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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.

2 Aug 2011   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Cardboard Dollhouse-Making Trumped My To-Do List

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full post.

1 Aug 2011   ·   14
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Walgreens Shopping Trip

6 Wexford Pocket Folder with Prongs — $0.11 each

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

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

3 12-packs of Colored Pencils — $0.59 each

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

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

1 Mini Stapler — $0.69

2 Sandwich bags — $0.99 each

Total with tax: $12.47

1 Aug 2011   ·   49
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Aug 2011   ·   72
Money Saving Mom

4 Tips for Saving Money on Camping

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

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

Borrow from Family or Friends

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

Join Freecycle

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

Buy from eBay

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

Use Leftover Firewood

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

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

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

photo credit

30 Jul 2011   ·   46
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

Find

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

29 Jul 2011   ·   61
Money Saving Mom

Fun & Frugal: Recycling magazines

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

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

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

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

29 Jul 2011   ·   57
Money Saving Mom

Back-to-School Teacher Kits

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

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

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

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

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

29 Jul 2011   ·   49
Money Saving Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 Jul 2011   ·   9
Money Saving Mom

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

We paid cash!

A testimony from Melissa at Far From Flawless

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

How We Saved

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

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

How We Found a Deal

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

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

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

We are just thrilled!

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

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

28 Jul 2011   ·   21
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Office Max shopping trip

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

6 Office Max packages of filler paper – $0.10 each

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

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

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