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9 Apr 2011   ·   394
Money Saving Mom

How do you save $100? Share your tip and possibly be featured in my book!

I’m putting the final touches on my manuscript before it heads to the publisher for edits and I’d love to have you help me out. I’m looking for specific, practical ways that you save at least $100 per year.

I’m not looking for generic tips like “we use coupons”; I’m looking for tips like “We buy our eye glasses through ZenniOptical.com for $12 per pair instead of paying at least $150 per pair to buy them locally.”

Fill out the form here to submit your tip. The more creative and well-written your tip, the better chance you have of it making it into my book!

If your tip is something I’ve not already written about in the book and I end up using it, I’ll give you credit and send you a free copy of the book when it’s published. Please note that all submissions will be subject to editing.

If I don’t end up having space to use your tip in the book, I may use it on my blog in the future.

Thanks so much for helping me out with this. I can’t wait to see what brilliant ideas you share!

photo credit

9 Apr 2011   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

Super Saving Saturday

It was a busy week around here with the garage sale, family in from out of town and — of course! — working on finishing up the book manuscript.

The garage sale ended up being our best sale we’ve ever had; the traffic was amazing! I’m not sure what to attribute it to. We usually have great sales, but this was fantastic. We are blessed to have a good location, the weather was great and we had a lot of great stuff to sell between the six families who contributed stuff. We also followed all the tips I shared last year for having a successful garage sale.

Truth be told, I only probably spent half a day all combined helping to run the sale, since everyone else pitched in, too. (One of the blessings of having a multi-family sale is that there are lots of hands to help out!) I’m so thrilled to have the clutter cleaned out of my house and love the motivation a garage sale always gives me to clear it out!

In book news, God brought an incredible literary agent to me last week (it’s a long story how that all came to be!). Sarah was willing to take me on as her client this late in the game and it’s been a huge blessing to me. She has years of professional editing experience with large publishing houses and she’s been helping me revamp my manuscript to make it ten times better than I could have made it on my own.

I’m beyond grateful to her and all the hours she’s putting in to make this manuscript the best that it can be before I turn it into the publisher. I’m learning so much through the process and am indebted to her help. By the way, if anyone needs a good literary agent, I’d be glad to hook you up! 🙂

As far as grocery shopping, we bought lots of fruit at Aldi and bread at Dollar Tree and that was it. We’re continuing to eat up our extras from the freezer and pantry and stick with simple meals. So far, it’s working well!

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.

7 Apr 2011   ·   181
Money Saving Mom

15 Ways to Save Money on Gasoline (Part 1)

 

1. Have a cash budget for gas.

We used to always pay for gas with our debit card, but while we tried to stick with our allotted budget, we found it was easy to go a little over every month — especially with fluctuating gas prices. We switched to using cash only for gas last year and we’ve seen a decrease in our gas budget. Why? Because we are more mindful of our gas usage and because cash forces us to stick with our budget.

2. Buy lower-grade fuel.

Unless your vehicle requires higher grade fuel, there’s no need to spend the extra cents on it per gallon. While it might not seem like much, those extra cents add up quickly!

3. Observe the speed limit.

Each vehicle is different, but typically gas mileage plummets when you drive over 60 miles per hour. In fact, it’s estimated that for each five miles over 60 miles per hour you drive, it’s the equivalent of paying an additional $0.24 per gallon!

4. Combine errands.

Have a general rule of thumb that you won’t go out shopping or running errands unless you have at least three stops to make. Before you go, map out the most efficient route. Not only will this save you time, it will also lower your gasoline expenses. Plus, you’ll likely carefully consider whether or not that quick trip to the store for milk or bread is worth it or whether you can make-do with what you have on hand.

I’ve also found it helpful to limit errands and shopping to one or two days per week and to work errands or shopping trips into driving I’m already planning to do. For instance, if I’m going somewhere close to the health food store, I’m going to try and work in a stop there to save me making an extra trip later in the week. It only takes a little bit extra time and it costs me almost nothing in fuel since I’m already going to be driving by.

5. Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.

