Decorating with a budget

The other day I heard someone say that they were an expert with having “champagne style on a beer budget.” I like that idea of making the most of what you have. Of not being limited by your budget so much as forced to get creative with how you use it.

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, but I do have quite a bit of experience with budget decorating. My biggest tips for creating a beautiful space on a smaller budget are simple:

Paint it

In college I inherited a ton of furniture from relatives. The only similarity in all of it was that it was used. So I painted it. Everything in my bedroom was teal or white. Everything in my living room was green or brown. (It also helps that I have an uncle who was a professional painter for years and was willing to help me out a bit.) The painting took an afternoon and was well worth the investment. I’ve already lugged those pieces through three moves and have no plan on stopping.

Clean it

The easiest thing you can do to make your space look more livable is to clean it. Put things away, wipe down the counters, vacuum, open the windows and let some fresh air come inside. It doesn’t matter how expensive your furniture is if your place is a mess.

Toss it

I try to live by the William Morris motto: “Have nothing in your houses you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It’s not always feasible to exclusively have items that you adore, but it is important to be aware of the things that you love and the things that you actually use so that you can separate them from the things that you’d like to replace. Don’t be afraid to get rid of something. Donate it, give it to a friend, see if you actually needed it, and if you do then wait until you can buy a version that you would like to live with daily.

Put a painting on it

This is probably my favorite way to decorate. As long as there is space on your wall (or floor, or dresser, or table top) there is room for more art. I invested in a piece of art by myself the first time when I was 20 years old. Since then, I’ve made a few other art purchases-some for myself but mostly helping others get started with their own collections.

Nothing livens up a space like a piece that you love. It’ll make you happy with every glance. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to match. It just has to be something that you like. And if you can’t find anything or can’t afford anything you want, you can always make it yourself or ask a friend to try.

I have a few pieces of art in my room right now: a drawing by my Aunt Sue (Luke Weiss’s mom) in the 70’s, a photograph from India found at the Gainesville Art Festival, a beautiful silk painting from the Maitland Art Festival, and a hand painted (and self-designed) movie poster for Paperman I made for an Illustration class. Nothing cost more than $40 (except the framing…see the upcoming how to frame your own paintings) and none of it was bought or chosen with the intent of being put together but it all works when you are buying pieces that you truly love.

How do you pick what goes in your space? Are you a less is more kind of person or a more is more?



Homemade Protein Bars

My schedule is pretty hectic (that’s the way I like it!) and that requires me to be on top of things when it comes to fitting meals into my day. One of my tricks for doing so is to always have one of these bad boys on hand.

The original recipe is good on its own but I like to use natural peanut butter which means that mine come out drier. To compensate, I like to add about a teaspoon of non-hydrogenated coconut oil, milk, and honey (if you use sweetened milks like vanilla soy or rice milk then I would omit the honey) to make the bars a little softer.

Once they’ve cooled for a few hours and have formed a solid bar I like to cut them into 1″x 4″ pieces. Then I wrap each bar diagonally in a 5″x5″ square of wax paper. You can store the whole batch in the fridge for up to 2 weeks although they start to dry out again after about 5 days.

You can also add more things to them if you want to mix it up a bit: raisins, dried fruit, different chocolate chips, flavored extracts, or chopped up nuts.


Weekly Organizer Template


As promised, I tried out a new template for my weekly to-do list. I kept the weekly break down with space for plans, blog ideas, meal planning, and daily thoughts (figured this would be a good place to do my line a day journal). The to-do list stayed, although it’s sharing space with the shopping list this time. At the top where there was formerly space for notes, I delineated sections and left them blank so the titles can change depending on the person and the week.

I hope you find it as useful as I do!

Download here: Weekly To Do List

Time Management

Organizing has always been my strongest suit. When I’m motivated enough to do it anyway. Luckily, I’m in the motivated kind of mood so just when you thought I’d stopped posting about planners and planning, I’ve got something else up my sleeve.

I shared my monthly calendar with you on Tuesday. It’s simple and elegant. I use it to keep track of social events, to make it easy to see the whole month in a glance, and to make weekly goals for myself.

On a day to day basis I need something more though. For me, I get the most use out of having everything on one sheet broken into categories I use most.


It’s still in prototype development. My plan is to tweak it each week until I find a setup that works best for me. Bonus for you, I’ll make all versions of it available for download so you can have your pick.

I have mine broken into sections:

  • a running to-do list that is still visible when my monthly calendar is stacked on top of it (I use legal sized paper to get that effect),
  • a large blank space for notes (currently housing my grocery shopping),
  • a space for my weekly budget (not using it very much-I’ll change this section for next week),
  • a space to state a weekly goal and make action plans (again, not using very much),
  • and along the bottom I have a weekly calendar with space for
    • plans and activities,
    • blog posts,
    • and meal plans each day.

