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Category: Earning & Managing Money

For the mom who feels guilty that she’s not doing Elf on the Shelf

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about our Christmas plans. I was sharing how we like to keep Christmas simple and that we don’t do things like give our kids a lot of gifts, go to a lot of Christmas events, give gifts to almost everyone we know, make lots and lots of Christmas treats, send out Christmas cards, or do Elf on the Shelf.

This friend was pretty shocked and almost immediately responded, “You’re such a SCROOGE!!”

Yes, maybe I am. But the truth is, the thought of running ourselves like crazy all during December just so we can “make more memories” feels like the exact opposite of making this “the most wonderful time of the year!”

I know that this friend was mostly just joking, but I have to admit that the comment made me want to defend myself. I wanted to say things like, “But you don’t understand! We DO celebrate Christmas! We really do! And it’s fun and memory-filled and wonderful!”

But for the next few days, instead of just brushing off the Scrooge comment and going back to my simple December, the conversation haunted me.

I started to feel guilt seeping in.

Maybe I’m not doing enough.

Maybe we’re not celebrating Christmas right.

Maybe we should add some more activities or events or gifts or decorations to our to do list.

Maybe I’m saying I want to celebrate a simple Christmas but it’s really just because I’m sort of lazy.

And on and on the thoughts in my brain went.

Instead of staying there stuck in Mommy Guilt, I decided to ask my family for their perspective. So, while driving in the car together one night right after Thanksgiving, I broached the subject:

“Hey guys! I wanted to ask for your opinion on something. Can you tell me honestly what you think about how we celebrated Christmas? What are some traditions you love? Are there things you wish we would do that we don’t do?”

I braced myself for their responses. I was kind of scared as to what sort of Pandora’s Box I was opening, but I really wanted to know the truth.

And I knew that asking my kids was the best way to find out what they really think… because those of you who know my kids personally, you know that honesty is very important to them and they are not ones to sugarcoat how they actually feel about things (which I’m so grateful for — most of the time!!).

Well, their responses shocked me!

“Mom! I LOVE how we do Christmas!”

“I love our stocking tradition!”

“I love that we do things a little differently every year!”

“I love that we focus on making memories as a family!”

And on and on it went. I started to get a little braver and ask them specific questions about specific ways we could celebrate or other ideas of things we could do.

{Helping decorate the tree at Grandma & Grandpa’s house last year!}

I quickly realized that the events and activities and gifts weren’t what was important to them. Instead, they wanted to keep on with our few simple traditions:

  • The Kids Decorating the House — Yes, for the past two years, our kids have put up all the Christmas decorations. They think it is the coolest thing ever, they actually do a really good job of it, and they not letting us see things until it’s all finished and then getting to surprise us with the finished look.
  • Our Advent Countdowns — We have a few Advent Countdowns that they love to use — a chalkboard countdown and a felt wallhanging countdown. First thing in the morning, whoever gets up first gets to mark off the chalkboard and move the felt heart in the wallhanging countdown.
  • Christmas Movies — We love to watch Christmas movies as a family together. Each year, we try to find at least a few new ones and also enjoy a few of our old favorites, too. Their favorite thing is for us to all get on our PJs, make some hot cocoa, and snuggle up with blankets and watch a movie before bed.
  • Christmas Books From the Library — I already told you recently how much we love Christmas Picture books! This is one tradition I hope my kids never grow out of… though I’m guessing they eventually will! 🙁 (Here are some of our favorite Christmas picture books.)
  • Christmas Lights & Hot Cocoa — We research the best Christmas light displays and then take one evening to go check them out. This is best done with PJs on and warm cups of hot cocoa! (This year, we got matching footie PJs and the kids have already declared that everyone must wear theirs for our Christmas Lights viewing evening — including Mom & Dad!)
  • Gingerbread House — We always get a Gingerbread House kit and make it together. Some years are more successful than others. This year, the kit was kind of a bust. But the kids still had fun trying to put it together — even if it was not cooperating very well.
  • Ice Skating Show — Kaitlynn participates in a Christmas Ice Skating Show every year and it’s a big highlight. Not only is it so fun to get to see her performing on ice without the stress of a competition, but it’s an amazing opportunity to get to see other really talented figure skaters!
  • Dollar Store Stockings — This is one of our family’s favorite traditions! We all go to the Dollar Store right before Christmas and everyone gets $6 to spend to buy one item per person (+ tax) for their stocking. We have so much fun trying to split up, hide our purchases, find something creative that no one else would come up with, and pick gifts that people would really love.
  • One Big Giving Project — We choose a giving project to all raise money for during the month of December. The kids do this by doing extra chores or giving some of their money they’ve saved up throughout the year. And then we come up with other ideas of areas we can cut back on so we can add more money to the Giving Project bucket. It’s so much fun and it’s a great way to put our focus on other people rather than ourselves.

