Success for 2018!

Did you know that only 8% of people reach their goals and keep their new years resolutions? Don’t you want success for 2018?  Here are my steps to make 2018 a success!  For a moment treat yourself like a business and make sure you get results in 2018 and bering success for 2018.

Reaching your goals in 2018
Success in 2018
  1. Review 2017 – find out what happened in 2017.  The good and the bad.  Did you reach your goals?  Why or why not? By knowing what is propelling you or holding you back is knowing how to be successful in 2018.
  2. Make your goals.  By following the SMART principal of goal setting. Make your goals = S – Specific M- Measurable A- achievable R – Relevant T – time. So instead of saying in I want to take control of my finances.  Try a goal like my October 1, 2018 I want to pay off 2 credit cards (total $6,000) and save $1000 emergency fund.
  3. Make a plan. If your goal is to pay off $6000 and save $1000 you are looking at a total of $7000 you need to come up with before October. So between January and September there is 9 months.  So roughly $778 a month you need to pay off or save.  Or $195 a week (4 week month).  How are you going to reach your goals?  By changing your spending?  Or by increasing your income?
  4. Realise why your plan is important!  Is it because you will be in charge of your finances, or debt free.  Or is it to prove to yourself that you’ve got this? What ever the senario it is important to know why you want to reach your goals and what that will change when you DO reach your goals.
  5. Constantly reassess your goals and how you are tracking.  Don’t give up.  If you have a bad month, get back up and start again.  If your goal of $195 per week isn’t met for 3 weeks, don’t stop being $585 short is better than still being in $6000 debt.

You might find this planner to be helpful free here!

I have started a facebook group if your interesting in supporting others and getting tips to reach your goals!  The group link is here.

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Debt Free colouring sheets

This month being a New Year, I thought I would share with you a couple of colouring pages to keep you on track to meeting your saving goals or debt free goals!

I love using visual tools like colouring sheets and mood boards to help me stay inspired and on track! When setting goals i like to keep things visual and so find colouring pages along with other tips here the way I keep motivated and on top of my finances.

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Must Have Christmas Recipes

I have been asked a lot recently about our Christmas Menu.  And what I recommend for Must Have Christmas Recipes.  So I decided to put all the recipes together that I will be using this year so that there is an easy reference point to make it easier for you guys!

A collection of Christmas Recipes that you will come back to year after year!
My must have Christmas Recipes

What shouldn’t come as a surprise is that most of them are sweets! Haha don’t say you weren’t warned! It doesn’t mean we only eat sweets at Christmas but it means I am NEVER put in charge of savouries at any family event unless it is Potato based! I know my calling!

So here is the good stuff!

The only potato salad you will ever want or need!

Rum Balls – a great family tradition!

Bake Play Smile’s thermomix fudge!

I made it today and I will making it again before the big day – the BEST rocky road

The forever favourite – Chocolate Spiders

Chocolate Brownie Christmas Trees – the perfect bring a plate!

The best dessert for a hot Christmas Day – Chocolate Flake cheesecake

The best Australian dessert of all – Pavlova

I hope this makes it easier to find all the recipes I love!  I love Christmas and I love baking for Christmas it just has so many memories for me!  I hope you enjoy this collection of recipes too!  Wishing you and your family a peaceful and beautiful Christmas!

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Brownie Christmas Trees

I love Christmas, and I love chocolate so it’s only natural that I combine both and make these Brownie Christmas Trees.  These are perfect for when you need to bring a plate and you don’t have a lot of time.  They look great but are very simple!

brownie christmas tree recipe
A great recipe to spread christmas cheer

You need a batch of brownie – I of course used my favourite stand by recipe (you can get that here.) but any recipe would be fine.  Prepare the recipe as normal but bake in a round cake tin.  If you are using my recipe I used one round cake tin, and as you can see from the pictures it is quite thick pieces. So for example if it was for a school function I think splitting the batter over two cake tins would work perfectly fine and you make double the trees!

Once you have baked the brownies and allowed to cool completely you are ready to decorate them.  With a serrated knife cut your brownie in half and then quarters.  Cut each quarter into thirds.

ICING RECIPE

1 1/2 cups sifted icing sugar

1 dessert spoon butter

2 dessert spoons boiling water

1/2 teaspoon green food colouring (or more/less)

Decorations – Mini freckles (mine are from Coles in the baking aisle). Peanut butter chips (mine are from Woolworths in the baking aisle).

You could use any other decorations like m&m’s etc, but I had both of these in the cupboard and I think they looked great!

Method

Mix together until it forms a thick paste.

Spoon into a piping bag, I used a small star tip.

Start from the top and placing a small about of icing at the top to stick your star (peanut butter chip).

Pipe the icing like tinsel piping side to side on the brownie. Place the baubles (mini freckles) along the tinsel.

Allow the icing to ‘set’ before transporting.  You can also stick a paddle pop stick into each tree to for the trunk!

Happy Christmas! I hope you love making these.  I found them easy and fun to make I hope you and your family love making them and eating them as much as we did! xx

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2018 Free Budget Planner

Last year I created a free budget planner to download.  This year I think I have made an even better planner for you to download!  It is the only budget planner you will need to get your finances in order for 2018.  I know I want to make 2018 MY year – do you want to join me?

Free planner to reach your 2018 goals
Download your free budget planner for 2018

The beautiful planner has pages for month budget, bill tracker, savings tracker, debt tracker and even a recipe planner for you favourite frugal dinners.  And a new addition is the colouring pages at the back for your debt and savings to keep you on track! Everything in the one place ready to go and to make 2018 your best year!  I hope you love it!

Click the download button below!  I would love to see you using it – use the hashtag #budgetmumplanner on instagram.

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What consumer debt free means to us

We have been consumer debt free for a couple of months now.  So today I thought I would share what consumer debt free means to us.

we have become consumer debt free - how this has helped us reach our financial goals
How becoming debt free has helped us

Being consumer debt free is a big thing as it opens up so many more doors once you are finally there.  For us being consumer debt free meant we had finally paid off about $30,000 in credit card debt (all mine pre meeting my husband) and then $25,000 in a car loan. You can read more about that here.

For us our consumer debt total did NOT count my HECS debt.  (In Australia the Government lend you money to complete your tertiary education.  This is a loan that does NOT accrue interest and comes automatically from your wage.)  If you are a Barefoot Investor follower you would know that Scott Pape thinks its the best loan you will ever receive – thanks to the no interest. (It does go up or down with the CPI). So while I am happy to pay the compulsory payments it isn’t our priority to pay it off sooner. I should also mention that this debt is all mine.  My husband has paid his off.

This obviously leaves our mortgage as our only debt.  Which means this year we have been lucky enough to spend money on doing renovations to our bathrooms and laundry.  (This is currently still being complete.) And focus on paying off mortgage.

It also changes how we can live – slightly more relaxed. But still with the big goal of being completely debt free we haven’t gone crazy.  We have done improvements to the house to add to our investment, and we have taken a couple of local holidays.  While we would both love to go overseas at the moment the house is our priority.

Being consumer debt free hasn’t changed our lives.  We still have our largest debt to pay being our mortgage.  However all the extra payments we were making now goes into bettering the house or paying off the house.   So worth the hassle of paying off our consumer debt as quickly as possible.

Being consumer debt free has changed the way I look at debt!  I don’t want to ever borrow money again that is NOT for our house.  And even then I am keen to pay that down as soon as possible.  It’s been a long road and we have made sacrifices along the way (read more here.)– but we got ourselves into debt (mainly me) so we had to make sacrifices to get our of debt.

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Potato Salad

This potato salad recipe is honestly the BEST potato salad recipe.  It is great served hot or cold, and probably the number one dish I get asked to bring to BBQ’S.  Once you have had this potato salad you won’t want any other recipe!

The perfect side to a BBQ, a great salad to go with any protein!  You will want this at your next family function!
The only potato salad recipe I use – and I get asked constantly to bring to BBQ’s
Potato Salad Recipe

2 kg of potato (I use the cheapest ones on the day! But pontiac are good)
4 eggs
1 cup of good quality whole egg mayonnaise
1 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons seeded mustard
200 grams of diced bacon
juice of a lemon
parsley to garnish

Delicious potato salad recipe - perfect for every function!
the perfect recipe for christmas, easter, bbq or church functions.
method

1. Put eggs into saucepan and cover with cold water, place onto stove on high, once boiling, continue to boil for 10 mins.
2. Clean potatoes (wash and/or peel depending on potato) cut into
1 1/2 cm pieces, it is a chunky potato salad.
3. Place potatoes into a large saucepan and cover with cold water, place onto the stove to boil, depending on potato size it will need to boil for at least 20 mins.

