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8 Aug 2011   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

Failure is an option

Our family is enjoying our annual vacation at the lake in Arkansas with my extended family this week. We always rent a boat and spend many hours on the water.

Most of my family members are adept at skiing–my dad started water-skiing when he was four or five years old and, over fifty years later, he’s still amazing on skis. My brother is a wakeboard whiz. And pretty much everyone else in my family makes water-skiing look like a piece of cake.

Everyone, that is, but me.

I can get up on two skis alright. It’s not pretty, but I can get up and stay up, go over the wakes, and do a decent job of it. But, try as I might, I’ve never been able to slalom.

And today was no different. After watching my brother, dad, and mom all successfully slalom, I jumped out into the water for my turn–determined that I was going to get up on one ski this year.

However, it seems all the determination in the world couldn’t lift my body out of the water to stand up on that one ski. I tried and fell ten times before finally calling it quits for the day (I figured all the patient cheerleaders in the boat probably would like to do something other than start and stop the boat all afternoon!).

Was I discouraged? Yes. I really wanted this year to be the year that I successfully slalomed.

Was I defeated? No. I know I did my best and tried my hardest. I listened to the instructions from my dad and brother. I tried different things to make it work. I gritted my teeth and hung on even when it hurt.

Most of all, I made myself do something hard and kept trying even when I fell down.

Maybe I’ll never be able to get up on one ski. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day it happens. I don’t know. But one thing I do know is this: if you never jump out into the water in the first place, if you never step out of your comfort zone, if you never try hard things, you’ll always be in the same place in life.

Success never comes to people who sit and do nothing. Even if you try something and end up falling flat on your face, you’re still farther ahead than the person who never begins in the first place.

And even if you never get to where you hope to go, I promise you’ll be stronger for trying.

8 Aug 2011   ·   37
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan: The We’re On Vacation Edition

We drove to Arkansas yesterday afternoon to spend a few days on the lake with my extended family. This is our annual get-together and it’s something everyone looks forward to each year.

We share all our meals together and cook/bake all the food in the kitchen in my parent’s cabin, taking turns helping with the meals and clean up for each meal. My parents provide a lot of the food and the rest of us pitch in by bringing what extras we already have on hand (we’re all couponers so we typically raid our pantries and incorporate the excess items into the menu plan for the week!).

Since everyone splits up the cooking and clean up duties, it makes mealtime pretty simple to pull off and keeps it a laid back week for all of us. This not only saves a lot of money, but it gives us more time to spend enjoying the lake and a break from the normal busyness of life.

Silas “driving” the rental boat with my dad

Since I’m not in charge of planning the menu, I’m not exactly sure what all is on the menu this week. So far, we’ve done spaghetti (last night’s dinner) and hamburgers (tonight’s dinner). Breakfast was French Toast, bacon and eggs, smoothies, and juice this morning. Lunches have been sandwiches both days.

We have somewhat of a plan for the rest of the week, but we’ll also wing it some and probably create some new recipe creations using odds and ends of things we brought, too.

What’s on your menu this week? Share details and/or your link to your menu plan in the comments.

8 Aug 2011   ·   13
Money Saving Mom

Teaching Your Tot Without Breaking the Bank – Part 2

Guest post by Jenae from I Can Teach My Child

Teaching your little one doesn’t require fancy curriculum or gobs of materials. As we discussed in my last post, hands-on structured activities for your toddler and preschooler can easily be created by simply using items from around your home. Just keep in mind, however, that young children learn best through play. Give them plenty of opportunities to play with various items by themselves and with you!

