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Book Review and Giveaway – The Five Years Before You Retire

The following review is of The Five Years Before You Retire by my blogging buddy, Emily Guy Birken.  She is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance. She is a regular contributor to Wise Bread, Money Ning, and PT Money, and writes the Live Like a Mensch column for The Dollar Stretcher.  You can visit Emily at


I am asked to review dozens of books a year, but I generally can only get around to those by friends.  So when Emily sent her first ever book my way, I just had to read it!  I was not expecting how full and informative that The Five Years Before You Retire would be.  It’s packed and very useful for that little period before you call it quits!

Seriously, just check out the Content Page for this 200+ page book:

Contents for The Five Years Before You Retire

Part One: The Nitty-Gritty of Retirement Finances
Chapter 1: How Far Away Are You?
Chapter 2: Saving and Budgeting for the Next Five Years
Chapter 3: Income in Retirement
Chapter 4: Find the Right Financial Planner
Part Two: The Government Giveth (and Taketh Away)
Chapter 5: What to Expect from Social Security
Chapter 6: Taxes and Your Retirement Income
Chapter 7: What to Expect from Medicare
Chapter 8: Planning for Health-Care Expenses in Retirement
Part Three: Home, Family, and Other Considerations
Chapter 9: Housing in Retirement
Chapter 10: The Family Fortunes
Chapter 11: Creating a Budget on a Retirement Income
Chapter 12: Common Retirement Pitfalls
Chapter 13: If You Don’t Have Enough Saved
Appendix: Retirement Syllabus


The Five Years Before You Retire was written so you could either read all 238 pages straight through, OR you can skip to the chapters that you have questions about.  Each one is fully fleshed out.  You can really use this book to make your plans and ensure that you are staying on track.

For example, if you are within 5 years of retirement but don’t have enough saved, there is a Chapter 13 just for you.  And it actually walks you through all of your options in an easy to understand way.  That one chapter is 15 pages long, explains your options fully, and then gives you a plan.  It even includes a 5 year count down of when things should be done to help you reach your retirement goals.

From the beginning to end, I felt like Emily is taking the reader by the hand and leading them to their retirement dreams.  I seriously want to just hand this book to my in-laws since they are 1-2 years out and may appreciate it.


Okay, enough talk.  You can buy The Five Years Before You Retire by clicking on that affiliate link to Amazon OR you may be able to win a copy right here!

All you need to do to do for a chance to win is leave your answer below by February 10, 2014 to this question:

“What are you doing right now that is preparing you for retirement?”

Just leave your answer below!  One answer/comment/entry per person!

The official stuff:

1) Contest ends February 10, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. 
3) The winner will be selected randomly and notified by email.

4) The prize will be held for 2 calendar days. If it isn’t claimed, a new winner will be randomly picked and contacted.
5) I reserve the right to reject comments that I consider spam or invalid entries.
6) An invalid or incorrect email address automatically disqualifies you from the drawing…it’s hard to contact a fake email…
7) Local laws, rules, and regulations apply.

Unique Natural Products Review for Our Dirty Dogs

Our Dirty Dogs

Mr. BFS and I own (or “are owned by” as the case may be) two dogs.  Miss Doxie is a 15 year old dachshund mutt that likes to shred any food containers that she can find while we’re out of a room.  Oh, and as she is getting older, she is prone to getting bladder infections and having a few accidents.  Mr. Pug is a 10 year old pure-bred Pug that is allergic to life, and he occasionally pees on random things around the house if he thinks his territory was invaded or he is being ignored.  And they both will go Number 2 in secret if they can’t get our attention or just feel like sneaking off.

This is why all of our doors are usually closed and these pups are in the room with us at all given times.  Just being in our presence keeps them from being little sh*ts.  Yep, yay dog ownership.  ;-)

Just so you know, they are very loving, sweet dogs 95% of the time…wouldn’t want to paint a completely crappy picture…

Unique Natural Products

ANYWAY, when I was asked to write an honest review of Unique Natural Products, I jumped on the chance.  They have a bunch of products to choose from, and I will be trying out a total of 5 of them, but here is the one that I have used so far:

Pet Odor and Stain Eliminator

Over the last 2 months, we’ve had two dog-urine-on-carpet issues to clean up (at least, I’ve found two…).  The first one was still a puddle on our cream carpet (probably Miss Doxie), and the second was a dried up section near the wall that I assume was just marked by Mr. Pug.  I broke out the Pet Odor and Stain Eliminator bottle each time.

