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7 Jun 2011   ·   133
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: How do you find time to read?

Becky from Our Peaceful Home asked on my book review post last month:

Crystal, I am intrigued about how you manage to read so many books and still do all you do with your blog, homeschooling, etc. Do you have any tips on finding time to fit in all the reading that you do? — Becky

Great question! I learn so much through reading: it challenges me, inspires me and educates me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today were it not for the myriad of meaningful and challenging books I’ve read over the past 29 years of my life.

I especially enjoy reading “non-fluff” books. There’s nothing wrong with reading for entertainment, but if you want to improve yourself as a person, I highly encourage you to choose books that will help you get closer to your goals and shape the way you think and live your life.

Here are some ways I’ve found to find time to read:

1. Make Reading a Priority

In most every case, you can make time for what you truly want to have time for. I read this quote in Honey for a Child’s Heart yesterday and thought it was so good:

“A busy schedule is the enemy of reading. Agreeing in principle with all the benefits of books, you may at this point simply sigh and say, ‘I wish we had more time for reading.’ But the fact remains that we arrange time for what we think is truly important.”

2. Always Have a Book Handy

I keep a few books I’m working on reading through different parts of the house. That way, if I have a few minutes of extra time, I have a book handy to pick up and read.

When I’m headed out the door for an appointment, when I’ll be riding in the passenger seat instead of driving or when I’m going anywhere that there’s a potential I might have some “dead” time, I bring a book along. Sometimes, I don’t even get to crack it open. Other times, I end up having unexpected waiting time and finish the entire book!

3. Read First Thing in the Morning

In the past six months, I’ve made reading a higher priority in my life as I feel like reading good books is one of best ways I can improve as a writer and blogger. One way I’ve carved out more time for reading is by doing it first thing in the morning.

On a usual morning, I get up early, take my shower and get dressed and then I spend 20 minutes in Bible reading and prayer. As soon as I’m finished with that, instead of opening up my laptop, I set the timer for ten minutes and read from whatever book I’m currently reading through.

I can usually read at least a chapter in that 10 minutes and I’ve found it’s a great way to start my day off. Plus, if the day ends up being very full and there’s no extra time for reading at any other time of the day, at least I’ve read one chapter of a book!

4. Turn Off the TV

I know this might not be a popular opinion, but I think you’ll get a lot more out of a good book than you ever will out of the majority of television programs. If you usually spend 30 minutes watching television every day, challenge yourself to devote half of that time to reading instead.

Since I watch very little television (most weeks go by without me watching any), that may be one of the reasons I have more time to read than many people. I’d choose a good book over television any day!

5. Turn Off the Computer

There are so many amazing blogs and sites and articles to read online, but sometimes it can become noisy overload. I prefer to just follow a few blogs and read books instead. I seem to focus better and get more out of books I can hold in my hand rather than reading articles on a computer screen.

6. Listen to Audiobooks

There are many of you who don’t have the luxury of a fairly relaxed schedule like me. You work full-time, you have a gaggle of children and your days are packed from sun-up to sundown and beyond. If snatching a few minutes of reading time seems beyond comprehension, consider audiobooks instead.

You can listen in the car, while you’re folding laundry, while you’re exercising… any time your hands are busy but your mind is free. I’ve only just begun listening to audiobooks at the encouragement of my husband and I’ve truly enjoyed this extra way to fit in more “reading”.

7. Read Aloud to Your Children

If you have children, reading aloud to them is one of the greatest ways to get reading in. Sure, you don’t necessarily read aloud books to them that you’d have on your personal book list, but it’s still so enjoyable to all share a book together.

We typically read aloud for 30 minutes to an hour every week day and it’s truly one of our favorite parts of each day. The girls almost always beg for “another chapter” when I’m finished — and I usually oblige because I’m enjoying the book so much myself!

How do you find time to read (if you do!)? I’d love to hear your ideas!

7 Jun 2011   ·   180
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Target trip (and why I paid over $2 for a box of bandages)

I took a meal to a friend today who lives over by Target, so made a quick stop at Target to see what deals I could pick up. Here’s what I ended up getting:

Nexcare children’s bandages (20-count) at $1.68
Used $1/1 Target coupon (there’s also a $0.55/1 Nexcare coupon from the 4/3 or 6/5 SmartSource insert that I didn’t have)
$0.68 after coupon

Up & Up Hair Detangler — $1.34
Used $0.75/1 Up & Up Hair item coupon (no longer available)
$0.59 after coupon

Nivea Body Wash – $3.04
Used $1/1 Target coupon (from the Beauty Bag)
Stacked with $2/1 any Nivea Body Wash coupon from the 6/5 RedPlum insert
$0.04 after coupons

Seattle’s Best Coffee — $6.04
Used $1/1 Target coupon
Stacked with $2/1 printable
$3.04 after coupon

Mead Flashcards — $1.79
Used $1/1 Target coupon
$0.79 after coupon

Band-Aids — $2.19

After coupons, I paid $8.94.

Now, if you’re wondering why on earth I spent $2.19 on a box of Hello Kitty Band-Aids, it’s because Kaitlynn has been talking about the Strawberry Shortcake bandages I was planning to buy ever since she saw me print this coupon out. She was so excited I was going to buy them that she asked repeatedly if she could come shopping with me on this trip.

She held onto the Nexcare bandage coupon the whole drive and kept talking about buying the bandages. (Yes, for some reason bandages — especially character bandages — are one of my children’s favorite things right now. Don’t ask me why!)

When we got to Target, they were completely sold out of all Strawberry Shortcake bandages. I could see how disappointed she was when I tried to explain this to her so I decided to let her choose another box of character bandages instead.

Was it frugal? No. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I spent $2 on a box of bandages.

But it made my little girl’s day. And while I believe strongly that a parent shouldn’t give a child everything they want, I think it’s wonderful to occasionally let go of the frugality and buy something just because it will brighten someone’s day.

It was a $2 well spent.

7 Jun 2011   ·   138
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: “Stockpiling” clothing saves us money and effort

Kristin emailed in the following tip:

With six children (and another on the way!) the cost of new clothing and shoes can really add up! I think ahead to what sizes/seasons of clothing and shoes will be needed within the next year, then scour yard sales and thrift stores for what we need. Out of season/size clothing is stored in labeled totes until they are needed.

I normally pay about $1-3 per pair of shoes, $2-3 for a pair of brand name jeans, $1-2 for dresses and $1 or less per pair of pajamas.

Recently our oldest son had a growth spurt and needed new pants. Instead of having to run out and purchase a new pair, I simply pulled
out a tote and unpacked his pants in the next size up. -Kristin

photo credit

6 Jun 2011   ·   43
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan

Breakfasts
French Toast Casserole (from the freezer), fruit
Cereal
Steel Cut Oats with raw sugar and milk
Breakfast Burritos, fruit
Strawberry-Banana Maple Smoothies, toast
Waffles, scrambled eggs
Amish Baked Oatmeal, scrambled eggs

Lunches
Egg salad sandwiches, cantaloupe, peas
Annie’s Mac & Cheese, carrot sticks, Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches, carrot sticks
Beans & Rice with cheese, peas, fruit
Leftovers x 3

Snacks
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Bananaberry Freeze
Fruit/Veggies

Dinners
Marinated chicken, cooked carrots, wild rice, fruit salad
Burritos, steamed veggies, fruit salad
Steak on the grill, frozen veggies, rolls, fruit salad
Tilapia, barley, steamed broccoli, fruit salad
Asian Barbecue Chicken, rice, tossed salad
Dinner out
Dinner at extended family’s house

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Homemade Whole-Wheat Baking Mix (recipe coming Thursday)
Amish Baked Oatmeal
Asian Barbecue Chicken

What’s cooking at your house this week? Feel free to leave a link to your menu plan or any great new recipes in the comments.

6 Jun 2011   ·   95
Money Saving Mom

Sometimes It Pays to Not Buy the Best

Testimonial from Lisa at Warrior Momma:

Hubby and I used to pay top dollar for just about everything. We always bought the best when it came to computers — the best memory, the best processor, the three-year warranty, the works.

