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52 Week Money Challenge

Saving money can be very difficult if you don’t plan it out well. That is why I’m here to introduce to you the 52 Week Money Challenge. I’m not the first person who has thought of this concept that I’m about to introduce to you. Unfortunately, I don’t know the original source. However, my goal is to forward this great information to encourage and motivate you to save money for something you really want.

Let me explain this challenge. Take a look at the template below. It consists of 52 weeks and for each corresponding week, you will add that amount. So Week 1 = $1, Week 2 = $2, Week 3 = $3 and so forth. If you’re starting late like I am, you can catch up by putting in the missed weeks or start now and end in January. To keep track of the weeks, I’ll be putting in money every Sunday and I’ll also keep this sheet inside the jar.

52 Week Money ChallengeVariation 1: If you’re like every other person during the end of the year, there is an influx of spending (Christmas gifts, new winter tires, etc.) You can begin with Week 52 and work backwards. Do what will work best for your situation.

Variation 2: You don’t need to foot the whole weekly savings. Get your significant other or family involved. Split the weekly savings with someone who wants to be involved.

Variation 3: If your family can afford to do so, have your significant other do their own savings jar as well. Double the cash monies!

You can either make a goal or not, but it might be more motivating to make a goal for what you are saving for. By the way, if you follow the chart exactly, you’ll end up with $1378 at the end of 52 weeks. Freaking rad! Disneyland here I come! But I’d settle with any vacation really.

Tip: Put your laundry money into the jar or change that you find in your pocket at the end of the day.

So what exactly do you need for this challenge?

  • The template to help you keep track: click here to download
  • Jar or tub or whatever you want to put your money in. I think I’ll pick up a jar at the Dollar Store. My food jars aren’t quite big enough.
  • Motivation

Good luck, home philosophers! Let me know if you decide to do this challenge with me.

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How to Think Creatively: Part 4

source: formalsweatpants.com – “Goddess of Creativity”

Welcome to the last installment of How to Think Creatively!

I’ve been talking a lot about thinking creatively to solve challenges and problems in your life and career. Let’s talk a bit about inspiration and thinking outside of the box for creative projects. Let me show you a quick exercise you can do to become a more creative thinker. It involves a step-by-step creative process. I encourage mind mapping, note taking, whatever you find will help you remember this brainstorm session.

By the way, a quick side note: mind mapping  is a brilliant way to track your business, creative processes, and to generally organize thoughts. Google “mind mapping” and it will come up with tons of great mind mapping software. My favorite is MindJet (Try it out for 30 days. Not free after 30 days.) and my favorite FREE mind mapping software is XMind.

Okay, now to teach you about a step-by-step creative thinking process I like to use for projects.

STEP 1: Think of a subject, object, person, place, etc. that you like or the person/group you’re creating for. Describe its characteristics, qualities, physical appearance, etc. 

Example: Let’s use the Eiffel Tower as a source of inspiration. What characteristics or words describe the Eiffel Tower? Its structure is grand and elegant, its location is romantic, it’s a place people are often proposed to, so love is in the air, the view is magnificent, and the surrounding area has an old beautiful charm. You could even go as far as taking the Eiffel Tower as the initial source of inspiration and expand upon it. It’s in Paris, France, so describe the feelings you have about Paris, it’s characteristics. What other things remind you specifically of France? Think structures, food, transportation, fashion, language.

Essentially, you could spend a ton of time on step 1, branching out on each topic you think of.

STEP 2: Who is your audience? Who are you creating for?

If you are creating for yourself, this step is simple. However, if you are creating for an individual or group, this step takes a little more time. If you are creating something dealing with the Eiffel Tower, who are you going to market to?

Example:  Who are the people that admire the Eiffel Tower? People who have been to France, people who have been at the top of the structure, travelers, those who like European vintage, those who love structural beauty, people who have been proposed to at the location.

STEP 3: Brainstorm useful or beautiful items that can have the image of the Eiffel Tower (or conjures up images of France) that the above types of people would like.

Write down everything you can think of. Don’t limit yourself. Here are some examples:

  • Printed coasters
  • Decorative couch pillow (image of the Eiffel Tower or French words/phrase like “J’taime”)
  • Vintage posters or prints made in Photoshop, printed, and framed
  • Handbag
  • Magnets
  • Journal
  • Knitted beret
  • Mural
  • Calendar

Side note: I saw a charming lamp the other day with the Eiffel Tower as the base!

