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6 Oct 2011   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

MySurvey: Earn cash or rewards for taking surveys

Looking for another survey company to sign up with? Definitely check out MySurvey.com. This is a survey company I’ve used myself and my readers have also recommended.

With MySurvey, you earn points for every single survey you take–even those that are just qualifiers! So you will never waste time and effort on a survey only to discover you don’t qualify. You can redeem your points earned for cash or prizes and every 1150 points equals $10.

Sign up for MySurvey here.

Find more legitimate survey companies to sign up with here.

(Note: The link in this post is my referral link. Read my disclosure policy here.)

6 Oct 2011   ·   147
Money Saving Mom

My Crock Pot and Oven Pumpkin-Cooking Experiment

Oven-Pumpkin-Cooking

For the last few years, I’ve always just purchased canned pumpkin at Aldi or on clearance after Thanksgiving. And I’ve always had a decent supply of it on hand by buying extras when I found a good deal.

Recently, however, my supply was dwindling and, since our Aldi doesn’t have canned pumpkin in stock yet, I’ve been having trouble justifying spending almost $2 a can for pumpkin. But Fall isn’t the same without baking pumpkin recipes, so what was I going to do?

My friend tipped me off to a sale Walmart was having on pie pumpkins last week so we bought five with the intention of cooking them and pureeing them for the freezer. I decided to do a little experiment and compare how much time and effort was involved in cooking them in the crock pot versus the oven.

How to Cook Pumpkins in the Crock Pot

(original recipe from The Happy Housewife)

I sliced the softer pumpkins (leaving the harder ones to bake whole so that I didn’t cut off my finger in the process of trying to saw into them!).

Then de-seeded them with an ice cream scoop.

What a mess!

Finally, I put them in the crock pot with a cup of water and turned it on high for four hours.

For much more detailed instructions, see The Happy Housewife’s post on how to cook a pumpkin in the crock pot.

How to Roast Pumpkins Whole in the Oven

For the pumpkins that I cooked whole, I just washed them off and coated them with coconut oil and stuck them on a baking sheet and roasted them for a little over an hour at 400 degrees.

See more detailed instructions on how to roast a whole pumpkin without cutting it here.

The Final Results

The oven pumpkins were much easier to do (no cutting involved and they were ready a lot more quickly). The seeds and pulp came out easily and I just scraped out the pumpkin with the ice cream scoop.

The crock pot pumpkins were a little more time-consuming upfront because you had to mess with cutting and scraping out the hard pulp. They also took longer and I felt like they weren’t as sweet and well-cooked when finished. (Of course, maybe they just weren’t as good of pumpkins, either?)

After scooping out the fruit, I pureed it in the Vita-Mix for a minute and then scooped one-cup servings into individual baggies and froze them in a big ziptop bag.

Well, I didn’t quite freeze all of it since I used some right away in the Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal–a recipe we’re looking forward to having for breakfast tomorrow!

All totaled, I got nine cups of pumpkin from the five pie pumpkins, plus seeds to roast. I’m not sure that the time involved made it worth the small savings, but it was a fun project to tackle anyway!

5 Oct 2011   ·   57
Money Saving Mom

8 Ways to Be a Better Mom to Young Children

The children and I at Garden of the Gods in Colorado

I don’t know about you, but I’ve struggled with a lot of mommy guilt over the past seven years I’ve been a mom:

“Am I doing enough?”

“Are my children eating right, getting enough sleep, getting enough fresh air and exercise?”

“Am I spending enough quality time with them?”

“Should I be doing more of X with them and less of Y?”

And then I’ve felt like a bad mom for having so much mommy guilt. Yes, I know, I’m hopeless!

In talking to other moms, I know I’m not alone. If you’re a young mom who is feeling discouraged in your mothering today, I wrote an article over on MomLife on 8 Ways to Be a Better Mom to Young Children. It shares some of the things I’ve learned–mostly through error–as a young mom.

I hope it can be a blessing to some of you who are exhausted and overwhelmed in your mothering!

Related Articles:
Cardboard Dollhouse-Making Trumped My To Do List
Training Requires Repetition

4 Oct 2011   ·   157
Money Saving Mom

18 pounds of apples for $3.54!

I had all three children when I went out shopping today, so I almost didn’t make the extra stop at the health food store. But since I was going to be driving right by it and I’d not been there in a week, I decided to go ahead and stop and unload everyone and see if there were any markdowns or other bargains to be had.

Well, imagine my surprise and excitement when, as soon as I walked in the door, I found 3-lb. bags of apples on sale for $0.99! I had to read the sign three times before I was sure that’s what it said.

I got ready to load up my cart, but then I saw the crate where they put marked down produce. Guess what it was full of? 3-lb. bags of apples marked down to $0.59 per bag!!!!

You can just envision my happy dance, can’t you?! I restrained myself and only bought six bags as I didn’t want to take all of them and I also wanted to make sure I didn’t buy more than I can use.

Without a doubt, this is the best deal I’ve ever scored on apples. I’m having visions of apple butter, Homemade Crockpot Applesauce, Slab Apple Pie, Mini Apple Pies, and so much more!

What are your best suggestions for using up a bunch of apples? I’d love to hear!

3 Oct 2011   ·   43
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Amazon’s Trade-In Program

Chelsea emailed in with the following tip:

Last week, I discovered Amazon’s trade-in store, and ended up having almost 400 dollars worth of credit between six text books! After researching what the books were worth, I found that Amazon was offering me a very fair price. I was able to ship the books for free and quickly received the credit in my account.

Besides text books, Amazon also accepts electronics, movies and television series, video games, consoles, and accessories for trade. I would highly encourage MoneySavingMom® readers to check out this program. Paired with free shipping and price matching, the store credit could really come in handy.

photo credit

3 Oct 2011   ·   69
Money Saving Mom

Want to review a pre-release copy of my book?

As most of you know, my book, The Money Saving Mom®’s Budget, is releasing in January 2012. It’s the culmination of years of personally living frugally and simply and teaching others how to have a paradigm shift about money.

I’m more than a little excited about it (more like crazily ecstatic about it!) because I believe its message is direly needed, especially right now as so many people are struggling to make ends meet. I believe this book has the potential to radically change your budget–and your life!

The Money Saving Mom®’s Budget is a comprehensive step-by-step plan to take you from financial mess to financial success. In this straightforward book, you’ll learn:

::How to set big goals and break them down into bite-sized pieces.

::How to prioritize your time and life in order to live intentionally.

::How to streamline your home and life in order to have breathing room to work toward your financial goals.

::My three-step plan for going from no budget at all to a full-fledged, realistic, written budget.

::How to make a cash envelope system work for you.

::How to cut your grocery bill in half (including 25 ways to save money without using coupons!).

::How to save big on restaurants, travel, clothing, utility bills, prescription glasses, gym memberships, and much more.

::And finally, how to cultivate contentment, embrace today, and live a rich and full life, no matter your income.

You know what I’m most thrilled about in publishing this book? That all of my profits are going to Compassion International–an organization that helps to feed and clothe needy children around the globe.

Knowing that this book has the potential to not only change lives in our country, but to also give food, clean water, shelter, and clothing to those who are living in unimaginable circumstances, gave me so much purpose and excitement while writing. I’m humbled to be partnering with Compassion’s ministry to the poorest of the poor.

Would You Like a Free Pre-Release Copy of The Money Saving Mom®’s Budget?

Update: Thank you for your interest! The submission form is now closed.

We are sending out a limited number of pre-release copies for free to bloggers and other media outlets. Would you like to review the book and publish your thoughts? If so, please fill out the questions below.

Please note: Filling out the below form does not guarantee a few review copy or giveaway, but we will do our best to accommodate as many requests as we can. Your information will not be sold but will only be used to contact you about the book and media opportunities with the book.

Having trouble seeing the form? Go here!

3 Oct 2011   ·   63
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan

Build Your Own Haystacks

Breakfasts

Pumpkin Scones (from the freezer), bananas
Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins (from the freezer), fried eggs
Pumpkin Pancakes (from the freezer), scrambled eggs
Steel Cut Oats in the crockpot
Carrot Cake Oatmeal
Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
Easy Morning Glory Muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit

Lunches

Chicken noodle soup, rolls, fruit
PB&J, carrot sticks
Macaroni & cheese, frozen veggies, fruit
Salad with hard-boiled eggs, feta cheese, dried cranberries, toasted rolls
Homemade Pizza Pockets, carrot sticks, apples
Leftovers x 2

Snacks

Granola bars
Fruit/Veggies
Pumpkin Pie Hot Cocoa
Easy Morning Glory Muffins

Dinners

Build Your Own Haystacks, fruit salad
Barbecued Chicken in the crockpot, twice-baked potatoes, frozen veggies
Macaroni & Cheese With Beef (from the freezer), Easy Morning Glory Muffins (from the freezer), frozen veggies
Ham & Cheese Pockets, fruit salad, frozen veggies
Dinner with extended family x 2
Dinner out

Freezer Cooking

Ham & Cheese Pockets
Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

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

3 Oct 2011   ·   113
Money Saving Mom

What to Do When All the Deals Are Gone

Guest post by Lacey Wilcox

I can still remember the first time I went to try and play the drugstore game. I was excited, a little nervous, and expectant of being able to show my husband my money-saving triumph.

I walked into Walgreens  with my coupons and detailed list in hand. I’d used MoneySavingMom®’s helpful tools to come up with transactions that would help me get what I needed, and get a great deal.

Let’s just say, I was pumped as I walked in the door towards my first item.

It was gone.

I was crushed, for a moment. But, I could do without the baby lotion–for now anyway. I shook it off, deciding to just move on to the next item, only to find that it was gone, too.

I worked my way through the rest of my list, only to find that almost all of the items I had planned on purchasing, had already been bought. Talk about a feeling of money-saving defeat.

Anyone else ever been there? My guess is I’m not alone.

So, what do you do when all your deals are gone? Cry? Scream? Gripe about all those selfish people out there? Yell at the store manager for not ordering enough baby lotion or laundry detergent? Sit in your car and pout? Buy ice cream?

Well, no (although that last one is pretty tempting…!). But, here are some things you can do when all your deals are gone that can help save your sanity, and maybe even help you save a buck.

1. Have a back-up plan.

Write out the transactions that are your goal, and then have some others planned out just in case you can’t make them. (Note: I would only recommend putting items on your back-up plan that you either really need, or can get for free. If there are not items like this, I would not suggest spending money just so you can say you used your coupons.)

2. Try another store.

Try another location of the same store, or maybe you decide to go try a completely different one altogether. Create some transactions for alternate drug stores and grocery stores in case your first choice doesn’t work out.

3. Politely and cordially talk to the store manager.

First, ask the store manager when their merchandise is delivered, and when would be the best time to make your purchase. Then, you can also talk with him/her about the possibility of addressing people who take all of the good deals. They might not realize that this can actually hurt their store’s business.

4. Partner with a friend.

If you have small children or a busy schedule, having a back-up plan can be a little tricky. If this is the case, try partnering with a friend to help purchase deals for yourselves and each other. This way, you both don’t have to go every week. I’ve also found that planning transactions with someone else helps me to create the best scenarios.

5. Walk away, but with joy.

When all else fails, choose joy. If you can’t make it work this week, walk away choosing to try again next week. And as you walk away, remember the things you have to be thankful for: for life, for grace, for breath, for family, for sunshine, for blessings…

…and, for ice cream. 🙂

What about you?  How do you react when all of your deals are gone?  What advice do you have to hande that situation?

Lacey lives in the Panhandle of Texas with her husband, Kade and sweet baby, Selah, where they manage Panfork Baptist Camp. Lacey writes about adventures in marriage, mommy-hood, and camp life on her blog.

photo credit

3 Oct 2011   ·   45
Money Saving Mom

10 Weekly Goals

Last week flew by in a blur! Preparing for the “How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half” workshop I gave on Saturday ended up taking more time than I expected (those types of things always do, don’t they?!), but it was every bit worth it–especially as it’s a workshop I’m planning to give multiple times over the next year.

In addition, some unexpected and time-sensitive things popped up that I had to take care of for my book’s release. (It’s not releasing until January 10, 2012, but it is amazing how many marketing and publicity things have to be taken care of months in advance!).

So needless to say, my personal reading and exercise (and that rag quilt I was supposed to finish) had to get mostly shelved. But it’s looking like this week is going to be a lot more calm and quiet, so I’m looking forward to more reading and running and sewing than I was able to carve out last week!

By the way, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with life or just would love to have more order and structure (I’m always working on improving there!), Amy is doing a 31 Days to Get It Together series that you’ll likely find helpful. She constantly inspires me!

Here’s the progress I made on last week’s goals:

Family/Mothering Goals

1. Finish reading The Imagination Station: Problems in Plymouth aloud to the children.

2. Go to see Courageous (Loved it! Highly, highly recommended for adults!)

3. Work on our current habit training project.

Personal Goals

4. Run 12 miles (total).

5. Finish reading Eat Mor Chikin. Still working on EntreLeadership and Womanly Dominion.

6. Listen to Poke the Box audiobook.

7. Finish Rag Quilt.

Home Management Goals

8. Spend 10 minutes picking up/cleaning our bedroom/bathroom every day (I’ve really been working with the children on keeping their room/bathroom cleaned and I realized that I’ve not been setting the best example for them!).

Business Goals

9. Shoot video for 31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget series.

10. Finish putting together talk + handouts for a speaking engagement this week.

Here are this week’s goals:

Family/Mothering Goals

1. Finish reading The Cabin Faced West aloud to the children.

2. Work on our current habit training project.

3. Take both girls out on individual “dates” with me.

Personal Goals

4. Run 12 miles (total).

5. Finish reading EntreLeadership, Womanly Dominion, and He Heard Hannah (advance review copy).

6. Listen to Poke the Box audiobook.

7. Finish Rag Quilt.

Home Management Goals

8. Spend 10 minutes picking up/cleaning our bedroom/bathroom every day (I’ve really been working with the children on keeping their room/bathroom cleaned and I realized that I’ve not been setting the best example for them!).

Business Goals

9. Shoot video for 31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget series.

10. Get new business cards printed.

How did you do on last week’s goals? What are your goals for this week? If you feel comfortable doing so, I’d love to have you share your progress on last week’s goals and your goals for this coming week in the comments. Let’s cheer each other on to live purposeful and productive lives!

You can download a free customizable weekly goal-planning sheet here.

photo credit

1 Oct 2011   ·   83
Money Saving Mom

Monthly Financial Checkup

I have no idea how it is already October, but the good news is that we were able to fully-fund Silas’ educational savings account in September! And we’re trying not to be discouraged with how badly the market is doing right now… it’s going to get better in the next 11-16 years before they need to use the money, right?! We hope, at least. 🙂

Here’s our list:

Our Family’s Financial Goals for the Summer of 2010 through December 2011

1. Significantly increase our giving to needs in our community and around the world.This is an ongoing goal, so we’re keeping it uncrossed off from the list.

2. Pay cash for a replacement washer and dryer for our very used set.

3. Pay cash for a replacement for Old Blue Van.

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room.

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls.

6. Fully fund our IRAs.

7. Bump up our retirement savings to 10% of our income.

8. Fund our children’s educational savings.

9. Double our Emergency Fund Savings (Instead of having around six month’s worth of expenses set aside, we’re planning to set aside a year’s worth of expenses.)

10. Save 40% towards our real estate investment goal.

We’d love to hear about your recent financial goals and successes! You can post about it on your blog and leave your link in the comments. Or, just share about your progress/goals in the comments. Let’s all keep each other accountable to be better stewards of our resources!

30 Sep 2011   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash: Master Bathroom Renovation

We paid cash!

A testimony submitted by Erin from Gourmet Frugality

When we bought our house almost two years ago, we knew that we needed to renovate the master bathroom. Besides being teensy-tiny, it was also a relic from 1976. One time in the minuscule shower told us that it was also unusable. The shower leaked into our kitchen below!

After saving up to put at least 20% down on our house, though, we just didn’t have the spare cash available to undertake a renovation. So, we waited. Over the next year, we got pregnant with our second child and we knew that it still wasn’t the time to sink that much money into our bathroom.

In the meantime, we saved up as much money as we could, not just for our bathroom but because we knew I would be staying home with the kids once our second was born. We made do with using our hall bathroom but all the while dreamed of having a nice master bathroom to use.

In March of 2011, on the day I quit my job to stay home with our kids, the company my husband and I worked for paid out bonuses to all of its employees. We were overjoyed because we knew exactly where that money was going. But that’s where the work started!

We started interviewing contractors in March. We wanted to find someone who charged a reasonable rate but who would do an excellent job. We also had to fit our “expensive” tastes into our cash budget. After four months of meeting with contractors and agonizing over materials choices, we made our decisions and went forward with the renovation.

Work started on July 1st and after four weeks it was finished. The transformation is incredible. We are so happy to have a beautiful bathroom to enjoy but we are even more thrilled that we don’t have the burden of going into debt to pay for it!

Erin Cathcart is a stay-at-home mother of two wonderful children. She blogs over at Gourmet Frugality where she helps people feed their families excellent food on a beans-and-rice budget.

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

30 Sep 2011   ·   135
Money Saving Mom

12 Simple Things You Can Do This Weekend to Save Some Money

Guest post by Sam from Grad Money Matters

Here is a quick to-do list you can tackle this weekend to save some money:

1. Unscrew one (or two or five) light bulbs from your bathroom light fixture.

I have never understood what the fascination is with having so many light bulbs in the bathroom. Frankly, one CFL bulb on the sink is all I care about!

2. Freeze your credit cards – literally!

If you have credit cards, put them in a ziptop freezer bag, pour water until all the cards are submerged, squeeze the air out, seal, and shove it in the freezer.

3. Make some snacks (cookies, trail mix etc.) and package them into single-serving packs.

It is a lot cheaper (and healthier) to take your own snacks with you than buying pre-packaged stuff. And, if you have your children help, it’s a fun way to spend some quality time with them, too.

4. Look through your dresser for clothes that need quick mending.

A missing button can make a shirt completely useless, and it takes less than five minutes and minimal skills to stitch a button back on.

5. Ditch the phone landline.

If you tend to make a lot of calls during day time, check out cheaper options like Skype or Magic Jack. If you tend to call mostly on night/weekends, a cell phone might suffice.

6. Cook or prepare and refrigerate/freeze some food.

Having a part of the meal (or the entire meal) ready in the fridge/freezer can go a long way in cutting down the impulse to eat out.

7. Check the pressure of your tires and fill air if needed.

Keeping the tires properly inflated can result in better gas mileage.

8. Seal any leaky faucets, windows that let the draft out.

It’s time to take care of some of the items on your honey-do list that are costing you ka-ching!

9. Change the A/C duct filters, if you have not done so recently.

Clean filters not only improve the efficiency of the A/C but are better for your health, too!

10. Collect some coupons.

Sort through your Sunday newspaper and save the coupons. Don’t get the paper? Print some coupons online for things you are planning to buy on your next shopping trip.

11. Spend some time reading articles on how to save (a ton of) money at stores like CVS and Walgreens.

Be warned though, this could get pretty addictive. Don’t buy things you don’t need just because they are cheap!

12. Cancel unused subscriptions.

Have magazines that are hardly ever read or gym that is rarely used? Get rid of them and save yourself some cash!

See, its a simple list and its hardly any work at all. Even if you scratch off only a few of the items on the list, I bet you will still manage to save some money.

What are some of your quick tips for saving some money over a weekend?

Sam is as fanatical about making more money as she is about saving money. Check out the massive collection of money-making ideas she has put together on her site.

photo credit

30 Sep 2011   ·   62
Money Saving Mom

31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: Save Money By Buying in Bulk

My husband and I shot this short two-minute video last night on three things to consider to make sure you are actually saving money when buying in bulk.

I’d love to hear what pitfalls you’ve discovered when trying to save money by buying in bulk.

Related posts:

29 Sep 2011   ·   106
How Chasing a Good Deal Can Make You Go Broke

How Garage Sales, Clearance Sections, and Dollar Bins Can Make You Broke

Do you LOVE a good deal? Do you have a difficult time holding back from purchasing something just because it saves you money — even if that means breaking the budget? Read this for some practical encouragement!

How Chasing a Good Deal Can Make You Go Broke

Guest post by Jenae from I Can Teach My Child

I love a good bargain. Not only do I love it, it’s a bit of a high for me to find a really great deal!

Some of my favorite deals are found at garage sales and the clearance sections of my favorite stores. These same places, however, I now consider “danger zones” to my budget and my self-control.

You see, the thrill of the chase sometimes outweighs the need or desire for the item itself. Recently, I went to use my Old Navy Groupon and found a $4 cardigan for my 3-year old son. I was so thrilled with the price for a winter sweater, I picked it up to take to the checkout line. I suddenly stopped to ask myself, “Wait, do I really like this? Am I really going to dress my little boy in a cardigan???”

I didn’t end up getting the cardigan. I decided I didn’t love it and therefore wouldn’t dress my son in it. Plus, it was itchy. But had I let my “deal-loving” side win, I would have bought the sweater and it would have ended up sitting in the closet with the tags still on it nine months later.

Similar scenarios have occurred time and time again at garage sales and dollar bins. Sadly, however, I had not yet learned to stop and think, therefore ending up with a bunch of junk I didn’t need. Many garage sale “bargains” have ended up being put in my own garage sale/Goodwill pile while the dollar trinkets quickly wound up lost or in the trash.

The truth is, even if we spend $5 a week on “deals” at garage sales or dollar bins, that’s $260 a year! With that money, we could have bought something that we really loved and even paid full price for it (not that I’m suggesting that, by any means).

Here are just a few questions to ask yourself whenever shopping to avoid the “deal-buying remorse” that often ensues:

  • Would I pay full price for this? Even if you rarely pay full price for anything, the answer to this question usually determines your attitude towards the item in question. When the rubber meets the road, we are all willing to fork over the cash for the things that really matter to us.
  • Do I love it? If the answer is “no”, don’t buy it!
  • Do I feel good wearing this? If you don’t feel good about yourself in any clothing (besides pajamas, perhaps), you won’t wear it. Period.
  • Will _____ really like this gift? Chances are, your friends and family members would rather have a thoughtful card or handmade gift rather than trinkets that seemed like a good deal at the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not suggesting that garage sales and clearance sections are “bad”. On the contrary! These are the places where we all should shop. But for those of us who love the thrill of a good deal, it just means we have to exercise some major self-control to ensure we don’t buy something we later regret.

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

photo credit