4. Once eggs have boiled, drain and place into bowl and place into the fridge.
5. Start making the sauce, mix together the mayonnaise and sour cream (you can use a different quantities but you want the end to yield the same amount eg 3/4 cup mayo and 1 1/4 cup sour cream). Add the lemon juice and mustard, stir until all combined.

6. Place diced bacon in frypan and fry until crispy. Drain on paper towel if needed.
7. Once eggs have chilled, start to peel and cut into quarters.
8. Check potatoes, choose a larger piece of potato, pierce with fork – if it is easily inserted they are ready, if not allow to boil longer.
9. Drain potatoes well, place half into bowl that the salad will be served in.
10. Pour in a quarter of the sauce and stir through.
11. Add existing potatoes and sauce, stir until evenly combined.
12. Scatter cut up eggs on top, and finish with bacon! Add parsley if you have some on hand!

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Vanilla Cupcakes

This vanilla cupcake recipe is no-fail!  They are easy and delicious.  You will make them over and over agin, by far one of my most asked for recipes!  Coupled with this chocolate butter icing it is the perfect classic flavour combination.

The only vanilla cupcake recipe you need.

The only cupcake recipe you will need – EVER.

RECIPE VANILLA CUPCAKES

3/4 cup castor sugar

2 cups self raising flour

125 grams butter (room temp

2/3 cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Beat all ingredients together until thick and mixed well.  Normally 2-3 minutes if you use an electric mixer.  The mix should be smooth and a consistent pale colour.

(Depending on if your butter is at room temp or not, you may need to add more milk.  About 1 – 2 tablespoons)

Spoon into patty pans in a muffin tin, bake at 190 degrees for 12 mins.

Bake at 210 degrees if you want peaked tops for 12 mins.

RECIPE CHOCOLATE BUTTER ICING

The reason this chocolate icing is better then all other icings is the vanilla essence.  It might sound like a simple or unnecessary addition but once you add it in once you will always add it.  The vanilla takes it to another level in the flavour category!

2 cups icing sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

3 tablespoons soft butter/margarine

3 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method

Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa.

Add milk, vanilla and butter, beat for 2 mins on high until smooth.

Spread on and eat!

If you want to pipe this icing, use 2 tablespoons of milk and butter.

I love this recipe – it was actually my 21st birthday cake – wayyyy before cupcake instead of cake was cool.  It was a winner wayyy back then and we still use it now! I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!

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How to save on travel to the USA

We have travelled to the USA a couple times.  On our most recent trip we made some considerable savings while booking our holiday.  Today I am going to share with you how to save on travel to the USA!

HOW TO SAVE MONEY TRAVELLING TO THE USA…

 

Research is the key to saving money when travelling. While these tips below relate to our holidays in the USA, the tips relate to any holiday and location!

 

If you are willing to put in the effort in the lead up to your holiday you can save a significant amount of money.

 

Spreadsheet. – I love a good spreadsheet! Prior to the holiday I developed a spreadsheet outlining each day, location, accommodation, proposed activity and total spend for the day. What I have seen is that once on holidays it is very easy to get carried away with spending.  Then you pay for it (literally!) when you arrive back home. This is not too say that you cannot enjoy and splurge (we certainly did!).  But this was all tracked and budgeted for prior to us leaving. This is a great way for you to understand how much money you need for the total holiday. But also with some prior planning as per the below tips you can save money along the way. You can then keep refining the spreadsheet closer to your holiday as you either pay off certain activities or find cheaper prices.  It also helps with the saving process along the way.  If you have a set figure it is easier to save.

 

Flights. – Check websites such as skyscanner. which allows you to check flight prices across a number of companies. You can set proposed flight details and be given alerts when the price changes. Our first trip to the USA our flights were just under $2,000 two years later we managed to secure flights for $1,000 at the same time of year and with the same company (Virgin Australia). You can usually find and book flights up to 12 months in advance so the key for us was to set up the alerts and pay for the flights as soon as you see the price that you like! We had booked many months in advance (booked in March for a December / January holiday) to secure the best deal. Another tip is that we found that our travel agent would complete all of the booking details. So once we found these flights, we sent the details through to the travel agent who did all of the booking process. We also saved money as we did not have to pay the booking fee and credit card fees that the airlines charge through the website!

 

Accommodation. – The key here is to identify locations and the amount of money you are willing to spend per night. We provided this information to our travel agent who provided recommendations but we would then search websites such as Hotels Combined and look at the various accommodation options, reviews and any extras that may be included. If we then happened to find accommodation we were interested in we would continue to check back to see if the price had dropped. If we found a good deal we would send through the details to our travel agent who would price match and again do all of the booking for us! We also found that a number of hotels included breakfast or had a little kitchenette so that you could prepare food. These little things save money!

 

Food and Beverage. – On our trip we hired a car and decided to drive across the USA from LA to Miami. As mentioned above, we found accommodation that included extras such as breakfast included. We also bought (from Walmart!) a cheap esky (chilly bin, cooler, depending on where you are from!). And bought some water, fruit and other cheap snacks to have in the car while we were driving. Each night we could fill the esky up with ice from the accommodation to keep the drinks or anything else that needed to be kept cold. If we did choose to find restaurants or eat out, we would have checked some reviews and have found places that had good food but at reasonable prices!

 

Activities / Things to do. – In the USA we found it easy to do and see some amazing attractions for little or no money. In New York for example the New York Pass is only $109 and enables you to see all of the key tourist attractions such as Top of the Rock, Empire State Building and MOMA, this is much cheaper than paying individually and in a lot of instances allows you to skip waiting lines. These are also available in a number of other locations and offer similar savings. We were also able to spend a number of other days of our holiday seeing free attractions. We spent a day walking the high line and looking at the shops surrounding areas, we spent a day in central park and enjoying all of the different scenery on offer. As well we walked the Brooklyn bridge and surrounds, the financial district, times square the list goes on. In Washington DC for example many days can be spent seeing all of the Smithsonian Institutes and monuments and memorials.

 

Money – Another area where you can significantly save is watching exchange rates . This is especially true if you know about your holiday well in advance.  If the exchange rate goes up, you can go and purchase some of that currency at that time. We found a good travel card, but also found that it was a good idea to take some cash as well.

I hope you got some great ideas in making some of the big plans for your trip to the USA!

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Saving money on holidays in the USA, flights, accommodation, cash, attractions and food.
Travelling to the USA, learn how to save money on all aspects of your travel and holiday.

pantry staples you should always have!

Pantry Staples that every frugal home needs.

Your pantry should be there to help you especially if you stock it with pantry staples that every frugal home needs. It shouldn’t be there to make you feel overwhelmed or uninspired. It should serve you and your family as a bank of nutritious food. By always having it stocked with these pantry staples you should be able to whip up some easy meal at a drop of a hat!

items to have in you pantry all the time to be organised and frugal
Pantry item every frugal house needs!
Pantry items

Tinned tomatoes – I always have at least 6 tins of tomatoes in my pantry. Easy pasta sauce base and versatile for nearly all stews and casseroles.

Tin beans – (kidney, 4 bean mix, black beans etc). Beans can be used alone as a mince and meat substitute or vegetarian option and a filler to add to mince.

Mushrooms (Tin) – An extra vegetable to add to any pasta or rice dish.

Corn  (Tin) – tin vegetables are great fillers when fresh options are limited.

Tuna (Tin) – a cheap and easy to store protein. Can be served as a dish or alone for a simple lunch with crackers.

Tomato Paste/Passata – while they are not a true substitute for each other they work for each other in a variety of ways and help you make a simple sauce or meal base.

Rice – Rice served as a side with almost any meals can help bulk it up, it is also great to go into soups to add extra bulk.

Pasta – pasta served as a side with almost any meals can help bulk it up, it is also great to go into soups to add extra bulk.

Minced Garlic – minced garlic is a long-time friend of mine, while I still use fresh garlic time to time, the easy and cost of minced garlic is hard to go past. It easily adds an extra flavour.

Jar of pesto – easy meal served with pasta or one crackers.

Flour – easy option to thicken a sauce, a staple for pizza dough and flat breads.

Olive oil – Super versatile use it as a dressing or to cook with.

Basic spices – Easy way to add extra flavour into a basic meal.

Meals

Meals you can make with these pantry staples with none or a small amount of fresh ingredient could be –

Pesto pasta, tuna pasta, tomato risotto, Mexican rice, corn fritters, tuna patties, garlic pizza, basic bolognese, tuna and corn pasta.

I always have these in my pantry, and while I try to make from scratch where possible, certain things I find are perfect to have on hand.  For me, pasta and pesto with a sprinkle of cheese is simple comfort food.  Perfect when you don’t feel like cooking or don’t have any time.  Did I miss anything?  I would love to hear what you think is have to have in your pantry!

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