Category Archives: Fun with Money

Happy Halloween!

Winner of the pumpkin carving contest at my work! Copyright 2015 - Sweet Doll Designs
Winner of the pumpkin carving contest at my work!
Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs

As you go off on your Halloween adventure with your witches, goblins, ghosts, and ghouls, stop and reflect on past Halloweens.  Do you have a favorite costume?  Was it purchased at the store or did you toil for hours to make it?  Do you have any memories of money traditions around Halloween?

I was all sorts of things for Halloween growing up: bunny, pumpkin, panda, space cat, Frankenstein, witch, one half of a pair of dice, math wizard, the universe, sailor, Boo from Monster’s Inc., cat burglar, and a 20’s flapper, to name a few.  My costumes were always homemade.  It was always so fun to plan out all the elements needed for each costume!

My childhood neighborhood was nearby a bunch of other neighborhoods, so my candy haul was always pretty significant.  And of course you know where to find the best candy.  Some houses gave away the king size candy bars (like mine!) and some gave away the “fun” size (though whoever thought that size was fun was crazy).  Then there were the people who handed out healthy “treats” like raisins and apples.  But there was one guy who always saved his pocket change and came to the door with a huge bowl full of change and a small spoon.  Probably not surprisingly, I loved this house because it gave me more pennies and nickels to roll with the rest of my change!

Share your fun Halloween memories in the comments below.  Have fun and be safe this Halloween!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today: Total Halloween spending (costumes, decorations, candy, cards, etc.) is expected to reach $6.9 billion in America for 2015! (Source:


Budgeting 101 – tweak your attitude

Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs

How do you feel when you hear the word “budget”?  Does it feel limiting and no fun?  Do you want to tap into your inner child and say “budget, don’t tell me what to do!”…and then you defiantly visit and buy 3 CDs you didn’t need, just because you can?  Do you think you can just kinda “wing it” instead of really looking at the numbers on paper?  Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but perhaps it feels a little scary?

If you’re nodding “yes” to any of these descriptions, consider this quote I recently found:

“When I made the shift from seeing decreasing my expenses as deprivation to seeing it as keeping money for myself and taking great care of myself, everything changed.”  ~Kate Northrop

When I read that quote, I thought: oh my goodness, she’s totally right!  A budget isn’t supposed to be some sort of straight jacket, there to make your life unpleasant…it’s just the opposite!  A budget will free you to live a fuller, more expansive life!

So what do you think about trying out this new tweak in attitude?  Take it out for a spin and see how you like it!

A big part of this process is to think of the overall picture.  What do you want your money to help you achieve?  You work hard to earn this money, so make it work hard for you.

Consider your hopes and dreams.  Budgeting is a way of funneling your money into things that matter to you – a way to make your hopes and dreams come true.  For instance, you may want to save up for a beautiful new house, bringing a baby into the world, excellent educations for your kids, travel to lovely and relaxing destinations with your family, comfortable retirement, or whatever else you daydream about.  Remember to work saving for these occasions into your budget.  In this way, your money can help you live the life of your dreams.

Here’s a place to start: instead of thinking of a budget as this big, intimidating project, commit to keeping your receipts for one month.  Either as you go along or at the end of the month, enter the amount of each receipt in the general category where it belongs in the resource I’ve created for you (request it using the form below).  Then take a step back and evaluate what you see.

You may be surprised to find that you eat out a lot more often than you thought.  For example, if you find that you’re spending $60 each week in eating out and you think you should only be spending $40, make $40 your spending goal for next week and see how you do.  Or maybe you’re not spending enough in the “FUN!” category.  Regardless of what you find, take note and tweak where necessary.

It make take a few tries, but I’ll bet you know what’s reasonable to expect that you spend in each category.  Keep in mind that “reasonable” may end up between what you’re actually spending and what you’d ideally like to spend.  For example, you may prefer to only spend $20 each week in gas, but the reality is your commute is really long, so it’s more realistic to expect to spend $40.  That’s a bummer, but not the end of the world.

So, try tweaking your attitude about budgeting to focus on how it will help you live the life of your dreams.  Good luck, have fun, and let me know how it goes in the comment section below.

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today: Did you know that paper currency can be folded back & forth 4,000 before it wears out?  (Source:

Lessons from my cat – be playful, curious, and stress-free

As you can probably imagine, I eagerly follow the stats on my blog page, excited every time I see that someone has viewed a post, and ecstatic when they “like” it!  Since sharing my blog on Facebook, I’ve gotten a lot more traffic on my blog page (thanks everyone!).  I’ve been paying attention to which posts seem to be most popular so that I can determine what people are interested in reading about.  I’m equally as interested to see which topics aren’t quite as popular.

Surprisingly, the posts I’ve written on having fun with your money, the very same posts that I have so much fun writing, seem to not be as popular as the other posts I’ve written.  I’ve been asking myself why that could be, and had an inspiration from my cat this afternoon!

