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26 Mar 2011   ·   41
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

Other than shopping at Dollar Tree this week for bread, I didn’t do any other shopping.

Jesse stopped by the store to pick up milk, chocolate milk, three bunches of bananas and cereal. Plus, we bought three dozen farm-fresh eggs from my brother.

But that was it for our shopping this week. What about you?

_________________


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.

26 Mar 2011   ·   39
Money Saving Mom

Books Read in March: Becoming a Person of Influence, The Possibilities of Prayer, ReWork, By the Shores of Silver Lake


I feel like so many of the books I’ve been reading recently I’ve dubbed “excellent”. It’s becoming a bit redundant or overused, but seriously, Becoming a Person of Influence is yet another superb book.

I was inspired to listen more, encourage others more and go out of my way to build up and believe in other people. While I love to motivate people, I sometimes can become so focused on my projects and to-do list that I don’t make people as much of a priority as I should in my life.

This book challenged me in many ways. The biggest? If I want to make a difference in others’ lives, I have to take the time to invest in their lives.

I look back at some of the people who’ve had the greatest influence on me and I know it was because they weren’t too busy to listen, to help, to encourage and to take time for me. I want to be that kind of person for others, as well. This book truly inspired me to do so and gave me ideas for how to practically implement this.

Also read in March:

The Possibilities of Prayer — I’ve read a few of E.M. Bounds’ books before and have always been blessed by them. While this wasn’t my very favorite book of his and I disagreed with some of the theology, it was full of encouragement regarding the necessity and blessings of prayer.

ReWork — Hands down, this is one of the best business books I’ve ever read. In fact, if you know me well in real-life, you’ve probably heard me blabber on about it the past few weeks since I loved it so much. I read it in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down.

The premise? Break all the rules of the “experts”. Think way outside the box. Be a teacher: if a business idea works well for you, share your secrets and people will respect you more. Stop worrying about your competition and start being a trend-setter. Keep your company small for as long as you possibly can. Don’t grow until it hurts.

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

By the Shores of Silver Lake — The children and I loved reading this together. We’re almost sad that we’re nearing the end of the Little House series because we’ve enjoyed reading it together so much!

24 Books I Plan to Read in 2011

Business and Financial Books I Plan to Read and Review This Year:

January — 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think
February — Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living
March — Becoming a Person of Influence

April — Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking
May — Life on the Wire: Avoid Burnout and Succeed in Work and Life
June — Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
July — Have a New You by Friday: How to Accept Yourself, Boost Your Confidence & Change Your Life in 5 Days
August — Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
September — America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money
October — Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
November — Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet
December – Personal Investing: The Missing Manual

Other Books I Plan to Read This Year:
January — Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment
February — Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
March — The Possibilities of Prayer

April — The Blessing of Boundaries
May — Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time
June — Honey for a Child’s Heart
July — One With Christ
August — A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning
September — Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit
October — The Rose Conspiracy
November — Disciplines of a Godly Woman
December –Benjamin Rush: Signer of the Declaration of Independence

What books have you read recently? Any you’d highly recommend?

(Note: The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

25 Mar 2011   ·   20
Money Saving Mom

Teaching Your Tot Without Breaking the Bank


Guest post by Jenae

The first five years of your child’s life are vitally important to the learning that will take place for many years to come. Research has shown that children who are immersed in a supportive, learning-oriented, and literature-rich environment greatly succeed later on in school.

Rest assured though, you do not need to spend a fortune on an “educational” program to give your young child a head start. In fact, some of the prepackaged materials can sometimes be detrimental to their learning because of little interaction (both from you and them).

Here are some suggestions for ways to implement educational activities with your toddler and preschooler:

1. Use what you have on hand or what you no longer need.

Not only is this strategy great for the environment, but it also sparks creativity for you and your child!

Many of the activities that my boys and I do together have come from a moment of thinking, “I wonder how I can reuse this?” and a learning activity magically appears.

The possibilities are endless!

2. Learning isn’t just ABC’s and 123’s.

There are essentially seven domains of Early Childhood Development that are important to remember. Running, jumping and climbing are just important for a child as learning the ABC’s!

A child loves to experience both new and familiar things with you and the escalator at the mall can be just as enchanting to a two-year old as Disney World!

3. Utilize your local library.

Surrounding your child with books is very important but this doesn’t mean you need to spend $50 every two weeks at the book store.

Most local libraries have a large assortment of children’s books, including many board books. Plan a trip every couple of weeks to restock with new books. If your children are anything like mine, you’ll be checking out the same books over and over.

4. Stock up on “school supplies” in early August.

Even if you don’t think you’ll use four boxes of crayons and three bottles of glue in the next few months, go ahead and purchase them during back-to-school sales because they are a fraction of the cost that they will be in a month or two.

I bought school supplies for a charity we support last November and was appalled that a box of crayons was over $1.00 when you can get them in August for $0.25.

5. Recruit friends and plan activities.

The friends with whom you surround yourself all have different and unique talents. Plan outings together or a day of activities.

A friend of mine and her sister plan monthly “theme days” where every activity they do is centered around a specific theme.

6. Most of all, give your child the gift of time.

Regardless of what you are doing, spending intentional time with your child will be greatly beneficial to him. You don’t have to spend hours planning special activities, just take 10 minutes to sit down and read a book or get on the floor and play!

Aubrie, from The Buzz 4 Moms, sent me this sweet poem and I think it is absolutely perfect as we reflect on ways to best teach our children:

I tried to teach my child with books;
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words;
They passed him by often unheard.
Despairingly, I turned aside;
“How shall I teach this child,” I cried?
Into my hand he put the key,
“Come,” he said, “Play with me.”

~Author Unknown~
Poem from The Perpetual Preschool

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

24 Mar 2011   ·   88

Green Rice Casserole Recipe

Whenever I say something about Green Rice Casserole, most people do a double take. “Green Rice Casserole? What’s that??” they’ll ask incredulously.

My mom has made this recipe for as long as I can remember and I’ve always loved it. Since I’ve been married, it’s been fun to introduce it to my own family, too. Everyone gobbles it up and usually asks for more!

It’s the perfect side dish for burritos. Or, you can do as I do, and just eat it as a stand alone.

Because it’s just that good!

By the way, this is in no way a low-fat recipe, so if you’re on a diet or counting calories or trying to lose weight, you just might want to skip over this post. 😉


23 Mar 2011   ·   160
Money Saving Mom

Yesterday’s Dollar Tree shopping trip (and a lesson in finances for the girls)

We’ve been using Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Junior with Kathrynne and Kaitlynn to teach them the value of money and stewardship. In addition to their daily required (unpaid) chores, we also have a list of extra paid chores they can choose to do if they’d like. We want our children to learn that there are chores you do as part of being an asset to our family and there are extra chores you can choose to do and get paid for.

While this is not exactly how it works in real-life, we thought it would be a great way to help them learn the value of work and money on a small scale. So far, they are pretty excited about it — most of the time, at least! 🙂 — and it’s working out well. Plus, it’s providing lots of great opportunities to teach life lessons when it comes to work ethic, why we save, why we want to be givers and so much more.

Last week they had their first “Pay Day” and they were quite thrilled! At this point, we’re letting them choose how they want to spend the money in their “spend” category. So we went to Dollar Tree yesterday and they got to spend their own hard-earned money on a few items of their choosing.

It’s exciting to watch as they begin to grasp the basic concepts of giving, saving and spending.

Please note: We don’t profess to know much about this child-raising thing; we’re just learning as we go. I share this with you as an example of what we’re doing in our home, not setting it up as something you should emulate in your home. Do what works best for your family and your children!

While at Dollar Tree, I also picked up some more Nature’s Own Bread for just $1 per loaf. (Nevermind the fact that one bag is half eaten. We love Cinnamon Swirl bread around here! Yum!)

How are you teaching your children about giving, saving and spending? I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions.

21 Mar 2011   ·   106
Money Saving Mom

31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: Storing Your Stockpile

This video gives you a little peek into my household supplies stockpile closet.

I don’t have a massive stockpile like some because I tend to stockpile on a smaller scale and typically don’t keep more on hand than what we can use in a three to six month period (there are some exceptions to this rule of thumb, such as the 31 tubes of toothpaste I “bought” for free last year).

I’d love to hear additional creative ideas you’ve come up with for storing your stockpile, especially if you live in a small house or apartment.

21 Mar 2011   ·   37
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan

Bread dough and beautiful tulips my husband got for me!

Breakfasts:

Toast, Scrambled Eggs, Fruit
Strawberry/Banana Smoothies
Cold Cereal, Juice x 2
Lemon Cranberry Scones, Hardboiled Eggs, Fruit
Mango Lassi, English Muffins
Oatmeal with Apple Slices and Walnuts

Lunches:

Leftovers x 2
Spinach Oven Omelet, fruit
Tuna sandwiches, frozen veggies, oranges
Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese, carrots, apple slices
Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches, fruit
Turkey sandwiches, fruit, veggies

Dinners:

Lasagna, Bread Machine French Bread, Frozen Veggies, Fruit
Haystacks (build-your-own Mexican dinner), Green Rice Casserole (from the freezer — recipe coming on Thursday!), Fruit
Steak, Sweet Potatoes, frozen veggies, Toast
Tilapia, Mashed Potatoes, frozen veggies, fruit salad
Chili Burgers, Seasoned Baked Potato Wedges, frozen veggies, fruit
Dinner with Friends
Dinner Out

What’s on your menu this week?

21 Mar 2011   ·   95
Money Saving Mom

Want to Save the Most? Do Without!

This article by Heather from QueenBee Coupons is excellent:

When I think about one of the biggest ways that my family has saved money in our grocery bill the last few years, I think about all the times we did NOT buy an item because it just wasn’t a good enough deal. We simply do without. Sounds drastic and depressing. But I don’t see it that way. Let me explain. . .

You only have a certain budget for food for the month. As a consumer you get to decide how that gets spent. Just as with anything when there is a limited supply (time, money, energy) you have to prioritize how to use or spend it, right? This is a personal decision, the priorities will be different in every family.

When I decided to stay home with my kids, it meant cutting our income by 60%. That’s right, 60 percent. Take $100 and throw $60 of it out the window. What was once $100, is now $40 at the grocery store. I wouldn’t change it for a second. I wouldn’t trade anything for those extra 60 dollars, but I will be picky in how I spend what I have left.

For us, this means – if it’s not on sale and/or we don’t have a coupon – we generally don’t buy it. It’s that simple. If it’s not a loss leader in the grocery ad (one of the best of the best deals), we will generally wait, and do without, until it does go on super sale.

Read the full article.

photo credit

21 Mar 2011   ·   68
Money Saving Mom

Refinancing: Take Years off Your Home Mortgage

Guest post by Megan

“Will I ever pay off my mortgage?”

This question has taunted every mortgage holder in America at one point in time or another. My husband and I have been blessed to have a decent amount of equity in our home, and yet the thought of shelling out hundreds of dollars a month for another 28 years has still sent quivers through me a time or two — at least until recently.

I had purchased a house in 2007 before my husband and I were married. I grew up flipping houses (buying, fixing and then reselling) with my family. This instilled in me a desire to try my hand at one myself. I thought it would be an excellent way to get ahead and that I may as well start knocking out mortgage payments sooner rather than later. So with a 30-year, $80,000.00 mortgage at a 7% interest rate, I started doing just that.

Thanks to the help of friends and family, I completed the necessary renovations on the home I purchased and then proceeded to rent out my house while I continued living at home. Even after getting married a year later, my husband and I decided that, for the time, we would continue to rent the house I owned out. For us, it made more sense to let someone else pay our mortgage while we lived in an inexpensive apartment.

The arrangement was working nicely, but it still seemed as though we could be doing more to manage the finances that were tied up in our rental investment. We started looking into refinancing options and were very surprised by the numbers we discovered.

What does it mean to refinance?

Simply put, refinancing is paying off your current loan with a new one to reduce the term of the loan. This in turn saves you a good deal in mortgage interest. We were so excited to find this silver lining in our current economic cloud!

How Much We Saved By Refinancing:

Before Refinancing:                                      After Refinancing:
$80,000.00 loan                                                $80,000.00 loan
30-Year Note                                                       15-Year Note
7% Interest ($112,168.12 )                                 4.25% Interest ($28,330.41 )
$811.00 Monthly Payment                                $846.00 Monthly Payment

Note: In the process of refinancing, my husband and I recently decided to move from our apartment into our rental, as residential loans offer lower rates than investment loans.

As you can see, our return on two months’ worth of paperwork has been $83,837.71 in interest savings and 15 years off the life of our loan!

I was, and am still floored at the savings in interest alone. You may have noticed our monthly payment increased by $35. For us, this is an overage my husband and I are willing to make up in other areas of our budget. We believe it will be worth every penny in the long run!

If you are interested in pursuing the option of refinancing your home, here are a few tips to get you started:

1) Calculate Your Current Mortgage Information

Before you start shopping for a better interest rate, you’ll want to know what percentage you’re trying to beat. Pull out your latest mortgage statement and input the information into Dave Ramsey’s Mortgage Calculator. This is my favorite tool for tracking our mortgage, as it is very simple to use.

With it, you can see how a lower interest rate can affect your loan, or you can calculate how much you would save by simply paying a little extra on your monthly payment. This tool can even help you calculate how much you could save by simply cutting a few restaurant visits and coffee stops each month!

2) Start Shopping For Rates

It is a good idea to start with the company who currently holds your loan. Although this was not the case in our situation, often your mortgage holder will offer you a better rate so they may keep your loan, thus keeping your business from moving to their competitors.

Once you have their rate quote, ask for rate and payment quotes from one or two additional banks before making a decision. Don’t be afraid to let each company know what the others are offering you as they will want to know what would be necessary to acquire your business.

3) Recalculate Your Proposed Refinance Information

Now calculate your proposed rate, payment and loan term information in the Mortgage Calculator to see if refinancing will incur a savings for you and your family. If it does…

4) Act Fast!

Quickly contact the company that gave you the best rate quote. Although interest rates may be low now, there is no guarantee they will stay that way in our ever-fluctuating economy. In fact, we took our time during a certain portion of our refinance, during which the rates jumped on us by 0.75%. Believe it or not, this “little” jump cost us a savings of nearly $5,000.

It is likely that few of you will have the exact scenario we had, but if this information helps you save even a few thousand dollars and a couple years from the life of your loan, I wish you Godspeed!

Megan is a recently married, working young woman who desires to be a good steward of the earthly possessions God has blessed her and her husband with.

photo credit

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality,original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

21 Mar 2011   ·   13
Money Saving Mom

Free Customizable Half-Sheet Household Management Planners

Money Saving Mom@ Free Household Management Printables

After many requests, we’ve re-vamped some of our free customizable household management organizational pages to fit a half-sized planner or notebook. We’ve put together a free download package of half-sheet planners which includes:

  1. Daily Docket
  2. Daily Cleaning List
  3. Monthly/Semi-Annual Cleaning List
  4. One-Week Menu Planner
  5. Seven-Day Menu Planner

For more information on how I use these sheets to keep my life and home organized and better manage my time, check out my Time Management 101 series or my free Time Management 101 ebook.

How to use the half-sheet planners

  1. Download the Half-Sheet Planner here (6 pages, 1.4MB pdf)
  2. Open the file in a PDF reader such as Adobe Reader, which you can download for free.
  3. Use your TAB key to tab through the customizable fields of each form. Each form has numerous fields in which you can enter your own information.
  4. Click on the section(s) you’d like to fill in.
  5. Type in your text.
  6. Print out the document when you’re done typing in your text. You’ll need to cut each sheet in half and properly holepunch it to use it in a half-sheet planner.
  7. Save your document if you’d like to save your changes. You’ll be able to open the document again to add different text at any time.

A big thanks to Joy from FiveJ’s for helping me put this together for you all!

19 Mar 2011   ·   133
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

So, I wasn’t as disciplined as I’d hope to be this past week (am I ever, though?!), but I at least didn’t stay up until 2 a.m. any night — except for a few nights when I was up with Silas who has been having these middle-of-the-night coughing fits (Anyone have a great middle-of-the-night coughing remedy? I’m ready to try anything you want to suggest since we’d all love to be getting more sleep around here!)

And I actually did get pictures of my groceries this week, unlike last week! So I guess that means I had a more on-the-ball week, too, though I still have a laundry pile in my room (I promise it’s not the same one as last week, though!) 🙂

Health Food Store Shopping Trip: Spent $9.09 — see a complete price breakdown here.

Dillon’s Shopping Trip: Spent $23.99 — see a complete price breakdown here.

Walmart Shopping Trip: Spent $4.19 — see a complete price breakdown here.

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.

19 Mar 2011   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

Thursday’s Walmart Shopping Trip: Free-plus-overage Millstone coffee & $0.12 Gain dryer sheets!

My husband and I made a quick trip to Walmart on Thursday night after our monthly date night because I needed to get bread for lunch with friends on Friday and Dollar Tree hadn’t gotten their shipment of Nature’s Own bread in yet.

I happened to have my Walmart coupon envelope in my purse and I was able to snag a few other deals while we were there:

2 Millstone Coffee packages — $1.64, used 2 $2/1 coupons from the 2/13 RedPlum insert (expires 3/31), free plus $0.36 overage on each (Thanks to a reader who tipped me off to this deal!)

Purex Laundry Softener — used free coupon I received for being apart of the Purex Insiders

3 boxes of Gain Dryer Sheets — $3.12 each, used 3 $3/1 coupons from the 2/13 RedPlum insert (expires 3/31), $0.12 each after coupons

4.62 lbs of bananas — price-matched to the local store’s Thursday-Only $0.18/lb. special — $0.83

Nature’s Own Bread — $2.28

My total after coupons with tax was $4.19.

17 Mar 2011   ·   41

Pick-Me-Up Smoothie Recipe

The ingredient combination might sound odd, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. If you love smoothies like we do, I think you’ll think it’s delicious. At least we all have agreed it’s one of the best smoothie recipes I’ve come up with to date.

It’s perfect when you need an extra shot of energy and oomph on “one of those days”. And it’s quite healthful, too.