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Reader Testimonial: A Place to Live for Three Months

Tiffany at My Litter emailed in the following testimonial that I thought many of you would enjoy reading:

I am surprised to find myself writing this post. We have always been a “cash” family and know the benefits, but you never know when having that extra cash can really save a situation.

My husband and I have lived in the same “starter” home for the past 12 years. When we moved in, we had one child and tons of space. Now we have seven children and no space!

We had talked about moving, but liked our small house payment and with the economy the way it is, we were nervous about making a decision like that. However, when the opportunity came to move two miles away into a house twice the size for a very reasonable price, we decided to jump at the opportunity.

Things fell into place perfectly. Our old home sold quickly and we were going to be able to lease it back from the new owners until our new house was ready. Things were too good to be true.

At closing the new owners decided they wanted did not want to lease us back our old home, we would have to move out in two weeks and find temporary housing for three months until we could move into our new house.

We were shocked.

I immediately began looking for somewhere to live, but didn’t expect to have any trouble. I was wrong.

No one wants to do a short term lease for three months. They would much rather wait for that 12-month contract and not miss the chance to have someone lease longer.

I started looking for apartments, only to find that our family was too large. Fire code prohibited us from having anything smaller than a four- bedroom apartment, and there was not a single four-bedroom apt. within 15 miles of where we were lived.

We had two days until we had to be out of our old house and still did not have anywhere to live. We moved everything we owned into storage and decided that we would have to get two extended stay hotel rooms (that connected) for the next three months.

I was sick to think of how stressful that would be with nowhere for the kids to play and the difficulty of making meals. My husband and I decided to say another prayer that someone would consider a three-month lease to a family with seven kids and a dog!

The next morning as we were moving the final large items into storage, we got a phone call from a friend who had a neighbor with a home that he would consider leasing. But not realizing that we only wanted three months he quickly tried to back out.

My husband felt impressed to ask him once again if he would consider it if we paid him cash for the three months upfront. To our surprise, he said yes. I cried tears of joy all the way to the bank–something that I am sure will never happen again when withdrawing money!

The almost $6000 to keep my family together and not in a hotel for three months was worth it. That money would have been spent on a mortgage payment over that period of time, but had we not had the cash saved and only been able to pay a month at a time we would not have had that option.

It can be difficult to be frugal, to clip coupons, and put things you want on hold, but this situation reconfirmed to my husband and I that paying cash or having the ability to do so is the way to go.

Tiffany and her husband Paul are the parents to 7 fabulous kids who all have killer senses of humor, which makes their lives just that much more fun, crazy and wonderful! Paul works full time in sales, and when he is not coaching the kids sports, is a blogger at I Heart The Mart. Tiffany is the Director at a private Christian preschool and in her spare time (between the hours of 1am and 3am) she blogs at My Litter.

How to Make Money Blogging: The Pros and Cons of Joining an Ad Network

We’ve talked about affiliate marketing and private advertising as ways to make money blogging. Another income stream to add to your blog is to join an ad network.

Ad networks are basically advertising brokers. You offer the advertising space on your blog and they try to sell the space for you. If they sell the space, they take a cut of the sale (usually 40-50%).

Some people love using an ad network. Others haven’t had such great experiences. Here are a few of my thoughts on the pros and cons of joining an ad network:

::Pros::

Ad Networks Require Little Effort

Instead of private advertising where you have to do all the legwork of selling the ad and setting up the ad, when you join an ad network, you do nothing but sign a contract, put some HTML code on your sidebar, and then get checks.

Ad Networks Usually Earn You More Than Private Advertising or Affiliate Ads Do

How much you make with an advertising network will vary widely. I’ve heard of people making as low as $1-$2 CPM (per thousand pageviews) or as much as $15 to $20 per CPM.

However, remember how I said last week that you could charge $0.50 to $1 per CPM for selling private advertising? Well, that’s very much on the low end for ad networks. From what I’ve researched, most people make $2-$4 CPM on average with most ad networks. If you’re just starting out selling private advertising and haven’t had enough demand to warrant raising the price, you will very likely make more with an ad network than you will with private ads.

Ad Networks Often Sell More Than Just Ads

While the revenue from sidebar advertising can be good, the revenue from other advertising opportunities is usually much better. I don’t accept sponsored posts, but I have done a few underwritten post series (such as my Christmas Gift Guide & Giveaways series).

My Christmas series paid very well and I never would have gotten that opportunity had my ad network not made the phone calls and coordinated the details to close that deal. Since they are working with multiple bloggers, they are able to attract advertisers with big advertising budgets–something I’m not usually able to do on my own.

::Cons::

Ad Networks Give You Less Control

I shied away from joining an ad network for a number of years because I wanted to have control over what ads showed on my sidebar. Every single ad network I talked to was unwilling to let me have control over what ads showed on my sidebar.

