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In Budgeting on
June 3, 2017

20 ways to have fun this summer without breaking the bank

summer fun

Summer is finally here and I am more than ready, are you with me? When you end up getting time off of school or work, it can be hard to find ways to occupy your time that don’t involve binge watching (and binge eating.) Lucky for you, I have done the work for you when it comes to planning an amazing summer, offering my insight on the best ways to spend your time!

The best part? It will hardly cost you anything!


1. Start a garden. Go to your local garden center, grab some cheap pots and soil and get your hands dirty. Plant some pretty flowers or even herbs if you are feeling adventurous! Whatever tickles your fancy. 

2. Take a trip to the beach. Who doesn’t love sun and surf? Not everyone has access to a beach, I get that, but if you have a few days free- make it a girl’s getaway. Don’t forget the wine (and the sunscreen!)

3. Host a Bocce Ball tourney. Boccee Balls range from $15-30, a great investment for your summer. Ask your friends to bring a dish to eat, since you are providing the game. Not only will you have great company, but yummy post-game snacks to go along with it. If you know me well, bocce is my favorite summer sport!

4. Become an artist for a day. Have some fun painting, doodling or creating a collage. If you aren’t feeling inspired, check out Pinterest for ideas. You could start simple with a quote, or try and recreate one of your favorite places on canvas.

5. Have a picnic. Nothing says summer like a picnic with your bestie, so shoot her a text and grab ingredients for some sandwiches and sangria. Lay out your blanket at your favorite park and then go for a hike after. 

6. Bake some cookies. It’s finally time to use your new KitchenAid for some summer baking! Bake up some goodies for your new neighbors or close friends. I love to bake cookies and deliver them fresh to my husband’s job! They are always a hit and it makes TJ look good 😉

7. Have a pizza party. And yes, we mean actually making the pizzas yourself. Gather some friends and your favorite pizza toppings for a “create your own” pizza night. I recommend Boboli pizza crust, but it’s even more fun to make your own.

8. Take up photography. Whether you are creative or not, photography can be a great way to capture what you find most beautiful. Go for a nature walk and take pictures of what inspires you, or grab a disposable camera and hit the town for some photogenic fun. I am also loving the portrait mode on the new iphone- it works wonders!

9. Head to your neighborhood tennis court. You don’t play tennis? Oh well! Sometimes it’s less about technique and more about the experience. The winner pays for ice-cream! 

10. Start a blog. You have thoughts in your head, and it’s time to share them with the world. To get started check out free blogging websites like WordPressBlogger or Wix, and browse the internet for tips on how to start your own blog!

11. Volunteer. Find a local food pantry or church that may need your assistance, and spend time lending a hand. Nothing feels better than helping out someone in need. This can help keep you committed to something bigger than yourself.

12. Visit a nearby aquarium. Whether you go with your kiddos or your friends, the aquarium can provide hours of entertainment. It is pretty affordable to spend the day admiring all the aquarium has to offer, especially if you can use a student discount- but if you can’t, be sure to look on Groupon for some deals. 

13. Do your dreaded summer cleaning. Still haven’t worn that party dress you bought three years ago? Donate it. Feeling cluttered? Do a little re-organizing. Haven’t cleaned your baseboards in a year? Now may be the time. If you need a little extra cash, try selling your clothes to a consignment store or on an app like Poshmark.

14. Sign up for an obstacle race. Even if you aren’t in peak athletic condition, signing up for an obstacle race can be a really good time. Some to check out are the Dirty Girl Mud RunSpartan Race and Tough Mudder. Gather a team together and get dirty!

15. Pitch a tent … in your backyard. Pitch a tent and fill it with pillows, blankets and a wireless speaker. Spend the night stargazing and making s’mores with your closest friends or significant other.

16. Host a ’90s game night. One word: Jumanji. Round up old board games (we know you still have a few) and invite your friends over for drinks and friendly competition. Don’t lie, you totally want an excuse to play Mall Madness again!

17. Start a chain reaction. It always feels great making someone smile. Next time you are out and about, pay for the person behind you. It could be at Starbucks, the Dollar Store or even your local Drive in. You’ll be making their day, but making yourself happier as well! 

