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13 Jul 2011   ·   138
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Selling a house without a realtor?

Today’s question is from Holly:

We are currently trying to sell our house on our own. In this horrible housing market, we have only had one showing in a month. We would love any tips on how to sell a house on your own. We have a significant amount of money invested in our house, so we don’t want to pay the high realtor fees. We would rather invest that money in our next house. Any suggestions?

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Money Saving Mom® readers? Read the submission guidelines and submit it here.

13 Jul 2011   ·   145
Money Saving Mom

31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: 3 Tips for Saving Money on Meat

I know it’s rather comical that I’m doing a video on saving money on meat when I just posted about the 20 pounds of grass-fed ground beef we bought last week. However, for years we ate very little meat as a way to save money. It was a sacrifice we both decided was worth it in order to stay out of debt and survive on a very small income.

The ideas I share in this video might not work for your family, but hopefully they’ll give you some inspiration for ways you might be able to spend less on meat. I’d love to hear your additional ideas and suggestions in the comments.

12 Jul 2011   ·   97
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: Sharing money when you have a cash envelope system?

We’ve been thinking of moving to a cash-only envelope system to better manage our spending, but I’m looking for ideas on how to “share” the cash with my spouse. Although I do the bulk of the shopping in our household, my husband often will often make a stop or two (e.g. to snag a great deal, pick up milk, etc.) on his way home from work.

I am curious how other people might handle this scenario when using cash. Do you have two sets of envelopes? Pass the cash back and forth? Any other strategies? -Becky

I cannot recommend a cash budgeting system highly enough. In fact, I wrote a whole chapter on it in my upcoming book! I truly believe it has been one of the keys to financial success for us.

But your question on how to share cash when you’re on a strict cash envelope system is excellent. We’ve also found that there are certain categories we’ll both spend in and this can pose a few issues. We’ve tried a few different things:

1. Pass the Envelopes Back and Forth

I typically do most of the grocery shopping, however, Jesse will sometimes make a quick run to Aldi for me. If I know in the morning that he’s likely going to be making a quick stop at the grocery store on his way home from work, I’ll send the grocery money envelope with him that day.

2. Rob Peter to Pay Paul

When in a bind, if we don’t have the envelope and one of us needs to buy groceries, we can borrow from another envelope and re-pay it from the grocery envelope that evening. It’s not the option I’d recommend, but it does happen around here sometimes.

3. Set Up His and Hers Envelopes

We’ve found it helpful to each have our own designated envelopes for certain budget categories. For instance, we each have our own clothing envelope and we each have our own blow envelopes. We added separate blow envelopes to our cash budgeting system last year and it’s been a great addition — it’s our fun money to spend however we like or to save for something extra that’s not in our current savings goals list.

If your husband routinely stops for groceries, it might be wise to set up a grocery envelope for him with a small portion of the grocery money so that you don’t have to mess with passing the envelopes back and forth, robbing Peter to pay Paul, or falling back on a debit or credit card because you don’t have an alternative.

If you have a cash budgeting system, I’d love to hear what you do for categories that are shared in your budget. Any great suggestions or ideas?

12 Jul 2011   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Target Trip

I stopped by Target today to pick up a few of the deals. Unfortunately, all the $2.50 pillows were already gone and the $1 Scotch tape bin was completely empty, but I was able to get a few other deals:

2 boxes of Up & Up Sheer Bandages (40-count) — $0.97 each
Used 2 $0.75/1 up & up™ First Aid Item Target coupons
$0.22 each after coupons

2 packages of Sharpie Permanent Markers Fine or Ultra-Fine (2-ct) – $1 each
Used 2 $1/1 Target coupons
Free after coupons

2 Papermate Crystal pens (10-pack) — $1.02 each
Used 2 $1/1 Target coupons
$0.02 each after coupons

1 number foam stickers from the dollar spot (I’m going to use these for a homeschool project.)

After coupons, my total was $1.59.

12 Jul 2011   ·   270
Money Saving Mom

10 Reasons to Cancel Your Credit Cards

I know credit cards tend to be a controversial issue around here, and I’m probably opening up a can of worms in posting this, but reader Aimee sent over this article from Smart Money called “10 Reasons I’m Canceling My Credit Cards” this morning. I read it and loved it — especially since it had some points you don’t often see made in articles on why you should stop using credit cards.

I’d encourage everyone to take the time to read this article and consider the points made. You may not agree with it, but I hope it causes you to think about why you’ve chosen to use credit cards or why you’ve chosen not to use them.

Here’s a snippet:

The dollar bill needs you.

A growing number of merchants won’t accept cash anymore. That includes a lot of airlines, which insist you pay by credit card if you want to buy a drink or a sandwich on board. And now comes news that the U.S. Treasury is printing fewer dollars, as we move towards an all-plastic economy.

Great news for the banks. Great news for the card companies. Great news for the marketing establishment, which can now pore through our transactions and our personal lives in greater and greater detail.

Me? Call me a contrarian, or just call me ornery, but I view this with gloom. This is not a step forward. It’s a step backwards. Personally, I’ve been moving the other way. I’ve cut down on my use of credit cards and debit cards. The latest news is the final push I needed to get them out of my life completely. I’m going all cash.

Read the full article.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Since this can sometimes be a heated topic, please remember to be cordial in commenting.

11 Jul 2011   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan

We didn’t completely follow our menu last week because I was sick. I’m so grateful we had food in our freezer — it was a huge blessing when I didn’t feel like cooking. I’m finally on the mend and feeling more like myself again (thank you, God!).

It has been SO hot here — it was 111 degrees on Sunday! — so I’m not doing much cooking or baking in order to keep the house cooler. In fact, I’m hoping to only turn on the oven once or twice this week. Otherwise, we’re using the crock pot, grill, microwave, or eating something that doesn’t need to be heated.

Breakfasts
Blueberry Muffins
Oatmeal
Scrambled eggs and toast, fruit
Fruit Smoothies
Blueberry muffins, fruit, scrambled eggs
Mango Lassi, toast
Hard-boiled eggs, toast

Lunches
Lunch out with friends
Smoothies
Salad with hard-boiled eggs, bagels, fruit
Refried beans with rice, carrot sticks, fruit
Salad with chicken, fruit, peas
Leftovers x 2

Snacks
Watermelon Frosties
All Natural No Bake Energy Bites
Fruit/Veggies

Dinners
Leftovers
Southwest Rollups, steamed veggies, fruit salad
Italian Pasta BakeBread Machine Bread Sticks, edemame, fruit
Lemon Garlic Grilled Chicken, fruit, Bread Machine Bread Sticks
Steak, fruit, tossed salad, baked potatoes
Dinner with extended family
Asian Barbecue Chicken, rice, steamed veggies, fruit salad

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Bread Machine Bread Sticks
Lemon Garlic Marinated Chicken
All Natural No Bake Energy Bites

Did you make a menu plan this week? If so, I’d love to have you share your link in the comments. Any great hot-weather recipe recommendations?

11 Jul 2011   ·   122
Money Saving Mom

When Money is the Last Thing on Your Mind

Note from Crystal: I think this is the most touching guest post I’ve ever shared before. Dana’s blog and the story of her son’s sudden death has had a profound impact upon me as a mother. I encourage you to take time to visit her blog and read through some of the archives. You’ll be moved, touched, and blessed.

Guest Post by Dana from Roscommon Acres

On December 13, 2010 we were faced with the most difficult decision of our lives: Did we want the white casket or the brown casket for our twenty-one-month-old son?

The following weeks were a blur of activity hidden in a cloud of grief. We went out to eat because we were out and the children were hungry and no one really ever thought about dinner. There were the funeral bills and the co-pays.

There was Christmas. And there were five children from whom so much had been taken that it was hard to say “no” to anything at all. To top it off, my husband didn’t go back to work for a month.

Before Mattias died, I had written up a Master Plan, a sheet of goals for the property prioritized by the expected return on the investment. It was a three-year plan but to cope with our grief and loss, the money belt was loosened as we ordered trees for our orchard, ducklings, keets, chicks, and bees. We started remodeling the basement, building a wall right through where the accident happened.

For a passing moment, it seemed to me as if we were running through money like water, but suddenly I didn’t care about the money that was being spent. In fact, for an entire month, we didn’t think about money because there were bigger things on our plate than a budget.

This was only possible because for fifteen years, we had thought about money. We have a credit card, but it has been paid off in full every month since I was nineteen. Our cars are old and a little beaten up but they are ours. We have a mortgage, but it is far less than the 25% of our income that Dave Ramsey recommends. And we had managed to save six months worth of expenses in our emergency fund.

For a month, we didn’t have to think about money, and could instead concentrate on wading through the difficult process of figuring out what comes next after burying a child because for fifteen years we had thought about money.

Dana Hanley writes at Roscommon Acres about life more abundantly, from the joy of a baby’s smile to the almost unbearable grief of losing a son. She is seeking beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:3).

9 Jul 2011   ·   70
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: 20 pounds of grass-fed ground beef!

I’m super excited because, as I mentioned on my Facebook Page a few weeks ago, my husband surprised me with a new deep freezer! I’ve always just had over-the-fridge freezers (except for the short stint when we had the freezer disaster and ended up getting rid of the the blood-soaked and stinking freezer when we moved because we were too scared to try using it again!) so I was thrilled — especially because I wasn’t expecting that we were going to get a freezer for at least another year or two.

And one of the first things we did was buy twenty pounds of local grass-fed ground beef. My parents bought a cow a few weeks ago and they kindly let us buy some of the beef from them. It was $3.80 a pound — which is a great price for this high-quality beef. I can’t wait to make hamburgers, meatballs and meatloaf with it!

I also went to Target and purchased the items pictured above — you can see the full price breakdown here.

Also purchased and not pictured: chicken, butter, peanut butter, oats, fruit, and veggies from Aldi, farm-fresh eggs

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.

8 Jul 2011   ·   170
Money Saving Mom

Monthly Financial Check-up

We made some good headway on the children’s educational savings this month. As I mentioned two months ago, we completed our goal for Kathrynne’s savings account and were making progress on Kaitlynn’s. This gave us both the momentum to just get it done. So we sat down and figured out some various savings we could re-allocate in order to free up more money for the educational savings accounts.

Ever since we replaced Jesse’s car last year, we have been setting aside money to replace the mini van I drive. It’s still running great and looks like it’s got lots of life left in it, so I convinced Jesse to dump that savings into the educational savings instead.

(We have a good emergency fund and Jesse has a very reliable car that our whole family can fit it in, so we have a back-up plan if the mini van up and dies tomorrow. I really don’t mind going back to being a one-car family for awhile if we have to and would rather have the children’s educational savings funded and drive our mini van for a few more years before replacing it.)

So reallocating the vehicle money plus some other savings added with the money we were able to put in savings this past month gave us just enough to finish out our goal for Kaitlynn’s educational savings account.

We got both of their savings accounts set up this past month (they came with us to set them up and it was a great opportunity for us to explain what we were doing, why we were doing it and how compound interest works!) and now we’re working on funding Silas’ account. Since he’s younger, we’re putting less in his account, so I’m hopeful we can possibly have his funded by the end of August. I’m not sure on that, but we’ll see!

Here’s our current goals 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. Kathrynne and Kaitlynn’s are done, now we’re working on Silas’.

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 for our next BHAG.

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!

8 Jul 2011   ·   66
Looking for easy, FREE ways to keep your toddlers busy this summer? Check out these GREAT ideas!

8 Activities For Tots That Won’t Cost You Anything

Looking for easy, FREE ways to keep your toddlers busy this summer? Check out these GREAT ideas!

Looking for some ideas to keep your tots busy this summer? Here are eight ideas that you can do with items you probably already have on hand:

Water Painting

Bean Scooping

Water Scooping & Pouring

Apple Stamping (we’ve also done this with potatoes)

Ice Cube Boat-Making

Ice Cube Painting

Pudding Finger Painting (you can also make your own edible finger paint)

Peanut Butter Playdough Fun

What are your favorite no-cost activities for tots? Tell us in the comments!


7 Jul 2011   ·   87

Build-Your-Own Haystacks Recipe

This recipe is so flexible and forgiving; we adapt it based upon what we have on hand and what we get on sale. It’s been a favorite of ours for many years!

Growing up, we served this more times than I can count when we had a big group of guests over. It’s great paired with a fruit salad and Green Rice Casserole.

By the way, if you’re the kind of person who prefers exact measurements, I found this recipe on AllRecipes that is similar to the one we make.

7 Jul 2011   ·   36
Money Saving Mom

4 Free Educational Sites for Young Children

(Kaitlynn when she was 22 months old. Isn’t she precious? I can’t believe she’s already 4 years old now!)

If you’re looking for free children’s educational sites, here are a few I recommend:

::DLTK Crafts for Kids features a variety of printable children’s crafts, coloring pages, worksheets and projects for holidays. The site covers almost every subject and holiday and would be great for preschool, homeschool, or afterschool educational activities. (Thanks for the link, 1 All Natural Mommy!)

::HomeschoolShare is a site I go to often when I’m planning out themed units for our homeschooling. You can search by subject and there are many free lapbooks, unit studies, printables, and more.

::Preschool Palace offers free daily lesson plans, song lists, activities, monthly calendar, book suggestions, craft ideas, and worksheets plus hundreds of free printables. The lesson plans are only released one month at a time for free during the school year, though. (Thanks, Deanna, for suggesting this site!)

::Starfall is one of my girls’ favorite sites. When I was very sick with morning sickness during the beginning of Silas’ pregnancy, the girls and I spent a lot of time exploring this site. There are lots of simple phonics games and more to teach young children the basics of reading.

Find many more free educational ebooks, downloads, and worksheets here.

What are your favorite free children’s educational sites or blogs? Tell us in the comments.

6 Jul 2011   ·   45
Money Saving Mom

Breaking Writer’s Block

Note from Crystal: I’m taking a break from the How to Make Money Blogging Series this week to let my friend, Jon Acuff, share a post on breaking writer’s block. I think many of you who are bloggers or freelance writers will enjoy his post. And be sure to stop by his blog — it’s one of my favorite blogs on the planet!

Guest post by Jon Acuff from JonAcuff.com

“Oh the irony, you can’t think of an opening sentence for a blog post that’s supposed to help people beat writer’s block!”

That’s the first sentence that came to my mind as I sat down to write this post. And as such, it had the honor of breaking through all that deafening white space on my laptop.

That’s something I do sometimes. I recruit whatever sentence is in my head to go first, to throw itself on the blank page grenade. To take one for the team and be that brave, often ugly sentence standing alone in that ocean of nothing. That big, often terrifying maw of blank that is waiting for you to fill it. With words and ideas and creativity and it’s just so empty.

You’ve got writer’s block. And maybe the “first sentence in my head goes first” approach doesn’t work for you. I’ve had writer’s block, too. In the last two years, I’ve written three books, dozens of freelance projects, and around a million words on my blogs.

I had writer’s block writing my new book, Quitter. I had writer’s block writing the content for the Quitter Conference. I’ve had 100 bouts with writers block. I will have 100 more.

Here is one way I’ve learned to beat it: Ask future you to be awesome. Whether you’re a writer or a car mechanic, the fear of perfectionism often talks us out of doing the things we’re called to do.

We don’t want to start because we’re afraid whatever it is we do won’t be perfect. So we sit and wait, scared to make a single move and write down a less than perfect sentence on our blogs.

What I do in those moments is ask future me to be awesome. I think to myself, “OK, right now, the stuff I write, might not be awesome. So Future Jon, the guy who will rewrite what I write tomorrow, will you please turn this into something awesome?”

And then I write. Future Jon’s got it all under control. That guy is going to do something amazing. Today Jon? His only responsibility is to get something, anything really, down on paper. It’s OK if it’s horrible. His job isn’t awesome. That’s Future Jon’s job.

The funny thing is that often, midway through writing the first few pages, I forget about that little arrangement I’ve made between Today Jon and Future Jon. I’ve never had a moment where hours later or days later, Future Jon has sat down to read what’s been written and thought, “Oh, this Today Jon is killing me. What kind of nonsense is this? How am I supposed to make this awesome?”

Nope, Future Jon is an appreciative fellow. He’s just glad that Today Jon got anything down on the piece of paper because that was really his only expectation.

Maybe that sounds weird to you and it probably should, because I’m weird. So let me say it in a different way. Next time you sit down to write, I want you to say one thing to yourself:

“Later, I’ll be awesome. Today, I’m just going to be productive.”

And then just start.

Have you ever struggled with writer’s block? What did you do to get over it?

Jon Acuff is a speaker, author, and launcher. He has written three books including the Wall Street Journal Bestseller Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job and Stuff Christians Like. You can read more of his work on JonAcuff.com or follow him on Twitter @jonacuff.

photo credit

5 Jul 2011   ·   35
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

Watermelon Frosties

Jesse’s had a really heavy case load at his law firm recently so he’s been working a lot of extra hours the last few weeks. So we were so happy to have him home over the fourth of July weekend. We slept in and just enjoyed relaxing family time for three whole days. It was so nice — and we were was sad when the extended weekend was over. Now it’s back to real-life again!

Breakfasts
Blueberry Pancakes, scrambled eggs
Oatmeal
Fruit Smoothies
Scrambled eggs and toast, fruit
French Toast, fruit
Fruit Smoothies
Scones, fruit, scrambled eggs

Lunches
Lunch out
Salad with hard boiled eggs, bagels, fruit
Homemade mac & cheese, fruit, peas
Mini pizzas, salad, fruit
Refried beans with cheese and rice, carrot sticks, fruit
Leftovers x 2

Snacks
Watermelon Frosties
Homemade Smoothie Popsicles
Fruit/Veggies

Build-Your-Own Haystacks

Dinners
Dinner with extended family (we brought watermelon)
Dinner with extended family (we brought the meat for grilling)
Build-Your-Own Haystacks, fruit
Pancakes, scrambled eggs, fruit (Jesse’s working late, so I’m making a simple dinner for the children and me.)
Cheese Quesadillas (Jesse’s working late, so I’m making a simple dinner for the children and me.)
Lemon Garlic Grilled Chicken, fruit, Bread Machine Bread Sticks
Steak, fruit, tossed salad, Oven Baked Parmesan Fries

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Bread Machine Bread Sticks
Lemon Garlic Marinated Chicken
Pancakes

What’s on your menu this week? If you’ve blogged about it, I’d love for you to share your menu plan link in the comments.