Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Collection of Online Budgeting Tools

As you know, I'm a big fan of budgeting. It's helped us agree on purchases since we've gotten married, helped us not overspend, and also given us a bit of freedom to spend in a few areas. After updating our budget today, I figured I'd share our favorite online tool with you, as well as a few others that we've looked into.

PearBudget is our favorite and what we're currently using. It costs $3/month, but saves us much more than that in time, energy, and probably what we spend, too. After using our one month free trial, we knew that it worked for us and signed on up for it. It's super simple interface lets you customize as much as you need, without being confusing, and it also works well with cash or debit/credit purchases. is great for a lot of people I know. It's free, which is great. We've given it a try, but it just didn't fit our budgeting system. It has the added benefit of automatically pulling in transactions from your bank account, which works great if most of your purchases are made using a credit or debit card. You can also split transactions into separate categories. About the only complaint I have with Mint is that we like to carry money forward from one month to the next if there's some leftover, and I can't seem to figure out how to make this work using Mint.

Moneywell is another program I'd like to try. It's available only for Macs, and like Mint, it automatically pulls in your banking information. It claims to be a type of electronic envelope system, which sounds like it would line up well with our budgeting system. It has a free trial, which I need to use, and then a one time cost of $50.

I know there are more, but these are ones I've been impressed with in some way. Any other ideas? What do you use for budgeting?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tasty Tuesday: Barley Casserole

Please don't run away just from the title of this recipe! 

Whew... if you're still here, we ate Barley Casserole last night. This was a first for us, and both of us (especially Javier) loved it! It's an extremely inexpensive recipe, and barley seems to be a super healthy food.

3 T. butter
1 small onion, diced
1/2 small green pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 c. pearled barley (find this near the dried beans in the grocery store)
3 c. chicken broth, heated
salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt butter in saucepan, saute onion, pepper, and garlic until soft.
3. Spray ovenproof casserole with non-stick spray.
4. Transfer veggie mixture into casserole.
5. Add the barley, then heated broth, making sure to coat grains well.
6. Season to taste with salt & pepper and bake covered for 1 hour.

Be sure to check out Jen's blog for more from Tasty Tuesday!

Monday, August 24, 2009

CVS Deals: August 23 - 29

Transaction #1:

$10.00 - (2) Glade Sense & Spray (earns $3 ECBs)
$1.98 - (2) CVS Composition books (earns $1.98 ECBs - free through Tuesday!)
$3.79 - Carefree Ultra Protection (earns $3.79 ECBs)
$.50 - Reese's candy bar (free after coupon)
$3.99 - CVS trail mix (just used as a filler since we're going camping soon)

Total before coupons: $20.26

Coupons used:
- $4/$20 coupon from ReadyFill booklet
- $4 Glade coupon from August All You magazine
- $4 Glade coupon from 8/23 SS
- $.55 Reese's coupon from 8/23 SS (rounded down to $.50)
- $6.99 ECBs

Subtotal: $.77
Total after tax: $1.52 (because of the new tax rules)

Earned: $8.77 ECBs ($3.79, $1.98 & $3)

Friday, August 21, 2009

No Grocery Store Week!

The pantry was full, the refrigerator in decent shape, and I was just tired of buying more food when we never seem to completely finish what we have. So... this Sunday I decided to skip the grocery store & see what we could do for the week. Not having planned for this ahead of time meant I had to be a bit creative with our meals, but all in all we've had great meals and it's nice to be eating cleaning out the pantry a bit. I didn't even post a meal plan b/c I wasn't quite sure how this would work!

So, what have we eaten?
Sunday: Bean burritos on homemade tortillas
Monday: Cheesy chicken subs, pretzels & hummus
Tuesday: creamy zucchini with linguine, homemade bread, orange jello salad (with company)
Wednesday: More cheesy chicken subs, pretzels & hummus
Thursday: the one not so good day - I had cereal & Javier ate ? - we both had things we were rushing out the door for and weren't able to eat together
Friday: out with friends
Saturday: Homemade pizza

We definitely can't do this too often because it's harder to eat healthy and avoid the temptation of eating out, but this week it definitely worked for us!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On the Fence

If you've seen my last couple of posts, you've seen that I'm trying to start running a bit more. 

