Swagbucks Paid for My Husband’s EMT Course

Blood-Pressure- cuff

Today’s Swagbucks success story is from Elizabeth:

I was the PTO President, my son was in second grade, and my husband worked full-time. We were already busy when my husband applied for a local EMT class — and got accepted!

That led me to panic a little. I worked as a substitute and he worked full-time — we had no idea how we would make everything work financially, but we were sure we could figure it out.

I have been using Swagbucks for some time now — usually to get gifts or things for our son with just pennies on the dollar using Amazon gift cards. However, when my husband got accepted to the EMT program, my new goal was to earn as many Swagbucks as possible before his first class started.

After his first class he came home with a lot of homework, a list of things he needed, and a smile that could brighten anyone’s day. I took his list of things he needed, and worked extra hard – just about every waking minute I wasn’t doing something, I was earning Swagbucks.

I was averaging about 200 a day — which was more than I had ever earned at the time. I was able to get enough Amazon gift cards to purchase my husband’s blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, first responder pants, and a pen light (totaling $200) and I spent nothing out of pocket!

It was all paid for using Swagbucks!

Here is a list of things I did to earn the Swagbucks:

- The Daily Poll: these are only worth 1 point but if there are 30 days in a month, that’s 30 points!
- Surveys: sometimes you get a bunch and others you don’t get any at all
- Special Offers: I never did any that cost money but the little ones for a 1 Swagbuck or more always worked well for me
- SwagTV: I played it on my phone and on the iPad (on their website they have the “watch” button and I would do that as much as I could. My son loves the animal videos)

A year later, my husband has now passed the class, and is working on two different departments. He really loves helping people, and I am happy I was able to get the items he needed with nothing spent out of pocket!

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DIY Project: Ferris Wheel Scarf (a simple, 3-step scarf!)

Ferris-Wheel-Scarf

This is a guest post from Abigail who blogs at The Modern Prairie Girl

The Ferris Wheel Scarf was inspired by the simplicity and fun times spent at hometown fairs with family and best friends. Its simple design is fabulously straightforward.

If you’ve never sewn a stitch (or are known for messing up whatever you touch at the sewing machine!), you will find this scarf perfect for starters. This makes a perfect gift, too.

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Sew! What are you waiting for? Have fun and please share your success story with me on the Modern Prairie Sewing Facebook page or via my email abiamerican92 @ netins.net

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Ferris Wheel Scarf (A Simple 3-Step Scarf!)

Finished flat measurements: 19 ¼” x 7 ¼”

Required Supplies:

  • ½ yard fabric*
  • Matching or coordinating thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing pins
  • Scissors

*Notes on fabric: Make your scarf fun and unique by using a wide variety of fabric types. I would suggest a cotton quilting weight just like I used on these shown samples. You could also make your scarf out of cotton rayon, cotton voile, cotton velveteen (absolutely the best for Christmas gift giving!), and home décor. Really, this scarf is so versatile and crazy, go all out and make a scarf from each suggested fabric weights, types and styles! Have fun!

Cut it Out: Cut your scarf fabric at 40” x 15 ½”

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Let’s Make it!

1. Right sides together, sew long sides together. Press long seam open. Make this step easy on yourself, by rolling the seam to the middle of your scarf piece and then press it open.

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2. Turn right side out.

3. Press one short end ½” inside, the wrong sides of your fabric will be touching. Tuck raw short end of scarf inside other short end. Pin and sew in place.

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Your scarf is finished! Now wear it to your hometown fair!

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This scarf was designed and made by Abigail A. Long, author of Modern Prairie Sewing: 20 Handmade Projects for You & Your Friends. Visit her blog, The Modern Prairie Girl, for more sewing inspiration.

Modern Prairie Sewing

Note from Crystal: If you love sewing, you’ll definitely want to check out Abigail’s book, Modern Prairie Sewing. She sent me a copy and I fell in love with it… and I don’t even really sew at all! But she made me want to learn how to sew well so I could make some of the beautiful projects in the book.

Modern Prairie Sewing

Modern Prairie Sewing is very well written, the instructions are detailed, and it’s full color. My favorite thing is that there are so many pictures and step-by-step instructions, making it seem doable for even a very novice seamstress like me! Find out more details on the book here.

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5 Ways to Save Money on Doing Laundry

Positive young woman doing the laundry at home

Guest post from Sarah of Saving Money Never Goes Out of Style

The laundry room may be one of the last places most people think of when it comes to saving money. The truth is though, it is one of the easiest places to pinch your pennies! Here are some tips for saving money in the laundry room:

1. Make your own detergent.

One of the easiest ways to save money in the laundry room is to make your own detergent. You can do this with just a few low-cost ingredients and it really gets your clothing clean very well! The cost of making your soap is just pennies per load and when you do it this way, you save yourself from needless chemicals as well.

When the weather is warm, you can also save money by giving up your dryer. Hanging clothes to dry not only saves you money off your energy bill, but might extend the life of your clothing as well because you won’t be using any high heat. Plus, taking a break from using your dryer also extends the dryer’s life!

If making your own detergent sounds like it won’t work for you, (although it really only takes about 15 minutes of your time!) make sure to stock up on sales and use coupons when you can. This last year, I have seen Tide on sale for $3.99 and with my dollar off coupon, it only ends up being $2.99 for a 32 ounce jug.

2. Use less.

This applies to soap, but it also applies to fabric softener. If you feel you need fabric softener, opt for dryer sheets instead of the bar and cut them in half. You still get the great scent and softening of clothes that you like, and this will make a box last twice as long.

Did you know you can make your own scented “dryer sheets”? While they may not have the same effect on clothes to soften them, most people like dryer sheets because of the scent.

To get the same effect, just have a couple rags or make your own wool balls and try this trick.  Drop a couple drops of essential oil onto your rag or wool ball and throw it in the dryer with your clothes. They will come out smelling amazing and each load costs you less than a cent!

3. Only do full loads.

You will be using the same amount of energy to wash and dry a half load as you will with a full load, so make sure each load that you do is full sized. That said, don’t over-stuff your machine as this damages it and could cost you more in repairs.

Doing a half-load doesn’t make much sense when you think about it in terms of saving money.

4. Have fewer clothes to wash in the first place.

Many of us have too many clothes! I know I was constantly doing the kids’ laundry and I wasn’t even sure how dirty it was.

One day, I just got sick of doing it every day. I thought to myself, “There’s no way they could possibly be wearing all these clothes.” Since then, I’ve scaled way back.

Each child is only allowed to have 20 outfits in their room at a time. That is almost 3 weeks of every day wear and more than plenty.

Believe it or not, I sold half of their clothes! I made money AND I don’t have to wash as many clothes!

5. Wear things more than once.

This is a money saver as well as a time saver. Some things can be worn or used multiple times before needing a good washing: jeans, bath towels, pajamas, etc. Even some things like what you wear to church for only one hour can sometimes be worn again before washing.

How do you like to save in the laundry room? Did I miss anything?

Sarah is a stay-at-home mom of two wonderful children. From homeless to well-off, this single debt-free mom is most known for her ability to live well on $18k/year. Sarah loves encouraging others that dreams do come true if they are willing to consistently work for it. Follow her blog: Saving Money Never Goes Out of Style.

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8 Ways to Use Your Garden Surplus

garden surplus

Guest post from of OneThingAlone.com

Are you drowning in produce?

Right about now, vegetable gardens around the country are bringing in their harvest. And if you’re a gardener, you probably have more cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes than you know what to do with.

Letting them go to waste is a shame, but exactly how many ways can you cook zucchini before you hear collective groans at the dinner table? With a little creativity, you can both save money and make others happy with your garden surplus:

1. Save it for later.

You don’t have to eat everything now, you know. Many veggies freeze well if blanched first.

Simply drop a handful of veggies (carrots, green beans, peas) into boiling water, boil for 30-60 seconds, and then “shock” them ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain excess water and freeze in zip-lock bags. They should keep until the next harvest and will come in handy mid-winter.

You can also save spices like oregano and basil by placing them in an ice cube tray and covering them in olive oil. Once frozen, you can pop them out and store in a freezer-safe gallon-sized bag.

Fruit can be flash-frozen on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes and then stored in freezer bags for yummy smoothies, muffins, or healthy snacks throughout the year.

2. Make convenience items.

With just a bit of work, raw produce can become the base for many quick dinners. Use tomatoes to make a few batches of pizza sauce, tomato juice, or spaghetti sauce. Peppers can be sliced and bagged with onions for a fajita kit. Berries make delicious jams and great Christmas presents.

Veggies can also be used in lasagna, pre-made pizza toppings, and kebab kits. Simple, healthy, and money-savvy.