Each of these are very simple ideas. They don’t require a lot of extra effort ahead of time. They don’t cost much money. But they are things we all love to enjoy together.

This is the stuff that memories are made of in our house. It works for us. And I’m going to celebrate that — without any Mommy Guilt!

And I issue the same encouragement to you, mamas: You can celebrate however you want to celebrate.

This is not a post knocking doing Elf on the Shelf or sending Christmas Cards or making all handmade gifts or giving lots of gifts or putting up lots of decorations or participating in lots of activities in December. If those things are your jam, please, by all means, DO THEM.

But if you’re feeling guilty that you’re not doing enough, STOP.

Step back and really ask yourself, “Why am I feeling guilty?” Is it because I think we need to “do Christmas like other people do” or because you don’t want to be seen as the Slacker Mom?

Do what works for your own family. Do what is special and memorable for your own kids. Do what works for your schedule and capacity.

And don’t apologize if it looks very different from how another family celebrates Christmas.

After all, kids survived for hundreds of years without an Elf on the Shelf. I think you’ll be okay! 🙂

P.S. Read last year’s post on Why We Simplified Christmas.

How I Got a Pair of Brand-New Jeans I LOVE for Just $8.99!!

How to Save Money on Workout Clothes

Looking for a way to find cute clothes without paying high prices? I’ve got a great solution for you today — thredUP!

As I’ve talked about before, thredUP sells high-quality, secondhand women’s and kid’s clothing and accessories, with a range of great brands to choose from at up to 90% off the original retail price! They make it much easier for you to be able to wear brands that you might not otherwise be able to afford!

How to Save Money on Workout Clothes

How to Save Money on Workout Clothes

We’ve ordered many, many clothes from thredUP over the years and many of the clothes we’ve ordered have been items we’ve worn over and over again. I recently placed another order with them and was able to get some great deals on workout clothes + some jeans I absolutely fell in love in with!

And boy did I score some great deals! Here’s what I got…

How to Save Money on Workout Clothes

This DanSkin Now tank was just $5.99 (originally $18).

How to Save Money on Workout Clothes

These Eye Candy leggings were just $5.99 (new with tags — originally $19.99).

screenshot-2016-12-06-17-05-24

These C9 by Champion shorts were just $5.99 (originally $15).

How to Save Money on Workout Clothes

I also found EXP Core Active Pants for $7.99 (originally $45), GapFit Active Pants for $5.99 (not shown — originally $54), and Kirkland pants for $8.99 (new with tags — originally $18).

How to Save Money on Workout Clothes

These Divided by H&M jeans were just $8.99 (new with tags — originally $24.95).
How to Save Money on Workout Clothes

I got this Old Navy tank top for $4.99 (originally $15) and this Victoria’s Secret tank for $4.99 (originally $24).How to Save Money on Workout Clothes

And are you ready for my very favorite find?? I was SO excited about these Refuge jeans! They were brand-new and were just $8.99!!!

My New Favorite Pair of Jeans & How I Got a Great Deal on Them!

They are perfect! Seriously! I couldn’t believe how well they fit me and that they were brand-new!

My New Favorite Pair of Jeans & How I Got a Great Deal on Them!
My New Favorite Pair of Jeans & How I Got a Great Deal on Them!

My New Favorite Pair of Jeans & How I Got a Great Deal on Them!

I wore them with one of my new flannel shirts, Victoria’s Secret tank underneath it (see above), and my ankle boots that I got for a steal and I just love this outfit!

