December 2016 Monthly Goals – In Modified Format

I’m someone who functions better with planning. That’s why you see weekly menu planning as well as monthly goals planning on the blog. Monthly goal/task planning helps me keep track of things I need to complete that specific month.

Some goals in the monthly goal planning are quick simple and repetitive every month while others are one time goals that I need to complete that specific month. Until last month, I shared way too many goals under each section.

Starting this month, I’m planning to share with you one specific goal under each category. If you’re like me who functions better with lists or you want to achieve some tasks, yet keep postponing it, I highly recommend monthly goal planning.

Here are this month’s goals (1 goal under each category):

Mothering Goal:
As mentioned in this week’s menu planning, I’m using my leftover vacation for this year and going on maternity leave starting Tuesday and I’m planning to spend all my time around Chuttu until the baby comes. This pregnancy has been such a journey and I really miss Chuttu. I also have this constant fear on how he will react once our Baby #2 is here. I really want him to enjoy this new phase in our life rather than thinking that he is not getting full attention.

So, the goal is to take him out and do activities every single day until Baby #2 comes.

Personal Goal:
Continue to relax and spend some quality time with parents. It’s been crazy busy over here that I hardly spend any time with parents even though we are in the same house. I’m either working, cooking, or with Chuttu and by the time I’m done for the day, parents are already asleep.

I want to use this free time to spend some quality time with parents as well as take them out during the weekdays.

Family Goal:

Can you believe we are still debating on the baby name? I really hope to get it done before Baby #2 is here.

Financial Goal:

For the past few years, we do yearly planning every December. It’s primarily focused on finance, how much we spent that year, and how we want to proceed the next year. It’s no way perfect, yet something we can go back and review when there is a need.

So, this month financial goal is to plan for 2017.

Let me know if you have any questions around goals and planning.

Weekly Indian Meal Planning – 3rd Week Of December :)

I have couple of weeks of vacation left for this year and with the vacation combined, my maternity leave starts from Tuesday. Yay! I’m pretty excited to spend these free times with Chuttu before the baby comes.

My calendar is full with lots of activities that I’m planning to do with Chuttu this week. Bring it on Monday! 🙂

Below is this week’s Indian menu planning. I’m trying more than 1 new meal this week and looking forward to see how they turn out. If they turn out well and if they’re my own recipes, I’ll share them in the blog for you.

Breakfast:

Lunch:

  • Roti with mushroom korma
  • Roti with eggplant kootu
  • Rice with sambar and okra fry
  • Roti with cauliflower korma
  • Roti with spinach kootu
  • Rice with okra tamarind gravy and potato fry
  • Mixed rice

Dinner:

Here is a good week for everyone!

My Free Graze Box Review – Get Yours Free Too

Have you heard of Graze snack box before? I got a coupon code to try a FREE Graze box couple of weeks ago. The whole process of ordering the free box was seamless and I got the box within a week. It contained 4 variety of snacks in perfect portions. The best part is, you get to try it for absolutely FREE.

Graze is a snacks subscription service and they send you snack variety box every week/few weeks. Each box contains 8 variety of snacks you get to choose and it’s $11.99 including delivery.

If you’d like to try a box for FREE, follow the below steps:

  • Go to Graze.com
  • Click “have a special code?” under “Get Started” button
  • Enter UMAS9H5KE and click “get started now
  • Enter your credentials and you are on your way to get a FREE box

Important note: When you sign up for a free box, you will have to subscribe to their weekly 8 snack variety box. If you just want to try their free box and don’t want to continue to receive the snacks boxes for $11.99, follow the below steps:

  • Once you finished requesting free box, go to “Orders”
  • Click “manage recurring order” under “8 snack variety box”
  • Snooze the box 3 weeks from the current date
  • Put a reminder to cancel the subscription box as soon as you receive your free box (probably in a week)

Out of all the snacks I got, honeycomb flapjack granola bar was my favorite.

Brown Rice – Potato Soup

This was the first time I tried brown rice in a potato soup. I was quite nervous how it would turn out considering I started cooking dinner pretty late and everyone was HANGRY by the time I finished making dinner. The soup turned out quite yummy, but was not enough for all 4 adults. Hubby and I  served ourselves some salad for the half of the dinner. Overall, I’m so glad this recipe came out very well.

Serves: 3 adults

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes – 2 potatoes cut in cubes
  • Carrot – 1 big carrot cut in cubes
  • White onion – 1 cup
  • Olive oil – 2 tablespoon
  • Brown rice – 1 cup
  • Medium cheddar cheese – 1 cup
  • Salt – to taste
  • Crushed black pepper – 1 teaspoon
  • Water – 6 cups

Direction:

  • In a pan, saute the onions in olive oil until they’re well cooked
  • Add potatoes and carrots and saute for a few more minutes
  • Add the rest of the ingredients except cheese and cook with lid for another 30 minutes until the brown rice is well cooked
  • Switch off the flame and mash the potatoes and carrots until they’re well combined into the soup
  • Add cheese and mix well
  • Serve hot

Instant Pot Version:

  • In “Saute” mode, add olive oil and saute the onions until they’re well cooked
  • Add potatoes and carrots to onion and saute for a few more minutes
  • Add the rest of the ingredients except cheese
  • Switch off the “Saute” mode and cook 20 minutes in “Manual” mode NR
  • Once the pressure is released, mash the potatoes and carrots until they’re well combined into the soup
  • Add cheese and mix well
  • Serve hot

NOTE: I hate spending more than 30 minutes in the kitchen. So, all my recipes are easy to make and require less time. The recipes I share in the blog are the ones that turned out well. Some of them don’t turn out as expected and you won’t see them in the blog. 🙂

Check out my recipes section for more recipes.

How To Choose A 529 Plan For Kids Education?

how-to-choose-a-529-plan

Investment is such a boring, yet important task that we all need to do no matter whether we like it or not. It takes a whole new level of importance when we need to invest for our kids education.

If you’re in US and looking for ways to save for your kids college education, 529 is a great option to explore. We have invested in 529 plan for Chuttu and planning to open one for our 2nd baby as well.

What is 529 Plan?

529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan for future college costs.There are 2 types of 529 plans. Pre-paid and savings plan. Pre-paid meaning, you’ll pay the money upfront and let it grow till your kid is ready for college. Savings plan is, recurring contribution to the 529 plan (For example, monthly contribution of $200 or $1000 every few months).

You decide how much you want to invest. There are no hard rules here. The maximum amount you can invest every year is $14,000 without any penalties.

529 withdrawals, without any taxes, can be used for tuition and related fees, room and board, books and supplies, and any school-related special needs services.

Pros:

  • Although the money you contribute is an after-tax income, earnings from 529 plan are tax free when used for the above college expenses.
  • 529 plans can be transferred among family members. Lets say you have some leftover money from your first kid’s 529 plan, you can use that money for your 2nd kid’s college education without any penalty or even your first kid’s masters, cousin’s education, your education etc
  • Grand parents can contribute to their grand kids 529 plans
  • Some states offer tax deductions when you contribute to 529 plans
  • If you kid decides to study abroad, some universities/colleges allow you to pay through 529 plan
  • You can invest in any of the state offered 529 plans. It doesn’t have to be in your home state 529 plan
  • you can transfer the money from one 529 plan to another without any penalties (allowed once a year)

Cons:

  • The money you invest in 529 plan can be used, without penalty, only for college education purposes
  • We don’t know how much college will cost in another 10,20, or 30 years. So a balanced approach is necessary to avoid over-investing in 529 plan
  • The money you contribute are just like regular investments and there is no promise on how much return you’ll earn (you get to choose your preferred investment options from the provided list)

How To Choose A 529 Plan:

As I mentioned, we invested in 529 plan for Chuttu’s college education. From on my research, our final list of 529 plans are Utah, Ohio, New York, Florida, Alaska, and Lousiana. Below are the criteria we looked at when selecting the 529 plan.

  • Expense ratio
  • Age based investment options
  • Static/individual options %
  • Minimum initial contribution
  • Enrollment fee (initial fee)
  • Individual portfolios (do they let us invest in individual portfolios and if so, how many)
  • Annual maintenance fee
  • Residency required?
  • Maximum fund amount allowed
  • State tax deduction (adding this one for you in case if your state offers state tax deductions for 529 contributions)

We were living in Texas when we started the 529 plan for Chuttu and now even after moving to NJ, the plan we chose works for us as there is no state tax benefits for 529 contribution in both the states.

How Much To Contribute?

As I mentioned earlier, there are no hard rules here. If you Google the question, you will get a quite a number of answers. Some plans don’t even have minimum contribution and some start with $25.

Savings for college has some good explanation on how much to contribute. Check it out for more information. How much you need depends on the return for your investment as well. So, there are multiple factors that we don’t have control over.

Here are couple of links where you can find more information about 529 plans:

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