Why I Am Quitting Doing “More”

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All of my life, I have gone above and beyond on everything I did. Whether it was my job, school, being involved in a dozen different activities, or even reading, exercising, and writing, I was a perfectionist. There was never a limit to how much I would do or how long I would work. However, about a week ago I saw the picture above on Instagram and it made me think, especially #10: forget doing “more.”

Often times, I call myself a “recovering perfectionist.” Since seeing this image, I have tried to put tip #10 to use. Before when I hadn’t completed a task or gotten as far on something I feel as if I should have, I would have been hard on myself. The negative thoughts flooded my head and my self-esteem would fall. But, since I have starting using the “quit doing more: technique, I have discovered that I am happier and more relaxed with a higher self-esteem. It is just one of my many practices for self-care.

You see the key trick to “quit doing more” is to just do your best and take comfort in that. There is no guidebook or rules as to how much a person has to work, the number of activities a person has to be involved with, or how much time one has to spend on a task. Just do your best. There is no shame in not finishing a task in one sitting or not completing a chapter before going to bed. Listen to your mind and body and don’t over do it. Remember, in everything that you do, you are enough and important.

xoxo,

Megan

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A No-Spend Month? Budget, Please!

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It happens to most of us – overspending one month and not having enough money for the next. There are many ways to alter your budget to fix this problem. One of those solutions is having a no-spend month. That’s right, you don’t spend money on anything, but the necessities. You might be thinking, “How can I do that?” Continue reading to find out.

  • First, keep it simple. Try giving up only one luxury for the month. This tip is especially important for starting out. For example, try avoiding shopping for clothes, shoes, etc. for a whole month. This can be a drastic change, and it is best to start with what you are most comfortable with in terms of eliminating expenses. If you feel like giving up multiple expenses for the month, start with decreasing one at a time. Maybe it is the coffee you get on the way to work each morning, or maybe it is cooking dinner at home for a whole week, instead of eating out. Then, build up the amount of purchases you eliminate, until you aren’t spending money on unnecessary expenses by the end of the month. Lastly, you can also alter the time frame for how long you are doing this undertaking. Give it a go for a week. If that works, add on another week and so on. The main idea about the no-spend month is to truly keep it simple. Do what works for you and the plan won’t fail.
  • One option to help motivate you to stick with the no-spend month is to set a goal or give yourself a reason to save up for something. You might be wanting to add an X amount of money to your savings account for the future, or you might want to contribute a certain amount to your favorite cause or organization. This challenge can get tough. It is helpful to have a big picture in mind as to why you are doing this task.
  • Can it be a complete no-spend month? Yes and no. You need to still pay the bills and will have to do some planning ahead of time for the other expenses, such as groceries, gas, toiletries, etc. Think about this goal in terms of not spending money on things that can be considered “luxury” items. Do you really need a new pair of shoes this month? Do you need to see the latest movie in the theaters or can you wait until it is available to rent? There is no exact way to have a complete no-spend month because things happen and expenses come up. Just don’t go overboard on buying items that aren’t needed at that time or could wait another month or so for purchasing. For the needed expenses, try finding deals before spending the money.
  • Use what you have at home before going shopping. This is huge for groceries and toiletries. Remember that pantry full of products or extra shampoo you bought some time ago? Use those items first before purchasing more. Get creative and cook some fun meals for you and your family. You never know what will taste good together until you try it. As for the unused toiletries just sitting there? Think about the money you spent on purchasing those items. Not using the product is really wasted money. Another option is utilizing the items to make other items. For example, low on household cleaning products? Make a homemade version. Most DIY cleaners take ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and dish soap. Recipes can be found through a quick online search.
  • Stay at home, instead of going out. Date nights and family nights don’t need to be nights on the town. Try spending a day or night at home, watching your favorite movie, reading a classic book, cooking a meal together, playing a game outside, or doing absolutely nothing, but relaxing. There is no shame in spending a day or night at home. Plus, it puts more money in your pocket. If you feel the need to get out of the house, spend your time doing free things in your community, such as taking a walk in a park or volunteering.

A no-spend month can be tough. Create a plan and stick with it. Know exactly where you need to spend money and where you can save. At the end of the month, you might be surprised by how much money you saved.

xoxo,

Megan

Must-Have Party Ideas for the Fourth of July

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The Fourth of July is commonly associated with fireworks, barbeques, and parties. Planning events, especially for holidays, is one of my favorite things to do. If you are hosting a patriotic get-together that is going to be all red, white, and blue for July 4th, I’ve got some ideas you don’t want to miss.

Decorations: 

When one thinks of decorations for a Fourth of July party, one probably automatically thinks of anything red, white, and blue. For tables, use a tablecloth that is either red-and-white checkered, blue-and-white checkered, or a plain color. Take it a step farther and use bandannas. All you need to do is sew together red, white, and blue bandannas, enough to cover your table or to make a table runner.

As for centerpieces, there are many options you can create. One example is using flowers in jars. Choose white flowers, such as daisies, and place in clear jars, filled with water. Using food color, tint the water in one container with red dye and another with blue. This simple arrangement is just another way to include some patriotic zest to your party decorations.

Lastly, banners, bunting, and streamers are perfect additions for tables, ceilings, fences, and more. Colorful fabric and paper can be used for the designs, and don’t forget about the flag—a must-have at any Fourth of July extravaganza!

Food: 

A party isn’t a party without tasty food! Offer your guests a wide variety of choices, from sweet and salty to healthy. Watermelon, bananas, strawberries, and blueberries are your go-to fruits. One of the cutest ways to serve them is by crafting Fourth of July Fireworks Kabobs. First, take a star-shaped cookie cutter and cut out pieces of watermelon into stars. Then, use a skewer and place the watermelon star on one end and follow up with blueberries. Another fun idea is utilizing fruit slices and making an American flag on a plate or serving tray.

A common staple at Fourth of July parties are hot dogs and hamburgers. Staying with the fireworks theme for food, treat your family and friends to Firecracker Dogs. All you need to do is wrap uncooked crescent dough around a hot dog and cook until done. Then, place onto a skewer with a star-shaped piece of cheese on top.

Desserts and sweets are always a must, and s’mores are the perfect touch. Want something cool to eat in the hot weather? Take ice cream sandwiches and roll the edges in red, white, and blue sprinkles. The key with food is for all dishes to be simple and easy to eat, whether you’re standing up or sitting down. You don’t need to have a full five-course meal, but you do need to make sure you have all parts of a meal available for guests. Remember always to include something fruity, something veggie, something sweet, something salty, and something hearty, such as a meat, and refreshments.

Music: 

There are many patriotic jams to play during the festivities. A few favorites to include in your playlist are:

  • “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus
  • “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard
  • “It’s America” by Rodney Atkins
  • “Only in America” by Brooks and Dunn

Games:

Classic games, such as cornhole and ladder golf, are always a hit at Fourth of July parties. However, there are ways to bring the holiday spirit into other games, as well. Lead your guests on a patriotic scavenger hunt. Some items to look for: a picnic basket, an American flag, something red, stars, streamers, and sparklers.

Since it is summer, include outdoor games. One suggestion would be to paint a twister board on the grass. Use the spinner from the board game and have fun. Also, host challenges, such as a watermelon or pie eating contest. Attendees will love getting in on the party action. Plus, great memories will certainly be made!

Party Favors:

Give your guests something to take home and remember the event. Many people like to hand out sparklers, but this can be a little tricky with multiple ages at the party. A creative idea is deconstructed s’mores in bags with a tag, commemorating the day. In addition, you could fill favor bags with candy that is red, white, and blue. Some options are M&Ms, lollipops, and Hershey’s kisses.

The Fourth of July is a day full of fun. Enjoy the holiday by having a party for your family and friends. Don’t know where to start?  Use the tips above. These ideas will help you remember the real reason for the day.

xoxo,

Megan

Throwback Thursday, Recipe Style!

Happy throwback Thursday to one of my favorite recipes: Key Lime Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce!

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Talk about a yummy recipe that is perfect for all year long!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 – 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 – 8oz. container sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated lime rind (lime zest)
  • 1/2 cup Key Lime Juice (recommend Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe juice; order online only)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir together first three ingredients and firmly press on the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan.
  3. Bake crust at 350 degrees for 8 minutes; cool completely. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
  4. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add 1 1/4 cups of sugar, beating till blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream, rind and juice. Pour batter into cooled crust.
  5. Place in 325 degrees oven and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes; turn the oven off. Partially open the oven door; let stand in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edge of pan, releasing the sides.
  6. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack; cover and chill 8 hours. Garnish with strawberry slices, blueberries and lime rind.

Strawberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp lime rind
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (or more to taste)
  1. Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.
  2. *Sauce should be a bit tangy, but not overwhelmingly so.
  3. Drizzle over the top slices of the cheesecake when serving.

Raspberry Sauce (alternate)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 jar seedless raspberry jam
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, halved
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  1. Cook all ingredients over medium heat, stirring constantly so the sauce cooks but doesn’t stick. Once the jam turns into a liquid, remove from heat and cool, then refrigerate. Drizzle over slices of cheesecake when served.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

Why I “Work Smarter, Not Harder”

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Every day I try to use the motto “Work smarter, not harder.” Everyone has their own definition of this phrase, but it generally means using your thinking skills to minimize tasks and extra steps, so that you use your time wisely and more effectively to get things done quickly. For example, instead of putting something off that would take five minutes or less to complete, do it immediately and move on to the next task.

The main purpose behind the “work smarter, not harder” motto is that you, as the individual, are able to prioritize your own needs and build upon your strengths and weaknesses. You are able to visualize what you need to focus on, see if there is anything you can cut from your workload or lifestyle, ask for help if needed, and figure out how you work in the quickest and most effective manner possible. Everyone has their own answers and meaning to the motto. Now, the question is: how do you work smarter, not harder? Take a look below to see some of the tips on how you can put this motto to use in your life.

  1. Move and work in blocks. Instead of working hour after hour, divide up your work into equal sections. For each section of your to-do list, change up your location for working, whether it is inside, outside, or at home. The most important thing is to not set exact time limits for when you’ll finish a certain section, but to move when you have a certain section finished. Be sure to take a quick break or a fast walk to refresh yourself after each task.
  2. Check your email first thing. This is mainly where I get the bulk of my to-do list. See what items you need to prioritize and get those done first. Then, move on to the smaller tasks that will take less time to finish.
  3. Communication is key. Collaboration and communication can either make or break a project. Communicating effectively with other team members will help eliminate any mistakes or misunderstandings, or having to rework parts of the project.
  4. Don’t multitask. As much as we love to do so, multitasking can actually cause more trouble (and work) than needed. Stay focused on one task at a time and complete that task before moving on to the next.
  5. Create a routine and stick with it. When it comes to your work, to be more effective and efficient, it is best to try and do most of it at the same time each day. According to research, when we establish routines, our brains become in the habit of completing the task over and over again. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to accomplish a task quickly with less preparation. Essentially, you do the job on autopilot.
  6. Relieve stress. When you are stressed, it can be hard to achieve anything on your to-do list. Let’s refer back to tip #1. The breaks between the sections of time will help you ease your stress and stay calm while working. Also, having a clear mind allows you to think through your task and helps prevent mistakes and misunderstandings.
  7. Use your “GPS.” In her book, It’s About Time! author Mitzi Weinman explains GPS as “goal, purpose, and scope.” According to Weinman, this system can be used to get the whole picture and how you need to accomplish it. For example, you can see a task completed and then envision the various steps needed to completing it. Also, “GPS” can help you set goals for each of those steps until it is done (goal). Always ask yourself “why” we are doing something and how it fits into the larger goal (purpose).

“Work smarter, not harder” is a motto everyone should try at least once in their lives. Give it a shot – you might happily discover you are able to get more done in a shorter amount of time.

xoxo,

Megan

7 Life Skills Everyone Should Know

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Throughout life, people learn many lessons and skills. At a young age, we learn to walk, talk, read, and write. Most of the time, in early adulthood, we are taught how to balance a checkbook and how to properly do laundry. The list of all the tasks goes on and on, but there are a few that everyone should learn how to do as they become an adult.

  1. Cooking: It doesn’t have to be a five-course meal, but learn how to cook something. Freezer meals and take out only go so far. Get proficient in a few simple, go-to meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Plus, you’ll be able to impress your family and friends by cooking them one of your signature dishes. Also, when it comes to cooking, everyone should learn how to cook an egg, how to properly cook meat, and what fruits and vegetables are in season.
  2. Basic Home and Car Repairs: You can save lots of money by teaching yourself how to fix the small home and car problems that occur. If you are unsure how to stop the leaky faucet in the kitchen, unclog the toilet, or how to replace a flat tire, a quick Internet search will show you. A piece of advice for all minor problems, if you think you can, try to fix it yourself before enlisting professional help. Also, if you ever get stuck, either in a pinch or out in the middle of nowhere, you’ll be able to get the job done without having to wait for help to arrive. Lastly, by having an understanding of basic home and car repairs you will have the knowledge to decide whether or not a professional is being fair in price and quality of service. For car repairs, DMV.org is a great resource.
  3. Basic First-Aid: It never hurts to have the ability to perform CPR, bandage a cut, and handle a burn. Always have a first-aid kit, filled with Band-Aids, gauze, alcohol wipes, gloves, and more at home. You never can predict when an injury or emergency will occur. Other first-aid skills you should have are recognizing the signs of a heart attack, stroke, allergic reaction, and a concussion. Check with your local Red Cross, community center, and community colleges to see if they offer classes in first-aid and CPR.
  4. Writing a Resume and Cover Letter: This task can be tough for many people and can be a dreaded one. However, it is a skill everyone needs to learn and is a must when looking for employment. Many employers don’t spend a great deal of time reading resumes and cover letters. These documents need to be well-written, professional, and to the point. Think of it as being your 30-second elevator speech on paper. Community colleges and career centers in your area, as well as, Goodwill, are willing to assist and answer your questions. Also, there are multiple resources online to consult.
  5. Organizing Important Documents and Financial Records: Sometimes I’m guilty of throwing away receipts that might be needed later, especially during tax season. It is important to have documents, such as your birth certificate, social security card, and insurance information, in a safe place that you can easily reach. Also, store any receipts and tax documents in that same spot, as well. You never know when you’ll need something, but this will especially come in handy during tax season. A good way to store these documents is to invest in a fireproof box.
  6. Tasks We Rely on Our Cell Phones to Do: It might be a harsh reality, but sometimes you won’t have internet access or a way to charge your cell phone’s battery. Teach yourself how to read a roadmap, in case GPS is down, learn the phone numbers of close family members, in case you can’t reach your address book, and how to compute simple math equations, without the help of a calculator. Utilizing these skills will help pull you out of difficult times, if needed.
  7. Emergency Preparedness: No one wants to think that they might have to deal with a fire, flood, or tornado during their life, but sadly, some people do. Whether the power goes out or an accident strikes, it is vital to have the knowledge on what you should do and the supplies to stay safe. Part of being prepared for emergencies is having the ability to keep yourself safe. Take all precautions to avoid any unnecessary situations and how to handle the moment.

As a person goes through life, they acquire many skills and lessons that can be useful. Always keep learning something new and you’ll be confident knowing what to do when a situation calls for a specific skill.

xoxo,

Megan

Quick and Simple Fruit Dip

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This evening, I’m going to a summer party with some friends. Being from the south, I have learned the aged-old tradition of never arriving to a party empty-handed. Earlier today, I wiped up this quick and simple fruit dip and cut up some beautiful fruit to take. This recipe is a personal favorite and one I had to share!

Fruit Dip:

Ingredients: 

  • 8 oz. packaged cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 7 oz. jar marshmallow fluff
  • 2 Tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

Directions: 

  • Scoop the marshmallow fluff into a large bowl and microwave for 15 seconds.
  • Add in the softened cream cheese and orange juice concentrate. Whisk until very smooth.
  • Chill for a few hours or overnight.

The dip works great with strawberries, blueberries, and apples!

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

New Neighbors? No Worries!

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There’s a house in your neighborhood that’s for sale. After anticipating who will move in, the big day finally arrives and now you have new neighbors. You’re excited to go over and meet the newest additions to your community, but when is too soon or too late to introduce yourself? Do you bring a welcome gift or not?

For new neighbors, moving to a new neighborhood can be a time full of anxiety. Making an effort to introduce yourself helps them feel more comfortable. There are many polite gestures a person can make to help welcome the new neighbors into the community.

  • Introduce yourself  However, wait a few days before going over. Let them settle and start unpacking before stopping by to introduce yourself. If you happen to bump into them while outside, keep it brief with a simple hello, give your name, and say you’ll stop by again.
  • Bring other neighbors with you  There is no better way to introduce the new neighbors to the whole neighborhood than by bringing others with you. This tip can help relieve any possible awkwardness in creating a new conversation. Also, introducing yourself as a group will limit the number of times neighbors will stop at the new family’s house. This is also a great way to get your new neighbors interested and involved in neighborhood communities or watches.
  • Include baked goods  There is nothing a sweet treat can’t overcome. This traditional gesture is one many people appreciate. However, keep in mind possible allergies people might have and include a list of ingredients. Another option would be purchasing baked goods to deliver.
  • Bring a bottle of wine  Another kind gesture is gifting a bottle of wine. This drink is considered a traditional housewarming gift and can be a great accent to food. Some tips to remember are to choose a bottle of wine you enjoy. This way, if you are invited over, it can be used as a way to get to know each other. If including the wine in a welcome basket, pair it with foods or snacks that go well with that type of wine.
  • Host a party in their honor  Whether it is a cocktail party, block party, or dinner party, host an event for a few families or the entire neighborhood. This provides the new family one place to meet everyone in a comfortable environment. Block parties are great ways to introduce the children to neighborhood kids. Remember to give the new neighbors time to settle in before throwing the event.
  • Create a local list  This is helpful especially if the family has moved from another town. Create a list of local services, restaurants, and businesses, as well as other valuable information. Also, provide contact information for the Neighborhood Watch and a neighborhood directory.
  • Give them a local specialty  Each town has its own local treats. Give your new neighbors samples of local specialties or add them in their welcome basket. Gift certificates are also a nice way to help ease the stress of moving. Presenting them with a local specialty will help them learn about their new home and community.
  • Invite them to neighborhood groups  If your neighborhood has community groups, invite the new neighbors to attend a meeting with you. It will give them a chance to meet other members in the neighborhood and hear their views. Also, consider inviting them to book clubs, garden clubs, or school groups, such as the PTA.
  • Respect their privacy  The most important thing you can do for your new neighbors is respecting their privacy. It can be tough being the strangers in the neighborhood. Sometimes people don’t like meeting new people and might not seem friendly. It could also be because they are adjusting to a new area or they are more private people. Whatever the reason is, don’t take it personally and still smile when you see each other. When it comes to introducing yourself to these types of neighbors, keep it brief and polite, and then leave. If they are busy, suggest possibly meeting another time that works for them.

