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lap and notebooks for automating finances

How to Automate Your Finances

This week Julie Lause is sharing how automating her finances helped her through some tough financial times. In her guest post below, she’ll tell you exactly how you can automate your finances to reach your financial goals.

If you’ve got big financial goals but can’t seem to make traction, automating your finances might just be the best way to achieve financial freedom.

Like most people, I’ve seen my share of dark times financially. In the middle of one of those dark times, I created this automation system for managing my finances that was the key to getting myself out of a financial hole.

Automating Finances to Solve a Financial Crisis

In 2004, I bought my first home. It was a huge achievement– as a teacher I didn’t make too much money to begin with and I used all my savings for the down payment. I spent a year renovating the house with 0% interest credit cards. Then, one year later those same cards turned into 13% interest cards.

I had to refinance the home to weave in the credit card debt.

It wasn’t a bad plan: I had a lot of equity in the home, the renovation had gone well, and I would get a lower interest rate on the refinance.

How to automate your finances

And then Hurricane Katrina struck. My refinance was off.

So there I was: relocated in Houston with rent to pay, a mortgage payment to make back home, and now $40,000 of high interest credit card debt. No savings (I spent it all to buy the house), making less than $35,000 a year as a public school teacher, and no wiggle room.

I couldn’t afford even the minimum payments on all the credit cards that were now due. I defaulted on my mortgage. It was pretty hopeless.

I made a deal with my mortgage to delay payments three months to get on my feet.

And in that time I created a plan that would put me on a path to financial freedom. I knew it would take a while, but I was able to use this plan to get out of debt, get to a more stable financial place, refinance again when things changed a year later, and meet all my financial obligations knowing how much I could spend.

Basics of Automation: a Down-to-Zero budget

Whether you make $30,000 a year and have no wiggle room, or you have a lot to spare, this automation system works to help you meet your financial goals without taking a penny-pinching approach.

The idea behind a zero-sum budget (or what I call a Down-to-Zero budget) is that you create a budget based on your income and your goals.

After handling bill pay, savings, debt repayment, and planning for irregular expenses and emergencies, the remaining money is your spending money for the month.

This way, you know you are meeting your financial obligations first  BEFORE you spend all your money on fun stuff.

You’re making it inevitable you meet your goals.

And then you make it EVEN MORE INEVITABLE  you automate the whole plan online.

What if, on top of making a a plan and meeting your goals you never had to think about it again? That’s where automation comes in.

Rationale for Automating your Finances

The idea behind automating your budget is that, once you make your financial decisions, they don’t need to be made repeatedly. You can set them and forget them if you make the right plan.

This plan is based on three key principles:

1. Start with Rational Decisions, Not Impulses

Let’s face it, we make our best decisions about money when we’re not standing in front of the $1 section at Target. Do your work first.

Sit down with your finances, get honest, and make a plan that will work for your goals.

Related: The Easiest Way to Make a Monthly Budget

Determine how much you need to spend to pay your bills and live on, and then make a rational plan to contribute to savings, debt repayment, emergencies, and annual expenses.

2. Spend What You Have – Not More

So don’t let yourself see what you have.

That feeling of flushness when we get paid, the feeling that we can afford those tickets or those pants or that trip: we have to stop letting ourselves feel that.

The money in our bank account at the beginning of the month is not extra money to buy extra stuff. It’s spoken for money. That money has plans, and those plans were made by you already. You are not in charge of those plans every month.

Instead, leave yourself as much cash as you need to live on each month (plus some room for fun stuff like lattes and the zoo and a pair of pants).

It’s difficult to spend less money than we already do, and it’s also pretty clear from the research that, the more money we make, the more we spend. Think about the last raise you got: is that making you feel MORE rich or does it feel the same? If it feels the same it’s because you are spending MORE than you used to but you can’t really tell.

We’re not talking about starving yourself or living from a deficit mindset, but don’t let the decisions about what needs to happen with your money be at the mercy of your impulse spending. Make those decisions before it’s time to spend.

3. We Don’t Prepare for Emergencies

Emergencies happen. Whether it’s a busted tire or Beyonce tickets going on sale, you will want to make a plan that accounts for the emergencies that come up.

That means putting aside a little each month into an account for emergencies.

Related: Easiest Tips To Start an Emergency Fund Now

We also need to think about planning for those bills and expenses that don’t come up monthly but still happen regularly. This includes tuition, taxes, summer camp, and vacations. These expenses come up and we are STUNNED, just stunned that here it is, June again, and we have to pay for summer camp.

The consequences of not planning ahead for these expenses is we either derail our savings and debt repayment that month to afford the $1000 tuition bill, or we put it on the credit card.

This begins a cycle of debt that can be difficult to break.

The truth is, if we can make a plan we can still meet our financial goals despite these emergencies or irregular expenses.

How to Automate Your Finances

Take these steps to create a plan that makes paying down debt, saving for retirement or college, and affording your life inevitable.

Create Financial Clarity

The first thing you need to do before you automate is get really clear about your financial situation, what your goals are, and how much you can live on.

  1. Use my free financial planning templates to set goals and figure out how much you will set aside each month for bill pay, savings, debt repayment, emergencies, and annual expenses.
  2. Decide exactly how much spending money you need to live on each month using your debit card or cash. This is gas money, the yard guy, yoga class, and trips to the aquarium.
  3. Get strategic about making a schedule so that you have a plan to never miss a payment, even if you’re paid twice a month or weekly.  

