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26 Mar 2009   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Eating From The Pantry Challenge: Day 4

It's been 14 days since I've stepped foot into a grocery store and four days that we've officially been eating from the pantry. I have to say, I'm rather enjoying this challenge and was excited with the meals I came up with today.

The funny thing is, I keep feeling like we have "nothing left in the cupboards and refrigerator" and while they are barer than usual, we keep finding plenty to eat. It just makes me realize how truly blessed we are in the abundance we have. And this challenge has reminded me of this anew.

Here's what we ate:

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Breakfast: Leftover biscuits (from dinner last night) with butter and honey, apple slices, and scrambled eggs with cheese

Lunch: Tuna salad sandwiches on hamburger buns with carrot sticks

Snack: No bake cookies

Dinner: Steak, baked potatoes, green bean casserole, ice cream

If you're eating from your pantry this week, I'd love to hear what was on your menu today!

25 Mar 2009   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

Eating From The Pantry Challenge: Day 3

It's been 13 days since I've been to the grocery store and today is Day 3 of our official Eating From The Pantry Challenge.

We used up the last of the flour and milk (which was expiring today) in the pancakes this morning. So now it's time to really get creative!

Here's what we ate today:

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Brunch
(We were out late last night at a birthday party so we got around late this morning and had brunch instead of breakfast and lunch!): Whole-wheat pancakes, grapefruit, chocolate milk

By the way, here's my favorite recipe for pancakes:

Whole-Wheat Pancakes
3 cups whole-wheat flour (or a combination of whole-wheat/white)
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 beaten eggs
3 cups milk (you can use buttermilk or sour milk)
6 Tablespoons oil

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir together just until moistened. Add additional milk to thin batter if necessary.

Cook on a hot, lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet. Makes approximately 20 standard sized pancakes.

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We were in a baking mood this afternoon so we got creative and found a few recipes to make which didn't include flour and milk. We made these no bake cookies (using powdered milk) and these peanut butter cookies. These bars also looked really good, but I ran out of time and energy before I had a chance to make them.

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Snack: apple slices, cookies

Dinner: Veggie and rice soup (I remade the leftover stir fry from last night into soup adding in some broth and seasonings and extra veggies.), biscuits (made with Bisquick and powdered milk since we're out of flour and milk)

If you're eating from your pantry this week, I'd love to hear what was on your menu today!

25 Mar 2009   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

100 Different Ways to Save $100 This Year – Part 4

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Here are just a few more ways we’ve saved at least $100 per year:

17) Switch to cloth diapers. When my husband was in law school and we had our first child, I was wondering how on earth we were going to afford to pay for diapers. This was a year or so before I discovered CVS and I was still learning how to stockpile and we had a very meager budget to work with (think $17-$30 to spend on groceries and household items each week).

God has always been faithful to provide for us, though, and one of those ways He provided was through some friends giving us a whole stash of Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers shortly after our daughter was born. Once I’d used up the disposable diapers we’d received as gifts, I switched over to cloth diapers exclusively.

Since we didn’t pay for the diapers, we mostly definitely saved much more than $100 for the two years our daughter was in diapers. However, from the calculations I’ve done, if we had invested in them ourselves, I’m still quite sure we would have saved at least $100 per year–even if I were buying diapers on sale with a coupon. And if you use the cloth diapers for more than one child, the savings really can multiply.

If you are interested in reading more on cloth diapering, go here and here.

18) Buy contacts online. If you’re like me and you much prefer to wear contacts as opposed to glasses, you can save a bundle of money by ordering your contacts online instead of buying them from your eye doctor. In fact, by using the tips I’ve learned below, you’ll likely save somewhere between 20-60% off what you would usually pay at your eye doctor.

Almost every brand of contact is available online. I’ve purchased contacts through VisionDirect.com as well as 1800Contacts.com. Their prices are pretty comparable, but each site seems to have a little bit of variation in what they carry and the specials they offer.

When checking out prices online, be sure to consult RetailMeNot.com or another such online coupon code site to determine what specials and coupon offers are available for that particular online store. You can usually save at least an additional 10-15% off by using an online coupon code when you checkout.

In addition to finding the site which has the lowest price when
using an online coupon code, also make sure and purchase your contacts
through your Rakuten link so you’ll get a little cash back for your
purchase.

Note: In order to order contacts online, all you will need is an
up-to-date prescription. The online site will not process your order if
they can’t verify with your eye doctor that your prescription is valid.

19)
Skip grocery shopping every 5-6 weeks and challenge yourself to use
what you have on hand and put the extra money into savings.
This is something we routinely do, as many of you probably have picked up on from following along with my Super Savings Saturday posts or my Eating From the Pantry Challenge this week.

If you are regularly stocking up on items you’ll use over the next few weeks or months when they are at their lowest price, it should be relatively easy to take a week off from grocery shopping once a month or once every other month. In fact, you may find it’s almost a necessity to do so in order to wisely use what you have on hand!

And just think, if you regularly spend $50 on groceries per week, taking a week off from shopping once every other month will save you $300 per year!

If you missed the first parts of this series, you can read them here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

photo by Refracted Moments

24 Mar 2009   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

Eating From The Pantry Challenge: Day 2

It's day 12 of not stepping foot in a grocery store and it's day 2 of our Eating From The Pantry Challenge.

Here's what we ate today:

Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal with frozen strawberries and milk (Recipe is here–this is so easy to throw together the night before and stick in the refrigerator to bake in the morning for a delicious hot and fresh breakfast!)

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Lunch: Scrambled eggs and hashbrowns with cheese, whole-wheat toast with butter, apple slices

Snack: Quaker Rice Snacks

Dinner: Stir Fry over brown rice (concocted with some fresh veggies I needed to use up)

If you're eating from your pantry this week, I'd love to hear what was on your menu today!

24 Mar 2009   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: How to Save Money When Eating Out

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photo by josef stuefer

Guest Post by Jennifer from Joy Ever After

One of our favorite things to do as a family is eat out. No cooking and
no dishes–what recreation! However, there is a problem when there is
also no money. We have learned some tips and tricks on spending less when we go to a restaurant.

::Know the specials. Many restaurants offer specials on certain days. For example, a barbecue restaurant in our area is giving $4 off a combo meal on Mondays through April. A few other restaurants have "Kids Eat Free" nights. Sometimes all it takes to save a significant amount is to read the white board as you enter the restaurant. Beware though, because sometimes those are just "features" from their regular menu at the regular price.

::Look for coupons. Several restaurants offer Buy One, Get One Free coupons in the newspaper. If yours doesn't, it might be worth it to buy an Entertainment Book for your area or an area you are vacationing in. These have many restaurants from fine dining to fast food with Buy One, Get One offers or 50% off.

::Share meals. I have grown tired of ordering two kids' meals only to have them both picked at and basically wasted. Sure, I can finish the food, but is that really saving the money?

Unless a meal is very small or the kids are unusually hungry, I split one between them. This can also work for my husband and me if a meal is large. Some restaurants offer smaller portion meals as well. One family I know buys a large meal at Cracker Barrel, orders one extra side and splits it between their four children. This is much cheaper per person than four individual kids' meals or even splitting two kids' meals.

::Skip drinks, dessert, and appetizers. This is a tough one if you are "celebrating", but ordering water and saying "No, thank you" when asked if you want an appetizer or dessert can knock $4-10 (or more) off your bill.

::Go out only for an appetizer or dessert. The exception to the previous rule is if that is all you are ordering. Of course it's much cheaper to buy coffee and a piece of pie than a full dinner or to replace the dinner with an appetizer portion. The latter option is healthier, too, providing you stay away from the deep-fried onion rings!

::Save "fancy" restaurants for special occasions. We budget a maximum of $35 for our family of 5 when we go out to eat. This includes the tip and everything.

Obviously, this cuts out some restaurants. Our rule of thumb is to avoid restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages. Even if you don't drink, you are paying in some way for their liquor license since the whole menu is generally higher.

::Join all the birthday clubs. For my latest birthday, I got free ice cream, free coffee, and two free entree coupons at two different restaurants. I didn't even have time to take advantage of all of them. Signing up for these "birthday clubs" is easy online or inquire about them at your favorite restaurant. (Go here for a list of freebies you can score on your birthday.)

::Go to buffets. These are great when your children are small because all you have to do is buy two adult meals and everyone gets as much as they want to eat.

::Combine savings tips. Here's a scenario we've done before: Saturday is kid's night at Denny's. We got the Buy One, Get One Free coupon in the paper. We ordered full kids' meals for the kids, two entrees for us and drinks (if we were really on a tight budget, we could have skipped the drinks). By getting the kids' meals free on top of using a Buy One, Get One Free coupon for the adult meals, we ended up paying less than half of what our bill would have been.

Important note: remember to always tip on the full amount you would have paid before the specials and coupons, though. Your
server does not do less work when you use savings strategies.

::Do it less. This is perhaps the toughest and most helpful tip of all. If you are accustomed to going out three times a week, cut it down to once. If you usually go out once a week, go every other week, and so on. You'll find when you do go out, you'll enjoy it a lot more.

Jennifer Self has been married to her best friend, Jeff, for almost ten
years and is mommy to three little blessings, Jessica (6), Jeffery (3) and
Jerrod (6 mos.). She blogs to encourage Christian women in
their roles as wives and mothers at www.joyeverafter.blogspot.com.

From Crystal: How do you save money when eating out? I'd love to hear your tricks and tips!

23 Mar 2009   ·   46
Money Saving Mom

Eating From The Pantry Challenge: Day 1

Day 1 of our Eating From The Pantry Challenge is almost over with. So far, it's been 11 days since I've been to the grocery store. Think I can make it for another 4 days? We'll see.

Here's what we ate today:

Breakfast: Grape Nuts and milk, apple slices

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Lunch: Leftovers, whole wheat bagels with peanut butter and jelly, carrot sticks

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Snack: Warm Delights Minis with Breyer's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream (Yum! We got some samples of these in the mail awhile back and we needed a pick-me-up this afternoon so I pulled these out to make and eat during our afternoon read-aloud time. Needless to say, the girls were more than thrilled!)

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Just-made pizza ready to stick in the oven!

Dinner: Homemade Veggie and Cheese Pizza, cucumber slices

And we'll likely have an after-dinner snack of popcorn.

If you're eating from your pantry this week, I'd love to hear what you served today!

23 Mar 2009   ·   40
Money Saving Mom

Menu Plan Monday: Eating From The Pantry Challenge

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I ended up not going grocery shopping at all last week and while we're getting low on some basic supplies, I decided it would be fun to challenge myself to see if we could go another five days without going to the grocery store. So welcome to the Eating From The Pantry Challenge!

My personal rules for this challenge are that I cannot dig into the After-the-Baby Freezer Stash and I also must try to use up as many odds and ends as possible. In addition, I'm going to try to come up with fairly balanced and nutritious meals, though they might be a little different and less-varied than our normal fare.

I'll be blogging what we eat each day, along with pictures and maybe even some recipes. My hope is that we not only make it until Friday of this week without hitting the grocery store, but also that this challenge to myself might inspire you to stretch what you already have a little farther or be more creative with what you have on hand.

Sometimes it's so easy to become accustomed to going to the store every week (or multiple times per week!) that we aren't as good of stewards with what we already have in our cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. This can not only lead to waste, but unnecessary expenditures.

To aid me in coming up with meals for this week, I made up a list of meal ideas to work from based upon things we have in our cupboards, freezer, and refrigerator which need to be used up. We may or may not use all of these this week, but they will certainly serve as a springboard for ideas.

Here's the potential ideas list:

Breakfast Ideas:
Baked Oatmeal
Cream of Wheat
Pumpkin Waffles
Organic toaster pastries
Biscuits and gravy
French Toast
Bagels

Lunch Ideas:
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Baked potatoes
Shrimp
Beans and rice
Egg salad sandwiches
PB & J sandwiches
Leftovers

Dinners:
Stirfry
Steak
BBQ Beef sandwiches
Spinach rice and cheese casserole
Lasagna
Cheese and veggie pizza

Stay tuned for the daily scoop on what I concoct using what we have on hand! For more menu ideas, check out Organizing Junkie.

