Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Time to Splurge

A few weeks ago, C.J. and I took YJ out to Blue Man Group show. We wanted to do something very special for YJ's birthday. After much brainstorming, I decided if it were not for this special occasion, none of us would ever have a chance to go to Blue Man show. Especially, I doubt that the TAPO couple would dare to go to such a pricey show on their own without a serious excuse.

The show turned out to be great and we all had much fun. Most likely, it will be once-in-a-lifetime experience to all three of us, and the fact that we were able to share the experiece together meant a lot.

It was a very fun and meaningful evening. I have to say it was one of the best splurging's we have done.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Until Death Do Us Part

I like to use things until they become unusable. I still use the leather purse which I got in 1995. My infamous backpack with wheels was purchased in 2002, the same year when this laptop computer was bought. Shoes are worn until they become unrepairable.

The mouse that I use was a gift from a friend of mine. I believe it's only about 4 years old. It's functional and I have no problem with it. However, C.J. insists I need a new one, a cute one like the Plumberry Mouse in the picture above.

C: Honey, come here. I think you will like this. Isn't this mouse cute? I'm thinking about getting this for you from eBay.
H: Let me see...it is really cute. Then, is anything wrong with my mouse? Is it not working? It was working fine yesterday...
C: No... your mouse is working, but it's not fun. I want you to use this cute mouse.
H: Hey, I am as happy as I can be with my mouse.
C: You know what? Also, there is this little crack on the side of your mouse...here, see?
H: So, is it not functioning because of the crack?
C: No...but...
H: I'm going to use this mouse until it goes dead.
C: Then, how about this? How about if I get this Plumberry one for your Christmas gift?
H: Well, I can't let this old one go until it does not work any longer. How about if you get me the Plumberry one when my old one dies?
C: ....Ok, we'll do that.
C: Honey?
H: Listening.
C: Are you going to keep me until I die?
H: Of course!
C: Are you going to get a new husband if I die first?
H: It depends...Are you?
C: Hmm...I think I'll eventually remarry. But, I'll miss you a lot, though.
H: (duh?)


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To Give or Not To Give?

Every year, we receive many letters from friends asking for financial support for their short-term or long-term missions trips. Whenever we receive them, we take our time to discuss whether we have to give or not and ,if we decide to help, how much we have to give.

Not long ago, we received one of those letters from a couple whom C.J. has been friends for many years. They were going on an overseas missions trip for about 10 days and asked for support.

C.J.'s response was 'Of course we have to give, because they are my long-time friends!'. However, my response was very different: 'They've become my friends as well, but knowing that they are not responsible with their finance, I have much reservation'.

Since it's not like I have unlimited financial resource to support everyone who needs help, I would like to give to those who have the history of being responsible and faithful with finance so that my gift would not be wasted.


Monday, September 28, 2009

FREE 2010 New Yorker Calendar

How about a FREE calendar for 2010? New Yorker Magazine is giving away free calendars.
Go over HERE to sign up for your calendar. Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.

Thanks 'It's Hip 2 Save'!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Free Entree at Panda Express - 9/25/2009 only

Tomorrow, Panda Express is offering FREE entree of SweetFire Chicken Breast. It's not buy one get one free. It's Completely Free! I plan to check out Panda Express near my work for lunch tomorrow. HERE is your coupon.

Only valid at participating locations, so please call ahead.


Hooray to Local Banks!

A few months ago, we decided it is wise to take advantage of current low interest rates and refinance. We thought we would save a lot of money by reducing the total mortgage interest we will have to pay over the remaining mortgage life.

During our pre-bank visit research, we found out that small local banks give much more favorable rates than larger, well-known banks. After much discussion, two local banks were picked for visit: Liberty Bank and Harris Bank. I want to take this opportunity to share how impressed we were with the sincerity and honesty of their service.

At the Liberty Bank, a young banker welcomed us into his office. As I have believed wisdom comes with aging, I didn't expect much from the young man. However, he spent almost an hour to explain and answer our questions. He was sincere and he did not try to 'sell' stuff. We were given a free mortgage 101 lesson. At the end of the visit, CJ and I found out that Liberty Bank does not offer commission to its bankers for selling products, which explained why the young man was able to be fair and honest with us.

Next, we visited Harris Bank. The morgage banker, Kevin, was not in the office. However, instead of telling us to come back later, another banker went an extra mile to let us talk to Kevin over the phone. Kevin was straightforward: He said, "Why are you going to waste that $1200 refinancing cost? You'd better use it to pay toward your remaining mortgage balance. Even though your mortgage rate goes up next year, it will be a minimal increase." He could not have been wiser! Refinancing cost is 100% wasted money. However, if we put it toward our mortgage principle, it will reduce the balance and therefore reduce the interest. With our current mortgage balance and mortgage interest rate, $1200 is greater than the money we will save on interest payment by refinancing.

The first banker helped us understand the basics of mortgage and refinancing. However, Kevin's insight was what the first banker at the Liberty Bank could not offer to us. If we had talked to only the first banker, we might have gone ahead with refinancing by now! Whew....Praise God!

Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22, NASB)

Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Proverbs 11:14, NASB)


Friday, September 11, 2009

Apples to Apples

Apples are in season, and we are taking a full advantage of its nutrition, varieties, freshness, and lower-than-non-season price.

Near where we live, there is a small Greek-owned grocery store called Produce World, and across from the store is Dominick's. Between the two stores, there is difference of up to $2.50 per pound for apples depending on its varieties!

It's not only apples.
I'm looking at http://www.mygrocerydeals.com/ right now:
Bluberries (non-organic):
$1.99 per pound at Garden Fresh Market
$5.59 per pound at Jewel-Osco
Cranberries (non-organic):
$1.99 per pound at Trader Joe's
$3.49 at Garden Fresh Market

I don't know exactly how some stores can lower their price so much while others can't (or don't). However, I know Trader Joe's lower their price by directly dealing with producers instead of going through dealers in between.

So, where would you buy your apples today?

Monday, August 31, 2009

FREE sample of Kashi Cereal

Kashi is giving away FREE sample of cereal. You can choose one of the three kinds being offered. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery. Go on over HERE to sign up for yours.


Whether Rich or Poor

This past week's top news was the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. In my class, we had a brief discussion about his life and career as a politician. Then, one of my students commented 'He was very rich and must have had a really good insurance, but his doctor couldn't cure the cancer?'

As someone who cannot afford to have health insurance, he might have meant to be sarcastic. However, as a Christian, I thought that was a very meaningful statement. However rich we are, however skillful and smart doctors we can afford, we are all helpless in front of death, aren't we?


Friday, August 28, 2009

65 Hours a Week

I teach reading and writing at a community college two evenings a week. All of my students are non-native speakers of English. Some of them immigrated to United States more than a few decades ago, some of them have lived here for a few years, and others have just moved to United States a few months ago.

I love my teaching job because I learn more from my students than what they learn from me. Their diligence, attitudes toward life and contentment with what they have teach me gratefulness. My students are hard-working people, many of whom do not get paid more than minimum wage: grocery store cashiers, restaurant servers, chefs, factory workers, construction laborers, nannies, etc.