When creating a structured activity for your young child, it’s important to keep it short and simple. If an activity takes more than 15-20 minutes, it will probably lose your young child’s attention. Make sure to also keep it upbeat and don’t let your time together be tainted with power struggles. If your child has no interest or refuses to cooperate with an activity, just put it away for another day.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when teaching your child various “subjects”:

Early Math Skills

  • Number Recognition: Recognizing and identifying numbers 1-10 is an important skill for any preschooler to learn in order to be prepared for kindergarten. Even though eventually your child will need to automatically recognize these numbers, resist the temptation to use flashcards or rote memorization. Hands-on experiences and repetition are the best way to teach numbers, whether you’re looking at addresses on mailboxes or pointing out the letters on a calendar.
  • One-to-one correspondence: This is basically just a fancy term for your child being able to recognize that the number seven relates to seven objects by counting them. There are ample opportunities to encourage this skill in your daily life! Try counting kisses or sorting small snacks into a numbered egg carton! Counting songs such as “Five Little Ducks” and “Five Little Monkeys” are also great!

Language Development

  • Reading: Reading to your child is one of the single most important things you can do for developing language skills, starting at infancy!  Although it’s nice to own a few favorites, it is unnecessary to spend a fortune on books.  Most local libraries have a great selection of children’s books, including board books. Another great option is using PaperBackSwap!
  • Letter Recognition: Just like number recognition, teaching your child capital and lower-case letters should not be a tedious or monotonous task.  Alphabet Crafts are a great way to make learning letters fun and interactive. My 3-year old knows how to spell his name simply from his interest in the wooden letters that spell his name on the wall in his bedroom. Go on “hunts” for letters when out running errands or reading books. Learning baskets are also a great way to incorporate letter recognition while still being fun and hands-on!
  • Handwriting: The web is abuzz with tons of printables for teaching your child how to write capital and lower-case letters (go here and here). Prior to using a pen and paper, though, try making letters in shaving cream or forming them with feathers! Keep in mind that printables are great — in moderation. Children retain information better when multiple senses are incorporated into a learning experience.
  • Art: One of the best things we can do for our children is give them opportunities to just be kids…which, of course, includes getting messy! Allowing them to explore and be creative helps them learn about textures, colors, and the world around them. Sensory tubs are also great for toddlers and preschoolers. Did you know you can make almost all the art supplies you need at home? Here are just a few recipes:

Parent-directed activities are great for young children, but kids need time to just be kids. Pretend play is also such an important developmental part of the learning process in preschoolers — and even Mom can join in every now and then!

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

photo credit

5 Aug 2011   ·   48
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash: A Grain Mill

We paid cash!

A testimony by Gretchen from Extraordinary Ordinary Life

For two years now, I have been wanting a grain mill. I researched the different types and read reviews and finally decided on a Nutrimill. However, I did not want to pay full price.

How I Saved

I have a small checking account that is separate from our main family checking account. We put money into that account whenever my husband gets paid.  This small account is for groceries, clothes, and a few extra items.

I take out the cash that I need for the week (per our budget) from this account and save any extras I can. Since I try to buy my groceries in bulk and make a lot of things from scratch, this allows me to be able to save a little bit from our grocery budget each week.

The Search is On

After several months of setting aside the extra money from our grocery budget, I was able to accumulate $200 extra in that account to use for the grain mill. Once I had enough money in savings, I began checking Craigslist and searching for “grain mill” or “Nutrimill”.  (I wanted to buy from Craigslist instead of Ebay to avoid shipping fees.)

A few weeks ago, I finally found someone who was selling their Nutrimill grain mill. The person recently found out she could no longer have gluten so that is the reason she was selling it.  She listed it for $150 so I quickly sent her an e-mail that I would love to buy it.

A Grain Mill + 50 Pounds of Grains (and more!) for $196!

When I went to the seller’s house to buy the grain mill, I found out that she also had extra kamut, spelt, and millet she was willing to sell so I bought 50 pounds total from her. Plus, I was also able to purchase bread bags, bread pans, and a grain cook book. She even threw in a waffle maker for free!

I ended up paying $196 for the Nutrimill and all the extras I purchased from the seller. Since I had saved $200 for the grain mill, I was right under budget! I was so excited I found all of this for under $200 since a new Nutrimill runs about $260 just by itself.

Tips for buying a grain mill:

  • Do your research! Read reviews and find out what each mill can do and what grains can be ground with it.
  • Price grains — it will do you no good to buy a grain mill if you can’t afford to buy the grains.
  • Be patient — people usually keep their grain mills forever but occasionally you will come across them.
  • Check estate sales, Craigslist, and Ebay.
  • Negotiate and be willing to walk away if the deal is not a good one.
  • Know your prices. Some people on Ebay are selling grain mills for more than you can buy a one new.

Tips for buying from Craigslist:

  • Always bring someone with you, especially if you are going to someone’s house that you don’t know (or meet at a public location). I have bought several things from Craigslist, including blueberry bushes, canning jars, and now a grain mill. It is a great resource, but you need to make sure you take the proper precaution when you are buying from someone you don’t know.
  • Bring cash and look over your purchase before you leave so you can make sure it was advertised correctly.

Gretchen is a stay-at-home mom to three kids and a wife to one hard working husband.  She blogs about her ordinary days at Extraordinary Ordinary Life.

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

4 Aug 2011   ·   124
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking in an Hour: Frozen Banana Bites, Pancake Mix, Pizza Dough, Crockpot Barbecue Chicken

After playing hooky last week, I was so excited to actually start and finish my entire Freezer Cooking in an Hour plan yesterday! Here’s how it went down:

4:30 — I get a later start than planned because I was supposed to have a video interview in the afternoon and they ended up having technical difficulties and it took a lot longer than they initially had planned.

I set out some craft supplies for the girls to work on at the kitchen table and I start some flour grinding in the garage (the mill gets flour dust everywhere so I grind flour in the garage!). While it’s grinding, I put together the Crockpot Barbecue Chicken. Since I’ve already made it before, it’s a piece of cake to pull off.

4:40 — The flour is done being ground, the chicken is finished, and I stop to take a break and go through the mail. My clearance swimsuit arrived from Lands End, so of course I also have to go try it on and see if it’s going to fit.

4:55 — Oh wait, I was supposed to be freezer cooking, wasn’t I?! I head back to the kitchen and hope Silas continues sleeping for just a little bit longer. I mix up a double batch of the Homemade Pancake Mix. And then I remember that we’re out of baking powder. Oh well, I’ll add it in tomorrow after I can pick some up at the grocery store.

5:05 — Jesse calls and I get distracted (again!) telling him about our eventful day and hearing how his jury trial went.

5:15 — Yikes! I gotta get back to work! I melt the peanut butter and chocolate for the Frozen Banana Bites and start dipping them. Everything goes well until the chocolate starts hardening. Maybe I shouldn’t have doubled the recipe? I finally give up on trying to make the last few tablespoons of stiff chocolate cover the last few bananas and just stick them in the freezer.

5:30 — I decide to try using the KitchenAid I inherited from my grandma to make Honey Pizza Dough. It’s in the basement in our storage closet, so I go pull it out, clean it off, and mix up the pizza dough in it. While it’s mixing by itself, I clean up the kitchen and kick myself for waiting five whole years to use the KitchenAid. I’ve already fallen in love with it after just one use! What was I thinking?!?!

At the end of an hour and 15 minutes, I have a nice little pile to show for my efforts:

Homemade Pancake Mix
Honey Pizza Dough
Frozen Banana Bites — these are fantastic, by the way!
Crockpot Barbecue Chicken

4 Aug 2011   ·   38
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Office Max, Walmart, and Health Food Store Shopping Trips

Our Office Max was already out of the index cards and hand sanitizer, but they still had filler paper and pens, so that’s what we got:

5 packages of Office Max filler paper — $0.20 each with coupon

3 Just Basics Ballpoint pens (10 pack packages) — $0.20 with coupon

Total with tax: $1.72

We price-matched fruit deals at Walmart plus picked up some baking powder:

Baking powder — $1.68

Bananas — price-matched to $0.18/lb. — $0.89

Grapes — price-matched to Aldi price ($0.89/lb.) — $3.74

Strawberries — price-matched to Aldi price — $0.88 each

Total with tax: $9.60

And I found some great deals at the health food store:

Pink Lady apples — $0.99/lb. — $3.31

5-lb. bag of carrots — $1.99

11 packages of organic bread, buns, bagels, and English Muffins marked down to $0.99 each

Total with tax: $17.32 (minus $0.05 bring your own bag credit)

4 Aug 2011   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

Swapping Benefits Your Pocketbook and Community

Guest post by Laurie from Peace Love Swap.

I have always kept an eye out for a good bargain, and I have always put forth effort to reuse and re-purpose whenever I can. When I became pregnant, my husband and I decided to decline any offers to throw us a baby shower. We decided instead just to ask our friends to pass down any baby items that they were done with (that they were more than happy to part with — you know how it is), and we were blessed with almost everything we needed to welcome a new baby.

Then I started my years as a stay-at-home mom. I traded toys and clothing with friends, and shopped craigslist and resale stores for anything else I needed.

Swapping soon became my new shopping. Then one day I was lucky enough to run across an organization that allowed me take swapping to the next level for myself and for my community: I became a swap organizer with peace. love. swap!

Every six to eight weeks, a local kids’ gym hosts our community swap. We invite families to clear out their clutter by collecting items that their kids have outgrown or no longer use.

They drop their items off at the event and volunteers organize and display everything boutique style, categorized by size. The kids enjoy playing at the gym and families socialize with each other. When the swap floor is ready, everyone comes in to take home items that are new to them. No tags, no item counting–just good clean sharing. Swaps are large for a great inventory and ongoing because, well, you know how quickly kids grow.

My motto is “swap with goodness in your heart.” And they do. For the swappers, the cost is just $5, and includes fun time for the kids and great raffle prizes.  So, for just $5 and stuff to swap, you can bring home a bag of “new” clothing, a few fresh toys, a nursing pillow, a diaper bag or whatever treasures you come across.

At the end of the day, you’ve cleaned out your clutter, found some useful items for yourself and your kids, had a great playdate, perhaps won a prize, supported a green event, and donated to local charities (all unadopted items are donated). That’s a day well spent!

For the swap organizer, it is a way to bring in a little extra cash, do something great for the community, and bring home “new” items for your kids to boot!  For me, personally, it is so rewarding to run a green and charitable event, while saving money on my family’s expenses at the same time.  I also love inspiring others to live frugally and to share the many resources that we are blessed with.  It really is a win-win for everyone!

To find a swap in your area, or to become a swap organizer, please feel free to contact Laurie at, or visit

Laurie is a stay-home mom in Manhattan Beach, California.  She has two kids, one and four years old, and a partner in frugality, her husband.  She can be reached at

photo credit

3 Aug 2011   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

How to Make Money Blogging: 5 Ways to Use Your Blog as a Springboard to Earn Additional Income (Part 1)

Not only are there many ways to earn income directly from blogging, but blogging also opens up a host of other ways to earn money indirectly. Here are five ways I’ve used my blog as a springboard to earn additional income:

1) Teach an Online Class

I taught my first online course back in 2006–way back when I was just learning about online marketing and blogging and really didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing. That first class was successful, so I taught another and another and another. Not only did I learn so much through teaching (and hopefully imparted some helpful information to my students!), but it was a great source of side income to supplement our family during a lean season.

With just a few simple tools, you can teach video or audio courses online. Or, you can put together a package with video and/or audio plus a course handbook like Carrie’s Grocery University.

Consider what are your areas of expertise and what questions you are asked most as a blogger and then see if there’s a way you can turn these ideas into a marketable online class. Offer the class very inexpensively the first time around as you learn the ropes, ask other bloggers to promote the class for you (you could write a guest post for a few blogs on a relevant topic and then link to your class in your bio), and make sure to include testimonials from those who have gone through the class on your sales page.

2) Write an Ebook

Writing and selling ebooks is one market that is untapped by many, many bloggers–and there’s tremendous potential to earn a few hundred (or even a few thousand dollars!) each year by selling ebooks.

In the early days of blogging, selling ebooks was the bread and butter of our business. As our business has grown and our income has increased, I’ve moved away from selling ebooks, but I’d still highly recommend this to other bloggers–especially if you don’t mind dealing with the occasional difficult customer service issue.

There are a few things you must know about successfully selling ebooks, though:

::You need to write on a relevant, practical topic. The best-selling ebooks are those that tell you how to make money, save money, lose weight, cook better, get organized, or somehow practically improve your life. Unfortunately, an ebook comprised of poems is probably not going to sell well.

::Your cover and salespage are everything. You can write a killer ebook, but if your cover is cheesy and your salespage is pathetic, it probably won’t sell. Hire a designer to do your cover (it’s worth the expense, I promise!), and make sure that your salespage has a clear-cut call to action, includes specific details on why someone should buy your book, and has testimonies to back up your claims.

::You must exhaust every marketing possibility. People need to see things again and again and again in order to consider buying. Write guest posts, get every blogger possible to review your ebook, run ebook giveaways on dozens of blogs, and find every other creative free way to get your ebook out there.

If you are planning to write an ebook, I heartily recommend Sarah Mae’s ebook, How to Market and Sell Your Ebook. It’s packed with helpful information and advice and is worth every penny. Also, be sure to read her article on how to sell $20,000 worth of your next ebook.

To be continued next week…

How have you used your blog as a springboard for earning additional income? Tell us in the comments!

photo credit

3 Aug 2011   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

Fun & Frugal: Playing with biscuit dough

The heat wave continues here (though it’s only around 100 today, so the children are actually able to play outside for more than 15 minutes at a time!), so I’ve been trying to come up with one special indoors activity to do each day using things we already have on hand.

Earlier this week, I added some milk to some of the Homemade Baking Mix I still had in the freezer and we whipped up some biscuits.

They took their job of making biscuits very seriously at first.

But then someone started snitching a little dough.

And the next thing I know, I turned around from making lunch to see that Kaitlynn had made a hair piece with her dough. Needless to say, that piece went straight into the trash after she was done playing with it! 🙂

The finished batch of biscuits looked a bit interesting, but the children had so much fun making them that it was totally worth it!

3 Aug 2011   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

5 Tips for Back-to-School Clothes Shopping on a Budget

Guest post by Elise Adams from

Without question the Adams Family is on the super-tight end of the financial spectrum these days. As I write on my blog every week, we’re on three different government assistance programs and my husband is very under-employed as we head into the Fall.

So while we wrestle with side-gig ideas and re-educating ourselves, we still have toddlers growing like weeds and one little girl in particular headed to Kindergarten, here are my top five tips for back-to-school clothes shopping on a squeaky budget:

1. Start Early.

I’ve been stocking up on uniforms and other hard-to-find items since last Spring. But it’s not too late to start now.

Whatever you do, don’t wait till the day before school starts. The later you wait, the more you’ll be tempted to just grab whatever you see out of desperation!

2. Make a list and a budget.

These could be two tips, but in my household they are inseparable! When I know I’m only going to have $10 each month for clothes it makes me tighten up list to a short and sweet one.

3. Don’t discount yard sales, Freecycle, and secondhand stores.

I am not buying even one new clothing item for my kids this year. The only items I am purchasing new this year are socks, tights, and underwear. Other than that, I’m finding better quality for better prices at my local Goodwill or consignment shops.

4. Accept hand-me-downs gracefully.

Because we’ve been consciously poor ever since my kids were babies, they are excited by these generous gifts from friends or strangers alike. If you aren’t practiced at being upfront and honest with your neighbors and friends about your financial picture, start today! You’ll be surprised at how many folks from every level of financial security are happy to trade, barter, or just plain give away great stuff. (It’s cool these days to recycle!)

5. Place school clothes in a separate area.

This will help you see your progress over the next few weeks. Don’t panic if you don’t have a full school-year of clothes bought/purchased by the time the school-year begins. All our children need is a few outfits to get going that first week of school and you can continue to add to this over the first few weeks/months of this next school year.

Bonus Guilt-free Tip

Lastly, whether a simple lifestyle is old hat to your family or brand new, try to remember that the purpose of clothing is to keep ourselves warm or cool–and not in the popular sense. Sometimes I wish for the simplicity of my Grandma’s day when one good pair of shoes was all one hoped for every year when school started. Let’s remember that our children are rich in experiences, energy, and enthusiasm no matter what they wear to school this year!


Elise Adams is an author, motivational speaker, and radio personality who is determined to help everyone she meets ‘survive, thrive and get on with their lives’.  She blogs over at where she openly and candidly attacks the tough topics of addiction, chaos, and homelessness from a personal recovery perspective. Her latest project is a Free Video Class she calls ‘How to survive ANY crisis without Losing your Sanity’. Elise, her husband and three toddlers (three other kids live with their other parents–can you say ‘blended family’?) live in the Pacific Northwest.

photo credit

2 Aug 2011   ·  
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: Advice for becoming a stay-at-home wife?

Any advice you can share on becoming a stay-at-home wife would be greatly appreciated. My fiance and I are getting married in two weeks, and we’re thinking about having me stay at home. I’m a little nervous as we live in LA (high cost of living area), and he works freelance in the entertainment industry.

We’ve prayed a great deal about it, but as I don’t know any stay-at-home wives, I’m having a difficult time seeing how this works in “real life” not just how I think it’s going to work out. -Rhiannon

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage, Rhiannon! What an exciting time in your lives! Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s hard to give clear-cut principles that will apply to everyone, but here are some suggestions I thought of for you:

1) Be on the same page as your husband.

I made this point in last week’s Q&A post, and it bears repeating again here: if you are not in complete agreement with your husband on decisions like whether you stay at home or work, it can cause serious friction in your marriage. This decision must be made mutually, with both of you realizing the sacrifices it will mean if you choose to stay home.

2) Get on a strict written budget.

I believe that if God calls you to something, He will also provide a way to financially pull it off–even if it doesn’t always work out on paper. However, it’s important to put feet to your faith. Thus, you need a clear plan of action.

Sit down with your soon-to-be-husband and make a detailed, written budget that includes every single category. There are free downloadable budgeting forms available here if you need help getting started.

Commit together to live on this written budget no matter what. If you are going to be a one-income family and you want to avoid debt, a budget is imperative.

3) Hold regular Budget Accountability Meetings.

Not only is a budget a must, but you need to regularly review your budget and see where you stand. This is why I heartily recommend monthly Budget Accountability Meetings. Schedule these on your calendar and make them a priority.

During these meetings, you’ll go over your budget categories and make sure you both stayed within them during the past month. If you didn’t, or you struggled to stick to them, discuss why and what changes can be made to help you adhere to the budget during the next month.

This is also the time to talk about tweaking, eliminating, reducing, and/or raising budget categories. Remember, a good budget isn’t set in stone; it will change somewhat as your priorities and situation in life changes. The ebb and flow is healthy, so long as it’s something you’ve both planned and communicated about.

4) Make sacrifices to achieve your goals.

If your desire is for you to stay home, it’s going to require sacrifices. In the early years of our marriage, it meant that we went for months at a time without buying anything but the bare necessities. It meant making most all of our food from scratch, planning our menus based upon what was on rock-bottom prices at the store, not eating much meat, being a one-car family for three years, shopping at thrift stores, not buying gifts for Christmas or birthdays for a number of years, and looking for any possible way that we could earn additional income on the side.

I won’t tell you that it’s always been easy, but I feel beyond blessed to be a work-at-home mom. Our mutual decision for me to quit working outside the home when I was pregnant with my first is a decision we’ve never regretted.

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.