If you have more than one vehicle in your household, use the vehicle with the highest miles per gallon as often as you can. According to FuelEconomy.gov:

A vehicle that gets 30 MPG will cost you $880 less to fuel each year than one that gets 20 MPG (assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $3.52).

Over a period of 5 years, the 30-MPG vehicle will save you $4,400.

Jesse’s car gets better gas mileage, so we’ve been piling into it for much of our driving as a family. With three car seats in the back, it’s a tighter squeeze than our roomier minivan, but the cost in gas savings is worth it.

Planning to buy a car in the near future? Aid your decision-making by using the Fuel Cost Comparison Calculator.

6. Travel during non-peak hours.

As much as you possibly can, plan your trips when it’s non rush-hour traffic. You’ll get to your destination(s) more quickly and you’ll conserve gas.

7. Consider using public transportation.

While public transportation might not seem feasible for you, if gas is eating your budget alive, it’s worth checking into. According to a study by the American Public Transportation Association, you can save close to $10,000 per year by using public transportation.

Of course, this number is going to be inflated for you if you don’t work outside the home and have a regular commute, however, it’s important to note that this figure was based on a $2.75 per gallon price. With most of us paying at least $3.50 to $4 per gallon, if you have a daily commute, the savings could even be higher than $10,000 per year if you use public transportation!

To be continued next week…

How do you save money on gas?

photo credit; photo credit

7 Apr 2011   ·   62
Money Saving Mom

How to Cloth Diaper for Practically Free

If the cost of diapers is eating at your budget but the cost of investing in cloth diapers seems too expensive, you’ll definitely want to check out this post from Cotton Babies on How to Cloth Diaper for Practically Free:

Over the weekend, a customer shared with us this news report from Manhattan’s NY1: High Cost Of Diapers Forces Some Parents Into Risky Practices. It breaks my heart because I personally know what it feels like to have to choose food OR diapers. When my husband and I started Cotton Babies, we were living on $30 a week for groceries plus a WIC check. That certainly wasn’t enough to buy a cloth diaper stash and it didn’t buy very many disposable diapers either. Thankfully, we were given three months of diaper service at one of my baby showers and then a friend gave me her stash of prefolds and diaper covers. Without those gifts though, we would have been looking for information about how to diaper your baby when you can’t afford disposables OR cloth diapers.

Read the full post.

There are many ideas and links shared in the post including a link on How to Start Cloth Diapering for Only $20.

photo credit

6 Apr 2011   ·   104
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: How do you get stuff for free at drugstores?

Lynn-Ann emailed in a great question this morning:

As I’ve received your e-mail updates, I’ve been a bit frustrated about the ECB/RR stuff. I will share with you what I mean: in the April 4, 2011 e-mail you share the following:

Buy 1 Colgate Maxfresh, MaxWhite or MaxClean Toothpaste at $2.99, Get $3 Register Rewards
Use $0.35/1 coupon from the 4/3 SmartSource insert
Free plus overage after coupon and Register Rewards

I get so excited when I see FREE. But basically it isn’t free when I go to the register and check out is it? Since I still have to pay for the toothpaste at $2.99 and of course I can use the $0.35/1 coupon, but I basically pay the difference, because I don’t even get the Register Rewards til after my purchase is complete. Correct?

-Lynn-Ann, Kansas City, KS

Hi, Lynn-Ann!

Many times, it’s a little confusing when you first begin the drugstore game because you have to outlay cash in order to start getting free groceries and household items. However, once you invest $10 or so and start building up some Register Rewards or ECBs, then you can just use these instead of cash to pay for your groceries/household items. And you just keep rolling these and rolling these and rolling these! Meaning, you pay for your order with the ECBs or Register Rewards you earned from the last transaction instead of paying with cash.

Yes, you usually can’t get your order total down completely to $0.00 — though I’ve done it before! — but you can get it pretty close. Back when we lived where there was a CVS store, I was able to get thousands of dollars worth of groceries and household items over the course of two years and spent less than $75 out-of-pocket for everything. I typically paid around $3 out of pocket for every $100 worth of purchases because I was rolling ECB’s from my previous transaction.

For example, this week at CVS, you could do something like this:

Transaction #1:
Buy 2 GUM Eez-Thru Flossers (75-150 ct) at $2, Get $2 ECBs (Limit 2)
Use 2 $0.75/1 printable
You’ll spend $2.50 plus tax after the coupon and you’ll have $4 in ECBs to spend on your next transaction.

Take that $4 in ECBs and use it to do a second transaction.

Transaction #2:
Buy 2 Oral-B Manual Toothbrush (1 ct) at $2.99
Buy 1 Crest or Oral-B Pro-Health at $3.49
Use $1/1 Crest coupon from the 4/3 P&G insert
Use 2 $2/1 Oral-B coupons from the 4/3 P&G insert
Use $4 ECBs earned from Transaction #1
You’ll spend only $0.47 plus tax out of pocket and you’ll then get back $4.48 in ECBs.

So, for an initial monetary invstment of $3 plus tax, you’ll have purchased five items and have $4.48 in ECBs leftover.

You can do another transaction to purchase ECB deals you’ve still not done for the week yet (like a second Oral-B — it’s a limit of two — or the Complete Contact Solution). Or, you can just hang onto the $4.48 in ECBs and use them for the ECB deals next week.

Walgreens is a bit more complicated, in my opinion, and it’s harder to get your totals down to under $1 — especially with the tax we have here in Kansas! But you can still significantly lower your totals by using Register Rewards from previous transactions to take off most of what you owe.

For more information, be sure to read Walgreens 101 and CVS 101 where I explain more in-depth how to maximize the mileage of your money at both of these stores.

4 Apr 2011   ·   121
Money Saving Mom

“$50 here and $75 there adds up fast…”


An encouraging story from Terri:

My husband and I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover in March of 2009. I absolutely loved the book as it started us on our journey to becoming debt free in a year.

Our goal was to pay off a student loan, home equity loan, and to get my husband a used car since his 15-year-old SUV was on it’s last leg. It was about $25,000 worth of debt and we were looking at used cars in the $10,000 price range.

We started by:

  • Making sure our allowances for our taxes were correct so that we were getting the maximum amount back per paycheck
  • Temporarily discontinuing contributions to our 401K and the kids college funds
  • Cutting back on eating out
  • Using coupons

I realized that in one month I spent $600 at Target! It was not all at once but $50 dollars here and $75 dollars there, it added up fast. After that discovery we really only bought necessities when shopping.

We started using Mint.com to keep track of our spending habits. Once we figured out where all the money was going, and stopped our other contributions we came up with an extra $2000-$3000 per month to go toward debt.

We paid off both loans one year later on February 22, 2010, and two months later we paid $11,000 in cash for my husband’s Mazda RX-8. Handing over the check was pretty scary but it felt awesome!

We continued to save the following year and now have $25,000 in our savings account for emergencies, and no debt except the house. We have also been able to increase our tithing at church. We have almost given more to church the past three months than we did all of last year at church. It feels wonderful!

Our next goal to to save for retirement by increasing our contributions to 15%. Everything that is leftover will go toward the kids college and pay off the mortgage.  I would also love to be able to start helping more people in need now that we have our act together. I would love to give that big tip to a single mother who is a waitress or give a $100 bill to a stranger in need on the street.

It is amazing to me that when we were not managing our money well, we wanted to go out and spend it.  In contrast, now that we have money set aside, we do not want to spend any of it!

I am so looking forward to see what this year brings. We have been blessed by God beyond belief. It truly is amazing.

Terri is 36 and a stay at home mom to her two wonderful kids. Her husband is 43 the Senior Director for a Computer Consulting firm. Terri likes to make a little extra money every now and then by subbing at her children’s old preschool and picking up an occasional data entry project for her husbands company.

Do you have a story to share about your financial journey which would encourage other readers and give them hope? Email it to me and I’ll consider posting it.

4 Apr 2011   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

How to work from home as a transcriptionist

Guest post by April

Hundreds of thousands of people are searching for a legitimate way to earn an income from home. Sadly, an overwhelming majority of what they run into is a scam, produces minuscule amounts of money or requires a considerable investment in training programs and/or years of experience.

Home-based transcription is a work-at-home job which allows people to make a real living without special education or experience required. Granted, just like any real job, it takes practice and study to become efficient, but the pay and flexibility of the job can be very rewarding.

I began my own transcription career at age 18. My mom was a small town court reporter from North Carolina and she taught me how to create legal documents. I was able to use the knowledge she gave me to start my own business as a legal transcriptionist.

I quickly discovered that the field of home-based transcription had many available opportunities. It wasn’t just for people with a medical certification, or even just for those with legal training. There were great general transcription positions available open to anyone with a strong work ethic, speedy typing, and good grammar and spelling abilities. Before I knew it, I had several different companies willing to provide me with work!

This proved to be a tremendous blessing for my family. It financially supported us through three years of my husband’s education and an additional two years through some pretty huge life changes. I took my job with me from North Carolina to California and back again to North Carolina, and was even able to work while caring for two precious babies.

Interested in working from home as a transcriptionist? Here are some qualifications needed:

1. Fast Typer: As a transcriptionist, you specialize in converting audio that you hear into specially formatted documents called transcripts. While you have a foot pedal to start and stop the audio when you need to, you will still need an absolute minimum typing speed of 60 words per minute, by hiring company standardsand to make the job worth your time and energy. If you’re not already a fast typist, don’t worry! Practice is all it takes to get your speed up.

2. Skilled Writer: Proper grammar usage, spelling and punctuation are very important in translating the spoken word to written. You can change the meaning completely by simply misplacing a period or comma. If you need to brush up on your writing skills, I recommend reviewing the guidelines and taking the quizzes by The Basic Elements of English Grammar Guide – University of Calgary.

3. Detailed Reseacher: As a transcriptionist, you are frequently exposed to new ideas, people, places and words you’ve not heard of before. This is a fun part about the job, but it can also be challenging to understand and spell correctly unless you’re skilled at researching.

You can expect to be paid anywhere from $6 to $60 per hour. When I first started and was learning the ropes, I was able to make about $12-$15 per hour. Knowing what I know now, and having increased my typing speed to 90-100 WPM, I am able to make about $25-$30 per hour. The more you practice and work on improving, generally, the more you’re going to make.

Steps of action to starting out as a transcriptionist:

  • Create a winning resume and cover letter.
  • Make sure you have the tools necessary to perform your work. Many companies require you to type a small transcript as part of your employment application, so it’s best to be ready before applying.
  • Start applying to any and all transcription companies you can. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back regarding your first few applications. I applied to nearly 60 companies before I was hired. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, it’s often easier to be accepted by more companies.

Working as a transcriptionist does take a lot of work and discipline, but it’s also a super, straightforward way to earn income from home with refreshingly honest wages for your valuable time and effort.

Happily married and delighted to be the stay-at-home mom of three munchkins (so far), April still enjoys transcribing part-time in addition to caring for her home and family. For more information on getting started as a transcriptionist, get her Home-Based Transcriptionist ebook.

photo credit

2 Apr 2011   ·   44
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Eating from the Pantry Week

I’ve been spending all my spare minutes finishing up my book manuscript because my self-imposed deadline for the finished rough draft is in a few days, so we’re Eating From the Pantry right now. It’s been awhile since I’ve challenged myself to only use what we have on hand, so I’ve had fun being creative in the kitchen this past week.

It helps that we had stocked our freezer and cupboards pretty well over the last six weeks and it also helps that we’re not buying milk right now to see if it makes any difference in Silas’ cough/asthma. We are almost out of fruit, though, so a trip to Aldi will be happening sometime in the next few days to at least buy fruit and a few other basics.

In the mean time, I’ve enjoyed the extra time that not going to the grocery store or clipping coupons has provided and am excited at the progress I’m making on the manuscript (though I’m not going to pretend like it’s been perfectly smooth sailing or that my house is anywhere near tip-top shape right now! :))

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.

