5 Ways to Give Yourself the Gift of an Amazing Week

Do you ever long for the weekend because it’s a time to relax, unwind, and spend time with your loved ones? And sometimes it’s beautiful and perfect, but other times it’s one crappy run of luck or turn of fate (or constant encounters with rude people) after another? Without going into more detail for the sake of of moving forward, that was our weekend. Far from perfect. The kind that makes you dread the work week beginning again when you’d rather hit the open road and get out of town with your family to reset you mind for a while. But when that’s not an option and your routine must continue business-as-usual, there are a few things you can do for yourself to give yourself the gift of an amazing week. Why? Because you deserve it. And why call it a gift? Because you have the power to make the decisions that shape your day, your week… your life.

5 Ways to Give Yourself the Gift of an Amazing Week by Lea Ciceraro | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimply.com

Remove Toxicity

This could mean a number of things. Toxic relationships. Toxic technology. Toxic substances. You get the point. If there are things in your life that are working against your health and well-being, get rid of it (or at least reduce it). Challenge yourself to unfollow at least a dozen pages that you currently follow on Facebook, Instagram, Feedly, etc. that you feel bring nothing but stress or negativity into your day (there are a number of news sites I choose to not follow anymore because I couldn’t stand the constant influx of horrible things being reported on!). Unfriend people with whom you don’t have a solid, happy relationship with and don’t really talk to anymore anyway. As far as food and drink consumption go, have some hot tea instead of alcohol in the evening when you unwind from the day, and eat a few more vegetables instead of sweets this week. You’ll be surprised how much happier and more positive you feel when you remove toxicity.

Use Less Tech and Get Outside

For most of us, the weather is starting to turn into something beautiful, cooler, and more enjoyable than the hot, sweaty days of summer (at least for me, here in the South, I’m welcoming Fall with open arms and wish it would arrive a littttle faster!!). Turn off your computer, put your smartphone in a drawer, and go enjoy the great outdoors! Pack a picnic. Go for a walk. Shoot a manual, film camera instead of digital or using your iPhone (you may even learn something in the process of not using something totally automated!). My husband just told me that he has a friend at work who has a “no smartphone rule” when he gets together with friends. Which is brilliant! Handheld technology usage is getting out of hand and making people so impersonal (and sometimes just plain rude!). So do yourself a favor and use a little less tech this week, and just soak in the world around you. You might be surprised what you see/learn/encounter when you get off your devices and get outside.

Do Something Nice for Someone Else

I’m a big believer in altruistic actions and paying it forward. Go be the reason someone has a great day. Whether it’s handing a few bucks to that homeless vet you always drive by at the gas station corner, donating books or clothes that you no longer use, or paying for someone else’s coffee at a coffee shop. Just find something that you can do for someone else. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see how you can help them. And don’t expect praise in return. In fact, don’t even post about it to Twitter of Facebook (you “Like” seekers know who you are!). ;-) Do it because you wanted to and expect nothing in return (hence, altruism). Not because you want to show someone else how awesome you are. Go be a great person this week! And then make a habit out of it. You will start feeling like you live in a much happier world and that can’t help but lift your spirits.

Listen to Happy Music

As my husband put it, “Put on some ska and start dancing!” Of course, your choice doesn’t have to be ska music. But, it’s soooo happy! You can’t help but be in a good mood when you listen to Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, or Buck-0-Nine (a few of my personal faves!). I’m a big believer that music can have a profound effect on your mood and attitude. So, for this week, put aside the angry or sad stuff, and crank up the happy tunes! My kids even love listening and dancing to it. It puts us all in a great mood!

Slow Down

Are you one of those people with a full schedule, or one or more kids to keep up with, or multiples projects to tackle at work (or anything else that keeps you busy and on your toes for the better part of almost every day)? Take some time to consciously slow down this week. Breathe. Do some yoga. Lay down in the grass and look for cloud animals. Stop and smell some flowers. Even just walk or drive slower than usual. :-) And speaking of slow down and ska music, check out THIS song by Reel Big Fish!

Lea Ciceraro | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimply.com

I hope you found this post helpful and will go out and give yourself the give of an amazing week (and life!). Let me know in the comments below if you have anything you’d add to this list, and please do let me know if you try any of the above ideas this week and how it worked out for you!


Thrifty Tuesday Part III: Recurring Bills

This week’s post about creative cost cutting solutions is centered around those recurring bills that are a regular part of your monthly budget. With some creative thinking and a couple of phone calls, you can do wonders to reduce your living costs!

15 Tips to Save You Money on Recurring Bills | Lea Ciceraro | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimply.com

Recurring Bills (tips #26-40)

26. Refinance your home for a low if it works for your life and your current home situation.

27. Check out cheaper car and/or home/renters’ insurance. And sometimes grouping those can save you even more money. It really does pay to shop around.

28. Same goes for your cell phone plan! If you must have a smart phone, check out what your actual data and minutes usage are. You might be surprised how little you’re using in comparison to what you’re paying for each month. Downgrade your plan, if you can! And ask for discounts! A lot of cell phone companies offer discounts to certain employers and professions (i.e., nurses, teachers, etc.).

29. Compare rates with other gas and electric companies (and TV/internet/phone, if you like– although we dropped our home phone line and cable altogether). Changing to another company sometimes gives you a huge “switching incentive” that could save you from paying that bill for a few months, and just get you a lower rate overall!

30. Also, some energy companies will give you a discount if your home is green certified! Check into it!

31. And, unplug appliances and turn off lights that aren’t in use. Being extra conscious about that really adds up!

32. Set your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter. For every degree above 72°F in the summer, you’ll save up to three percent per month in energy costs.

33. In the winter, be mindful of that gas fireplace usage if you have one! We got a shocking bill last January, not realizing how expensive it was to flip that switch and enjoy the fireplace! Ouch.

34. Same goes for water usage. Be smart about not letting your shower run for too long before you hop in (even better, let a bucket collect the water while it’s warming up, and use that to water your garden!), turn off the sink faucet while you are brushing your teeth, turn down the faucet while doing dishes, etc.

35. And, don’t run your dishwasher until it’s completely full. Same thing with laundry (and use cool water).

36. Use a rain barrel to collect water for your lawn, plants, and garden.

37. Paying extra on your student loans/car payment/mortgage will save you TONS of interest down the line, and it will get paid off sooner!

38. On that note, never buy or finance a brand new car! They immediately lose value the moment you drive it off the lot. Instead, opt for a pre-owned or used vehicle and save yourself thousands. Even one that is just a year or two old but has been traded back in to the dealer for whatever reason can save you thousands. Plus, any issues or recalls have already been worked out which leads to a few less things for you to worry about right off the bat.

39. Check our favorite financial planning guru Dave Ramsey for more awesome help and ideas! Using his budget forms have been a life saver to help us live within our means and reduce our monthly spending!

40. Also using tools like Mint.com is helpful to get an overall picture of your debt (if you have any) and to track your spending. It’s very eye opening. If you’ve been too scared to take a look at your current financial situation, now is as good a time as any!


Thrifty Tuesday Part II: Health

I’m going to keep the next set of creative cost-cutting tips short and sweet this week! So let’s get right to it!


5 Healthy Cost-Cutting Tips | Lea Ciceraro | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimplyphotography.com


Health (tips #21-25)

21. Cook at home as often as possible! Grains, beans & lentils are cheap, healthy, and nourishing. Add salads & greens for a complete meal! Some would even suggest that their vegetarian diet costs less than when they have to buy meat. Animal products and processed foods are expensive. Eating tons of whole foods is just healthier, too.

22. Stop drinking soda! It’s an unnecessary calorie hog and money waster.

23. Same goes for smoking. Waste of money and just awful for your health.

24. Alcohol. Moderation is key! Hey, I’m not going to say totally cut it out if you love craft beer and/or wine as much as I do. ;-)

25. Cancel your gym membership and buy an exercise ball and bands. And start up a home yoga practice! There are lots of free podcasts out there if you take a look around, such as TeriLeigh and Elsie’s Yoga Kula. Check YouTube, too! Or, just get outside and be active! Walking, running, cycling, kayaking, hiking, sports, etc.!

What else would you add to the health section!? Let me know in the comments below! :-)


Monday Motivation

“Somebody’s got a case of the Monday’s.” Is that you? I’m here to help!

Monday Motivation by Lea Ciceraro | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimply.com

You are doing your best with what you have and what you know. If/When you know better, you will do better. Believe in yourself.

Your children/friends/family (insert [important person in your life] here) feel it in their bones that you love them to the moon and back, and that you want nothing but success and greatness for them. You are rooting for them, but make sure you tell them that. Because they are rooting for you, too, even if you don’t know it or they haven’t told you. It feels good to know, right? Don’t you need to hear it, too, sometimes? Don’t just assume they know. Talk. Communicate. The more you open up to others and encourage them, the more likely it will be reciprocated. It takes a village. Don’t do life alone.

Be selfless and give it all you’ve got. And then know that you are enough and you are doing enough, because you aren’t sitting back doing nothing. But after all, you are only one person. You don’t need to be more than that. So focus on what matters and say ‘no’ to the rest. Don’t burden yourself with more than your heart can handle.

It is difficult not to be hard on ourselves, but we have to strive for a peaceful mind and know it’s all going to be okay in the end, so long as we know we are doing/trying our best. If you are not, ask yourself why, and find out if there is something you can change.

And, don’t forget to take a few minutes each day to recharge with some you-time so you can be the best version of yourself for your loved ones. You have this one life. Make it count.

You’ve got this!!


Thrifty Tuesday: A 5-Part Creative Cost-Cutting Series

There’s never a bad time to sit down and review your spending habits as well as take a closer look your budget (wait, you don’t have a clearly laid out budget? You might want to get on that!). Sometimes most of us could use a little cost-cutting in our lives for a variety of reasons.

For one, while it may feel like the economy has recovered a bit in recent months, the cost of living is still increasing and your paycheck may not be keeping up. Or, maybe your family has grown recently and now one of the parents in your household wants to quit their job and stay home with the kiddo(s). Or perhaps you are finally ready to take the leap and open that craft brewery you’ve always dreamed of, but it means you have to quit your full-time job and regular paycheck.

Whatever the reason you are here and reading this, I want to give you a list of 70 creative cost-cutting solutions over the course of this series (every Tuesday for the month of September!) that you can try or at least think about to help reduce your monthly spending (and in turn help you pay down debt, save for retirement or your kid’s college tuition, and/or follow some big dreams!). Each part will consist of the following: (1) Home & Family, (2) Health, (3) Recurring Bills (plus a little nudge in the right direction on helping you create a budget!), (4) Fun/Entertainment/Shopping, and (5) Green Living!

20 Home & Family Cost-Cutting Tips | Lea Cicearo | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimply.com

Part 1: Home & Family (tips #1-20)

1. When grocery shopping, clip coupons and only buy items on sale; www.couponmom.com is a good website to try.

2. Speaking of grocery shopping, we were loyal to Whole Foods for a lonnng time. Still are. We LOVE Whole Foods and just honest-to-goodness great quality food. My favorite places to shop, though, are our local co-op market and the farmers’ market. After all, it’s what you’re consuming and making a part of your body and can get great stuff from these places while supporting local! Why wouldn’t you want it to be high quality!? However, if you want to talk mainstream and shopping at places like Whole Foods (sometimes jokingly referred to as Whole Paycheck)– when we switched to Trader Joe’s and started to pick and choose between which items we really wanted to buy organic, we chopped our grocery bill down by 2/3! Huge savings and Trader Joe’s still gives us a lot of peace of mind when it comes to the quality of the food we’re buying!

3. Pack your lunch instead of eating out can easily save you $25-$50/week or more, depending on where you choose to dine. Plus, you can make your bagged lunch a lot healthier, too! If you pack your food in a brown bag, reuse that, too!

4. Cook and freeze leftovers. Chop and freeze veggies and other leftovers like meat that you think may go bad before you get to them, and then you can make soup out of it later. Use parts you would discard on veggies to make veggie stock – like leek tops, radish/turnip greens, etc. And, keep frozen meals ready that are quick to prepare to reduce your temptation to get take-out when you’re tired or don’t have much time to cook.

5. Don’t buy bottled water. Invest in a great sink-top water filter (if you don’t already have one on your refrigerator) and have a nice drinking thermos or canteen to keep liquids cool or hot.

6. Purchased machine-washable fabric snack bags, lunch bags, and sandwich bags (or make your own if you’re handy with a sewing machine!). Another option is to wash and re-use ziplock bags a few times before recycling them.

7. Have fun with home cooking! This is one of my favorite blogs for great, family-friendly recipes!

8. And, that same oh-so-awesome blog also has a great post with meal-planning tips that will also help stretch your budget!

9. Wait until later in the evening to do laundry. Running the dryer during the day or early evening can make your house hotter and the air conditioner has to work harder. But I guess in the Winter you can try the opposite! :-)

10. Use a clothes line to dry clothes to save even more! Stores like IKEA also have great clothes drying racks!

11. Buy baking soda in bulk to use as laundry detergent.

12. Find natural hair care alternatives like baking soda, honey, etc.

13. And, don’t buy things unless you REALLY need them. Use up ALL of your lotion/shampoo/etc., before you are “allowed” to buy more. Don’t let those 1/4 full bottles stockpile!

14. Use old rags, t-shirts, cloth napkins, and dish cloths instead of paper towels.

15. Cloth diapering! Or even a combination of cloth and disposable, like we do.

16. Try your hand at making your own wine and homebrewing beer!

17. For cleaning, try vinegar and lemons for cleaning, as well as buying Bac-Out in bulk (a gallon jug concentrated will last for a long while).

18. Try doing a babysitting swap with other families instead of paying to hire a babysitter.

19. Perhaps setup a dinner co-op if you can find others with similar eating habits who live nearby!

20. Be your family’s hair stylist! Well, this might be a little easier if you have a husband and two boys. :-) I can’t personally speak for cutting another girl’s hair!

So there are your first 20 cost-cutting solutions to give a shot! I’d love to hear in the comments below what else you would add to the Home & Family money-saving list! You may find some ideas on here that you’re more willing to try than others, but I hope there are at least a few that help you keep a few more bucks in your bank account this month! Please come back next week to read about my next few tips as they relate to health. Thanks for being here!