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2 Aug 2011   ·   46
Money Saving Mom

Save Money By Trading Goods and Services with Friends

Guest post by Amy Gabriel at Gabriel’s Good Tidings and The Quiet Little Ladybug

I have many friends who have a wide variety of skills and talents. Over the past year, I’ve been able to “trade” things with these women on many occasions. We mutually benefit from one another – I enjoy sharing my sewing skills with friends, and I am elated when a friend shares her talents with me.

For example, last fall Tonya posted a round seasonal tablecloth in our church newsletter. She no longer needed this shape, so I converted the fabric into napkins for her. In return, she made a batch of dough and posted about this trade on her blog. This provided publicity for my new sewing blog, and allowed our family to enjoy a dinner with her homemade pizza dough.

Stephanie makes beautiful cakes and offered to supply the cake for my daughter’s birthday party. In exchange, I am making her daughter a handmade blanket. I love good coffee creamer, so Esther made me a jar of homemade vanilla creamer and I sewed an Osnaburg bread bag for her.

Although mending clothing is not my favorite sewing project, I will often do it for friends. Such is the case with Sarah, who makes gorgeous jewelry. She has offered to repair some broken necklaces for me in return for mending some torn jeans.

Here are a few guidelines I follow when trading goods and services with friends:

Make sure all the terms are clear before the trade.

Talk about specifics of what you will trade, when it will be finished, and any other details before you start. Even with close friends, it’s important to know what is expected from both parties.

Recognize abilities in your friends.

Encourage those you know by saying, “I love your home décor. What can I offer you in return for helping me remodel my bedroom?” This will make your friend grin from ear to ear and she will be more than happy to find something she desires from your abilities.

Make sure you are compensated for your time and investment.

Even though you aren’t exchanging money, make sure both parties are receiving their fair share. It may help to think about what you would charge for such a good or service, and compare that to what you are being given.

Think outside the box.

Maybe you love to clean and can offer cleaning services in exchange for babysitting your children. Perhaps you love to cook and could offer a meal to a friend who could iron your husband’s shirts. Or, consider sharing flowers from your garden in return for washing and waxing your vehicle. Another idea is to share some of your stockpile with a friend who knits beautiful scarves and mittens. Even if you don’t consider your skill a true talent, it is surely valuable to someone.

Trading goods and services is a great way to “splurge” on something you may not typically have, build stronger relationships with friends, and share your gifts with others.

Amy is a wife, mother, seamstress and pediatric nurse. She blogs about her sewing projects at Gabriel’s Good Tidings and about her daughter’s verbal apraxia at The Quiet Little Ladybug.

Note from Crystal: Please note that according to the IRS, the fair market value of bartered services must be reported as income.

2 Aug 2011   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Cardboard Dollhouse-Making Trumped My To-Do List

{Yes, gulp, that’s my laundry pile! Gratefully, it is all folded and put away now — at least for today!}

I recently joined the MomLife blog team as a monthly contributor. My first post is up today and I thought it would be an encouragement to some of you young moms:

It was Monday morning. My to-do list was massively long, the house was a mess, the laundry pile was enormous, and to top it all off, I was recovering from being sick over the weekend.

I got the children up and fed, bathed, dressed, and helped them do their morning chores. All the while, I was thinking of a fun activity they could do that wouldn’t make much additional mess and would occupy them for at least an hour or two so I could tackle my ever-growing to-do list.

Inspiration struck as I picked up an empty cardboard box. “Hey, children,” I exclaimed enthusiastically, “do you want to make cardboard dollhouses for your little dolls?”

Read the full post.

1 Aug 2011   ·   14
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Walgreens Shopping Trip

6 Wexford Pocket Folder with Prongs — $0.11 each

1 Acco Paper Clips — $0.33 each with in-ad coupon

5 Wexford Legal Pads — $0.33 each with in-ad coupon

3 12-packs of Colored Pencils — $0.59 each

2 Fiskars scissors — $0.79 each with in-ad coupon

3 Pentel Lead Refills — $0.90 each with in-ad coupon

1 Mini Stapler — $0.69

2 Sandwich bags — $0.99 each

Total with tax: $12.47

1 Aug 2011   ·   49
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

We made it through our busy week last week and are looking forward to a bit more of a relaxed week this week. We are hosting another smaller baby shower tomorrow for my sister, but I’m just providing the home to have it at and my sister-in-law and sisters are doing all the prep work. So it should be pretty simple for me to pull off — especially since my house is already clean from last week’s shower!

Oh and did anyone notice I completely skipped posting about last week’s Freezer Cooking session? Um, that would be because I didn’t get it done. When my to-do list started becoming a little overwhelming on Thursday, I decided that was something that just get skipped since we still had some meals in the freezer. But I promise I’ll do my best to actually follow through with freezer cooking and posting about it this week!