6 Reasons Why I Love thredUP

  1. They have a HUGE selection. Seriously. It would take me hours and hours and hours to get through all the clothes they offer just in my size alone!
  2. They allow you to search by size, color, and brand. Because they have such a massive number of options, I love that you can really drill down to very specific searches — you can refine your search in great detail if you choose: what colors of clothes you want, what brands you want, and what price range. This allows you to really find exactly what types of things you are looking for.
  3. The box is always well packed. thredUP prides itself on the “unboxing” experience. When you receive your thredUP box, all of the clothing items will be hand-folded with cute thredUP tags attached to each. The items are wrapped in nice tissue paper and delivered to your doorstep in an cute polka dot box.
  4. They offer good deals on high quality items. One of my favorite ways to shop thredUP is to search for deals on high-quality brands I already know that I love and adore but would never pay full price for. You can often find name brand items that are in like-new condition (or even new with tags!) — for up to 90% off the retail price!
  5. They have lots of items for $5-8 each. thredUP has so many name brand items in the $5 to $8 range — and if you use the 40% off coupon code (below), you’ll be able to find some amazing deals!
  6. They make it easy to return. If an item doesn’t fit you, you can log into your account within 14 days from when it’s delivered to say that you want to return it. You can then print a postage paid shipping label and return slip.

thredUP also offers an easy way to clean out your closet. You can check their website to see which brands of your secondhand clothes they take and what the payouts are. Simply order a thredUP Clean Out Bag, fill it with items you no longer want, and place it at your door for pick-up.

Would you like to try thredUP?

thredUP is offering MoneySavingMom.com readers a special offer! The first 100 readers to place an order and use coupon code MONEY40 at checkout will get 40% off your purchase (up to a $50 discount). This coupon is valid for new thredUP customers only.

Have you tried thredUP before? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on your experience with it.

This Month’s Blog/Business Income Report (October)

How I made a full-time income blogging last month!

Thinking of Starting a Blog? Over the years, I’ve received many requests from folks for help on how to start a blog and how to make money blogging.

That’s why I put together this comprehensive guide on How to Make Money Blogging with updated information and links. It includes step-by-step help on how to set up your blog, get started, and make money from blogging. Go here to learn how to make money blogging and get started today!

In 2005, I discovered this thing called “blogging” and decided to try it out. I was a brand-new mom at the time, had recently quit working as a nanny, and was hopeful I could make enough on the side through online ventures to be able to replace my income and be able to stay home.

My husband was in law school and we were living on a beans and rice budget, trying to stay out of debt.

We never, ever dreamed that my little blog idea would grow into what it has become. In all honesty, when I started MoneySavingMom.com, I remember telling people that I hoped to make a side income from it.

I never could have imagined that by the end of 2008, I’d be making full-time income from blogging! And in all my wildest and craziest dreaming, I never would have envisioned that this blog would allow my husband to come home full-time, would provide the means for us to support ministries we love dearly (in the US, in the Dominican Republic, and in South Africa), and would enable us to provide incomes for our small (but amazing!) team.

How I Make a Full-Time Income from Blogging

Over the years, I’ve heard the question again and again and again: How do you actually MAKE money blogging?? People seem intrigued by the idea that our family actually makes a really good income from this blog and other related online ventures.

In these monthly posts, I want to give you a comprehensive and detailed look at our different income streams and expense streams to give you a better idea of what’s working, what’s not working, and how I actually make money blogging.

I always find these posts fascinating and inspiring when I read them from other bloggers. It helps me to learn the real nitty-gritty details of what is and isn’t working, how bloggers are diversifying their income, and what they are experimenting with.

Some bloggers share these types of posts and include specific numbers of exactly how much they make every month. I’ve opted not to do that because I feel like sometimes people can get hung up on numbers and miss the bigger picture. Instead, I want share detailed percentages of our income and expenses — not only will this give you a very accurate picture of our earnings, but it will be something that is relatable, no matter the size of your blog or the income you make.

My hope is that these detailed reports not only help give you a better picture of how I make money blogging, but I hope they inspire you with new ideas on how you can increase your income or improve as a blogger or online entrepreneur.

Ready for the numbers? Here’s our income and expenses report for the month of October 2016:

October Income

Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links. All of the products listed below are products and services we’ve used before. If you have any questions about any of the income or expenses, you can leave a comment and we’ll do our best to reply.

october-income

All Revenue Streams

affiliate-income-octoberAffiliate Revenue Streams Detailed Breakdown

Want to know more how affiliate programs work? Be sure to check out my post on How to Make Money Blogging.

expenses

October Expenses

  • Payroll expenses — 37.2%
  • Advertising and Promotion — 13.4%
  • Subcontracted services — 11.8%
  • Web-based tools (InfusionSoft*, Feedblitz, GoDaddy, Dropbox, Harvest, etc.) –11.1%
  • Computer, hosting, Internet expenses — 8.3%
  • Health insurance — 5.1%
  • Partner & Affiliate Payments (Sign up for our affiliate program for our products here.) — 4.9%
  • Other (Office space rent, PayPal fees, shipping/postage fees, merchant account fees, bank service charges, utilities, travel expenses, wifi, etc.) — 4.5%
  • Professional fees (for our CPA, payroll management, etc.) — 3.6%

rev-vs-expPercentage of Income Versus Expenses

We have had a huge increase in companies wanting to partner with us for sponsored posts. While I’m still really, really picky about what opportunities I’ll take, I’ve been excited for this additional income stream — especially since our income from sidebar advertising has gone down pretty significantly this year as I have said no to pop-up ads and other ads that I felt like would be annoying to my readers.

We also have made some changes in how we’re promoting Amazon deals and been more strategic in tracking which Amazon deals are performing the best and focusing on sharing more of those deals here. In addition, we’ve been doing more with Facebook Ads to promote these to audiences on Facebook that aren’t seeing them through organic reach.

This has really begun to pay off and it’s exciting to see Amazon being such a strong income stream for us again!

Overall, October was a really great month for us — which was an encouragement after such a dismal September.

Recent Experiments

1. Moving Our Email System to ConvertKit

As I told you about last month, we’re still in the process of making the switch from Infusionsoft to ConvertKit. The move has proven to be more complicated than we expected and we’ve had to work through a number of hiccups and glitches that have happened along the way. We’re still pressing forward with this, but I think it’s going to be a more time-consuming process than we’d hoped.

2. Setting Up a Featured Instagram Account

So, I have been mulling over this Instagram idea for a few months and finally decided to go for it. And I’ve been completely shocked by how well it has done!

What was the idea? Well, it was to set up a very targeted niche Instagram account.

You see, I have around 67,000 followers on my main Instagram account and I love that account. It’s my happy place. It’s where I share things that don’t necessarily fit on MoneySavingMom.com but that I’ve been mulling over, learning, or that I’m excited about. I’ll share quotes I’ve loved, lessons I’m learning, books I’m reading, peeks into our life, and musings on topics such as motherhood, marriage, and more.

I’ve carefully protected that Instagram account and don’t promote many deals or sales on there. However, when I do promote deals, people love them and they always do really well.

For the past few months, I’ve been contemplating how to share more deals on Instagram without overloading my personal account with promotional stuff. I briefly considered just posting more. I average around 4-6 posts on Instagram most weeks, so I thought that maybe I could double or triple the amount I was posting and then have 1/3 of my posts be deal posts.

But the more I thought about the realities of that, the more I realized that it just didn’t sit right with me. It would require a lot more work, it would mean that I wasn’t able to let some of my really thoughtful and heartfelt posts sit there for 24-36 hours like I like them to, and it would mean that I’d be completely changing up what people had come to expect from me on Instagram.

So instead of trying to produce more content posts just so I could also include more deal posts, I decided to instead set up a separate deals-only Instagram account. I picked a name that clearly told exactly what my intentions were for the account (@AllTheBestDeals). And then I decided to tell people exactly what they could expect from the account:

This Month's Blogging Report

As you can see, while the account name uses keywords, I branded it by including my name followed by MoneySavingMom. I also made it clear that I’m personally curating these deals myself — to give more value to them. I added info about texting for deals as this is something that’s been really effective for us since we started offering it recently.

I set up a Link In Profile account so I can link each individual post to a separate affiliate link and can post multiple links every day. And then I went in and added six posts to start things off — so people could get an idea of exactly what I’d be posting. Plus, I always think it’s good to have at least 5-10 posts before you announce things to world.

I then posted about it on my Facebook Page and my Instagram account letting my followers know I had set up this account. I had set a goal to grow the list to 2,000 to 3,000 within a week. It’s always hard to get something brand-new like this off the ground and I’ve found that once you have a few thousand followers it seems that gives it enough legitimacy that it will then start to take off on its own. 15157029_10154327824128227_3230140387480512330_o

I’ve been thrilled that so many people are interested in following this deals-only account! So far, I’ve only had it for 10 days and I’ve already passed up the 3,000 mark! (If you’re interested in great deals, be sure to follow the account here.)

But I’m not just excited that I’ve been able to grow the following so quickly, I’ve also been thrilled (and a bit shocked!) at how well the idea is working. Over the past 10 days, at least 5-10% of all our affiliate sales have come through the links on this really small (compared to the rest of our audience) account!

How cool is that??! Plus, I’m having so much fun seeing what posts do best on it, what people are interested in, and what types of products convert.

This Month’s Featured Question

This month’s featured question is from Johanna:

“Hi! You’ve been talking about being an Amazon Affiliate, but unfortunately I live in Missouri. Yep. Can’t use it. Do you have any suggestions for other affiliate networks?”

YES, Johanna! I do! While it’s a really unfortunate that you can’t use Amazon Affiliates as a source of income, there are so many other affiliate networks out there that can help you diversify your income well. Here is a list of some of my top-earning affiliate networks:

Amy has a great list of many different affiliate programs here, too!

I also highly, highly recommend reading my post on 5 Strategies for Maximizing Your Earnings With Affiliate Marketing.

Highly Recommended Blogging Resources

Make Money Blogging

Want to Start Your Own Blog?

I’m here to help! Check out my comprehensive guide on How to Make Money Blogging with updated information and links. It includes step-by-step help on how to set up your blog, best practices for blogging, and all the details on how to make money from blogging.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign up for my FREE 5-day course on How I Make a Full-Time Income From Home. This video course will give you an inside peek into my blogging and business journey, will share lots of inspiration and hard lessons I’ve learned in the process, and will encourage you with ideas on how you can make a part-time or full-time income from home, too.

Previous Income Reports

More Posts on Blogging

3 Ways to Improve Your Budget Overnight

Have you struggled to make a budget work for you? Do you wish you could set up and actually stick with a budget? Are you hoping that 2017 will be the year you actually figure out how to make budgeting work for you? 

For my friend Jessi Fearon of The Budget Mama, facing the fear of needing to file for bankruptcy was the catalyst in her life changing decision to finally get her budget on track. I’ll let her tell her story…

At 21 years old, I was facing an eviction notice on my door and having to file for bankruptcy. I was flat broke, but you would have never known that by looking at me. In fact, not even my own parents knew how broke I really was because on the outside, I had a brand new sports, a luxury apartment, and a designer wardrobe.

All on an Administrative Assistant’s salary of about $18,000 a year.

I looked like I had it all, but in reality I had nothing. Despite growing up in a home where budgeting was made a priority I decided that I knew better than my mama’s wisdom and figured that budgeting was just for broke people.

It was budgeting that saved my life – literally. When I realized the severity of my situation, I finally made the decision to sit down and write out a budget like my mom had taught me.

It wasn’t easy, but by accepting responsibility for my money mistakes I was able to pay off all that debt and start breathing again.

Finally getting my budget on track was not easy and is still a continued work in progress, but through trial and error, my family and I now have a working budget. I can tell everyone with confidence that budgeting has saved my life.

crystal-webinar-graphic

This Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. CT (2 p.m. EST), Crystal and I will be offering a free live workshop: Budgeting for Real Life: 3 Methods to Improve Your Budget Overnight.

We’ll teach you:

  • How to overcome your fear of budgeting and how to get started right away.
  • How to make sticking to a budget possible. (Yes! It’s possible!)
  • How to avoid having to record a million and one transactions every month.

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, everyone needs a budget. I want to share with you my quick tips to a successful budget!

Click here to sign up and reserve your spot for Thursday’s class.

We are so excited to help you get started on your budgeting journey! See you there!

Note: If you can’t make it to the live class, register anyway and we’ll send you a link to replay after the class is finished. 

Look what I got in the mail!!!

Money-Making Mom

So… drum roll… Money-Making Mom came out in paperback this week!!!!

It’s the first time that I’ve had a second release of a book so it’s pretty exciting for me!

Thank you so much for how you’ve supported me on this journey and for your support of this book. It’s because of you all that my publisher decided it sold enough copies for it to come out in paperback a year after the hardcover version came out.

So thank you from the bottom of my heart! I’m incredibly grateful for each and every one of you!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

7 Ways to Save Money With Your Phone

7 Ways to Use Your Phone to Save Money

There are so many ways that you can use your phone to save money. Here are 7 of my favorite ideas:

1. Earn Money With Cashback Apps

You can earn cash back for purchasing groceries through apps like iBotta, Checkout 51, Yaarlo, and Mobisave.  To learn all about my favorite cash back apps, sign up for my free 5-day series on how to make and save money with your smartphone.

2. Download Free Apps

Every Friday, I post a list of free kid’s apps that are free on Friday. Generally, these apps cost a few dollars, but are free for a period of time. (Note: Make sure you take a look to be sure the app is still free when you go to download it, because these offers can change.)

I’ve been able to download some great educational apps for my kids through these links and it’s provided lots of free entertainment for my kids!

3. Earn Free Gift Cards

You can earn free gift cards from Swagbacks by watching videos on your phone through their apps. I like to just have these playing in the background while I’m working on the computer or doing other projects.

You can easily earn $5 to $10 in gift cards each month by doing this! Read more about Swagbacks and how it works here. {Psst! You can also earn free gift cards with Shopkick!}

4. Get Free Audiobooks

Before you look anywhere else, RUN to your library’s website and see what they offer as far as audiobook apps go. Many libraries offer amazing apps like Overdrive, Hoopla, or OneClickDigital — for FREE!

You can download brand-new releases, old classics, and just about everything in between through these apps. You can even download magazines! And did I mention that it’s all FREE??

You just download the app, link it to your library card, and then go in and request which books you’re interested in. If the book isn’t available right away, you can put a hold on it and they’ll send you an email when it’s available. Read about 8 ways to get audiobooks for free here.

5. Get Free Redbox Movie Rentals

Redbox often offers text coupons for free movie rentals. (Text SIGNUP to 727272 to be added to their text offers list.) Many of these free movie rentals can only be redeemed through the Redbox app.

They also run different specials where you can buy one get one free or get half-priced rentals. This can make for a free or cheap at-home date night!

7 Ways to Use Your Phone to Save Money

6. Download Free Ebooks

 

As you probably know if you read here regularly, there are hundreds of free ebooks offered daily on Amazon. We often post a round-up of some of the best free ebooks we find.

I’ve had many people tell me they skip over the free ebook posts because they don’t have a Kindle or other e-reader to read the ebooks on. Well, guess what? I don’t have one either!

A lot of people don’t know that you don’t need a Kindle or other e-reader to be able to download the free ebooks offered on Amazon. All you need is to simply download the free Kindle Reading App to any mobile device (phone, iPad, etc.) or even your laptop or desktop computer! Go here for all the details on how to download free ebooks without a Kindle.

7. Listen to Music for Free.

Amazon offers ad-free streaming music service for FREE to everyone who has a Prime account. You can listen to Prime Music on any mobile or desktop device through the Prime Music app.

We absolutely LOVE this app and use it multiple times every single day! Amazon Prime Music offers: Customized playlists and music library created by you, expert-programmed playlists to discover and enjoy, ad-free with unlimited skips, playbacks, and repeats, Prime Music stations, the ability to play music anywhere from any device, and the ability to download music to your device if you will be without Internet connection.

If you’re not currently using Prime Music and you have an Amazon Prime Account, definitely check this out!

Related Posts:

How do YOU use your phone to save money? Tell us in the comments!