STEP 4: Now that you have your list, which of those things can you do? Can you learn how to do some of the others?

I’ve talked about getting out of your comfort zone. I believe we should attempt to get out of our creative comfort zone as well, which means learning NEW techniques and mediums. For example: You may be asking, “How exactly do you transfer an image onto a handbag?” Find out! If you have the resources, learn new skills. You never know where they might take you.

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This gist of all of this is to take something of inspiration and extrapolate its characteristics and expand on it. Let’s do a quick example. You picked up a leaf and you’re looking at the details. You notice the color, it’s shape, size, the lines and texture.

The color may inspire the color of yarn or paint you choose for your next project, the color of the felt you want to use to make felt leaves, the color you want your bedroom, or the Thanksgiving cloth napkins you want to make. The texture may inspire you to press it into a clay project for a bowl, vase, or plate or to make a rubber stamp. You may want to make a piece of jewelry the shape of a leaf, or place mats, or garland.

There are endless ways to take an ordinary object, structure, environment, or person, look at the details, and think of other possibilities for it. I hope that you try out this exercise.

Well folks, that’s the end of the “How to Think Creatively” series. I hope you learned something and/or felt inspired. If you have questions, think I should clarify something, let me know! Let’s work together for a common good that is creative thinking. I’d also love to hear how, where, when, and who you get your creative juices from or share your creative thinking secrets with us.

If you missed the other “How to Think Creatively” parts, you can find them here:

How to Think Creatively: Part 1

How to Think Creatively: Part 2

How to Think Creatively: Part 3

Happy creating, home philosophers!

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How to Think Creatively: Part 3

New Environment

source: enna.com

I mentioned in “How to Think Creatively: Part 1” to change up your environment and to seek new experiences and opportunities in order to not be stagnant with the same ideas and information. That’s what I’m going to talk about now.

We adapt to our native environments and learn to use certain skills and personality traits for each environment. We’re on mental auto-pilot, which is comfortable and familiar. However, think of when you travel or do something new, that new environment is forcing us to adapt to new people, a new culture, and a new way of thinking or behaving. We might begin to discover new aspects about ourselves, like new strengths, fears, and prejudices. It can be scary, but we become less frightened when we arm ourselves with knowledge about the unknown. And then we can master the unfamiliar to become a better-rounded individual. What other way is there to grow spiritually, mentally, physically aside from going off of auto-pilot and diverting from the usual?

Stimulate creativity by doing something different and possibly out of your comfort zone. You will create new connections and leverage those things around you. It will inspire new ideas, challenge old ideas, and draw into areas of your life that remain hidden in routine. Challenge yourself to do one of these things once a week, or every other week. It’s up to you to decide how often to engage yourself with new information and stimuli. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Visit a gallery or museum

Read a magazine you’ve never read (you can borrow tons of well-known magazines from the library)

Watch a foreign film

Write a poem

Eat an ethnic meal you’ve never had before

Talk to someone from another culture (visit ethnic grocery markets)

Think of a subject that interests you, go to the library, and check out books related to that subject

Go to your local Chamber of Commerce to see what’s going on around town and surrounding area

Go for an hour drive out of town on a route you’ve never taken (take your GPS just in case J)

Go for a walk in a neighborhood you’ve never walked in

Rearrange your furniture

Eat at a restaurant by yourself

Go to a movie by yourself

Get an account with StumbleUpon.com and stumble away

Go geocaching

Make a meal you’ve never made before

Write a letter to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while

Get a penpal (Google “penpal”)

Listen to a radio station you don’t ever listen to

Visit someone in a retirement home

Visit someone in a hospital

Volunteer for an organization

Go to a coffee shop, mall, large bookstore, etc. and people watch

Some of these will make you feel uncomfortable. Some of these will intrigue you and inspire you. Good! That’s the goal here. If you don’t want to do some of these alone, do it with your significant other or a friend (except for go to a movie and restaurant by yourself). Broaden yourself. If you like mundane, being stagnant, and not challenging yourself, that’s fine. But I imagine that if you’re still reading, you’re not like that all the time. The world, your very own city or town has so much to offer you if you would just let yourself go. Honestly, what is the worst that could happen?

If you missed the other How to Think Creatively parts, you can find them here:

How to Think Creatively: Part 1

How to Think Creatively: Part 2

Let me know in the comments about how you intend to grow as an individual in 2013. Or tell us some of your ideas about how to get out of your native environment.

Have a great January, home philosophers!

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How to Think Creatively: Part 2

Hi guys! It’s been awhile. I always underestimate the month of December and the amount of busy it brings. I am here now though with How to Think Creatively: Part 2. I really love this part because of how helpful it is for a variety of people. I think it will give you great ideas of how to approach challenges and get past those blocks.

Here is How to Think Creatively: Part 1 if you missed it.

How to Think Creatively: Part 2

You know those people (it may even be you) who say, “I think too much.” What exactly do they mean? It could mean several things.

  1. I’ve thought about this problem so much that I just feel even more stuck than before.
  2. I’ve thought about this problem so much that I just don’t even know what to do anymore.
  3. I’ve thought about this problem so much that it just makes me depressed.
  4. I’ve thought about this problem so much that I’m starting to become irrational.
  5. I’ve thought about this problem so much that I just feel overwhelmed now.

I’m sure there are many others. Everyone has their own meaning of what “I think too much” means. But is “thinking too much” such a bad thing as it may seem? We tend to think “too much” is an excess of something we don’t want. What we need to learn is how to compartmentalize all of those thoughts and remember to stay rational and as objective as possible.  I should also mention that those who “think too much” are in the creative process, they just might not know what to do with so much information to a variety of problems and blocks.

If you have several blocks, do you give each one its due diligence? Or do you go from thinking about one problem, to a potential solution for another problem, back to a different problem than the first two. See how it could get confusing? Information overload! Here’s what you should do:

Step 1: Identify a challenge. Give the proper amount of time to that challenge you’re having. It also helps to write down the problem and all of its potential ideas, solutions, decisions, etc. Then do the same for every other problem on a different sheet.

Step 2: Ask yourself better questions to gain better information and ideas about the challenge. If you’re a visual learner, write down these questions and answer them. Ask yourself:

What would happen if…?

What would NOT happen if…?

What would happen if I didn’t…?

What would happen if I did…?

Who could solve this problem?

Where can I get information to help me solve this problem?

How would I solve this problem if my life depended on it?

If I could wave a magic wand and fix this problem, what would happen?

What is one thing that would never work and why?

What is one thing that would work and why?

What is the most unusual idea you can think of for the problem?

If you woke up tomorrow and the problem was fixed, what would be different?

What would my best friend/parents/pastor/counselor/boss say?

If I was 20 years older, what would I say to my current self?

What resources do I need to solve the challenge?

How will the problem get worse if I don’t address it?

Step 3: Evaluate the information you’ve gathered. Go through the information and cultivate the potentially good ideas and figure out why the not-so-good ideas aren’t good ideas after all.

Step 4: List out what steps are necessary to accomplish your goal. Make your goal a SMART one. Is it…

SMART Goals

Step 5: Add deadlines to each step. This is exactly what ‘timely’ means. Break your primary goal down into mini steps by making daily, weekly, and monthly goals to reach your ultimate goal.

Step 6: If there are other people involved in your challenge, write down at what step they are responsible. You want to write down who is involved in each step in order to know who is holding you back and who is not.

Step 7: Schedule time to accomplish each step before its deadline. Don’t give yourself an excuse to procrastinate. If there is a step that takes time or you have to rely on other people to get that step done, this is the time to make sure time is scheduled and other people are aware of what their responsibility is and what your deadlines are. Make sure to be assertive and to keep boundaries.

Step 8: Evaluate where you are in the process every week or biweekly (whatever works for you). Go over your SMART goals and make sure everything still applies.

Step 9: Success! On to another challenge.

I guarantee you that if you ask yourself the above questions , you will build more information and be further ahead in ideas. If you utilize the questions with all, or most, of your challenges, they will become second nature and your creative thinking will develop.

Next week, I’ll talk about how we can get out of our comfort zone in order to stimulate creativity to provide us with more solutions and ideas.

Happy New Year, home philosophers!

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How to Think Creatively: Part 1

How to Think Creatively

Being able to think creatively in your personal life and career is a strength many utilize and many think they just don’t have it what it takes. How do the creative types make it look so easy when it’s such a struggle for others? All of us have the potential to think creatively, we just need to learn and know how to strengthen our creative side.

Let’s first define what “creativity” is. A lot of people think it has to do with being artistic or pushing boundaries. Surely, creativity is involved in doing those things, but let’s broaden it up.  I like Robert E. Franken’s definition of creativity as, “The tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”

Essentially, creativity is not doing an activity, like painting, it’s thinking of a way to make that painting unpredictable. We run into difficulties in our life where we feel stuck on something, whether it is financially, relationships, spiritually, physically, mentally, artistically, etc. How do we end up trying to solve these problems and uncreative blocks? We try to think of solutions and if we put enough thought into it, they may be novel solutions. Those novel solutions emerge when we go through the creative process. It is during that time we are developing our skill of creativity. However, many choose to avoid their problems, are lazy thinkers, or give up too early. We have to take on an active effort to develop our creative thinking skills.

We have to expand our minds to be open to new ideas, alternatives, and possibilities. You can do this by doing creative thinking exercises. I’ll guide you through the exercises and give even more ideas if you stick with me through this “How to Think Creatively” series.

Exercise #1

This exercise is not a new one, but it’s a good one that many people find helpful. I have been told by my clients in counseling that this exercise helped them think about their situation in a whole different light.

Imagine the most wonderful, brilliant, or respected person you know or don’t know. They’re full of wisdom, strength, intelligence, and logic. If you’re having difficulty thinking of someone, some examples are Albert Einstein, a President you admire, a grandparent, a parent, friend, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Now think of something in your life that you feel stuck on. I want you to read through this exercise first and then re-imagine it. Grab a notebook or piece of paper and a writing utensil before you start.

Close your eyes. Relax your shoulders, neck, arms, hands, legs. I want you to take a deep breath through your nose and slowly let it out through your mouth. Do it once more. Now imagine you’re at the beach. There’s only you. You feel the warmth of the sun on your face and a warm breeze gliding across your cheeks and arms. There’s a scent of fresh air mixed with other favorite scents. You decide to sit down on the soft white sand and listen to the waves. Someone comes up to you, touches your shoulder, and sits down next to you. You realize that it is the most brilliant person you know. They say hello to you and comment: “You are pondering life. What is it that you are thinking about?”

You are more relaxed now. You ask the person your question about your problem. Now, notice that they are not judging you and instantly understand. They think about your question for a moment and tell you their answers. What advice, ideas, solutions, or possibilities do they give? The person may give multiple answers and talk for a very long time or they may give you one answer. When the person is finished, tell them thank you, and open your eyes. Write down everything that person told you.

If you did this exercise in the morning or afternoon, the problem will be in the forefront of your mind, and you’ll come up with other ideas throughout the day. If you did this exercise at night, you may dream about other ideas or while you’re trying to fall asleep. Keep a notebook with you so you can write down all of your new ideas.

So why did I have you do this exercise and why would it work? Well, when you separate yourself from the problem, like you’re on the outside looking in, it helps you to expand your thinking about it. Why do people ask others for advice? They might have a different view. When you frame your question to someone you respect, you’ll imagine their voice, thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and philosophy on life and come up with new ideas.

This exercise expands the boundaries you give yourself and allows for more complex thinking, rather than surface thinking. You’re digging much deeper into thought and allowing yourself time to think of new ideas and solutions. What hurts the creative process is being stagnant with surface thoughts and surrounding yourself with the same stimuli, information, and people. You’ll come up with more ideas, gain insight and information, and a whole new world when you surround yourself with people you want to be like, actively search out information, change your environment, and make an effort to gain new experiences.

Next week, I’ll post How to Think Creatively: Part 2.

I’d love to know if you have ever utilized this sort of exercise. Kind of like, “What would [insert name here] do and say about this?”

Have a great week, home philosophers!


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Menu Planning + FREE PRINTABLE

source: coopfoodstore.com

source: coopfoodstore.com

I must admit, I hate grocery shopping with a passion. I think it’s just the lazy side of me and I really don’t like spending money. However, it must be done and I am the designated grocery shopper.

Each week, I have the task of figuring out which meals to do for the next 7 days. I recycle a lot of meals, but sometimes I like to experiment with a new meal. I would say the majority of the time that experimental meal doesn’t go well. Aside from that catastrophe, I typically use Microsoft Word to organize the meals and shopping list. It works, but it’s not pretty and I’m asked daily what’s for lunch and dinner. And to be quite honest, it’s “out of sight, out of mind,” so sometimes I don’t keep up with it.

To try and remedy that, I made up a Menu Planner and Grocery List printable that I’m going to start using. I’m also going to put it up on the fridge so my dearest can see exactly what’s tasty that day. He’ll probably still ask me though.Menu Planning

I wanted to make it available to my readers in case it could make your life any easier or more aesthetically pleasing.

Download the FREE printable HERE.

Benefits of Menu Planning

1. Saves Time

  • My menu planning motto is, “cook once, eat twice.” That’s why I cook enough for dinner and lunch the next day. This saves my brain from worrying about the next meal.
  • You don’t need to go to the grocery store every day. I like to go once a week.
  • There’s no “What’s for dinner” dilemma. I know in my household, if I don’t have a meal planned, there’s a lot of back and forth of “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know, what do you want?” “I have no idea. What sounds good?” “Mmm, I don’t know. What do you think?” Have you had this conversation before? :)

 

2. Saves Money

  • I end up spending more money if there’s no menu planned for the week. I’ll get the meal we want at the store and I may not realize that it doesn’t fit into the weekly food budget. If I do this multiple times throughout the week without being conscious of the amount of money each meal is costing, I’ve lost the food budget I had.
  • If there’s no menu planned, I impulse shop as I’m shopping for the meal of the night. I think, “Oh yeah, I may need some lettuce or something within the next few days.” Now I’m just guessing at what I MIGHT need. Many times, that lettuce goes to waste.

 

3. Improved Nutrition

  • With a menu, I am fully aware of how healthy each meal is. If it’s one of those quick trips to the grocery store, we probably didn’t think too much about how healthy the meal is because we’re hungry and just want to be done with it. The menu provides me a way to add in those fruits and vegetables for side dishes and snacks that a daily dash to the store doesn’t.

 

I hope that the FREE template helps you create a more organized, stress free home. If you’d like it more tailored to your needs, let me know!
Side note: I suggest, if you download it, print on both sides of the paper. 

By the way, look out for one of the “3 Things to Cook/Bake” from my “Taste of the Seasons” series. I’ll be cooking up some chicken pot pie sometime this week.

Happy shopping, home philosophers!

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9 Ways to Taste Fall

I have this crazy desire to do things I’ve never done before ranging from simple to wild. I’m feeling somewhat stagnant since summer has ended and my activities have come to turtle speed. Does anyone else feel like this?

Just because summer has ended doesn’t mean I still can’t challenge myself and do new things. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to do this that accommodates not going outside as much. Don’t get me wrong, I freaking love the rain, wind, and dark clouds. However, let’s be honest, I won’t be hiking, camping, ziplining, or river rafting in the fall or winter. I also need these challenges and new things to be budget friendly.

I want it to be reminiscent of the season as well. I’ll be doing a seasonal venture called:I just realized there’s only one month of autumn left. WHAT. I better get crackin’ before December 21 arrives.

I would love for you to join me in challenging yourself by cooking something you’ve been dying to try out, a craft that is on your endless Pinterest craft board, or visit some place you’ve been curious about.

I’ve made a list of 3 things to cook/bake, 3 crafts to complete on my Pinterest board, and 3 new things I’d like to try this colorful season.

3 Things to Cook/Bake: Chicken Pot Pie, Caramel Apple Crisp, Homemade Applesauce

3 Things to Craft: Felt Leaves Decor, Cornhusk Votive or Centerpiece, Autumn Tasty Gift Bag

3 New Things to Try: Apple Picking, Taste a New Seasonal Alcoholic Beverage, Find a Farm with Fresh Cider

Look out for tutorials and recipes for the crafts and noms mentioned above.

What is (or was!) on your autumn list? Did you do anything that you haven’t done before? Let’s hear it! Feel free to post to your website so we can see your stuff.

Home philosophers, raise your glass to the Taste of Autumn and let’s enjoy the last month shall we?

PS – I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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