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10 Ways to Enjoy Valentine’s Day on a Budget!

Want to know our favorite ways to simplify Valentine’s Day but not skimp on the memories? 

It truly does not have to cost a fortune to make it a special day and make sure your loved ones know they are treasured. In fact, some of the best memories often come from those unconventional and creative moments! 

In this blog post, we are going to give you 10 unique, sweet, and fun ideas to celebrate Valentine's Day with your spouse, significant other, family, or friends on a budget!!!

[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]

“In the Vaughn household it’s just TK, myself, and our cat. Our perspective comes from being a young married couple ballin’ on a budget and understanding what our love languages are. (If you don’t know what the 5 love languages are, check it out here).  We value anniversaries and birthdays more highly, so on Valentine’s Day we keep it simple!” ~Juliana

We love to make memories in creative ways for Valentine’s Day, too! With four children, we usually celebrate in a special way at home as a family. Some of their favorite Valentine’s Day memories are when I made a fancy Italian dinner, played music in the background, decorated the table, and got out the china! Now that they are teens, it might look more like an appetizer feast and watching a Marvel movie!” ~Ashley

There is so much beauty to be found in simplicity, and no reason to break the budget for a special occasion that is fleeting. You can even make homemade gifts! 

Our TOP 10 fun and creative Valentine’s Day on a Budget ideas:

  1. Find a new recipe and cook a yummy dinner together!
  2. Make homemade pizzas and talk about your dreams.
  3. Make your own chocolate covered strawberries!
  4. Play a romantic music playlist, dress in your nicest clothes, and slow dance.
  5. Have a themed potluck with friends and watch a favorite movie or play games! 
  6. Go to Target and pick outfits for each other and try them on! 
  7. Write a handwritten love letter to your spouse.
  8. Each of you write a rap about the other, turn on a beat, and perform it for each other! 
  9. Get dressed up and go find somewhere to take pictures! You will treasure the memory. 
  10. Depending on the weather where you are, go on a bike ride and grab ice cream. 

Whatever you decide to do, have fun, make it special, laugh, and enjoy each other! 

With Love, 

Ashley (Mama Merrill)

& Juliana (Mama Merrill’s Virtual Assistant)

  • Juliana Vaughn

Got priorities?

If someone looked at our life, they would see our priorities by how my husband and I spend our time and money. What would we see if we looked at your life? Are there things you would like to change?

Currently, my husband and I are in a season of life where we’ve really had to get serious about our priorities. For us, it’s time with God, our marriage, work and financial responsibilities, our health, and serving the Lord in our local church/friend time.

If any of these things get out of balance, it takes time and commitment away from something else. 

Something that our very wise counsel has taught us is that when we say yes to something, we are always saying no to something else. Our priorities are very important! My husband and I are the kind of people who had to learn this the hard way. One of us would always say “Yes” to everything we got asked to do and the other one would always want to say “No” to everything. Both of us needed to re-evaluate! 

The most important thing in our lives is first and foremost our relationships with God. If my husband and I don’t prioritize that, we’re giving from an empty cup to each other and every other priority we have. Secondly, if we don’t prioritize and take care of our marriage then everything else around it seemingly can fall apart. We choose as a married couple to talk about everything! When we get asked to volunteer or do something, we pray about it together and listen to one another. Are we perfect? Far from it, but this is what we always strive to do! 

When it comes to work and financial responsibilities, my husband and I have desires to save and be debt free someday! Our Pastor has taught us that, “It’s not about how much you make, but what you do with what you make.” Diligence is also doing little things for a long time, until it makes a big difference! Currently we’ve paid off my car, our credit cards, our phones, and we put 10% of every paycheck into our savings. You notice how you can look back and see a track record of priority? 

What are your priorities? What’s important to you? If we looked at how you spent your time and money, would we see those priorities in your life? What changes can you make in your daily life to create a healthier lifestyle of priorities? 

The Top Five Things You Do Not Need To Start A Business (Part 5)
  • Ashley Merrill

The Top Five Things You Do Not Need To Start A Business (Part 5)

Here we are friends. We are at the end of this series! 

If you missed the first four, make sure you scroll back down through the blog archives and get caught up! I don't want you to miss it! 

I talk to people all.the.time. who want to know how to start a business, what it takes, and what is is really like in real life. 

Those conversations inspired me to write this series for you. My husband Jeremey and I are serial business owners, and we have been self employed business owners now for over a decade. Needless to say, we have learned some things along the way and I am happy to share it with you in hopes it will help someone out there! 

Alright, without further adieu, the final thing I am here to tell you that you do not need in order to start a successful business is this....the approval and support of all of your family and friends! 

It is true! Hear me out.  

You absolutely should get wise counsel before you move forward with a life-changing decision. But, you may find the supportive, encouraging, and truth-filled advice you need most will not always come from the people you would expect to be your biggest cheerleaders. In fact, it is often the opposite situation, and the harshest criticism tends to come from close friends and family.

Why? I wish I could answer this but I actually have no idea!

Familiarity? Jealousy? Envy? Skepticism? Wanting to keep someone where they are because it is more comfortable and safe? 

Whatever the reasons, it is a thing, a very real and potentially discouraging thing.

This is my best advice to you: 

Protect your dream. Hold it close. And share it slowly and carefully. 

This may stun you, but you do not actually have to share it with anyone and everyone, or even on social media at all. 

When we do that, in our excitement and emotion, we often open the door wide open for unwanted advice, criticism, and comments. That can make it very difficult to continue to hear clear directions from God when all of a sudden dozens of other voices are invited to contribute to the conversation. 

DO share it with your spouse, your Pastor, and the friend who is genuinely happy for you when things go well in your life but will also love you enough to tell you when you are off base. Those friends are rare, but they do exist.

These are the people in your life you should listen to, seek their approval, and care about what they have to say. They are safeguards. 

Would it be nice to have everyone's support? Of course it would, but rarely does that actually happen. If you have a God-given dream for a business idea and you know it, do not waste a moment worrying about the haters. They might just be wishing they had thought of it or done it first. 

I hope this encourages you to know you do not NEED anything from them in order to succeed! I would venture to say many many great thinkers, successful people, and leaders have been some of the most harshly criticized and unsupported people there are. 

In the words of my Pastor (one of the wisest men I know), "The tallest trees experience the harshest winds." I do not know about you but wind does not scare me when I know God is with me! 

Will you send me a message if this encouraged you? I love to hear from you! 



  • Juliana Vaughn

How to Shine Your Light in a Dark World

Have you ever walked into a room to turn on the light, and the light either doesn’t work or is flickering? The lightbulb’s job is to light up the room and when the bulb is either not working, or truly connected to the power source, it’s not able to do its job! Walking around in the dark proves to be an interesting task.

A few days ago my kitchen light started flickering and I really started thinking about this topic. Not only that, but the event at my church that evening was all about shining your light! Talk about a God-cidence! We are called to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16) and that means letting Jesus shine through us as Christians to make a positive impact in the world! 

This world seems to be getting darker and darker, and there’s a lot to process with God right now. So how can we process these things with God and shine our light in a dark world? 

  1. What do you fill our hearts with? (Psalms 119:11)

I’ll follow that up with another question. When was the last time we opened our bibles and got filled up with the word of God? My pastor always says, “Put the word of God in when you don’t need it, so it’s there for you when you do!” I also saw another pastor use a great example that’s always stayed with me. He got a pb&j sandwich and pressed down on it, and guess what spilled out on the sides? Pb&J! He talked about how important it is to be filled up with the word of God, because when we’re in a place of pressing in our life, what we’ve filled our hearts with will be what flows out. Jesus asks us to follow Him, and sometimes like Peter in Matthew 14:28-31, we doubt and get our eyes off Jesus and focus on the storms and waves around us. Psalms 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” When we don’t know what to do, we go back to what we do know from the word of God. We want to serve God from a place of overflow, not a place of “just enough.”

  1. “Destiny comes through intimacy.” - Pastor Jim Frease

When it comes to shining our light, it comes with purpose and destiny. As we spend time with the Lord in prayer, praise, and reading the word, destiny begins to be revealed. This can take years for us to discover, BUT God has purpose for us every day. We just need to be available to do so! Maybe God is asking us to be brave and share the gospel with others, or maybe He is asking us to encourage someone. When we do this, the light of the Lord shines brightly through us! We are called as Christians, to know God and make Him known! 

  1. Humble Ourselves (James 4:10)

When we humble ourselves before the Lord and trust that He knows what’s best for us, we want to walk in obedience because we trust Him, and when we do that, God is able to shine His light brightly through us! When we walk in pride, our light tends to dim because we’re so occupied with what we believe is the best. “Be quick to listen, and slow to speak,” James 1:19.

  1. Put on the Garment of Praise (Isaiah 61:3)

The garment of praise was something to put on to indicate celebration, and in scripture it's used as a metaphor. It means, choosing to praise the Lord even though we don’t understand everything going on right now. It changes the atmosphere and our perspective, it gets our focus back on Jesus and not on the wind and the waves, and it’s us choosing the fruit of the Spirit that is already within us as born again believers (Galatians 5:22-23). We are called to right now because we were made for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). We were born at the exact time we were created to be. If you’re a born again believer, you have a bright light inside of you that is waiting to shine! We’ve been created for purpose and are capable of everything God has called us to. 

In conclusion, this was the final thing on my heart...the reason bad things happen in the world is because there's a bad devil and people are far from God. God is still good and that will never change, but He is limited by our availability and choices because we have free will. He knows what’s best, but do we listen? Just how God uses His people to help and bless others, the devil uses people that are far from God to hurt people. “The devil has come to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life and it more abundantly” John 10:10. Prayer is powerful and miracles do happen, but remember God isn’t a spare tire. He wants to shine brightly in our lives every day and He needs us when it comes to sharing the gospel, discipling others, and encouraging them. What an honor to be a part of His plans! He is so faithful! I pray this encourages you and helps your relationship with the Lord grow as we continue to seek Him in this dark world.