Antelmo, one of my students, works 65 hours a week in a restaurant's kitchen. With two children and a wife, he says he is just grateful that he can provide for his family. When asked why he decided to come to school instead of resting at home, he says he can't stop growing. He always sits in the front seat and he isn't shy about asking for help for things he does not understand. During the break, he gets a 25-cent coffee from a vending machine so that he could stay awake for the rest of the class. He is serious about learning, and I feel very responsible and also privileged to feed his hunger for learning.

Some men choose to stay home instead of working to provide for his family, because they think they are too important or too higly educated to take 'such lowly jobs', even though those are the only jobs available for them. It's a pretty common phenomenon, especially, among first generation Korean American immigrant families. Their pride and need for face-saving disable them as a provider for his own family, which drives their wives out to workplace. This often creates tension and dysfunction in their marriage and in the lives of their children.

1 Timothy 5:8 says, 'If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever'. I don't know if Antelmo knows God, but in Antelmo, I see the strength of a man who wants to provide for his family. I also see the passion for life in Antelmo. He refuses to settle down for mere surviving, but he is preparing himself for a season to thrive.

Monday, August 24, 2009

FREE Hugo Fragrance Samples

HUGO is giving away free fragrance samples in both male and female collections. Go on over HERE and sign up for your samples.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Grocery Steals of the Week

I found two great deals from mygrocerydeals.com.

Jewel-Osco is selling 1 pint Mocha Almond Fudge Haagen-Dazs All Natural Ice Cream for $1. Regular price is $3.19, so you are saving $2.19! I need to stock up a few of these for desserts!

Jewel-Osco is also selling 1 LB Organic Driscoll's Strawberries for $1.50. Regular price is $3.95. I'm going to get a few of these and wash & freeze for smoothies!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Credit Scoring Changes We Need to Know

Do you know how your credit score is determined? Do you know that the credit scoring system has changed recently? Do you know what are the changes and how they affect you and your family? Mary Hunt wrote an excellent, easy-to-understand article on this topic in the finance section of Crosswalk.com.

Here is the summary:

1. The new version of credit scoring model, FICO 08, ignores small collections that may appear on your credit report.
2. It is less punishing for those who have had a major setback, such as repossession, as long as their other active credit accounts are in good standing.
3. It allows some authorized-user information to be included when developing that person's credit score.
4. You should never use more than 30% of your available credit, even if you pay your balance in full each month.
5. You should not close credit card accounts, because it will reduce the total amount of your available credit.
6. The accounts you have need to be active, which means you'd better use each one for a very small purchase every month or so.

We all know that good credit score is somewhere between 700-759, and 760-850 is considered excellent. Obtaining your credit score is not free, but you can purchase your score at MyFICO.com for $15.95.

*Tip of the Day
Knowledge is power.


15 Overpriced Things People Hate Paying For

I found an interesting article on money section of msn.com. With the recession, more families are trying to cut non-essential expenses, and they have become very conscious about where their money goes. MSN.com asked people to find what are the top 15 things they now go out of their way to avoid paying for:

1. Movie theater popcorn
2. Event parking
3. Printer ink
4. Drinks at restaurants
5. Bottled water
6. Gourmet coffee
7. Restaurant holiday deals
8. Movie tickets
9. Oil changes
10. Airport food
11. Ticketmaster fees
12. ATM fees
13. 401k management fees
14. Airline baggage fees
15. Hot dogs at baseball games

Well, I just paid for event parking and Ticketmaster fee last week, BUT I saved a lot on the ticket itself!


Monday, August 17, 2009

FREE Juicer

Just what I needed! Paramount Citrus is giving away free juicer. Sign up HERE. It will take 6-weeks for delivery.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No More Freebies On Campus from Credit Card Companies

Usually, I am not proud of the State of Illinois at all. The seemingly endless political scandals, the recent Chicago cemetery defamation, one of the highest sales tax rates in the country...

However, this week, the State of Illinois did something praiseworthy. I just heard the news this morning on the radio: The state is going to prohibit credit card companies from offering freebies to students on college/univeristy campuses in the state. That's right. Credit companies won't be able to give out free shirts, free gym bags, free gift cards, and other free stuff to entice cash-strapped college students. Governor Quinn, my hat's off to you!


FREE Sample of Somersaults Snack

Somersaults Sea Salt: this snack sounds very healthful. Following is the description of the snack found on the company's website: Somersaults Sea Salt brings to life the toasted perfection of a sunflower seed with the subtle hint of sesame rounded out with savory salts from the sea. Sign up right HERE for yours and wait for a few weeks for delivery!


Monday, August 10, 2009

FREE Sample of Nutland Crunch

School is starting soon, which means my second job is starting soon, too. I'll be in need of lots of snacks to carry around to survive those 16-hour days. I found a great freebie snack today: Nutland Crunch. These snacks sound so healthful and tasty. Go HERE and sign up for yours.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Give One When You Get One

I met Pastor Dale while I was working toward my first master's degree at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Pastor Dale does not get paid salary from his church, but he and his family depend on God's provision. I, personally, witnessed many times how God met their needs in divine ways.

I repect Pastor Dale for many reasons but one of the most respectable things about him is that he strives not to become materialistic in this materialistic world. I remember Pastor Dale and Jen sharing their concern about their daughter getting too much toy gifts.

One day, Pastor Dale and Jen realized that their only daughter, Michelle was being spoiled with so many toys. Her room and their basement were being filled gifts and toys from grandparents, uncles, aunts, family friends, and many others. So, they came up with a brilliant idea: when Michelle receives a new toy gift, she should give one of her toys away to another child. One Christmas, Michelle received a new toy from her aunt and she gave away one of her old dolls to a missionary family and thier child.

It's so easy to accumulate things without realizing how they end up owning us. Whenever I let go of the attachment and hold for the old clothes or things that I can live without , there is such a sense of freedom.

So, I just gave away a bag of my old, yet rarely worn clothes to a friend's daughter who's going to college this year.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

FREE Honey Nut Cheerios Sample plus $1 Coupon

Fill out the form HERE to get a Honey Nut Cheerios FREE sample and a $1 coupon. I like it that they don't ask for my e-mail address. Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.


FREE Sample Packets of Emeril's Original Essence

Is everyone getting your free stuff in mail? We enjoyed free ice cream from Starbucks, and the free Wild Cooler from Caribou Coffee was so good!

This week's free stuff is sample packets of Emeril's Original Essence. Extra seasoning is always welcome to anyone's kitchen. Go on over HERE and sign up for yours.


Monday, August 3, 2009

$3 Dinner - Turkey Burger in Pita Bread

My apologies for not having posted for almost a week. Let's say I was very distracted.

These days, I'm kind of hooked to pita bread. At our local Greek grocery store, a package of 10 pita breads are sold at $1.49. It's not only inexpensive, but also it's kept frozen but can be easily, quickly thawed. One of the creative ways to use pita bread is to use it as buns. Today's $3 dinner is turkey burger in pita bread.

Ingredients (1 serving)
1 Turkey burger
1 Pita bread
Vegetables (whatever you have; I used lettuce, yellow onion, mushroom)

1.Take out a pita bread from the freezer and let it sit outside while preparing other ingredients
2.Cook the turkey burger either on a lightly greased pan or in a convection oven
3.Wash, drain, chop lettuce
4.Stir fry yellow onion and mushroom, adding salt and pepper
5.Cut top 1/4 of the pita bread, and put the burger and all the vegetables in the pocket


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

FREE Nescafe Taster's Choice Stick Pack Sample

Do you like coffee? How about instant coffee to carry in your purse? Sign up for FREE Nescafe Taster's Choice Stick Pack Sample with 6 delicious flavors!
Click HERE to order your coffee for free.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Will You Marry ME................and my debt?

My friends Lisa and Kraig (names were changed) had been engaged for three and a half years before they got married. When they were engaged, Kraig was in deep debt, and their premarriage counselor, who was also their pastor, advised them to wait until Kraig paid off all debt.

If C.J. had debt, I would not have married him. No, never! When we got engaged, C.J. was also in debt, due to the cost of the engagement ring which he put on my finger plus tuition for his MBA program. Determined to start my marriage debt-free, I told him that I want to trade the diamond ring for a simple gold band. We had a serious conversation about the situation, and C.J. decided to use his savings to pay off the debt. And, of course, I got to keep the diamond ring!

I was firm that I would not marry someone in debt of any kind other than home mortgage, and C.J. graciously agreed to start off our marriage with a clean financial slate.

Whew! We are so glad that we started off debt-free. I cannot imagine how we could have lived through the tough first one and a half years of our marriage if we had debt in addition to all those first-year surprises which alone were overwhelming enough. Those who have ears, let them hear...

Related post
Money matters in marriage


FREE New Total Blueberry Pomegranate Cereal

Sign up to receive a free sample of new Total Blueberry Pomegranate cereal. No purchase required. You can sign up HERE.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

$3 Dinner - Shish Kabob Sandwich

C.J.'s best friend is Greek. They have been friends for almost 30 years, which explains C.J.'s deep appreciation of Greek food. C.J. had introduced me to Greek food a few years ago, and recently, I decided to learn cooking one easy Greek dish: Shish Kabob Sandwich.

After frequenting Hub's Restaurant for six months or so for Shish Kabob Sandwich, I realized I've been spending a lot of money for this simple meal: $5.57 x so-many-times = $A-lot-of-money. So, I asked C.J.'s Greek friend for recipe of the dish, which turned out to be hilariously easy.

Ingredients (4 servings)
1.5 LB Pork, chopped in cubes (I use Pork Brisket Griller from CostCo)
Pita bread (Much cheaper if you buy from a Greek-owned grocery store)
Lettuce, chopped
Tomato, sliced
Yellow onion, sliced
Tzatziki sauce: I make using Greek style plain yogurt, garlic powder, cucumber bits*
Marinating sauce for pork: Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper, dill

*I often skip cucumber part when I don't have it at home.

1.Marinate meat in the sauce for as long as your time allows
2.Grill the meat and yellow onion either in a pan or oven (I grill in our convection oven at Broil setting for 15 minutes at 400°F)
3.Place grilled meat, yellow onion, lettuce, tomato on a pita bread
4.Enjoy with Tzatziki sauce!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Tranquility of Simplicity

Earlier this year, I have thought about acquiring a property as an investment. With the real estate market plummeting, I figured it would bring a handsome return if we could buy a foreclosed property, fix it up and sell it. However, as I sought wisdom and guidance from the Bible and the principles we had learned from Crown Financial Ministries, I chose to forgo the idea.

Here are some questions that I had to ask myself:

1.Are we free of debt? No. Is our mortgage debt? Of course it is! According to Steve Diggs, home purchase is recommended only 'if you are currently a first-time home buyer with no debt, and cash on hand'.

2.Is this investment risk-free? No. This idea of purchasing foreclosed property involves a few risks. The biggest risk I could think of was losing job(s). What if one of us or both of us lose job(s) before the property is fixed and sold? Fortunately, we both hold full-time jobs at this point, but there certainly is no guarantee that our jobs will continue to be secure. Incurring more debt based on the presumption that we will continue to earn enough to pay the debt is against the counsel of the Bible.

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, NLT)

3.Is this going to help us in our efforts to live simply? Absolutely not. I desire to live a lean, simple life, because it enables me to focus my time and energy on things that are really valuable to me. As Howard Dayton puts it in Your Money Counts, every possession requires time, attention and often money, and sometimes it requires so much of our resource that it can ruin our relationship with others and God.

*Tip of the Day
Simple life brings not only physical & financial, but also emotional, mental, & relational tranquility.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

$3 Dinner - Grilled Mackerel

Since we got our $2 electric grill from a yard sale last month, we've been enjoying the convenience of grilling. I've noticed grilling makes the food to be looked at with 'wow' as if grilling brings the food to some higher level of appreciation.

Anyways, the other day, I grilled mackerel for dinner. A package of 4 mackerel was $4.50 in a store, and they were so thick and fresh.

Ingredients (2 servings)
2 Mackerel
Flour or starch

1. Cut the fish in half
2. Lightly cover the fish with flour or starch
3. Grill or cook on a lightly greased pan


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Want to Earn Extra Income?

Last weekend, C.J. and I organized a moving/yard sale for a friend and her family who are moving out of country. Most of the things were a few dollars or less. However, our friend and her family were able to earn significant amount of extra income from the moving sale. I guess 'Dollar here, dollar there, dollar everywhere' phrase is meant to describe such occasion.

There are many ways of bringing extra income. I think selling what we have but don't need is the easiest way to earn additional income. Since we got married, C.J. and I have been fighting against our tendency to accumulate things, i.e. pack rat syndrome. We have been selling lots of things on craigslist and ebay, and we want to keep working on making spaces rather than filling up the spaces.


Monday, July 20, 2009

FREE Wild Cooler at Caribou Coffee

I love it when free stuff is really free, without any purchase requirement attached to it.

Caribou Coffee is giving out free medium Wild Cooler, cold beverage or Wild Brownie until 7/31/2009. Go to their Facebook page and become their fan. Then, using their Wild It Up! Application, make a photo wilder! When you are done using the application, you will have access to print a coupon for a FREE Wild Cooler! Thanks to It's Hip 2 Save.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

$3 Dinner - Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is another way of feeding your family lots of healthful stuff. There is no real authentic recipe for pasta salad, so I add whatever I have at home. This past weekend, I made bean pasta salad for a picnic with friends at Ravinia Festival.

Ingredients (6-8 servings)
1LB rigate or rotini
1 Can - 15 oz. bean salad marinated in Italian dressing (or home-cooked beans of any kind and Italian dressing)
1 Pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 C black olives, cut in half
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
bell peppers, finely chopped
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta , drain and toss with oilve oil
2. Mix remaining ingredients and refrigerate until served


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Free Pastry At Starbucks

On July 21st, 2009, you can get one free pastry with the purchase of any handcrafted beverage at Starbucks. It's available between opening and 10:30 a.m. It's not available at Hawaii, airports and travel plazas or at Barnes & Noble cafes.

You can either print out and present the invitation, or save the inviation on your hand-held device and show it to a barista. Please go HERE to get the invitation.

This information is given to me by my previous roommate, Yoonjung. Thanks a bunch, Yoonjung!


Go Nuts, Go!

Both C.J. and I have extremely high metabolism. During our vacation to Cancun in May, we both gained 3 pounds over 5 days, which we lost only the day after we came back!

If you look into our cars or bags, you will always find something to eat - cereal bars, banana, dried fruit, V8, cookies... As we don't have much extra body fat to burn during times of extended hunger, those little snacks we carry around help us get through the days. It's not only cheaper, but also more healthful than running to vending machines everytime we're hungry.

One of our favorite carry-on snack is nuts, the Superfood! I buy raw almonds from CostCo and roast them in the convection oven at 350°F for 12 minutes. Mixed with honey roasted peanuts from Trader Joes, it's everywhere: on our dining table, in C.J.'s bag, in my drawer at work, etc.

It's also a great gift, especially for guys. Last year, C.J.'s co-worker gave us a used bike for me to use, and we gave him a jar of home-roasted almonds and another jar of pistachios as a thank-you gift. This past week, another co-worker of C.J. helped him with a minor car issue, and we gave him a jar of mixed nuts.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Is Mortgage Debt?

Some lenders define home mortgage as "investment". Others go even further to say that mortgage is not debt. That's distortion of truth and reality.

I believe our home mortgage is debt because we "owe" the lender, and also because we have to pay interest for the remaining principle until it's completely paid off. I wish I could say we 'own' our home, but the truth is our home is not really ours until the mortage is paid off completely.

With the current economic turmoil and plummeting housing market, many homeowners are realizing buying a home is not a guaranteed investment any more. Depending on where you live, you might better off by renting.

If you have questions regarding mortgage or refinancing your current mortgage, I would like to refer you to following resources:

Crown Financial Ministries - You can find many usuful calculators on their website such as loan calculators, different mortgage calculators, and even a rent vs. buy calculator!

Dale Vermillion - I like to listen to him answering mortgage-related questions on Moody Radio. He can be found at mortgageempowered.com. I haven't read it yet, but I heard many good things about his new book Navigating the Mortgage Maze.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Feast on $2 Grill

During Summer, we love to walk around, bike around or ride around the town browsing yard sales. A few weeks ago, there was a huge community yard sale in Arlington Heights, IL. It was organized by the wife of CJ's friend in order to raise fund to support two boys in the neighbor who lost their parents and house to a tragic fire incident.

The electric grill in the above picture is what we got from that yard sale. There was no scratch and it was in near-perfect condition, and it was only $2! What a steal!

Last weekend, we had a feast on the grill. The late lunch menu was Korean style bacon grill. We like Korean style bacon, because it's pure meat, not seasoned with salt. We grilled bacon and garlic, and had them with rice and hot pepper paste in a lettuce wrap. Later that day, we used leftover meat, rice, vegetables, and hot pepper paste to make fried rice over the grill as late dinner. As C.J. said, we ate like kings and queens!


Monday, July 13, 2009

$3 Dinner - Baked Shrimp Rigate

Another quick and easy meal! Baked Shrimp Rigate - sounds grandiose, but real simple.

Ingredients (4 servings)
1 LB rigate
2/3 LB shrimp (cooked)
1 Yellow onion (chopped)
Pasta Sauce (any kind)
Cheese (I used frozen Mozzarella and grated Parmesan)

1. Boil rigate. Add salt to taste if desired.
2. Sautee chopped onion. When onion turns light brown, add shrimp. Pre-heat the oven.
3. Mix cooked rigate, onion, and shrimp with pasta sauce.
3. In a deep baking pan, pour the mixture. Sprinkle cheese. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes at 350° F.
4. Dig in!


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Free Haircut

How does 'FREE haircut for the rest of your life' sound to you? Can you have your hair cut by someone who has NO experience at all?

Somebody had the audacity to ask me to cut his hair. Too bad that I had never cut anyone's hair except my own bangs! Be my guest or ... guinea pig.

One day back in April, C.J. bought a hair clipper set and announced that I shall be his hair dresser from then on. He had told me about this new idea before, but I didn't take it seriously. Anyways, so my journey of haircut mastery started that day.

First, C.J. wanted me to read the manual which came with the clipper set. Oh well, I don't like learning hand skills by reading a manual. I wanted to watch the real action. So he showed me a series of youtube videos which was for people like myself who wanted to learn how to cut men's hair. I found it boring, though.

What I needed was over-the-shoulder-learning. So, I followed him for a few visits to hair salons. The first observation was during our vacation in Cancun, Mexico. We visited a hair salon inside Wal-Mart in downtown Cancun. I sat right behind CJ and his hair dresser, and watched her hands, scissor, and clipper moving. It was fascinating enough to persuade me to follow C.J. for a few more hair salon visits.

Two weeks ago, the D-day finally came and it was my turn to be his hair dresser. I tried a few more times to dissuade him from this reckless adventure, but he was determined to get this 'free haircut for the rest of my life' thing going right away. O how nervous I was!

Well, so I cut his hair and it turned out...not bad. I gained some confidence and will certainly do a better job next time.

How much are we saving by doing this? Somewhere between $260-$350 a year.

Well, if you see him around, please say some nice things about his haircut.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Free Pint of New Starbucks Ice Cream

I like free stuff. Do you? If you have a Facebook account, you can sign up to get a coupon for a free pint of Starbucks Ice Cream. They're giving away up to 20,000 free coupons every day through July 19th. You cannot request the coupon if you live in CO, LA or TN, and you can request only one coupon per address.

Please go on over here and sign into your Facebook account. Then go here and click "Share Now". You will then be asked to fill in your mailing info. They are giving out only 800 coupons an hour and usually they are gone at the top of the hour -- which means that you may have to try back later.


$3 Dinner - Belt Fish Stew

Somebody in the house is feeling like chicken wings are coming out his armpits. Understandable. I have been cooking a lot of chicken dishes for the last three weeks - chicken skewer, chicken pizza, chicken Soojaebee, chicken over rice, chicken stew...

So it's fish this time. We had this belt fish stew in Jeju Island when we were visiting my family in Korea last winter. As you can see in the picture, it's spicy. I especially like the Korean radish which becomes soft and kind of sweet after soaking in all the seasonings.

Ingredients (4 servings)
1 Belt fish (I buy pre-cleaned frozen package)
1/3 Korean radish, washed and cut in bite size
3 Potatoes, peeled and cut in bite size
Anchovy broth (Boil 10 dried anchovy in 2C water; if you have, add dried shrimp and dried sea tangle)
Green onion, washed and chopped
1T Ginger, peeled and minced
1T Garlic, power or minced
3T Ground yellow onion
1T Brown sugar (I use plum extract, instead)
1T Malt (if you have)
6T Soy sauce
6T Cooking wine
2T Red Pepper Powder

1. In a wide-bottomed pan, add Korean radish, 1C anchovy broth, 1T soy sauce, 1T cooking wine
2. While it's cooking, make sauce => 1C anchovy broth, 5T soy sauce, 5T cooking wine, 3T ground yellow onion, 2T brown sugar, 1T malt, 2T red pepper powder, 1T garlic, 1T ginger, green onion
3. When the anchovy broth is almost gone in the pan, add potatoes and fish, and then pour the sauce over them. Cover the lid and cook.
4. When potatoes are soft, scoop the sauce from the bottom of the pan and pour it over the fish for a few minutes


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Money Matters in Marriage

Last month, C.J. and I had an opportunity to attend Willow Creek's Marriage Matters. An acquaintance of C.J. was speaking at the workshop that night.

We were seated with 5 other couples. Even though they were diverse in age, family size, career, faith journey, etc., they seemed to have formed a strong friendship and accountability over the 25 weeks they had been together.

That night, at the end of the teaching session, every table was given a group assignment: each couple had to role-play one tension/conflict-causing situation, and the other couples were supposed to help them out to resolve the conflict.

To my amazement, money was the #1 marital stress agent in 5 out of 6 couples at our table! I have heard about it and read about it in many books and articles, but the turbulence money creates in a marriage was never felt so real to me until that night.

Money matters, and it's even more so in a marriage. Money or financial stress is the leading cause of divorce. No wonder Jesus talked so much about money! According to Howard Dayton, the co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries, 16 out of the 38 parables of Jesus were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. There are 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 on faith, but more than 2,350 verses on money and possession!

Are you and your spouse on the same page financially? Do you work together to budget, save, invest, and give?


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Staycation - TAPO Version

What did you do this past 4th of July weekend? We had a Staycation!

Since we had two major vacations recently in Cancun and Toronto, we decided to stay put this time and save for another major get-away in December.

We had a fun and relaxing time which included: playing board games for 6 plus hours, mini-picnic at a beach, treasure hunting at yard sales, late night movie at home, BBQ at a friend's house, date night, swimming and napping by the pool....

We had not only a fun, but also a productive weekend because we were able to have a car problem fixed and took care of house chores which we have been putting off for a few months.

What I like about Staycation are: no packing, no airport delays, no pressure to rush around to see/do everything, and of course, no major expenses.

Share your Staycation ideas here.


$3 Dinner - Everything Skewer

What do you do with leftover and other long-forgotten things in your freezer? This past weekend, I pulled them together to make skewers. It turned out to be super easy yet very popular!

Ingredients (No pressure! Use whatever you have.)
Chicken thigh
Green bell pepper (this was leftover from making pizza)
Kabocha squash (it was taking up our kitchen floor space for several weeks)
Pineapple (i found this cut & frozen in my freezer)
Seasoning for chicken

1. If you are using meat, wash-chop-marinate it with your favorite sauce
2. Put everything to the skewer sticks
3. Grill them (I used a convection oven)

Chicken was slightly crusty outside yet soft & juicy inside. Those that were neglected turned out to be the most popular - kabocha squash and pinepple were so juicy and they were the highlight of the skewers.


Friday, July 3, 2009

$3 - Great Depression Cooking

I think we can learn a thing or two from this 95-year-old woman's cooking. As Clara recounts her childhood during the Great Depression, she prepares meals from the era in these shows posted at http://www.youtube.com/user/DepressionCooking.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bed Time Story #2

H: Hey.
C: Hay is for horses.
H: You forgot something today.
C: A hug?
H: Nope.
C: This? (smooch ~)
H: Well, that's very cute. But that's not it.
C: Is it our anniversary?
H: Hellow ~. We just had our first anniversary three months ago!
C: You're right. Let me see....your birthday was in January, Valentine's day was in February, chef's day was in March, lover's day was in April, wife's day was in May, just-because day was in June....Hmm...I don't know.
H: Arrgh....You forgot my allowance money for this month!
C: You're right! I totally forgot...I'll give it to you tomorrow. I get one too, right?
H: Only if you want.
C: Honey, I was thinking...how about if we raise the allowance money to $30? What do you think?
H: (silent)
C: Honey?
H: (snoring)
C: (whispering) I love you. Good night. (smooch~)


Where Do I Start?

Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. (Proverbs 19:20, NLT)

"I want to live with financial freedom, but I don't know where to start." I hear this a lot these days.

If you are a highly motivated and disciplined person, starting to write down "all" your spending for the next 30 days is a way to start. That will give you an idea for the next step: budgeting for the next month, which will help you come up with a realistic budget for a longer term, i.e. a year.

However, if you are like me, who needs someone to inspire you and keep you accountable for the progress, I would recommend taking a workshop or two. Willow Creek's Good Sense was the first finance workshop for both C.J and myself. It was a one-day workshop which helped us to see the big picture of our overall financial status. At that time, even though we were engaged, I felt finance was still a sensitive topic to discuss on our own. In that sense, Willow Creek's Good Sense workshop provided us a safe place to take a hard look at each other's financial situation and discuss about future financial goals as a couple. In addition, the workshop also helped us come out with a rough monthly and yearly budget, which have become the foundation of our journey toward financial freedom. At that time, this workshop cost us $35.

Three months into our marriage, we had the privilege of having Crown Financial Ministries workshop at our home church. It was a 10-week long, intensive, and very thorough workshop. There were even plenty of homeworks to be done for each class, but we loved it! What I liked most about this workshop were its strong focus on the basics and the accountability provided by fellow attendees. This workshop cost us $55.

Best wishes!


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Am I a Good Manager?

Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! (Matthew 25:12, NLT)

Kris was my very first discipleship leader. She discipled me for about 6 months. Kris was a stay-at-home mom, and she and her husband, Tom had two toddlers at that time.

I remember Kris and Tom not doing very well financially, and Kris used to ask me to pray for money needed to repair their roof, to replace their broken dishwasher, etc. Then, one day, Kris told me a revelation she had had that week about their financial situation. She said, "I realized that we never have enough money because we are not handling it right. Tom has a well-paying job, and we should be O.K. but we are not...I mean, we just are not good managers of His money. How could God entrust us with more, then?"

Can I handle more if I am given more? Am I a good manager?

Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to God. He gives and He takes away. Whatever given to us are our responsibilities, something that we will be asked to give an accounting of one day.


Monday, June 29, 2009

$3 Dinner - Chicken Over Rice

On weekdays, I really don't feel like spending more than 20 minutes to prepare dinner. Tonight's dinner menu Chicken Over Rice was my dream-come-true. It took me only about 10 minutes to prepare this dinner! (We usually program the rice cooker in the morning, so the rice is ready to be served when we come home.)

Ingredients (2 servings)

1 lb chicken, washed and cut into strips, seasoned with salt, pepper, and cooking wine
1/2 onion, sliced
4-5 dried red chile pepper
green onion, chopped
1 egg
1.5 C water
2 T soy sauce (or 1T tuna extract)
1/2 T garlic, minced
2 bowls of rice


1.Sautee minced garlic in a lightly oiled pot
2.Add seasoned chicken strips and sliced onions to the pot and cook until chicken is not pink any more
3.Pour water into the pot; add dried red chile pepper, soy sauce (or tuna extract)
4.When the soup starts to boil, add egg and stir to break it
5.Add green onion to garnish; salt and pepper to taste
6.Pour it over rice and serve


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Double Coupon, Double Saveon

Did I tell you that I feel exhilarated when I use double coupon?

Last Friday, I bought a 10 oz. A-1 steak sauce at $0.99! The original price was $4.50, so we saved $3.51. From my weekly search at mygrocerydeals.com, I found out it was on store sale at Jewel-Osco for $2.99, and then we found a $2.oo off manufacturer's coupon from Sunday paper.

As I had written before, when we were planning our wedding, we saved over $3000 by using coupons, online promotional codes, haggling or simply by asking for discount. C.J., who was not much into using coupons at that time, came to see what those little coupons can do. Now he is the one who brings coupons books and Sunday paper for me to check every week.