Last spring, as my laptop started to fade, I tried to keep it limping along. We had it worked on. We replaced the battery. And I had to manually crash and reboot it multiple times every day just to be able to use it.

Obviously, I needed a new laptop. My brother-in-law is in the IT world, so I asked him what I should get. He told me to buy the $500 Dell deal that was currently available.

What? The thought had never crossed my mind. We always bought a custom Dell (our last computer cost over $1800!).

Then I thought about it: If I could get a computer for $500 and I had to replace it every year, I would still save $300 over the price of the last computer I bought that lasted me three years.

So, guess what? I bought a Dell computer with the exact same upgrades I put on my laptop three years ago. And it only cost $440! I am hopeful this computer will last a long time, but if it doesn’t, I will not have invested our life savings in it!

Lisa is a Cincinnati mom who has struggled the last 10 years to give her kids the best education, food and treatments money can buy. Raising special needs kids is taxing emotionally, relationally, financially and physically. Her dream is to break down the walls isolating special needs families and providing them with information to help them achieve their goals. Lisa blogs at Warrior Mama.

Photo Credit

6 Jun 2011   ·   27
Money Saving Mom

Learning Good Stewardship From a Change Jar

Guest post by Lacey Wilcox

One of the most valuable lessons I gained as a first grade teacher was that every moment is a teachable one. I’ve now traded in my gradebook for a burp rag, but I still want that mentality with my sweet baby girl. Especially when it comes to money.

My husband and I are about to design a website for a small business we’re starting. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t do so until we could pay for it in cash. So, I did what any good mom trying to save money would do: I saved every penny I could get my hands on. Literally.

Since we pay for most things in cash, I would save any leftover change that I had from transactions. At the end of each month, I put it all in my “someday I’m going to have an awesome website” jar.

You probably all have a change jar stashed somewhere, and fill it as much as you can. But, don’t waste this moment as a teachable one. It’s incredibly valuable in showing your children the importance of good stewardship with money:

::Nothing gets wasted: all leftovers can be reused in a way that is valuable.

::Patience: just because you want something now doesn’t mean now is when you get it. And learning to wait for something teaches you to enjoy it that much more (with the sole exception of Mommy’s morning cup of coffee)

::Take time to make a good decision: taking the time to save for something means you also take the time to decide if you really need it. Sometimes, you decide it’s worth it, and sometimes, you realize you really didn’t need it.

::Thankfulness: when you take the time to save for something (especially if you’re saving pennies and dimes), you learn to be thankful for every single cent. That time also teaches you to be extremely proud of what you’ve earned (and makes you more likely to take care of it).

::Buying something is not a right: I don’t even know that I would say it’s a privilege. It’s a discipline. I want to start teaching my baby girl that now, so that she doesn’t have to learn it the hard way later.

So, there you have it. Consider it a double whammy from your change jar: not only do you save up for something great, you also have terrific life lessons for your family.

And I think we can all agree that’s a great deal.

Lacey Wilcox lives in the Panhandle of Texas with her husband, Kade and sweet baby, Selah, where they manage Panfork Baptist Camp.

photo credit

3 Jun 2011   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash: Car Accident

We paid cash!

A testimony from Carolynn at My Little Bit of Life

Pulling into the drive way from getting the kids’ pictures taken and picking up a bring home and bake pizza, I hear my phone ringing. I have to sternly ask the children to quit whining so that I can answer the phone.

I pick it up and hear, “Hey Honey, umm, I need you to come pick me up!”

My husband had been in a car accident and ended up rear-ending a car. Our car hit the trailer hitch of the car in front of him, so our car had quite a bit of damage, and the other car just had some scratches. Thankfully, everyone was fine as they weren’t going very fast.

The damage was pretty extensive, $4,400 worth! I hadn’t raised our deductible yet (I had been thinking about it) and we only needed to come up with $500 (plus over $100 to pay the ticket).