3. Bring them to work.

Obviously, not everyone has a vegetable garden in their backyard. While you may be up to your ears in cucumbers, others may have cukes on their shopping list. Be generous with what you have and make someone’s day.

Note: if you leave cabbage in the break room, check to make sure it’s gone by the end of the day so you don’t come back to a stench.

4. Invite friends into your garden.

I love bringing friends into my garden and letting them pick whatever they want for dinner that week. Nothing says friend like free food, right?

I get rid of extra veggies and they get dinner on the table with fresh, local, and organic produce.

5. Make a stir-fry or stew with remnants.

If all you have is a handful of peas or a small bowl of green beans, combine them all together for a quick stir-fry. Or throw them all in a pot, add some onions, seasonings and sausage, and make a stew!

Bonus: you can freeze half of the recipe for a later time when you don’t feel like cooking or when eating out tempts your wallet.

6. Double up and send it out

Whatever you’re cooking, make a double batch and surprise a friend with dinner. Whether it’s a new mama, a friend with sick kiddos, or your new neighbors, everyone can use a cooking-free night.

7. Try a new recipe

Whenever there’s a particular veggie that overproduces, try searching Pinterest for yummy recipes, print them all out, and have them handy to reference when the basket is full.

According to Google, there are 30,000,000 zucchini recipes out there, just waiting for you to give them a try. Who knew that zucchini fries, zucchini tortellini soup, and chocolate zucchini soup could taste so good?

8. “Auction” it online

Everyone likes free. Give your local Facebook friends something to smile about by “auctioning” off your produce surplus to the funniest comment or the most embarrassing mommy moment.

Create your own giveaway and make someone’s day, or offer it in exchange for babysitting, lawn services, or help with a freezer-cooking day. It’s a win-win either way.

With a bit of creativity and effort, your low-hanging veggies can save money, make smiles, and brighten days.

Asheritah is married to her high school sweetheart, Flaviu, and together with their daughter, Carissa, they make their home in Ohio. She blogs at OneThingAlone.com about the One Thing that makes laundry piles and midnight cries worth every second: walking with Jesus. 

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Increase Your Income and Build Relationships By Renting Out Part of Your Home

renters

Guest post from Lisa Joy of Eclectic

A few years ago, we moved from a tiny condo into a split-level home. We loved our new floor plan and knew we could expand to fill it — but we didn’t have to. We had an extra bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen downstairs; and since we didn’t want to waste that space, finding a renter seemed like the logical thing to do.

For the record, you don’t need an extra kitchen to have a renter. My parents, who are entering the empty-nest stage, have invited a local college girl to live in a spare bedroom upstairs. They have also remodeled part of their walk-out basement to be a small apartment.

Having a renter in your home can expand your family’s relationships while increasing your monthly income. Also, income earned from a renter has the added benefits of often being tax-free (you’ll want to research this as you do your taxes), and requires no continual work hours.

If you live in a home with a little extra space, or if you could consolidate to make that space, having a renter may be a good option for you as well. Here are a few things to think about if this is a path you would like to pursue:

Find the Right Fit

A renter can be a nightmare if it’s not a good fit for your family, but a good fit can be a huge blessing. We are just about to welcome our third renter into our home. All three have been single, Christian women who have just completed their undergrad degree.

To find them, we advertised through two local colleges. We make it clear that we are a small Christian family with young children. We will only accept females who are willing to keep quiet hours and respect our property.

We ask each prospective renter for three references, and we do a background check. We also ask them to come visit our home and share a meal with us, so that they can see the place and so that we can get a feel for their personality.

Set Clear Boundaries

I’m a private, introverted person, and having a renter only works because we have clear boundaries. Both we and our renters sign a lease agreement before they move in.

The lease agreement includes specification of what space belongs to whom. Some space belongs to us, and the renter is not allowed to enter without invitation.

Some space belongs to our renter, and we are not allowed to enter except in case of emergency. Some space is shared.

Because we have a split-level home, the entire upstairs is our private space, so I can wear my pajamas around without having to worry. Not like I would, you know, but just in case! ;)

We ask our renters to get a post office box, so we’re not sharing a mailbox. We also specify where our renter should park their car.

If you share a kitchen or bathroom, you can specify things like which cupboard or fridge/freezer shelf belongs to your renters. You can specify when your renter does laundry. We also make rules about the number of guests allowed, and ask our renters to get permission for overnight guests.

Our lease agreement includes basics like a security deposit to cover any damages, and a deadline when rent is due each month. And because we have small children, we set quiet hours from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Clear boundaries upfront protect both you and your renter, and help you find someone with a quiet lifestyle who will respect your privacy.

Enjoy A Mutual Blessing

I remember being a single woman just out of college, and it was challenging. Finding housing that is both affordable and safe can be difficult. Adjusting to a new area can be lonely.

Many single women welcome the opportunity to live with a family. In some cases, you may find that you are not just a landlord, but a friend.

A renter can also be a blessing to YOU. We hire our renter not only for baby-sitting, but also for getting mail and watering plants when we are out of town.

We occasionally invite our renter up for a meal and last winter we visited together when we were snowed in. Our children consider them almost like adopted aunts.

I had some initial misgivings, and of course there’s been a little inconvenience, but ultimately having a renter has been so worth it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to increase our monthly income, and to reach out at the same time.

Lisa Joy is a disciple of Christ, living in the Shenandoah Valley with her husband, son, and daughter, teaching part-time, fostering, homemaking, and blogging a little around the edges at Eclectic.

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5 Lessons for Financially Wise Children

financially wise children

Guest post from Angi of SchneiderPeeps

Over the last few years, our children have done some pretty cool things. They’ve had opportunities to go to Boy Scout Jamboree, Philmont and Northern Tier High Adventure Camps, get training with Actors, Models and Talent for Christ, start a beekeeping business, and go to jewelry school. These are all things that have cost thousands of dollars and that THEY have paid for themselves.

We are pretty proud of what they have each accomplished… and so are they. As I look back over the years, I see several things that I believe have helped our children learn to be wise with money.

1. Learn to work

All of our children know how to work. They are each responsible for their own belongings and for helping with household work.

Even small children can empty small trash cans or put away silverware. Whether to pay your child an allowance or commission for household work is a very personal decision, one that parents need to carefully consider.

It’s important that children learn that in order to have money they need to work, but it’s also important for children to learn to work hard even when pay isn’t involved or if no one is looking.

One interesting thing that has happened from working hard when pay is not involved is that my older children are regularly hired to help friends with projects that they have going on in their home.

2. Learn to save

When our children were young, we required them to save a certain percentage of all their money. As they have gotten older we have not needed to have this requirement; they all have learned to save for things they want – both big and small.

Some of our children have learned this discipline quicker than others, but all of our older children are savers.

3. Learn to give

It’s really important to us that our children learn to give generously. At a minimum, we have always required that our children tithe on their earnings.

We no longer have to require this, they just do it naturally. But, we also want them to give in addition to their tithe, so we have made sure that they have opportunities to practice giving by filling shoe boxes for Operation Christmas child, giving to a family in our church whose home burned down, purchasing curtains for our local Women’s Shelter, sending clothes and school supplies to a friend’s village in Kenya and taking meals to families who have had a new baby or are experiencing a hardship in some way.

4. Learn to be content

Contentment is hard to teach because it’s a choice that we each have to make in our hearts. But that doesn’t mean we don’t encourage our children to be content.

One way we’ve done this is by being content and thankful for what we have and not chasing the next new shiny thing. We try to buy quality items and then keep them for years.

One thing my older children have observed about electronics is that as soon as a new product is released the company is already working on the next generation. It can become a vicious cycle trying to always have the latest and greatest technology or clothing style or car.

Don't protect your children from making mistakes

5. Learn from mistakes

My children have made mistakes in their financial journey. Fortunately, those mistakes have been minor compared to what can happen when they are on their own.

It’s hard to see them struggle and the “mommy” in me really wants to rescue them from their choices or to forbid a choice that I know is unwise. However, I’d rather see my child make a mistake that costs only a hundred dollars and learn the lessons he needs to learn than to make mistakes as an adult that cost thousands of dollars.

If I keep them from making mistakes or rescue them from the consequences, I just delay them learning the lessons they need to learn.

Learning to be financially wise does not just happen, it has to be something that we diligently teach our children.

Angi Schneider is a minister’s wife and homeschooling mom. She blogs about their homesteading and homeschooling adventures at SchneiderPeeps. Angi and her husband, Carl, are also the authors of Hope-Thriving While Unemployed, an ebook to help those who are unemployed or underemployed.

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