Spring Holidays

Spring is just around the corner, and that means a full holiday season will soon be upon us. From making your own version of Mardi Gras on March 1st to commemorating Memorial Day on May 30th, the spring months hosts plenty of holidays for you to celebrate with your family and friends. Keep reading to learn ways to celebrate the spring holidays.

Mardi Gras – March 1st

Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday” in French, is traditionally a time of excess as people fit in everything they want before Lent. Celebrated by religious and non-religious people alike, Mardi Gras has since become a big party for everyone. To celebrate at home, you’ll first want to make sure you have all the foods you’d eat in New Orleans, such as po’boys, hushpuppies and a king cake. The last one can be difficult to find, but it’s essentially a purple, yellow and green cake with a plastic baby inside. Whoever finds the baby is said to be bestowed with luck. If you drink alcohol, consider stocking up on some Louisiana brews or make some Sazernacs, the official cocktail of New Orleans. Next, get some masks and decorations that allow you and your friends to celebrate in style. Finally, play some jazz music in the background and celebrate the night away.

Saint Patrick’s Day – March 17th

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and cities around the world celebrate in style. However, if your town doesn’t have an annual St. Patty’s Day celebration, you can still have a special event at home. Corned beef and cabbage is an easy meal to make on top of being the traditional dish served, especially with a few slices of soda bread on the side. Beer drinkers will love sampling different variations of green beer as well. More of a purist? Guinness is likely the right choice for you. Don’t like beer? Try an Irish Coffee with brown sugar for an extra dose of sweetness. Whether you put on green from head to toe or wear a little Shamrock somewhere on your outfit, Saint Patty’s Day is an easy holiday to get in the festive spirit.

Easter Sunday – April 17th

Easter is about the resurrection of Christ for Christians; however, many people from all backgrounds have their own Easter-themed celebrations—including a visit from the Easter Bunny. The night before is perfect for dying eggs with the kids before hosting an egg hunt in your yard or around the house. If you want to go the extra mile for kids, consider renting or purchasing an Easter Bunny costume for a memorable celebration that won’t be forgotten. Finally, consider whipping up some Easter staples, including cakes, deviled eggs, a roast turkey or ham and plenty of sides for a feast your friends and family will love.

Earth Day – April 22nd

Earth Day is all about working together to save our planet, and this is the perfect holiday to get your kids involved in making the world a better place. There is a multitude of different things you can do to help the planet, including being car-free for the day, starting a recycling program at home or even making a birdhouse for feathered friends. Regardless of how you choose to spend your Earth Day, it’s important to remember to take the time to make the world a better place for everyone.

Arbor Day – April 29th

Closely related to Earth Day (and only a week apart), Arbor Day revolves around trees. Of course, the most popular and traditional way to celebrate is by planting a tree. However, not everyone has the space to plant, especially if they live in an apartment. For those looking to celebrate, consider sponsoring a tree being planted, reading more about trees with the kids or volunteering somewhere in the community to complete tasks like cleaning up a park or making a group donation to a charity.

Cinco de Mayo – May 5th

Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s victory in the Battle of Puebla against the French, and it’s one of the most fun and festive holidays on our list. You can easily host your own holiday spectacular by decorating your home in bright, festive colors or by ordering decorations made just for the holiday. Of course, the most popular element of any Cinco de Mayo celebration is the food, and now is the perfect time to whip up some enchiladas and perfect your tamale-making skills. Finally, take the time to learn more about the history of our neighbors to the south and why the holiday means so much to the people of Mexico.

Mother’s Day – May 8th

Mother’s Day is the one say of the year to celebrate your mother (or mother figure), and you can come up with a myriad of ways to celebrate what makes your mom so great. If you still live with her, consider making her breakfast in bed and giving her a break from household chores. If you live nearby, throw a surprise party with her friends after you’ve spent the day together. Finally, if mom lives far away, take the time to give her a phone call and have flowers or chocolates delivered for a holiday neither one of you will forget.

Memorial Day – May 30th

Memorial Day tends to get used as the marker for summer beginning; however, it’s also time to remember the soldier who died for our country. Before the picnics and barbeques, take the time to attend a Memorial Day ceremony or parade and consider decorating the graves of fallen soldiers at your local cemetery.

The spring months offer plenty of holiday cheer for those looking to spend their time with family and friends. From donning your best purple, yellow and green mask for Mardi Gras to remembering our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, you can make this spring a holiday season to remember. Whether you decide to throw a few parties or take time to celebrate each holiday with your family, remember that each day offers plenty of activities that everyone will love.

Shopping for Valentines Day on a Budget

Valentine’s Day is dedicated to romance, and one of the main ways people celebrate is by purchasing gifts for one another. However, if budgets are tight this year, it can feel difficult to find a gift that’s perfect for both your partner and your budget. Luckily, we’re here to help. Read on to learn how to shop for Valentine’s Day this year while staying within your budget.

Budget Before the Holiday

Look for ways to cut down on expenses by writing down your income and listing your expenses. Certain things like rent and utilities obviously need to be paid, but what can you cut down on? For example, if you get a coffee every day, consider making your caffeine fix at home for the month or get a basic weekly car wash rather than the deluxe. Small changes like this can save you a couple hundred dollars a month, which is perfect for your Valentine’s Day shopping budget.

Set Your Budget and Stick to It

You’ve carefully crafted your budget and are ready to go shopping. As you look around, you find the one item you know will blow your loved one’s socks off. The only problem? It’s a several hundred dollars over your price range. It can be tempting to go over your budget this one time to get the present; however, depending on your finances, you might be in a financial limbo for several weeks or months if you do. When you create your budget, attempt to stick to it as closely as possible rather than stretching yourself thin. You’ll find another perfect gift in your price range in no time.

Shop for Great Deals

Just because it’s Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you only need to shop at expensive stores. Plenty of cheaper brands stock great gifts your loved one will cherish. For example, your local dollar store likely has an assortment of items just waiting to get placed in the perfect gift basket. Take the time to look at what cheaper stores have to offer and save some serious money while you’re shopping for the right gift for your loved one.

Turn to Staples

With the holiday upon us, many stores will happily put their wares on sale to become your loved one’s present. Jewelers, florists and candy makers consider February a big month for sales, and they’re all competing to get you through their doors. Take the time to see which brands are offering deep discounts for the holiday. You might find that perfect gift for much less than it would normally be.

Consider Personalization

Does your loved one drink coffee on a regular basis? Do they love to get the latest bestseller from their favorite bookstore? More and more companies are now offering personalization on their products, allowing you to create something that’s truly unique for the person you care about. From mugs to bookbags to wine bottles, your loved one can receive something that has themselves written all over it.

Get Creative

Many times, people are looking for a gift that’s from the heart rather than something you spent thousands of dollars on. This is where crafting comes in handy. Scroll through Pinterest or Instagram to get great ideas on something you can make for your loved one using tools and supplies you already have around the house. Think about what your recipient likes and will use as well. There’s little sense in giving someone something they’ll rarely use. Finally, remember that you don’t need to make something that’s big or elaborate either. Small things like a photo album or cookies are much appreciated as well.

Make a Date Night

Many people focus on gifts for Valentine’s Day, but a great date night can mean more to people than anything you purchase. Is your partner a devoted concertgoer? Do they spend hours on end looking at vintage cars? Think about things your partner likes doing and plan your Valentine’s Day date night around their favorite activity. Want to up the awe factor? Consider taking them to the first place you met for dinner or take them shopping to that antique store you know they love. They’ll get a fun night they’ll never forget while you’ll have created the perfect experience to show them how much you love them.

Buy Some Favorites

What’s your significant other’s favorite candy? Their t-shirt brand? Their wine brand? Oftentimes, it can be tempting to give someone something that’s new, exciting and expensive for Valentine’s Day, but favorites are much more likely to win over your lover. Take some time to think about what you know they love and go shopping for a few of these favorites to make a Valentine’s Day present that means more to your loved one than anything else you could purchase. By selecting things you know mean a lot to them, you’re showing that you notice the small details that keep your loved one going.

Look for Valentine’s Day-Themed Gifts

Just like other holidays, Valentine’s Day offers plenty of holiday-themed gifts. As the day creeps nearer and nearer, store owners start to worry about their themed stock selling and will commonly mark it down. While you probably won’t find that exact thing you were eying a couple weeks ago, you can find some low clearance prices that will fit into nearly anyone’s budget. Of course, the cheapest prices are after Valentine’s Day, so consider doing some after-holiday shopping as well.

Shopping for Valentine’s Day doesn’t need to break the bank. From creating a budget and shopping for great deals to creating a new, cherished possession and taking them to their favorite restaurant on date night, Valentine’s Day can become your loved one’s favorite holiday without you needing to spend a lot. Take the time to think about what your significant other loves, and shop for or make a gift you know they’ll love. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day and remember that it’s the thought that counts rather than how much you spend.

4 Friendly Banks

Are you looking for a new bank? With a seemingly endless number of banks looking to add you to their roster, it can feel overwhelming when deciding who to bank with. Some banks offer great benefits, like numerous locations, but charge high overdraft fees while others require large minimum deposits if you want to get the most benefits from your account. In short, choosing a bank is tough, and finding a quality bank that works for you is even tougher. Luckily, the online landscape has changed drastically over the years, with online-only banks causing brick-and-mortar locations to change their banking style to meet customer expectations. Keep reading to learn more about the five friendliest banks so you can bank with the right company sooner rather than later.

Bank of America

Let’s start with the negative: Bank of America is not in every state, interest rates on checking and savings accounts are minimal and $35 overdraft fees can be charged up to 4 times a day.

However, with a comprehensive and easy-to-use online banking system, Bank of America makes self-banking easier than ever before. You won’t need to worry about where your financial information is, nor will you wonder what all that complicated banking legalese actually means. With an A+ rating on the Better Business Bureau website, you know you’re getting a quality banking experience (in comparison, Wells Fargo currently holds an F rating). You also will have access to over 16,000 ATMs and 4,200 branch locations. When you sign up, you’ll receive a $100 sign up bonus as well, giving your bank account a much-needed boost. Finally, you can avoid overdraft fees in a couple of ways (besides not over-drafting your account).

First, their overdraft protection is $12 per transaction. While this can add up quickly, it’s still significantly less than the $140 you can expect to spend if they charge you four times in a day. Second, depending on which account you choose, you can avoid overdraft fees completely. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but it is significantly better than most brick-and-mortar banks.

Ally

Ally truly is your ally in banking, providing some of the most comprehensive and rewarding banking on our list. As an online bank, you’re not going to have access to brick-and-mortar locations; however, you will have access to over 40,000 ATMs across the country via the Allpoint network.

Their high-yield savings accounts make your money grow quickly, while their interest checking accounts give you a little extra every month as well. One of the best reasons to bank with Ally? Their 24/7 customer service. Customers love that they can talk to a real person at any time versus needing to wait for someone in the morning at other banking locations.

Another benefit to Ally is that anyone can open an account with no minimum deposit for the account, and deposits can be made via popular methods like direct deposit, mobile check deposit or through their ATM network if you have cash. The main drawback to Ally is that their checking accounts offer lower interest rates that some of their competitors.

Discover

Discover isn’t just for credit cards; they also offer one of the best checking accounts on our list, with customers earning 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in qualifying purchases every month. With Discover, you can cover all of your financial needs in one institution, ranging from borrowing to investing to banking. With over 60,000 ATMs via Allpoint and MoneyPass, you’ll be able to access your account anywhere you go in the U.S., Canada or Carribean; however, you cannot use your debit card anyplace else in the world (sorry frequent travelers). Another drawback for some people is the single brick-and-mortar location.