First I sponged up what I could of the “fresh” accident with paper towels.  Since I was only treating one small area each time, I then mixed the appropriate cleaner-to-warm-water ratio in a bowl.  Then I actually poured the bowl of cleaner onto the areas directly and used a white face cloth to sponge up the excess.  I didn’t worry too much about making sure either area was completely dry.

Once the cleaner was sponged up each time, I already could smell how much fresher the carpet was…and I did the nose-to-the-area check of someone who really wanted to make sure their new house didn’t keep smelling like pee.  By the next day on each occasion, the carpet was perfectly cream-colored like it should be, the whole area smelled nicer, and I still can’t see either spot where there was a problem.


To me, this a HUGE win and I’ll totally keep using this for all doggy problems on the carpet.  I actually am looking forward to using these other products that I have like the Wine Stain Remover and the Carpet Cleaner.  If they work as advertised too, Unique Natural Products will have a customer for life.

Have you ever used these cleaners?  What did you think?

Beyond Grain & Dairy eBook Flash Sale – Ends Tomorrow!!!

Hi!  Last week I reviewed a new recipe eBook, Beyond Grain & Dairy, that helps anyone who wants/needs to avoid grains, dairy, gluten, soy, corn, or processed sugars.  The feedback seemed good, so I just wanted anybody interested to know that there is a Flash Sale for it going on right now!  It’s normally $17 and can be purchased right now for $12.99 if you use the code FLASH1212!

Flash Sale

Thank you for allowing this interruption, lol.  Go back to your holiday feasts.  :-)

Beyond Grain & Dairy Recipe eBook Review

Do you like yummy recipes?  Or anybody out there trying to avoid grains, dairy, gluten, soy, corn, or processed sugar?  I know I am supposed to be cutting back on processed sugars and two of my close friends have to avoid wheat and gluten, so I was super excited to get to review the new eBook, Beyond Grain & Dairy by Starlene Stewart over at GAPS Diet Journey.  In case you don’t win her giveaway, here’s the rundown to see if you would be interested in purchasing it outright (discount code below).

What is GAPS?

In short, GAPS is Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which is a condition that establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the brain.  The GAPS diet was developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a neurologist and nutritionist.  It was created to help heal issues like autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and schizophrenia by treating the root cause of many of these disorders: compromised gut health.

Even if you aren’t 100% convinced that your gut and your brain are super connected, the GAPS diet is great for anybody that needs to cut grains, dairy, gluten, soy, corn, or processed sugar out of their daily meals.

Why Do I Like this eBook?

Honestly, I was just really interested to see if there would be any recipes at all out of these 100+ that would make a junk food addict (like myself) drool.  And there were quite a few!  Here are the ones that I will be trying myself over the next few months since they sound delicious and should help me with my latest Crystal Light Challenge:

  • David’s Quick Chicken Soup (I love all chicken soup)
  • Ham Wrap Breakfast Tacos (the picture looks devine)
  • Cauliflower Crust Pizza (again, the picture grabbed my attention and the ingredients should all taste amazing together)
  • Crock Pot Stuffed Bell Peppers (yum…I love all stuffed bell peppers)
  • Hamburgers on Leaf Lettuce (sounds yummy and we can do this with turkey burgers)
  • Mom’s Salmon Patties an/or Pork Roast Croquettes (who doesn’t like a great croquette?)
  • Shepherd’s Pie (with cauliflower mash)
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs (zucchini squash in the recipe, souds great and I would even go as far as using ground turkey for the meatballs…)
  • Butternut Squash French Fries (I’ve been looking for good substitutes here…)
  • Taco Salad (again, great with ground turkey too)
  • Cantaloupe Smoothie (yum and looks low points)
  • Rasberry Coconut Milk Smoothie (diddo)
  • Coconut Flour Sandwich Bread (just sounds interesting)
  • Fudge Babies:  Banana Bread Style (looks yummy and easy)

Interested?  Here’s Your Discount Code

Be honest with yourself, do you need to avoid processed sugars or do you have an allergy to wheat or gluten?  I was not expecting to be so tempted, but some of these recipes are in my head now and I will have to try them.  If zucchini squash is as fantastic a substitute as I think it will be, my lower carb days will be much easier to obtain.

