How To Save Money On College Textbooks

Saving for college

Guest post from Addi of Frugal Fanatic

Do you have a child starting college? Or are you going back to earn a degree? You may be shocked at the high cost of textbooks that are necessary for each class.

Well, there’s good news — even though you do have to purchase the books, you do NOT have to pay incredibly high prices!

Here are five ways that you can save money on college textbooks:

1. Avoid the school bookstore.

It may be the easiest route to take, but is always the most expensive way. Be sure to check online first. You may be able to find all the books you need for a lot cheaper than the bookstore.

2. Use Amazon.com.

Sites like Amazon often sell books for a discounted rate. There are a lot of sites out there that offer gently used books for a much lower price. Buying used books is a great way to save yourself a ton of money on your books.

3. Consider renting your books.

You also have the option to rent the textbooks you need for each class. You can find several websites that offer book rentals for a much smaller cost than buying the book outright. Most likely you will not need the book after the course is complete so this is a nice option to save some cash.

4. Ask about eBooks.

Be sure to check with your professor if an eBook is allowed for the course. You will often save more than 50% by purchasing the eBook version. Plus you won’t need to carry a book around with you each time you head to class.

5. Swap books with your friends.

Find friends who have taken the same courses and ask them about swapping books. If you are able to trade books with a group of friends you can save a ton of money on your books.

These are just a few ways to save on the cost of college text books — I’d love to hear any other ideas you might add to my list.

Also, keep in mind that you can usually re-sell your textbooks when the class is over and put that money towards your books for the next semester!

Addi Ganley is a work-at-home mom of 3 young boys. Her blog, Frugal Fanatic, focuses on how to live a frugal lifestyle. She is passionate about saving money and believes that if you save where you can then you can spend where you want to. Frugal Fanatic is her way of helping other people learn how to manage their finances in every day life.

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Swagbucks Pays for my Gluten-Free Flours

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Today’s Swagbucks success story is from Mallory

I love to bake, so when I found out I was allergic to wheat and gluten about two years ago, it was a rough transition. I eventually found some good recipes and resources — the next challenge was finding the right ingredients.

It’s difficult to find gluten-free flours for a good price in our small town, but after doing some research, I found a good deal on Bob’s Red Mill brand cases of gluten free flour on Amazon.com and starting ordering from there.

Then, a little over a year ago, I learned about Swagbucks and how it worked here on MoneySavingMom.com!

When I first signed up with Swagbucks, I didn’t really know what I was doing and felt like I was doing well if I earned enough for a $5 gift card every month. Now, I am able to get $15-$20 per month by doing the following:

1. Doing the NOSO every day

2. Answering the poll and doing to corresponding activity

3. Using the toolbar

4. Running videos for a large chunk of the day

5. Using the search bar

This has been a great help and has paid for many cases of gluten-free flours. Now I can continue to bake and feed good food to the people I love!

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7 FREE Ways to Celebrate Every Day

ways to celebrate every day

Guest post from of OneThingAlone.com

You don’t have to break the bank to celebrate. In fact, as I look back on my childhood, the best celebrations were the simple, unexpected ones, the chocolate cake in the middle of the week “just because”, the watermelon-eating contests to mark the passing of summer, the “attagirl” and pat on the back for a great slide tackle.

If you’re looking to add some excitement to your week or want to create some fun memories this summer, here are seven ways to add a flair of celebration to every day:

1. Make a big deal out of small accomplishments.

Did your toddler go potty by herself? Dance around the house with her!

Did you run 100 yards farther than before? Jump in the air and pump your fist!

Celebrating little accomplishments goes a long way to elevating our mood, and it also helps strengthen relationships.

In our family, my husband and I started celebrating our relationship every 3rd of the month before we even married. It gives us something to look forward to every month and I love coming up with little ways to surprise him.

2. Remember that every day is a holiday.

Every year my husband, daughter, and I dress up like cows to celebrate Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A. It’s become an annual tradition and we love being silly together (the free sandwiches sweeten the deal).

Check out local business’ event days or an online calendar for wacky holidays. See who can do the best moonwalk on lunar landing day (7/20) or eat cheesecake on National Cheesecake Day (7/30). Every day can be a holiday!

3. Start a list of #1000 gifts.

God’s gifts to us every day are miraculous blessings — but we often brush past them because we don’t stop to see them. Take a page from Ann Voskamp and write down 3 gifts each day; you’ll be surprised by all the reasons to celebrate every day.

Recently, I visited a friend’s house and saw a poster-sized piece of paper hanging in the kitchen with a long list of things they were grateful for, everything from shoes on sale to a life-changing missions trip. I LOVE that they do this as a family and that everyone contributes. You can write down anything and everything you are grateful for, and even share #1000gifts on social media like I do.

4. Make a toast at dinner.

Toasts don’t have to be relegated to wedding receptions or black-tie affairs. Pour some orange juice and make a toast to your husband, child, or friend, sharing with them what you appreciate about them or celebrating a recent accomplishment.

They may be embarrassed on the spot, but I bet they’ll also be touched and encouraged.

5. High-Five for a great job.

I read somewhere that giving out high-fives increases endorphins and general good-feelings. I’ve tried to include more high-fives in my day (both at work and at home) and the effect is a contagious smile and a rise in energy.

Finished putting away laundry with your husband? High-five! Got a sale at work? High-five! Managed to get the kids out of the house in time to catch the sermon at church? High-five!

6. Use the good dishes and put flowers on the table.

When someone special comes over for dinner, you probably tidy up, bring out the good dishes, put on a table cloth and maybe a vase of flowers.

Do that for your family. Make them feel special and celebrate each other!

7. Frame an “every day” picture.

Let’s face it: most days the house is a mess, dishes are in the sink, and we might get any makeup on. But it’s in that everyday grind that miracles happen: little lives are nurtured, two become one, relationships are built, and lives are transformed in those small daily things.

Celebrate those miracles by taking pictures of life as it really happens: tickle fights while putting away laundry, smeared spaghetti-faced babes, crayons spread across the kitchen table, and muddy boots in the foyer that tell of dancing in the rain. Pick your favorite and frame it to remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful (thanks to The Nester for that lesson).

With some forethought and an intentional attitude, we can break up the monotony of the daily grind and celebrate little miracles every day.

What about you? How do you celebrate every day?

Asheritah blogs at OneThingAlone.com about her journey to resting in God’s amazing grace, celebrating Jesus through laundry piles, stacked bills, and midnight cries. She also posts encouraging thoughts, #1000gifts, and interesting reads on Facebook and Twitter.

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10 FREE Ways to Beat the Heat with Kids

free ways to beat the heat

Guest post from Deanna of From this Kitchen Table

I live in Oklahoma. Our summers can be pretty miserable, but my children aren’t happy with spending the hottest months of the year cooped up in the house.

In an effort to save my sanity, I have 10 free ways to beat the heat with kids during those hot months:

1. Library

Take your kids to Story Time which often includes a few songs and a craft, and then let them check out a pile of new (to them) books and maybe a movie or two. Not only will you kill a couple hours, you come home with supplies that will keep them entertained.

Our library also shows a movie once a week and has special performances for kids during the summer! Call and ask what they have going on or pick up a printed calendar.

2. Splash Pad

Okay, I know sitting outside in the 100 degree heat isn’t high on your list of fun. It isn’t on mine either. Avoid the hottest times of the day and let your kids enjoy the water while you sit and read a book on the covered benches.

3. Mall Play Space

You can’t really beat air conditioning and space to run! When you need to get out of the house during the hottest time of the day, turn to indoor recreation. Let your kids climb and slide without worrying about sun burn.

4. Park

Once again, I know it’s summer and it’s hot — but go early early in the day. Have a breakfast picnic at the park and let your kids swing and play before the sun heats up the play structure. An added bonus is that you’ll usually miss most of the crowds.

5. Free Movies

During the summer, our local theater has free showings of a film for kids one day a week. What a cheap way for your kids to experience going to a theater. You could even use it for a testing ground to see if you’d want to go to a paid movie with your toddler.

6. Book Store or Toy Store

Our local bookstore is one of my 3-year-old’s favorite places! We normally have to pry her away when it’s time to leave. Not only do they have tons of books (including used ones), they also have a great toy selection and a train table set up for kids to use.

7. Beach

Again, plan your visit for first thing in the morning or shortly before dusk. To make it even more fun, you could plan for a breakfast picnic or eat dessert on your beach towels watching the sun set.

8. Community Events

Check your city’s calendar for community events. Many places will have free family activities periodically. Our County Fair has no fee for admission and the local Christian radio station puts on a big event for kids every summer.

9. Free Food Events

Occasionally, you’ll find restaurants that have freebies. You can print off a coupon for each person in your family, if they are required, load up the car and head to the drive thru or inside of the restaurant.

I’ve seen coupons for free ice cream cones, French fries, pancakes, and onion rings. A&W gives away free floats on National Root Beer Float Day and Chick-Fil-A has Cow Appreciation Day.

10. Free Workshop Projects

Home Depot has a Kids’ Workshop once a month and Lowe’s has Kids’ Clinics twice a month. It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday morning and your children will come away with a wood project they are proud to have hammered and put together.

What are your favorite free things to do in the summer?

Deanna, a wife and mother, attempts to balance frugality, (semi) natural living, lack of time and sleep while trying to follow what the Lord wants for her life. She enjoys dark chocolate, BBC mini series, good books, and spending weekends at home. She blogs at From this Kitchen Table.

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8 Ways to Save Money on Your First Child

8 ways to save

Guest post from Jennifer from Multicultural Marriage

My husband and I welcomed our first child last year. One of the best things we did beforehand was to consider how we’d save money on all the new expenses while still providing the best possible care for our baby.

While you can’t plan for everything, here are eight ways I found helpful in cutting costs:

1. Identify must-haves vs. nice-to-haves.

While you’re pregnant, ask other moms what items they found most useful (and what they didn’t need). For example, I made nursing pillows a “nice-to-have” and found I didn’t need them after all.