Recently, however, I've been considering the idea of joining Team in Training this fall to train for either a marathon or half-marathon and to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I'm excited about the idea, but also a little nervous - the longest that I've ever run is 6.2 miles (nowhere close to 13.1 or 26.2) and I've never tried to raise that much money before, either. So, it would definitely be two big firsts for me. 

So, any ideas for me? What would you do? 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Top Five Things that Help Me Actually Get Out the Door to Run

I posted yesterday about how I’m trying to start running again, and how this always seems like such a vicious cycle. I explained a little bit about why I bother, even though it seems like a resolution that doesn’t ever last very long.

Today I’m going to share with you practical things that help me get out the door and run. Hopefully, some of these might work for you, too!

1. First, as I shared yesterday, I have several reasons for wanting to run. My husband supports me in this and has been trying to run with me, as well. I couldn’t make myself get out & run several times a week without plenty of reasons that can hopefully outweigh my excuses. J

2. I try to set realistic goals. I'm trying to begin by building up to being able to run 30 minutes without stopping. I researched different plans and thought that, for me, setting goals as to how long I'd run vs. walk in a given "run" was the most realistic. I know I'm much more likely to continue something if I push myself some, but also have the satisfaction of reaching a goal.

3. I work running into my weekly schedule – way ahead of time. It's literally on my calendar, which means that I'm committed.

4. I try to get plenty of rest, since I like to get up and run first thing in the morning. I've found that if I wait until later in the day to run, I'll come up with a million excuses - it's hot, I've already showered, I need to go to the grocery store, I just ate... the list goes on. First thing in the morning is by far my favorite time, which means I have to go to bed a little bit earlier.

5. I measure my progress. The website lets me calculate the distance that I run. (Even though my goals are in minutes right now, it's still nice to see how far I run.) Then ActiveTrainer let me create an online plan. It even emails me reminders and has a pretty detailed running log. Both sites are free, and are big motivators.

Do you have a goal you're currently working on? What helps you accomplish that goal?

Feel free to check out my older Works for Me Wednesday posts, or mosey on over to Kristen's blog for more today.

My Top 5 Reasons I'm Trying to Start Running (Again)

Maybe this sounds familiar, maybe not... but I'm constantly "starting to run". I may stick with it a week, maybe a month, but then after an extended break I have to start all over again. It's a bit of a tiring cycle, but I am doing it once again. Why, you ask?

1. I really do enjoy being in shape. I have more energy, I'm generally more awake, and I sleep better at nights. Those are almost enough reasons right there to make me want to exercise.

2. I enjoy running because it has a relatively low time commitment. One 30-minute jog around the neighborhood and I can check that to-do off my list for the day. I don't have to get in the car & drive to the gym, etc.

3. It's good for my health. I don’t have to elaborate too much on this one – but I can tell when I’ve been working out by my energy levels, the way my clothes fit, and just my overall mood.

 4. Low impact on the budget. As I just run for fun, all I really need is a good pair of running shoes. I can run (almost) anywhere and it’s free. And, assuming I remain injury-free, running could actually save money by the long-term health benefits.

 5. It’s fun! (Most of the time!) You might have to get creative on this one, but come up with something that makes it fun. Set goals for yourself, run different routes, maybe listen to music, or find a running partner. I also run with my dog, and I can tell how much she loves it. She needs the exercise, too, so we’re just both able to get it at the same time.

I’d love to know – do you exercise regularly? Or are you like me and you’re constantly “trying to start again”? If so, what are some of your motivations for continuing? 

Be sure to come back tomorrow to see things that help me actually get out the door!