores for Wonder Woman, Tarzan, Hacksaw Ridge, etc. His music is really good, if you're into it like I am. 

PLANNING · A road trip up to my mama's hometown of Thomasville, Ga. I'm hoping to go before school starts next month. It's only about a 5 hour drive from where we live. I've never had the opportunity to visit.

WISH-LISTING · New clothes. I have gone from a size 14/16 (L/XL) to a size 8/10 (S/M) over the course of the year. Slowly trying to update my wardrobe when I find good deals at Target (clearance section), Plato's Closet and Goodwill. There are a few more pieces I'd like to replace ― a pair of olive green pants + a few new tops.

LEARNING · How to better handle our finances and form a plan to pay down debt. I haven't shared this, but Sammie went through another bout with struvite crystals the first of this month. Our regular vet was closed (it happened on a Sunday), so our only option was to bring him to the emergency clinic. Two days later, we were hit with another high bill which brought the total balance of his medical expenses to nearly $3,000. As you can imagine, this wasn't something we planned for. We've since formed a plan to pay this off as quickly as we can.

FEELING · A little confined lately. With all the thunderstorms over the past few weeks, we've just being staying at home / indoors whenever we aren't working out in it. I want some sunshine so I can go frolic outside, lol.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Top TV Picks · Vol. 3

Well, I figured it was about time that I share another round of my top TV picks. It's been quite some time since I filled you guys in on VOL. 1 + VOL. 2. I included a handful of older shows in this batch, but just because they aren't brand-new doesn't mean they aren't worth checking out! I assure you that they're as good as, if not better than, the majority of shows that have recently come out. Maybe you'll find something new to watch below :)




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sarasota on a Rainy Sunday

About a month ago, Charlene (from Charlene Zale) and I took a day trip down to Sarasota. The forecast looked a bit grim that Sunday morning, but we refused to let it alter our plans in any way. It took roughly an hour and a half to reach our destination. Once in Sarasota, we wasted no time in making our way to the first stop on our list of places to visit ― Bookstore1Sarasota. It was a charming little shop with a very nice selection of books, so it's really no surprise that we spent a good amount of time looking through everything they had to offer.

By the time Charlene finally picked out a book to bring home, we were ready to get our caffeine fix from Buddy Brew Coffee. Thankfully the coffee shop was within walking distance of the bookstore. As I was sipping the last of my vanilla latte, Charlene realized that she had a big dilemma on her hands. The memory card in her camera was full. However, it didn't take her long to track down a nearby Best Buy and purchase a new one. We really dodged a bullet there. By the time we got back to the car, the clouds cracked open and it started pouring.

It was nearly lunch time, so we figured it best to pop into a restaurant for a bite to eat. We quickly decided on First Watch. It's one of my favorites, but Charlene had never been before. I knew they offered a wide range of healthy dishes, as well as vegetarian options for her. Our food was delicious, but I didn't expect anything less. It seemed like we finished eating just as the sun started coming out. It gave us the perfect amount of time to explore the Main Street area + St. Armand's Circle. The clouds were starting to grow dark again as we broke away from the hustle and bustle of the shops to visit Lido Key. After enjoying some time on the beach, I was concerned we wouldn't get back to the car before the rain started falling again, but we made it just in time.

The drive back to Tampa was a bit alarming, as heavy sheets of rain seemed to fall for miles and miles. We were both finding it difficult to see the road in front of us, but we finally drove out of it. Besides that, the trip was awesome! I'm looking forward to more adventures together in the future. There's never a dull moment whenever we hang out. Well, I suppose I've said enough. Now, onto the photos. I'm also sharing the vlog / montage that Charlene pieced together at the end. She really has a knack for video editing!

Saturday, July 01, 2017

July Goals


We're officially on the downhill slope of 2017. I realize I say this every month, but where did June go? I feel like my life is stuck on fast-forward. Each day seems shorter than the one before. It makes me sad, but it also gives me a good reason to live every moment intentionally instead of simply going through the motions. I've noticed that I tend to guard my time now. I view it as if it were a sacred gem, a cherished possession that mustn't be mishandled. Anyway, I wasn't able to get through all my June goals, but I slashed through half of them. July is going to be very busy for me (work-wise), so I won't be aiming too high this month.

J U N E  G O A L S

(✘) Start writing in my gratitude journal daily.
Nope. I only managed to do this for about three days. Smh.
 
(✘) Finish reading the rest of The Circle.
No, but I did get through most of it. I still have about 100 pages left.

(✘)  Take my niece + nephew to the gun range.
Negative. Just couldn't work it into our budget for the month.

(✔) Go to the beach at least once.
Yep. I was able to visit Lido Key with Charlene (post coming soon).

(✔) Reorganize my bedroom closet + drawers.
Yes. This was actually done the day after I shared my goals here.

(✔) Go see Wonder Woman in theaters.
Heck, yeah. And it was nothing short of incredible.

(✔)  Locate my sketchbook + start drawing again.
Affirmative. I only sketched two pieces, but it still counts.

J U L Y  G O A L S

(01) Get outside more (if the weather allows).

(02) Finish reading The Circle + reread The Night Circus.

(03) Plan at least one inexpensive date night.

(04) Go to OneBlood to give a donation.

(05) Take my niece + nephew to the gun range.

(06) Try to create some semblance of a schedule.

(07) Reorganize my desk in preparation for school.


What are some of your goals for July?