Axos

Axos is a highly rated online bank that’s quickly picking up steam amongst those looking for a flexible banking solution. You won’t be able to access a physical location; however, you will have access to roughly 91,000 ATMs in addition to out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement. The main thing that makes Axos stand out from other companies is that they offer the following five different checking accounts:

  • First Checking (13-17)
  • Golden Checking (55+)
  • CashBack Checking (Earn up to 1% cash back on qualifying purchases)
  • Rewards Checking (High APY at 1%)
  • Essential Checking (Get paid 2 days early)

Axos also offers savings accounts in addition to never charging a monthly maintenance fee. All these benefits are great; but Axos does have a rather lengthy list of requirements for certain accounts, including a minimum of $250 to open a high-yield savings account, with a Rewards Checking account requires at least $1,500 in direct deposits, a minimum of 10 debit card transactions per month and investment requirements to get the full 1%.

Finding a new bank can feel like a difficult task, but more and more people are finding they can receive a great banking experience if they explore their options. From staple brick-and-mortar banks like Bank of America to online companies like Axos and Ally, you can easily find the right bank for your needs in no time. Look at the pros and cons of the banks you’re considering to find the right account for your needs, and remember that banking should be friendly and easy rather than scary or hard!

Planning for Lower Tax Returns and Child Tax Credits

As part of the American Rescue Plan, the government started sending out some much-needed relief for those with children. However, unlike the stimulus checks, these monthly payments that lasted from July-December 2021 weren’t money people wouldn’t already receive. Instead, they were advanced tax return payments.

So, what exactly does this mean for you? A lower tax return. With the payments ending in January, many people are worried about not having that extra boost to their finances as well as how to budget for a tax return that’s possibly significantly less than what they’ve received in previous years. Read on to learn how to survive without the child tax credits and move forward with your lower tax return.

Reconfigure Your Budget

A lot of people found the child tax credit payments kept them out of debt, and it can be terrifying to think what can happen when you’re not receiving those payments anymore. The first thing to do is reconfigure your budget. Has your family been making more frivolous purchases since receiving the payments? Are you a little looser with your money in general, such as buying name brands instead of generic? Take the time to see where you can trim the fat on your budget to save some extra money. Many people find they can save money in little ways throughout the day that quickly adds up.

Look at Social Programs

We understand that many people needed these payments to survive, and removing them is causing a severe dent in their finances and adding unparalleled stress to their lives. Luckily, those in need can qualify for an assortment of social welfare programs to give them a hand up. From local food banks to EBT, you and your children won’t need to go hungry until you receive your tax refund. Help doesn’t end at food either. Depending on your state, you may be able to receive reductions or assistance on your utility bills, help on rent or welfare payments. Now is the time to take full advantage of these programs and receive aid.

Increase Work Hours

Have you reduced your work hours to spend more time with your kids? Now is the time to look to returning to your previous work schedule. If you worry about daycare costs, consider trading off babysitting on days off with co-workers so you can both work more than you have over the past few months. If your job simply isn’t cutting it anymore, or if you can’t increase your work hours, look at applying to other jobs that will pay you the salary you deserve.

Prepare for a Smaller Refund or Paying It Back

As tax refunds are filed, many Americans will find they will receive a smaller refund or even need to pay back their payments. This can be devastating for families that rely upon a certain refund amount each year. Take a deep breath and look to file your taxes early so you know exactly how much you’ll receive as well as whether or not you’ll need to pay anything back. By preparing your finances, you’ll be able to budget smarter and know exactly what to expect.

Pay Off Debts

Your refund amount will depend on a variety of factors, but now is the perfect time to work towards paying off debts. Lower those credit card balances and catch up on past-due bills so they aren’t hanging over your head in 2022. Oftentimes, we’re able to catch up more than we may think. By lowering your debts, you’ll have more money going forward being you won’t be spending your hard-earned cash on interest or late payment fees.

Place Funds in a Savings Account

When you receive your tax refund, place it in an interest-bearing savings account, even if you think you’ll spend it quickly. This will allow your money to grow, even if it’s just a few extra dollars a month. Try to keep your money in your account as long as possible to earn as much interest as you can on your refund.

Invest (If You Can)

Don’t worry; we’re not telling you to go buy a ton of Tesla stock. However, investing your money can reap financial benefits for you and your family for years to come. With an assortment of investment apps now available, you’ll find you’re able to invest quickly and easily in companies ranging from tech conglomerates to small startups. Remember though that the stock market is not guaranteed to make you a return on your investment, so take the time to research which companies financial experts recommend and save some of your refund in a savings account for emergencies.

Hold Off on Shopping

Many people will go shopping the moment they get their refund, and retailers count on this. During the spring, most companies won’t have their best prices, counting on people to make impulse purchases with the excuse that they have their tax refund to help them out. Instead of spending your money on big purchases right now (like televisions, appliances, etc.), look to make bigger purchases in the summer months, when companies will be more likely to give you a better deal.

Space Out Your Refund

You’re receiving a tax refund? Great news! Now comes the time to save and space out your purchases. If you can, look to create your own child tax credit payment system by allocating yourself the same amount of money (or lower, if doable) so you can have a steady stream of income over the coming months. If you must make a big purchase or pay off a large debt, look to save your remaining money for as long as possible.

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Planning for a lower tax return and reduction in child tax credits can feel like an uphill battle; however, with proper planning, you can soften the financial blow. By looking for ways to prolong your money, like reconfiguring your budget, putting funds in a savings account, paying off debts, spacing out your refund money to last you for several months or taking out a small dollar installment loan, you can build a healthier financial system for you and your family.