Two years ago, my husband and I adopted an adorable black kitten, Oliver.  He was found by my coworker in an abandoned parking lot when he was 4 months old, and we were thrilled to adopt him and make him part of our family.  He has quite the spunky personality – he is not a typical lazy lap cat.  He is always exploring and playing.

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

I took him outside on our porch this afternoon to play.  It’s a gorgeous fall day and he was enjoying chasing the leaves and munching on a few.  As I watched him play, I realized that we should all be more like our pets.  By that, I mean we should all be more playful, curious, and stress-free!

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

That got me to thinking about the fun with money posts I’ve written.  I think people are used to thinking of money as a super serious topic.  It is, there is no question about it – without money, life could be a lot harder.  However, it’s not a bad thing, and actually a great thing, to be more playful, curious, and certainly less stressed about our money.

Think about other things you have fun doing.  For example, most of us cook for ourselves.  It’s fine to follow a recipe exactly, and that’s probably what we all do the first time we make it.  But isn’t it more fun to experiment with the recipe the next time you make it?  You might play with the spices, ingredients, and side dishes.  Do you find that you learn more about the recipe when you play with it?  I do!

What if you applied the same concept to your money?  Go ahead and buy a state quarter map (read more here) or a National Park quarter map (read more here).  Mark your money and track it on the Where’s George website (read more here).  Pay more attention to all aspects of your money, including the designs on our paper currency (read more here)!  Let go of your tendency to be so serious about your money, if only for a few minutes.

You might be surprised what you learn when you play with your money!  How do you have fun with your money?

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

What lessons have you learned from your pets?  How can you apply those lessons to your money?  Comment below!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – In 2013, Americans spent $55.7 billion (yes, with a B!!) on their pets.  It is expected that number will reach $60 billion in 2014! (Source:

Fun with Money – the back of your bills!

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

This week, I read a great article that taught me to be mindful about my money in a slightly different way.

Brendan McKeon, the author of the article, is from Seattle and traveled to Washington, DC for work.  As he was walking through the monuments in DC, he realized that they looked familiar – they are many of the buildings featured on the backs of our bills!

He then took the time to line up the bills he had in his pocket with the actual buildings and took some pretty amazing photos!  You can find those photos and his article by clicking here.

I think I’m pretty mindful about my money.  However, I had never spent much time contemplating the backs of the bills in my wallet until I read this article.

The thing I find so profound about my realization is that this translates into everyday life.  Perhaps you’re experiencing a problem and you’re currently struggling to find a suitable solution.  Consider then taking that same problem and thinking of it a different way – perhaps even “backwards”.

Does looking at the difficulty from a different angle help you solve the problem?   You might be surprised that it will!

For example, say you’ve just had your hours cut at work.  Your first thought might be – what are my unnecessary expenses?  Let me reduce those and hunker down to wait for better times.  That’s a great place to start.  However, what about thinking of other ways to make more money?  This doesn’t mean that you have to get several part-time jobs.  Perhaps you can find someone who will pay you to make freezer meals for them.  You’re already cooking for yourself and your family, so doubling the recipe wouldn’t be too much trouble.   Or perhaps you can run errands for someone for a fee – you already have your errands to run, possibly to the same stores!  You could create a poster of services that you’re willing to do for people for a fee and post it on community boards in your area as well as on Craigslist.

So, next time you’re having a problem, be it with your job, budget, school work, office work, home, car, relationships…try thinking of things from a different angle to come up with a creative solution.  Also, be sure to be mindful about your surroundings and everything else in your life.

Making an important discovery might be as simple as taking something that you’ve seen a million times in your life and simply turning it over!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – The buildings featured on the backs of the U.S. dollar bills are:

  • $1 bill – a pyramid, though not a specific one that I can tell through my research
  • $5 bill – Lincoln Memorial (Washington, DC)
  • $10 bill – U.S. Treasury (Washington, DC)
  • $20 bill – The White House (Washington, DC)
  • $50 bill – U.S. Capitol (Washington, DC)
  • $100 bill – Independence Hall (Philadelphia, PA)

Bonus fun fact – Since I live nearby the great city of Washington, DC, I have taken many pictures of the beautiful monuments around the city.  Below, I’m sharing my favorite pictures I’ve taken of buildings featured on the backs of bills.  Ironically, the only picture I can’t find that I’ve taken is one of the U.S. Treasury.  Haha – I’ll have to fix that soon!  Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Lincoln Memorial Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Lincoln Memorial
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs
The White House Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
The White House
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs
U.S. Capitol Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
U.S. Capitol
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs
Independence Hall Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Independence Hall
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

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:

Financial Independence

In honor of July 4th, my great country’s Independence Day, I’ve been trying to figure out how to apply that to finances.  Then I thought of it – Financial Independence.

You’ve probably heard people say it (and maybe even said it yourself) – “I need to be financially independent (or independently wealthy) in order to do ­­­___________ (fill in the blank)”.