Set Up Your Bank Automation

Next,  set up your bank accounts so you never see your whole paycheck again.

When the money comes in to your account, you route it to at least four accounts: your spending account, bill pay account, annual savings account, and your savings account. You could also decide to create an emergency account separate from savings.

Creating these accounts is simple— you can do it online with your bank in about ten minutes.

I suggest having your direct deposit sent to the account you call SPENDING and then move money to bill pay, savings, and annual savings from there. This is super easy if you use recurring account transfers.

You will need to do some work to determine the timing of each payment and ensure that your paychecks coincide with the amounts you need in each account. My financial planning templates can support you— one sheet deals directly with timing issues.

Once you have your accounts set up and your account transfers automated, set up your bill pay so every monthly bill you have comes out of the same bill pay account and is automatically paid at the time you choose.


Instead of struggling each month, you will instead watch the money move from account to account, paying your bills magically, and building up your savings without lifting a finger.

If you’re committed to meeting your financial goals with the money, you have (not the money you’ll have someday), this plan helps you go from financial crisis to solid plan. AND you can make it inevitable if you automate the whole darn thing!


Julie Lause HeadshotJulie Lause blogs at The Bossy House

Julie Lause is a school principal by day and a blogger by night. Over at The Bossy House she writes for women taking charge of it all, from work to parenting to the house to the world! Check out her FREE financial planning templates that will set you on the path to financial freedom. Clean up your finances in just 2 hours!

Debt Free

Debt Free on A Low Income Success Story!

This is the second interview in the Debt Free Interview Series.

I put this series together to show you that becoming debt free is possible and that there are lots of different people that took lots of different paths but all ended up at the same destination: Debt Free Living.

This week, I’m excited to share this story from Nicky. Nicky paid off $10,000 in debt in a year and a half on a salary of $20,000/year. She suffered some set backs but also has a really unique budgeting style that I think you’ll love. Check out her story!

Debt Free on a low income success story

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Angela Nicole Johnson but I go by Nicky most of the time. I’m 39 years old and I’ve been debt free for about 4 years or more. I write about becoming financially free at (as well as faith, health, beauty, and mental wellness). I work as a media assistant in a library and I make less than $20,000 a year.

How much debt and what kind of debt did you have before starting your debt free journey?

At one point I had $10,000 in debt. I had student loans, credit card debt and personal debt.

How long did it take you to pay off all your debt?

It took about a year and a half.

How did you budget? Excel? Budget Planner etc? How did it differ from how you were budgeting?

I wrote everything out on paper. I like to budget using sentences. For instance, instead of just saying on a spreadsheet “credit card-$6,000”, I like to put “I still owe $6,000 on my discover card. My payment is on the 15th of the month. If I pay $100 extra per month it can be paid off in this amount of months”. I like it all written out for me so I can understand exactly how much I have left to pay. It makes it more cemented in my brain this way since I’m a writer. It’s different than I how I budgeted before because I didn’t budget lol. That was the problem!

Related: This Family Paid Off $100,000 in Debt

Did you experience any setbacks while paying down your debt? How did you handle those setbacks?

Yes, so I fell victim to a scam in which I stupidly did a “mystery shopping” gig. I wired money (which came from a fraudulent money order) to a “company” (which of course wasn’t a company at all but instead were scammers) in order to “evaluate”their services. Long story short, because the money order was fake, I had to cover the cost of the money order to the tune of $1,400. My blessed mother covered for me but I had to pay her back. So this was definitely a setback but I just kept on doing my hoarding method.

The hoarding method, as I call it, is this: When I would get my check, I would pay all my bills and then I would put as much money aside as I could (in other words, I would hoard it) in a place where I wouldn’t touch it, like a bank account not associated with my debit card or take the cash and hide it. The purpose of this was to put this money aside and try as hard as I could to live without it for the next two weeks until I got my next paycheck. If I still had my hoarded money, I would put all of it towards my debt. For instance, if after paying all of my bills I had $300 left over, I would take $250 of it, hide it in a safe, a drawer, or a bank account that wasn’t very easily accessible (but not too hard to access) and see if I could just live on $50 for the next two weeks. If I could, I would then take that $250 and pay down my debt. If I did need to use the money for an emergency, it was still available for me to get to but I tried hard not to use it so I could pay my debt faster.

Share your best money saving tip!

Don’t look at sales… they convince you to buy stuff you weren’t looking for. Instead just use the app Flipp and search to see if what you want is on sale that week.

Related: 31 Simple Ways to Save Money

Did you do anything extreme to pay off your debt?

Not necessarily unless you consider the hoarding method to be extreme. Trying to subsist on as little money as possible in order to pay down your debt could be extreme.

What would be on piece of advice you would give others just starting to tackle debt?

Take the plunge and write down all of your debt, how much you can pay off per month, and how long it will take you to pay it off. Seeing all of it in black and white really motivates you to take action and as Dave Ramsey would say “get after it”.

What advice would you give to people about staying debt free?

Always have your next goal ready. As soon as you pay off your debt, be ready with your next financial goal. Either to save money or invest or whatever but if you don’t have a goal in mind you will start squandering your money again (ask me how I know!).

Is there anything else you want to share about your debt free journey?

It can be overwhelming to see how much debt you have and you may feel like you’ll never get out but I believe getting out of debt is always God’s plan for you and so if He is on your side , you will succeed!

Thank you Nicky for sharing your debt free story with us!


Would you like to share your own debt free story? You don’t need to be a blogger or a personal finance guru! Just send me an email at with “Debt Free Story” in the subject line and I’ll send you some questions so you can share your own story. 

DIY Farmhouse Decor Featured Image
Frugal Living

41 DIY Frugal Farmhouse Decor Projects and Tutorials

While trying to create that farmhouse look in our own home, I realized just how expensive farmhouse decor can be! So I went on the hunt for some cheap and easy DIY farmhouse decor ideas.

DIY Budget farmhouse decor

These frugal farmhouse DIY projects range from super easy to a bit more involved, but you are sure to find inspiration to create that farmhouse feel in your home.

If you’re looking for some serious inspiration and some beautiful decor this list is for you. You’ll find everything from mason jar planters to a kitchen island made from an old desk!

The best part is that everything on this list is made with inexpensive materials or re-purposed items you probably already have in your home!

Related: 60 Farmhouse Decor Ideas on A Budget


DIY Wooden Vase Holder

Farmhouse-Style DIY Flower Vase Holder Using Dollar Tree Milk BottlesSimplicity in the South

I love this simple vase holder using materials from the Dollar Tree. It doesn’t get much more frugal or farmhouse than this!

DIY Faux Shiplap

$15 DIY Faux Shiplap WallMaking Manzanita

Adding a shiplap accent wall is a great way to achieve that farmhouse look. Use these tips to create a faux shiplap wall for only $15!

DIY Mason Jar Bathroom Organizer

DIY Bathroom OrganizerCrafts By Amanda

Keep your counters free of clutter and add a farmhouse accent piece with this DIY bathroom organizer using mason jars.

DIY Blanket Ladder

DIY $10 Blanket LadderA Turtle’s Life For Me 

Have you ever seen the price of a blanket ladder at Pottery Barn? We’re talking $300. You can make your own for only $10 with this tutorial!

DIT Farmhouse Detour Succulent Tin

Farmhouse Magnetic Succulent Tins – Kimspired DIY

These totally adorable magnetic succulent tins are made from materials from the dollar store. They are simple to make and are the perfect farmhouse accent.


DIY Farmhouse Candles

Simple DIY Farmhouse Candle Hack – From Honey, I’m Home!

This hack will create a farmhouse look instantly. Using simple cheap materials you can update your candles to complete your farmhouse look!

DIY Farmhouse Windows to the Past Photo Frame

“Windows to the Past” PhotoframeThe Good Hearted Woman

If you’re looking for a unique take on a photo wall you will absolutely love this! Re-purposed from old window frames, this is a great farmhouse twist on the classic photo wall.

DIY Farmhouse Gnome

DIY Farmhouse GnomeRuffles and Rain Boots

This adorable little gnome looks much more complicated than it is! Another super simple DIY project that is the perfect farmhouse accent!

DIY Farmhouse Decor Mason Jar String Art

DIY Mason Jar String ArtChaotically Yours

If you love all things mason jar (like I do) you’ll love this wall art. Using string, nails, a wood board and flowers, you can create this gorgeous mason jar string wall art!

DIY Wall Mounted Mason Jar Planters

Wall Mounted Mason Jar PlantersPop Shop America

These wall mounted mason jar planters are perfect for indoor and out. Use them in your kitchen to plant herbs or outside on your patio.

DIY Farmhouse Burlap Placemat

Burlap and Ribbon PlacematSimply Saving Savvy

Create the perfect farmhouse table setting with these simple burlap and ribbon placemats!

DIY Farmhouse Jewelry Hanger

DIY Rustic Jewelry HangerThe Flying Couponer

This is such a creative and beautiful way to organize your jewelry and get that farmhouse look.

DIY Spring Wreath

DIY Spring WreathOur Happily Ever Home

Wreaths are expensive, ya’ll! And anytime I can find an easy DIY alternative I am there for it. This wreath is no exception. It’s a twist on the classic wreath and can be hung anywhere, not just your front door.

DIY Farmhouse Photo Gallery

DIY Farmhouse Photo GallerySouth Lumina Style

Check out how to create this classic photo wall.

DIY Wall Art from An Old Window

Turn an Old Window Into Wall Decor with Fresh Paint and a Quote – Chic and Savvy

Window wall decor is a big part of farmhouse decor. This tutorial is simple to follow and you’ll have a beautiful piece of wall art.

Easy Concrete Planter

DIY Easy Concrete Planter – Jolly Slice

If you’re looking for a unique planter, check out these easy concrete planters. They are beautiful and simple looking and are the perfect farmhouse accent for your home or patio.

DIY Ship Lap Market Sign

DIY Ship Lap Market SignLove My Simple Home

This DIY shiplap sign is perfect for any room of the house.

DIY Framed Burlap Grateful Sign

DIY Framed Burlap Grateful Wall Decor – Uncommon Designs

This is such a simple DIY project but one that has a great wow factor.

DIY Mason Jar Bathroom Set

DIY Mason Jar Bathroom Set  – Consumer Queen

This bathroom set is the perfect touch for creating a farmhouse look in your bathroom.

DIY Burlap Curtains

DIY Burlap CurtainsChicken Scratch NY

You don’t need to do a lot of sewing to make these simple burlap curtains. They are thin enough to let the light in but thick enough to block anyone from seeing in.

No Sew Farmhouse Curtains

DIY No Sew Farmhouse Style Curtains – Thirty Something Super Mom

If you don’t know how to sew (or don’t want to sew) check out these no sew curtains. You can add your own design using the fabric marker to create a custom farmhouse look for your home.


