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We Paid Cash: Master Bathroom Renovation

We paid cash!

A testimony submitted by Erin from Gourmet Frugality

When we bought our house almost two years ago, we knew that we needed to renovate the master bathroom. Besides being teensy-tiny, it was also a relic from 1976. One time in the minuscule shower told us that it was also unusable. The shower leaked into our kitchen below!

After saving up to put at least 20% down on our house, though, we just didn’t have the spare cash available to undertake a renovation. So, we waited. Over the next year, we got pregnant with our second child and we knew that it still wasn’t the time to sink that much money into our bathroom.

In the meantime, we saved up as much money as we could, not just for our bathroom but because we knew I would be staying home with the kids once our second was born. We made do with using our hall bathroom but all the while dreamed of having a nice master bathroom to use.

In March of 2011, on the day I quit my job to stay home with our kids, the company my husband and I worked for paid out bonuses to all of its employees. We were overjoyed because we knew exactly where that money was going. But that’s where the work started!

We started interviewing contractors in March. We wanted to find someone who charged a reasonable rate but who would do an excellent job. We also had to fit our “expensive” tastes into our cash budget. After four months of meeting with contractors and agonizing over materials choices, we made our decisions and went forward with the renovation.

Work started on July 1st and after four weeks it was finished. The transformation is incredible. We are so happy to have a beautiful bathroom to enjoy but we are even more thrilled that we don’t have the burden of going into debt to pay for it!

Erin Cathcart is a stay-at-home mother of two wonderful children. She blogs over at Gourmet Frugality where she helps people feed their families excellent food on a beans-and-rice budget.

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

12 Simple Things You Can Do This Weekend to Save Some Money

Guest post by Sam from Grad Money Matters

Here is a quick to-do list you can tackle this weekend to save some money:

1. Unscrew one (or two or five) light bulbs from your bathroom light fixture.

I have never understood what the fascination is with having so many light bulbs in the bathroom. Frankly, one CFL bulb on the sink is all I care about!

2. Freeze your credit cards – literally!

If you have credit cards, put them in a ziptop freezer bag, pour water until all the cards are submerged, squeeze the air out, seal, and shove it in the freezer.

3. Make some snacks (cookies, trail mix etc.) and package them into single-serving packs.

It is a lot cheaper (and healthier) to take your own snacks with you than buying pre-packaged stuff. And, if you have your children help, it’s a fun way to spend some quality time with them, too.

4. Look through your dresser for clothes that need quick mending.

A missing button can make a shirt completely useless, and it takes less than five minutes and minimal skills to stitch a button back on.

5. Ditch the phone landline.

If you tend to make a lot of calls during day time, check out cheaper options like Skype or Magic Jack. If you tend to call mostly on night/weekends, a cell phone might suffice.

6. Cook or prepare and refrigerate/freeze some food.

Having a part of the meal (or the entire meal) ready in the fridge/freezer can go a long way in cutting down the impulse to eat out.

7. Check the pressure of your tires and fill air if needed.

Keeping the tires properly inflated can result in better gas mileage.

8. Seal any leaky faucets, windows that let the draft out.

It’s time to take care of some of the items on your honey-do list that are costing you ka-ching!

9. Change the A/C duct filters, if you have not done so recently.

Clean filters not only improve the efficiency of the A/C but are better for your health, too!

10. Collect some coupons.

Sort through your Sunday newspaper and save the coupons. Don’t get the paper? Print some coupons online for things you are planning to buy on your next shopping trip.

11. Spend some time reading articles on how to save (a ton of) money at stores like CVS and Walgreens.

Be warned though, this could get pretty addictive. Don’t buy things you don’t need just because they are cheap!

12. Cancel unused subscriptions.

Have magazines that are hardly ever read or gym that is rarely used? Get rid of them and save yourself some cash!

See, its a simple list and its hardly any work at all. Even if you scratch off only a few of the items on the list, I bet you will still manage to save some money.

What are some of your quick tips for saving some money over a weekend?

Sam is as fanatical about making more money as she is about saving money. Check out the massive collection of money-making ideas she has put together on her site.

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How Garage Sales, Clearance Sections, and Dollar Bins Can Make You Broke

Do you LOVE a good deal? Do you have a difficult time holding back from purchasing something just because it saves you money — even if that means breaking the budget? Read this for some practical encouragement!

How Chasing a Good Deal Can Make You Go Broke

Guest post by Jenae from I Can Teach My Child

I love a good bargain. Not only do I love it, it’s a bit of a high for me to find a really great deal!

Some of my favorite deals are found at garage sales and the clearance sections of my favorite stores. These same places, however, I now consider “danger zones” to my budget and my self-control.

You see, the thrill of the chase sometimes outweighs the need or desire for the item itself. Recently, I went to use my Old Navy Groupon and found a $4 cardigan for my 3-year old son. I was so thrilled with the price for a winter sweater, I picked it up to take to the checkout line. I suddenly stopped to ask myself, “Wait, do I really like this? Am I really going to dress my little boy in a cardigan???”

I didn’t end up getting the cardigan. I decided I didn’t love it and therefore wouldn’t dress my son in it. Plus, it was itchy. But had I let my “deal-loving” side win, I would have bought the sweater and it would have ended up sitting in the closet with the tags still on it nine months later.

Similar scenarios have occurred time and time again at garage sales and dollar bins. Sadly, however, I had not yet learned to stop and think, therefore ending up with a bunch of junk I didn’t need. Many garage sale “bargains” have ended up being put in my own garage sale/Goodwill pile while the dollar trinkets quickly wound up lost or in the trash.

The truth is, even if we spend $5 a week on “deals” at garage sales or dollar bins, that’s $260 a year! With that money, we could have bought something that we really loved and even paid full price for it (not that I’m suggesting that, by any means).

Here are just a few questions to ask yourself whenever shopping to avoid the “deal-buying remorse” that often ensues:

  • Would I pay full price for this? Even if you rarely pay full price for anything, the answer to this question usually determines your attitude towards the item in question. When the rubber meets the road, we are all willing to fork over the cash for the things that really matter to us.
  • Do I love it? If the answer is “no”, don’t buy it!
  • Do I feel good wearing this? If you don’t feel good about yourself in any clothing (besides pajamas, perhaps), you won’t wear it. Period.
  • Will _____ really like this gift? Chances are, your friends and family members would rather have a thoughtful card or handmade gift rather than trinkets that seemed like a good deal at the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not suggesting that garage sales and clearance sections are “bad”. On the contrary! These are the places where we all should shop. But for those of us who love the thrill of a good deal, it just means we have to exercise some major self-control to ensure we don’t buy something we later regret.

Jenae is a Master-degree holding former first grade teacher turned stay-at-home Mom. She loves finding creative ways to save money, spending time with her family, and sharing fun and educational activities on her website I Can Teach My Child.

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Do-It-Yourself: Homemade Rice Milk

Homemade-Rice-Milk

Guest post by Adrienne from Whole New Mom

Milk alternatives are really filling up the grocery and health food store shelves. That’s due mostly to the many people (like some in my family) who have dairy allergies or who are lactose intolerant. And if you have someone in your family with food allergies, you know how finding (and affording) substitute foods can be really tricky.

Well, today I’m sharing how you can save a lot of money by making your own rice milk. Even if you don’t have someone in your home with a dairy allergy, this is a great tip for all of us who love to cook and bake. The next time you run out of milk while you are baking, just whip up a batch of this rice milk and you’ll be able to finish your recipe–no problem!

I figured this out one day while shopping at a health food store. While looking at the options in the “milk substitute aisle”, I noticed that the only ingredients listed on the boxes were–grain, water, and occasionally sweetener and flavoring. There just had to be a way to make this myself and save a lot of money.

So I went home, got out my blender, estimated the amount of rice and water I should use, added a dash of salt and a tablespoon of sweetener, and the rest is money-saving history!

Make Your Own Rice Milk or Milk Substitute

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked rice (I prefer to use brown organic for a more nutritious option. We buy it in bulk to save money.)
  • 4 cups water (filtered, if possible)
  • Dash salt (I recommend RealSalt.)
  • 1 Tablespoon sweetener (or to taste; optional)
  • Additional flavoring (optional; vanilla for vanilla-flavored milk; to taste)

Method

1. Place all ingredients in blender.
2. Blend for four minutes in a regular blender, or two minutes in high-speed blender like a Vitamix.
3. Enjoy!

Tips:

  • Use less or more rice, depending on how thin or thick you like your rice milk to be. Standard rice milk is thinner than regular cow’s milk.
  • Filtered water is extremely important. You can read my post on Is Your Water Safe? to see more about water quality concerns.

  • Add other flavorings like chocolate too. Makes a great alternative to chocolate milk.
  • If you’ve been thinking about a Vitamix and someone in your family has an allergy to dairy, you won’t believe how much time and money this machine will save you. And clean up is a breeze!
  • Prepare extra rice ahead of time, portion it conveniently (like one cup in each bag) into small plastic bags and secure with a Twixit Clip (you can use any kind of clip, but these clips are amazing. They last basically forever, and have a lifetime guarantee! Good-bye pesky twist-ties!) Just thaw out your rice whenever you need rice milk, and if you have a Vitamix, it can handle the rice frozen.

How much money can you save?

A 32-oz container of rice milk costs about $2.70 each (even at a good price on Amazon.com). Assuming that a typical family would use about 2 of these containers each week, I calculate your savings as:

Buying boxed rice milk:
If you bought two 32-oz. containers of rice milk at the store at $2.70 per week for 52 weeks, you’d be spending $275.08 per year on rice milk.

Making rice milk:
It takes 3.25 ounces of rice to make 64 ounces of rice milk. Our family purchases brown rice in bulk at $1 per pound, which comes out to a cost of $0.20 per week for rice milk or $10.40 per year for the rice needed for a year’s worth of rice milk.

Annual savings: $264.64.

And you save even more when you add in the savings in car use and gas by not making another trip to the store!

Want more money saving tips? You might want to check out my posts on:

Adrienne, of Whole New Mom, is a wife and homeschooling mother of two boys, one of whom has Asperger’s Syndrome and life-threatening food allergies. She has a passion to help others navigate the sea of information on the road to healthier lives. She specializes in frugal living and simplifying special diets. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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How to Significantly Increase Your Income Without Working Harder (Part 5)

If you missed them, read the first four parts of this series here.

We’ve talked about many things in this series, but if there was one thing that has changed our income status, it would be what I’m going to talk about today. Not only has this principle transformed our mindset, it has also multiplied our income substantially.

What’s the principle?

4) Diversify your income

I first heard of the concept of income diversification when I was also learning about residual income. Since that time, we’ve experimented with numerous income stream ideas. Most of them have flopped royally on their face. However, some have been moderately successful and a few have been wildly successful.

The concept of diversifying your income is basically to set up various income-producing sources, instead of putting all your eggs into one basket and expecting that basket to be your sole source of sustenance.

We realized the beauty of income diversification when Jesse was unemployed back when we lived in Kansas City. Since I had spent the last two years experimenting with ways to earn money from home, we had a cushion to fall back on. It wasn’t a very soft cushion, but at least it kept us from crashing and burning.

If you lost your job tomorrow, would you have something to immediately fall back on?

Even if your employment is very secure, it’s always a good thing to prepare for the unexpected. Plus, even if you never lose your job, having secondary sources of income in place will allow you to save more aggressively toward your financial goals, give more generously, and/or just have more wiggle room in your budget.

When people ask me how I make money blogging, most of the time they are quite taken aback when I say, “It’s the power of multiple streams of income.” My blog earns a significant amount of money every month, but it comes in through dozens of different checks and electronic transfers from dozens of companies. Some of the checks (such as those from my sidebar advertising) are routinely much higher than what I’d make off of promoting something like CashCrate, but each check brings in a trickle that turns into a strong stream of steady income to pay my team, my blog expenses, and to have leftover as personal income.

In blogging–and in most businesses–things ebb and flow. Certain things will do really well at certain times of the year. At other times, that income stream doesn’t do so well. If I were to just rely on sidebar advertising or one affiliate program for all of my blogging income, it would be a lot lower than it is. But because I have multiple streams of income in place, the ebbs and flows help balance each other out so that the income is fairly consistent.

When you understand and implement income diversification in your lives, not only does it allow you to often significantly increase your income, in experimenting, you’ll probably discover a number of different income-earning ideas that will give you a very good return on your investment of time.

How do you set up multiple streams of income? We’ll talk about that next Wednesday. Stay tuned!

Do you have multiple streams of income in place? If so, I’d love to hear what has and hasn’t worked for you.

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