Q&A: What kind of bread machine do you have?

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What kind of bread machine do you have? Do you find it’s better for the machine to do it all, or just make the dough? -Stephanie

If there’s one tool in my kitchen I would never want to be without, it’s my bread machine. My aunt and uncle got me one as a wedding gift and I used it so much it finally was giving out.

Just around the time it was starting to breathe its last breath, my dad surprised me with a Zojirushi Bread Machine for Christmas. Let me tell you, this bread machine is the king of bread machines!

It’s high-tech and offers quite a few different options — including the dough cycle that I mostly. It’s also roomy, so you can make larger loaves and bigger batches of dough.

Make Your Own Homemade Bread

My favorite thing about the Zojirushi Bread Machine is that it has two kneading paddles. This creates a much better and softer texture in the dough which translates to softer, better-shaped bread and rolls.

Make Your Own Bread

I rarely ever bake bread in my machine, because I’ve found that the crust is much softer when I bake the bread in the oven. It does mean that you have to be home and remember to take the dough out of the machine and bake it when it’s done, but it’s still so much easier than making bread completely from scratch.

I can stick all the ingredients in the bread machine for Bread Machine Buttery Rolls and and hour and a half later, the dough is ready to be shaped into rolls. No mixing, no kneading and no worrying about setting a timer. Truly, in about ten minutes of total prep time, I can have a hot and fresh batch of rolls made.

My Favorite Simple & Easy Homemade Bread Recipes

Do you have a bread machine? If so, what kind & do you like it?

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Q&A: How do I get my husband on board with living a debt-free life?

I am just beginning on my mission to get out of debt, live more simply, and find happiness with the bounty that I have before me. I feel inspired and motivated and have put together a rough plan about how to accomplish this. My problem is getting my family on board.

My husband falls victim to “needing” the latest gadget, random shopping trips, and keeping up with the neighbors’ latest toys. I take care of the budget and bill paying but I don’t want to treat him like a child and control all of his spending. How do I get everyone on board with living a simple and happy life? -Stephanie

This question is something that comes into my email in various forms on an almost weekly basis — and my heart goes out to all of you who are struggling to get on the same page with your spouse financially.

I’m not a marriage expert and I’ve been blessed with a husband who is goal-oriented and a bit of a nerd when it comes to spreadsheets (I use the term “nerd” endearingly!), so I can’t guarantee that I have any brilliant words of wisdom to offer. But we’ve had a number of other areas where we’ve not always seen eye-to-eye on in our marriage and here are some things I’ve learned — mostly the hard way!

1) Nagging Doesn’t Work

If you want to ruin your relationship, start trying to nag and drag your spouse along with your latest and greatest ideas. It’s a recipe for disaster — and discord.

2) It Has To Be an Us Thing, Not a Me Thing

There is no “I” in team. If you want to successfully get on the same page, it has to be a game plan you come up with together.

Don’t expect your spouse to jump on board with you. Instead, ask your spouse if you can sit down together and talk about where you both are financially and where you both want to go together.

3) Compromise Is Key

When you sit down to discuss your finances, come with an open mind. Don’t have everything all mapped out and badger your spouse into signing off on your plan.

Share your concerns in a gentle manner and then listen to your spouse’s thoughts and concerns. If they see that you genuinely want to work with them and want to hear their heart on the matter, they are going to be much more apt to join you in the journey. But they will likely resist from the get-go if you don’t seem to care about their desires and or have any willingness to compromise.

4) Give Grace — And Some Breathing Room!

In most marriages there is one spouse who is more of a spender and one who is more of a saver. In our marriage, my husband is the spender and I’m the saver.

For me, I’d be pretty much fine with rarely ever spending money. However, I’ve learned that my husband is happier when he has a little breathing room in the budget.

But instead of our opposite natures causing a lot of conflict, we’ve actually helped balance each other out. Since being married, my husband has become more frugal and careful in how we steward our money and I’ve learned to lighten up and learn to enjoy life a little more.

Because of our different personalities and natures, we’ve found a beautiful compromise in an agreed-upon blow category in our budget. We each get an allotted amount of money that we can spend on whatever we’d like, whenever we’d like. This set-up has worked well for us and prevented many unnecessary arguments over money.

When we both accept our differences, agree to compromise, set goals for our family together, and give each other grace, we have so much more unity. And this unity propels us to both be working together to wisely steward our money — instead of constantly fighting and bickering over stuff that really isn’t going to matter too much in 25 years from now.

For more suggestions, check out my post on How Can We Improve Communication About Finances In Marriage?

I’d love for the rest of you to chime in with advice and suggestions for Stephanie. What has worked to help you improve communication about finances with your spouse?

photo from BigStock

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Help! I’m so frustrated with trying to use coupons that I’m thinking of giving up!

I’m giving up on coupons! Kroger accused me of “fraudulently” printing a coupon for a free package of Kings Hawaiian Bread, which was sent to me via a Facebook offer. Then today at Walart, they refused three of my coupons that were printed from Coupons.com because they didn’t have the right bar code.

Is this a common occurrence for users of coupons? Is there something I need to be doing differently with my coupons. I just wonder is this is something that happens to others. Hints, tips, and suggestions as to how to avoid these issues in the future? -Cyndi

I think most all of us couponers have had a bad experience or three while using coupons, so we feel your pain and frustration.The bad experiences are usually very minimal in comparison to the good experiences, but they happen to all of us at one time or another.

A number of years ago, I was accused of cheating and firmly asked never to come back to a store by a manager. Truth be told, although I replied kindly and left the store, I was shaking and wanted to give up coupons then and there.

Instead, because I knew that the manager was misinformed on coupons and had overstepped his bounds in the way he had treated me, I went home, wrote out all of the details of what had happened, and placed a call to that store’s corporate office the next morning.

You know what? They apologized profusely, reiterated the fact that I was using coupons in accordance with their policy, and were very concerned with how the manager had treated me.

In fact, they asked me if I’d like for them to have him call me and personally apologize! I said that wouldn’t be necessary, but I just wanted to ask if they could make sure the manager was better informed as to what their coupon policy was so that I and other couponers who shopped there in the future wouldn’t have such a difficult time using coupons.

I never found out exactly what happened, but I do know that from then on, that store became a much more coupon-friendly store and the manager never gave me or my other couponing friends who shopped there any issues.

So don’t give up — even when you feel frustrated! Your wallet will thank you and I promise that not every experience using coupons will be so bad in the future.

Here are some suggestions as to ways to prevent as many bad couponing experiences as possible in the future:

1. Make Sure You Know the Deals & Store Policies Well

Get a copy of the store’s corporate coupon policy and bring it with you when you shop. Know it backwards and forwards. That way, if there is any question regarding your coupon use, you are well educated and can make a clear case for why you are using coupons in accordance with the store’s corporate coupon policy.

2. Look for Efficient and Cheerful Cashiers

I always scan the checkout lanes before heading into one and look for a cashier that is speedy, efficient, and cheerful. For some reason, I always seem to have better success in using coupons with these types of cashiers.

In addition, I’ll look for people who are using coupons and checkout and if I see that the cashier is running them through cheerfully, I’ll head to that line. As the cashier is usually what makes or breaks your coupon-shopping experience, finding cashiers who are coupon-friendly go a long way toward a pleasant checkout.

3. Be Polite and Courteous, But Firm

Unfortunately, many cashiers do not know the store’s coupon policies. I can’t count the number of times a cashier has told me they can’t accept a coupon for one reason or another.

While their reason might be 100% true and valid, more often than not, I’ve found that they will tell me something that I know is not right per the store’s coupon policy. When this happens, I politely, but firmly explain what the store’s coupon policy is. More often than not, this is all it takes and they willingly accept all of my coupons, no questions asked.

Be a polite and informed customer, follow the store’s coupon policies to a tee, and you’ll usually earn the respect of the cashiers. When they respect you, they are much less likely to question your usage of coupons.

4. Don’t Make a Big Stink

In some instances, I’ve cordially explained the coupon policies and a cashier won’t budge. Instead of getting frustrated or upset, I just calmly ask them to remove the item from my transaction and return my coupon.

Yes, I miss out on some deals, but I’d rather leave the store without the deal if it means I avoid holding up the line and making a scene at the cash register. Plus, in many instances, I can use the coupon at another store to get a great deal.

5. Work on Lowering Your Grocery Bill Without Using Coupons

While I’m a big advocate of using coupons, I think they are just one piece of the grocery-savings pie. If you live in an area with few coupon-friendly stores, you might find that you just aren’t going to see the savings that someone with a lot of store options and stores that double or triple coupons is going to see.

Don’t be discouraged by this! There are many, many other ways to save money without using coupons. Pick a few of these to implement each month and determine which ones work best for your family.

Not everything that works for someone else will work for you, but I’m sure you’ll find many simple ways to lower your grocery bill without using coupons. Paired with the savings you can also obtain by using coupons, you can eventually really see significant savings!

What advice do the rest of you have for Cyndi? I’d love to hear your suggestions and tips!

photo courtesy of Big Stock

FOR MORE COUPONS, search our comprehensive Coupon Database for manufacturer coupons, printable coupons, eCoupons, and more!

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Is it possible to survive on a $30 per week grocery budget?

I am single and have about $30 per week for groceries which I find hard to do and get a balanced diet. I do go to multiple stores to get the best prices and use coupons the best I can. The thing that bothers me, is when a staple item I use is on sale, I normally don’t have an extra $5 (let alone more) to spend to purchase it. How can I stock-up on sale items when I have such a little bit to get by with anyways? -Renee

Contrary to what many people may tell you, I think you can definitely eat well on $30 per week — and you can find a little wiggle room to buy ahead, too.

My husband and I both lived on a $30 per week grocery budget when we were first married. This included all the ingredients to make 21 meals for both of us each week, plus all household products.

A Can-Do Attitude Is a Must

Don’t let yourself think, “There’s no way I can eat on this small of a budget.” Instead, decide that you’re going to do the best you can with the resources you have.

Make it a game, of sorts, to see how well you can do on a little. By challenging yourself to exercise creativity and think outside the box, you’ll enjoy it a lot more. And when you’re enjoying something, it no longer seems so difficult.

Make Short-Term Sacrifices

In order to be able to scrape together enough money to start buying ahead and building up your stockpile, I’d encourage you to commit to eating really simply for a few weeks. Cut your grocery budget back to $25, and save the extra $5 to invest in those rock-bottom, can’t miss deals — or to purchase almost-free toiletries and household products.

If you’re thinking there’s no way you can eat on $25 per week, here’s a grocery list and menu plan I came up with:

Sample $25 Grocery List and Menu

Prices are approximate and will likely vary a little by area. You may be able to beat these prices with great sales and/or coupons.

Regular Grocery Store, Aldi, or Walmart

1 canister of oatmeal –$2
1 gallon milk — $2.50
1 bag of apples — $3
1 bag of carrots — $1.50
4 bags of frozen vegetables — $4
1 bag of frozen chicken breasts — $7

Dollar Store

1 loaf of bread — $1
1 jar of peanut butter — $1
1 jar of jelly or honey — $1
1 bag of dried beans — $1
1 bag of rice — $1

Breakfasts:

Oatmeal with milk (add in some chopped apples, honey, or peanut butter to change things up a little)

Lunches:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, carrots

Dinners:

Beans and rice with steamed veggies on the side
Chicken, rice, and carrot soup
Baked chicken breast on a bed of rice, steamed veggies
Rice, chopped chicken, and steamed veggies mixed together and sprinkled with salt
Homemade refried beans, baked chicken, steamed veggies
Chicken and veggie stirfry served over rice
Leftovers

Yes, this isn’t a very exciting menu. But if you’re willing to scrimp for a few weeks and eat very simply, it will free up that extra $5 or so each week to start buying a few extra things that are on a great sale (like a bag of flour, like that incredible deal on strawberries — some to eat now, some to freeze for later, or that fantastic special on beef).

As you invest some of your grocery money in the rock-bottom specials and deals, this helps you to build up more of a stockpile so that, over time, you’ll be able to have more and more variety without increasing your budget.

For more grocery saving ideas, check out my 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series and find the best deals at your local store(s). Also, read my post Help! How Do We Cut Our Budget When There’s Nothing Left to Cut?

photo credit

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Ask Jesse: How do you feel about keeping life insurance as a form of inheritance?

My husband and I are currently switching our life insurance policies from whole life to term, thus resulting in better coverage for the same premium. We are wondering how you felt about keeping our life insurance as a form of inheritance for our three children (our youngest has severe autism). We are in our lower 40′s.

I understand the premium will go up as we grow older but we want to insure that all of our children, especially our son with a disability, is covered. He also has a special needs trust. – a reader

I applaud you for taking the bull by the horns and thinking long-term. It is not often that people, when still younger, not only think about but make preparations for the care of their children, in the event of your death.

I think it is important for anyone, whatever their age, if they have dependents, to make sure to have a lawfully executed will with guardians set up for their dependents. So many people do not have this and, instead, leave it to the state to determine who gets what and who takes care of the children, if both parents are gone.

The purpose of life insurance is to make sure your children have something to take care of them for their support and maintenance when you die. It should actually be called “death insurance” or “care insurance” but that is beside the point.

Because you have a special needs child, it sounds like you have done the necessary estate planning to make sure he is cared for with a special needs trust. This trust can be funded with life insurance by naming the trust as beneficiary of the life insurance. The trustee would then disperse and manage the money according to the terms of the trust, while the other children would be named as beneficiaries and get the money outright (unless they are minors at the time).

If you did not have the trust set up by an estate planning attorney, I would highly recommend it and have them look at the methods of funding. Most trusts go unfunded and the last thing you would want is to have this special trust not funded properly and your child not benefit from your planning. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

That said, while at this point you can fund with that life insurance, your goal should be to fund it with other assets developed over time so you don’t just have to rely on the life insurance–especially if that life insurance is the term insurance. While you could always reapply for term insurance, which is wise to do when the term gets close to being up, it would be good to have a real asset there to fund the trust if that life insurance is no longer available.

Thus, I do not think that it is necessary for you to keep both the whole life and the term policies going simultaneously, especially when you can get quite a bit more insurance for the price of the whole life with term insurance. The term should work just fine as long as you keep on the ball with estate planning.

Again, I would recommend you talk with an estate planning attorney in your state to make sure all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed.

Jesse Paine is a licensed attorney who owns his own law firm. He’s married to Crystal and is the numbers nerd of the MoneySavingMom.com team! If you have a question you’d like him to answer in a future column, you can submit it here.

The content of this column intended for informational use only and is not to be construed as providing legal, investing, accounting, or other professional advice. Your situation is factually specific and you should accordingly seek qualified professional counsel concerning your specific legal, investing or accounting needs.

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Q&A Tuesday: Advice for a brand-new stay-at-home mom?

My husband and I are about to enter into parenthood in a month. Do you have any advice for how to prepare for a baby to come? I have all of his things, I am nearly done packing my hospital bag, and I am well on the way to having lots of meals frozen before his arrival. What I mean is this: how do I prepare for going from a 32-hour-a-week-worker to a mostly-stay-at-home-mom? -Paige

1. Realize That There Will Be Hard Days

Congratulations, Paige! Having a new baby is a wonderful thing. It will change your life in so many fantastic ways.

However, since I’m a realist, I’m going to tell you that there will be many days when it feels far from wonderful and fantastic. There will be crying and fussing and dirty diapers and spit-up. Later, there will be messes, whining, more messes, and more whining. And unless you’re a nurse by profession, you’ll probably be dealing with more bodily fluids on a daily basis than you’re used to. :)

2. Embrace Each Day

Motherhood is not for wimps. It’s one of the hardest professions on the face of the earth, but it’s also one of the most rewarding professions on the face of the earth. You’ll discover depths of love inside you that you never knew existed and your heart will forever be walking outside of your body.

Instead of focusing on the pile of dirty laundry, the exhaustion you’re experiencing because you only got three hours of interrupted sleep last night, or the just-changed shirt that is now has spit-up on it, choose to embrace today.

Soak up your precious baby. Don’t be too busy or harried to just sit and enjoy the little moments. They are fleeting!

3. Get a Good Routine Going

If you’re used to running a pretty tight ship when it comes to your work-outside-the-home schedule, making the transition to being a stay-at-home mom can be hard–especially because life with a newborn baby can be full of so much unpredictability. If you can, set up a basic routine for your day from the get-go. Read my advice to an overwhelmed mom of a baby here for more on setting up a basic routine.

4. Find Some Great Mom Friends

You need support in your new role. Find a small group of moms who understand you, who will encourage you on your hard days, and who will rejoice with you in your victories.

5. Don’t Let Yourself Go

It’s important to continue to take care of you. Don’t neglect to get some exercise and fresh air, make healthful eating choices, take a multi-vitamin, drink lots of water, try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night (as much as is possible with a newborn!), and allow margin in your life for things that energize and refresh you. You’ll be a better wife and mom if you make your own health and sanity a priority!

There’s so much more I could share, but I’ll stop there and let the rest of you jump in in the comments. What advice and tips do you have for someone who is preparing to be a brand-new stay-at-home mom?

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