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28 Jun 2011   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Reader Testimonial: Being financially responsible pays off during job loss

Emily emailed in the following testimonial which I thought many of you would be encouraged by reading:

I lost my job at the beginning of April. My former boss told me that he would pay me through the end of May. I figured that would give me enough time to find a job and still live without a worry. I was wrong! I have not received a paycheck since April 15.

Thanks to the advice that I have been reading on MoneySavingMom.com and my frugal ways, I am in a financial position in which I can go at least three months (comfortably) without pay. This support net has lifted a weight off my shoulders.

I spend many hours a day applying for jobs and searching for jobs. Unfortunately I haven’t had any luck yet, but I know that eventually I’ll find something (hopefully sooner than later).

Here are some of the things I have done to reduce my cost of living over the past year:

  • Watch my energy rates and change when I find lower rates.
  • Cut coupons and use them on items on sale, so that I pay minimal.
  • Use free samples I find on MoneySavingMom.com and AllYou.com — I have enough shampoo to last me at least a year!
  • Cook meals according to what’s on sale at the grocery store.
  • Buy meat that is on sale because it’s approaching the ‘sell by’ date (and cook immediately).
  • Cook big meals and freeze leftovers for days that I’m too tired to cook.
  • Call Comcast periodically to see if they have lower rates (I’ve hit rock bottom — $86 for internet and cable).
  • Collect gifts (on sale at stores) in the closet. When birthdays come up, I don’t have to go to the store and spend more money than planned.

Living a conservative and modest lifestyle has already helped me though the past couple of weeks. Of course I still feel very stressed to find a job, but because I’ve lived like this for a while, there is a little less stress and less of a financial transition to make which is great! -Emily

27 Jun 2011   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

Breakfasts
Cinnamon Roll Biscuits, fruit
Cereal
Amish Baked Oatmeal, bananas
Whole Wheat Waffles (using Homemade Baking Mix), fruit smoothies
Oatmeal Raisin Muffins, Scrambled Eggs, Cantaloupe
Double Chocolate Oatmeal Muffins, hard-boiled eggs, fruit
Banana Brownie Waffles, fruit salad

Lunches
Cereal — I wasn’t feeling well on Sunday afternoon so Jesse sent me to bed after church and fed the kids cereal for lunch! Everyone was happy and I got a nice nap in. 🙂
Eggs, apple slices, carrots
PB&J, carrot sticks, watermelon
Tuna sandwiches, peas, apple slices
Refried beans, chips, salsa, fruit
Leftovers x 2

Snacks
Watermelon Frosties
Healthy Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”
Homemade Smoothie Popsicles
Fruit/Veggies

Dinners
Dinner at friends’ house — we brought chips and watermelon
Chicken Stuffing Casserole, watermelon
Steak, fruit, tossed salad, Oven Baked Parmesan Fries
Dinner at church activity night
Italian Pasta Bake, Homemade French Bread, edemame, watermelon
Build-Your-Own Haystacks, fruit
Homemade Pizza, fruit, Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Double Chocolate Oatmeal Muffins
Banana Brownie Waffles

What’s on your menu this week? Feel free to leave a link to your plan in the comments!

27 Jun 2011   ·   29
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Classroom Tips


Guest post by Karin at More Than the ABC’s

Teaching can mean lots of supplies. Whether it’s home school or a classroom at a school, if you find yourself responsible for teaching something and organizing it all, but don’t want to break (or touch the bank) here are a few tips:

Keep it Simple

Space, storage, and too many options can be overwhelming. Plan ahead so you aren’t making more work for yourself in the future. Look for multi-purpose equipment. I have a good number of the exact same sized box so they’ll stack, fit, and work well together.

Don’t start buying specialized learning tools if you can achieve the same results with something much simpler. Check out teacher supply catalogs with a frugal eye. Look for what you can make yourself, modify or re-purpose to get the same effect.

