Recent Divine Discussions

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Inexpensive ideas for Xmas gifts.....


* Walmart's clearance section:

I am sponsoring 8 kids through an Adopt-A-Child program at a local orphanage that the company I work for is also taking part in. Majority of the kids I selected listed clothes and shoes on their wish lists. I was searching around and happened upon Walmart's clearance section. Talk about great deals. I spent $34 on clothes for 6 out of the 8 kids. I even bought two of these cute Bratz Backpacks with coordinating stationary kits for $3. Each kid winded up with at least two tops and one bottom.

I chose Site-to-Store as my delivery option. Aside from being FREE, my purchases arrived at my local Walmart within 3 days of placing the orders (much faster than paid shipping).

Here is a look at a few of the 3000+ items in clearance:


High School Musical Tee = $2

Lil Bratz Backpack = $3










NBA Jam Xbox Game = $5.82









Toddler Cheerleading Dress = $10

SlickDeals.net

This site list the latest deals and steals. I check it a few times a day to find some super savers. Here are a couple of ongoing steals that I found via this site this morning:

- The Holiday Express Train Track Set
for $19.99 and free shipping from KB Toys

-CVS.com $30 off $50

-Sketcher Sneakers for $16 (I luv me some Sketchers!)

-$10 HD-DVD movies and box sets @ Borders (do site-to-store for free shipping)



* Dollar Stores

Some of yall are SLEEPING on some great gift ideas at your local dollar stores. The Family Dollar store down the street from me is my usual stomping ground. Just visit one and check it out and you will see what I mean.


* Craigslist


* Restaurants.com

You can purchase $25 gift certificates from your favorite dining place for only $10. The site is currently offering a free $10 wine.com gift certificate with every order. Keep an eye out for this site. They may run a 80% off special again before Christmas.


* Target.com Clearance (75%+ off)

Not as inexpensive as Walmart but still full of goodies. Unfortunately no Site-to-Store shipping option. There are some categories that have free shipping with a minimum purchase. You can also search the web for a Target coupon code and get at least 10% off your order.


Tips when shopping for gifts:

Looks for deals and steals (they are everywhere this time of the year)

Search for coupons and coupon codes (google is your friend)



If anyone wants to add to this, let me know in the comment section and I'll add it to this post.



Friday, November 21, 2008

80% off gift certificates @ Restaurants.com

These would make awesome and inexpensive Christmas gifts. You could buy a $100 gift certificate to your parent's favorite restaurant for only 8 bucks!!

*There are, of course, certain stipulations for each restaurant so make sure you read them before purchasing a gift certificate.






• GET $25 GIFT CERTIFICATES FOR ONLY $2! Enter Discount Code: SURPRISE





Offer valid from 11/21 at 5:00AM PST to 11/24 at 12:00AM PST.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Recipes - Inexpensive and Healthy

I made some really cool goodies this past Sunday and I wanted to share the recipes with you guys. These are very healthy and inexpensive options.

Granola

Ingredients:

9 oz rolled oats (old fashioned, half of small canister) = $.62 ($1.24 for an 18 oz container)

3 oz raisins (2 snack boxes) =
$.27 ($1.08 a pack/8 in a pack)

4 oz banana chips =
$1.10

4 oz dried fruit =
$1.64

4 tsp brown sugar


3 sprinkles of cinnamon


honey


Total = $3.63
(approximate)


Directions:
Mix all ingredients, minus the honey, in a bowl. Spread mixture on flat baking pan so that it is evenly spread out. Drizzle about 2 tbsp of honey on top of mix.


Place pan in 300 degree oven for 30 minutes. Halfway through the bake time mix the granola up so that all of it gets toasted. Final product:



Omg, this stuff is addictive. The batch I made should last me 1 to 2 weeks. I have mine stored in a tin canister. This stuff is great as a cereal, over ice cream, with yogurt, with fresh fruit, or just by itself. I took some to work and coworkers loved it. One even wants me to make some for her.............I gave her the recipe instead. :-)


Tortilla Chips

Ingredients:

6 corn tortillas = $.23 ($1.36 for a package of 36)

Fat free cooking spray

herbs (whatever combination you like) = I used, parsley, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and onion powder.


