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Ask the Readers: What are your favorite free apps?

Today’s question is from Sarah:

My sister and I (both moms of little ones) were unexpectedly blessed with iPods this holiday season. So I’m wondering what the best free (or almost free) apps are for stay-at-home moms who are working to be more organized, save money, cut our grocery bill, meal plan, etc.? – Sarah

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Money Saving Mom® readers? Read the submission guidelines and submit it here.

Our wonderful January sponsors + some guest posts topics we’re looking for

A big thank you to our wonderful January sponsors:

The Rusted Chain makes beautiful, personalized jewelry. I especially love their Word of the Year Necklace. In January, they are donating funds raised from their Be Free Necklace to ICT S.O.S. — a local organization to help stop human trafficking.

LOZO offers printable grocery coupons from all of the top sites in one convenient location. Plus, you can input your grocery shopping list (or items you often buy) and LOZO will email you when there are printable coupons available. Best of all, their services are free.

Scentsy offers high-quality candle warmers that are safe for kids, dorm rooms, school classrooms, and even RV’s! With over 80 scents and 45 different candle warmer styles to choose from, you can pick one to match almost any decor. Get 10% off the scent and warmer of the month, browse the online catalog, and read more about hosting a party or starting your own business for $99 at Get Scents To Go.

Marie-Madeline Studio is one of my favorite and most highly recommended online sites. We love their products, their commitment to high-quality, and their beautiful family. You can see some of the adorable aprons they made for us here.

Jen at Frugal Freebies and Deals is looking for guest writers on a variety of mom friendly and money-saving topics. Like to share frugal ideas? Right now, you can earn $10 just for sharing your DIY ideas or frugal tips. Find out more information here.

Printable Coupon Place is a brand new site, launched January 1, 2012. It’s dedicated to providing printable online coupons, with no fluff.  The goal is to be able to find coupons quickly and efficiently.

Want to be a featured monthly sponsor? Fill out the contact form here and we’ll send you more information and details.

Interested in Guest Posting on MoneySavingMom®?

We’re specifically looking for guest post submissions on the following topics right now:

::Streamlining your life (time management and home organization tips, tricks, and suggestions)

::Reducing clutter (simplifying life and tips, tricks, and testimonials on clearing out clutter)

::Creative ways you’ve cut your grocery bill (the more creative & original, the better!)

::How couponing or lowering your grocery bill has impacted your life

::Testimonials from those who have switched from using credit/debit to using cash for groceries.

::Testimonials from people who didn’t have a budget and have challenged themselves to set up a grocery budget.

Find our guest posting guidelines and submission details here. Please note that we have limited space for guest posts so we only accept some of those that are submitted.

My Goals for 2012

Last year, I set out to be more intentional in setting goals. I broke many of my goals down into monthly pieces and then broke those down even further into weekly bite-sized pieces.

I was amazed at how well this worked! Not only did I follow through with almost every single one of my goals for 2011, but I also was able to accomplish some extra projects.

Since this more specific and intentional method of goal-setting worked so well, I’m following the same pattern with my goals for 2012. Here’s my list of goals:

Goals for 2012

Personal:
Read through the Bible in a year using this plan.
Read through the 24 books on my 2012 booklist.
Listen to 12 audiobooks.
Run in at least one 5K race.
Complete the Couch to 10K program.
Tackle 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects.
Focus on one habit per month (I’ll be sharing my list of habits in a few days).
Learn to use my new DSLR camera (huge surprise Christmas present from Jesse!!) & improve my photography skills.
Take at least one photo a day and put together a page every week for my Project Life album.
Memorize Colossians using the plan and free download here.

Marriage:
Go on the Love Like You Mean It Cruise.
Go on two Marriage Retreats (overnight trips sans children for planning, talking, goal accountability).
Have monthly date nights.
Read four books together.
Read at least 3 books on marriage.

Children/Homeschooling:
Continue regular dates/outings with each of the children individually.
Continue Grace and Truth memory book.
Ice-skating lessons for all three children.
Swimming lessons for all three children.
Finish second grade, begin third grade with Kathrynne.
Finish kindergarten, begin first grade with Kaitlynn.
Start preschool with Silas.
Go on at least one field trip every month.
Go on at least one family vacation.
Finish at least 15 read-aloud books.

Ministry/Friendships/Extended Family:
Write at least two handwritten notes every month to encourage someone.
Continue being involved in our local church, homeschool group, young couple’s group, and blogging accountability group.
Continue with weekly get-togethers with both sides of our extended family.

Business/Blogging:
Continue to take Sundays off from blogging/business work.
Continue keeping strict Office Hours for the business/blogging time each day
Switch to a paperless planning system.
Follow my weekly blogging plan.
Plan blog posts out at least a month in advance.
Write and schedule blog posts at least a week in advance.

Financial:
Continue to tithe 10% of our income.
Give generously to needs in our community and around the world, as God prompts us. (We’ve been looking for 1-2 specific needs to give to each month and find so much joy in giving as God leads us!)
Pay cash for a new-to-us vehicle to replace our family’s van.
Finish saving for and purchase a rental property with cash.

What Are Your Goals for 2012?

If you’ve posted goals for 2012, I’d love for you to share your link below. If you’re new to goal-setting, be sure to read my post on how to set goals and then download my free printable goal-setting worksheet.

On the fourth Saturday of each month in 2012, I’ll be posting an update on my goals and encouraging you to share the progress you’re making on your 2012 goals, too. Let’s encourage one another to live lives of intention and purpose!

photo credit

My Top 7 Favorite Books Read in 2011

Looking for some good books to add to your booklist for 2012? Here are my top seven favorite books from the 60 books I read in 2011:

Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment — I loved this book and would whole-heartedly recommend it to any Christian woman who is struggling with anxiety, fear, or worry. Very thought-provoking. I benefited so much from it that I put two of the author’s other books on my 24 books I plan to read in 2012 booklist.

ReWork — Hands down, this is one of the best business books I’ve ever read. I read it in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down. The premise? Break all the rules of the “experts”. Think way outside the box. Be a teacher: if a business idea works well for you, share your secrets and people will respect you more. Stop worrying about your competition and start being a trend-setter. Keep your company small for as long as you possibly can. Don’t grow until it hurts.

Now, do note that this is not packed with specific step-by-step ideas for starting a business. It’s moreso an outside-the-box business book to challenge the status quo. And since I tend to be a very independent thinker, I loved that. Other people, like my friend Catherine, didn’t find the book as helpful (read her review here).

(Note: There is a quite a bit of language in the book and I was disappointed because it somewhat hampered my excitement about the book. And I know some disagree with me, but I always find four letter words in books bothersome because I feel like they are unnecessary and crude.)

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By a Relentless God — If you’re a Christian, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If there’s one book outside the Bible that you read this year, read Crazy Love. It challenged me to pull out of my complacency as a follower of Christ. I’ve stayed in my comfort zone for a long time out of fear — fear of failure, fear of what others would think of me, and fear of stepping out in faith and doing what God has been calling me to do.

I read one chapter each morning for two weeks and then would spend time reflecting and praying about it during my morning run. There was much I processed during those times — and I will be processing it for many weeks and months to come. God used this book to change my outlook on many things and to light a fire of love in my heart to live a life sold out for God. I want to follow where He leads, at any cost.

Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time — This book is jam packed with practical ideas for prioritizing your time and life so that you make the most of your days. One of my biggest takeaways from the book was the challenge to start the day out by doing the things you like least first, you’ll get them out of the way so you can enjoy your day more and be more productive and fulfilled. Read more about some of the things I gleaned from this book here.

Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Achieve Tomorrow’s Success — If you want to make the most of your days, Today Matters will give you practical, step-by-step help and inspiration. The author makes a case for why today is your key to success and outlines 12 decisions and disciplines you should implement into your life and work toward mastering in order to achieve greater fulfillment and success in life.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think — We all have exactly the same amount of time: 24 hours in each day, 168 hours in each week. We all get to choose how we’re going to use those hours — whether wisely or frivolously. Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 Hours, is based upon the premise that, if we were to step back and look at our week as a whole, we have more time than we realize. And we are probably squandering more time than we think.

This book gives real-life, practical examples for becoming a better manager of your time. It profiles a number of different individuals in different situations and shows how they are using their time well or specific ways they could improve their time usage. This book is not about stuffing our lives more full with longer to-do lists and more responsibilities, but about focusing on a life well lived. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to better steward their time or find more fulfillment in how they spend their 168 hours.

Kisses from Katie — This book rocked my world and left me profoundly moved and challenged. It has caused me to step back and examine how I’m living my life and whether I’m truly giving in a way that costs me something dear. I’m still processing much of what I read and praying about specifically what I am supposed to do in response to the burden it placed upon my heart, but I am left forever touched. If you want to be motivated to live a life out of your comfort zone, read this book.

What were your top reads in 2011? I’d love know!

Setting Goals and Saving Money

The following is a guest post from Joy of Vim and Vigor:

source: RikkisRefugeOther

Whether you are a mom of one or of seven, whether you hare just married, or whether you are single, the demands of life are many. You know the old saying, “A woman’s work is never done.” That is so true!

Amidst the meal planning, dishes, work schedules, cleaning up of spills, errands, and laundry, we are real women with real needs–spiritually, physically, and emotionally. If these areas are being neglected in our lives, it affects us as woman and those around us.

Crystal has been such an inspiration to me in setting goals and accomplishing them. Seeing her lists of books to read, projects she wants to try, and also her monthly financial goals has been very motivating for me. I especially like how she doesn’t overload herself. Instead, her goals are doable.

One tangible way Crystal inspired me was to write down a budget for our family. To be honest, it was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done. I think less about money now, because I know how much I can spend in each area of our lives. I don’t have to wonder, “Do we have enough money in the bank to cover this check?”

Creating a budget was like getting a raise: we can save so much more since we now know how much we can spend! And one goal I have regarding our budget for the New Year is to look at each category and see how I can spend less.

Here are some of the ways I am cutting back:

Clothing:

I have decided (for the time being) to only shop for myself at re-sale shops and rummage sales.

Cosmetics:

I have replaced my expensive, high-dollar face cream, and instead have started using a baking soda and water exfoliate. I’m also using avocado oil on my face, which is an inexpensive, natural and superior moisturizer. I now wash my hair with baking soda and rinse with vinegar. It cleans my hair, instead of stripping it, and it works wonderfully!

Beverages:

I had was in the habit of keeping a variety of store bought drinks at home–pop, juices, coffee, etc. However, I’ve decided we can easily save hundreds of dollars per year by choosing to drink water and milk. Juice is now a treat, and purchased only when on sale.

Eating Out:

One way we can save a ton of money is by setting a budget for eating out–and then sticking to it! If we go over budget in this area, I really feel it is my own doing.

I am the one in charge of meal planning, and I am now trying to have a few “fast food” meals handy in the freezer for those nights I don’t want to cook. (Crystal talks a lot about freezer cooking, which has been so helpful for me.)

It really is the little things that can make or break a budget. And as we approach another New Year, I hope this will be a springboard to help you think of a few areas where you too can cut back, so you can do more with your budget, and bless your family in this way.

Have you recently cut anything out of your budget?

Joy is a 33-year-old homeschooling mama to six kids. She is married to her wonderful husband, who lovingly looks past all her faults, and loves her for the wife, mama, and child of God she is striving to be. Through the trials and triumphs of marriage, having a large family, and living as naturally as possible on a budget, God is in the midst of it all. You can read about all the journeys Christ has been bringing this family through, and to be encouraged in your mothering on Joy’s blog.