Becoming…A Better Me in 2019 (Part 1)

Last night, as the clock ticked towards midnight, I found myself crying. It was happy tears that came pouring from my eyes. 2018 was a tough year, but when I started thinking about it, the year was probably one of the best ones yet.

Just to give you an overview of what happened in the now “last” year…

  • In January, my grandmother battled the flu and pneumonia. My family heard twice in the course of two weeks that she might succumb to the sickness.
  • Throughout the year, especially in the fall, she had numerous hospital visits and rehabilitation stays. We almost lost her when they had to do emergency surgery to drain fluid from her heart. In addition, it has been hard to watch someone you love so much, be so much in pain. We have had multiple doctors’ visits and waiting for test results. Lastly, my family has felt the emotions and tough love of being caregivers.
  • There has been financial stress. At times, we worried how we would make it to the end of the month.

All these things out may not seem much to you, but to me, they are what made me stronger. You may also be thinking “why was this year one of the bests?” Well, because of this…

  • I received a graduate certificate in middle grades education and accomplished my goal of becoming a teacher.
  • The opportunity of student teaching and getting a job at two great schools have made that dream and goal all the more of a reality. In these positions, I have been challenged and overcame obstacles that made me a better educator.
  • My sister got engaged and married in a beautiful ceremony.
  • Above all, my grandmother survived all the health scares. She is flourishing and doing marvelous for an 85 year old.

In fact, we all survived. And we are all here; stronger and ready to take on the next 365 days. So, yes, 2018 was a pretty great year.

Xoxo,

Megan

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When is the Best Time to Buy…?

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Once again the holidays have come and gone and it’s almost a brand new year. Spending money on new purchases is probably the last thing on your mind. However, never fear, because you can plan your wish list around the months of the year. After all, a great bargain never goes out of style. Each month is known for its special deals on different items. According to experts, these deals are based on sale cycles, but some exceptions include fluctuations in prices and a retailer’s inventory. In addition, some products have seasonal specials, as well as being on sale at different times of the year.

January:

  • Holiday Decorations
  • Calendars and Planners
  • Toys
  • Exercise Equipment
  • Televisions
  • Bicycles
  • Houses
  • Small Appliances
  • Air-conditioning

February: President’s Day is a great time for retailers to have sales.

  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Cameras
  • Televisions (especially big-screens)

March:

  • Winter Clothing
  • Luggage
  • Camping Equipment
  • Toys
  • Outdoor Furniture

April:

  • Snow Blowers and Shovels
  • Computers
  • Electronics
  • Car Care Supplies
  • Home Improvement Supplies
  • Vacuums
  • Cookware
  • Auto Parts

May:

  • Easter Decorations
  • Grilling Tools
  • Mattresses
  • Pet Supplies
  • Refrigerators
  • Cookware
  • Vacuums
  • Gym Memberships
  • Party Supplies

June:

  • Gym Memberships
  • Tools
  • Dishes

July:

  • Jeans
  • Winter Coats
  • Furniture
  • Party Supplies
  • Grilling Tools

August:

  • School and Office Supplies
  • College Textbooks
  • Kitchen Accessories
  • Pool Supplies
  • Pillows
  • Linens
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Outdoor Toys
  • Outdoor Furniture

September:

  • Computers
  • Swimsuits
  • Pool Toys
  • Summer Clothing and Shoes
  • Large Appliances
  • Cars
  • Trees, Shrubs and Bulbs
  • iPhones
  • Lawn Mowers

October:

  • Air-conditioning
  • Lawn Mowers
  • Patio Furniture
  • Large Appliances
  • Tires
  • Jeans
  • Grills

November: Don’t forget about Black Friday!

  • Flooring and Carpeting
  • Grills
  • Halloween Decorations
  • Cookware
  • Electronics
  • Tools

December:

  • Cars
  • Golf Clubs
  • Gift Cards
  • Computers
  • Cell Phones
  • Flooring and Carpeting
  • Electronics
  • Winter Clothes

Before any shopping trip, it helps to do your research, especially when it comes to making larger purchases, such as digital cameras or cars. Websites, including consumerreports.org and amazon.com are great places to start. On these sites, you can read customer reviews and learn more about the product. There is nothing wrong with shopping around, whether at stores or online. Shopping around allows you to see where you can get the same product for the best price.

Along with doing your research, it’s important to plan things out. Buy a calendar or make a list of when to buy different things. This is helpful particularly for larger shopping trips. A calendar and list are great for keeping coupons in order, too. Coupons are available in the Sunday newspaper, online and through phone apps. Another option is looking at coupons.com for deals. If you are shopping online, search for the store’s name and coupon codes before making a purchase. If you are a frequent shopper at a certain shop, ask about their loyalty rewards program. Most likely they will have one and it will be beneficial to join. Many of these programs give their members special deals and coupons to use. In addition, some programs give a percent back or discount on your purchases.

