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Budget Your Money with the Zero-Sum Method

Are you tired of living paycheck to paycheck and never having any savings? Budget your money with the Zero Sum Method to take control of your spending!

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


Does your budget need a makeover? I previously talked about the 50/20/30 Method but if it's not for you, then maybe the Zero Sum Method is what you're looking for. The frustrating thing about budgeting is sometimes, despite our best efforts, we find the bank account empty and unable to pay a bill until the next paycheck comes in. Or we may feel like money just slips through the cracks with miscellaneous expenses and purchases.

If you're tired of living paycheck to paycheck or of losing track of where your money is going, then the Zero-Sum Method may be your perfect guide.

How Does the Zero Sum Method Work?

The Zero-Sum Method has two main elements to it.

  1. Every dollar of income should be allocated to a specific purpose so that monthly income minus monthly expenses equals zero
  2. For added financial security, you should use the previous month's income to pay the current month's expenses

This budgeting method works as a powerful tool because it requires you to be purposeful with every single cent of your income by "spending" it. Now before you jump up and head to Target (which I recommend banning, by the way), you should know that the spending you do in this method isn't what we would normally consider spending at all. Categories like savings, charity, etc. are viewed as what you should "spend" your money on.

Also, I know you might be looking at that second part thinking, "Um, that sounds easy to do once you get there but how do I get a month ahead on my paycheck?" I'll give you a few pointers in the step-by-step section down below.

Are you feeling a little confused? Don't run away just yet because it's simpler than you think!

(Pssssst! If you like this blog post, then you will love my book The Beginner's Guide to Budgeting, now available on Amazon.com!)

Zero Sum Method Examples

Good Example:

Total Monthly Income: $3,000

Total Monthly Expenses: $3,000

Monthly Expenses:

  1. Mortgage $1,200
  2. Savings/Emergency Fund $400
  3. Car Payment $200
  4. Auto Insurance $150
  5. Groceries $500
  6. Utilities $150
  7. Cell Phones & Internet $200
  8. Clothing $50
  9. Charity/Tithing $150

*I made this budget extremely basic for the sake of this post. I'm assuming health costs and retirement contributions are already taken out.

This first example falls in line with the Zero-Sum Budget as every dollar has been allocated to a specific purpose, including savings and charity "expenses." Since total monthly income minus total monthly expenses equals zero, we are following the rules perfectly.

Bad Example:

Total Monthly Income: $3,000

Total Monthly Expenses: $2,800

Monthly Expenses:

  1. Mortgage $1,200
  2. Savings/Emergency Fund $200
  3. Car Payment $200
  4. Auto Insurance $150
  5. Groceries $500
  6. Utilities $150
  7. Cell Phones & Internet $200
  8. Clothing $100
  9. Charity/Tithing $100

This next example does not fall in line with the rules as total monthly income minus total monthly expenses equals $200. If you have paid all of your bills, spent all of your fun money, contributed to your savings, and still have a balance, then it's time to adjust your budget.

Zero Sum Method Step by Step Tutorial

Step 1: List all of your income

List all of your income, making sure you underestimate figures for flexible income. Like I mentioned in this post about creating a budget, you need to stop depending on any above average paychecks. It only causes problems if you find yourself coming up short on cash when the flexible income is low.

Step 2: List all of your expenses

It's time to get through the rough stuff! List every expense you normally have and even the extra ones too. Don't be worried about how it looks or how long the list may be. The important thing is that you're taking control of your finances so, whatever you do, don't hold anything back.

It's importatnt to list even your daily Starbucks' coffee or weekly trip to the movies. Excluding even the smallest expenses won't give you the clear picture you deserve to have of your finances.

Step 3: Do the math and make adjustments as needed

Let's look at the Bad Example listed above. Income minus expenses resulted in a leftover of $200. So we adjusted the charity/tithing and savings/emergency fund categories in order to bring the balance to zero. You may find that you need to adjust your expenses up or down. You may need to turn off your cable or lower your grocery bill. Just keep working on the numbers until you reach zero.

Step 4: Use the current month's paycheck to pay next month's bills

For example, you should pay for September's bills with August's paycheck(s).

It is suggested that you live one paycheck ahead of time on the Zero-Sum Budget, though no one's going to penalize you if you don't. This is especially helpful for people who depend on a variable salary as it gives them the added security that their bills will be paid every month.

But actually getting a month ahead of your paycheck can be very difficult. I recommend starting by lowering your expenses as much as possible and finding additional ways to make money.

Tips:

  1. Cut out unnecessary expenses (Check out my Rockstar Budget post on how to tell the difference between needs and wants.)
  2. Sell stuff around the house you no longer want or need
  3. Pick up extra hours at work or find a temporary weekend or night job
  4. Set aside or use your current savings to get a month ahead on your bills
  5. If you receive a paycheck every two weeks (as opposed to the 1st or 15th of the month) you should end up with a few additional checks throughout the year. Be prepared to set these checks aside until you have saved enough to get a month ahead on your bills (Example: Someone who is paid every other Monday might receive 3 checks in the month of August 2015.)