One Dollar Here, One Dollar There, One Dollar Everwhere!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Toothpaste to the last drop

My parents should be given credit for these saving tips. I respect them for having lived such frugal yet generous lives.

I. Toothpaste

By the time we cannot squeeze out any more toothpaste from the tube, we cut the tube into a few pieces. Then we can use the leftover toothpaste inside the tube. A small (4.6 oz, 130g) toothpaste lasts us about one and a half week more by doing this.

II. Shampoo, Dishsoap

When you cannot pump out any more shampoo or dishsoap from the bottle, add water and shake to use the leftover inside the bottle.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

$3 Dinner - Wonder Pizza #2

Last Wednesday, C.J. and I decided to go to CostCo for a date night. It was after dinner, so we weren't really hungry. However, as there wasn't any sample food to munch on at CostCo that night, we became despondent and decided to buy and share a huge slice of pizza at CostCo food court. Half way into eating that pizza slice, C.J. made a very flattering comment: "Honey, your homemade pizza tastes much better than this". So here is the pizza for tonight's $3 dinner!

I call this a Wonder Pizza because it makes us eat lots of vegetables and other healthful stuff which we don't normally enjoy by themselves. Somehow the pizza sauce (or spaghetti sauce in our case) makes all things delicious.

Ingredients (1 large pizza)

>Yeast Mixture
2 ts yeast + 2 ts sugar + 1/2 cup of warm water

4 C flour
1 t salt
2 t black pepper*
4 t red chile pepper*
1/2 C grated cheese (I used Parmesan & Romano)
1/2 C garlic powder
1/4 C olive oil
1 C warm water
1/2 C extra flour
1/4 C extra olive oil

*Adding black pepper and red chile pepper makes the dough spicy

spaghetti/pizza sauce, chicken (seasoned & cooked), onion, bell peppers, olive, can of corn, pineapple, tomato, mozzarella cheese

**These are suggestions. Feel free to use whatever you have or want.

1.Make and set aside yeast mixture
2.In a big bowl, add and mix flour, salt, black pepper, red chile pepper, grated cheese, garlic powder
3.Add olive oil, warm water, yeast mixture to the bowl, and mix with a fork***
4.Sprinkling extra flour on the dough, knead it for 8-10 minutes
5.In a plastic or zipper bag, pour extra olive oil, put the dough in the bag, cover the dough with oil
6.Let the dough rise for about 1 hour
7.Punch it down and wait another 30 minutes
8.Spread the dough on a pizza stone or baking pan, roll the edges; preheat the oven
9.Bake the dough for 10 minutes at 400F
10.Spread spaghetti sauce, add toppings, sprinkle mozzarella cheese, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 400F

***A fork works much better than a spoon or spatula


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Got Emergency Fund?

The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets. (Proverbs 21:20, LB)

A few years ago, there was a contest on Moody Radio. The rule was to describe life in 6 words or less. The winner's phrase was "Not What I Had In Mind".

Life certainly is not predictable, and the uncertainty of life often entails unexpected expenses.

It is a well-known fact that in America, unexpected medical expenses is the the number one reason for people getting into debt. In today's economy, job loss is competing for the top spot with medical expenses. How about a major car repair that needs to be taken care of immediately?

An emergency fund is an amount of money that you can obtain quickly in case of immediate need such as: an illness, loss of job, or other interruption of income. This money should be set aside in a savings account which pays the highest available interest or in a money market mutual fund that provides immediate access to cash if needed.

During our pre-marital finance workshop at Willow Creek's Good Sense, we decided to save 6 months' living expenses as an emergency fund. However, right now, we are aiming for 12 months' living expenses.

Having an easily accessible fund does not mean losing opportunities to earn interest on the fund. C.J. and I have been using a 7-day CD to keep our emergency fund. It automatically gets renewed every 7 days, provides a relatively high interest, and it is easily accessible.

It is often said that when it rains, it pours. How about building a safety net which not only provides protection but also keeps growing?


Monday, June 22, 2009

Bed Time Story #1

C: Honey?
H: What?
C: Let's say we become millionaires, are you still going to keep cooking $3 dinners?
H: Why not?
C: Honey?
H: Que?
C: Let's say we become millionaires, are you going to keep cutting the toothpaste tube?
H: Any problem?
C: Honey?
H: Listening.
C: When we become millionaires, I want to rent a Bentley for a day.
H: Why?
C: Because it's my dream car.
H: We'll think about it.
C: Honey?
H: (snoring)
C: Honey?
H: (pretending to be asleep)
C: Honey? (shaking Hyuna's shoulder)
H: (snoring louder)
C: (whispering) I love you. Good night. (smooch ~ )


$3 Dinner - Hearty Oriental Chicken Stew

This past weekend, C.J.'s college roommate Mike and his wife, Grace came over for dinner. This chicken stew was one of the main dishes for the night. Despite strong kick of ginger and red hot pepper, everyone loved this dish. Oriental chicken stew for tonight's $3 dinner!

Ingredients (4 servings)

Chicken, washed and drained (I used 1 pack of skinless, boneless chicken thigh from CostCo)
Potato (2), washed and peeled
Onion (1)
Carrot (if you have)
Dried red hot pepper
Green Onion
Jujube (=red dates) (5-10)
Clear dry noodle (Dang-Myun in Korean), soaked in water until soft

Sauce: Soy Sauce (8TB), *Oyster/fish sauce (1TB), Cooking wine (3TB), Brown sugar (4TB), Minced garlice or garlic powder (1TB), Ginger powder or minced ginger (0.5TB), Pepper, Water (4C), Sesame oil (1TB)

*If you don't have oyster sauce, add more(2TB) soy sauce instead.


1. Cut chicken in bite size and sprinkle with salt and pepper
2. Cut potato, onion, carrot in similar size as chicken
3. Make sauce
4. Boil chicken, dried red hot pepper and jujube in 4 cups of water
5. When chicken is cooked, add potato, onion, carrots and sauce
6. When potato is cooked, add pre-soaked noodle and chopped green onion
7. Boil a few more minutes before serving


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seeing is Spending

Last week, C.J. received a big cash gift for his MBA graduation. As we have a tendency to spend what we see, we decided to put that money into a short-term CD which we plan to use for our future car purchase. We love living on the left over!

I wish I had such discipline as a single person. Before I got married, I had only one checking account, which did not help much in regulating my spending. I definitely could have saved much more by putting extra money into something which is not as easily accessible as a checking account.

Well, better late than never!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

$3 Dinner - Bowlful of Good Stuff

A bowl of rice can be more nutritious than a dozen dishes. On days when I cannot come up with grandious meals for millions of excuses, I comfort myself by making one of these super-nutritious bowl of rice. Accompanied by one or two side dishes, it becomes a humble, yet wholesome meal.

Followings are some of the grains I use:

White rice, Brown rice, Sweet brown rice, Wild black rice, Millet, Kidney beans, Black beans, Red beans


Giving 40%

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10 NIV)

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! (Malachi 3:10 NLT)

Growing up, my mother often quoted Malachi 3: 10 to tell us the importance of tithing. She told us it's the only time and place that God tells us to "TEST" Him. In addition to the monthly tithe, we were taught to bring an offering whenever we went to church. When I got my first formal, full-time job, I gave my first month's income away as the "first fruit", which, I was taught, belongs to God.

During our very first finance workshop at Willow Creek's Good Sense, C.J. and I agreed to increase our giving by certain % whenever our household income reaches certain milestones. For example, let's say our current household income is $40,000. When our income reaches $50,000, we will increase giving from 10% to 11%. When our household income reaches $70,000, we will increase giving to 12%...and so on.

However, last Sunday, when our new teaching Pastor Justin Nalls preached on Malachi 2:17-3:12, and quoted a commentary from Allen Ross, a Bible scholar, it gave me a whole new perspective of looking at the way we give.

According to Dr. Allen Ross, during the Old Testament period, the Israelites gave about 40% of their income to God. Here is a brief summary of their giving.

Basic Tithing
= Priest's due + Basic Tithe + 2nd Tithe (for Jerusalem and its needs) + 3rd Tithe (every other year for the poor)

Other offerings
= Animals for the 3 festivals + Sin offerings + Leaving corners of their fields for the poor to glean + Animals/gifts as free will thank offerings + Giving to charity, widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor

What an eye-opening and humbling revelation!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

V8 - Bitter to the Mouth, Better for the Health

I think V8 is the best drink in a can. Do I like how it tastes? No! However, as C.J. and I have realized how good it is to our health, we make ourselves gulp down a few cans of V8 every week. The biggest benefit I have noticed since we started drinking V8 is that my immune system has become stronger, which then has led to a significantly reduced chance of catching a cold and other popular bugs.

V8 is not only difficult to gulp down, but it's not cheap, either. However, I believe spending a few dollars now for preventive healthcare is much better than spending a fortune for future medical problems.

After some experiments, we found that V8 is much easier to drink when it's cold, and also that V8 becomes more desirable when we drink it with some sweets such as cookies or brownies.


Monday, June 15, 2009

$3 Dinner - Salmon Wrap with Asparagus and Mushroom

Health experts recommend 2 servings of salmon per week. As raw salmon is way too expensive, we use canned salmon instead. The usual salmon dish I make is 'Salmon Wrap (or Salmon SSAM in Korean)'.

We had this salmon wrap with mushroon salad and lightly sauteed asparagus for dinner tonight. The beauty of this meal is that there isn't much stove usage going on.

Ingredients & Directions (for 2 servings)

Let the rice cook while you prepare other dishes.

*Salmon Wrap
1 Canned Salmon
Lettuce, washed and drained
Korean red pepper paste (season it with sugar, sesame oil, little bit of vinegar)

*Mushroom Salad
Mushroom, washed, drained, and sliced (I use pre-sliced baby portabella mushroom from Trader Joe's) --> season it with salt, pepper, sesame oil

*Sauteed Asparagus
Peel off outer hard skin of asparagus
Chop asparagus in lengths of your preference
Sautee asparagus in a lightly oiled pan with some salt

How to eat
Place a lettuce on the palm of your hand
Put a little bit of everything on the lettuce (i.e. rice, salmon, mushroom, asparagus, red pepper paste)
Wrap the stack of food with the lettuce leaf
Squeeze the wrap into your moth - the smaller the wrap is, the easier it will go into your mouth!
Bon App├ętit!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Date Night

Do we ever eat out? Yes, we do! We enjoy exploring resturants that serve great food at sensible prices.

Yesterday, after having an awesome time of worship at the House of Prayer, C.J. and I went out for a date night. After much discussion, we decided to go to Chodang Tofu Village. Tell me about a hearty meal...the hot spicy tofu soup was so satisfying, as always! Including tip, the dinner cost us $25.

There are several restaurants in Chicago area, where we always find high quality food at very resonable prices:

1. Chodang Tofu Village - Korean Cuisine - No MSG. Their tofu soup will not disappoint you.
2. Pita Inn - Mediterranean Cuisine - Fast food in high quality & no tips!
3. Hub's - Greek Cuisine - Try their Shish-Ka-Bob
4. Viccino's Pizza - Italian Cuisine - This is the only pizza I pay for!
5. Psistaria - Greek Cuisine -I always get Souvlaki on Pita to-go.

What's your favorite restuarant? Let us know!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

$3 Dinner - Turkey Chili

Our march for 'more white meat and less red meat' continues, and today we made turkey chili. This big pot of chili should be enough for at least 6 servings, and total cost for all the ingredients is less than $10 even when we used organic kidney beans and tomatoes. So this truly is a $3 dinner. In addition, it's an easy and nutritious meal to make.

2 lb. ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 C celery, chopped
1/2 - 1 C bell pepper, chopped
1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 - 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 - 15.5 oz. can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
4 t garlic, minced or power
1 t salt
1 t cumin
2 t chili powder
1 t cayenne
1/2 t pepper

1. Brown meat and onion.
2. Combine meat, onion and remaining ingredients. Mix well.
3. Cook in a slow cooker on High for 3 hours.

Desperately hoping this pot of chili will last us at least for the next two days, I'll stay away from the kitchen this weekend....(did you hear me, C.J.?)


Friday, June 12, 2009

TV-less in Digital TV Era

One of today's CNN headlines is the dawn of digital TV era. Since we do not own a TV set, that is one less thing to do for us!

When we tell people that we don't have a TV, their usual first response is brief silence and a look of disbelief. We often receive questions like "How do you live without a TV?", "Isn't it too boring without a TV?", "You don't even watch movies at home?", "That's cool!", etc.

We check news and weather through the internet. We own a Benq projector which we can use to watch movies. If we tweak here and there a little bit, we are able to watch TV over the air with an antenna attached to a Samsung ATSC tuner. However, as it turns out to be too much work to setup, most of the time we end up watching movies on my laptop computer.

When we first got married, I worried about my husband, CJ, being completely deprived of TV so suddenly. However, if you ask him now, he will tell you how much he is enjoying a TV-free life. Our after-work hours are used for home-cooked meals, exercise, reading and studying, maintaining home and cars, managing finance, hanging out with each other, and blogging like this!

Sometimes, I wonder what our lives would be like with a TV set sitting in our living room....Come home from work, perch in front of the TV, ramen or pizza for dinner, pile of dirty dishes in the sink, nasty bathroom, dirty clothes piling up, finance charges for late payments and overdrafts, cars in bad condition, escalating health problems, communication breakdown, brain frying, and so on...

Well, I know myself. I'd better keep my life free of TV. Life is, and marriage is much better without a TV set! Alright, we're going out to hit the gym tonight.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

$3 Dinner - Sizzling Turkey Burger

Today's $3 dinner is turkey burgers. Last weekend, first time in my life, I made turkey burgers. I wrapped each with food wrap and put them in the freezer. This morning, I took three burgers out before leaving for work, and when I came home in the afternoon, they were well thawed and ready to be cooked. When cooked, they are much more tender than beef burger and also more healthful.


Ground turkey meat
Garlic (powder or fresh ones crushed)
Flour (a few table spoons - it acts as glue and keeps the patties from breaking apart)
Yellow onion
Other vegetables you have (I added leftover chive & hot pepper)


1. Mix meat, garlic, salt, pepper, flour in a bowl
2. Add ground (or thinly chopped) yellow onion and hot pepper to the above mixture
3.If you have chive or cilantro, chop them and add to the mixture
4.Form the mixture into patties; wrap each with food wrap; freeze


Thursday is for Grocery Game

Did you know that you can check what's on sale in your local grocery store from the comfort of your home? mygrocerydeals.com will save you not only money, but also lots of time and driving related to grocery shopping.