Best Places to Travel in the Winter on a Budget

The new year is upon us, and many people wrote “Travel More” as part of their New Year’s resolutions. Luckily, the new year brings new savings for those looking to travel on a budget during the winter months. Winter traveling offers a host of benefits for those looking to take a vacation on a budget, ranging from cheaper airfare to great hotel deals due to many destinations considering the winter months their off season. However, savvy travelers can still score great deals for nearly any locale they wish to visit. Read on to learn more about the places to travel to this winter that won’t break the bank.

Hawaii

Hawaii offers several destinations, with O’ahu, Maui and Hawai’i (the Big Island) leading the pack, and all have their own unique vibes. Most people will travel to Honolulu, O’ahu this winter, the state’s capital, to visit mainstays like Waikiki and the Polynesian Cultural Center. While Honolulu definitely offers a lot of different activities for travelers, those who want a different atmosphere that’s not saturated with tourists may want to visit a different island. Hawai’i gives a more laidback atmosphere, allowing plenty of time to explore the island’s natural wonders (including volcanoes!). Maui offers a more luxurious vacation experience, with an assortment of large resorts and boutique hotels dotting the island. Those looking to save a little bit will likely want to visit Oahu or Hawai’i, with both offering affordable hotel and airfare rates.

Puerto Rico

An island paradise without a passport? You’ll find it in Puerto Rico. With a plethora of beaches, ranging from Las Salinas’ pink sand to the glow-in-the-dark Mosquito Bay, restaurants and historical San Juan, Puerto Rico has a little something for everyone. Roundtrip air travel can be as low as $150/person to San Juan, making this a much more affordable tropical destination than other places on our list. Because Puerto Rico uses the U.S. dollar, travelers don’t need to worry about currency exchange rates and plush, luxurious resorts cost much less than you probably expect.

Spain

Europe on a budget? It’s easier than you may think if you want to visit Spain. Barcelona, Madrid, Costa del Sol, and Seville offer unique experiences travelers will love. Temperatures during the winter months hover between the 40s-60s in most areas, making it a cool but comfortable destination for nearly anyone. Flights can easily be obtained for under $1,000/person while hotel rooms and food are some of the lowest on the continent. With an assortment of museums, restaurants, festivals and local charm anywhere you visit, Spain will quickly become both you and your family’s favorite winter season travel destination.

Lucerne

Not everyone wants to visit the tropics during their winter getaway, and that’s what makes Lucerne the perfect destination for those who want a cooler holiday. This Swiss town will get anyone in the holiday spirit, offering plenty of cheer thanks to numerous ski resorts and markets as well as plenty of spots for snow-centric activities like snowshoeing and sledding. The variety of hotels in the area means lower prices for those wanting to visit, with many offering rooms for a little over $100/night. Save even more by booking red-eye flights which will also give you the benefit of cutting down on your jet lag.

Quebec City

Don’t want to travel all the way to Switzerland? Quebec City lets you get your snow-covered vacation right here in North America. With chilly temperatures and plenty of the white stuff, Quebec City will quickly become one of your favorite travel destinations. Historical Old Quebec features plenty of shopping and restaurants decked out in holiday décor to put you in the festive spirit while those wanting a more activity-based vacation can go ice skating at Place D’Youville or skiing at Station Touristique Stoneham. While Quebec City is famous for its Christmas décor, the city hosts an assortment of attractions during the winter months, including the Carnaval de Quebec in February. Save some money on your visit by driving or booking a mid-week flight to get the best deal.

Lake Tahoe

Once a hotspot for gangsters and celebrities, Lake Tahoe still has plenty to offer anyone looking for a relaxing winter vacation. With plenty of snow for skiers and snowboarders but moderate mid-day temperatures hovering in the 40s, this picturesque town on the California-Nevada will take your breath away. The casinos offer those who don’t want to go out in the snow plenty of gambling options while the numerous lodges in the area are perfect for cozying up next to a roaring fire. While winter months are the busiest in the area, budget travelers can find plenty of deals for 3- and 4-star hotels at under $200/night, especially if they don’t mind staying on the Nevada side (called Stateline).

Boracay Island, Philippines

Still a hidden gem for those looking for a tropical getaway, the Boracay Islands offer plenty of amenities and scenic views. The affordable prices allow travelers to take their vacation to the next level, getting an experience that would cost tens of thousands for pennies on the dollar. Smaller crowds from January to February means you won’t need to worry about fighting crowds while you snorkel, scuba dive or sunbathe on the beach. Mid-range hotels can be found for about $70/night; however, your food, drinks and activities are (usually) much lower in price than other locales on our list.

Taking a vacation during the winter months doesn’t need to break the bank. Whether you’re looking for a tropical location like Boracay Island or O’ahu or want something a little cooler like Quebec City or Lucerne, you can plan a luxurious vacation on a budget this winter. The main thing to remember when looking for the best deals is to have some flexibility on your dates, so don’t be afraid to shop around. Finally, planning your vacation in advance allows you to create a budget you can stick to. Where are you going this winter? What’s your favorite winter destination? Let us know below!

Winter Recipes

Cold winter nights make everyone want to feel cozy with full tummies. Far too often, our favorite winter recipes are time-consuming, and it can feel impossible to muster up the energy to make our go-to comfort foods. Luckily, we’re here to help! Keep reading to find your new staples for winter—without the hours spent laboring over the stove or oven.

Super Easy Meatloaf

This meatloaf will make everyone want the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Onion, Chopped
  • 1 c. Milk
  • 1 c. Crackers, Smashed
  • 2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/3 c. Ketchup
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Combine beef, egg, onion, milk, cracker crumbs, salt and pepper into a bowl. Mix until just combined. Place in loaf pan.
  3. Combine brown sugar, mustard and ketchup in a small bowl. Mix well and pour over meatloaf.
  4. Bake for one hour. Let rest for 20 minutes once done.

Weeknight Meatball Soup

No one will know you made this soup in 30 minutes!

Ingredients

  • 3 c. Water
  • 2 (14 oz) Cans Diced Tomatoes
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 Onion, Finely Chopped
  • 2 (14 oz) Cans Beef Broth
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 1 lb. Frozen Mini-Meatballs (Italian-Style Preferred)
  • 1 lb. Frozen Italian-Blend Vegetables
  • 1 c. Elbow Pasta
  • ½ c. Parmesan Cheese, Grated

Directions

  1. Lightly saute onions and garlic in a large pot until onions are transparent.
  2. Stir in water, tomatoes, beef broth and Italian seasoning; bring to a boil.
  3. Add meatballs, vegetables and pasta; return to boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for ten minutes or until pasts is tender.
  5. Garnish each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Soup

Leftover pumpkin? Think outside pies and try this soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 Can Pumpkin Puree (15 oz.)
  • 2 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • ½ tsp. Ground Cumin
  • ½ tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 c. Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 4 tbsp. Heavy Cream
  • Toasted Pumpkin Seeds for Garnish

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven. Add onion and garlic, sauteing about 4 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Add pumpkin, thyme, salt, cumin, black pepper, ginger, and cayenne pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until steaming and fragrant.
  3. Add chicken or vegetable broth, cooking for 3-4 minutes, continuously stirring.
  4. Remove soup from heat, add cream.
  5. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and serve.

Irish Coddle

This traditional Irish dish is perfect for cold winter nights.

Ingredients

  • ½ lb. Thick Cut Bacon
  • 1 lb. Sausage (use a high-quality sausage, preferably bangers)
  • 2 Large Onions
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 lbs. Potatoes (Yukon Gold or Red)
  • 1 (32 oz) Carton Chicken Stock
  • 1 Bunch Parsley, Chopped
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
  2. In a dutch oven, cook bacon until crispy and golden brown. Remove and place on paper towel.
  3. Brown sausage on all sides. Remove.
  4. Saute onions until carmelized. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Remove.
  5. Remove pot. Add half of the potatoes to bottom of pot. Season with salt, pepper and ¼ parsley.
  6. Add half of onion/garlic mixture and bacon.
  7. Repeat layers.
  8. Place whole sausages on top.
  9. Add chicken broth. Place pot back on stove and bring to a boil.
  10. Cover pot; place in oven and cook for 2-4 hours. Check every hour to ensure an inch of liquid is at the bottom of the pot while cooking. Add more liquid if necessary.
  11. Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper to taste; add remaining parsley for garnish.

Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Don’t worry about slaving over the perfect pie crust for this one! Instead, the flaky crescent roll dough creates a melt-in-your-mouth crust everyone will love.

Ingredients

  • ½ c. Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Chicken Bouillon Cube
  • 1 tsp. Pepper
  • ¾ c. Milk
  • 10 oz. Mixed Vegetables, Thawed
  • 1 ½ c. Cooked Chicken (Cubed or Shredded)
  • 8 oz. Crescent Roll Dough

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease 8×8 baking dish.
  2. In a large saucepan, whisk mayo, flour, bouillon and pepper together until smooth. Slowly pour in milk. Bring mixture to a boil. Cook and stir until thickened.
  3. Add vegetables and chicken to mixture; cook and stir until heated. Transfer to baking dish.
  4. Unroll crescent dough; separate triangles; arrange dough over chicken mixture.
  5. Bake until topping is golden brown (15-20 minutes).

Easy, Peasy Shepherd’s Pie

You’ll fall in love with this pie made with instant mashed potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Yellow Onion, Chopped
  • 1 lb. Ground Beef or Lamb
  • 2 tsp. Dried Parsley
  • 1 tsp. Dried Rosemary
  • 1 tsp. Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 2 tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tbsp. Tomato Paste
  • 1 c. Beef Broth
  • 1 c. Frozen Peas and Carrots
  • ½ c. Frozen Corn Kernels
  • 5 c. Mashed Potatoes (made from instant boxed potatoes)
  • ½ c. Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Add oil to a skillet and heat on high for 2 minutes. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes.
  3. Add ground meat to skillet, breaking apart with spoon; add parsley, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cook meat until browned.
  4. Add Worcestershire and garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add flour and tomato paste. Stir until fully incorporated.
  6. Add broth and frozen vegetables. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Place meat mixture into 9×9 inch baking dish, spreading evenly.
  8. Add parmesan cheese to mashed potatoes.
  9. Placed mashed potatoes on top of meat mixture, spreading evenly.
  10. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes.
  11. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

These quick and easy recipes are sure to keep you feeling warm and fuzzy all winter long. Which one is your favorite? What’s your winter recipe staple? Let us know below!

The Most Common and Do-Able New Year’s Resolutions

As you write out your New Year’s resolutions, you know you’re going to complete every single item on this year’s list. Unfortunately, most people tend to write the same things every single year, hoping that this year will be the one. Luckily, we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn how to complete people’s most common New Year’s resolutions and make 2022 your year.

What Do You Want to Do This Year?

Before we begin, let’s take a look at the ten most common New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Lose Weight/Get Fit/Diet
  2. Quit Smoking/Drinking
  3. Eliminate Debt
  4. Get Organized
  5. Learn a New Language/Skill/Hobby
  6. Spend Time with Family
  7. Travel
  8. Read More
  9. Reduce Stress
  10. Volunteer

Most likely, you’re looking to accomplish at least one thing on this list. Take the time to narrow what you want to do into a couple of goals. For example, a lot of people will create ungodly long lists in the hopes of living up to the “New Year, New Me” motto. When they do this, they’re setting themselves up for failure, creating a list of goals they’ll quickly feel overwhelmed by. By selecting 2-3, you’re more likely to accomplish what you want and won’t feel like you’ve “failed” within a few weeks.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

If you work in the business world, you’ve probably heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and occur within a specific timeframe. So, what does this look like in action? Let’s say your goal is to “lose weight.” This is vague and can mean 100 different things to 100 different people. When we set a S.M.A.R.T. weight loss goal, it becomes something like, “I want to lose 50 pounds over the next year by working out three times a week, making healthier eating decisions and aiming to lose 5 pounds a month.”