2. Revisit baby registries.

You can save a lot of money through registries (see a few ideas in this post).

Bonus tip: Extend your actual due date by a few months so you can keep using your registries after your child is born. Change items as needed, and use coupons and discounts as long as you can! Also, think of future expenses such as high chairs and potties.

3. Wait on buying toys and clothes.

We just passed the one-year milestone and have bought fewer than five toys, even though our house is flooded with them!

Friends and family (especially grandparents!) may exceed your expectations in this area. Restrain yourself — close your eyes as you pass that insanely cute onesie on sale! — until you’re certain it won’t come as a gift.

4. Explore health insurance options.

Instead of a PPO plan, we chose a cheaper HMO plan that cost hundreds, not thousands, of dollars for a hospital delivery. For those interested, midwives or birthing centers may be even cheaper if they’re eligible for coverage.

5. Try breastfeeding vs. formula.

If this is an option, I heartily recommend it. It makes mom and baby feel more connected, it helps you lose baby weight, it’s healthier, and it’s a whole lot cheaper!

6. Shop around.

If I had time, I tried to compare prices (especially on big-ticket items) using the Internet first, then consignment, then in-store. Our car seat and stroller were cheaper in-store, but the crib was cheaper in consignment. Meanwhile, our high chair was cheapest online with a store coupon.

7. Try cloth vs. disposable diapers (or a mix of both).

It’s not the most glamorous job to clean cloth diapers, but saving hundreds of dollars (along with all the other reasons I wanted cloth diapers) may help you swallow a little easier on each trip to the toilet. Also, helping the environment is a bonus!

8. Go washable.

From changing pad liners to cloth diapers to nursing bra pads, reusable items are some of your best friends. They may cost more up front, but they’ll save you big bucks by the end of the first year… or even the first month.

These are just a few of the ways we saved on our first baby… however I’d love to hear from you!

What have you found most effective for inexpensive baby care?

Jennifer (blogging at Multicultural Marriage and @multiculturalm on Twitter) is all about celebrating and supporting multicultural families. She and her husband live in the U.S. with their first child, a daughter, who is (in their opinion) the cutest baby on the planet.

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How We Are Funding Our Emergency Fund on a Really Tight Budget

Funding an Emergency Fund

Guest post from Crystal of Serving Joyfully

A couple of summers ago, our hot water heater went out. I made a quick online transfer so we could pay $400 cash for the new water heater and delivery — and we had the new one that same day.

It was nice to have that money set aside in our emergency fund… but it wouldn’t always have been that easy. We are a single-income family with a very tight budget. At one time in our marriage, an unexpected expense of $400+ would have been a disaster. 

We weren’t horribly irresponsible, but we did use a line of credit as our “emergency plan.” So, how did we finally give ourselves that emergency cushion?

We Made It A Priority!

At some point, the light bulb finally went on for us and we saw that we should save up something instead of relying on a line of credit. Admittedly, this wasn’t easy. Like I said, we live paycheck-to-paycheck on a very tight budget.

But, since we made it a priority, we could save a bit here and a bit there until it eventually seemed to add up.

There are hundreds of ways to save money here, or earn money there. But if you aren’t committed to it, you won’t make them work.

 “If you want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

There are plenty of excuses for not saving up that money — you won’t even have to look for them. But, if you’re committed, there are also plenty of ways to reach the goal. 

When tax time comes, our refund goes to pay down debt or beef up our emergency fund instead of spending it on something like a big screen TV or a family vacation. Is this fun? Not so much. But, because of these boring choices, when expenses come up, we’re now in a better position to handle them instead of worrying about them.

That peace of mind is worth way more than a big screen TV.

If you’re struggling to set up your emergency fund, here are two tips that helped us.

1. Define “Emergency”

Don’t waste your hard work on “emergencies” like forgetting to thaw out meat for dinner or overspending. If your emergency fund becomes that kind of cushion, it will be far too easy to keep taking out without replenishing. (Ask me how I know!).

Your emergency might look different than mine, and that’s okay as long as you are consistent. We don’t have a lot of wiggle room in our budget, so our emergency fund only covers unexpected expenses that are non-negotiable.

2. Expect Setbacks

When you’re first starting out, be prepared for some discouragement. For a long time, it felt like every time we got started on our emergency fund, we would have some sort of setback.

If we saved up $75, we’d have a $100 problem with the air conditioner. If we got up to $500, we’d have a $400 car repair.

It can be discouraging, but just remember, those problems would happen with or without your emergency fund to cover them.

Since we are Christians, I have learned to look at those things as just another way that God provides our daily bread. He doesn’t promise that we’ll know where the provision is coming from forever, but He makes a way right now, and for us that sometimes looks like saving up just enough money to cover the next disaster.

What creative ideas or tips do you have for funding your emergency fund on a tight budget?

Crystal Brothers blogs at Serving Joyfully where she shares about her debt-free journey, frugal living, marriage, and the adventures of homeschooling her two rambunctious boys. She is the author of Intentional Marriage: A 31-Day Devotional to love your husband well.

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