Think Outside the Box (or in it…)

Re-purposing ordinary materials for classroom use can be a huge money-saver. Use paint sticks as pointers and unmatched socks as white board erasers. Enlist family members or classroom parents to keep an eye out for everyday items that can be useful in the classroom.

A teacher I work with had the great idea of making salt dough geography maps — in pizza boxes. A local pizza company was happy to donate the boxes, and with a box for each student to create, store, stack and dry the maps the lesson was a huge success!

Think about the goals for your lesson. Evaluate if available technology or online resources might satisfy a need and save you a purchase.

Frugal Meets Practical

Decide what your real needs are, and how to meet them without going shopping. Pie pans and large yogurt tubs turned out to be the perfect solution to pass out supplies. Empty tissue boxes trimmed, stapled, and taped become universal storage systems. After 25 students use something, it’s bound to show wear and tear quickly. I don’t blink an eye when a tissue box shows wear, but sure would be frustrated if pricey containers cracked and broke!

Check Out Yard Sales

I love a good yard sale, and have made a list of things (at the right price) to look for. Ask if they’d reconsider the price for a school purchase, negotiate if appropriate, and keep your eyes open.

At a yard sale or thrift store I keep my eyes peeled for:

  • zippered fabric pencil pouches
  • high quality rulers or scissors
  • items to use as counters (decorator flat marbles etc.)
  • giant bags of fun writing tools
  • fancy notepads, decorative paper
  • craft supplies (pipe cleaners, tissue paper, yarn, stickers, beads)
  • hard back picture books

Be picky. Keep in mind how you will use it, store it, and if it is a high quality product. Spending ten cents on scissors that don’t cut isn’t worth it!

Frugal but Fashionable

A hodgepodge of supplies doesn’t mean it can’t look good! Come up with some unifying themes and keep it simple. Donated paint, simple colors, contact paper and a little work can do wonders transforming your learning space!

Karin is a 4th grade classroom teacher interested in classroom blogging, technology, and continuing to be a life long learner. She hopes to instill a love of learning in her students, and encourages them to pursue their interests whole-heartedly! Visit her blog, More Than the ABC’s.

Note: If you are teaching somewhere besides your house, check with the powers at be to make sure your great ideas don’t go against any policies or codes.

25 Jun 2011   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: The I-Didn’t-Use-Any-Coupons Edition

I went to four different stores this week and used a grand total of zero coupons. Here’s what I bought:

Dillon’s Shopping Trip — see the full price breakdown and shopping trip details here.

Aldi Shopping Trip — see the full price breakdown and shopping trip details here.

Health Food Store Shopping Trip — see the full price breakdown and shopping trip details here.

Walmart Shopping Trip — see the full price breakdown and shopping trip details 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.

24 Jun 2011   ·   97
Money Saving Mom

How Downsizing Gave Us More

Guest post by Amanda

About three years ago, my husband and I decided to build a home. Sounds simple enough right? After agonizing over colors, finishes, materials, and umpteen trips to the big box home improvement stores we ended up with a beautiful 3,500 square foot home that was falling apart.

Yep, you read that correctly. Our brand new home needed over $100,000 in repairs. Our general contractor had cut corners throughout the entire process of building the house and in doing so had left us with a home that looked beautiful, but wouldn’t stay that way for long.

We legally battled with our contractor for two years and ended up being forced to say goodbye to our lovely home and downsize into something smaller. We were blessed to find a place that was in our budget and that was actually owned by my parents. The only problem with the house was that it was about a fourth of the size of the home we had built and filled up with our stuff!

I began the task of packing to move and it was right around this time that I found out I was pregnant with our 3rd child. I was then faced with the reality that we would have a family of five in a two-bedroom, 850-square foot home.

How was I going to make this work? Where would we put all of our things?

Mission: Simplify

As I started going through everything we had accumulated over the five years my husband and I had been married, I was amazed to find that we had boxes in our basement that had never been unpacked, full of items that we thought we couldn’t live without. This to me seemed wasteful and it was then, after opening that third box that had been sitting untouched for almost two years, that I started a mission to simplify our lives.