My sister and her husband and children are in town this week, so that means there will be a lot of family get-togethers and meals shared together. Which means we probably won’t follow this plan, but we at least have a plan:

Breakfasts
Granola bars, fruit
Peanut butter & homemade jam sandwiches, Orange Cream Smoothies
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies
Scrambled eggs and toast, fruit
Oatmeal, Blueberry Ginger Smoothie
Fried egg sandwiches, Pick-Me-Up Smoothies
Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes, scrambled eggs

Lunches
Leftovers
Homemade biscuits, fruit, scrambled eggs
Salad with hard boiled eggs, fruit
Peanut butter & homemade jam sandwiches, fruit, carrots
Macaroni & Cheese, peas
Refried beans with cheese & salad, fruit
Tuna salad sandwiches, fruit, carrots
Leftovers

Snacks
Banana Almond Smoothie
Frozen Banana Bites
Banana Cocoa Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Fruit/Veggies

Dinners
Dinner with family (we brought Au Gratin Potatoes and leftover cheesecake from Saturday’s shower)
Dinner with family
Sloppy Joes, steamed vegetables, fruit, Au Gratin Potatoes
Crockpot Barbecue Chicken, Bread Machine Bread Sticks, green salad, fruit
Lasagna Casserole, fruit, Bread Machine Bread Sticks, green salad
Hamburgers, Oven Baked Parmesan Seasoned Fries, steamed veggies, fruit
Dinner at extended family’s house

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Homemade Pancake Mix
Honey Pizza Dough
Frozen Banana Bites
Crockpot Barbecue Chicken

1 Aug 2011   ·   72
Money Saving Mom

4 Tips for Saving Money on Camping

Guest post by Beverly Bennett from Busy Mom’s Tips and Ideas

Want to go camping but don’t have a large budget to buy all the supplies you need? Here are some suggestions for buying camping gear on a budget:

Borrow from Family or Friends

See if any of your family members or friends will let you borrow some of their camping gear. Some people are very particular about this and may not be comfortable about letting you borrow, but you never know until you ask.

Join Freecycle

Join your local freecycle group and watch the everyday ads. Post a request for camping gear and see if anyone has any they’d like to get rid of.

Buy from eBay

You can often find items new or used for great prices on eBay. We recently picked up a great tent for a bargain price off eBay. Just be really cautious of shipping fees, if you aren’t careful you can pay more than you would at the store new because shipping fees can be so expensive.

Use Leftover Firewood

We bring firewood with us when we go camping, however, while camping we make it our goal to not purchase any more campfire wood. We usually arrive at the campgrounds on Sundays soon after most of the weekend campers have left. We immediately go and look at the empty camp sites for firewood left behind. By doing this, we usually have enough firewood to last most of the week.

What ways have you found to save money on camping gear?

Beverly Bennett is a mom who enjoys writing. She enjoys sharing her journeys, tips, and passions on her blog, Busy Mom’s Tips and Ideas. She is blessed to have a hard-working husband and three beautiful girls.

photo credit

30 Jul 2011   ·   46
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

Life was more than a little busy this week with me finishing up the final edits for my book, Jesse prepping for a big case, two of my children being sick, and all of us preparing for the big bridal shower we’re hosting this evening. So other than buying things for the bridal shower tonight, I didn’t buy any groceries and we just ate from the freezer and pantry.

We did get some great deals at Office Max, though.

And we bought a bunch of strawberries to make chocolate dipped strawberries for the bridal shower. They were $0.88 at Aldi this week, so we price-matched at Walmart and got 10 packages!

We also got two fun freebies in the mail yesterday: the free sample box of Honey Nut Cheerios and the free Pantene Shampoo or Conditioner coupon.

Would you like to know what the best deals and coupon match-ups are for your local stores? Be sure to check out the Store Deals section of our site where we post the best deals and coupon match-ups each week for over 100 different stores across the country. You can sign up to receive the top deals in your email inbox each week as soon as they are posted!

Find

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money 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 and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. 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.

29 Jul 2011   ·   61
Money Saving Mom

Fun & Frugal: Recycling magazines

We’ve been experiencing weeks of intense heat here in Kansas. With three young and active children, the heat has provided a challenge as they can’t go outside and play for long stretches of time.

So, everyday has been exercise in creativity (and sometimes patience!) as I wrack my brain for new and interesting indoor activities to keep them occupied. Earlier this week, I was feeling rather uninspired when I spied my stack of magazines. I pulled out a few issues that were getting ready to head to the recycling bin, got out scissors, glue, and other craft supplies and told them to make a page of all their favorite pictures.

They had a blast and it kept them busy for quite a long time. Best of all, it cost me nothing as I used things we already had on hand.

What fun & frugal activities have you been doing with your youngsters recently? I’d love get some new ideas to add to my list!

29 Jul 2011   ·   57
Money Saving Mom

Back-to-School Teacher Kits

Ashley shared this great idea for a creative use for some of the Back-to-School Deals many of us have been picking up:

I love new school supplies just as much as the next person. This time of year I find myself stocking up on what seems like an endless supply of pens, tape, and post-its.

However, I was able to pick up so many great deals that I had more than I needed. So I decided to put together “Back-to-School” kits for the teachers at my son’s school along with a note wishing them well for the up coming school year.

In each bag I included:
3 10-packs of BIC pens
1 2-pack of Black Sharpie markers
1 Scotch Magic Tape
3 packs of Post-It Notes

Everything was free after coupons! I attached a note to each bag that read, “Wishing You A Wonderful School Year!” -Ashley

29 Jul 2011   ·   49
Money Saving Mom

Free one-year subscription to AboutOne (and why I might win the Worst Mom of the Year Award)

AboutOne — an online organization tool for home managers — provides one place to organize your family’s health, education, and possession records and precious memories and syncs your information with its calendar, address book, document filing, and reporting tools.

You can access your information from your phone, a computer, or any other device with Internet access, no matter where you are, whenever you need it. All your information is stored with bank-level security.

Always forgetting things? You can set up your account to give you alerts and reminders. Plus, you don’t have to worry about losing your information in case of a computer crash; AboutOne expertly handles backups and security for you.

My favorite thing about AboutOne is that you type in little daily memories. I’m not very good about keeping journals or baby books (okay, confession time: I don’t have baby books for any of my children. I tried with Kathrynne and never even finished the first few pages, so I finally gave up and now just stick with doing photo books!), but I always wish I had an online place to keep track of the funny little things my children say, the milestones, and all those things I don’t want to forget as a mom.

I was excited to see that AboutOne can be a sort of online baby book–I can type in a short little memory or funny saying or milestone from the day every day on AboutOne. For someone like me who can’t seem to figure out how to pull off the baby book thing (all you moms who update your child’s baby books consistently are my heroes!), this is a wonderful way to still not forget and feel like I’m at least doing something to remember these precious moments!

Want to try AboutOne yourself? You can get an absolutely free one-year subscription right now. Just use coupon code MSMFREE and it will take off the purchase price of $30. This code is good for one free AboutOne subscription and doesn’t expire until August 12, 2011.

29 Jul 2011   ·   9
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash: A New-To-Us Swing Set

We paid cash!

A testimony from Melissa at Far From Flawless

Last fall, I sold the Little Tykes backyard playset that we were quickly outgrowing. We needed (and used) the cash for a Thanksgiving trip to visit family who live far away. I was hopeful that we could save enough for a larger, sturdier, wooden playset this spring. It took us a bit longer because of unexpected medical needs, but last week we were thrilled to have our new-to-us swing set and fort installed.

How We Saved

Great Grandma gives each child $20 for their birthday and we had three birthdays from January to May. My oldest son opted to give his birthday money to the missions project at VBS, but the rest was saved for the swing set. Great Grandma sent us a bit extra, too, which was also applied to the fund. Thank you, Nana!

In the ongoing effort to purge, I listed and then sold several knick-knacks around the home on Craigslist. We capped off our swing set savings fund with $55 earned when we included items at my mother’s garage/moving sale.

How We Found a Deal

After watching all the sales and pricing swing sets at home improvement stores, Walmart, and Sam’s Club, I determined that purchasing brand-new was just too much for this single mama’s budget. My next step was to scour Craigslist, which I did. The very few that came available in our area were overpriced extremely worn and needing repair, and/or looked overwhelming to relocate and construct myself.

I had just about given up the idea (and almost convinced my children the park was just as good), when a friend made a passing commenting about her children getting a new trampoline because they had outgrown their swing set. *Ding *Ding *Ding!

Sure enough, she was willing to sell at a great price because she was grateful for the yard space. And to top it all off, she convinced her husband to haul and set up the new-to-us swing set at our house!

We are just thrilled!

Surprised to find herself in the role of single mother, Missy is a hard-working optimist doing her best to enjoy life and demonstrate Christ’s faithfulness in this not-so-perfect world. Three little ones provide joy and purpose along with many “growth opportunities.” Missy blogs about the adventures and pitfalls of life at Far From Flawless.

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

28 Jul 2011   ·   21
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Office Max shopping trip

Did you see the Office Max coupons I posted earlier? I was excited that our stores had everything in stock so we were able to get the maximum amount allowed for each coupon:

6 Office Max packages of filler paper – $0.10 each

5 Just Basics Ballpoint pens (10-pack) – $0.20 each

5 Schoolio 1-subject notebook, 70 sheets – $0.20 each

Remember that these coupons are only good through July 31, 2011.

28 Jul 2011   ·   26
Money Saving Mom

Reader Testimonial: A Place to Live for Three Months

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were shocked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 Jul 2011   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

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

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

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

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

::Pros::

Ad Networks Require Little Effort

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

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

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

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

Ad Networks Often Sell More Than Just Ads

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

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

::Cons::

Ad Networks Give You Less Control

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

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

Ad Networks Can Be Difficult to Get In With

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

Things to Consider Before Joining An Ad Network:

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit