Back to school – retirement

Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

Yes, I know, the title of this post might sound a little funky. If you’re still in school, why would you be thinking about retirement?! My thought is that you can never start saving for retirement too early. Hear me out…

Over the summer, you probably worked really hard at a summer job and earned a bunch of money. I’m sure that you’ll use some of that money for your books for the semester, and for your entertainment – dinner and a movie with friends, etc. These are all important things to use your money for.

Have you also saved some of it? Remember we talked about opening checking and savings accounts last month (revisit that post here). It’s important to put some of the money you earned in a savings account so that it earns money while you’re in school! We’ll talk more about the miracle of compound interest a little later. It’s an interesting subject…trust me!

Also, remember we talked about 401k plans (revisit that post here)? Well, if you’re not eligible for one because your employer doesn’t offer one, you can still save for retirement. When you turn 18, you are eligible to open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Consider depositing some of your hard-earned summer savings in a retirement account. When you get to be retirement age, you’ll be happy that you did!

Like a 401k plan, an IRA will allow you to invest in mutual funds and sometimes even stocks. Each plan has its own selection of funds in which to invest. In a later post, we’ll discuss more about the different types of retirement plans and investments.

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – The motto “In God We Trust” didn’t appear on Federal Reserve notes until 1963 (Source:


Money saving tip – Soap

Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

As you know, soap is an important part of our lives.  Using it frequently helps us to stay clean and healthy.

I have a quick money saving tip for you about soap.  Consider buying shampoo when it goes on sale for really cheap – for example, sometimes V05 goes on sale for less than $1.  Soap is soap, so you can use this shampoo in your soap dispensers around the house.  You will still get clean and you’ll have even more scents to choose from!

If you’re using foaming soap dispensers in your house, you can still use this trick.  Make your own special foaming soap by cutting it with water.  I use a ratio of 1/2 water to 1/2 soap, which works beautifully!

You can also use this inexpensive shampoo as body wash, dish soap, and other household cleaning soap.  The sky is the limit!

I hope you find this money saving tip to be helpful!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – There is more Monopoly money printed in the US each year than actual US currency.  In 2013, there was $30 Billion of Monopoly money printed, as compared to $974 Million of actual US currency (Source:

Wedding budgeting tips

Photo credit: Axente Productions, LLC Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Photo credit: Axente Productions, LLC
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

This weekend is a very special one for me – it marks my one year wedding anniversary!  In honor of this important milestone, I thought I’d share some wedding budgeting tips.

There is no doubt about it – weddings can be very expensive, and the expenses add up quickly!  But it is possible to be savvy about your expenditures and still put on an amazing party.  Here are a few thoughts:

1) Sit down and determine your wedding budget. Traditionally, the groom’s parents pay for the rehearsal dinner and the bride’s parents pay for the reception.  These days, that doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes the couple has to pay for most or all of the wedding.  Whatever your case may be, determine what you can afford and do your best to stick to this number!

2) When searching for wedding venues, be willing to consider sites that aren’t the #1 places to get married. By that, I mean, instead of having your heart set on getting married in a big name hotel, consider getting married at a state park.  We found several parks that had beautiful wedding accommodations so that we could have the outdoor/indoor wedding we wanted.

3) If funds are tight, consider getting married on a Friday or Sunday. These days of the week are less expensive than getting married on a Saturday.

4) When funds are tight, Do It Yourself (DIY) is certainly your friend! There are all sorts of crafty websites that will give you ideas for wedding favors or centerpieces, and you can either buy these pieces from the websites, or you can go to your local craft store like Michaels to make the items yourself.  Just keep in mind that DIY requires time, so budget that into your schedule.

One of my favorite wedding research websites was  There were lots of suggestions to help you plan a wedding that are a little different – how different is up to you.  We got some great suggestions on the wedding invitation wording from this website.  My favorite suggestion, though, was having my grandmother, escorted by my grandfather, be my flower girl, or “Flower Artist”, as we called her.  That was so special to me.

I also found to be a helpful resource – we created a wedding website for ourselves, and they had great planning tools for guest lists and seating charts, among other things.

5) Check out your local thrift stores and dollar stores for great looking items at a fraction of the cost that you might find in other stores or online! At the thrift store, I found an eclectic collection of glass candleholders and bowls to use as centerpieces on the tables at the reception.  You might also look for vintage jewelry to wear or to give to the wedding party.  If you need a shrug to cover your shoulders for a church ceremony, you might be able to find something really neat at a thrift store.