Total = $.23 (approximate)




Directions: Layer all 6 tortillas on top of each other. Using a knife or pizza wheel cut the tortillas into 4 sections. Spray flat baking pan with cooking spray. Lay out tortillas pieces on baking sheet.

Spray cooking spray over tortillas. Dust tortillas with herbs. Put as much as you like (skip the salt if you can). Spray tortillas again. Place in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until done.

Enjoy!!


And a closer look:



Man I am good. These chips are delicious. The tortillas I used are 50 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per tortilla. You can eat these with about anything you do with regular chips. I am going to have mine with some salsa I made tomorrow at work for lunch. I tried it with some roasted pepper hummus I had and it was GOOD.

Here are some cool cooking tips:


* Opt for the toaster oven or conventional oven with heating up frozen dinners. It only takes an extra 10 minutes than using the microwave and trust me when I say the food comes out a lot better and tastier. Frozen dinners can usually just pop out of the cardboard container. Just take it out and place it in an aluminum foil baking pan (cheap and reusable) or take some foil and place it into a regular baking pan and put the frozen dinner on top of the foil (easier clean up). Place the food into the toaster oven or oven at 350 for 10-20 minutes (depending on size and type of food). My daughter prefers hers cooked this way. She says it makes it taste like I cooked it myself. I took my microwave out of my kitchen and its in my storage closet at the moment. Haven't used it in about a month. Don't plan on using it again.


* Make your own marinades and rubs using natural herbs, vinegar (balsamic, red wine, or rice), brown sugar, or different times of mustard. There are so many combinations out there when it comes to marinades and rubs. Limit your salt.


* Fat-free "tarter sauce":
  • -Fat free or lite creamy salad dressing (I call it fake mayo. Yall know the one I am taking about. If you can't find it use fat free miracle whip. I may not be a smooth consistency as the salad dressing)

  • -Sweet relish
Use 1 part salad dressing to 1/2 part relish. Mix together. Enjoy. (This stuff was good on my crab cake.)


I swear I had more tips but I can't think of any more right now. I'll add them to my next recipe post.


Wanna see what I had for dinner tonight??


Oven-Fried Catfish with Sauteed Kale


Look good don't it?! (Psst......I used wheat flour to "fry" the catfish.)


*My bad on the semi-blurry pics. I whad to use the camera on my cell. I need to get batteries for digi-cam.

Monday, November 10, 2008

THAT'S IT!!!! I am creating my own bailout plan

I woke up the following headlines this morning:


Let’s keep it real. Things aren't looking too kosher in regards to the state of our economy at the moment. More and more of our tax dollars are being shelled into companies. Companies who seem unable to get their shit together long enough to get themselves out of the hole they dug themselves into. Well, I'm tired of worrying. I haven't really felt the sting from this economic crisis. Yet anyways. I have lost a few thousand dollars in my 401K account and I have had a couple of credit card companies try my patience by skyrocketing my APR or lowering my credit limit. Aside from that everything has been okay. I've even been enjoying the falling gas prices (REALLY enjoying it). But I don't want to be a sitting duck. So, I am instead choosing to be prepared. I decided to create my own personal bail out plan.

The purpose of my plan is to improve the health of the following key areas of my life: financial health, physical health, and emotional health. I brainstormed ways to get myself in the best possible shape in these areas. I want to be able to handle and conquer whatever crisis/recession/craziness that awaits us in the near future. Here is the break down:

FINANCIAL HEALTH


  • * Debt - Pay off all my credit card debt. Get rid of as much debt as I can.
    • - Tips
      • - If you can’t pay it all off then work at getting your balance to limit ratio below 40% on all cards.
      • - Call the credit card companies and ask to have your APRs lowered or limits increased (no credit pull of course).
      • - Lower the interest rate on car loan once credit score reaches 700. If you have a loan through a credit union, usually your APR is based on a credit score tier. Re-evaluate loan each time your score reaches new tier. My monthly payment may be the same but i'll have the loan paid off around 3-5 months earlier.
  • * Budget – Lower my Vonage plan from $25/month to $15/month.
    • - Trim the fat off of your budget. Here are some ways how:
      • - Get rid of the cable. Majority of shows are free online.
      • - Always “shop” for the best deal.
      • - Trim the excess fat from your cell phone package (unused features, excessive data plans).
      • - Chuck the land line and opt for a VoIP internet phone (I pay $30/ month for Vonage…..unlimited everything).
      • - Utilities – Conserve, conserve, converse. Your pockets will thank you.
      • - Rent – Roommate? Or move to a less expensive place if your lease is up soon.
      • - Childcare – Share babysitters with your fellow mommies.
      • - Prescriptions – Price compare your Rx. Who says you can’t shop for the best deals for your meds. I have United Health Care and they offer a service online which allows me to find the lowest priced option for my Rx. Here is a site for uninsured Floridians.
      • - Groceries – Grow a garden. Shop at your local farmer’s market. Buy generic. The crockpot is your friend.
      • - Auto – Keep up the maintenance on your auto. A huge repair bill in this economy is not cute. Save money by doing some of the car maintenance yourself.
  • * Savings – Save up at least 3 months worth of expenses in E-Fund.
    • - Tips:
      • - 3 months to cover basic necessities (food, gas, toiletries, etc) and expenses (electric, water, sewer, shelter). Key word here is BASIC.
      • - Reallocate the fat you trimmed off your budget to your savings account.
      • - After you have paid off your cc debt, reallocate excess money to your savings.
      • - If you are bogged down by cc debt and an obese budget, look at bringing in some extra money.
  • * Home Purchase – If you are financially ready then this is the best time to buy a home.
    • - Tips:
      • - Get yourself in the best financial picture.
      • - Research 1st time home buyer programs and down payment assistance programs.
      • - Shop for the best mortgage deal.
      • - Shop for a great home.

PHYSICAL HEALTH


  • * Get Healthy – Get my health in check. The last thing I want to deal with are health issues during a time like this.
    • - Tips:
      • - Eat healthier – Eliminate processed foods. Grow a garden. You’ll have fresh and wonderful veggies and fruit at your finger tips (I can’t wait to get my 1st home). Find a local farmer’s market in your area.
      • - Try home remedies or natural approaches before resorting to drugs.
      • - Know what to put in your body and what not to.
      • - Cleanse your body. There is different ways to do it. Find the one the works best for you.
      • - Research. You’ll be surprised by the new “old” information that you find. Like MSM. This guy is pretty on point.
  • * Get in shape – No one is trying to be a size 2 but I should be able to climb 2 flights of stairs without losing my breath.

EMOTIONAL HEALTH


  • * Strengthen my bond with HIM – As long as I have faith in God and know that he won’t give me more than I can handle, I’ll make it through anything.
  • * Tap into some relaxation methods – Relax, relate, release!
    • - Tips:
      • - Yoga
      • - Meditation – (Psst….Make your own meditation cd)
      • - Read
      • - Arts and Crafts – DO NOT sleep on this. My daughter and I make Barbie doll clothing. It is very relaxing.
  • *One on one time with the family – VERY important.

We should always aim to be our best in every aspect of our lives. I think we owe it to ourselves and our families to be as best prepared as we can; especially during this time of economic uncertainty. We rely too much on others and not enough on ourselves. While these multi-billion dollar companies and their millionaire CEOs get flooded with our tax dollars, average Americans all around us are losing their jobs, their homes, and their dignity. Some may think I am overreacting while others will understand exactly where I am coming from. I am not one to sit, wait, and see. I am not big on taking risks (reason why I moved all the money I have in my 401K accounts to stable income/mutual funds).


I am not an expert on finances, health, or even spirituality. But I am an expert on me. My advice: Do what’s best for you.



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

YES WE CAN! & YES WE DID!!!!!




SIGNED ********** SEALED ********** DELIVERED ********** HE"S OURS!!!!!!!


Yes we can!

Yes we can!!

Yes we can!!!

Yes, WE did!!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Correction to November Budget post

Wow.

Math is my ish.


Yet I let this fly right past me:

"As you all know, I have about doubled my salary since July."



Uhhhhhh NO boo boo! I would have to be making $96K+ a year to have done that. To think I took enough math courses to be 1 class shy of a math minor.

*smh*

I have my moments yall.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November Budget

MG! Is that an updated budget on DDD?! The one she promised us MONTHS ago??


(you know that is exactly what was running through your head)

LOL!


It's been a minute since you have seen one of these but alas they are back. It is back to the grind for me. No more free for all months with no spending limits or boundaries. It is time for me to reign it in and get cracking. I applied a
major dent to my credit card debt and am on a roll. As long as a follow the plans that I have laid out I should WILL be debt free by the beginning of February. Once I cross that milestone off my list I can then focus on house hunting and my Home Fund.

One major key to my success is keeping to a solid budget. Especially when things have changed since the last time you established one and you have more wiggle room when it comes to $$$. So here is what I have laid out for November:



CATEGORIES

SUB-CATEGORIES

BUDGET

INCOME




Income

$ 4,651.12


Extra Income


HOME




Rent

$ 700.00


Electric

$ 88.00


Water

$ 46.00


Internet

$ 20.00


Home Phone

$ 30.00


Cell Phone

$ 76.00

AUTO




Car Note

$ 436.00


Insurance

$ 124.00


Gas

$ 240.00


Maintenance

$ 50.00

FOOD




Groceries

$ 125.00


Dining Out

$ 35.00

DEBT




Student Loan

$ 141.02


Personal Loan

$ 295.27


Credit Cards

$ 93.00

MISC




Daycare

$ 260.00


Beauty

$ 30.00


Medical

$ 25.00


Household Goods

$ 20.00


Allowances

$ 50.00


Misc (Family)

$ 150.00


SAVINGS

$ 266.00




Remaining Balance

(to be applied to credit card debt)

$ 1,350.83




INCOME

As you all know, I have increased my salary by $27,000 since July. I was making around $48K during the first half of the year when I was still working with the company I started with straight out of college back in '05. I was given a wonderful opportunity with another company that I couldn't pass up, especially when that opportunity came with a starting salary of $73,000. I took that position, even though there were some risks involved, and managed to secure myself a position with the a well known company. I currently make a lil over $75,000.


HOME (UTILITIES)


-My electricity bill has went down considerably since two months ago (about $30). I have replaced all the light bulbs in my apartment with energy efficient ones and also started unplugging unused electronics. I don't watch TV so there is no reason that all three of them need to be plugged in 24/7. Same goes for my microwave and lamps. I also started shutting my laptop and computer down every night.

-Working on getting the water consumption down.

-I have a system worked out when it comes to my cell and home phone and it looks like it has contributed to a lower cell phone bill.

-All other sub-categories are pretty much fixed.


AUTO

-I am contemplating dropping my life insurance coverage that I have through Statefarm. I pay $25/month for a $50K universal policy. I got my statement for the last year of my policy and it looks like over half of my payment each month ($15.74) is going towards fees and charges. This seems a little excessive, especially compared to the additional life insurance coverage offered by my job which seems to only cost around $7 for a $50K policy. This is in addition to the "3 times your salary" coverage that is already given to me for free (part of my benefits package). Anyways, will do more research and see what the best choice is.

-Gas prices are going down and I can fill up my SUV for a lil under $30 now. Wooohooo!!!

-Gotta get the car taken care of. Because of all the driving I do to and from work, I am stuck with getting an oil change every other month.


FOOD

-Prices of groceries have gone up. But a new grocery chain just opened up in my neighborhood (Aldi) and they are pretty inexpensive. So that along with my fav farmer's market should keep my budget pretty tame.

-Dining Out: It is only the 2nd of the month. Why do I have a feeling that this will be a budget buster.


DEBT

-Can't wait until this whole category is expelled from my budget. Credit cards will be the first to go. Followed by that stupid personal loan and the oh so lovely student loans.


MISC


-Beauty: Stocking up on some wonderful hair care products that I discovered over that past months that work beautiful on my daughter's natural hair and my semi-natural hair. Also found this shea butter with a special ingredient that makes my skin feel wonderfully soft. Stocking up on that also.

-Medical: Gotta get some med refills. I can do the flexible spending account through my emplyer. I am thinking about signing up for 2009. Anyone have word of advice on this?



-Misc (Family): I have an aunt who's husband passed away all of a sudden this past week. She lives in the Caribbean. Going to send her money to help out with the funeral.

-Savings: Making it an even $1000 in my account.



REMAINDER


The remaining balance of $1350.83 from my budget will be applied to my credit card debt. I will use $1020 to pay off my Macy's card and apply the rest to the Discover card.



Alrighty, Dimps is sleepy. Nite Nite!