This was my rule: If we hadn’t used something in a year, it was donated or sold. The only exceptions to this rule were pictures and a few mementos that held a special meaning to us, like the guitar played by my husband’s late grandfather.

Did I have to let some things go that I loved? Yes. Was it the end of the world? No. After all, they are just things. And while I did love those three sets of curtains, there were not that many windows in our new home so they were lovingly donated to our local Goodwill.

Our Lives Are Not Wrapped Up in the Things We Own

When moving day arrived, we were able to fit our once 3,500-square foot lives into 850-square feet — with room to spare for our upcoming addition to the family. Throughout this whole process, my husband I learned a valuable lesson: our lives are not wrapped up in the things that we own, but instead in the people that we surround ourselves with. Our family has grown and enjoyed the simple pleasure of being together in a home filled with love, not clutter.

Amanda is a 26-year-old, stay-at-home-mom to three little boys (ages 4, 2, and 4 months). She and her husband are high school sweethearts and have been married for six years. He is a public school teacher, just as she was before staying home with her children.

photo credit

24 Jun 2011   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

5 Ways to Save Money on Sewing Supplies

Guest post by Angi from SchneiderPeeps

When people find out that my daughter and I do a lot of sewing, a common response is “Fabric is so expensive! I can buy an item cheaper than I can sew it!” This can certainly be true. But I have learned that it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways to be a frugal sewist:

Hand-Me-Downs

We often get fabric and notions from people who used to sew but no longer do. Some of it is great for us and we keep it. And some of it is not for us and we donate it to a nonprofit thrift store.

Thrift Stores and Garage Sales

Not only can we often find great fabric at thrift store and garage sales, but we also can get vintage sheets and tablecloths. We frequently use vintage sheets to make pajama pants. They are preshrunk, very soft and if you cut it right you don’t have to hem the bottoms

Old Clothes

I know this sounds funny, but if the fabric is good, then save it. I regularly cut up jeans that have holes in the knees and flannel shirts for quilts. I also save buttons on clothes that are headed for the trash because they are too stained up to donate.

Community Fabric Sales

The Senior Citizens group in our area hosts a fabric sale a couple of times a year. The fabric is $0.25 per yard, notions are $0.05 to $0.25 each. They also sell, yarn, books and patterns.

The fabric that I used to make the pajamas for my daughter (shown above) came from this sale. Each project cost me under a dollar to make. We always find some gems among the rubble. And if you need some double knit polyester, this is definitely the place to find it!

Coupons and Sales

When I find a fabric that I just love and would be perfect for a project, I wait until it either goes on sale or I have a coupon. Then I buy the least amount that I need for the project.

When I was re-doing our master bedroom, I found some decorator fabric that I loved. But it was $18 a yard! So I waited. When it went on sale for half price, I bought two yards. That was enough to make window toppers, and a couple of throw pillows. For the curtains, I used fabric that was $5 a yard.

If you are not familiar with how different fabrics feel, I suggest visiting fabric and quilt stores and feel the fabrics. You’ll soon learn what a quality cotton fabric feels like and what a lesser quality cotton fabric feels like. This will help you as you begin to build a stash of fabric that you didn’t buy off a labeled bolt.

Caution: be careful of using old (vintage) thread. Thread weakens over time and it is best not to use it on something that you want to keep for a long time for for something that will be washed or used a lot.

Angi is a wife and mom of 6 children who spends her days homeschooling, crafting, gardening, playing chauffer, keeping chickens, trying to learn how take better pictures and blogging at SchneiderPeeps.

photo credit

23 Jun 2011   ·   55

Cinnamon Roll Biscuits Recipe

I made this recipe last week using the Homemade Baking Mix and it was a total winner. Everyone in our family liked these and we had guests over and they raved about them, too.

Best of all? These are so simple to make. I timed myself and can have these in the oven in less than 15 minutes. Now that’s my kind of recipe — delicious, quick and even made with all whole-wheat flour!

23 Jun 2011   ·   66
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking in an “Hour”: Taco Meat, Healthy Peanut Butter Fudge, Whole-Wheat Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Yesterday was one of those whirlwind days. My doorbell and phone rang a lot (I counted at the end of the day and nine different people came over during the course of the day!). I got the freezer cooking done, but there were so many different interruptions that it ended up dragging out over two hours. But at least I got it done!

And then I did another impromptu cooking session this afternoon — some for the freezer, some for us to eat this weekend. So, here’s everything I made the last 24 hours:

6 meals’ worth of Taco Meat (I threw this recipe together using cooked pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, chili powder and salt. We used some of it for our Build-Your-Own Haystacks last night and I’m freezing the rest to use for tacos and haystacks over the next month or so.)

1 pan of Cinnamon Roll Biscuits

1 dozen Whole-Wheat Blueberry Streusel Muffins (These were okay. I like some of my other blueberry muffin recipes better, though.)

Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge (This turned out pretty well. Everyone thought it was good — not fabulous, but good.)

2 bags of cooked chickpeas

Homemade Hummus

Homemade Tahini

Did you do any freezer cooking this week? If so, I’d love to see your links and/or recipes if you blogged about it.

23 Jun 2011   ·   115
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Walmart Price-Matching Shopping Trip

Walmart Shopping Trip

4 plums — price-matched to Aldi price of $0.25 each

4 nectarines — price-matched to Aldi price of $0.25 each

4 cantaloupe — price-matched to Aldi price $0.99 each

4 cartons of strawberries — price-matched to Aldi price of $0.99 each

4 peaches — price-matched to Aldi price of $0.25 each

5 pounds of bananas — price-match to a local store’s Thursday $0.18/lb. sale

The total after tax was $11.51.

I’m so thankful to be well-stocked up fruit again — at least for a few days. My children have been eating through fruit at a crazy rate here recently, but I’m not going to do anything to discourage it since I’m thrilled that they are asking to have fruit for snack.

Now if we could just get them to start asking for zucchini and spinach for snack, I’d really feel like a good mom. But I don’t think that’s going to be happening anytime soon! 🙂

23 Jun 2011   ·  
Money Saving Mom

How to Make Money Blogging: Offer Giveaways

How to Make Money Blogging: Learn How To Start Offering Giveaways On Your BlogA question I have heard over and over during the past few years is: “How do I start offering giveaways on my blog?” I get the impression that many new bloggers think you must have a big blog or super secret sources in order to host giveaways on your blog.

Well, guess what? There is no super secret society one must be admitted to in order to run giveaways. Nor do you need to have substantial traffic.

No matter the size of your blog, there are thousands of companies who would love to offer a giveaway to your readers. Seriously. And once you get started with giveaways, you’ll likely quickly find that there are many more opportunities than you have time and space for!

Here are four simple ways to get started offering blog giveaways:

1) Give something of your own away.

When I was very new to blogging and didn’t know any better, I often paid for my own giveaways. In fact, I often gave away products that I personally owned and no longer needed.

While this is not the ideal, it is an excellent way to “get your feet wet” when it comes to giveaways. When you approach a company regarding running a giveaway (see next point), you’ll likely have better success in procuring a giveaway if you can show them that you’ve successfully run giveaways in the past.

If you use Swagbucks (and if you don’t, what are you waiting for?!), you might consider giving away a gift card you’ve earned through them. That way, it doesn’t cost you actual money out of pocket. And readers love gift card giveaways.

2) Approach companies and ask if they’ll run a giveaway.

If you don’t have companies beating your door down to request that you do a giveaway with them, start getting proactive! Have a product or website that you love, write and ask them if they’d consider running a giveaway on your blog. It’s that easy!