DIY Hydrangea Wreath

DIY Hydrangea WreathOur Happily Ever Home

You can create the perfect farmhouse porch with this beautiful and simple hydrangea wreath.

DIY Mason Jar Photo Frames

Frosted Mason Jar Photo FramesCrafts by Amanda

This is a great alternative to simple frames. Using frosted mason jars you are able to display your family’s memories in a unique and fun way!

DIY Farmhouse Wall Signs

DIY Frame For Printables (+ Free Bathroom Printables) – Making Manzanita

You can print out these beautiful pictures for free and then create your own simple frames with this tutorial.

DIY Farmhouse Memo Board

DIY Farmhouse Memo BoardCrafts by Amanda

This farmhouse memo board is a perfect piece for your family command center and a great way to keep you organized.

DIY Sharpe Shiplap Wall

DIY Sharpe Shiplap WallMust Have Mom

If you have been dying to install shiplap but haven’t been able to because it’s not in your budget than this is a great alternative.

DIY Amazing Grace Sign

DIY Amazing Grace SignBlessings by Me

This wall art uses supplies from the Dollar Tree to help you get the farmhouse look you want and stay way under budget!

DIY Farmhouse Curtains

Farmhouse Style DIY CurtainsMust Have Mom

It doesn’t get any easier than this. Make these simple farmhouse curtains to create that soft farmhouse feel in any room in your home.

DIY White Farmhouse Pitcher

DIY White Farmhouse Pitcher From Tacky Thrift Store FindMaking Manzanita

We have some old tacky pitchers sitting in the garage and I can’t wait to transform them with this simple tutorial. These white pitchers are a great way to re-purpose old pottery and get that farmhouse look.

DIY Noodle Board

DIY Noodle Board We Three Shanes

Help give your kitchen that farmhouse feel with this simply noodle board.

DIY Faix Galvanized Metal Sign

Faux Galvanized Metal SignOur Craft Mom

Galvanized metal is central to achieving that farmhouse look. With this tutorial you can get that galvanized metal look without having to pay top dollar for it.

DIY Vintage Market Sign

DIY Vintage Market SignSmart Fun DIY

No need to go hunting through antique stores to score that vintage look. Make your own Vintage Market sign and add that farmhouse charm to your kitchen.

DIY Tulip Wreath

Tulip and Sun Hat Wreath – Chicken Scratch NY

This wreath provides the perfect pop of color! It’s super easy and quick to put together.

DIY Farmhouse Kitchen Island

DIY Kitchen IslandSimply Today Life

This project is a little bit more involved but the outcome is amazing. Using an old desk and a pallet you can create the perfect farmhouse island for your kitchen.

DIY Farmhouse Window Sign

DIY Vintage Cottage Window SignMy Wee Abode

Using an old window you can create this beautiful wall art to help you achieve that farmhouse look.

DIY Citrus wreath

Citrus and Greenery Easy WreathGlue Sticks

This fresh and beautiful wreath is perfect for the front porch!

DIY Fall Mum Bucket

DIY Monogram BucketMama Cheaps

Getting anything monogrammed can be expensive. With this DIY monogrammed bucket tutorial you can create the perfect monogrammed planters for your porch.

Blessed Printable

Blessed Wall Art with Free PrintableHappy Deal Happy Day

Print out the blessed sign and make your own frame for farmhouse inspired wall art!

DIY Farmhouse Clothes Hamper

DIY HamperShe Holds Dearly

This simple hamper on wheels will complete that farmhouse look in your bathroom or laundry room.

DIY Farmhouse Pallet Laundry Shelf

DIY Pallet Laundry Shelf – Cook Eat Go

Organize your laundry room with this simple DIY Pallet Laundry Shelf.













farmhouse decor on a budget
Frugal Living

60 Farmhouse Decor Ideas On A Budget

Farmhouse decor can get very expensive very fast. You can cut the costs by bargain hunting or trying a DIY frugal project but if you’re short on cash and time you’ll love these cheap farmhouse decor ideas.

With some of these simple accent pieces and a great coat of the right paint color you can easily transform any room to achieve that farmhouse look a la Joanna and Chip.

Related: 41 DIY Frugal Farmhouse Decor Projects and Tutorials

The best part is that everything on this list is under $20 and will help you create that cozy farmhouse look and stay on budget.

I’ve separated these items out into several categories for easy browsing. You can skip to any category by clicking on of the categories below.

Cheap Farmhouse Decor

Wall Decor


GBtroo Rustic Wall Sconces – Mason Jars Sconce, Rustic Home Decor,Wrought Iron Hooks, Silk Hydrangea and LED Strip Lights Design for Home Decoration (Set of 2)


TIMEYARD Arrow Decor, Set of 2 Arrows, Rustic Wood Arrow Sign Wall Decor – Decorative Farmhouse Home Wall Hanging Decor

Vintage Bath Advertising Wall Art | Americana Collection | Bathroom Laundry Room Decor | 7 1/2 x 14 Inch

Barnyard Designs Farmhouse Retro Vintage Tin Bar Sign Country Home Decor 15.75″ x 4″

Deco 79 Rustic Wood and Metal Arched Window Wall Decor, 10 by 20″ Textured Ivory White Finish

Cast Iron Native American Arrow Wall Decor

Comfify “Love” Decorative Wooden Letters – Large Wood Letters for Wall Décor in Rustic Blue, White and Grey – Rustic Home Decoration for Living Room – Rustic Home Décor Accents – Farmhouse Decor

Personalized Vintage Distressed Look Farm House Metal Room Sign

Gather Word Galvanized Metal Wall Decor, Farmhouse Decor, Farm Decor

Barnyard Designs Vintage Florals Botanical Wood Plaques, Primitive Country Farmhouse Home Decor Sign 16″ x 12″


P. GRAHAM DUNN Be Still & Know White Wash 3 x 12 Inch Solid Pine Wood Farmhouse Stick Sign

Chiaravita Vintage Rustic Torched Wood Hanging Wall Mount Floating Shelves – 3 Piece Farmhouse White Washed Home Decor Shelf for Kitchen, Bedrooms, or Bathroom

VGIA 3 Pack 21 Inch Cotton Stems Farmhouse Style Display Filler – Floral Decoration

KINGSO 2Pcs Industrial Black Iron Pipe Bracket Wall Mounted Floating Shelf Hanging Wall Hardware Decor for Farmhouse Shelving Hardware Heavy Duty

Small Galvanized Metal Olive Wall Half Bucket

14″ Rustic Galvanized Metal Distressed Style Heart Shape Home Wall Decor (Silver)


Fahrendom and So Together They Built a Life They Loved Farmhouse Style Sign Cotton Linen Home Decorative Throw Pillow Case Cushion Cover with Words for Sofa Couch, 18 x 18 in

Burlap Farmhouse Decor Buffalo Checkers Plaid Cotton Linen Decorative Throw Pillow Cover Rustic Cushion Cover Pillowcase for Sofa 18 x 18 Inch, Set of 2 (Black/White, 18″×18″)

Acelive 18×18 Inches Vintage Farm Truck Hen Rustic Country Style Retro Farmhouse Quote Gift Cotton Linen Home Decorative Throw Pillow Case For Valentine’s Day Gift Christmas

Meekio Farmhouse Pillow Covers with Home Sweet Home Quotes 18 x 18 Inch for Farmhouse Decor Perfect Housewarming Gifts

Fjfz Family a Little Bit of Crazy a Little Bit of Loud and a Whole lot of Love Rustic Farmhouse Quote Cotton Linen Home Decorative Throw Pillow Case Cushion Cover with Words for Sofa Couch, 18″ x 18″

Leaveland Love You Hug Sweet Home Life Quotes Set of 4 18×18 Inch Cotton Linen Square Throw Pillow Case Decorative Durable Cushion Home Decor Sofa Standard Size Accent Pillowcase

Phantoscope Set of 2 Beige Button Linen Decorative Throw Pillow Case Cushion Cover 18″ x 18″ 45 x 45 cm

HOME BRILLIANT Retro Checkers Plaids Farmhouse Tartan Soft Cotton Linen Home Spring Summer Decoration Throw Pillow Covers Shams Cushion Cases Cover Sofa, 2 Pack, 18×18 inches(45x45cm), Beige White

Anickal Decorative Throw Pillow Covers Set of 4 Cotton Linen Cushion Covers 18 x 18 Inch

Phantoscope Set of 4 New Living Series Coffee Color Decorative Throw Pillow Case Cushion Cover 18″ x 18″ 45cm x 45cm

All Smiles Throw Pillow Covers Case Decorative Farmhouse Cotton Linen 18×18 Set of 2 Love Home Quote Inspirational Words House Decor Outdoor Cushion for Couch Sofa Bed



SheeChung Mason Jar Bathroom Apothecary Jars – Rustproof Stainless Steel Lid,Farmhouse Decor,Bathroom Vanity Storage Organizer Holder Glass for Qtips,Cotton Swabs,Ball,Bath Salts (Bronze, 2-Pack)

Colonial Tin Works Chicken Wire Toilet Paper Holder

KAF Home Classic Farmhouse Stripe Kitchen Towels | Set of 12, 15″ x 25″, 100% Pure Cotton Dish Towels | Perfect Bar Towel Dish Cloths for Cooking, Cleaning, and Dining (Charcoal)

mDesign Farmhouse Metal Wire Bathroom Wall Mount Hair Care & Styling Tool Organizer Storage Basket for Hair Dryer, Flat Iron, Curling Wand, Hair Straightener, Brushes – Holds Hot Tools – Bronze

MyGift 6-Inch White Porcelain Petite French Country Style Claw Foot Bathtub Vintage Flower Pot Planter/Soap Dish

LB Rustic Barn Door Grey White Tan Brown Painted Barn Wood Decor Shower Curtain for Bathroom, Western Country Theme House Decor, Mildew Resistant Waterproof Fabric Decor Curtain, 70 x 70 Inch

Colonial Tin Works Galvanized Steel Vintage Dalton Wall Box with Towel Bar, Galvanised

AuldHome His and Hers Towel Hooks (Set of 2); Cast Iron Rustic Farmhouse Decor Door Wall Hangers

Park Designs Antique Toothbrush Holder



Farmhouse Salt and Pepper Caddy Set | Galvanized Decor, Rustic Weddings, Restaurants, Vintage Shabby Chic | 3-Piece Set | Easy to Clean, No-Mess Refilling

Kitchen Utensil Holder – Farmhouse Decor for Home – White Crock Organizer Caddy – Great for Large Cooking Tools by H+K Designs

Creative Co-op DA1985 Metal Containers with Lids, Coffee, Tea, Sugar, Set of 3, White

Mason Jar Organizer, Office Farmhouse Bathroom Kitchen Storage, Mason Jar Wall Decor Planter Caddy Organizer with Brown Holder

Eat Red Wooden Farmhouse Kitchen Wall Plaque

Primitives by Kathy Tea Towel – Everything Is Better in a Mason Jar,White

Red Ceramic Mason Jar Kitchen Sponge Holder – Adorable Home Retro & Farmhouse Kitchen Decor | Amazing Rustic Accessory | Vintage Gift for Friends, Family and Collectors by Goodscious

White Ceramic Mason Jar Measuring Spoons – Set of 4 Spoons with Cotton Ribbon Tie | Measuring Dry & Liquid Ingredients | Rustic Farmhouse Kitchen Decor | Cooking and Baking Supplies by Goodscious


mDesign Farmhouse Decor Metal Wire Food Storage Organizer, Bin Basket with Handles for Kitchen Cabinets, Pantry, Bathroom, Laundry Room, Closets, Garage – 12″ x 12″ x 6″ – Graphite Gray

Dishwasher Magnet Clean Dirty Sign- 2.5″ Rustic Farmhouse Theme Flip Indicator Black and White with Chicken and Pig

Accent Pieces

Mini Mason Jar Night Light in Rustic Brown Metal Color

Blossom Bucket 131-36733 Small Rectangle Decorative Metal Basket with Three Glass Bottles

VANCORE Shabby Chic Metal Jug Vase Pitcher Flower Holder for Home Decoration

IDoall 7.5″ High Decorative Vase with Unique Heart-Shaped and Rope Design, Galvanized Finish- Rustic Decorated for Living Room, Bedroom, Kitchen (Grey)

Park Hill Home Decor Farmhouse Glass Bottle with Chicken Wire Wrap (7″ x 3.75″)

The Bloom Times 2 Pcs Fake Plant for Bathroom/Home Decor, Small Artificial Faux Greenery for House Decorations (Potted Plants Updated Version)

MyGift Rustic ‘Flowers & Garden’ Bucket Design Small Metal Succulent Plant Container w/Twine Handles

Bwbg7 Galvanized Washboard (Wbg7)

Stonebriar Rectangle Slate Metal Serving Tray with Rust Trim & Cutout Handles, Industrial Butler Tray, For Serving Drinks & Snacks, Centerpiece for Coffee Table, Document Organizer for Desk or Office

Shabby Chic Cast Iron Decorative Wall Hooks – Rustic – Antique – French Country Charm – Large Decorative Hanging Hooks – Set of 3 – Screws and Anchors for Mounting Included

Stonebriar Small Aged Wire Bird Cage

Enamel White Farm Fresh Milk Jug Decor Metal Black/White

Stonebriar Galvanized Metal Serving Tray with Rust Trim and Metal Handles, Unique Butler Tray, Decorative Centerpiece for Coffee Table or Dining Table, Rustic Accessories for Weddings and Parties

Woman cutting up credit card
Debt Free

This family paid off $100,000 in Debt Including their Mortgage

One of the reasons I started this site was to share everything I learned on my own debt free journey.

When we were still in debt and working hard to pay it all off, I found inspiration and motivation from hearing how other people were successful. Through these stories I was often reminded that the steps to becoming debt free were simple but that it was never easy. 

Every debt free journey is different and provides opportunities for us to learn and apply new tactics to our own debt free journey. 

So, today I’m sharing a debt free story from Sara Conklin who paid off $100,000 in debt including the mortgage! She is also a Financial Coach and now provides coaching services and shares her best tips on her site Frozen Pennies!

Cara from Frozen Pennies Sharing Her Debt Free JourneyTell me a little about yourself.

My name is Sara and I am 46. I am a wife of 22 years, a mom of two boys, ages 20 and 18. I am also a bonus mom to an amazing man and his wife. We are expecting our first grandchild in May – we are all SO EXCITED! It’s a girl!! I am a writer over at Frozen Pennies.


How much debt and what kind of debt did you have before starting your debt free journey?

We have paid off over $100,000 including our house. Our debt besides the house were two car loans, student loans, and a family loan.


How long did it take you to pay off all your debt?

It took us about three years to pay everything off except the house. Then my dad passed away and left us almost the exact amount we still owed on the house. We took that as a gift from heaven and paid it off.

This family paid off $100000 in debt


How did you budget? Excel? Budget Planner etc? How did it differ from how you were budgeting?

I love a budget binder. I am a total pencil and paper nerd. I love adding up the numbers and creating budgeting sheets to track everything I may need. I have tried all the apps and computer programs but none of them work as well as my trusted Budget Binder.


Did you experience any setbacks while paying down your debt? How did you handle those setbacks?

There always seem to be set backs. The car needs a new alternator, the hot water heater dies. Preparing the best way you can always helps. Having an emergency fund and keeping up with sinking funds makes all the difference. Facing those set backs can be discouraging but remembering why you are doing this makes everything just a little easier. Knowing that soon you will owe no one and that you are changing your family tree really matters.


Share your best money saving tip!

As a Financial Coach, the BEST advice I can give anyone wanting to get out of debt is to prepare. Preparation is the secret. Prepare for those unexpected happenings to come along, because they will. If you have money set aside for household expenses, it won’t hurt as much if the microwave dies. You won’t have to put your debt elimination plan on hold to buy a new one because you will already have it set aside just for this purpose.


Did you do anything extreme to pay off your debt?

I wish we had! It would make for a much better story. However, if you call camping every summer our only “vacations” and sleeping in a used camper (that we bought cheap) extreme, than that would be the best of it!


What would be on piece of advice you would give others just starting to tackle debt?

Educate yourself. Face your debt head on and know your numbers. This will go as fast (or as slow)as you want it to go. And its only temporary. Living on less doesn’t have to last a life time unless you want it to.


What advice would you give to people about staying debt free?

Cash. Is. King. Seriously. If you don’t have the cash in hand, you do NOT buy it. Bottom line. You do not need it. It will eliminate the urge to ever have another credit card.


Is there anything else you want to share about your debt free journey?

I run into people often who feel they won’t be able to survive without credit cards. We have been doing it for years. Even before we started our Debt Free Journey. I was in so much consumer debt in college that it took years to dig out. I checked my credit a few months ago and I am proud to say, my credit score is zero. We are doing just fine without it!!


Thank you Sara for sharing your debt free journey with us! 

Related: Must Read Getting Debt Free Books for Your Debt Free Journey

Would you like to share your own debt free story? You don’t need to be a blogger or a personal finance guru! Just send me an email at with “Debt Free Story” in the subject line and I’ll send you some questions so you can share your own story. 


Jill holding Simply Earth Boxes for Simply Earth April 2019 Review Featured Image - Holding up Subscription boxes
Frugal Living

Simply Earth April 2019 Recipe Box Review

I received this product for free in return for my honest review. All opinions in this post are 100% mine!

I’m super excited to share with you my review of Simply Earth essential oils and their subscription box. I love essential oils but often struggle with the high price point of quality oils.

That’s where Simply Earth comes in! These super affordable high quality essential oils are what I have been looking for.

So check out this complete review of the company and their products and find out what I like (or didn’t like) about the April 2019 recipe box I received!

Simply Earth April 2019 Subscription Box Review

But before I go any further….

Simply Earth is not another network marketing company. I will not try to recruit you onto my team or invite you to parties to sell you oils.

The prices on their website are the prices for everyone. You can order as much or as little as you want and they offer a 365 day money-back guarantee.

I will tell you that if you decide you love their products after reading this review you can use this code OTOASTFREE when you order a $39 subscription box and you’ll get a $20 gift certificate plus a big blue box for free!

Simply Earth Essential Oils in Box


Simply Earth Overview

Simply Earth is a relatively new, small, family run oils company based in Wisconsin. They sell 3rd party oils at an affordable price.

What does this mean?

It means the plants for their oils are grown all over the world in optimal and ethical conditions.

Once the plants are harvested, they extract the oil through either cold-pressing or steam distillation. Every batch of oil then undergoes quality testing to ensure 100% purity using GC/MS analysis reports.

Things to Know About Simply Earth and Their Products

  • Simply Earth has a full online shop and carries over 60 single oils and over 25 blends.
  • They offer several different starter packs all under $50 including a wellness box and a cleaning box.
  • They offer a $39 monthly subscription box called the “recipe box” which can be cancelled at anytime. Each subscription box is carefully put together and has a theme for the month.
  • Shipping is free for orders $29 and up anywhere in the United States (there’s a flat $5.99 shipping fee for orders under $29).
  • All orders arrive within 2-5 business days.
  • They have a 365 day Simply Earth return policy, which means if you aren’t completely satisfied with these oils within 365 you can return them for a full refund in the form of store credit.
  • 13% of profits donated to organizations fighting human trafficking

I also want to point out that their website has lots of great resources. In addition to their blog which includes recipes and how to’s they offer a free ebook.

I have to say I’m pretty impressed with the ebook.  It gives great information on how to apply essential oils, safety, clear dilution amounts (which I always get confused about), a quick reference guide for all the oils uses along with some basic recipes to get you started.

April 2019 Simply Earth Recipe Box Review

Each Simply Earth monthly recipe box contains 4 big (15 ml) sized oils, accessories and 5-6 recipes for those oils. Each month’s box has a theme and April’s theme is “clean home”.

In the April recipe box you get:

  • Nutmeg Oil (15ml)
  • Lemon Oil (15 ml)
  • Tea Tree Oil (15 ml)
  • BO Be Gone Oil Blend (15 ml)
  • Castile Soap Oil (2 oz bottle)
  • Aluminum spray bottle
  • 6 Recipe Cards. This month’s recipes are:
    • Natural Laundry Detergent
    • Foaming Hand Wash
    • Laundry Stain Remover Roll On
    • Natural Home Diffuser
    • Lemon and Nutmeg Dishwasher Detergent
    • Tea Tree and Lemon Surface Cleaner
  • Recipe and Oil Bottle Labels

April 2019 Recipe Box Essential Oils Contents

With your first subscription box you also receive a Bonus Box FOR FREE. You’ll get a free Bonus Box every sixth subscription box to replenish your stock. In the Bonus Box you get:

  • Beeswax
  • Coconut Oil 6oz (solid)
  • Almond Oil 4 oz
  • Fractionated Coconut Oil 4 oz 
  • 6 roller bottles
  • 6 blend bottles

Simply Earth Bonus Box Contents

The price of the bonus box and the subscription box is $39 and shipping is free!

If you use code OTOASTFREE, you’ll get all this PLUS a $20 gift card!

I have to say I’m impressed with the Simply Earth Oils and their subscription boxes. I have been using essential oils for a more natural home and lifestyle for about 4 years. I’ve used both Young Living and DoTerra and can say the Simply Earth Oils are at the same level in terms of quality.

Despite having purchased and used oils for several years, I never got into making my own blends or recipes. The two main reasons was that I needed to purchase all the extras and because hunting down recipes was time intensive. I know, I know it sounds lazy even as I’m typing it. But really, it’s the truth.