If you are as enticed as me, head on over to buy Beyond Grain & Dairy (that’s my affiliate link*) and remember to use the code “BFS201″ to receive a 20% discount that will be good until January 31st, 2013.

How do some of these recipes sound to you?  Feel free to ask any questions as well and I’ll beg Starlene to stop by with answers.  :-)

*I am an affiliate for this eBook, BUT I reviewed it for several reasons.  At first, it was because I knew the author, Starlene.  But after looking over the recipes, I was honestly super intrigued.  AND if that recipe for Butternut Squash French Fries works out as well as I’m expecting, I will have to hug Starlene personally.  In short, this review is my super honest point of view.  I do not personally care if these are GAPS recipes or not – I am honestly looking forward to playing with a lot of them and building up my healthy recipe stash.  If they help my gut or my brain, that’s just the icing on the wheat and gluten-free cake.  :-)

Start Freelancing Now eBook Review

I know you have heard about my eBook a bunch in the last month, so let me introduce you to a different one.  :-)  Where my eBook concentrates on building a money-making blog over time, Start Freelancing Now covers the many other ways you can start making money right off the bat.

Quick Intro

The author, Martin, runs a few different sites including Studenomics, which was one of the first ones I started commenting on in late 2009.  He’s actually younger than me but figured out the benefits of self employment and making money online way before I did.  So when he said he had written a new eBook just about freelancing, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Okay, so you know me…my posts are usually short and to the point.  So here’s the meat of it all:

Start Freelancing Now covers these topics and more:

  • Why you need to start freelancing right now.
  • How to get started.
  • Tips to make more after you start.
  • Common freelancing questions.
  • Time management tips.
  • Building your following and a team.
  • Ways to grow your business.

My Overall View

It truly is more than 50 pages of info to get your butt in gear right now.  Plus, you can email Martin with questions anytime.  AND he offers a 100% money-back guarantee.  In short, if you were ever interested in freelancing as a side hustle or even turning it into a full-time job someday, then this guide could be a huge help for you right now.

NOT Get Rich Quick

Now, if you are looking for ways of getting rich quick, this eBook and my own are not for you.  Martin explains how you can start making money right now, but it will take time to grow your reputation, find your niche, and turn any business into a big money-maker.  Sorry to have to remind you, but if there was a way to get rich overnight, everyone would know about it and we’d all be retired right now.  BUT, Start Freelancing Now does show you how you can make back the price of the book itself within the week if you buckle down, use its tips to find a freelancing gig, and get it completed ASAP.  Personally, I am a big fan of a resource that tries to help you make your money back right away.

What if you bought HIMMB?

My book and Martin’s compliment each other very well.  I concentrate on the blogging side of making money online through advertising and then mention other ideas.  This eBook concentrates on those other ideas and how to get you started.  No blog necessary.  And no, we did not plan it that way, lol.


Right now, Martin is calling everyone out to read his book and send him freelancing proposals.  The best proposal will win $100 to get them started and will be published on the SFN main site!!!  So if just making some money for freelancing wasn’t floating your boat, now you have the shot for $100 just for great ideas!

So please check it out and let me know what you think.  If you have read it already, what was your favorite part?  If you haven’t, have you ever thought about freelancing before?

Start Freelancing Now

*The links in this post are affiliate links.  But I read the book before signing up to be an affiliate, which I only did because I do think it is a helpful resource for freelancers and people who would like to get started.

If You Can Read, You Can Cook – Spice Review

Do any of you use McCormick taco seasoning packets or any of those off brands?  I am both happy and sad to say that Mr. BFS and I use at least one of those for dinner every couple of weeks.  And we used McCormick Taco Seasoning every time.  So, when Edward over at If You Can Read, You Can Cook mentioned that he was starting a spice line that could replace McCormick packets for way less money, I jumped at the chance to try it out!

My Spice Review

We tried out the mild flavor so far (and will be trying medium this week).  It was really good!  We were making soft tacos, so we used one pound of ground turkey, 1/2 cup of water, and one tablespoon of the mild flavor.  It smelled great and it ended up tasting surprisingly alike to the seasoning packets we usually use.  Mr. BFS is really picky and even he is won over.

As always, I will try to be concise.  It tastes great, smells great, comes in a reusable glass jar, and costs less than other premade seasonings.  SO, if you like premade taco seasoning, I highly suggest trying this.  I know that making your own seasonings may be cheaper overall, but I also know that most of us like to save time when we can.  $5 for the correct seasoning for 16 taco meat meals sounds great to me.  Edward will be getting our business.

Meal Ideas

So far, here are the meals we make that use taco seasoning:

  • Soft or Crunchy Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Meaty cheese dip (or just use the seasoning for a vegetarian option)
  • Taco casserole (layers of tortilla chips, taco meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes)
  • Frito Pie (pretty much taco casserole except with fritos and no vegetables, lol)

Do you ever use premade seasonings?  Would you be willing to try out Edward’s new line?  What other meal ideas can you think of that would use taco seasoning?

Miche Bag Review and Giveaway!!!

UPDATE:  Congrats to the winner on July 2nd – Lance at Money, Life & More!

You all won’t believe this.  Remember the Ode to My Miche post a couple of weeks ago?  I took William’s advice (from Drop Dead Money) in the comments and contacted Miche.  I asked them if they’d be interested in sponsoring a review or a giveaway and they asked for my site’s stats.  They accepted BFS into their Miche Blogger Outreach Program, sent some shells my way to review, PLUS they included a brand new bag and a couple of shells for a giveaway for all of you too!  If you were ever interested in a hobby job, feel free to check out Miche’s work from home opportunities.

Miche Review

Okay, here’s my full rundown of my classic Miche bag.  I’m not really a purse person but a lady in her late twenties with a mini-backpack does start to look weird. So I started looking into purses.  I needed a bag that could hold my large wallet, brush, the random crap I accumulate, and anything my husband hands me.  BUT, I didn’t want a huge bag since it is a pain to lug around.  So when Mr. BFS and I saw a commercial for a purse that looked like it could handle my luggage and could change its look in a few seconds, I was hooked.

I am happy to say that this is one product on a tv commercial that lived up to its hype.  The bag opens up to hold a lot and the shells can be changed out pretty easily.  Most of the shells just snap onto both sides via magnets and only takes a few seconds to switch.  A few of the newer shells sort of go on like a sock and are held in place by the same magnets.

Here is a view of the inside:

Inside View


Miche Giveaway

All of that said, onto the giveaway!!!  Miche was awesome enough to send me a few things for one of you.

Here is what you can win:

  • Brand New Black Classic Miche Bag
  • Hope (Argyle) Shell
  • Choice Between the new Janelle Shell or the retired Kelsie Shell

You have a choice on the second option because I thought some of you may appreciate a snap on shell more than the sock on shells, so I wanted you to have a choice.  Here is how they look.

Classic Black Miche Bag

Classic Bag

Hope (Argyle) – White with Green Lettering – Fitted Shell

Hope Shell

Janelle – Black and Dark Blue – Fitted Shell


Kelsie – Brown and Pink – Easy Snap Shell

All the Way On

I will ship your bag and the two shells (Hope and Your Choice).

Here is how to enter the giveaway:

  • Leave a comment below – one comment per person
  • Include which of the options you would want if you win (Janelle or Kelsie)

That’s it!  I will use to choose a winner.  Giveaway ends July 1, 2012!

UPDATE:  If someone outside the USA or Canada wins, I will Paypal $75 to that winner since shipping is insane.  So make sure you can receive money via Paypal if you live outside the USA.


The official stuff:

1) Contest ends July 1, 2012 at 11:59pm CST.
3) The winner will be selected randomly and notified by email by the third day of July.

4) The prize will be held for 2 calendar days. If it isn’t claimed, a new winner will be randomly picked and contacted.
5) I reserve the right to reject comments that I consider spam or invalid entries.
6) An invalid or incorrect email address automatically disqualifies you from the drawing…it’s hard to contact a fake email…
Local laws, rules, and regulations apply.