Make Sure Goals Motivate

Another problem we frequently see with New Year’s resolutions are goals that really don’t motivate. Non-motivational goals fall into two camps: too hard and too easy. If your goal is to travel more, you’re probably not going to hit all seven continents in seven weeks (if you can, seriously, please take us with you). On the flip side, you’re likely not going to find a lot of satisfaction traveling to the same vacation spot you’ve had for seven years. Look for something in-between. So, if your goal is to travel to a foreign country, look to include a couple of different cities/states/countries while you’re there. For example, if you want to go to Spain, why not include a few days in Portugal or France as well? By including a few bonus stops that won’t break the bank, you’ve created a more motivating goal.

Write Your Goals Down

Break Down Goals

Your New Year’s resolutions are likely pretty big goals, and this can quickly overwhelm just about anyone. Instead of putting something monumental and getting lost in the process of completing it, break your goal down into measurable steps. How does this work in action? Let’s say you want to quit smoking, and right now you smoke a pack a day. In the first month, aim to get your smoking down to about 10-15 cigarettes a day by the end of the month. You’re already halfway there! The following month, look to cut your smoking down by a third to a half again. By the end of the year, you’ll have quit smoking entirely, and you’ll have been able to do it by slowly weaning yourself off through small stepping stone goals.

Write Goals Down

Writing down your goals may seem passe, but there are plenty of reasons to bring out the pen and paper, including:

  • You’re more likely to remember things you write versus typing them out.
  • Your goals will be clearer and more concise.
  • You can easily post them anywhere. A lot of people find putting their goals someplace they see every day, whether on their bathroom mirror or on the fridge, keeps them on track and make better decisions every day.
  • If you regularly review them, they can become a great motivating tool to see how far you’ve come on your journey.

While it’s perfectly fine to put your goals on your phone, most people find writing them down gives them regular motivation; however, typing them out and making them your lock screen or wallpaper is also perfectly fine as well.

Tell Your Friends Your Resolutions

Your friends likely have a lot of the same goals as you, so now is the perfect time to connect with them. When you tell others your goals, you’re more likely to complete them due to the instant accountability telling someone about the goal establishes. If you find someone who has the same goal, look to partner up with them. For example, if you want to read more, the two (or more) of you can start a book club, meeting once a month to discuss your latest book.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

 Look, making a major life change is difficult, and you will slip up. Whether it’s a piece of cake on your diet or splurging on something for yourself, you’re going to have hiccups as you work to meet your goal. If an oopsie happens, make sure you:

  • Take a breath. There’s nothing stopping you from working towards your goal for the rest of the day.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. Far too often, people put themselves through a guilt trip that actually dissuades them from pursuing their goal.
  • Reevaluate your goals. Sometimes we set ourselves for failure by making huge goals no one can complete. Look to see if your goals are achievable and make adjustments as needed.

Setting New Year’s resolutions can be fun, and reaching your goals will feel rewarding once you’re done. Take the time to create S.M.A.R.T. resolutions, regularly reevaluate as necessary, enlist a friend and don’t beat yourself up when you have a setback. By following the above tips, you’ll reach your goals in no time.

Tips on How to Save Money in 2022

The new year will soon be upon us, and that means there are plenty of opportunities to save money. Saving can feel like a monumental task, with bills and life seemingly hitting us at all times; however, saving is possible for anyone—you just need to look for ways to cut costs where possible (we promise, this isn’t another avocado toast and millennials article).  Read on to learn our top money-saving tips for 2022 and watch your bank account grow nice and full this year.

Shop with Apps

From ibotta to influenster, there are plenty of apps with the sole purpose of saving you money or giving you free product. Some of these apps, like influenster, will send you products in exchange for reviews. Others, like ibotta, will reimburse you for your purchases at certain stores. The main thing to remember here is that you’ll need to be flexible around brands to get the best deals.

Create Meals Around Deals

So, this is going to take some planning on your part; however, by planning around what you can coupon, you can save hundreds of dollars on your food bills. Look at what deals you can get through your local grocer on Sunday and plan your meals for the week. Bonus points if you food prep to save on lunches at work or school.

Make a Budget

You’ll need to rip off the band-aid for this one to see where you can cut corners and save. Are you utilizing every streaming service you pay for? Get rid of the ones you’re only viewing every once in a while. If you’re paying a lot for insurance or cell phone bills, don’t be afraid to negotiate to lower your bill or get on a better plan.

Start Saving

Life happens, and expenses for emergencies can rack up quickly. The best way to avoid these expenses wiping out your bank account is to have a savings account. Putting in 5-10% of your income into a savings account every month adds up quickly, giving you money for something unexpected or a trip you’ve always wanted to take.

Switch to Generic

Elle Woods wouldn’t love this one, but you will when you see how much you’re saving. By switching to store brands for things like garbage bags and medication, you’ll save hundreds of dollars throughout 2022. Remember, most of these generic products are actually made by a lot of the big brands, meaning you’re getting the exact same product for less.

Change Your Appliances

Okay, this one will cost you initially, but it saves money in the long run. If your appliances or fixtures are a decade old, look to replace them with newer models. From energy-efficient lightbulbs to appliances, your new items will pay for themselves in a short amount of time.

Fix Your Plumbing

Leaking toilets and faucets can add up quickly, causing your bills to skyrocket. For example, a leaky faucet adds $20 to your water bill every month. If you have three leaking faucets, that’s $60 you’re spending every single month! Call a plumber or (to save more) look up YouTube videos to get your leaky plumbing fixed.

Cut the Cable

Cable TV is quickly becoming obsolete, so why keep paying for it? Cut the cord for good and start utilizing streaming services for your entertainment needs. Want local channels? Most areas will give you basic channels for free with a receiver.

Lower Student Loans

Student loans add up quickly, and repayment can feel like an uphill battle. Look to see if your bills qualify for income-driven repayment plans. These plans will help you repay your loans at a rate you can actually afford being they’re based on your income.

Set the Thermostat

The old adage of 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter is great, but those temps won’t be comfortable for everyone. Set your thermostat to a higher temperature than you might normally but still allows you to live in comfort.

Sell Your Stuff

Are you really going to revisit those old college textbooks? Do you have clothes in the closet you’ve never worn or only wore a couple times? All of these items are basically money sitting in your home, taking up space. Take the time to list these items on sites like eBay to get some quick cash.

Get a Side Hustle

From freelance writing to crafting, you probably have a skill or hobby you can expand upon. Get a side hustle to get a few extra dollars every month.

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

Did you know vinegar works wonders around the house? Take the time to look around online for some homemade cleaning product instructions and say goodbye to purchasing cleaning products in-store.

Turn Off Electronics

Your television, gaming console and computer all use power, even when they’re not being used. Instead of letting your tech devices increase your power bills, unplug these items when not in use.

Carpool

This isn’t going to work for everyone, but if you have a co-worker who lives near you, look to see about carpooling with one another. You’ll both save money by only taking your cars roughly half of the time.

Have a No-Spend Time

Whether you decide not to spend for a week, month or even year (it does happen!), no-spend times allow you to really cut the fat out of your life and see where you’re spending needlessly.

Shop Clearance Sales

Clearance racks are great because you’re getting quality products you love for steep discounts. The next time you go shopping, head straight for the clearance section to see if that perfect item is just waiting for you to buy it.

Pay Your Bills on Time

Late and overdraft fees add up quickly, so take the time to pay your bills on time every single month. While this isn’t the most fun item on your list, paying your bills on time will save you hundreds in 2022.

Saving money in 2022 is the perfect New Years resolution. By utilizing the above tips, you can expect your bank account to grow all year long. Which tip are you going to use this year? What’s your ultimate money-saving tip? Sound off below and let us know!

25 Activities To Do In The Winter

As the weather gets chillier and festive holiday cheer abounds, indoor and outdoor winter activities are guaranteed to keep you entertained this season. Whether you love unwinding by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa or prefer a more sporty activity like ice skating, the winter season has something for everyone. Here’s 25 ideas to make this winter you best one yet.

  1. Make hot chocolate bombs. These tasty hot chocolate powder and marshmallow-filled treats require a special mold (here’s a link to purchase) and some assembly is required for the chocolate globes. We love this recipe.

2. Take a drive to see the holiday lights at night. Check your local media outlets for neighborhoods with special holiday decor and light displays for the public to enjoy.

3. Ice skating. Strap on a pair of skates and take a spin at your local ice rink! This is also a great way to stay physically active in cold weather.

4. Bake a panettone. This Italian sweet bread with candied fruits is a winter holiday favorite that takes a bit of time (the dough needs to rise overnight) but is well worth the wait and effort. Recipe here.

5. Create a scrapbook of winter memories. Rather than leaving all of your memories on your phone, print out your pictures this year and chronicle your wintertime adventures like experiencing the season’s first snowfall or the winter solstice.

6. See The Nutcracker. Whether it’s watching the movie on a projector while cozy at home or seeing the ballet in person, this family-friendly classic is full of magic and winter adventure.

8. Camp out in your living room. Assemble a pillow fort or break out your sleeping bags, light the fireplace or put a Yule Log video on Youtube, and bring out the snacks for an impromptu indoor camping night in.

9. Try a winter photo shoot. Gather friends or family for an informal winter-themed photo shoot using DIY backdrops, such as garlands, or a snowy outdoor scene.

10. Visit a local museum you haven’t been to yet. From modern art to natural history, there’s probably a museum or two you haven’t visited yet. Winter is the perfect time for this indoor cultural activity.

11. Create a winter-themed music playlist. Get into the spirit of the season by compiling a list of your favorite wintertime songs on Spotify to play and share with your loved ones. You’ll be surprised how many songs have a winter vibe.

12. Make a dream or vision board. Have big goals for the upcoming New Year? Find inspiration from images online and in magazines to make a visual representation of your dreams and goals for the future. This can be made digitally on gomoodboard.com or by using a poster board, magazine clippings, and a glue stick.

13. Make fake snow. Missing real snowflakes? This simple two-ingredient recipe means you can have snow even if you’re in a warmer climate. 

14. Go on a winter scavenger hunt. Write down 10 things to search for around town or near your home – everything from spotting a pine cone or a Santa hat works – and the first person who checks everything off the list wins.

15. Take a day trip. If weather permits, go on a long drive to explore back roads, semi-local attractions, and finally visit those spots you’ve always vowed you’d stop at one day.

16. Make waterless snow globes. This craft is relatively easy to do if you’re handy with a glue gun. Go here for directions.

18. Visit winter markets and bazaars. Need last-minute gifts or decorations? Check out the goods and support local artisans and makers at festive markets and bazaars in your area.

19. Have a winter-themed movie night. From Frozen to Eight Below, films with wintry settings full of snow and frigid weather are a delight to watch while curled up in blankets on the couch with hot chocolate.

20. Make pomander balls. If you love the scent of winter citrus and fragrant spices, try your hand at making pomander balls. Simply stick whole cloves in firm oranges in the pattern of your choice. For additional scent, you can roll oranges in a mixture of spices, including cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. If you’d like to hang your pomander, run a long, thin wire through the middle of the orange and make a loop at the top.

