October – December 2016 Quarterly Budget Review

Budget Review

Each quarter I share a quarterly budget review of our spending so you can see the breakdown of how we allocate our money. It’s also great accountability for me and helps Dave and I to see how we are stewarding our finances.

Budget Review: October – December 2016 (actual spending)
budget breakdown piechartWhat happened this quarter?

Extra mortgage payments
The home-slice is bigger this quarter because we rented out our home for a weekend and came out with $450 profit that went toward our mortgage principal. We also have bi-weekly payments set up which results in 13 payments each year vs 12 payments. That extra payment happened this quarter. Wahoo!

Holiday gifts
We have a little money automatically transferred into a savings account each month so when the holidays come around we already have money accounted for to buy gifts. Of course, most of the gift-buying happened this quarter.

New wardrobe
Mama got a new wardrobe! I got 8 tops, a hoodie, a bathing suit, and a maxi dress for $125! I usually shop via Thred Up but I discovered Bellelily.com and snagged some great deals. This doesn’t show up in the pie chart because we had some bonus cash from credit card points so that covered the purchase.

dinner dateOur most expensive date ever
We met with a couple for pre-marital counseling and as a gift they gave us a $100 gift card to a super nice restaurant in the area. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you know how cheap and frugal we are; I’m not sure we’ve ever spent more than $50 on dinner. It was fun to look at the FOOD on the menu first instead of the PRICE 😀 Of course we ended up picking the two most expensive things on the menu (duck and seabass) plus we got an appetizer and drinks. Our total actually came out to $99 so the $25 we spent out of pocket went toward the tip!

How much did your most expensive date cost?

Holiday Food and Fitness goals

lights at the zooYou don’t have to wait until the New Year to start your food and fitness resolutions. Today I’m leaving to visit Dave’s side of the family through Christmas and then we’ll be spending the rest of our break in Nashville with my family until the New Year. That’s 11 days of break. This extended week tends to be a bust for those who are not intentional about making food and fitness goals. I’m not just calling some of you out; I’m standing with you on this. Yes, I am a dietitian. Yes, I know about nutrition. No, I do not follow it perfectly. Yes I have a MAJOR sweet tooth. Yes, my husband and immediate families do as well. It’s a lovely curse. I’m obviously going to enjoy myself and have a few Buckeyes (chocolate-covered peanut butter balls… it’s an Ohio thing) and a glass of wine here and there. My goal, however, is to not be a glutton. I humbly admit that have this bad habit when puppy chow is made to eat it until I feel like I’m going to throw up. Instead of smiling and laughing with Dave when we reach for a third cookie, we are teaming up this year to be mindful about eating and intentional with exercising.dad's birthday cake

My goals
First, I’ll start with what my goals are NOT. I’m not going to pout or workout at 1am if we miss a workout we were hoping to accomplish that day. I’m not going to skip a meal because I ate dessert twice in one day. My goals will be SMART but a little looser. I believe the combination of my goals will really add up.

Don’t hang out by the food
This is my secret weapon. Socializing by food leads to mindless eating. I’m trying to be mindful here. I can’t exactly be mindful and mindless at the same time.

Work out in the morningNike training club workout
If I don’t work out in the morning, it’s unlikely that I’ll work out at all. This isn’t true on a normal basis but it is when I’m staying with family. Things keep popping up throughout the day and before I know it, the day is over! We’ll likely be doing a few Nike Training Club workouts and maybe some tabata training.

Savor bites
My mom and mother-in-law both have a gift of cooking excellent meals. Instead of scarfing down food that took hours to make, I’m going to take my time and tune in to my hunger cues to see if I’m still hungry or if I’m content.

Here we go!
I’d say those three goals set a good foundation for my success over the next 11 days. Expect to hear an update from me after the New Year.

Do you have any food and fitness goals for the holidays?

I started an Employee Health program at work

I’ve got some exciting news (for me, at least)! A few months ago I had my mid-year review with my supervisor at the health department. I mentioned to my supervisor that I get so many non-work questions from my coworkers: things they’ve heard about (fill in the food) and questions like “Is (fill in the food) good for you?” I think the service provided to our clients is amazing but unfortunately it’s at the expense of my coworkers’ health.

I’m one dietitian among 25+ social workers and a handful of nurses, psychologists, and one occupational therapist. Our vending machines have terrible snack choices and pop (because we’re in Michigan and don’t call it soda or coke, weirdos). Everyone’s always on the run and often I hear someone tell me at 3 or 4pm as they stick a Lean Cuisine in the microwave that it’s their first meal since breakfast…if they ate breakfast. It’s not that my coworkers don’t care about their health- they’re coming to me with all these questions on how to make their lives healthier! After making these observations to my supervisor, we ended our mid-year review and I went back to my desk.

Not even ten minutes later my supervisor comes to my desk and announced that she forgot we had a department-wide meeting today and that I should pitch my idea to everyone. An hour later I’m standing in front of 40 people who welcomed my desire to promote employee wellness.

For the past three months I’ve been writing weekly newsletters for my coworkers at the health department. I’ve already got plans brewing for new year’s resolutions and a friendly competition in March for National Nutrition Month!

I know some companies have wellness programs and I’d love to eventually see that in my office but for now my weekly newsletter seems to be having a great impact. People are telling me they’ve tried my recipes and shared the useful information with family and friends outside of work. Between you and me, I don’t even need to reinvent the wheel! I’m simply taking topics I’ve already written about on Budget for Health and have reduced them to fit into a newsletter format. Here are a few articles I’ve used for my recent newsletters:

Liquid Holiday Calories
Better check that menu twice before you think about ordering that holiday special at Starbucks. Check out the nutrition content and suggestions to save some calories while enjoying your holiday cup of cheer.

Holiday Grocery Sales
As holidays near you can be sure to see savings on the items you tend to need most for special occasions. While you’re making your grocery list, throw a few extra items in your cart from this list.

Avoid overeating during the holidays
It’s inevitable that there will be delicious food everywhere you go over the next few weeks. Whether you’re at a potluck at work or a family gathering, follow these do’s and don’ts to savor the flavor without overloading on calories.

My latest staff writing masterpiece…
While you’re browsing around, be sure to check out my latest post at Life and My Finances where I staff write – Automatic Payments Don’t Always Make Life Easier. Our automatic payment set up was changed from biweekly payments to one monthly payment unbeknownst to us!

Want to win an Apple iPad3? Uh…duh!
PS- One of my favorite blogs to follow, See Debt Run, is co-hosting a huge giveaway for it! You have until December 28th to enter the giveaway to win a brand new Apple iPad3 (the 32gb WiFi edition). I’ve already entered about as many times as I’m allowed each day! I’m not gonna lie, I’m totally keeping this if I win 😉

Does your employer do anything to promote employee health?

Say yes to love and no to love handles

Happy Valentine’s Day! We’ve decided to stay in tonight and make that Black Bean Salmon after all. This holiday in particular is near & dear to my heart because my maiden name was Valentine. How cute 🙂 It was a bummer to lose, but I got to trade it in for quite a handsome and godly husband. What is bittersweet about this day is that I can’t walk by one desk at work without seeing a bowl of chocolate and sweets! I have a ridiculous sweet tooth and so does Dave, so how do we share the love without putting on some love handles on this oh-so-sweet Hallmark holiday?

Chew that gum
Bring a pack or two with you and chew it all day long. If someone offers you a sweet, it will be easier to say “no thanks.” You’ll be less likely to mindlessly snack or grab a chocolate or three.

Pack a super healthy lunch
If you’re eating a healthy lunch, you might not want to ruin it with a bunch of extra sweets. You also won’t feel as guilty if you break down and have one (or two).

Take a romantic stroll
After dinner, go for a walk to get your digestive system going. You don’t have to have dinner and your dessert at the same place; you might be too full from dinner to enjoy it anyway.

Walk, walk, walk
Park at the back of parking lots and walk a little further to your destination. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a 5 minute walk during your lunch break. Squeeze in any moment of brisk activity.

Write down your intake
Some people benefit from the accountability of writing down their intake, some don’t. Unless you have a real person holding you accountable, it may help to keep track of what you eat so you can avoid overindulging. I don’t recommend keeping a food log long term because calorie counting and even food logging can take away from our natural ability to listen to our hunger cues and eat what our body needs.

What are some ways you enjoy sweets yet avoid over indulging?

Holiday grocery sales

Walk in to any grocery store this time of year and you’ll find oodles of price drops on seasonal grocery items! All of those clever marketing tactics are being put into practice to catch your eye. Why? With all of the baking and cooking going on, certain items are in high demand. While you’re picking up your grocery list for the upcoming Christmas gatherings, consider buying a few more items that are on sale- just stay within your budget. Combine the generic brands with current sales & coupons and you’ve got some great savings! I usually see walnuts for $6.49/lb, but I’ve seen prices as low as $4.99/lb, so you bet I’m stocking up and freezing a few bags for future use. Here is a list of items that are probably on sale at your grocery store now, so stock up!

Canned goods
Broth, soups, vegetables, fruit, spaghetti sauce, pumpkin

Flour, sugar, butter, cream, nuts, cake/brownie mix, cocoa, chocolate chips, coconut, pie crust, whipped cream

Produce in season
Broccoli, carrots, celery, Anjou & Bosc pears, Brussels sprouts, Bok Choy, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, avocados, kale, lemons, oranges, spinach, winter squash, kiwi, turnips, red cabbage

Other odds & ends
Jello, marshmallows, crackers, chips, ham, frozen rolls, egg nog, bacon, plastic wrap, foil, storage containers


What other items have you found on sale this season?

Avoid overeating during the holidays

Five more days and the family gatherings begin! Dave & I have already been to two Christmas parties and each had pot lucks at work this past week. I won’t lie to you- I left one of the parties convinced that Dave would have to roll me out to the car because I ate so much. To avoid these over eating traps, try a few of these “do” and “don’t” tips at your next food gathering.


– Socialize by the food. It’s the easiest way to indulge in an extra 500-1,000 calories.
– Try to lose weight over the holidays. Enjoy your food, and simply strive to maintain your weight.
– Let carbs be the main attraction on your plate. Instead, add some protein from food like chicken, turkey, and beans since they take the longest for our bodies to break down, leaving us feeling fuller longer.

– Keep in mind that your food takes 6 seconds to get to your stomach but 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full. Check yourself and see if you’re actually still hungry in 20 minutes.
– Save room for dessert. Better yet, wait until later in the evening to have dessert so you don’t stuff yourself in one sitting.
– Take small portions of dishes. I’ve eaten a dish that wasn’t really that spectacular, but because it was still on my plate, I ate all of it. Try out smaller portions & go back for the ones you actually want. Those small portions may even be enough to leave you satisfied.
– Fill up on fiber. Fiber in vegetables and whole grains do not contain calories but they do take up space in our stomach and help keep our digestive system regular.
– Have an accountability partner. If you’re notorious for camping out at the food fort, ask a friend or family member to simply invite you to come join their conversation when they see you lingering a little too long at the dessert table.
– Carry a glass of water around with you so you’re more likely to take a sip than reach for a handful (or two) of food. This tip worked out well for Dave & I and it helped us stay accountable to each other. After a few minutes of watching me take a dive in the chips & dip, Dave offered me a glass of water and I was well-behaved for the rest of the night and even poured a few more glasses.

What are your tips to avoid overeating during the holidays?