I have a few ideas for what should go in those blank spaces but I’m open to suggestions. What would you find useful?

When coming up with the plan for this to do list, my ultimate goal was to be able to manage my time for effectively. I do that by putting in the items that have a set schedule (work, class) and working out from there (adding transport times, preparation time, meals). Then I block out how much other time I need. For me that’s 2 hours needed for job 2 that need to fit in outside of an 8:30-5 job that is 40 minutes away from my house and daily classes from 6-7:30 with a 30 minute commute. Once you’ve gotten down all of the concrete items, you can manipulate the flexible items (job 2) into place.

This weekend I plan on making a digital version of the to-do list I’ve been using for easy prep each week so if you have ideas for what you’d like to see in those blank spaces, get them in soon!

Eating on the go

I started a new job this week that requires me to be out of the door by 7:45am and gone until 8 or 9pm. That’s all the impetus needed to get me kicked into chef mode. Last Sunday I spent 2 hours meal planning, grocery shopping, and prepping meals for the week and it’s paying off well.

There are a few pros to this:

– eating healthier- I tend to eat well when I’m the one preparing the food

– wasting less- I plan the meals to use off all of the leftovers from the other meals, which also means…

– saving money- since I’m using ingredients more efficiently and not having to buy snacks or meals while I’m out.

All in all using a menu planner works out well for me, and the money I save on not eating out more than makes up for the time it takes for me to prep everything on Sunday.

I seem to be the only one in my office who brings multi-component lunches daily. Is that the case in your office? Do you already bring your lunch? Hopefully this can serve as a dialogue for sharing recipes and tips for not getting bogged down in the mechanics of having to add an extra task to your schedule each week.

Each week I’ll be posting a recipe, snack idea, or meal planning/prep tip that I use to make some pretty fabulous lunches. Starting as soon as I take some pictures that aren’t in a break room!

Perfect Planners

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t think I’ve ever found a planner that I’ve deemed completely faultless. There’s always something that I would have done differently, some pages I would have added, a line that would make the space more pleasing. There’s always something. So while I hodgepodge together my contrived dream planner, I’m going to make some pieces available to you to download for free.


This is a simple document that you can edit onto and print out at whatever size you want. I found that printing on an 8.5″x 11″ sheet of glossy paper worked best for me. Right now, this is sitting on top of my dresser where I can check it each morning before taking a more broken down look at my schedule with my to-do list organizer (available next week).


Monthly Calendar to Share

Monthly Calendar to Share

New Year’s Resol-revolutions

Every year I have grand plans for what’s going to be different. A fresh slate, a new day, it’s easy to buy into the idealism of a clock tick turning your life from a pumpkin to a carriage. What’s most tempting for me is the unity. I make mini-resolutions all year but New Year’s is especially powerful since everyone is in it together. As a serial resolutioner, here’s how I come up with resolutions that I can (and want to) stick with all year.

This year, I split up my life and my goals into a few categories:

  • health,
  • relationships,
  • learning,
  • minimizing,
  • organizing,
  • and community.

Working with Nick, we came up with 25 general statements that fall into these categories. (Yes, I know that 25 is a lot of things to fit into a schedule but fortunately some of them overlap and some of them are one time only items.) For example, for “relationships” we came up with:

  • make friends in new circles,
  • be better friends in our existing relationships,
  • strengthen our relationship,
  • be more romantic,
  • keep journals.

Within each of these things we set different goals for ourselves. I spend most of my free time crafting and designing, so for make friends in new circles my goal is to meet a new crafter each month and feature them on the blog.

There are two key pieces to setting a goal, making it accomplishable and setting a time frame. If you keep this framework in mind, it’s easy to look back every week or every month and make sure that you’re getting to everything that you want to do.

Some of the goals are meant to be accomplished and then revised. Under organizing, I have “create and follow a monthly budget.” The create part of that goal won’t take long to complete so I have follow up goals ready with “save an additional $50 each week” and “sell items from minimizing and add to savings.” Everything is part of the same goal of creating a financial safety net but I give myself small steps that I can take gradually instead of biting off more than I can chew.

Once I’ve come up with my goals, I sit down with my planner and add reminders throughout it to “schedule craft blog post” or “research community gardens” at the intervals I decided on in my goal planning. At the end of each week and month, I have a Post-It with all of my goals that I move to the next check point once I’ve accomplished all of the goals.

The final key is to know when to cut something that isn’t working for you without quitting everything. It’s important to remember that each of these goals are individual items and that stopping one doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. Sometimes things just don’t work out and that’s okay. You can do it!