How We Saved $700 With House Sitters America

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Marenda emailed in the following tip:

As many of you know, lodging is often one of the most expensive parts of any vacation. However, thanks to HouseSittersAmerica.com, my husband and I have been able to enjoy very frugal getaways!

If you’ve never heard of House Sitters America, it’s basically a website that connects travelers with homeowners across the country looking for reliable and responsible house sitters and pet sitters. There is a $30 membership fee, but we recouped that cost after one free night of lodging.

My husband and I just got back from a week of housesitting in North Carolina (we’re from Indiana). The homeowner enjoyed a week of vacation while we took care of her two sweet kitties and brought the mail and home deliveries inside the house.

We cooked and ate our breakfast and dinner in our new “adopted home” and chose to eat our noon meal out while we were sightseeing.

We did our laundry and tried to leave the house cleaner than we found it, including washing our sheets and putting them back on the bed.

While it was a little additional work on our part, we figured it saved us at least $700 on lodging for the week!

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How to Save By Using the Target Cartwheel App

How to Cartwheel by Target
Have you used the Target Cartwheel app? It’s a FREE app you can download and use at checkout to save money on purchases at Target.

Target Cartwheel app

Here’s how it works:

1. Download the Target Cartwheel app. It’s free and available in the iTunes app store or an Google play. If you don’t have a mobile device, you can also connect your Facebook or Google+ accounts to Cartwheel and access the coupons that way.

Target By Cartwheel App

2. Scroll through the offers to decide which offers you are interested in/think you’ll use. There are coupons available for groceries, fresh product, clothing, household items and more. The coupons are updated/changed regularly. There are specific brands offered as well as general purchases (see above: get 5% off any pumpkin purchase).

Tip: You can scan the bar code of any item you are planning to purchase to see if there’s a coupon available for it. Sometimes, you might not remember or realize that there’s a coupon available for an item, so it might be worth it to scan each and every item as you stick it in the cart.

Target By Cartwheel

3. At checkout, have the cashier scan the Target bar code on your device and it will take off all of the applicable coupons on your order. Note: You must scan the Target Cartwheel bar code after all other coupons are already taken off. You can combine Target Cartwheel coupons with other mobile coupons or printable coupons for more savings.

Tip: If you don’t have a device, you can print the barcode after you’ve added the coupons you plan to use to it and the cashier can scan this at checkout.

Target By Cartwheel

And that’s it! The Target Cartwheel app is another great way to stretch your hard-earned money… especially if you’re able to use it to save on items you were already planning to buy!

Do you use the Target Cartwheel app? If so, I’d love to hear your favorite tips and tricks for using it to get the best bang for your buck.

{Note: This post was underwritten by Target. Read our disclosure policy here.}

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I think we might win an award for being Airport Ninjas

How We Saved Today

For the past little while, we’d been hoping to make it back to Kansas for a visit. We’d looked at options and just weren’t coming up with something that would work. Ticket prices for flights were really high and driving 14ish hours there and back again wasn’t going to work into our schedules and allow us enough time for a few at least days to visit, too.

We kept looking and hoping we’d figure something out. Well then, a few weeks ago, I was looking into flight prices for a conference trip and discovered that the flight prices had been knocked in half for that trip. I quickly booked that flight and then decided to go check on flights to Kansas again.

I could hardly believe it when I realized that flight prices were almost half of the lowest price we usually ever see!! We found dates that would work and went ahead and bought the tickets and got excited for our trip.

I thought I had gotten smart to choose an 8:25 a.m. flight. That way, we wouldn’t have to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get out the door and to the airport for a 6 a.m. flight like it seems we usually have to.

Well, my bright idea turned out to be not quite so bright. We usually try to get to the airport a little over an hour to an hour and a half before our flight leaves. We had planned to leave our house at 6:30 a.m. to put us at the airport at around 7:00 a.m.

The morning didn’t go as planned and it took us quite a bit longer to get out the door. I thought we’d still be okay, though, because I figured that Nashville traffic wouldn’t start getting bad until around 7:30 a.m. I assumed we were still early enough to completely bypass all of that and make it to the airport with a little time to spare.

Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that Nashville traffic starts getting crazy much earlier than we thought. We ended up getting stuck in traffic within a few minutes into our drive, which added more time to our trip and then meant we were running later and got stuck in more traffic.

By around 7:30 a.m., we realized we were probably not going to make our flight. Traffic on the highway was crawling and we still had 10 minutes left in our trip — without traffic. We figured that the soonest we’d be to the airport would be 8 a.m. and our flight left at 8:25 a.m.!!

We had a 2+ hour layover in Dallas, so we called the airline and asked if there was any way we could get bumped to a later flight and still make it on our Dallas flight. They said absolutely and started getting that set up.

We breathed a sigh of relief. This was all going to work out! Yay!

And, um, then the customer service rep came back on the phone and said it would $1,000+ per ticket for us to change to the later flight. $5,000 to change our tickets to the later flight?!? What?!?!?

Jesse politely asked the reason and they said, “I’m so sorry, but because you got such a low, low price on your tickets, it means that you would have to pay a lot more to change the flights.”

Whoops. I guess there are good things and bad things to getting great airline ticket prices! :)

We decided to just do our best to hope for a miracle and try to make our flights. We pulled up to the airport at 8:01 a.m. — 24 minutes before our plane was supposed to take off!

We still had to drop the car off, print our tickets (we hadn’t been able to get them to print online), get 5 people through security, and make it to gate. I told the kids we were going to be ninjas and ninjas we were… and it also helped that there was no waiting at security!

Somehow, by some miracle, we all made it to our gate with two minutes to spare before they closed the door to the plane! I was dripping sweat and panting, but we made it.

I think that is one for the books… and I may have sprouted a few new white hairs yesterday, too. Also, I’m pretty sure we were quite the sight as we basically just scooped everything up that came off the security belt, hung on tight, and ran as fast as we could to our gate. :)

The moral of the story: if you’re going to buy cheap airline tickets, make sure that you actually plan enough time to get to the airport. And also? Don’t make assumptions about Nashville traffic.

Lesson learned. :)

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When moving to Nashville isn’t all roses and rainbows…

Embracing Newness

I’m a person who loves order, structure, and sameness. I’ll wear the same outfits over and over again. Keep my house decorated the same way for years. Fix the same things for dinner repeatedly. Go to the same restaurants and order the same things.

I find comfort in having a plan and knowing what to expect. As much as I can, I avoid unknowns.

Moving from Kansas to Tennessee in May brought a lot of newness and unknowns into the life of a girl who craves sameness. Then, there were quite a few extra doses of new business, speaking, and media opportunities thrown into the mix. And this was all topped with a completely new way of doing family life.

What did this result in? An unsettled feeling.

For a few months, it felt like life didn’t have any ruts or familiar grooves. Instead, every footstep was like treading on brand-new soil.

There wasn’t a clear plan. There wasn’t organized structure. And there was a whole lot of new.

New people.

New church.

New house.

New kid’s activities.

New roads.

New stores.

A new life to navigate.

In the middle of reeling from all of this newness, I went to a get-together with new friends. As I sat there amongst this group and heard the friendly chatter around me, I suddenly realized how out of place I felt. Almost as if I was in a foreign land.

Everyone seemed to have memories forged together, roads traveled together, and life lived together. Everyone, that is, but me.

I tried to smile and engage in conversations and ask questions, but it felt like I was the odd one out. The only one who hadn’t been apart of all of these adventures and stories they were laughing and joking and teasing each other about.

My heart felt torn. I was so grateful that they’d been kind to invite me. But I also wanted to run away… back to where it was safe and known and comfortable.

We said our goodbyes, I got into my car, and cried all the way home.

The next morning, I got up early and sat on the couch trying to will myself to dive into the day’s to-do’s and responsibilities. I felt tired and lonely and just plain done with all the newness.

Jesse came downstairs and while he made his morning coffee, all my thoughts started jumbling out all over the place. (God knew what He was doing when He gave me a man who is so willing to listen to all my verbal processing!)

“I just want to go back to Kansas… where I don’t have to use the GPS to get to ALDI, where I don’t have to spend most of my social gatherings trying to remember whose name is who, and where I have memories of life lived with people.”

My husband graciously listened to all of this. Then he reminded me of why we’d made this move. It wasn’t for comfort and safety and sameness and familiarity.

Those things can be good, but they can also be stifling. And, in our case, we needed to jump out in faith. To forge new paths. To step outside our comfort zone. To be stretched.

The process would be hard and messy. We knew that. But the results would be worth it. We’d already seen fruit in our lives from unearthing new soil and how this was giving us fresh growth and inspiration.

He encouraged me to grieve what I’d lost and left behind. To acknowledge that it was hard. To talk about it with him and a few other good friends. But to not stay there and sulk.

Instead, he challenged me to embrace the unknown, welcome the new, and revel in the unexpected. This wouldn’t always be easy, but it would certainly make the journey much more enjoyable.

We continued to have conversations like this over the next few weeks. It took time. It took tears. It took prayers. It took safe people around me listening to me and letting me be honest with them about my struggles.

In the end, it has made such a difference for me these last two months. I’m finding that I’m feeling a lot less unsettled. I’m actually enjoying many of the new experiences. And I becoming much more spontaneous — which has completely surprised everyone who knows me well! :)

I love what Michael Hyatt says, “The most interesting things in life happen just outside your comfort zone.” It’s hard to step into the unknown. It’s often not fun to experience big changes. It’s usually difficult to face unfamiliar territory and new situations.

But if we embrace and welcome these changes, and newness, and unfamiliarity instead of just wishing we could play it safe and comfortable, a lot of unexpected joy and blessings can result.

For instance, in our situation, some of those blessings have been meeting new friends who are fast becoming very dear friends, opportunities for sports activities and advancement that our children didn’t have before, getting to see my husband thrive and find fulfillment in brand-new roles, and discovering that I actually can kind of enjoy being spontaneous.

Sometimes, changing your attitude can change your whole outlook on life!

photo credit; photo credit

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We Paid Cash: A Family Vacation

We paid cash!

A testimony from Sara

My husband and I recently took our ten-year-old daughter on our first family vacation. We started planning two years before the trip so that we could save enough cash to be able to enjoy the trip without having to go into any debt.

How We Saved:

We set aside any overtime pay my husband was able to get, as well as the twice-a-year bonus he receives from his employer.

We decided on a road trip as a more frugal option. We drove from Minnesota, where we live, to Pennsylvania, and then to New Hampshire. My husband has family in both states and our daughter was able to meet them for the first time!

A few months before we left, I began collecting non-perishable snacks and bottles of water to pack in the car so we would not need to purchase expensive gas station snacks. By starting early, I was able to watch for sales and use coupons for the snack items.

Our lodging costs were offset as my husbands family generously offered to let us stay with them while we were visiting. That really helped the budget not having to stay in a hotel the whole trip.

Finally, we were able to save money on food because we had a kitchen that we could prepare a lot of our meals and did not have to eat out as much.

It felt so good to just be able to enjoy our family vacation and not have to worry about how we were going to “pay for our trip” once we got back!

We had a great time!

family photo

Sara is a wife and mother of her ten-year-old daughter. She also works part time at a busy optometry office. In her spare time she enjoys reading, baking and running.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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Why I May Have Changed My Mind About Stitch Fix

PicMonkey Collage

Stitch Fix is an online clothing shop designed to provide personal styling services for women at an affordable cost. It was specifically created for women who need to wear nicer clothes for events/work but who don’t want to spend hours and hours combing through clothing stores to put together outfits.

At the end of September, I did an in-depth review of Stitch Fix. It was a very honest review sharing why the service hadn’t worked well for me and why I’d sent all of the clothes back.

I had told you that I was going to try the service again because I had a little bit of referral credit to use and because multiple people had told me that the stylists got better at choosing clothing for you if you gave really honest feedback.

So I wanted to tell you about my recent box of clothes from Stitch Fix and why I may have changed my mind about Stitch Fix. But first, if you’re new here, here’s a refresher on how Stitch Fix works.

How Stitch Fix Works

1. Sign up for a Stitch Fix account.

2. Fill out your style profile. You’ll give very specific details on sizes you wear, styles you like, colors you like, types of clothes you like, and what types of clothing you are specifically looking for (more casual, all business, a mix of both, etc.) You can be very detailed in your descriptions and even share a Pinterest board with them to give Stitch Fix some ideas of your tastes in clothing.

3. Go to checkout and pay a $20 styling fee (this is reimbursed if you choose to keep any of the clothes).

4. One of the Stitch Fix stylists will take your style profile, sizes, and preferences and put together a box of clothing based upon what they think you’ll like and what they think will work well for you.

5. They’ll send you this box in the mail. You’ll have a few days to go through the box, try on the clothes, and then choose to keep any that you liked and ship back any that didn’t work (they provide a postage-paid envelope for you to use).

Why I May Have Changed My Mind About Stitch Fix

And here’s what was in my recent box from Stitch Fix:

Izzie Striped Fit & Flare Dress ($64) — I instantly adored this dress when I saw it, but the waistline was too high on me and I thought the dress itself hit me at a bad spot. All in all, it wasn’t figure flattering on me at all. Verdict: Sent back.

Why I May Have Changed My Mind About Stitch Fix

Benson 3/4 Ruched Sleeve Blazer ($78) –I thought the material this blazer was made out of was perfect for traveling (it was more of a knit material than a typical stiff blazer material) and wanted to love it so much, but it was too long for my short frame and therefore the last 1-2 inches of it looked weird/too long on me. Verdict: Sent back.

Why I May Have Changed My Mind About Stitch Fix

Moni Abstract Chevron Stud Detail Blouse ($58) — I loved everything about this blouse, except the price was a little too high for me and I didn’t like the color at all. If it were teal, I would have kept it because of how well it fit me. Verdict: Sent back.

Why I May Have Changed My Mind About Stitch Fix

Jaclynn 3/4 Sleeve Button-Up Cardigan ($38) — I really liked this cardigan, but it had a snag in it when I pulled it out of the box and I thought the price was too high for a very simple cardigan. Verdict: Sent back.

Why I May Have Changed My Mind About Stitch Fix

At this point, you might be wondering why I said I may have changed my mind about Stitch Fix. Well, it all changed when I pulled out these Jimmy Ankle Length Skinny Jean ($88).

I LOVED these jeans!!! It’s so hard to fit jeans that fit my short frame well. These were PERFECT and I’m so excited that they fit me so well!

Honestly, I wanted to buy multiple pairs of these exact same jeans because they were exactly everything I want in a pair of jeans. I needed to buy one more pair of jeans for this Fall/Winter and I found that when I went shopping, I was comparing every pair of jeans I tried on to these. They have now become my new standard in jeans. :)

$88 is a LOT to pay for a pair of jeans. In fact, it’s quite a bit more than I’ve ever paid for jeans. However, I realized that I will probably wear these jeans hundreds of times over the next few years. In that case (and because I only have a few pairs of jeans), I decided it was worth it for me — especially to get a style and fit I love.

Here are my overall thoughts on this recent Stitch Fix experience:

  • I had a lot of fun filling out my style profile. It really helped me to think through what I love and what I don’t love. Since I’m not a fashionista, this isn’t something I’ve spent much time considering. So I thought that was a very valuable exercise.
  • I also loved the anticipation of getting a box in the mail that you didn’t know what would be in it. It’s fairly rare that I get to open and go through a mystery box, so looking forward to the box made the experience more fun!
  • Since I don’t enjoy shopping, it was really fun to get a box of clothes in the mail — SO much easier than going shopping! Plus, I loved being able to try them on my own bathroom and try them on with items already in my closet to help me decide whether I should keep or send each item back.
  • I love the styling cards they gave you with each of the items to give you ideas of how to accessories a piece/what to wear it with. These are great especially for someone like me who has no idea how to put outfits together.
  • I loved that this box had a few items I never would have pulled off a rack myself. And it inspired me to look for similar items — such as the knit blazer — when I’m clothing shopping next time.
  • I was so happy that the stylist seemed to take my honest feedback from my last fix to heart and do a MUCH better job of picking out items that were things I’d love this time.
  • The prices at Stitch Fix are going to be much more than you’re going to find at the thrift store or on the sales rack. This service is designed specifically for women aren’t on a extremely tight budget who want to dress fashionably without spending a lot of time shopping. For busy working women, it could be a lifesaver. However, I think you need to be somewhat adventurous for it to work well for you.

Overall, I was so much happier with this fix and so thankful that I tried again — especially because I would have missed out on a fantastic pair of jeans, otherwise. I still have a little more credit left and I earned a little bit more after my last post (I guess a few of you are so adventurous that you decided to try it out — despite my very negative review!), so I’m going to try another fix. I’m hopeful that maybe it will be even better than this last one. We’ll see.

Have you tried Stitch Fix before? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)
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