The frustrating thing about budgets is that sometimes we don't know where to start. It can be disheartening to know our personal finances need to change but are stumped with where to begin. This budgeting method provides very clear, easy-to-follow guidelines that can help get you started.

Do you use the Zero-Sum Method to budget your finances? Do you love it or hate it? 

Linked Up

The Busy Person's Whole30 Meal Plan - Week 4

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


I recently mentioned that my husband and I were doing the Whole30 eating program for the month of June. If you're not familiar with how it works you can visit the official Whole30 website for a more detailed explanation. Here is my humble and brief summary.

What is the Whole30?

The Whole30 is a program where you strip out all foods that have a poor impact on your health, both physically and psychologically. You may not think certain food groups affect you negatively but the Whole30 adopts the belief that all sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes should be eliminated from your diet and replaced with more wholesome, natural ingredients.

Get My Secrets to a Profitable Blog via Email

You'll get:

+ Comprehensive 29-page workbook that'll help you build a mastermind plan, keep track of your goals, and more

+ 7 days of blogging tips that helped my own blogging business go from making $12/month to $12,000+/month

Powered by ConvertKit

Things You Should Know About My Whole30 Meal Plan

The first thing you should know is that my meal plans for the Whole30 are extremely basic. When I say extremely basic I mean that Thursday's dinner was prepared by cooking ground turkey with spaghetti sauce, microwaving sweet potatoes, and steaming whatever veggies we had in the refrigerator. I also plan leftovers for almost every lunch as a way to accommodate our busy schedule.

I wish that I had the time and energy to cook fancy recipes for my family. I wish there was room in my budget for items like salmon and steak every other night. But the baby lives on my hip, our grocery budget is tight, and there isn't much I can do about it.

If you're looking for an elaborate meal plan, this is not the plan for you. If you are a busy individual who wants to try the Whole30 without doubling their grocery bill, then you are in the right place!

Behold, The Busy Person's Whole30 Meal Plan for the last week of the program. I added an additional two days to the menu so you could have a full 30 days worth of ideas.

Please note that this menu is suited for two adults. We personally followed this menu as close as possible. Recipes may have been switched around due to the time constraints of long workdays or a fussy child. Also, be sure to save some chicken from Saturday's dinner to use in Sunday's lunch. Also, this post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information.

Whole30 Recipe Sources

I didn't shake things up too much, even with this being our last week on the program. But I was excited to find some new yummy recipes from From this Kitchen Table, I Heart NaptimeMy Healthy Happy HomeSweet C's DesignsDaily Rebecca, and Buzzfeed.

Avocado Chicken Lettuce Wraps |  Bacon Butternut Squash Quiche | Homemade Guacamole | One Pot Paleo Chicken Curry Stir FrySweet Potato Breakfast CasseroleTomato and Avocado Omelet

Pinterest has also been a great source and I constantly use it for reference and inspiration.

I should note that one of these recipes called for bacon. But Whole30 compliant bacon is insanely(!) expensive so I used whatever extra meat I had on hand instead.

I've been exclusively using the Whole30 website for guidance, but if you'd like an actual paper copy of rules, guidelines, recipes, and tips, the The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom is a great resource! I also love reading It Starts with Food (written by the Whole30 founders, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig) for even more inspiration.

Whole30 Experience

The beginning of this week was fantastic! I felt stronger and more dedicated to the Whole30 program than ever. I loved the food I was eating and my unhealthy cravings were not only non-existent, but any sugary and non-compliant foods also looked downright unappealing. It was the first time in my life that ice cream didn't look good. I know this sounds crazy but it made me feel like I was finally in charge of my own body. It was awesome!

However, my last few days on the program were surprisingly difficult. I started thinking, "Well, 27 days is basically the same as 30 so..." Our work and life schedules also became increasingly hectic as we got closer to the end of the month. Did that influence things? Maybe a little bit. Subway sandwiches always look so much easier than whipping up a hot meal.

But I stuck it to the end and I'm officially done. BAM! Let's just say that the morning after Day 30 I did a happy dance on my way to the kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself still reaching for Whole30 meals following the 4th week. When your body feels good you can't help but continue to eat healthy!

Are you trying the Whole30? What has been your experience so far? Love/hate it? Give me all the details!

Previous Weeks:

The Busy Person's Whole30 Meal Plan - Week 3

Looking for an easy Whole30 meal plan for those busy weeknights? These recipes are easy to make, won't hurt your budget, and are delicious too!

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


I recently mentioned that my husband and I were doing the Whole30 eating program for the month of June. If you're not familiar with how it works you can visit the official Whole30 website for a more detailed explanation. Here is my humble and brief summary.

What is the Whole30?

The Whole30 is a program where you strip out all foods that have a poor impact on your health, both physically and psychologically. You may not think certain food groups affect you negatively but the Whole30 adopts the belief that all sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes should be eliminated from your diet and replaced with more wholesome, natural ingredients.

Get My Secrets to a Profitable Blog via Email

You'll get:

+ Comprehensive 29-page workbook that'll help you build a mastermind plan, keep track of your goals, and more

+ 7 days of blogging tips that helped my own blogging business go from making $12/month to $12,000+/month

Powered by ConvertKit

Things You Should Know About My Whole30 Meal Plan

The first thing you should know is that my meal plans for the Whole30 are extremely basic. When I say extremely basic I mean that Sunday's dinner was prepared by cooking ground turkey with spaghetti sauce, microwaving sweet potatoes, and steaming whatever veggies we had in the refrigerator. I also plan leftovers for almost every lunch as a way to accommodate our busy schedule.

I wish that I had the time and energy to cook fancy recipes for my family. I wish there was room in my budget for items like salmon and steak every other night. But the baby lives on my hip, our grocery budget is tight, and there isn't much I can do about it.

If you're looking for an elaborate meal plan, this is not the plan for you. If you are a busy individual who wants to try the Whole30 without doubling their grocery bill, then you are in the right place!

Behold, The Busy Person's Whole30 Meal Plan.

Please note that this menu is suited for two adults. We personally followed this menu as close as possible. Recipes may have been switched around due to the time constraints of long workdays or a fussy child. Also, be sure to save a little chicken from Saturday's dinner to use in the recipe for Sunday's lunch. Also, this post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information.

Recipe Sources

I stumbled onto Lexi's Clean Kitchen this week and went a little crazy. She's got so many delicious Whole30 recipes that I just couldn't help myself! I also used a few from Nom Nom Paleo, Half Baked Harvest, and Buzzfeed.

3 Ingredient Breakfast Skillet | Brussels Sprout Breakfast HashGrilled Veggie & Grilled Chicken Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette | Healthy Chipotle Chicken Sweet Potato Skins |  Homemade Guacamole | Sausage Egg "McMuffin" | Spaghetti Squash Boats with Homemade Meat SauceTomato and Avocado Omelet

Pinterest has also been a great source and I constantly use it for reference and inspiration.

I should note that one of these recipes called for bacon. But Whole30 compliant bacon is insanely(!) expensive so I used whatever extra meat I had on hand instead.

I've been exclusively using the Whole30 website for guidance, but if you'd like an actual paper copy of rules, guidelines, recipes, and tips, the The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom is a great resource! For inspiration to keep me going, I've been loving It Starts with Food by the creators of the Whole30, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig.

Experience

I've never felt better in my entire life. My energy is endless, I sleep like a baby, and my body feels strong and healthy. And my skin! I have the same glow I had before I went through my hormonal teen years.

Despite all of these incredible perks, my cravings for unhealthy food seem to be on my mind constantly. Maybe my body is thinking, "You already feel so good so a cookie or two isn't going to hurt you." The closer I get to the end of the month the harder this becomes.

Are you trying the Whole30? What has been your experience so far? Love/hate it? Give me all the details!

Other Weeks:

The Busy Person's Whole30 Meal Plan - Week 2

Looking for an easy Whole30 meal plan for those busy weeknights? These recipes are easy to make, won't hurt your budget, and are delicious too!

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


I recently mentioned that my husband and I were doing the Whole30 eating program for the month of June. If you're not familiar with how it works you can visit the official Whole30 website for a more detailed explanation. Here is my humble and brief summary.

What is the Whole30?

The Whole30 is a program where you strip out all foods that have a poor impact on your health, both physically and psychologically. You may not think certain food groups affect you negatively but the Whole30 adopts the belief that all sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes should be eliminated from your diet and replaced with more wholesome, natural ingredients.

Things You Should Know About My Whole30 Meal Plan

The first thing you should know is that my meal plans for the Whole30 are extremely basic. When I say extremely basic I mean that Monday's dinner was prepared by cooking ground turkey with spaghetti sauce, microwaving sweet potatoes, and steaming whatever veggies we had in the refrigerator. I also plan leftovers for almost every lunch as a way to accommodate our busy schedule.

I wish that I had the time and energy to cook fancy recipes for my family. I wish there was room in my budget for items like salmon and steak every other night. But the baby lives on my hip, our grocery budget is tight, and there isn't much I can do about it.

If you're looking for an elaborate meal plan, this is not the plan for you. If you are a busy individual who wants to try the Whole30 without doubling their grocery bill, then you are in the right place!

Behold, The Busy Person's Whole30 Meal Plan.

Please note that this menu is suited for two adults. We personally followed this menu as close as possible. Recipes may have been switched around due to the time constraints of long workdays or a fussy child. Also, this post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information.

Get My Secrets to a Profitable Blog via Email

You'll get:

+ Comprehensive 29-page workbook that'll help you build a mastermind plan, keep track of your goals, and more

+ 7 days of blogging tips that helped my own blogging business go from making $12/month to $12,000+/month

Powered by ConvertKit

I should note that one of these recipes called for bacon. But Whole30 compliant bacon is insanely(!) expensive so I used ground turkey instead.

I've been exclusively using the Whole30 website for guidance, but if you'd like an actual paper copy of rules, guidelines, recipes, and tips, the The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom is a great resource! I also love reading It Starts with Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig for even more inspiration.

Whole30 Experience

There are some repeats from last week's menu and here's why: I'm cheap. Really cheap! It's as simple as that. But I had more time on my hands towards the weekend and was able to find some new, affordable recipes.

The headaches from last week are completely gone and have been replaced with the best sleep of my life. My mid-morning and mid-afternoon energy slumps have also disappeared. I have never felt this energized before and the extra pep in my step is all the encouragement I need to keep up with the program.

Are you trying the Whole30? What has been your experience so far? Love/hate it? Give me all the details!

*I prepped the cabbage the night before to make for a quick breakfast.

**I replaced the bacon with ground turkey because it's cheaper.

Other Weeks:

The Busy Person's Whole30 Meal Plan - Week 1

Looking for an easy Whole30 meal plan for those busy weeknights? These recipes are easy to make, won't hurt your budget, and are delicious too!

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


I recently mentioned that my husband and I were doing the Whole30 eating program for the month of June. If you're not familiar with how it works you can visit the official Whole30 website for a more detailed explanation. Here is my humble and brief summary.

What is the Whole30?

The Whole30 is a program where you strip out all foods that have a poor impact on your health, both physically and psychologically. You may not think certain food groups affect you negatively but the Whole30 adopts the belief that all sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes should be eliminated from your diet and replaced with more wholesome, natural ingredients.

Things You Should Know About My Whole30 Meal Plan

The first thing you should know is that my meal plans for the Whole30 are extremely basic. When I say extremely basic I mean that Monday's dinner was prepared by cooking ground turkey with spaghetti sauce, microwaving sweet potatoes, and steaming whatever veggies we had in the refrigerator. I also plan leftovers for almost every lunch as a way to accommodate our busy schedule.

I wish that I had the time and energy to cook fancy recipes for my family. I wish there was room in my budget for items like salmon and steak every other night. But the baby lives on my hip, our grocery budget is tight, and there isn't much I can do about it.

If you're looking for an elaborate meal plan, this is not the plan for you. If you are a busy individual who wants to try the Whole30 without doubling their grocery bill, then you are in the right place!

Behold, The Busy Person's Whole30 Meal Plan.

Please note that this menu is suited for two adults. We personally followed this menu as close as possible. Recipes may have been switched around due to the time constraints of long workdays or a fussy child. Also, this post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information.

Get My Secrets to a Profitable Blog via Email

You'll get:

+ Comprehensive 29-page workbook that'll help you build a mastermind plan, keep track of your goals, and more

+ 7 days of blogging tips that helped my own blogging business go from making $12/month to $12,000+/month

Powered by ConvertKit

Whole30 Recipe Sources

I constantly browsed the Whole30 website, Our Paleo Life, and The Clothes Make the Girl for recipes and ideas. I don't have the money or patience for half of the fancier dishes but I got lucky and found the following recipes.

Homemade Sausage Patties | Bangers and Mash  | All Day Frittata

Pinterest has also been a source lifesaver and I'm still pinning away like a madwoman.

Anything else listed on the menu was made very low-key. For example, the eggs were either scrambled, boiled, or fried. It's a real life meal plan, people.

I've been exclusively using the Whole30 website for guidance, but if you'd like an actual paper copy of rules, guidelines, recipes, and tips, the The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom and It Starts with Food are great resources!

Whole30 Experience

Headaches in the morning. Headaches in the afternoon. Headaches in the evening. If there's one thing I can tell from the first 24 hours of this program, it's that I am addicted to sugar. I didn't gorge myself on carbs or candy the night before like I wanted to and I'm glad I didn't! My head was constantly pounding the entire week and all I needed wanted to do was pour a bag of Skittles down my throat.

I quickly realized that Whole30 recipes can be Paleo compliant but not the other way around. The limitations were killing me and I realize how pathetic that sounds. I've become too used to easy/fast/cheap foods. The fact that I was dragging my feet to make something fresh and healthy is ridiculous.

At the end of Week 1 I made it a goal to branch out and find new recipes.

Other Weeks:

Are you trying the Whole30? What has been your experience so far? Love/hate it? Give me all the details!

4 Things You Need to Become a Morning Person

This is a Guest Post from Charlee at Humble in a Heartbeat

A Few Facts About the Guest Author:

  • wife to Argentine and mother to two girls
  • founder and author of Humble in a Heartbeat
  • enjoys watching cooking shows and trying her hand at new recipes
  • loves to share her money mistakes with others so they can do better
  • wants to be a world traveler one day in the near future

Night owls have way more fun, right? Perhaps, but sometimes the responsibilities of being an adult require that night owls turn into early risers. Whether you need to wake up early to get to work or you just want to rise before the kids are out of bed, you can become a morning person if you want. I know because I was a hard-core night owl for a good 5 years until I decided to break that habit.

Here are four absolutely essential things you need in order to become a morning person.

1. A Bedtime

Bedtimes are for kids, aren't they? Actually, they work incredibly well for adults, too, and you need to start giving yourself one! A bedtime makes you feel sleepy about the same time every night, which makes it so much easier to stick to an earlier bedtime.

If you normally go to sleep at 1 AM, instead of changing your bedtime to10 o'clock right away, move your bedtime to 12:30 until you are used to it and you can actually fall asleep soon after laying down. Then move your bedtime up to midnight. Keep moving your bedtime closer and closer to your desired bedtime, and you will soon be yawning when your kids are ready to go to bed! ;)

I was actually one of those really boring roommates in college because I went to bed by 10:30 every night. Any later and I was a zombie in my 8 o'clock class the next day.

So what happened that turned me into a night owl? Well, I got an evening/late night job for the last three years of college and I just couldn't go to sleep any earlier than midnight anymore. Ten o'clock would hit and I'd still have at least two more hours to be really productive or just chill and watch some Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (which, yes, I'm aware it has changed to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon).

One reason it took me so long to finally give myself a bedtime was, well, we had babies. Babies don't really sleep when we want them to, so I had to be on a late night AND early morning schedule for a good 2+ years.

When both of my daughters finally started sleeping through the night and going to bed at a decent hour, I felt like I could tackle mornings again. Only, I didn't put myself to bed early enough to want to wake up earlier. It wasn’t until I set a bedtime and started sticking to it that I had a much easier time waking up in the morning. 2. A Bedtime Routine

A bedtime really does no good if you aren't actually ready to go to bed. If you eat a bunch of donut holes and down some soda only an hour before your bedtime, you probably won't be falling asleep right away. A bedtime routine can help you to relax and get ready to actually sleep.

Instead of doing things that add more stimulation to your mind, get in the habit of winding down with a good book, some soft music, and turning down the lights. All these things can work in your favor to help you hit the bed and fall asleep fast.

One of the most annoying things I used to experience on a regular basis was lying down to sleep and then staying awake for a good hour or more. I either had too much on my mind or I did something right before bed that didn't aid in getting me to sleep. Now, I take a little time before bed to read something, and I turn down the lights so my mind can get ready for sleep.

3. Willpower

Even if you have a bedtime and a bedtime routine, you might still struggle to become a morning person until you get some serious willpower. You need willpower to hear your alarm, to not hit snooze on your alarm, and to get out of bed as soon as you hear it.

Before I had a bedtime, I would sleep through my alarm clock nearly every.single.morning! Either that or my husband would hear it and turn it off before I could even hear it! If you are like me and normally sleep through your alarm clock, you need to find willpower to change that bad habit.

The true test of your willpower will come around winter. At least for me, it’s the worst time of year to get out of bed because the house is super cold and my blankets are nice and warm. If you can just hop out of bed and get a robe and slippers on, you shouldn’t have to suffer any longer than a couple minutes.

4. Motivation

I believe that having motivation is one of the biggest things that will transform your morning experience to help you become an early riser. Without motivation, you won't stick to your bedtime or have the willpower to get out of bed.

You need to find your motivation. Think about what gets you excited. Would you be motivated to wake up if you could use that time to read or practice a musical instrument? Whatever it is, your motivation should be reason enough for you to get out of bed every day.

My motivation for waking up every morning is my blog. I wasn’t motivated to get out of bed for “me time” or else I would have done it long ago. I guess, though, that my blog could be counted as time for myself since it does make me happy. My blog is my passion and I look forward to working on it every morning. Sometimes I wish I only had to sleep for a few hours so I could get up even earlier to work on it.

Bonus: Stamina

Having stamina is not necessary to become a morning person, but it will be easier to stay awake if you have it. Find something in the morning that can help you feel energized so you can get your day going as soon as you wake up. You don’t want to waste time being lethargic when you could be working on important things.

I have been working on getting some stamina, because even when I go to bed on time, get out of bed as soon as my alarm clock goes off, and get downstairs to start working on my blog, I sometimes sit in front of the computer and fall back to sleep! Either I need to go to bed earlier or I need a little energy to get me moving.

If you have the desire to be a morning person, be sure to give yourself a bedtime, have a bedtime routine, find the willpower to get out of bed, and do some soul-searching for your motivation so that it will be easy to get up early. If you still want to crawl back into bed, you might need a little stamina to help you stay awake. If you do all these things on a consistent basis, you will soon find yourself up at the crack of dawn and getting things done before your entourage awakes!

Be sure to check out my favorite posts from Charlee like her recipe for Poor Man's Bread and the ways she saves money when shopping at Target

13 Ways to Decorate Your Home on a Budget

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? I have a lot of experience in that category! We've lived in three rental properties since my husband and I got married. Each time I've wanted to try out a different look in our new place (we're still figuring out "our style") but my budget has always kept me in check. I can't afford to completely redesign each new place! Here are my best ways to decorate your home on a budget.

Related Post: 15 Ways to Make Your Home Cozy

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1. Pull out what you have.

Repurpose old furniture by cleaning, sanding, and painting any wood pieces or throwing sofa covers over old sofas. If you feel like you're sick of something and just want to throw it out, give yourself a few days before you decide.

The biggest mistake I made in college was thinking that I had to buy brand new stuff and get rid of all of my old furniture. It was a huge waste!

Now I'm not saying you should become a packrat. Ew! Just try to repurpose the items you already own and if you can't, throw them out.

2. Paint your favorite color.

Paint your favorite color on an accent wall or even in an entire room. Our favorite shades can really cheer us up and turn a bad day into a good one.

While I'm fond of going bold it's wise to paint swatches on a well-lit wall before you commit to a particular color. Paint is cheap but the effort it takes to paint over a red or a dark blue is not worth the headache.

3. Shop at thrift stores, Craigslist, flea markets, and the Dollar Store.

You don't need to spend full price on brand new merchandise to give your home a facelift. I found a beautiful coffee table once in mint condition for $20 at Goodwill . After a good scrubbing it was as good as new.

These stores are also great for picking up knick knacks and miscellaneous decor. All of my flower vases have come from the Dollar Store or Goodwill.

4. Ask for Grandma's old stuff.

Does your Grandmother have a garage full of stuff she no longer wants but hasn't gotten around to throwing out? Try not to be a moocher but if she or anyone else has a donation pile, offer to drop everything off in exchange for first pick at any items. You'll be doing a good deed while getting a opportunity to buy decor at a discount.

5. Arrange colorful pillows and throws.

Pillows and small throws are cheap and easy to rotate throughout the seasons. Purchase the cushion alone at stores like Ikea and then add in some bold patterns and textures in the actual covers. In fact, if you're looking for anything in the textiles department at a cheap price, Ikea is the first place to stop.

If you have access to free shipping on Amazon, HOSL is a seller on there and they also have a cute selection of cheap covers too. Their black bear in a red hat and three colorful feathers pillowcases are my favorites and they are cheap!

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

6. Family art and prints.

Let your kids do the fancy artwork for you or even do some yourself. I filled a Pinterest board with DIY projects, a lot of them being canvas-type.

We bought a pack of canvases with a 40% off coupon from Hobby Lobby. Then we grabbed all the acrylics around the house, placed a old giant sheet on the ground, and painted away. I loved how this DIY Family Handprint Tutorial turn out so much that hung it where everyone can see. We get compliments on it all the time and is really precious to us.

7. DIY some linens.

Are you handy with the sewing machine? There are handy tutorials from Pinterest or free books from the library where you can find some interesting ideas.

Try a simple pillow tutorial if you're just starting out. They are surprisingly easy. Trust me, if I can do it anybody can do it!

8. Show off your family photos.

The first item that turns a house into a home is the family photo you proudly put on display. Does it really even feel like your space if you can't easily see pictures of the people you love?

Start with a collage wall or a blown up version of your favorite shot. You can use either option to fill up those boring blank spaces in the hallway or living room. And hey, it doesn't have to be expensive. This photo display is less than $20 (as of February 2016) and is adorable!

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

9. Warm the room up with some candles.

Even if they're not lit, candles give the impression of a room that is warm and cozy. In fact, I never actually light ours because of our son running around. I've had the same Dollar Store candles sitting on our mantle for a couple of years. But I like the perception that the room is just a bit cozier.

10. Color coordinate your book collection.

So you have a lot of books scattered around the house and in no particular order? Bring out your creative side by color coordinating your own little library.

So you have a lot of books scattered around the house and in no particular order? Bring out your creative side by color coordinating your own little library.

I separated our mini library by the color of the spine years ago and I haven't gone back to anything else. I have a terrible memory when it comes to book titles. But I always remember the cover image and color. Try out this trick if you have the same problem. Here's what ours looks like. (Please excuse the iPhone quality image and over-filtering of my 22 year old self...)

11. Add some pretty mirrors all around the house.

I know what you're thinking if you have young children or pets. "I can't have breakables in my house, Allison!" But yes, you can. They just need to be hanging high on the walls.

Reflection throughout the home will make the space appear larger. It's also awesome for filling up those blank spaces you don't have any art for.

Add some extra personality to your home by choosing pieces with additional textures or patterns. You can even DIY the project by buying an old mirror from a thrift store and painting the frame.

I personally like these from Amazon. The shabby chic mirror is girly enough for me without making my husband cringe, and this entry way mirror is nifty with it's extra storage features.

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

12. Change outdated fixtures and hardware on cabinetry.

Set a budget for yourself and head to the local hardware store. Changing out the handles on kitchen cabinets or a light fixture in the bedroom is one of the quickest ways to update a home. You can spend all the money in the world on furniture and accessories but if there's a dome light from 1985 in your living room, it'll still look outdated.

13. Paint your dated cabinets and crown molding.

We painted the horrible blue (yes, blue) crown molding in my parents house years ago and the change was dramatic! It brought the room back into the 21st century with just a can of primer and white paint. There's a lot of sweat that goes into updating crown molding. But if you're willing to put in the elbow grease you'll be pleased with the results.