21 Mar 2009   ·   14
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Saving by enjoying and using what we already have

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We haven't gone shopping yet this week. Instead, we've been busy finishing up all the cooking and baking for our After-The-Baby Freezer Stash (it's done and our freezers are stuffed plum full!), finishing up the final preparations for Baby coming, and spending lots of special family time together.

The girls and I have also been enjoying a number of books we've gotten free, thanks to PaperBackSwap. Have I mentioned recently just how much I love that service? We're building our children's library for practically free thanks to PBS!

While it's great to snag bargains on items you need, some weeks it's nice to just stay home and enjoy what you already have. Meredith has a great post up on Simple Mom today which reminded me of just that.

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save in other ways? If so, be
sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please
remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got
this week and/or money you were able to save this week. Links which do
not specifically relate to this will be deleted. Also, to make it easy
for everyone to navigate quickly through
the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday
post.

20 Mar 2009   ·   38
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Easy, Frugal Breakfasts

Guest Post by Lynn from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

Breakfast foods can be a major part of a grocery budget. It is just so easy to grab boxes of cereal, packages of instant oatmeal, or boxes of frozen waffles.

Yes, you can use coupons and sales to get these items for a good price, but even sale prices can add up when you have several children. Three hungry kids can devour a box of cereal quickly. At least I know mine can.

The main reason that people buy these items is usually convenience. My mornings, and I assume yours, are busy. We are all trying to start our day, get off to work or school, deal with crying sick kids, or
just deal with everyday home life. Whatever the reasons, I think we all struggle with preparing healthy frugal breakfasts for our families.

I have found that I do much better fixing a home cooked breakfast when I can prepare things ahead of time. It is much easier for me to make things the night before so that it only takes a few minutes during the morning rush. 

Two of my favorite things to make ahead are pancake and waffle batters. While you can make ahead and freeze pancakes and waffles, my family prefers fresh, hot cooked ones.

So, today I am going to share my family's favorite make-ahead waffle and pancake recipes. These recipes are were specifically created to be made ahead and sit overnight; they do best when the batter has sat for at least 8-12 hours. These are quick to put together the night before, then all you have to do is stir the batter and cook in the morning.

Mail.google.com

Whole Wheat Overnight Waffles

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
8 tablespoons butter ( 1 stick)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl whisk the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt together. Gradually add remaining ingredients until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight for 12-24 hours. (You want to have plenty of room in this bowl because the batter will rise some. If your bowl is not big enough it may go all over your refrigerator!)

In the morning, cook on heated waffle iron for about 3 1/2 minutes each or until done. This may vary with each waffle iron so follow the directions for your specific waffle maker. Serve with butter and syrup and enjoy!

Mail.google.com


Overnight Pancakes

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or use all all-purpose flour)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water; let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Then beat in eggs, buttermilk, yeast mixture and oil. Cover and refrigerate for 8
hours or overnight.

To make pancakes, pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a greased hot griddle; turn when bubbles form on top of pancakes. Cook until second side is golden brown.

Lynn loves to cook and try new recipes. Lynn blogs at LynnsKitchenAdventures.com if you would like to read more about her adventures in the kitchen.

Note from Crystal: What are some easy and frugal breakfasts you like to serve at your home? I'd love to hear your ideas!

19 Mar 2009   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

100 Different Ways to Save $100 This Year – Part 3

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I'm so enjoying writing this series on ways we've saved over the past six years of our marriage–and especially during those early law school days. It's been good to review various ideas which have worked well for us and I'm hopeful you're being inspired at the same time. If you've missed the previous two installments of this series, you can read them here and here.

13) Switch to Basic H for household cleaning. Those who have known me for some time have already heard me sign the praises of Basic H.
It's an all-purpose, all-natural, non-toxic cleaner which you can use
in place of pretty much every other cleaner in your home.

I like
it not only because it is all-natural and doesn't contain the harmful
chemicals most cleaners do, but it's also incredibly frugal. One 16-oz.
bottle of concentrate costs around $12 and makes 48 gallons of
cleaner–enough to last us for at least 3-4 years. That's quite a deal!

Caveat:
I don't sell this product, nor do I make a penny off promoting it. I
just personally really like it and highly recommend it. If you are
interested in reading more about it or purchasing it, go here.

14) Utilize Craigslist. Over the years, we've saved hundreds of dollars by purchasing big tickets items off of Craigslist for pennies on the dollar. Among other things, we've purchased exercise equipment, a living room set, and our kitchen table through Craigslist.

As always, if you don't need the items in the first place and can't afford them, don't even begin looking at Craigslist. But if you're in the market for something and have the cash set aside for it, definitely check out Craigslist. If you're patient, you'll likely be able to score quite a bargain!

If you're new to Craigslist, Carrie has a great post here with tips for buying on Craigslist.

15) Use Skype for long-distance phone calls. If you have a headset and a high speed internet connection, you can use Skype and drastically reduce your long-distance phone bills.

You can make Skype-to-Skype phone calls completely free of charge to anywhere in the world. If you want to call from your computer to a landline, you can use the pay-as-you-go plan and it's only about $0.02/minute for phone calls to 35 different countries. Or, you can sign up for an unlimited monthly plan for $2.95-$9.95 per month.

When my husband was in law school, my sister and her husband were living in Taiwan, so Skype was wonderful! Not only could my sister and I talk anytime–so long as we were both on the computer–but it was free of charge!

Skype does have its drawbacks: sometimes the reception isn't that great or there's a delay, but for free, who can complain?

16) Barter! One of my favorite ways to save money and help others out in the process is to use the old-fashioned bartering system. From hair cuts to babysitting to car maintenance, we've bartered just about everything under the sun over the years.

Bartering works especially well when you're friends with other frugal folks who would rather swap time or expertise instead of spending money. Not only is it a great way to save money, it also fosters camaraderie and community among friends.

So think about what areas you are gifted in and what areas some of your friends might be gifted in and then see if they'd be up for swapping services or other things.

To be continued…

photo by Refracted Moments

18 Mar 2009   ·   253
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Saving money on formula?

We've talked about a lot of different things recently related to Having a Baby Without Breaking the Bank. As many of you know, I'm a big proponent of breast-feeding and believe that in most cases, with the right support and determination, most moms are able to breastfeed.

That said, I know there are cases where breastfeeding is not possible–such as when there are medical or physical conditions hindering a mom's ability to breastfeed or when you are adoptive parents, etc. And in those cases, buying formula can quickly become very expensive.

Sariah recently emailed me her predicament and I wanted to post her question for discussion since I know she's not the only one who is struggling or has struggled with this:

I'm about to give birth to our fourth child. For reasons that
are too long to get into here, I can't breastfeed my kids. The last three children have required a gentle formula for
digestive issues, and I've been very brand loyal to Enfamil. It's
scary to me to consider switching to another brand, but Enfamil is so expensive.

Do anyone of your readers have ideas on how to get name brand formula at a discount or input as to whether
any of the generic brands (such as Wal-Mart or Target) are comparable
to the name brands? -Sariah

If you have suggestions or input for Sariah, I'd love to have you take a moment to comment.

Note: As I do my best to keep this blog upbeat and free from debate and I understand that the topic of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding can (sadly) quickly become a very divisive issue, I would like to kindly ask that all comments be kept to the questions at hand. Thanks so much!

18 Mar 2009   ·   45
Make big bucks on Craigslist and become the ultimate seller with these super helpful tips!

9 Insider Tips for Successfully Selling on Craigslist

Make big bucks on Craigslist and become the ultimate seller with these super helpful tips!

Guest Post by Carrie from SpringsBargains.com

Have you been to Craigslist? It’s like the ultimate online garage sale! We’ve used it for several years now and have bought and sold pretty extensively. It’s a great way to make a few extra bucks and declutter at the same time.

In all the transactions we’ve done, I’ve learned a few tips on selling that I hope are helpful to you:

1. Post good photos.

Use a “real” digital camera, not a cameraphone or otherwise poor quality camera. A fuzzy photo makes people wonder what you are trying to hide, even if you’re not trying to hide anything!
Take several different photos (the maximum is four) from various angles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a horizontal photo and a vertical photo taken from the exact same angle.

2. Write an accurate description and price accordingly.

Your leather couch that your dog has chewed on is not going to go for the same price other leather couches without teeth marks are going for.

Disclose any flaws that you know of. Don’t say, “I paid $1000 for it 5 years ago and I only want $750!” If you think you can get that great of return on something you’ve used for 5 years, please don’t say how much you paid for it. In my opinion, it is rarely a good idea to quote the original price. It can almost always be used against you.

3. Note what area of town you are in.

There is a place on the form to do this. Are you north, south, east, west? What neighborhood? “Rockrimmon” gives a lot more information than “West Colorado Springs.” And by the way, everyone else in the world is not a zip code geek like you so putting only your zip code down is silly because very few people are going to know what part of town that is!

4. Be ready to respond to inquiries.

It should be obvious that you should not leave on vacation an hour after posting your ad. But you may post it and be gone for a few hours. In that case, it’s not a bad idea to include your phone number. If you’re not going to be able to check your email for some reason, include your phone number.

5. Don’t waste time on deadbeats.

If your item is in high demand, you will often get ten or more emails in the first hour or two. If someone is already trying to ask for a lower price, or wants to know a hundred things more about it, I don’t waste time on them unless they are the only inquiry.

Although it is considered courteous to offer the item on a first-come, first-served basis, if there are more than a few responses I usually skip over anyone who gives any indication they will be difficult to work with, such as wanting a discount before seeing the item, difficulty in arranging a time to pick up the item, or asking a myriad of questions that are irrelevant for a used item that’s being sold for a fair price.

6. Specify when you want to get rid of it.

We had over 25 inquiries the Sunday afternoon we posted an ad for a mattress. I promised it to the first person I emailed, and they were going to pick it up that night. They called later and wanted to know if they could pick it up the next day, which was fine but then they didn’t show up.

We were finally able to sell it to someone else on Monday, but it was maddening to sit at home thinking someone is going to come by our house to buy something and then they don’t show. We started putting something like: “The first person who’s able to come get it by tonight gets dibs!” on the ad to prevent something like that from happening again.

7. Save your “back-up buyers” emails.

Sometimes you will have someone not show up, or cancel, or decide they don’t want it. In that case, you could post it again, or if you’ve saved the emails other people sent, you can just email them all directly and and re-offer it to them. If the item has already been promised to someone but hasn’t been picked up yet, I will usually email any further inquiries and tell them it’s pending pick up, but that if there is a no-show or something I will email them back.

8. Meet at a location other than your home.

There are two reasons for this. One, you never know what kind of person is going to show up to buy the baby crib you’re selling. Two, it is easier to tell someone to meet you at the McDonald’s at a certain intersection than to give them directions to your house. Be sure to pick a place that is convenient for you.

9. Follow the rules and be courteous.

If your item doesn’t sell, re-post it according to the guidelines. If you’ve posted it twice with no response, it probably means no one wants it or you are asking too much.

As a buyer, it gets really annoying to see the same exact postings get posted every couple of days with no change–no new pictures, same description, no price adjustments. I have seem people post the same thing every day for a month, and I have to wonder if they really want to sell it or if they just like posting stuff!

Carrie Isaac blogs about deals in Colorado Springs at SpringsBargains.com.

photo by Unhindered by Talent


16 Mar 2009   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

What’s on the menu this week

Greenmpm 

Our freezer is quite stocked, but I have a few more items I still wanted to make up to add to it before the baby comes so my goal is to finish those this week. I've planned them into our regular menus so that I can just double or triple a batch of whatever I'm making to make it much easier and efficient. At this season of my life, this is one of the easiest ways for me to make up food for the freezer–especially when it comes to main dishes.

Here's the proposed menu:

Breakfasts
Whole-wheat pumpkin waffles, fruit  
Strawberry smoothies, toast
Banana bread, apples, scrambled eggs with cheese
Oatmeal with brown sugar
Blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs
Cereal

Lunches
Homemade pita pockets (make extra for the freezer) with melted cheese, apples
Veggie frittata
Spinach brown rice and cheese casserole (make extra for the freezer)
PB&J, carrots
Apples with peanut butter, cranberry pumpkin muffins
Baked potatoes with cheese and broccoli
Egg salad sandwiches, apples
Leftovers

Dinners
Steak, wild rice, steamed veggies, banana bread
Homemade BBQ Beef Pizza, veggies and dip
Three-Cheese Baked Spaghetti (make 2 extra for the freezer), cooked carrots, Italian cheese bread
Steak, baked potatoes, green bean casserole
Quiche, grapefruit
Veggie and steak stir fry over brown rice
Dinner out

Snacks
Muffins (from the freezer)
Cereal
Veggies
Apples
Granola bars

14 Mar 2009   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: My Dillons shopping trip

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See all those groceries? We paid $19 for all of those! Our receipt said we saved $86, but that doesn't include the money saved on mark-downs. If I were to include those prices as well, it would have been around $100 saved. Of course, I would never pay $100 for those groceries, but it's still fun to realize the savings that using coupons combined with sales produces!

I was especially excited about scoring all of those Colgate toothpastes and toothbrushes for free as well as getting paid $2.50 per tub of baby wipes I bought. The Barbara's cereals were reduced to $2.05/box plus I had $1/1 coupons making them only $1.05/box–which is a great price in my book for organic, all-natural cereal!

If you have a Dillons nearby, you can see more details on the deals I scored and other deals here.

We also made a trip to Aldi earlier in the week to buy some more baking/cooking staples and a bunch of produce. I usually don't make more than one shopping trip per week, but I was so energized this week to bake that I decided to use some of my leftover grocery money from the last few weeks to stock up in order to completely stock our freezers.

So I spent $39 at Aldi this week, in addition to the $19 above for a total of $58 spent on groceries this week. I didn't quite make my $40-$45 goal I was shooting for, however, I used leftover grocery money from the last few weeks budgets so I'm still well under budget for the month of March.

And the good news? We now have about 20 dinners in one freezer for after the baby comes and another freezer stocked with baked goods for the next few weeks. Having our freezers well-stocked is certainly going to save us quite a bit of money over the next few months while I'm especially tired or lacking in energy. Instead of getting carryout or turning to more expensive convenience foods, we can just pull something out of the freezer!

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week? If so, be
sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please
remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got
this week and/or money you were able to save this week. Links which do
not specifically relate to this will be deleted. Also, to make it easy
for everyone to navigate quickly through
the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday
post.

13 Mar 2009   ·   46
Do you have a baby on the way, but you're worried about your finances? Read this encouraging series on how to have a baby without breaking the budget! TONS of great tips!

Having a Baby Without Breaking the Bank: Baby Doesn’t Need a Room of Her Own (Guest Post)

Do you have a baby on the way, but you're worried about your finances? Read this encouraging series on how to have a baby without breaking the budget! TONS of great tips!

Guest Post by Carrie Kirby from Shoplifting With Permission

Open any pregnancy magazine, and you’ll see that parents-to-be are expected to devote considerable time and money to furnishing and decorating a nursery for the new baby. Upscale publications even depict parents agonizing over how to apply their sophisticated decorating sensibilities to a baby’s environment by finding curtains, crib bumpers, and wall appliques that aren’t too cutesie.

I have been spared such dilemmas, because I never put together a nursery for either of my girls–nor am I planning one for the baby we’re expecting this summer. What I have realized over the course of raising two babies is that the last thing an infant needs is a room of her own. Since moving to a bigger home is one of the most expensive changes families make when they have kids, it’s worthwhile to consider whether a move can be postponed or avoided.

With our first baby, we lived in a one-bedroom condo and didn’t have a separate room to decorate. At the time, this situation pained me, because I felt like I was sitting out of an all-important nesting activity. I did try my best to decorate and furnish the end of our bedroom that would be the baby’s, and this compromise ended up fulfilling both the baby’s needs and my need to play out the full expecting mother experience.

I worried, during my pregnancy, that we were terrible parents for not moving to a bigger place–something that would have been impossible for us at the time. I didn’t realize that for most families, that lovingly decorated new nursery is superfluous in the early months because babies typically spend their nights in the parent’s room. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns sleep in the same room as their parents.

We put the changing table up against one bedroom wall, hung a baby organizer and some baskets on the wall for holding burp clothes and little hats, and put a Pack ‘N Play next to the bed as a bassinet. The crib we placed in a spare corner of the living room, so I could keep an eye and an ear on my newborn during her naps.

The only time we ever needed the baby monitor we’d received at the shower was when I went to the basement to throw in a load of laundry. When the baby was older, we put away the Pack ‘N Play, got rid of most of our bedroom furniture besides the bed, and managed to squeeze the crib into our room.

When does a baby need a separate room to sleep in? Technically, never, if you think about the fact that in the course of human history, the idea of private bedrooms for each person is a relatively recent innovation. Even today, it’s not universal–plenty of cultures worldwide still consider it normal and desirable for the whole family to share a room, or even a bed. But practically speaking, where to keep the children is a decision that should be based on each family’s needs and resources.

We began to feel the need to get the baby out of our room when I wanted to stop getting up to nurse her at night. This happened between the ages of 12 and 18 months. If I had it to do over again, I probably would have moved the baby’s crib back to the living room at that point. Instead, we kept the baby in our room and when the she cried–when my attempts to soothe her without nursing failed–we’d try to sleep through her yells. One of us would usually end up on the couch, where there was not enough room for two. It was not a fun time.

This does not mean, however, that you need to move to a home with a separate bedroom for the baby by the time you want to night wean or when she hits a certain age. For most babies, the period when there is a lot of crying at night is short (although it feels like eternity at the time). Some families are even successful getting their babies to sleep through the night without any crying.

You can probably find a temporary solution that allows other family members to get their rest if the baby’s being noisy. When our second baby was a few months old, we moved to a three-bedroom house. Our plan was for her to transition from our room to sharing the second bedroom with her sister, then 3 years old. The third bedroom we reserved as a guest room/den.Naturally, the second baby went through a time when she was waking her sister with nighttime crying. We experimented with various set-ups, moving the Pack ‘N Play to the guest room and the living room at different times. Eventually, we moved her back into the kids’ room and her sister learned to sleep right through the crying. And, then, thankfully, the crying mostly stopped.

Probably the most important issue when living in a small home with a new baby is not the baby itself, but all the equipment that often comes with a baby. If you share a small space with a baby, it’s essential to keep equipment and toys to a minimum to stay sane!

Here are some other creative ideas for housing the baby in a small home:

1) The baby doesn’t have to be changed in the same place she sleeps. In fact, the bathroom is the best place for a changing surface if there is room. If space is really tight, skip the changing table and simply keep a basket of supplies and a changing pad wherever’s handy.

2) One family I know put the baby’s crib on the landing between the bedrooms. Just make sure that the crib can’t roll down the stairs!

3) To make room for a crib in a kid’s room, consider bed sharing or bunk beds for older siblings.

4) Check out this breakfast-nook-turned-nursery created by Maggie Mason, who blogs at MightyGirl.net. Their budget was $1,400, most of which went toward having doors custom-made for the formerly open nook.

5) At the website, Apartmenttherapy.com, readers recently weighed in on how long a family of three could live in a 400-square-foot apartment. Read the thoughts and ideas shared here.

6) There’s a helpful tutorial on EHow on turning a walk-in closet into a nursery here.

Freelance writer Carrie Kirby blogs about frugal living at Shoplifting With Permission and about parenting at My Funny, Funny Family.

photo by Erik van der Neut