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!