When a new family moves in your neighborhood, it can be an exciting time. But, it can also be stressful for the new neighbors. Remember to be polite and do your best to help make them feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

xoxo,

Megan

How the Cash Envelope Method Can Help Your Budget

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Every so often, I add a new trick to my budgeting system. Sometimes this new addition helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. Recently, I tried the cash envelope method, also known as the envelope budgeting system, and this was definitely a positive move. The idea is that you pay everything in cash and don’t use a credit or debit card. Instead, you withdraw a certain amount of cash from your bank account and divide it into the payments needed for different expenses. Then, place each amount of cash into an envelope, label it with the name of the expense, and don’t touch it until paid. Sounds simple, right? Well, after using this system for about a month, I discovered there were some advantages and disadvantages. Continue reading to see what worked for me (and what didn’t).

  • It works, but you need lots and lots of discipline. With the cash envelope method, preparation and organization are key. At the beginning of each month, as you are preparing your budget, think about what expenses are automatic withdrawals or can be paid with cash or check. Then, schedule in the bills that will be automatically taken out of your account. After calculating your new bank account total, determine how much money will be needed for the rest of the month’s expenses. For me, all of my bills are automatic withdrawals, so I used this method for my extra expenses, such as groceries, toiletries, etc. Lastly, be prepared to make multiple trips to the bank or ATM. For me, I withdraw money in larger amounts and then set aside individual amounts for the different expenses. To calculate that bigger amount, I added in how much I would spend on the individual expenses. Getting started can be confusing at first, but it is worth it.
  • One downfall for me was not recounting my extra cash often. Early on, I allotted different amounts for upcoming expenses. However, if I didn’t spend all of that certain amount, I had change left over (mostly one dollar bills). But, I discovered I was able to use this loose cash on expenses that popped up during the month (it acted as an emergency fund). Lastly, when I didn’t count my cash often, I relied on my debit card for some purchases. One of the ways to fix this mistake is by always knowing the amount of cash you have on hand.
  • It provides you with a sense of security. I went ahead and set aside money for upcoming, planned expenses towards the end of the month. When the expense was finally needed, I was at ease knowing I already had the money for it and didn’t have to worry.
  • Adjust your system to fit your needs. The cash envelope method is very flexible and can be individualized for any budget. For me, it worked best continuing the automatic withdrawals and using this system for the remainder of my monthly expenses. For you, it might work better to use the method for everything, including your bills. Find what works for you. This budgeting method should help your budget, not harm it.
  • Stick with it. This method is unique and will take time to work. Try using this system for only a few weeks and then you can lengthen the time as you become familiar and comfortable with it.

The cash envelope method is something I will continue to use in my budget system. After time, I will be perfecting what works and how I can make it better. You can do the same. Give this method a try, at least once, because you never know how much more money you’ll have left over after all expenses are paid.

xoxo,

Megan

My 5 Purse Must-Haves

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Earlier this week, I looked inside my purse and noticed a few things that shouldn’t be there. Let’s just say my purse was more of a tote bag. Inside, I had a CVS bag full of items, contacts, medicine, a water bottle, granola bars, a PRAXIS review book, and a notebook. Normally, I don’t carry this much stuff and half of the time I don’t carry a purse at all. However, this moment got me thinking about what I had to have with me when I go out. So, here is my list of my 5 purse must-haves.

  1. Chapstick – usually, the chapstick has a tint of color to it and also serves as lipstick. My lips always stay dry, so having chapstick is a must!
  2. Granola bar – when I get hungry, I can get hangry and develop a headache. This quick snack helps keep my hunger under control between meals.
  3. A pen and notebook – you never know when you’ll have an idea that just needs to be written down.
  4. Coupon organizer – I hate shopping without a coupon. To avoid this, I always make sure I have my coupon organizer in my purse.
  5. Mints or gum – This one might be self-explanatory… 🙂

What’s in your purse?

xoxo,

Megan