Two of our local grocery stores, Dominick's and Jewel-Osco, update their list of on-sale items every Thursday. So every Thursday, I check mygrocerydeals.com for hot deals of the week at those stores. Last month, we purchased two containers of 2 lb strawberries at mere $4.00, which comes down to $1 per pound! We had lots of fresh strawberries, and froze the leftover to make fruit smoothies later.

Here are some of the hot deals for the the upcoming week:

Cherries Regular/Red/Black (1.00 lb) $2.99 (was $4.99)
Strawberries (1.00 lb) 2 for $3.00 (was $7.90)
Arnold Natural 100% Whole Wheat 9 Grain Bread (24 oz) $1.99 (was $3.19)
Santa Cruz Organic Strawberry Lemonade (32 oz) 2 for $3.69 (was $7.38)

If I buy all of the above items while they are on sale, I'll be spending $11.67 instead of $23.46. It's a saving of $11.79! You see how this grocery game works? Ok, now I got to go to snatch those deals!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

BREAKING NEWS! $1 -- All Bus Routes Across the Northeast & Midwest

I thought this is a very timely news for everyone who's planning a fun road trip this summer, especially for the extended weekends around Independence Day and Labor Day.

TravelZoo announced this unbelievable deal today.

Travel between 30+ cities this summer for $1 each way. Megabus.com is offering discounted seats on all of its routes for travel through September.

Yes, this is for real! Click here for more information.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

$3 Dinner - Omrice

Tonight, I'm challenging Erin Chase, the queen of $5 Dinners. I made Omrice for dinner today. Basically, it's fried rice covered with egg skins. I can't tell exactly how much it cost us to make this meal since potato & onion were purchased in bulk, but it should be somewhere between $2.50 and $3.

Ingredients (2 servings)

2 cups of rice, whatever vegetables you have (I used 1 potato, 1/4 onion, 1/4 green bell pepper), salt, pepper, 4 eggs, ketchup, oil


1. Cook rice

2. While rice is cooking, chop the vegetables and sautee them in pan, adding salt and pepper

3. Beat the eggs and make thin egg skins

4. Add cooked rice to the pan and mix with vegetables, adding more salt and pepper

5. Place fried rice on a plate and cover with egg shell


Monday, June 8, 2009

Allowance Money - Money & Marriage

Starting this month, we are giving each other allowance money - $20 a month. Woohoo! It's a way to reward ourselves for our efforts to live frugally.

Looking back at the past 15 months we've been married, we did a wonderful job of managing finance. Fighting against health insurance companies; haggling with furniture companies; confronting and negotiating with utility companies; selling old books and household items on E-bay and Craigslist; packing lunch everyday; taking buses to work during the gas price hike last year; clipping coupons every week...

Even when we had an argument and there was a cold war going on in the home, we kept each other accountable for every dollar we spent. Our commitment to be faithful stewards of the financial blessings God gave us has bonded us much stronger than we could imagine. Without us realizing it, we've become a good team.

*Tip of the day
Managing finance together with your spouse not only builds your financial freedom, but also builds your marriage.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chicken, Turkey, and Tilapia

A few weeks ago, I read a research article on the relationship between red meat and cardiovascular disease. Since then, C.J. and I have been trying to reduce red meat consumption and replace it with white meats and fish. This change in our diet has left us with a few challenges.
First of all, white meats tend to be more expensive than red meats. Ground turkey is $0.50 more expensive per pound than ground beef. Chicken breast is $1.00 more expensive than beef roast or rib eye. So, instead of chicken breast, we decided to go for chicken thigh, which is not only cheaper than breast, but also much more tender and jucier. We decided to pay more for replacing ground beef for ground turkey. It's better to spend more now for quality food than to pay a fortune later to treat health problems.

Secondly, I, the master chef of our household, have never cooked turkey dishes before, so coming up with a few easy turkey meal recipes was a learning experience. I had to do my own share of homework and came up with a few turkey recipes: sloppy turkey joe, tureky chili, turkey burger, turkey meatball.

Thirdly, living in the midwest, finding fresh and inexpensive fish with low level of mercury is not an easy task to do. For now, I decided to go for tilapia as I know it has the lowest level of mercury and yet delicious and inexpensive.


$5 Dinners

Erin Chase and her blog $5 Dinners is my new-found source of healthful yet inexpensive recipes. Mary Hunt, the author of Debt-Proof Living, wrote an article about Erin and her website on Crosswalk.

Bascially, she makes delicious and healthful meals to feed 4 people in her family and she pulls off those meals for less than $5! From my own experience, it's not an impossible task to do, but I know it takes a lot of planning and organization to come up with such meals. So, Erin, thank you so much for allowing us to take advantage of your expertise for free!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Happy Birthday CPF!

Congrats to Bob Lotich at Christian Personal Finance http://www.christianpf.com/

The website has seen over 750,000 unique visitors, and has given away over $1500 of free stuff, and received countless emails or words of encouragement from readers of how they have been helped!

Bob is thanking the readers who, for the last two years, have allowed him to not only make a little money blogging, but who also have helped him to make this his full-time job. To show his appreciation (and to maybe find a few more readers), he is giving away a Nintendo Wii and an iPod Nano (8GB)! Visit him at: http://www.christianpf.com/wii/

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Road Trip to Toronto, Canada

For the Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to go for a road trip to Toronto, Cananda. It wasn't difficulto to persuade CJ, my geeky husband, to join the trip. We decided to get a GPS as my belated birthday gift (I am directionally challenged) and then I told him this trip to Toronto will be a great chance for him to play with the GPS. Of course, he fell into the trap and happily enjoyed the long drive with his new toy!

1. Hotel

Again Priceline did not disappoint us this time. I decided to do something crazy and bid for a four star hotel at $50 per night. Well, to my disbelief, we got Le Meridien King Edward hotel at $50 per night! We were so exhilarated since their normal rate goes at least $130 per night. It was at a perfect location for tourists like us, and the quality of their bedding - mattress, sheets, and comforts- was very impressive!

2. Food

Toronto is known as the most diverse city in the world, and their diverse range of cuisine is one of the things we wanted to explore. We did not dine at extravagant restaurants, but we didn't skimp on our meals, either. On the day we arrived at Toronto, we had dinner with our friend at Pho Aimy Restaurant, a Pho place in Chinatown. For three of us, we ordered an appetizer, three Pho's and Pho Xao (stir-fried noodle dish). Their pho was the best that I've ever tried. However the stir-fried noodle dish was way too salty. The whole thing came out to be $34.47 (CAD).

On Sunday, CJ and I decided to explore the city separately. I tried a prime rib at House on Parliament which was being offered as Sunday night special at $14.95 (CAD). The meat could be marinated better, but overall, it was a very good meal for that price. Meanwhile, CJ, strolling up and down the streets, ended up having a boring dinner at Johnny Rockets.

We brought an ice box full of bottled waters, fruits, and other snacks, so we did not spend money for snacks or water. For breakfasts, we got some bread and milk from a local grocery store nearby the hotel.