We found a lot of useful items at the dollar store, too –bows to put on the seats along the aisle, bubbles, foam boards for wedding signs into and out of the venue, candleholders, and little decorative pieces to use on signs and elsewhere.

It may take time and finding the items at just the right time in a thrift store or the dollar store, but if you’re patient, this can really pay off!

6) Flower arrangements can get very expensive very quickly! Consider stopping by the floral department of your local grocery store (or the grocery store nearest to your wedding venue) to price out your floral needs.  You will likely be able to get the exact flowers you want, even if they’re out of season, for a fraction of the price you would pay through a traditional florist shop!

In my case, I went to the Giant supermarket that was closest to my venue and ordered my flowers.  I was able to get my favorite flowers, tulips, out of season, and I also added in calla lilies (a very expensive flower) along with other beautiful flowers to create a gorgeous bouquet.  The cost of all the flowers we ordered for the wedding were ¼ of the price that we were being quoted from traditional flower shops!

7) Regarding your cake, think outside the box! You might buy a small, beautifully decorated cake for you to cut, then have a sheet cake from the grocery store in the kitchen that will then be cut and served to guests.  Or, if you don’t like cake, you can do what we did and serve chocolate chip cookie bars and brownie bars a la mode!  The sky is the limit!

8) For your honeymoon, consider visiting a National Park. There is plenty to do and see and you’ll learn a lot!  And it may be a bit less expensive than traveling to a resort.  We visited Yellowstone National Park for our honeymoon.  It was beautiful and amazing.  Wherever you decide to go, remember to tell everyone that you’re on your honeymoon – you may get a free treat from well-wishers 🙂

Most of all, remember that, though you want to put on a great party at your wedding, the most important thing at the end of the day is that you’ve gotten married to the love of your life!  This will be one of the happiest days of your life, and just try to enjoy it and take it all in.  If anything doesn’t go as planned, don’t fret – you’ll laugh over it with your spouse later.

Best wishes for a lifetime of happiness!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – Seventeen tons of gold are made into wedding rings each year in the United States!  (Source: )

Budgeting 101 – Vacations!

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

We are now in prime vacation season, so I thought we could talk about budgeting for vacations.

When you decide to go on vacation, it is best to plan several months in advance so that you can make out a savings plan for your trip.  Are you able to put aside $50 – $100 per month toward your next vacation?  If you can’t swing this amount, consider saving your $5 bills as we discussed, or even save your $1 bills.

In the $5 bill post, we talked about saving the bills for gifts for your loved ones.  You can also use this money toward your vacation.  You can decide to use this money however you’d like.

If you are saving in small increments like this, you’ll probably need to save for a longer period of time, depending on how much you’ll need for the particular vacation you’ve chosen.  Don’t forget about visiting our nation’s treasures – National Parks.  They are beautiful, interesting, educational, and often budget friendly.

Let’s say you’ve decided to visit Yellowstone National Park (pictured above).  You might start by researching accommodations.  You have the option to stay inside the park, or you can stay in the surrounding area, which might be slightly less expensive.  Have you ever thought about staying on a Dude Ranch?  They’re lots of fun.  Anyway, write down around how much your accommodations will cost.

Next, research how much travel costs are to get to that area.  Compare the prices of flying into different airports in the area – one may be less expensive than the others.

Other items to remember to budget for are: car rental, gas, food, and souvenirs.  With all this pricing information, you can determine approximately how much you’ll need for your vacation.  Then divide that number by the number of weeks until your scheduled vacation to know how much you’ll need to save each week.

Saving for your vacation might take longer than just going on vacation and putting everything on your credit card to pay off later.  However, you’ll be happy that you took the time to determine your budget then regularly put money to the side so that you can truly enjoy your vacation without any money worries!  Have fun!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – Andrew Jackson, seen on the $20 bill, actually preferred using coins instead of paper currency (Source:

Fun with money – National Parks Quarters

Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

Hi everyone!

I recently purchased a map in which to display the new specialty quarters.  It’s similar to the State Quarters map (shown in this post).  However, this time, it’s for the National Parks Quarters (see the picture above).

Each time I’ve received a new National Park quarter, I’ve put it to the side.  Now I’m excited to be able to place the quarters I’ve collected so far in my new map!

If you like the look of this map, you can purchase it from Amazon.  Click here to be taken to the site (note: this is not an affiliate link).

See how much fun you can have playing with your money?!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – The first United States paper money was printed in denominations of 1 cent, 5 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cents (Source: