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24 Jun 2010   ·   59
Money Saving Mom

House-Hunting: Patience Pays Off!

We purposefully waited to look at houses until we had saved 100% of our goal for our house-fund. Because we were committed to staying out of debt and paying cash for a house, we didn’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we looked at houses, fell in love with one and then were tempted to go borrow money in order to buy it (yes, we’re unabashedly weird like that!).

So we waited until we were completely ready and our house fund was fully-funded. And when we finally hit our goal at the beginning of the year, we’d been renting for seven years. Most people expected us to go right out and buy something almost immediately since we were finally ready to do so.

But we weren’t in any big rush. Sure, it would be nice to move to something a little better suited to our needs than our current rental, but we wanted to wait and find something we really liked and knew without a doubt was THE house for us.

We were initially thinking we’d find a house within a few months — if not sooner — but we quickly learned that when you’re paying 100% down on a house, you’re not in a big hurry to part with that money until you know you’ve found a house which you love.

So we waited, we prayed and we continued to look at houses.

After about five months of looking, I was getting a little tired of people asking “Have you found a house yet?” In fact, sometimes I felt like that mother who is pregnant and past her due date and people keep coming up and saying “When are you going to have that baby??”

I also was finding that we’d worked so hard for this big goal and now it felt like we were in a holding pattern. Going nowhere, getting no traction and without purpose. It wasn’t that we weren’t still saving money, it was just that we’d put a lot of our financial goals on hold until we found a house — since we wanted to have extra padding in our house budget to account for the additional expenses which might present themselves (necessary costs, moving expenses, work which would need to be done to the house, etc.)

When I talked to Jesse about this, we decided to sit down and map out a specific future game plan for our finances — even if we hadn’t found a house yet. We needed purpose and drive and goals. Without them, we were feeling a little aimless and slacking in sticking with the budget.

So we laid out specific dates for other financial goals and started working towards those. And almost immediately, the momentum was back and my frugal zeal returned!

And would you believe it? Within days of our “money meeting”, THE house went up for sale. And we signed a contract on it within 48 hours!

I guess you could say that we weren’t in a hurry until we found THE house — and then we certainly didn’t dawdle. How it all came to be is a bit of a wild story and still has us shaking our heads and pinching ourselves. But I’ll save all those details to share with you next week.

24 Jun 2010   ·   86
Money Saving Mom

Was your Medco order canceled??

I posted about some incredible deals on health and beauty products at Medco Health last night. A lot of you were able to get in on this deal before it expired and I had full faith that Medco would ship out the orders — like they had done with their past promotions.

However, sadly, it appears like they are canceling some, if not all, of the orders placed last night. And it seems like they aren’t sending out emails to let you know that your order was canceled, they are just canceling it. 🙁

At any rate, I’d suggest you log into your account and check on the status of your order. And let us know whether yours is canceled or not.

I’m so sorry that it turned out like this. I do my best to vet the deals before I post them and based upon the past track record with Medco, I felt pretty confident they’d honor the deals they posted on their site. But apparently, they didn’t expect the massive stampede of orders they received last night!

24 Jun 2010   ·   46
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Walmart Trip

I made a quick trip to Walmart today while Grandma was over playing with the children. Here’s what I picked up:

8 tubs of Pampers wipes — $1.97 each, used 8 $2/1 coupons from the June P&G insert — free after coupons

2 Nivea Cool body wash — $3 each, used 2 $3/1 coupons — free after coupons

2 Skinny Cow ice cream cups — $1.22 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons — $0.22 each after coupons

2 Nexcare bandages — $1.50 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons — $0.50 each after coupons

5 pounds of bananas — priced matched to $0.18 per pound (a local store has them for $0.18 per pound on Thursdays)

2 packages of Taco Bell taco seasoning — $0.50 each, used $1/2 coupon — free after coupon

After coupons, my total was $4.14. I thought that seemed high but I was in a hurry and didn’t double-check my receipt until I got home. Then I realized that one of the $1/1 hadn’t come off. Oh well, I’m not going to complain seeing as I got some great deals. However, it reminds me of the need to be more vigilant about watching the screen as the coupons come off and checking my receipt before I walk out of the store!

See more Walmart deals here.

23 Jun 2010   ·   70
Money Saving Mom

How to Unplug Your Kids in One Day

Guest Post by Morgan at The Diet Coke Diet

I absolutely must start this with a clarification: You do not have to ban TV and DVDs forever if you choose to “unplug.” You can use the following tips to eliminate or cut back on TV watching and video games. Only you know what your children need.

We all know that kids need fresh air, fun projects, free play time and lots of time reading books. But personally, I have found (and maybe you have too) that if I am not very careful about how and when I use television or DVDs, it becomes my go-to — my cure-all for rough days, for busy days, for lazy days, for sick days. It’s just quick and easy.

In my case, there was no cable needed. Good old PBS kids + a TIVO was just enough for an unfortunate television addiction. So, I decided to undo what I had done. I unplugged my kids, and I did it in one day. Cold turkey.

Before you do it:

Make sure your spouse (and all caregivers) are on board.

First and foremost, your spouse must be on board and willing to uphold the new regime. If the kids know as soon as you walk out the door that Daddy will turn on the television, you will not be successful long-term. If you and your partner can have plans together on how to handle tough moments, you’ll be stronger and more prepared for road bumps. You have to be a united front; it’s vital.

Plan ahead.

You need to know when you as the parent are at your weakest and more likely to turn on the tube. You also need to identify when your kids get whiny and start asking for the television. That way you’ll be prepared to confront those moments. For example, if you always use TV while you shower and get ready for the day, try showering at night, or getting up before the kids. You can enlist your partner in this too.

Part of planning ahead is carefully deciding when to end the TV habit. If you choose to turn off the TV on a rainy, freezing cold day, you’ll have a much more difficult time of it than if you choose a warm, beautiful day. You’re going to need to use the outdoors to your advantage.

Young children thrive on routine, and they recognize and depend on TV time just as much as you do. To be successful, you’re going to need to have alternative activities planned and scheduled for the times when you usually use television. Fun and engaging activities keep little ones occupied so they don’t miss the TV.

8 Tips:

1. If the TV always goes on first thing in the morning, try to get plenty of sleep the night before so you can get up and get going rather than turn on cartoons and go back to bed.

Start your day with breakfast instead of TV. If that isn’t an option, provide your kids with a basket of toys and books for the morning time so you don’t have to get up before you’re ready. Carefully select toys and books that won’t be destructive or noisy.

2. If your weakness is to turn on the TV for your preschooler during the baby’s nap, then get play dough, crayons, pipe cleaners and other simple craft supplies and set up special “Quiet Time” play opportunities. That way, your preschooler will be so excited to do “new” things with you that the loss of his movie time won’t bug him as much.

3. If you tend to turn the TV on to beat the afternoon blahs, turn to the outdoors (this is where a nice day is key to unplugging). Children need fresh air almost as much as they need food.

Kids who spend all day in school (even when recess is included) need the freedom to run and jump and twirl without structure. Preschoolers need to learn motor skills. Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions. I completely believe that media is a key component to that.

Fresh air is vital. If you’re home all day with preschool children, the minute you start to feel your fingers itch for the remote, hit the playground or the back yard. Get up, get out! GO!

4. If you just want to check your email and write a blog post, and your kids bug you unless they are plugged in, carve out time once the wee ones are in bed to be on the computer for an hour. If that’s not an option, provide them with fun activities right next to you, such as drawing or puzzles, so they aren’t feeling like they need to be obnoxious just for attention. Keep computer time to a minimum to avoid disasters.

5. If your hard time is when you’re trying to prepare dinner, have a family pow-wow in the kitchen. Have the older kids do their homework and tell you about their day, and the younger ones “help” you with dinner.

Tupperware and spoons with some dry rice or noodles can seriously entertain a toddler for quite a while. You can also enlist older kids to read stories to younger ones. Anytime you can replace TV-watching with book-reading, you’re doing a good job. Visit the library one afternoon a week to keep the literature new and interesting.

6. If your children are old enough, use the late afternoon to help children enhance talents or hobbies. Art, music, photography, dance, scrapbooking, and writing are all great things to do instead of television-watching. This is also an excellent time for school-aged kids to practice those instruments or whatever skills they are working on. If you can stand to listen to violin practice and provide feedback while the pork chops broil, then you’re in a great place!

7. If you use TV at the end of the day for a treat or to unwind, replace it with family game night. Games like Apples to Apples or Cranium are fun for all ages. Toddlers who are too small to play are usually content to hold a game piece and feel like they are participating. Books before bed are always a nice,  quiet way to end the day as well.

8. If you are used to having the TV on all day as background — or to watch shows you like — you can replace the noise with music from an Mp3 player or CDs.

By the end of a no-TV day, you will be so tired, and yet you will feel so gratified! You did it! You actually did not turn on the TV for your children even once. If you feel like it, do it again tomorrow. It gets easier every single day.

But let’s get real here: Kids who have been raised on a steady diet of lots of television or DVDs are not going to give it up easily. Older kids, especially, are going to notice the lack of television.  They are going to complain, they might even weep and wail and gnash their teeth.

Decide what’s right for you and your family

You can decide what works for you, but I suggest having them earn their media time (I say media because you can apply all the above to computer time as well). They want a half hour of media? Then they have to practice piano for 30 minutes.

Use chores or homework to earn their time. This teaches them that media is a privilege, not a right. If you really want to undo media entirely, then have open discussions about your feelings and why you’ve made this choice for them. Since families are not democracies, they do not have to agree, or like it. They’ll adjust. Really, they will.

Don’t cave. It’s just one day at a time. Be strong.

Children absorb media, even if they aren’t specifically paying attention. Bad language and violence affects them, even if they are not directly watching. If you find that the TV habit is yours to break, then apply similar tactics for yourself.

I’ll repeat this point: Unplugging does not mean sledge-hammering your television. I still turn on the TV probably three days out of a week. However, there are days (or a string of days) when the kids don’t watch anything. Those tend to be the best days.

Morgan writes real, do-able how-tos for life with zero money and zero time at www.thedietcokediet.com. She mothers three boys, a dog and wifes a really nice guy. She lives south of Salt Lake City, UT and looks forward to the day when her husband finishes school. She is a doula in her spare time.

photo credit: Mike Baird; DebCll; D14BLO

22 Jun 2010   ·   57
Money Saving Mom

Tonight’s Target Trip

We’re having a heat wave here in Kansas and it’s been so hot that we’ve not been able to spend a whole lot of time outside. So this afternoon, we were all feeling a little cooped up and antsy.

My solution? I told the children we could go to Target — which is a huge treat for them as Target is one of their favorite stores in the whole wide world. I guess it doesn’t take much to fascinate and excite them! 🙂

In addition, to looking at the toys and letting Kaitlynn spend her birthday gift card, we also picked up some of the great deals:

Nectarines — $0.99 per pound, got 1.6 pounds — $1.59

Apricots — $0.99 per pound, got .54 pounds — $0.54

Glade Fabric & Air Odor Eliminator – $3.49, used $1/1 printable, stacked with $2/1 Target printable — $0.49 after coupons

Tresemme Hairspray (travel-size) — $1, used $1/1 Tresemme coupon (Click on the “Like” button on the Tresemme Facebook Page to print your coupon.) — Free after coupon

Axe Travel Size Body Wash – $0.97, used $1/1 printable — Free after coupon

10 SoBe Water (20 oz.) – $1 each, bought 10 and used 2 Buy One, Get One Free coupons, got $5 Target gift card — $3 for 10 after coupons and gift card

2 BULL’S-EYE Barbecue Sauce — $1.25, used $1/1 BULL’S-EYE Regional Barbecue Sauce coupon — $0.25 each after coupon

1 Scrubbing Bubbles Power Sprayer Shower Cleaner at $8.69, 1 Scrubbing Bubbles Power Sprayer Shower Cleaning Refill at $3.99 — used $5/1 Scrubbing Bubbles manufacturer’s coupon, stacked with $3/1 Scrubbing Bubbles Target coupon, used Buy One Scrubbing Bubbles Power Sprayer Starter Kit, Get a Refill Free coupon — $0.69 plus tax for both after coupons!

2 small packages of Carefree liners — $0.94, used 2 $1/1 coupons — free after coupons

1 Dove deodorant — $1, used $1.50/1 Dove coupon — free-plus-overage after coupon

4 Fruit2o Essentials drinks — $0.89 each, used 2 $1/2 coupons — $0.39 each after coupons

After coupons and a $5 Target gift card I’d earned during my last trip, my total was $11.26. Plus, I got a $5 Target gift card back for buying the SoBe water!

22 Jun 2010   ·   118
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: How do you get started following the Dave Ramsey plan?

My husband and I want to sign up with Dave Ramsey. I was looking on his website and it is so overwhelming. I don’t even know where to begin. If we want help with budget and saving (which at this time we have a big ZERO!), should we do the Financial Peace University, or just financial coaching? What do you recommend? How do we get started? We don’t have a lot of money. -Kellie

As you well know, I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey (read more about how he changed our lives here). The Dave Ramsey website does have a lot of stuff to offer and if you’re a newbie, it can feel overwhelming!

Much of what Dave stresses is common-sense money advice which you probably already know. He just does a great job of packaging it and “selling” it so that the lightbulb goes off and you actually are motivated enough to follow it!

He outlines a seven-step plan for financial success which he calls The Seven Baby Steps. While you don’t need to follow them completely to see financial success, using them as a guideline or road map, can be extremely helpful — especially if you’re really struggling financially.

Since you don’t have a budget and you’re not saving money, I definitely think that you could find some great help and hope from the principles Dave Ramsey teaches. And also just lots of plain encouragement and inspiration. In fact, it just might turn your life — and your finances — completely around!

I’d personally recommend two things if you are strapped for cash:

1. Get a copy of The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. This book will give you a step-by-step plan for getting out of debt, budgeting and saving money, no matter your income level. You can probably check out a copy from your local library or borrow one from a friend. If not, it’s worth every penny of the approximately $15 it costs to purchase.

Read the book, let it sink in and follow the steps outlined. Just getting on a zero-based budget will significantly improve your current financial situation. In fact, it will more than likely feel as if you got a good pay raise. You telling your money where to go instead of the other way around is a powerful thing!

2. Listen to The Dave Ramsey Show. If you don’t have a local station which carries his show, you can listen online or download the one-hour podcast. Listen while you’re driving, exercising, folding laundry or doing dishes. It’s free, it’s engaging and you’ll pick up all sorts of motivation to keep on, keepin’ on when you don’t feel like sticking with your financial plan or eating beans and rice yet again.

You can also watch Dave’s TV show for free on HULU. Again, you can turn it on and listen while you work on another project. So it’s not taking any extra time out of your day, but it’s giving you lots of financial advice, ideas and inspiration — which I’m guessing is something you could really use right now!

After reading Dave’s book, listening to his show for a few months and implementing the principles gleaned, your finances will invariably be in better shape. Then, you might consider going through Financial Peace University or attending a live event. Neither of these are necessities and there will be some overlap in the materials, but they can serve as excellent continued motivation.

However, none of Dave’s advice or ideas will work if you’re not committed to make them work. But if you’re willing to make sacrifices, be self-disciplined and stick it out for the long-haul, it will make a major difference in your financial situation.

Have you followed any of Dave Ramsey’s advice? How has it impacted you?

21 Jun 2010   ·   29
Money Saving Mom

Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds – Part 3

Missed the first parts of this series? Read Part 1 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds and Part 2 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds.

Remember to check out my post on Five Ways to Get Books for Free for ideas of how to pick up copies of these and other books frugally.

9. The Gingerbread Boy — This story always captures the girls attention and keeps it the entire time. While it’s not a realistic story, it’s still a fun book to read — and the pictures are enjoyable, too. It’s also a great way to teach your children about the fact that, just as the fox in the story, some people can pretend to like you or have your best interests in mind, when really, they are out to hurt you. It’s important to teach your children to be cautious and discerning — otherwise, it could lead to great harm in their life.

10. The Cow Who Fell in the CanalThis book is such a fun read! The pictures are colorful, the story line is engaging and it also opens up opportunities to introduce your children to how different people in different countries live.

11. Any and All Books By Lois Lenski— Hand’s down, Lois Lenski is one of our very favorite children’s authors and it’s impossible for me to narrow down our favorites to just one or two of her books. I grew up on her books and have been delighted to be able to share them with my children, as well. Most libraries have almost the entire collection of them and I’d highly recommend checking them out if you have youngsters in your home.

12. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name — We’ve searched high and low for quality children’s Bible story books. Ones that are accurate, doctrinally sound and not filled with nonsense and fluff are hard to find. I apprehensively ordered The Jesus Storybook Bible about six months ago based upon the strong recommendations of friends I trust. It has since become our most treasured read-aloud. The girls would pick this over any other book any day.

While the pictures aren’t necessarily my favorite and we have a few doctrinal differences with the author, overall, this is a very, very excellent resource in my opinion. We’ve read it over and over again. In fact, the girls would never let us stop reading if they could. It has opened up all sorts of incredible conversations on God, the Bible and what it means to love the Lord and have a personal relationship with Him.

The final installment of this series is coming early next week.

This post is brought to you in part by HarperCollins and the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program. Kids 12 and under can join the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program and earn a free book when they read 10 books. Just fill out this form and bring it in to any Borders, Waldenbooks, or Borders express store by August 26, 2010 to participate in this program. Find more Summer Reading Programs here.

21 Jun 2010   ·   122
Money Saving Mom

Would you pay to have someone write your thank you notes for you?

I get lots of interesting press releases and new product pitches in my email inbox. Most of them go straight into the trash file — often before even being opened.

But when I received an email this morning about a new website which writes your thank you notes for you, I couldn’t help but open and read it. I mean, seriously? What is our world coming to that we have to pay someone else to write our thank you notes for us?

Sure enough, you can pay $5.50 to have a thank you note written, addressed, stamped and delivered straight to your door for you to review and mail out. Or, you can pay $3.50 for them to compose the text and email it to you.

I’m all about ROI and think there are definitely times when it’s a much better use of your time and effort to pay someone to do something for you — provided you can afford it in your budget. But I think one must draw the line at outsourcing thank you notes.

Not only does it seem terribly impersonal — especially if the notes are going to dear friends! — but it also seems impractical and very expensive. I’m thinking that by the time you picked out the thank you cards, got the recipients’ gifts and addresses inputted into their system, placed your order and then reviewed the cards and sent them out, you could have written most, if not all of your thank yous.

Plus, you could have saved yourself around $5 per thank you note. And considering I can write a simple thank you note in about 7 minutes (including addressing it), I wouldn’t say the time saved was anywhere near worth the money spent.

But hey, maybe I’m the odd one out here? I’m really curious: Would you pay to have someone write your thank you notes for you?

19 Jun 2010   ·   20
Money Saving Mom

Financial Lessons From My 13-Month-Old

Silas, my 13-month-old, is in the process of learning to walk. If you’ve ever been around any young toddler, you likely know what this entails. For a few months, he just pulled up on furniture and stood there. Then he slowly started scooting around furniture.

After that, he got brave and started letting go and standing without holding onto anything. Soon, he would let go and take a few tentative steps. Now, he’s trusting his footing enough to take up to seven steps at a time.

Along the way, there have been lots of tumbles and spills. Sometimes, he will altogether give up and refuse to even try. Other days, he wants to keep trying again and again and is very excited about his accomplishments.

As I’ve been watching him, I’ve thought a lot of how a toddler learning to walk correlates with financial success. If you’re deep in debt, you usually don’t just wake up one day to a completely transformed financial situation. Instead, it’s usually very much a slow process. And it often involves babysteps.

You have to believe that you can stand on your own two feet and live in financial freedom. You have to stop sitting in your financial mess or crawling around in circles and borrowing money.

You have to make positive changes that help propel forward. You have to make sacrifices, cut your expenses, get on a budget and maybe even find creative ways to earn extra money on the side.

It takes work, practice, sweat and effort. There are often bumps and bruises along the way. Just as a baby will never learn how to walk if he gives up halfway through the process, so you will never realize financial success if you are a quitter.

But if you keep at it, keep going, keep on taking those babysteps, and keep getting back up when you fall, over time, you’ll start to see some significant progress. And soon, you might find that you’re freely running and dancing instead of just barely taking babysteps!

19 Jun 2010   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Dillon’s and Walmart

We went to Dillon’s and Walmart this week:

At Dillon’s, we bought vegetables, peaches, organic milk, toilet paper, yogurt, trash bags, orange juice, chicken, ice cream, Sobe, and nine boxes of Annie’s macaroni and cheese (which were on sale for $1 and free after the $0.50/1 coupons doubled). All totaled, we spent $23.25 after coupons.

A friend also found organic eggs marked down at the health food store and they were free after coupons so she generously brought us some!

And then we went to Walmart and purchased everything pictured above for $12.46. Read the full details on this shopping trip here.

____________________________

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.

18 Jun 2010   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

House-Hunting: A Realtor is Priceless

In hunting for a house, we’ve found a realtor to be invaluable. Since we’ve never bought a house before, despite doing a lot of research, we feel like this has been a whole new world that we know nothing about.

How We Found a Good Realtor

1. We did initial research online and offline.

When we knew it was likely we were going to be looking for a house soon, we started investigating potential realtors in our area. We paid attention to which ones were successfully selling homes and which ones were selling homes in the areas and price ranges we were looking at. We also discussed specifics of what we were looking for in a realtor.

2. We asked friends and family for recommendations.

Once we’d done our initial research, we started asking for recommendations of good realtors from friends and family. We were looking for a competent realtor who had our best interests in mind — not someone who was related to someone we knew. (Unfortunately, you can often get burned if you choose Uncle Jim just because he’s your uncle instead of because he’s really competent and the best fit for you.)

3. We “interviewed” potential candidates.

After narrowing down the field to a few potential candidates for our realtor, we called and/or emailed them to ask them a few telling questions we’d prepared. How they responded, how professionally they responded and how quickly they responded helped us to make our final decision of which realtor to hire.

4. We prayed for wisdom.

Last but not least, we prayed for wisdom in making the decision. We believe wholeheartedly that God cares about all the details of our lives — from the big things to the little things. So we asked Him to give us wisdom and direction in this process.

It might seem like we went to a lot of trouble to choose a realtor, but our efforts paid off as our realtor has been absolutely wonderful. She’s honest, very hard-working and we have 100-percent confidence in her. She’s been an amazing asset to us as we’ve navigated these previously-uncharted waters — and we truly feel like we would be lost without her help!

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I’ll be sharing more about our house-hunting and house-purchasing adventures. (And yes, if you’ve not caught onto my subtle hints over the last few weeks, we bought a house! More on that soon!)

Have you successfully hired a realtor before? If so, what advice would you give someone looking for a good realtor?

18 Jun 2010   ·   42
Money Saving Mom

Yesterday’s Walmart Shopping Trip (um, where did the ice cream go?!)

The children and I stopped by Walmart yesterday after naps and here’s what we picked up:

2 cartons of strawberries at $1.67 each

6 ears of corn at $0.28 each

5 lbs. of bananas — $0.18 per pound (price-matched with a local store that has bananas at this price on Thursdays)

2 packages of Schick razors — $1.97 each, used $2/1 coupons — free after coupons

6 packages of Taco Bell seasoning — $0.50 each, used 3 $1/2 coupons — free after coupons

3 bottles of Masterpiece barbecue sauce — $1.42 each, used 3 $1/1 coupons — $0.42 each after coupons

2 bottles Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce — $1.50 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons — $0.50 each after coupons

2 Suave deodorants — $1.72 each, used $3/2 coupon — $0.22 each after coupon

1 Kotex liners — $1, used $1/1 coupon from a freebie mailing — free after coupon

1 trial-sized Pantene — $0.97, used $1.50/1 coupon from a freebie mailing — free plus overage after coupon

1 bottle Genesis Today Juice — $6, used free coupon I signed up for on another blog (no longer available) — free after coupon

2 Simply Go-Gurts — $2.25, used 2 free coupons — free after coupons

1 Pampers wipes — $1.97, used $2/1 coupon — free after coupon

6 Skinny Cow ice cream cups — $1.22 each, used 4 $1/1 coupons, used 2 Buy 2, Get 1 free — 6 for $0.88 total

Before coupons, my total was around $48. After coupons, I paid $12.46 for everything pictured — and the ice cream and Go-Gurt not pictured. Ice cream and yogurt doesn’t last long at our house. And it’s not just because daddy and the kiddos are eating it! 😉

17 Jun 2010   ·   149
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Food You Can Fix in a Hotel Room?


Janet emailed me the following question to ask you all:

In a few weeks, my family will leave for a weekend beach vacation to our favorite destination spot. In the past, we rented a small room with a kitchenette. We packed food from our freezer to eat during the time we were on vacation.

On this trip, though, we downgraded to a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave. We will also have access to a grill. We want to make our own meals, if possible, but I’m needing ideas of what to fix besides sandwiches and cold cereal. -Janet

What suggestions do you have for Janet? I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

16 Jun 2010   ·   50

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Follow a Few Helpful Blogs

Once you’ve started getting your toes a little wet in this whole lowering your grocery budget thing, you’ll find that one of your biggest helps will be finding and following a few blogs.

When I first started MoneySavingMom.com back in 2007, there weren’t any other blogs posting deals. (Yes, seriously, can you believe that?!) There were deal forums, but they were hard to follow — and very overwhelming for a newbie.

I searched for a blog which had the deals at Walgreens and CVS mapped out for me and came up empty. Since I was already compiling the best deals for myself and a few other friends, I figured I might as well do what I wished someone else were doing and start a blog with the best deals all outlined each week in a neat and tidy manner.

Well, the idea caught on a little bit. And a few years later, there are now thousands of deal blogs of every size, shape, kind and color available. There are bloggers covering just about every store out there from every angle imaginable.

The good news is that there are so many deal blogs out there, there’s something for everyone.

The bad news is that there are so many deal blogs out there you can get a little overwhelmed or spend too much time reading them.

Choose Wisely

Just like you want to be a wise steward of your money, you also want to be a wise steward of your time. When it comes to deal blogs, I suggest choosing no more than five to follow.

Pick blogs which inspire you, give you new and creative ideas, which routinely cover stores you shop at and which you find easy to follow. If a blog isn’t inspiring or helping you, stop following it. (That goes for this blog, as well. There’s no point in you wasting time reading here if you’re not getting anything out of it!)

If you find five quality blogs which regularly post the best deals and which cover the stores in your area, you’ll likely be notified of just about every truly great deal out there. Oh, I’m sure if you followed 35 deal blogs, you’d probably find a few more deals than you’d find just following five deal blogs, but I honestly doubt you’d really miss much. I follow 5-10 deal blogs at any given time myself and I find that it’s rare I miss some really amazing deal — and if I were only following them for myself (instead of also looking for deals to share with a nationwide audience), five would totally suffice.

Now, please don’t feel like I’m saying you’re wrong to follow more than five blogs. You can do whatever works for you! I’m just trying to alleviate you of the feeling that you’re missing out on all sorts of great stuff if you don’t follow at least 76 different blogs! 🙂

You’re better off following a few blogs and spending the rest of your time implementing what you’re learning, than spending hours reading about all these great ways to save money but never actually doing anything.

Use Feed Subscriptions

I’ve found that it’s much more efficient to read blogs through a feed reader, rather than visiting each of them individually. I personally use Bloglines, though I’ve been told repeatedly that Google Reader is better. Most blogs also now offer the option of email subscriptions, so you can get an email in your inbox once per day with all the posts from the previous 24 hours in one concise little email — saving you from even having to visit a blog if you’d like!

Pick the Best Deals, Leave the Rest

I’ve said it repeatedly, but it bears repeating again: you don’t have to hit every deal. Once you’ve subscribed to the five or so blogs you want to follow, just skim through the posts on a regular basis and pick and choose what deals you have the time and energy to do and have no guilt in leaving all the others behind.

Sometimes I get emails from readers who are all flustered trying to figure out how I do all the deals I post about. Um, want to know something? I probably actually do around 5-15% of the deals I post here. And I don’t feel one bit of guilt over the others I choose not to do. If I did all the deals I posted here, we’d be way over-budget, our house would be bursting with stuff we didn’t need and I’d have my priorities way out of whack.

Instead I just pick and choose what deals work for our family based upon our budget, our needs and the time I have. By doing this, we get plenty of great deals and save a boatload of money — and I have time for many other more important things in my life.

Blogs are so helpful when it comes to saving money on your grocery bill as they share the best deals with you in a concise, step-by-step manner. But remember that they are there to serve as a tool, not a burden.

Do you find that following blogs helps you to save on your grocery bill? What tips do you have for streamlining your blog reading?

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