21. Make a snow angel. Enjoy a snowy day by laying down on the snow and spreading your arms and legs to create one.

22. Make a winter-scented potpourri. Fill your home with the scent of wintertime by combining spices and fruit like nutmeg, apples, and cranberries on your stovetop. We love this recipe.

22. Refresh your space. Get a head start on spring cleaning with a winter refresh – go through your closets and decide what items to keep, donate, or toss. Be honest about what you’ve actually worn this year, what fits, and what you no longer love or want to wear. You’ll make room for the new and any holiday presents you may receive.

23. Start a book club. Winter is the ideal time to curl up with a good book and catch up with dear friends – combine the two by starting a book club. Select a book that’s set in wintertime and set aside a time to meet virtually or in person to discuss the book’s plot and overall themes.

24. Play a board game or complete a puzzle. Snowed in? Grab a board game like Monopoly or Candyland to keep your mind occupied. Have a lot of time to keep your kids busy during winter break? A 1000 piece puzzle will do the trick.

25. Organize a clothing swap. Invite friends and family over one evening to share and swap gently used clothing, outerwear, and accessories. Any leftover items can be donated for people in need in the true spirit of the season.

– We hope these activities keep you entertained (and warm!) all winter long-

Fun and Exciting Winter Treats

Winter is the perfect time to get cozy in your bed and devour scrumptious desserts and treats.

From delicious apple pies to mouth-watering cinnamon rolls, what are some other winter treats to enjoy with a good mug of coffee? You can read here to learn how to make some of the best winter treats.

Cinnamon Rolls

Nothing feels better than latching your hand around freshly brewed coffee and gulping it down with sweet cinnamon rolls. This irresistible sweet treat is made from warm dough, cinnamon, and cream cheese.

You can easily make cinnamon rolls at home by using our simple recipe. Plus, you only need a few of the following ingredients.

Ingredients

DOUGH

  • 2 cups whole milk (warm)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (600g)
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

FILLING

  • 12 tablespoon softened unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon (ground)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar (160g)

FROSTING

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 4 oz cream cheese (120 g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Recipe

  1. To prepare the dough, warm the milk and mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. This should prepare a warm mixture. The temperature should register around 37-43˚C. If it is warmer than this, allow it to cool down.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture. Stir it and keep it in a warm place for ten minutes until the yeast blooms.
  3. Add four cups of flour to your milk mixture. Stir well until all it combines well.
  4. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about one hour. The dough should rise nearly double in size.
  5. To prepare the filling, mix brown sugar, ground, cinnamon, and butter. Mix well and set aside.
  6. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough to add the remaining flour. Add baking powder and salt. Mix well to set aside.
  7. Place the dough on a neat surface to knead it for ten minutes. Add flour if needed. When the dough loses its stickiness, roll it into a large rectangle with 1 cm thickness.
  8. Spread the filling evenly over the dough. Roll the dough into a log.
  9. Pinch the seam to close it. Trim the ends to make it even.
  10. Use a thread to cut the log into pieces. You can cut it about 7-8 cm thick.
  11. Butter a baking tray. Place the cinnamon rolls in the glazed tray.
  12. Cover the tray with a towel for 45 minutes to let it rise.
  13. Preheat your oven to 180˚C
  14. Bake the rolls for about 30 minutes until they become golden brown.
  15. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream cheese, milk, vanilla extract with melted butter, gradually add baking sugar to form a homogenous mixture.
  16. When the cinnamon rolls are baked, drizzle the frosting over them.

Enjoy it with hot coffee.

Eggnog Doughnuts

The eggnog glazed doughnuts are ideal for winters. You can serve them as a dessert with coffee or tea.

This easy-to-make winter treat requires eggnog, nutmeg, and vanilla extract.

Ingredients

DOUGH

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (ground)
  • ⅔ cup eggnog
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

GLAZE

  • 2 tablespoons eggnog
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

RECIPE

  1. Combine the flour, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, salt, and baking powder. Whisk the mixture to blend well.
  2. In another bowl, whisk ⅔ cup eggnog with egg, granulated sugar, and vegetable oil. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and stir well.
  3. Grease a doughnut pan with cooking spray or melted butter.
  4. Take a doughnut pan and spoon the batter into it, filling about two-thirds full. You can also use a plastic storage bag to pipe out the batter into the doughnut pan.
  5. Preheat the oven to 190˚C
  6. Bake the doughnuts for ten minutes.
  7. Insert a toothpick into the doughnut to check if it is well-baked. The toothpick should come out clean.
  8. Let the doughnuts cool for ten minutes.
  9. Add powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons eggnog, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Mix well.
  10. Dunk the top of the doughnuts into the glaze and enjoy!

Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is a quick-to-make winter treat. An apple cinnamon pie is something that sticks with us every winter.

But sometimes, we don’t have the time to prepare a whole pie. Well, here is a quick recipe to help you enjoy the perfect combination of apples and cinnamon!

Ingredients

  • 2-3 whole apples
  • 60 grams sugar
  • Cinnamon powder
  • Lemon juice

TOPPING

  • 3-4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • Flour 2 tablespoons
  • Oats for topping
  • Brown sugar to sprinkle

Recipe

  1. To prepare the warm and fruity apple crisp, slice up the apples. Keep them in a small bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon to the sliced apples.
  2. Heat the oven to 190˚C.
  3. Grease a baking pan with butter or cooking spray.
  4. Spread the apple mixture into the pan.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Whisk flour, brown sugar, and unsalted butter. Top it over the cooked apple crisp. Add oats and bake for five minutes.

You can leave out the oats, but they add a good texture to the apple crisp. This delicious and quick apple crisp gets ready in no time!

We hope that you like our winter treat ideas that are sure to cheer you up on a dull winter day.