Be professional, be concise, and make sure to clearly explain how running a giveaway on your blog would be a win for their company. I’d recommend that you share your blog stats with them, link to a recent giveaway you’ve run, and share why you feel their product or website is well-suited to your blog’s audience. In addition, I’d state upfront two ideas you have for a giveaway but also convey that you’re open to other ideas they might have.

3) Ask for a contact from another blogger who has run a giveaway.

Has one of your blogging friends run a giveaway with a company that you think would also be a great fit for your blog? Ask them if they’d be willing to pass along their contact at that company to you.

Now, please don’t abuse this idea! Most bloggers are happy to share their contacts with you, but don’t expect or demand that they must share all their contacts with you as most bloggers work hard to establish relationships with PR and Advertising companies. But if they are willing to share, this can be a great way to get a direct contact for a person at a company or PR Agency which is likely interested in running giveaways on blogs.

4) Respond to a press release with a giveaway pitch.

Once you’ve been blogging for a little while, you’ll often begin to receive press releases about new products from companies and PR Agencies. If you’re interested in the product and think it would be a great fit for your blog’s audience, consider writing back and pitching a giveaway. Companies are sending out a press release to garner buzz for their product, so they’ll often bite on a giveaway pitch.

22 Jun 2011   ·   74
Money Saving Mom

How to Make Money Blogging: 10 Ways to Build & Increase Your Readership (Part 3)

Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed it.

9. Network with other bloggers.

Back when I first starting blogging, if you blogged semi-consistently and were even remotely interesting, you had no problem getting readers. Nowadays, there are so many more blogs and it’s a lot harder to build your readership. One of the key components — aside from so many of the other things we’ve discussed in this series — is to network with other bloggers.

I’ve learned everything I know about blogging from more experienced and wiser people. They’ve given me counsel, they’ve taught me things I would have never figured out on my own, they’ve encouraged me with I was feeling burnt out or discouraged and they’ve challenged me to better myself as a blogger and writer.

Find bloggers you can connect with (either online or in your local area) to bounce ideas off of, to keep each other accountable and to share new things you’re learning or experimenting. These friendships can be invaluable — and it’s also nice to spend time with people who “get” what this whole blogging thing is about!

Partner with other bloggers to create series (see Honoring the Man They Call Daddy for an example), team up with other bloggers to raise awareness about issues you care about and guest post on each other’s blogs. Always be looking for ways to join forces with other bloggers in a way that will benefit your readers — and theirs, as well.

10. Create a community.

Finally, if you want to build your readership, you need to be there for them. Don’t just write a post and then disappear and let readers talk amongst themselves in the comments. Respond to questions asked and interact with your readers on a regular basis. In fact, when you are first starting out, you might to try to respond to all comments left. It encourages people to stick around and it makes them feel a part of a community.

Even if you can’t respond to every comment, whatever you do, don’t just show up to respond to commentors. As Jon Acuff says, “If you only respond to jerks on your blog, eventually you’ll create a blog that only jerks read.” It’s totally okay to explain yourself to those who misunderstood your post or are offended, but it’s much more important to respond to the faithful, encouraging commentors. They care much more deeply about you than a fly-by-night nasty anonymous commentor ever does.

In addition, listen to your readers: ask for their advice, welcome their input and let them know how much you appreciate them.

A Word of Caution

People always ask me, “How do you do it all?” I think the important thing to remember is that I’ve slowly added new things — Facebook, Twitter, email newsletter, etc. If I had tried to set it all up all at once, I would have been completely overwhelmed.

Pace yourself when setting up a blog. Challenge yourself to try new things little by little, don’t go and implement all these ten things at once. Pick one or two to focus on for the next few months. Set goals for each month, break these goals down into weekly goals and then work on them for 10 or 15 minutes each day. Over time, it will likely start to become old hat and you can add new goals and experiment with new ideas.

However, remember to compare yourself with yourself only. There will always be another blogger doing a better job of this or that or the other. Don’t let it discourage you. Look at the progress you are making towards your goals — even if it seems very slow and miniscule — and be encouraged by that.

photo credit