18. Host a Sunday night dinner for your friends. It’s always good to have everyone together in one place, especially when there’s food involved. Sunday nights are the perfect time to have a dinner for your friend family, because the weekend is winding down and Monday’s work commitments haven’t yet started.

19. Car wash. Get your best girl friends together, blast some old pop music and give your car a good scrub. All you need is some soap, sponges and a bucket of water. Oh, and some tanning oil as well.

20. Take a sunset bike ride. If you don’t have a bike, consider renting one — most big cities offer bike renting services. It’s a chance to exercise while enjoying a great view at the same time! Sunset is the most peaceful time of the day, so relax and take it all in.


Got any other fun ideas? Feel free to leave them in the comment section below!


This post was first published by Jess on Society Letters, found here.

In Budgeting on
January 4, 2017

New Year – New You

It’s a new year! A new chance to kick your old bad habits to the curb. It’s a time to start fresh and show the world what you’ve got to offer! What are your goals for the New Year? Is it to go back to school to get that degree you’ve been dreaming of? Or are you planning to travel more this year? Is it to loose that extra 10 lbs. you’ve gained over the holidays? Or what about getting yourself into financial shape? It’s time to put that credit card away, stop overspending and starting saving in 2017! Consider me your new coach. Hi, I’m Jessica, nice to meet you ☺

I challenge you this year to take a leap of faith and get on the savings bandwagon with me. We are off to a great place- you won’t want to miss this train.

Before we begin, I want to ask you a few questions. Do you think that your finances are in good shape? Where exactly are you in your saving journey? Where do you see yourself in the next five or ten years? Do you foresee yourself buying a new car, purchasing your first home, paying off your mortgage faster, sending your kids off to college, or are you working on becoming debt free? Whatever the case may be, how do you plan to get there?

Getting into good financial shape means that you are starting to pay off your debt (credit cards, school loans, etc.), putting some money aside for savings (your emergency fund), as well as starting to invest for your future.

In order to whip you into the best shape possible, there will be three character traits that you will need to possess in order to succeed.

1. Sacrifice
Getting your finances in order will take a lot of sacrifice. It will not be easy and at times it will make you want to quit or give up. Just like when you are working out and trying to loose weight, it sucks the first few months and you have to work really hard at it (even when you don’t see instant results). But over time if you stick with it- it will get easier and you will build momentum.

2. Determination
You need to be determined to make the change. If you are the kind of person who always ‘says’ you are going to do something but never follow through with it, you will most likely fail. Put your goals in writing, it will keep you accountable and you will have a constant physical reminder of what you wish to accomplish.

3. Patience
As you know, it will take time to get ahead. It can take years of saving for your new house or investing into your retirement fund, but the outcome will be fully worth the wait. I wish I could grow $10,000 on a tree in my backyard, but unfortunately that isn’t possible. Start stocking up your cash, get in into the right places (ex: 401K or Roth Ira) and let it sit and grow. A little patience now, will go a long way.

My challenge to you this year is to take a closer look at your expenses. See if there is a way that you can ‘trim the fat’ and cut back on excess spending. I suggest that you to create a 5-year, 3-year and 1-year plan (in that order). Set your long-term goals and then work your way back, making manageable goals for each year until the ultimate goals are achieved. Take some time to think about what these goals are for the upcoming year and where you see yourself down the line. Write down these goals in a journal, with the date on the top, so that you can look back a year from now to see if you have accomplished them. My husband and I did this together and have found this to be such a great motivator. In fact, we even type up our financial plan and hang it up on the wall in our office for daily encouragement. As you accomplish certain tasks, cross them off so that you can see the progress being made. It has a domino effect, when you start to see progress it makes it easier to keep going- knowing that positive things are happening. Some of our goals this year are to pay off my student loans in full and to open a second Roth IRA. What are yours?

The goal this New Year is to get back on track and to commit yourself to a positive and profitable year ahead! All aboard the Financial Success Train, Choo Choo!

This post was first seen on Society Letters, here.

In Budgeting on
December 18, 2016

15 Ways To Make Christmas Shopping Affordable

It’s that crazy, fun, festive time of the year. Everyone’s out and about searching for the perfect gift to give their loved ones. Do you find this time of year to be relaxing and enjoyable or stressful and overwhelming? If you answered the latter, is it because you are wondering where the money will come from when buying all of these gifts? Well… you are not alone! I am here to give you some easy and practical tips so that you can save money this holiday season. Let the stress-free shopping begin!


If you are an online shopper, this website is now your new best friend. You will get cold hard cash back for shopping at some of your favorite stores, including Kohls, Amazon, Macys, Groupon, Ebay, to name a few. They give back up to 8% on purchases! It’s awesome!

2. Using coupons

Coupons really do help you save money! Save coupons from the Sunday paper or ones that come in the mail such as Bed Bath & Beyond or Buy Buy Baby. They can come in handy now! Or if you are more tech-savvy, you can use digital coupons. My favorite is the app SnipSnap. Always check for a coupon before paying. Chances are, there will be one available!

3. Shop the sales

Take advantage of those Black Friday deals! Most stores advertise their sales a few days early or can be found online the week before. Also take advantage of the free shipping offered on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

4. Write a list and stick to it

This will keep you accountable and on target. Remember the goal is to save money.

5. Start holiday shopping early

This way you aren’t rushing last minute and buying a gift that wasn’t thought through or was a rushed decision. But don’t buy too early or you can miss out on the good holiday sales.

6. Create a Christmas budget

Write out a list of whom you need to buy for and how much money you have to spend. Allocate a certain amount of money to each person that fits within your budget. Now make into a game/challenge: to get the best deal for that amount. If you spent under what you allotted, that’s more money in your pocket. (PS: Who said Christmas shopping can’t be fun)

7. Order holiday cards early

Prices tend to go up around Christmas. Shutterfly and other online sites tend to do discounts in October that you can take advantage of. If you are a Kohl’s credit card customer, every year around this time you will get a $20 free gift to Shutterfly. I use this to buy our cards or a personalized calendar for my mom!

8. Sign up for ShopKicks

This is one of my favorite mobile apps. You get free cash for walking into stores. Some stores allow you to scan items for extra points. This app really does work, believe me!

9. Use cash back credit cards

My husband and I use credit cards where we get back rewards. One of our cards gives us flight miles and the other card we have gives us back cash! Every few months we cash it in and do something fun! (Side note: if you have credit cards, make sure to pay them off every month in full)

10. Buy wrapping paper and gift wrap at the end of the season

I always buy gift-wrapping supplies after the holidays because they go on clearance. Buy them later and save them for next year! It will save you around 70%.

11. Cluster shop

Buy multiple things from one place. If you see that multiple items on your Christmas list can be purchased from the same place, order them all at once. This way you can take advantage of free shipping or sales such as $25 off $100 or more.

12. Cash back deals

Kohls is famous for this one! I love when they have their “for every $50 spent you get back $10” sales. These deals are great for big buys, such as Kitchen Aids or top appliances because you can get $60+ back. You can use this money to knock off the rest of your list!


If you budget on a 4 week schedule; use your fifth week paycheck as free cash! My husband and I have a budget based on 4 weeks so we take our last “free” paycheck and designate it to Christmas! This happens 4-5 times a year when there are 5 weeks that fall within the month. Score!

14. Use Groupon

Groupon has some great deals. They list items or deals that are up to 70% off. Sometimes, I get a little addicted. Speaking of, I just ordered two items off it tonight! Whoops…

15. Don’t go into debt

Did I have to go there? Of course I did! I’m the money guru after all 😉 But seriously, only buy what you have the money to buy! Everyone’s budget is different. Make the most of what you got! Remember it’s not about the money; it’s about the heart behind it.

Did you actually make it down to the end? Did I babble on too long? Haha, maybe so… but I hope you found these 15 tips to be helpful! I really do think that you will have a fun, easy and affordable Christmas shopping experience this year! Happy Holidays, everyone!


This post was first seen here on Society Letters.