Try to schedule your shopping trips around holiday and seasonal specials. Holidays, such as Presidents’ Day, Black Friday, and Memorial Day, are known for their big sales and special deals. When it comes to sales, no matter if it is a special time of the year or not, it’s helpful to read the sales advertisements and flyers carefully. The small print could contain information that would limit or prevent a deal. Lastly, the days of the week also play a factor in when products are discounted.

Sunday:

  • Groceries
  • Major Appliances

Monday:

  • Cars
  • Electronics

Tuesday:

  • Movies
  • Airline Tickets

Wednesday:

  • Groceries
  • Jewelry

Thursday:

  • Clothes
  • Handbags

Friday:

  • Gas
  • Accessories

Saturday:

  • Department Store Items
  • Jackets, Coats and Outerwear

Shopping can be fun and hectic, especially when it comes to larger shopping trips or purchasing bigger products. It is important to remember and use some of the tried and true shopping tips. These tips can help take some of the stress out of the adventure. After all, shopping is supposed to be retail therapy, right?

xoxo,

Megan

How to Start the New Year Off Right with Budgeting

Budgeting-for-a-New-Year

Often, at the start of another year, people set goals and begin different routines. They break away from the ordinary and change things up. So, why not do this with your budget and finances? Last month, I discussed what you need to do at the end of the year. Now, let’s talk about budgeting for the new year.

Organize Your Budget: 

You might have done an analysis of your budgeting method in December. Now, it’s the time to put your changes and/or brand-new budget into practice. According to CNNmoney.com, one way to divide your income to make sure you cover all budgeting areas is by using the percentages below:

  • 30% – housing and debt (mortgage/rent, credit cards, loans)
  • 26% – living expenses (food, clothing, utilities, medical, transportation, and entertainment)
  • 25% – taxes (federal, state, local, and property)
  • 15% – savings and retirement
  • 4% – insurance

To stay on top of these percentages and how much of your income goes where, use a budget worksheet. Consumer.gov has an easy printable worksheet. If this method doesn’t work, don’t give up! Continue searching until you find a budget worksheet and percentages that fit you.

Savings and Emergency Funds: 

You might have seen on social media various “money saving challenges,” such as setting aside all of your $5 bills for a whole year or each month putting $25 into your emergency fund. Well, these strategies do have value (no pun intended) to them. Adding to savings can be hard at times. However, small changes can add up over time. One of my favorite money saving challenges doesn’t involve setting aside a certain chunk of income every so often. The task is to eliminate something each month:

January: Skip the restaurants and fast food.

February: Cut out soda, bottled water (use a reusable water bottle), and alcohol.

March: Say no to retail therapy; only purchase what is necessary.

April: Spend less money on entertainment.

May: Eat no junk food.

June: Leave the air conditioner off for as long as possible.

July: Cancel paid subscriptions and unused memberships (you don’t really need that gym membership).

August: Look for extra ways to make money.

September: Limit trips and traveling long distances. If you are looking for a summer getaway, now is the cheapest time to book.

October: Quit expensive habits.

November: Keep your heating costs down and only use when needed (after all, we do live in the south, where it says warm even during this time of the year).

December: Create your own Christmas gifts.

With this strategy, you won’t save the same amount each month, but you will decrease your spending. This plan can also be altered to your schedule and needs. If you need a designated lot of money for each time, start small. Put away loose change or a $5 bill once a week. Then, reflect on how well your process is going and make necessary changes. Whenever an emergency occurs or you want to purchase a big ticket item, you’ll be glad you have the extra money to make that happen. It’s like paying yourself!

Stock Up: 

You don’t need to do the extreme couponer’s version of stocking up and creating a stock pile, but it is always helpful to have items on hand. Aim for having a three-month supply of things you and your family use every day. Your “stock pile” could include:

  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Shampoo and hair care products
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice
  • Flour, sugar, and other baking essentials
  • Nuts and trail mix
  • Coffee
  • Cleaning supplies

The key to stocking up is to not pay for each item individually. Be on the lookout for coupons that are buy 1, get 1 free and when a coupon is paired with a sale. Buying in bulk from stores, such as Sam’s Club and Costco, are great ways to add to your pile. Also, think about the holidays and seasons. Never spend money on popular purchases until they are out of season. For example, your sweetie can wait until after Valentine’s Day for their candy.

Starting off right with new strategies for your budget will help you all year long. Come December 31st, you’ll be in a better position to accomplish all your financial goals and dreams.

xoxo,

Megan

Post written for Forsyth Woman Magazine 

New Year, New Lunches: Changing Up What’s in Your Lunchbox

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Do you ever feel like you are in a rut? Ever have moments where you can’t think of anything new? Don’t worry—it happens to everyone. One of the most common things people get stuck on is coming up with different meals, especially lunches. Your midday feast might need to be eaten on the go, or you may not be able to refrigerate it. Take a look below for three new lunch ideas for all ages to enjoy and get out of last night’s leftovers routine. Plus, these recipes are great healthy food choices. 

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad: 

 Ingredients:

  • 12 sun-dried tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 6 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. capers, drained
  • Salt
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ lb. pasta of choice
  • ½ lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces
  • ¾ cup black olives
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan

Directions: 

  1. Mix together half of the sun-dried tomatoes, all of the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper into a food processor or blender. Process until almost smooth.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Once drained, set it aside in a large bowl. You can either pour the dressing you just made on top of the pasta or put into a container and pour at lunchtime.
  3. Mince the remaining sun-dried tomatoes. Add the tomatoes (both cherry and sun-dried), mozzarella, olives, and parmesan to the pasta and toss.

 

Sushi Sandwich with Turkey and Cheese: 

This recipe can be done with any type of meat or cheese. You can also get creative with your choices of veggies. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 spinach or plain tortilla
  • 1 tsp. cream cheese
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 4 slices turkey deli meat or meat of your choice
  • ¼ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup Ranch dressing, optional

Directions: 

  1. Cut edges of tortilla to make a square shape and cover with cream cheese.
  2. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the tortilla. Place the turkey and carrots on top.
  3. Roll the sandwich tightly, making sure nothing falls out. Finish by pressing down the sandwich, letting the cream cheese “seal it” together.
  4. Cut the roll into ½″ pieces and serve with Ranch dressing, if desired.

 

Flatbread Crisps and Hummus

Flatbread Crisps: 

Ingredients: 

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 Tbs. olive or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup grated cheese of your choice

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Add ¾ cup water and stir until dough forms into a ball. Knead dough in bowl until smooth. Divide in half. Cover one half in plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. With a floured rolling pin, roll the other dough-half into a paper-thin rectangle about 20 by 12 inches. Cut the dough lengthwise in half to create two smaller rectangles. Then, divide these rectangles in half, crosswise.
  3. Place strips on ungreased cook sheets and let set for 10 minutes. With a pastry brush or back of a spoon, brush strips lightly with olive oil and sprinkle on half of the grated cheese.
  4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until lightly brown, rotating the pan(s) between the racks halfway through baking. Remove from oven and pan and cool. Repeat process with the remaining dough. The flatbread crisps can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Hummus: 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 2 Tbs. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. red pepper
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

 Directions: 

  1. In a saucepan, heat 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Add in garlic and cook 3 minutes to blanch and drain.
  2. Grate 1 teaspoon lemon peel and squeeze 3 tablespoons juice into a bowl. In a food processor or blender, combine garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, lemon peel and juice, oil, water, salt, and red pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl and cover.

An ice pack can be added to your lunchbox to keep the above meals cool, if desired. These recipes will soon become favorites that can be incorporated into your weekly diet.

xoxo,

Megan

Article written for Forsyth Family Magazine. 

My Three Planners: How to Choose the Right Planner(s) for You

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I’m very picky about my planners. The simpler, the better. All I need is a planner with a place to write down everything I have for each day. No frills, pockets, or dividers. But, I do have multiple planners. That’s right, three total. One for my daily life, gratitude, and mental health.

Daily Life Planner: 

This is my go-to planner, where I keep track of my appointments and daily schedule. Also, I write down my monthly bills and when I make a payment. As you can tell, there is nothing special or fancy about this method and I love it!

Gratitude Planner:

I call it a planner; however, it serves as more of a journal. At the end of every day, I write down five things I’m grateful for. I’m excited to read back through the past 365 days at the end of the year!

Mental Health Planner:

Again, this is more of a journal, but every day I write down how I felt. Was I depressed? Happy? Anxious? This activity allows me to keep track of my feelings and my ups and downs.

Looking for the right planner for you and don’t know where to begin? Try these tips below:

  1. Remember a planner is a tool that must be used.
  2. Choose your layout and planner size. Do you like a large planner or small? How about your days displayed weekly, daily, or monthly?
  3. Choose your style.
  4. Decide which extras you need for your planner.
  5. Choose your binding preference.

xoxo,

Megan

 

End of Year To-Do List

Happy-New-Year-Jumping-From-2017-To-2018
Can you believe 2017 is almost over and 2018 is right around the corner? For many people, the last month of the year is a time to reflect and wrap up the previous 11 months. Below are some ways for you and your family to make the most of the rest of 2017 and start 2018 on the right foot!
1. Continue reading a book that you started but never finished.
2. Drink more water.
3. Eliminate one unhealthy habit for the rest of the year.
4. Reflect on the year’s accomplishments and challenges.
5. Take a day to relax and do nothing besides binge-watching your favorite show and sleeping.
6. Host a nice dinner or holiday party for your family and friends.
7. Volunteer.
8. Spend a day exploring tourist sites in your own city.
9. Call relatives you haven’t seen in a while.
10. Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby.
11. Declutter and spend a day deep cleaning your home.
12. Before going to bed, write down five things you are grateful for that day.
What’s on your end-of-the-year to-do list?
xoxo,
Megan

Faith in Humanity

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The year 2017 has been one for the history books. This year has been full of hurricanes, horrific mass shootings and bombings, and historic earthquakes in California and Mexico. However, one thing has remained the same throughout the year. Whenever disaster strikes, people come to the rescue and offer their assistance to others. Why did people from across the nation come to help Houston residents after Hurricane Harvey? Why did people shield strangers from gunfire in Las Vegas? The answer is because we are all humans and know it could have easily happened to us.

Researchers have discovered that many of the helpers have suffered and survived the same or similar disasters themselves. There is a human desire to help those who are suffering and a psychological need to find meaning in a disastrous event. People are either glued to their televisions or springing into action to give back. People want to understand why an event happened and how they can help “fix it.” When a person volunteers or comforts people affected by a tragedy, they are psychologically being extrinsically and intrinsically motivated. In their book, Social Psychology, authors Elliot Aronson, Timothy Wilson, Robin Akert, and Samuel Sommers explain that altruistic motives – motives that are selfless and done out of the concern for others – are the reason why people help in their communities while fulfilling a social-psychological need every human being has. Basically, everyone has an internal desire to do good in the world.

In addition, different areas of a person’s brain are affected and trigger a feeling of compassion. Research shows that the amygdala, a structure located in the limbic system of the brain, is put into use when a catastrophe happens and a person’s body is trying to figure out how to deal with the emergency. For example, at the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas, once people heard gunshots, they began to run and duck. Their body goes into the fight or flight mode and reacts to the situation. The same happens when people see disasters on television. Their body is giving the victims sympathy and compassion and their mind is trying to understand what they are watching unfold. People will also ask themselves how they would survive that horrific event, and what they would they do if they were put in that situation. Lastly, psychologists have found that when a person sees others overcoming adversity, they become more confident in their ability to succeed. This action is known as vicarious reinforcement.

We also live vicariously through disaster victims and their pain by feeling sad and empathetic towards them. When a person sees another human being harmed, their brain will react in a similar way as if it was them being harmed. The theory of mind comes into play and a brain’s cortex will start analyzing others’ behavior. We remember the times when we were affected by pain and how we felt during that time. Then, our brain takes that memory and lets us reflect on how the victims might be feeling at that moment.

The next time a tragedy strikes and your body goes through all of the psychological effects, think about how you can make a difference. It is important to find a productive and valuable way for you to assist others. Think about your abilities and the best way you can be helpful. Some ways to give back are through donating money or supplies to volunteer agencies, such as the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and FEMA. Other options include giving blood, hosting a blood drive, or fundraiser for the victims. If you are interested in going to the disaster area, always make sure you are working with a relief organization and follow their agency’s or disaster area’s guidelines for volunteering. Sometimes only first responders are allowed in the location before volunteers are able to come.

Unfortunately, no one can predict when the next tragedy will strike. But we can predict that there will be people stepping in to assist others. As Mister Rogers once said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

xoxo,
Megan
Article published in Forsyth Woman Magazine. 

Peace on Earth

“Lets hope it won’t be too long before one of the most important sounds peace on earth, is heard throughout the world.” -Bing Crosby

Today we close out another year. If you are like me, you are probably asking “where did 2015 go?”. Every year at this time, I reflect on the past and look forward to the future. I make my list of resolutions, half of which I stick with, half I don’t. Ending 2015 is a little different than others. A lot has happened, both good and bad. I worked on some really great projects, had personal success, and filled my life with joy. But, here is where the bad comes in, I also had moments (or days) of doubt, despair, and not knowing where my life was taking me.

I share this, because I know some of you have been there. We all have good and bad times. However, there is a hope for the new year, a hope for peace in the world and in our own lives. January 1st isn’t the only day for you to plan anew, plan for new adventures, hopes, and chances. Everyday is a new day to take a risk. After all, we do have 365 chances to make a change.

Along with those risks, let’s challenge ourselves to be a little kinder to others, a little nicer, and a little more helpful. This world needs more love and kindness and that starts with each and every one of us. Through love, we can accomplish peace on earth.

Auld lang syne, my friends.

xoxo,

Megan