It’s fine to have financial independence as a goal, but as with any goal, you need to have a plan if you’re serious about achieving it.  This is the perfect time for you to sit down and really think about how you want your future to look.  Does it include traveling all around the country and even the world?  Does it include a big house and fancy cars?  Or is the size of your bank account what matters to you?  Does it mean sending your kids to the best schools available in the country?  Owning a vacation home or two?  All of the above?

How ever you picture your perfect life, it is important that you have plenty of money so that you can follow your dreams.  That is sometimes easier said than done.  How do we get from here to there?

First, it’s vitally important to be doing something for a living that you love.  I mean, really LOVE.  It makes life so much easier when the way you earn your money makes your heart sing.

Next, take a close look at your finances.  Decide if all your current expenses are really necessary.  Ask yourself – does this expense make me happy?  Will it help me to achieve my goals?  Is this really something I want to be spending my money on?  If you answer no to any of these questions, cut that expense out.  Now I know you’ll likely say no when you examine taxes, let’s say, but there’s not much you can do about that!

Once you have an overall picture of your future, take a piece of that picture and break it down into little parts.  This makes working toward your goals more manageable.

For example, if driving a Corvette is part of your dream life, first determine how much they cost.  With that information, you can look at your monthly savings and determine how much of it to allocate to buying your new ‘Vette.  Then you can figure out how long it will take until you are behind the wheel of your brand new car!

Finally, now that you’ve decided on an idea of what you want your future to look like, set about getting yourself there.  Keep these goals in the front of your mind each day.  In order to do that, consider building a vision board.  Cut out pictures and phrases from magazines that remind you of your goals and paste them on a board that you keep in plain sight.  Make it into something fun!

In the Corvette example, I’d certainly cut out a picture of the Corvette I have my eye on.  I’d also find a large logo, and maybe even a picture of the steering wheel to add to my poster.  Then I’d add pictures of the kind of house I want, places I want to visit, and so on.

Really get into your visualization of your dream life.  Wait expectantly for it to come to fruition.  This doesn’t mean to sit around and wait for it to show up.  This means that you’re working toward your goals in a logical manner and you expect that you’re following the right path that will lead you to your dream life.

What is most important is that you commit to your goals and always work toward them.  If you decide in the future that you need to tweak your goals, that’s no big deal – tweak away!  There is no shame in realizing that you actually don’t want that goal after all.  Feel free to make a complete 180 degree turn and go for a goal that is totally different.

As long as you work toward what you think will make you happy, you’re doing the right thing.

I recently found a great blog.  The woman who writes it is passionate about cheering you on toward your goals, whatever they may be.  If you need a pick-me-up, or just to feel like someone is on your side, cheering you forward, check out the blog:  You will be happy that you did!

I wish you success on your road to your own financial independence.  I am happy that you have chosen me to help you along the way.

I’m proud to be an American!  Happy 4th of July!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – In 2011, the US imported a total of $232.5 million of fireworks – that’s a lot of fodder for great celebrations! (Source:

Fun with Money – Where’s George

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

Our next installment in the Fun with Money series is regarding the Where’s George website.

When you receive cash as change or from the ATM, consider taking a moment to enter it on the Where’s George website ( – just create a free account and you’re on your way!

You will need to enter each bill separately.  The website will ask you to enter the denomination, series year of the bill, and serial number.  There is also a section for comments.  I usually mention the condition of the bill (ex: excellent condition, slightly worn, worn, etc.) and where I got it (ex: from the ATM, as change from the grocery store or restaurant, etc.).  Lastly, you’ll want to enter your zip code and write on the bill “Track me at” (just make sure to write discretely on the bill so as not to deface it (see my example in the picture above)).  Then spend the cash as usual!

The fun is when someone receives your bill and enters it on the Where’s George website.  Because you entered your zip code, you’ll get to see how far the bill traveled.  You’ll also get to see whatever comments the new owner has made regarding the bill.  It is lots of fun watching your money travel around the state, and if you’re lucky, around the country!

Above all, have fun with it!

I found out about this website by coming across a bill marked with the Where’s George website early in 2014.  Since then, I have entered on Where’s George almost all of the cash I’ve received, and I’ve had one bill found by someone else and I’ve received one of my own bills back as change from the grocery store =)

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – When you’re entering your cash on the Where’s George website, you may be interested to notice the Federal Reserve Bank from which your money originated.  Each Federal Reserve Bank is assigned a letter and region number, and this information is printed either in the seal to the left of the portrait, or beneath the serial number printed in the upper left hand corner of the bill. (Source:

Here is a list of Federal Reserve Banks and their corresponding letters and numbers:

Federal Reserve Bank                    Letter                    Number

Boston                                                  A                             1

New York City                                    B                             2

Philadelphia                                       C                             3

Cleveland                                            D                             4

Richmond                                            E                              5

Atlanta                                                 F                              6

Chicago                                                G                             7

St. Louis                                               H                             8

Minneapolis                                       I                               9

Kansas City, MO                               J                              10

Dallas                                                    K                             11

San Francisco                                     J                              12

And here is a map of the Federal Reserve Bank regions: