Financial Peace University

Recently, Stephen and I participated in a Financial Peace University Class that was offered by our church. I was so excited to take this class, because I had heard such great things about it! We were also excited to take it because many of the young families in our church were also taking it, and we were hoping we’d make some more friends (and we did!!) FPU ran once a week for nine weeks, and last Thursday our last class. 

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FPU is taught and created by Dave Ramsey. Before the class, I did not know much about Dave Ramsey, but apparently he is pretty controversial! Dave Ramsey has a famous radio show, and he’s often quite harsh on the air. However, he has a far different personality during FPU. While we maybe didn’t agree with every single thing we learned in FPU, Stephen and I both came to really enjoy Dave Ramsey and FPU, and I guess you could call us Dave Ramsey fans!!

Stephen and I have always been savers, and have never really struggled with money management. We really wanted to take this class to learn more about investing, saving for our future children’s education, retirement, budgeting, buying a home, etc. We also were interested because it is a Biblically based class. We’re still learning how everything works in the financial world, but after taking this class I know so much more! I feel like I finally understand financial lingo and how things work.

As I mentioned previously, our class met once a week for nine weeks. We looked forward to class every week–we thought it was so fun (we’re both nerds when it comes to this stuff)! At the start of the class you watch a video. During the videos (which are hilarious and very entertaining), you fill out your FPU workbook. After the video you are split into small groups, where your small group leader asks questions and leads discussion. Once you pick a small group you are encouraged to stay there, so that you can build community. We really enjoyed the people in our small group and have become good friends with them. During the small group time we would discuss the small group questions provided in the workbook, and also discuss issues/concerns/achievements we made as the class went on. We would also have homework most weeks which would mainly include reading a chapter in Dave Ramsey’s book, creating your zero-based budget, having a budget meeting with your spouse, etc. 

To give a quick synopsis of what we learned in the class, I will list the “baby steps”. Dave Ramsey has created six baby steps to financial peace, and the class is based around these. 

The Six Baby Steps:

Step 1: $1,000 in an emergency fund

Step 2: Pay off all debt with the debt snowball

Step 3: 3-6 months expenses in a full emergency fund

Step 4: Invest 15% of income into Roth IRA’s and Pre-tax Retirement Plans

Step 5: College funding and pay off the home early!

Step 6: Build wealth and give

 

After taking the course, I would say Stephen and I learned the most about retirement, investing, and how to create a budget that works. However, we also learned a lot about insurance (what to have and what not to have), how to raise children who understand money management, and the danger of debt and credit. We thoroughly enjoyed the class and will be keeping all of our workbooks/materials for future reference. If you ever have the opportunity to take FPU, I highly recommend it! 🙂

 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bars

I’ve made these breakfast bars twice, and we love them. They are super filling and great for breakfast or a snack when I’m at school the whole day on Wednesdays!

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Recipe adapted from thelawstudentswife.com

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bars

Makes 8 Bars

Preheat oven to 375. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper.

Ingredients:

2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 T. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (or more)

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1.5 Cups Milk

2 T. Honey

2 T. Peanut Butter (melted for easy stirring)

1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce

I Egg

I tsp. Vanilla Extract

I Banana (quartered and diced)

 

Mix together dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Then, stir dry ingredients into the wet. Fold in diced banana.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool and cut into 8 bars. These will keep in the fridge for about 5 days, and extras can be frozen!

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Updates: Part Two

Last week I showed some of the things we switched up in our bedroom, based off of the changes in our living room.

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Here’s a picture of what our living room looked like previously.

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Changes made:

*The bookcase! I LOVE this bookcase and I was so excited to find it on sale at Target. It is this bookcase from Target. It’s surprisingly sturdy and well made, much nicer than the Ikea bookcases we had looked at. 

*Our curtains. The curtains were a bit of a splurge (especially knowing I could have made them myself…), but that’s what Christmas money is for, right?! I bought these light grey linen curtains from Ikea, and LOVE them. They are much longer and wider than our previous curtains (top photo), so we had to lift our curtain rod so that it was higher and wider than the top of our screen door. It took a bit to convince Stephen that this is really how it should be anyways, and it truly does add height to the room! I also love these curtains because they are fairly sheer, and let tons of light in during the day. 

*The grey dresser. My mother in law has been renovating furniture lately, and I saw this dresser in her house a few times and loved it. This Christmas, Mrs. Anne decided to give each couple something that she had handmade and I was so excited to receive this! It’s painted with chalk paint, and has a very smooth, milky finish. It’s also my favorite color 🙂 I now use it to hold my school books and the bottom shelves to hold extra pantry items. (Thanks again, Mrs. Anne :))

 

I’m enjoying the new changes, and love that the room feels a bit more colorful. That first picture looks awfully monochromatic! Lately I’ve been keeping my eye out for things that are bright teal and yellow to add some brightness to the room, because there is a lot of grey and beige. I also am so excited for the day when I can paint my walls, because I know that would also make quite the difference!

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

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Before I got married, I imagined that I would always make homemade bread. I then decided that I would wait until I bought my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. Stephen gifted me my stand mixer in September, and I just recently followed through and gave it a shot. I try to make things from scratch as much as possible, and I’m glad I can add this to the list! I love that it’s made from 100% whole wheat flour (most bread you buy in stores is made with both all-purpose and wheat flour, but still label themselves as “wheat bread”). I also love that homemade bread has no preservatives and is low in sodium, something that store-bought bread has tons of! Lastly, it’s economical and tastes much better than store-bought. 🙂

I received this recipe from a friend at church. I’m not sure where the recipe originated from, but I love it.

Whole Wheat Bread:

Makes 1 one-pound loaf

 

1¼ cup hot water (hottest tap water)

3 tablespoon oil

¼ cup honey

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon gluten

1½ cup whole wheat flour + 1 1/4-1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon yeast

 

Blend together, scrape sides down and let sponge for 8-10 minutes. (Sponge=cover and let rest)

Cover mixer with dish towel.

 

Add in an additional 1¼ to 1¾ cups white wheat until it cleans sides of bowl.  Knead 8-10 minutes.

 

Roll out on oiled surface and put in greased loaf pan.  Cover pan with towel.  Let rise. (Mine took about 1 hour. Rise until dough doubles in size)

Bake at 350o for 30 minutes. (Rotating at the 15 minute mark)

 

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*After rising and after baking.

 

I was so impressed by this recipe, and it was so easy! The honey also adds a subtle sweetness, and you could even label this a honey wheat bread. I’m experimenting with storing methods right now, as homemade bread does not last as long as store-bought (no preservatives) and I’d gladly take any tips you’d like to give! For now I’m wrapping the bread in a light dish-towel for a few days, until slicing the bread and freezing the rest leftover before it stales. I’ve heard the freezing method works pretty well, and apparently it’s easy to pull a slice out when needed and microwave it for a few seconds to defrost. Please offer up some tips if you have any!

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Some Updates

It has definitely been awhile since I’ve updated this blog…I think before Christmas! We had a busy holiday and winter break, but now we’re both back in school and back to the same old routine. Over the holidays, I put some of my Christmas money to good use by purchasing some home items that I’d been wanting. Most of the change has occurred in our living room, but there has also been a bit of change in our bedroom.

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Stephen and I had been wanting a bookshelf for awhile. We have this metal shelf from Ikea (above) which I like, but it’s not super sturdy and doesn’t have  a back, which means we can’t really use it to hold books. This shelf used to live in our living room, but has now been replaced by a new bookshelf that I LOVE from Target (that will be a different post.) However, I’m loving this shelf in our bedroom! I’m so pleased by the move, and I like that I now have a place to stack extra books, my bouquet, and my jewelry 🙂

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We also brought our hope chest up to the bedroom. Our hope chest used to stay in the living room (in our little “nook”), and held extra pantry items. We have now replaced its spot in the living room (with a much more functional piece), so the chest now lives upstairs. We’re also liking the new spot because it adds extra clothing storage for Stephen (he has a lot of clothes. And shoes. LOTS of shoes.)

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Lastly, we added some string lights that we bought after Christmas. I really like them, but can’t decide where to keep them. For now I’m enjoying them where they are, and love the light they add to the room.

Just a quick update of some changes. I’m already noticing that my decorating style has changed a bit (since when we first moved in) and already have in mind things I would like to change! I was surprised by that. Funny how that happens….

Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles

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Stephen and I both love Asian inspired dishes, and I was excited to give this one a try. It’s such an easy dinner and it uses staple ingredients that we always have in the house, which is always a plus. We both loved this recipe.

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Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles 

Recipe from Buns In My Oven

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

12 oz Whole Wheat Thin Spaghetti

1-2 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes (2 Tbsp will be very spicy)

1/2 Cup Sesame Oil

3 Tbsp Honey

6 Tbsp Soy Sauce

1/4 Cup Peanut Butter

*Green Onions, Chopped Peanuts, or Chopped Cilantro for topping. I didn’t have these on hand, so I didn’t use them. However, I think they would add great texture and flavor.

Directions:

Cook Noodles. Set Aside.

Heat sesame oil and red pepper flakes over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Strain oil into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer (discarding the red pepper flakes). Stir in peanut butter until combined and melted. Add honey and soy sauce, mixing until combined.

Toss noodles with the sauce. Add desired toppings. Serve!

 

Baking Cookies

Since Stephen and I will be spending Christmas at home with our families (and we can’t wait!) we wanted to make sure that we created some Christmas traditions with each other. We decided that we would spend a day decorating the tree, watching Christmas movies, and baking cookies. However, over time it became more and more clear that we wouldn’t both have a day free for a long time. Not wanting to put off setting up and decorating the tree/apartment any longer, we knocked that out one night after class. However, I was looking forward to spending a night baking cookies and watching Elf. We did this last Monday, and had a great time.

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Knowing we would be eating a ton of sweets that night, I made this Chicken and Barley Soup for dinner. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out having never cooked barley before, but it was delicious! I made a few modifications (which made it a bit spicier) and we loved it.

For the cookies, we ended up making Sugar Cookies and Oreo Truffles.

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The Kitchenaid really came in handy with the sugar cookies……I can’t imagine having to stir in six cups of flour into that dough! Well, I’m sure it wouldn’t be that hard but the mixer is super nice!

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We ended up making a ton of cookies. We iced most of them, and then we were done haha. We ate a lot of them, and sent the rest with Stephen to work where his coworkers ate the rest. I enjoyed this recipe and found it super simple! No chilling of the dough, nice flavor, and easy.

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We then made some Oreo truffles. These were delish as well. They’re made by mixing cream cheese with 36 crushed oreos, rolling them into balls, and dipping them into melted chocolate. We stored them in the fridge (because of the cream cheese) and ate them all! They are so good. One tip: use regular Oreos and not double stuffed Oreos. I imagined that double stuffed Oreos would make the truffles even BETTER, but I think it changed the texture a bit (I’ve made these before with regular Oreos). It’s either that, or the fact that I used off-brand Oreos (of course) this time.

Overall, we had a fun time making the cookies (and eating them). The best part was that Stephen washed all the dishes too! And there were a lot of dishes…

Christmas At Our Place

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I’ve had way too much fun decorating our apartment for Christmas this year. This year, for some reason, I’ve been trying really hard to get into the Christmas spirit. It has been so fun! Instead of tv, Stephen and I have been listening to Christmas music on Pandora non-stop (which isn’t much of a sacrifice considering we don’t have cable). I’ve been lighting Christmas candles, making Christmas cookies, and really trying to enjoy the season. This might also be because I have a lot of time on my hands now that I’m finished for the semester. Anyways….here’s what it’s looking like over here.

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We’ve gotten all of our Christmas decorations at Target. I bought most of our stuff after Christmas last year using a gift card. I felt silly at the time, but I’m so glad it did it! All of our ornaments (and the Christmas tree coasters-so adorable!), the tree skirt, our stockings, and other random decorations are from Target. I’m sure I will shop some more after this Christmas as well. Our tree was a gift from my parents, and we love it! It’s the perfect size for our space.

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Seeking to make the place even more festive, I decided to hang up some paper snowflakes. I cut a bunch out, and hung them in our living room using mini clothespins. I also printed out some free Christmas prints that I found on Pinterest. We’re planning on hanging up some Christmas cards up there as well as we receive them 🙂

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Last but not least, some little items I found in the dollar section at Target. I first saw the “HO HO HO” sign while at Target with my sister in law and loved it. I decided to go back and grab it (it was only a dollar! I would’ve bought more if they had them). I also picked up these little Christmas dishes (also a dollar). I thought they were adorable, and would look great holding some peppermints. Side note: that little Pier One reed diffuser up there smells amazing. I’ve used these fragrances before, and never thought they smelled like much. However, this Sugared Cinnamon one has made our entire living room smell like baking cookies! Love it.

Anyways, that’s our little place 🙂 I apologize for all the detailed pictures as well, I’m sure you weren’t wondering what our coasters looked like 😛

Healthy Banana “Ice Cream”

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For the past few months, I’ve been trying to eat healthier and work out more. I’m in no way on a diet, but I am swapping out some things that we would normally eat for healthier options (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, more fruits/veggies, etc). I also do Blogilates once a day (which is an awesome workout–I follow the monthly calendars). The only time this gets difficult for me is at night–I’m a big snacker. I also always crave sweets at night. So, in a attempt to find a healthier option, I decided to try out a banana “ice cream” that I’ve seen on Pinterest a few times. And it was prettyyyyy yummy 🙂

Peanut Butter Banana “Ice Cream”

Serves 1-2

Ingredients:

2 large bananas (sliced and frozen)

a (tiny) splash of milk

1 tablespoon peanut butter

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Pour frozen banana slices in a food processor. Add a tiny splash of milk (I added a bit too much milk…less milk will lead to a more classic ice cream texture. Mine was like a soft serve). Pulse until smooth (stopping a few times to scrape the sides).

Add peanut butter. Blend until mixed.

Serve!

***This would also be great with chocolate syrup, cocoa powder, or Nutella mixed in instead of the peanut butter! Or Cookie Butter…..that would be the best.

Freezer Friendly Burritos

Recently, Stephen and I have set a new budget. We have a monthly budget that’s divided into a weekly budget, because it’s easier to plan for one week rather than a whole month. Part of this budget includes $40.00 a week for groceries. It has been surprisingly difficult to plan meals for only $40, but I enjoy the challenge! Some ways I have cut costs has been by planning meals around what is on sale. There is a great website (called MoneySavingMom.com) that allows you to sign up for email updates when the news sale ads are out for your local grocery stores. For example, when Foodlion releases their sales ad for the week, I get an email with all of their deals. This has been extremely helpful in meal planning! This site also lets you know when a coupon is out that will match with a sale. For example, there is a printable $2.00 off Tresemme Shampoo/Conditioner coupon out. If you use this coupon at Walmart (where Tresemme Shampoo/Conditioner is $2.48) you can score Shampoo or Conditioner for .48 cents! (The best thing about this deal is that you can print off as many coupons as you would like–and the coupon doesn’t expire until the end of January! You better believe I’ll be stocking up!) I love that I get notified when these kind of deals happen, and I don’t even have to do the work! Yes….these are the sort of things that get me excited these days. 

Anyways…..part of our money saving plan is always having ingredients for some cheap meals at home. This prevents us from going out to eat (which we may do on occasion, but that comes out of our spending budget). We have a pretty well stocked pantry, and I try to buy a few things each week to add to it. This allows us to throw together a meal, even if we didn’t plan for it. These meals include pancakes, french toast, sesame noodles, pasta with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, omelets, etc. We ALWAYS have these ingredients on hand, so it makes it pretty simple to throw a meal together. I am also trying to build up my freezer supply. Freezer meals (that are already made) are usually very economical and great to have as a backup! They are also helpful for Stephen, because he often has to fend for himself on nights when I’m in class. Today I created my first set of freezer meals–burritos. I have seen frozen breakfast burritos on Pinterest before, so I decided to create my own recipe for regular frozen burritos. I know Stephen will like them, and it’s something easy he can eat when we didn’t have a dinner planned or he gets home from work late. 

Freezer Friendly Burritos

Ingredients:

1 lb. Ground Beef

3 cups White Rice (cooked)

3 Green Peppers

3 Onions (Yellow)

Taco Seasoning (to taste)

16 Burrito-Sized Tortillas

Optional (For Spicy Burritos):

Sliced Jalapenos

Green Tabasco Sauce

**These would be great with shredded cheese as well–I just didn’t have any!

**If you like beans, add beans! I would have loved to sub beans in for the meat, but Stephen hates them. That would make this meal so much cheaper!

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Start cooking your rice. I use a rice cooker. While your rice is cooking, chop all of your veggies! Easy.

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Brown your ground beef in a frying pan (not a wok….like I used) and drain. Put the meat in a bowl, and then saute your veggies in the same pan. Once the veggies are cooked, place them in a bowl as well.

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Make sure you season the ground beef and the veggies as they cook. I used this homemade taco seasoning. I also sprinkled on some extra cayenne pepper for some added heat. You will probably need to add salt as well (if you use a homemade seasoning. I’m sure a packaged taco seasoning packet has plenty of salt!)

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Lay out your ingredients and you’re ready to assemble!

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I layered the burritos by placing rice, beef, then veggies. (I promise it looks more appetizing in real life). I also created some spicy burritos for Stephen (by adding sliced jalapenos and Tabasco). This would also be a great time to add some shredded cheese!

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I wrapped each burrito in foil and placed them in a large Ziploc bag. Then, I put them in the refrigerator to chill before placing them in the freezer (this prevents freezer burn). Reheat them by TAKING THEM OUT OF THE FOIL (I must write that on the bag…somebody will need that reminder!) and wrapping them in a paper towel, microwaving for approx. 4 minutes. That’s it! I was very surprised that this recipe made 16 burritos! I just hope we don’t get tired of them before we finish them 🙂

Cost Breakdown:

Ground Beef: $3.00

Tortillas : $3.96

Green Peppers: $2.07

Onions: > $.25 (part of a large bag I scored for $.99)

Jalepenos: $1.36

Rice: approx $.50

Total Cost: $11.14           

I could have definitely cut the costs on this one (I’m still learning!) by using beans instead of beef, which would have made a more authentic burrito. But, it works out to less than one dollar per serving, so I’m okay with that! Especially when I see frozen burritos for sale at Walmart for $1.50-$2.00 (each), which are much smaller and more unhealthy than mine. Homemade for the win!