This is why I love the subscription box along with the Big Bonus Box. I don’t need to figure out where to get amber bottles cheap or hunt down recipes and try to figure out what oils I need to purchase or don’t have.

Everything is laid out for me and this month’s theme of a clean home is perfect for our lifestyle.

Favorite Things about the Simply Earth Recipe Box

The Oils Are Awesome

Lemon, nutmeg and tea tree oils are not the sexiest oils out on the market, but they are foundational to so many recipes and have such versatile uses. I’m so pleased that these were the first ones I got because they are so important and I use them frequently in our house.

The BO Be Gone blend smells great. I used a few drops of it in my laundry just to see what would happen and all my laundry came out smelling fresher than with my regular unscented laundry detergent. I also diffused it it our bathroom while we had company and it helped to get rid of bathroom odors.

4 Simply Earth Essential Oils Bottles Lined up

Informative Oil Labels

I also have to point out the labeling. I love love LOVE that on the bottle it tells you whether it is safe to use with children.

For example, the tea tree oil is marked safe for kids 2 and up and provides the dilution percentage for topical use for children. (Their free ebook gives you a an understandable rundown on dilution).

For the BO Be Gone, the recommended age is 10 and up.

This makes it so easy to use these oils safely with the kids.

The labels also tell you where the plants were grown and what part of the plant they derived the oil from.

Having this information on the bottle is so useful for understanding the oils and for safety. It shows this company’s commitment to both!

Back Label of Oil Bottle


The Recipes Are Simple

In this month’s box there are 6 recipes. This month’s recipes are:

    • Natural Laundry Detergent
    • Foaming Hand Wash
    • Laundry Stain Remover Roll On
    • Natural Home Diffuser
    • Lemon and Nutmeg Dishwasher Detergent
    • Tea Tree and Lemon Surface Cleaner

Simply Earth Recipe Cards Lined Up

Two of the recipes did not require any additional ingredients. The other 4 required some additional ingredients. I had most on hand. These ingredients included things like vinegar, epsom salt and borax.

I’ve never made any of my own cleaning products before and I was a little intimidated to get started. These recipes were so easy and only took me a couple of minutes to mix.

I made the Tea tree and Lemon Surface Cleaner and I love it! It’s great on my kitchen counter tops. It didn’t leave any streaks. My husband even noticed how shiny the counters looked, and he doesn’t typically notice those kinds of things!  I also used it on my glass shower doors and it cut through the soap build up better than any other product I’ve tried up until now. 

Ingredients for Tea Tree Surface Cleaner Recipe from Simply Essential Recipe Box

I thought the 4 oz bottle would be too small and I would have to make a new batch everyday. However, the 4 oz lasted me about 5 days of cleaning the kitchen counters multiple times a day and using it on my shower doors.

All purpose surface cleaner recipe from Simply Earth April 2019 Subscription Box


I also tried the Laundry Stain remover and was equally as impressed.

Simply Earth Laundry Stain Remover recipe from Simply Earth April 2019 Subscription Box


I like how sturdy the recipe cards are and I will absolutely keep them in a recipe box for future reference. 

Low Prices Compared to Competitors

Hands down you cannot beat the price. I compared the prices of the oils alone to both DoTerra and Young Living and I couldn’t believe how much I saved with Simply Earth. DoTerra didn’t even have nutmeg available (and that’s too bad because I think it’s one of my new favorite scents!)


Oil/Blend Simply Earth Young Living DoTerra
Nutmeg Oil 15 ml – $12.99 5ml – $17.43 Not Available
Tea Tree Oil 15 ml – $9.99 15 ml – $35.20 15 ml- $28
Lemon Oil 15 ml- &7.99 15 ml – $15.13 15ml -$14.67
Purifying Blend BO Be Gone- 15ml -$11.99 Purification – 5 ml – $20.72 Purify – 15ml – $26.67
Total $42.96/ + tax and free shipping OR

$39/subscription box

$88.48 + tax and shipping $69.34 + tax and shipping


There Are So Many Extras

The big bonus box is chock full of so many extras!

The almond and fractionated coconut oil along with the roller bottles by themselves are so great to have.

And for anyone that loves labeling and making sure you keep your oils organized the labels are great. Not only do the oils and blends have labels but you have a label for each recipe too! 

I mean, look at all this for only $39!

Contents of Simply Earth April 2019 Subscription Box

Things I Disliked About the Recipe Box

While there isn’t a whole lot I don’t like about the recipe box and the oils I received, I did find a few drawbacks.

You Can’t Choose What’s in the Box

This might seem obvious but it’s important to point out. In April’s recipe box I got another bottle of lemon so now I have 2 bottles. Will I use them both? Absolutely! But I didn’t need an extra bottle right now. 

I do like that it forced me to try different oils like nutmeg that I wouldn’t have thought to try.

You Need to Purchase Additional Ingredients

While a couple of the recipes didn’t require extra ingredients, and I did have some on hand for a couple of the others, I didn’t have all the ingredients to make all the recipes.

Should You Try Simply Earth Products?

Yes! If you are looking for high quality oils at a fraction of the cost Simply Earth oils are for you. 

The April subscription box is also a great way to start incorporating more natural cleaning products into your home in a really easy way!

When you order, remember to use my code OTOASTFREE to get your Big Bonus Box and $20 gift card for free!

Simply Earth Promotional Code For Subscription Box OTOASTFREE