I finally discovered that Federated Media would give me a say and joined their ad network early last year. While some unapproved ads have slipped through the cracks on occasion (due to hiccups with their ad placement system), they have been exceptional about removing any campaigns immediately if I request it. From what I’ve heard, most ad networks are not always so compliant.

Ad Networks Can Be Difficult to Get In With

It took me a number of months and persistence, plus a kind friend giving me a shoe-in, before I was able to get in with Federated Media. The best ad networks often have a long waiting list and few openings.

Things to Consider Before Joining An Ad Network:

::Will they offer you a guaranteed CPM rate? Most ad networks that are actively “courting” bloggers are new or struggling. They’ll make you all sorts of great-sounding promises, but very few are willing to back those up with a guarantee in writing. If an ad network will only guarantee you pay of around $2 or less per CPM on average, you will probably do better to just stick with using Google Adsense on your sidebar.

::What are the terms of the contract? Is it an exclusive agreement that would bar you from being able to run private ads or affiliate ads? If so, don’t agree to it. How do you get out of the contract? Have these details in writing ahead of time so you don’t get stuck in some bad situation.

::Will you have control over the ads they run? If you run a blog on healthful eating, you probably don’t want McDonald’s Big Mac ads running on your sidebar. Sending mixed messages to your readership is a quick way to lose your integrity. Make sure that the ad network promises in writing to remove ads you deem to be inappropriate for your blog.

::What do other bloggers in the network think of it? One of the best ways to determine whether or not a network is right for you is to go find other bloggers who are a part of the network and ask them how it is working out for them. You might find that what the ad network reps promised you on the phone is entirely the opposite of what bloggers in their network are actually experiencing. Firsthand knowledge is priceless and could save you a huge headache.

Are you a part of an ad network? If so, I’d love to hear your experiences–both good and bad!

photo credit

Encouraging Creativity in Your Children

Guest post by Stacie Nelson from Motherhood on a Dime

Encouraging my children’s creativity and taking time for memory-making activities is a priority of mine. One of my favorite ways to do this is by keeping several well-stocked craft boxes available at all times!

Unfortunately, if you are not careful, purchasing craft supplies can be an expensive undertaking (especially when you’re drooling over the latest and greatest gizmos and gadgets)! But with a little bit of planning and a tad of creativity, you can stock a craft box very inexpensively. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Shop Back-to-School Sales

Now is the perfect time to stock up on supplies for your craft box, because prices are at the lowest you’ll find them! Don’t just buy what the kids need for school — plan ahead and buy what you’ll need for the whole year at home, too. It’s much less expensive to fill your boxes now with crayons, gluesticks, notecards, scissors, pencils, pens, paper, etc.

(Warning: Once you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ll feel sticker-shock when you run out of something in the middle of the year and have to replace it!)

Raid the recycling bin

Before you throw something away, think about adding it to your craft box! If you don’t consider yourself crafty or you aren’t used to thinking about items in this way, it may be challenging at first. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes! There are so many items that can be repurposed. Here are just a few ideas:

cereal boxes • coffee cans • toilet paper rolls • plastic trays from various packaging • jars • lids • tissue paper from gifts • old cards • milk cartons • rubber bands from newspapers • tin cans • junk mail magnets • cloth scraps • drink carriers • seeds • beans • scrap paper • egg cartons

(You can find a more complete list of ideas here.)

Shop garage sales or dollar stores

Keep your eyes open while garage sale shopping and you can find amazing deals on craft and educational supplies! I’ve found flashcards, bags of fabric, scrapbook supplies, alphabet stamps, lunch sacks, and more for much less than $1. Garage sales are also a great place to find storage containers for your supplies.

Also, consider looking for inexpensive craft items like fun foam, pom-poms, frames, and stickers at a dollar store or in the dollar section at Target.

Host a craft supply party or swap

One of my favorite places to buy craft items is online. Shopping through a bargain site like Discount School Supply can save you money when you buy in bulk — but who really needs 1000 crafts sticks or 25 bottles of glue?

A great (and fun) solution is to gather some friends, pool your resources, and make an order of the supplies you want. Later, you can have a party to divvy up the goodies!

Another simple idea is to have a craft swap with items you already have. Trade those supplies you aren’t using — someone else may love them!

What are your favorite ways to save on craft supplies?

Stacie blogs about her quest to find balance and bargains at Motherhood on a Dime. You can also find her sharing simple activities for little kids over at The Amazing Mess and pinning all of her favorite kid’s craft, homeschooling, and organizational ideas on Pinterest.

photo credit

motherhoodonadime@gmail.com

Q&A Tuesday: How do we prepare for a layoff?

We just got word my husband’s company will be totally shut down by March. How can we be proactive with this information months in advance? – Paula

Hi, Paula!

I’m so sorry that you had to receive such devastating news! My heart goes out to you! When my husband and I were facing his potential unemployment a few years ago it was such a difficult time in our lives.

At the same time, I’m so impressed with your desire to do everything you can to wisely prepare for this. Since you have around eight months, that’s a lot of time to get your family in a great position to weather the storms that might be ahead.

Here are some ways I’d suggest you prepare for this looming layoff:

1) Get on the Same Page with Your Husband

One of the best things you can do is to sit down and create a game plan together. If there was ever a time for you to be a united team, it’s now.

Take a weekend sometime in the next few weeks to make a master plan for the next eight months. Post this game plan in a conspicuous place and refer to it constantly as you make decisions. If possible, sit down and review it on a monthly basis together to make sure you’re still headed in the same direction and see if there are any tweaks or changes you need to make to stay on course.

2) Create and Follow a Budget

A written budget must be the cornerstone of your game plan. If you are not on a strict budget right now, creating a workable, realistic budget for all of your spending is of utmost importance to allow you to get as much financial traction as you can before March comes. In addition, it will help you know exactly how much money you need to live on.

3) Whittle Your Budget Down to the Barebones

Take your written budget and analyze every category: “Could we live without this in the short-term?” If you can’t live without it, ask yourself, “Could we lower our expenditures in this category?”

Again, this is something you need to do together as a couple. You both need to agree together to the short-term sacrifices you are making.

4) Put Every Penny You Can into Savings

Any extra money you can free up in your budget by reducing expenses should go directly into your Emergency Savings. The bigger your Emergency Fund, the better. Not only is it reassuring to know you have this cushion, but it may end up putting food on the table and paying the light bill next year.

5) Stockpile Food & Household Items

As you well know, I encourage people to practice the Buy Ahead Principle and have at least three to six months’ worth of food and household items on hand to save you from paying full price. However, in your case, I’d suggest buying at least a 12-18 months’ worth of all deals that are shelf stable and don’t expire for at least 18 months to two years.

If you can get shampoo for $0.30 per bottle or toothpaste for free, go ahead and buy enough to last you at least a year. That way, in case there aren’t great deals on some of these items or you have no income coming in, at least you know you won’t have to worry about paying for basic essentials.

6) Experiment with Side Income Streams

My husband and I are big believers in having multiple streams of income. The more income streams you set up, the less you have to worry if one is taken away.

If you think there’s even a remote possibility your husband won’t be able to get a job immediately after his company goes under, I’d strongly suggest beginning now to research and experiment with possible side income streams. The book, The Other 8 Hours, has some excellent ideas and encouragement for setting up income streams while still working a full-time job.

What suggestions or advice do the rest of you have for Paula? Share them in the comments.

Honest Frugality

Guest post by Caroline Allen from The Modest Mom

Last Thanksgiving, I decided to hit a few stores during the early morning hours of Black Friday. When checking out at one store, I noticed that the checker wrapped up a candle I was buying and was putting it in the sack.

The problem? She hadn’t rung it up yet.

I had an instant battle going on inside of me. My first thought was “Oh, it’s only $3.99, just let it go. It’s her fault, not mine.” Then I chided myself, knowing that wasn’t the right thing to do.

I told her that I didn’t believe she had scanned the candle yet, and she looked up at me surprised. I could see it all over her face. She was tired, and people had probably been very difficult to work with that morning.

To her amazement, I was right, and she thanked me as she scanned the candle. It would have been so easy to just let it all go, but I felt so much happier I felt knowing I had done what was best.

Another time I was shopping at a local grocery store. Upon arriving at my van I found that a package of cream cheese had not been paid for. I was with all four of my little children and my baby was crying. I decided to just leave, as the thought of going back in the store to pay for it was exhausting.

But the next time I was in the store (which was actually several months later), I grabbed a package of cream cheese, and asked the cashier to scan it twice, telling them what had happened previously. Once again I received a look of amazement, and a heart felt “thank you” from them.

As shoppers, if we stand together on principles of honesty and truthfulness, with how much more respect might we be treated? Sure, there will always be those crabby cashiers who dread coupons and treat you badly. But we must be sure that our endeavor to be frugal (which is a worthy one) never gets in the way of our endeavor to be honest in all we do.

Dishonesty costs all of us more money in the long run.

Consider this: the stores that we shop at lose thousands of dollars — some hundreds of thousands — each year in either stolen merchandise or merchandise that simply “slips through the cracks,” such as the examples I gave above. They cannot completely absorb these losses, but instead they must distribute them across their product lines in the form of price increases. This may only result in an increase of a few cents, but, as we all can attest, those few cent price increases here and there quickly add up!

So, the next time you go out and shop and you anxiously watch the computer screen as the clerk scans your items, don’t watch just to make sure you aren’t paying too much for an item, also check to make sure you’re paying enough.

Caroline is the wife of Sean and mother of four children seven and under with a fifth blessing on the way! Besides homeschooling and supporting her husband in his business, she runs a business from her home where she sells modest maternity and woman’s clothing — The Modest Mom, and is a consultant for Lilla Rose. She also enjoys blogging at The Modest Mom Blog!