Planning Ahead Means Less Stress

Of course, getting into a car accident isn’t ever fun; it’s a big inconvenience. My husband was really upset, mainly over the money aspect. I told him not to worry about it because we are on Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step #3. We had the money in the bank to cover all of the unexpected expenses.

It is still very disappointing because we weren’t planning on spending the money. It was intended to be saved, but accidents happen (literally)!

Had this accident happened several years prior, this would have been a monumental stress! Before we took Financial Peace University, we were almost to the point of having to put our groceries on a credit card.

Instead of an Emergency, It Was An Inconvenience

Right before the accident happened, I was starting to feel defeated. We took Financial Peace University, got out of debt in a little over a year, added children and became a one-income family. I felt like we had made so many changes and were really sticking to our budget and I was getting discouraged because I felt like we weren’t really moving ahead much.

I feel this accident was one way of God showing us how far we’ve come. Because of the changes we’ve made in how we handle finances in the last two years, what could have been an emergency became an inconvenience, not a life-defeating problem.

Carolynn is a stay-at-home mother of four. She was a teacher and now blogs about life: parenting, pregnancy, coupons, FPU, and teaching at My Little Bit of Life.

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

3 Jun 2011   ·   65
Money Saving Mom

How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Bring Some Good Books & Audios

You likely well know this, but we love books at our house. And no trip is complete without them! I have fond memories of my mom reading to us on long car trips and I hope to create those same memories for my children.

Picture Books

These are great for reading aloud or letting the children read/look at themselves. I tried to pick books that corresponded with some of the places we were visiting and things we were doing to make them a little more relevant.

You can find our family’s 15 favorite read-alouds here if you need ideas for good books. We get most of our books from PaperBackSwap since, sadly, our library system here is nothing like the wonderful library system we had in Topeka and Kansas City (we were spoiled there — no late fees, very clean and modern facilities and lots of new books and new releases!).

Chapter Books

I always try to bring one chapter book along to read in the car and at night as we’re snuggled up in bed before going to sleep. The children beg for me to read every night and there’s nothing that beats a good chapter book while we’re all snuggled under the covers together!

We’re finishing the Little House series right now, but I brought All-Of-A-Kind Family for something different for this trip. The children loved it and I think I know what books we’re going to read once we finish the Little House series! (Thanks to a reader who recommended this book!)

Books On Tape/Audio Dramatizations

One of the ways we pass a lot of time in the car is by listening to great audio. One of our children’s current favorites is the Jonathan Park series. We also enjoy the Focus on the Family Radio Theater and the The girls also recently listened to Charlotte’s Web during their afternoon quiet time and were enthralled with it.

Books for Mom

Don’t forget to bring some books for yourself, too. Road trips almost always provide some time to enjoy longer stretches of reading than you might usually be able to enjoy at home. I brought The Happiness Project, The Wounded Spirit, Debt-Free U and Quitter. Reviews on these books will be posted in a few weeks when I share about the books I’ve read this month.

3 Jun 2011   ·   41

The Results of Wednesday’s Freezer Cooking In An Hour Session

I didn’t accomplish as much on Wednesday as I have on previous weeks’ Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour sessions. But it probably didn’t help that we ate up most of the Banana Chocolate Chip Bread and the Whole Wheat Chocolate Pancakes before they ever made it to the freezer — or in the picture I took!

Next week, I think I’ll try making something without chocolate and see if it lasts longer than a few hours. 🙂

At any rate, here’s what I made in a little over an hour on Wednesday:

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes (only half made it into the picture; they were that good!)

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread (again, almost half the loaf was gone by the time I got a picture taken!)

Two bags of cooked rice/wild rice

Three bags of cooked barley

3 Jun 2011   ·   26
Money Saving Mom

Patience pays off!

Living So Abundantly shares how by patiently holding onto her $2/1 and $3/1 Target Women’s Top coupons, she was able to get five shirts for just $5.46 total.

I kind of feel badly because I got a little impatient and used my coupons to buy shirts for $3.60 each. Oh well!

Note: These coupons are no longer available. Target clothing coupons go quickly and often result in great deals, so I recommend printing them as soon as they become available.