Try to repurpose the items you already have if you want to redecorate your home. Just moving the furniture around and throwing on a new softcover will make you feel like you've spent $1,000.

And if you find that your junk is really...well...just junk, then head out shopping with a list and a budget so you can keep control of how much you spend. It does not have to cost a penny more than you want to spend to get a good looking room makeover.

How do you decorate your home on a budget?

Looking for the best ways to decorate your home on a budget? Painting an accent wall or hanging your child's artwork are a few cheap options to start.

15 Ways to Make Your Home Cozy

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


Everyone wants to create a place where they can relax with their family and read a good book on the weekend. Maybe you've moved into a new house or have just hit a creative roadblock with your current one. Here are a few easy ideas to make your space a little more homey and special!

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1. Keep the Memories Out on Display

Don't pack away your most loved items where no one can see them! You want guests to walk into your home and automatically know about the places and people you love more than anything else.

We have pieces of our little man's art all over the house as well as some silly knick knacks we picked up on our honeymoon. No one else can have the same items and it's what puts a personal stamp on our home.

2. Place Out Fresh Flowers

Flowers can really help warm up a room. They make me feel like I have a beautiful garden (I wish!) and that I'm a cheerful June Cleaver, with everything in its place.

3. Display Your Favorite Literature

I was a librarian for years and you can tell so much about a person just based on the books they read. We keep all of our books on a huge shelf in the living room.

To kick things up a notch (or because I am insane) I also organize them by the color of their spine. It looks adorable but it also helps me find the books I'm looking for. I will remember the color of a book 10x faster than I will remember the actual name.

color coordinated books home library bookshelf

4. Frame Your Family and Friends

This is a no-brainer but such an important part of your home. We lived in an apartment for weeks before I finally got around to putting up our photos. It instantly made the place "ours." Seeing the faces of people you love can make your house an area you love to be in.

We create a lot of family collages and use an array of traditional frames and displays like this cuuuute one from Target.

target photo display

5. Lay out the Extra Blankets

Keep a few throw blankets lying on the arm of the sofa or at the foot of the bed to provide extra warmth. I am constantly cold, regardless of the season, so I use ours all the time.

6. Keep Fluffy Pillows on Hand

Fluffy, soft, bright, or beige, it doesn't matter. Pillows will make your living room just a bit more homey. I always shop at Target for these because I can usually find an affordable 2 pack like the one below. I'm loving the bright colors and shapes!

Add a few spare pillows in the bedroom as well. My husband and I only sleep with one pillow each but we have at least four on the bed. It can really take a college student's bed and turn it into one for an adult.

target throw pillows

7. Put Out Candles or Coffee

A pleasant smelling home is a welcoming home. I personally love brewing a fresh pot of coffee, early in the morning and throughout the day.

I don't light too many candles with a baby in the house, but if I do I will use either a muffin or sugar cookie scent. Sometimes you just need to fake this whole perfect housewife thing.

8. Keep Yummy Food at Hand

We are definitely foodies in our family, and while we like to eat healthy, we really just want to have a snack at the end of a long day. I try to keep banana bread or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on hand. We were given after school snacks as children and I find that it feels comforting to have an after work snack too.

9. Add a Rug or Two

Our home has functional beige carpet. Boring! We throw a small rug down in the living room and bedrooms to add a personal touch and make the rooms feel a little more welcoming. I personally like to choose relatively thick rugs like this gray one because it's comfy for the baby when he's crawling around.

target gray rug

10. Buy a Headboard

I swear the first time I ever bought a headboard I thought, "Oh now I am an adult!" There's just something about adding it that makes the whole bedroom really come together.

And it doesn't have to be expensive! We had a baby on the way and no extra money to spare when we found a simple frame at Ikea. You can also try to make your own if you're feeling brave enough. Pinterest is crawling with DIY headboard projects. I also like this headboard from Walmart because you can just attach it to your bed frame. It makes it a very affordable upgrade!

walmart gray headboard

11. Let the Light Shine In

Both natural and man-made lighting is so important in a cozy home! There is nothing welcoming or comforting about an under-lit, gloomy room.

I like to keep each area in the house with at least two lamps in addition to any overhead lighting. My desk has this lamp from Target and the quality is amazing for the affordable price. You don't have to spend a lot! I also use natural sunlight like it's going out of style. Keep things bright and cheerful!

target white desk lamp

12. Make Every Room Prepared for the In-Laws

I know saying you should tidy up sounds like the opposite of keeping things cozy. But clutter only causes stress! I have extremely laid back in-laws but I still wouldn't want them to see a messy house. I keep my home "In-Law Ready" by making sure the beds are made, the bathrooms are tidy, and all of the dirty laundry is hidden. I also use these 5 easy tips for making the kitchen sparkly clean.

13. Add a Seating Area in the Bedrooms

It doesn't have to be a large sofa or take up a lot of space. Just grab a little corner and add your favorite chair to it. This creates a comfortable area where you can read or relax. I like to use it in the early morning when I'm not quite ready to sit at my desk but am afraid I will fall asleep if I stay in bed!

14. Hang a String of Lights

We put up a sting of lights around our headboard (it's wood) during Christmas and liked it so much that it stayed there after the holiday was over. It gives such a warm glow to the room and even magically erases the tired look under my eyes at the end of a long day.

15. Add a Plant or Two

I'll be honest in saying that I have the worst green thumb you will ever know. But I can keep a sturdy fern alive if you remind me to water it! A little greenery, real or fake, will pull everything together in a very homey way.

Always remember that the best way to turn a house into a home is to incorporate the things you love most. If you love the Beatles, put their records on display. If you love to read, create a mini library in your living room. Use your own personal stamp in each room and you will create a space you love to be in.

How do you make your home cozy?

Budget Your Money with the 50/20/30 Rule

Interested in starting a blog and making money from home? I earned my first $200 within 3 months of starting Frugal on the Prairie then went on to earn a full-time income from home about 6 months later! If you're ready to get started, I have a step-by-step tutorial for setting up your domain and hosting here, which can be a headache to figure out by yourself if you've never done it before! I also highly recommend and use Bluehost for my hosting! (<---That's an affiliate link but girl, I never recommend something I don't love or use ;) 


When it comes to budgeting we all have to start somewhere. Maybe you've never had a budget before or have unhealthy financial habits and have found yourself in overwhelming debt. Maybe you write down all of your expenses but you never seem to see your savings account grow.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information. 

This is where the 50/20/30 Rule comes in. It's a great personal finance tool that can act as a starting point for getting your accounts in order. It was one of the first steps we took in working our way into the 800+ Credit Score Club and I wrote about it in my Amazon bestseller,The Beginner's Guide to Budgeting. (This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclaimer for more information.)

One of the first things you should have before starting this method is an accurate amount of expenses so that you can properly sort them into each section. You can track these in a old school notebook or use something a little more specialized, like this expense tracker book. I like that it's roomy enough that you can label expenses as fixed or flexible.

There are different definitions for what costs should fall under each number. For simplicity's sake we'll say that 50% of your take home pay should be on fixed expenses, 20% on savings, and 30% on flexible expenses.

The 50/20/30 Rule Example:

Income after Taxes: $3,500 (50%) 

  • Mortgage/Taxes/Insurance $900

  • Car Loans $300

  • Subscriptions $10

  • Phone & Cable$100

  • Student Loans $250

  • Auto Insurance $160

Total: $1,720 (49%)

20%

  • Roth IRA Contributions $350

  • Emergency Fund $100

  • 529 College Savings Plan $285

Total: $735 (21%)

30%

  • Groceries $400

  • Eating Out $150

  • Gas $100

  • Haircuts $20

  • Entertainment $200

  • Hobbies $180

Total: $1,050 (30%)

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50/20/30 Rule is a Starting Point

As you can see, this budget falls perfectly in line with the 50/20/30 Rule. Fixed expenses hover at 49%, savings are at 21%, and flexible expenses are at 30%. However, while I think it can be a great starting point and a wonderful tool, I don't think it is for everyone.

Take for example a couple who wishes to retire on a beautiful beachfront home in Florida. If they only save 20% of their income and only a portion of that is in interest accruing retirement accounts (assuming a piece of that 20% goes to an emergency fund and college account as well), they may never be able to afford a home in that kind of real estate.

Think of the 50/20/30 Rule as the start of what I'll call the Candy Land of finances. You would never take your first step (i.e. budgeting) and then completely stop playing, would you? No way! You would work hard to continue progressing until you finally finished the game (i.e. retirement).

Needs vs. Wants Scenario

Some personal finance writers look at the 50 and the 30 as a needs vs. wants scenario. You need a loaf of bread so it falls under the 50 category. You want a pint of ice cream so it falls under the 30 category. I personally don't use this method because such a detailed examination of our budget is nearly impossible. We track the spending of more than one person in our home. There would definitely be some discrepancy about whether we need or want ice cream! Besides, who has the time to comb through and itemize every single receipt?

If this method really appeals to you though, that's fantastic! Your awareness of knowing exactly where your money is going will fly sky high. Nothing will slip through the cracks anymore. And your purchases will be well-thought out and kept to a minimum, just so you can avoid having to itemize anything for the day.

The bottom line is that the 50/20/30 Rule is a great place to start in getting your budget in order. Don't feel bad (in fact do a happy dance!) if you don't fit the mold and your savings is higher or your expenses are lower than the Rule recommends.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure the combination of your fixed and flexible expenses never exceed 80%. Cheers to the man or woman who lives by the 50/40/10 Rule! The sooner you decrease your expenses and put the excess towards savings, the closer you'll be to that Florida retirement home.

Do you live by the 50/20/30 Rule? Does it work for your budget?

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: For the sake of keeping things brief, this is a fictional budget that only includes a few items that you would typically see in a budget.