1 Apr 2011   ·   59
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash: SUV

We paid cash!

A testimony from Jen

We’ve been married for 8 ½ years and have two children. In early 2010, just a year after the birth of our second child, my husband and I decided that it was time to sell his 14-year-old truck and buy a larger truck or SUV that would fit our growing family. We had been driving two cars everywhere we went because we couldn’t all fit into just one of our vehicles.

Having taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University in the past, we committed not to finance vehicles, so we knew this was going to be a cash deal. It was time to sell the truck, and just hours after listing it online we had an offer. We took it and three days later we had a large wad of cash for our next vehicle!

We set our budget for buying a new truck and began searching. Two months later we found a Suburban that was within our budget and fit all of our needs. So we bought it — with cash!

A month after the purchase the our new-to-us automobile, the suburban’s engine blew. We were out. Out our truck and out our cash.

Not only that, but it was going to cost more to fix the problem than we paid for the vehicle! We had been scammed and I was mad; the kind of mad where steam comes out of your ears.

I got over myself, and we decided to cut our losses. We picked ourselves up, decided to sell the suburban “as is”, tuck the money away and start saving again for another vehicle.

Once again, we set a budget and decided when we reached that amount we would start looking. This time though, we decided that as we were looking we would continue to save. This way, the longer it took to find another truck, the more we’d have to spend. We began putting money away from each paycheck.

Fast forward eight months to January 2011 and we had reached our goal. It was time to start looking for a vehicle, but this time we knew we did not want to make a private party purchase. We were determined to buy from a dealership.

The search began and on February 12, 2011, we paid cash for a 1999 Chevy Tahoe! The dealer even sweetened the deal by including a three-month warranty because we were paying in cash! As you can see, it’s a beautiful truck, and we now have peace of mind about our purchase because we have a warranty.

The best part about our purchase was we were able to negotiate the price and walked away from the sale with $600 of our budgeted money leftover in our pockets! We were able to put the extra money back into savings for future vehicle needs.

Jen Lowman is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of two and lover of the Lord Jesus Christ! Her husband Chris is a wonderful man who also loves the Lord and works very hard to support and provide for his family!

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

1 Apr 2011   ·   125
Money Saving Mom

“I don’t want saving money to be what consumes me.”

Guest post by Lacey Wilcox at Live Loved

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re on this website because you have a desire to save money. I’m right there with you.

Like many people, my husband and I have made achieving complete financial freedom as one of our goals for the new year. Together we’ve created a budget, told every penny where it is going to go, fought to maintain “gazelle-like” intensity (you’ll only appreciate that if you’re a Dave Ramsey fan), and worked to see that it all happens.

I have loved how each of us has our own unique role in this goal. For my husband, that role involves working to earn an income, being our spiritual leader, and taking care of things that are above and beyond me (things like knowing when it’s time to rotate the tires, or change the oil).

My role, however, is a little different. I get the blessing of taking care of our home, and more importantly, our sweet baby girl. While my husband earns the income, I try to make sure we spend as little of it as possible. Websites like MoneySavingMom.com have become my best friend. Couponing is becoming an art form. And getting things at the lowest possible price is now, well, an obsession.

I think about it constantly, read tons of websites and ads throughout the day and cut coupons like crazy. (Please tell me I’m not alone. If I am, just don’t let me know.)

It’s a noble obsession. I mean, who doesn’t want to help their family save as much as possible? What could be wrong with something like that?

Nothing is wrong with it. Not one thing at all.

In fact, I think such a desire shows responsibility, diligence and good stewardship. For me, I feel it is a part of fulfilling my call as wife and mom, one that I am so humbled and honored to receive. So I repeat, there is nothing wrong with wanting to save money, and doing what is necessary to carry out that desire — unless it becomes an obsession.

The very definition of an obsession is something that eventually consumes you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want saving money to be what consumes me.

And so, I find myself already tweaking my New Year’s resolutions (Okay, to be honest, I had never really set official resolutions to begin with, but you get what I mean).

I want to save money. I mean I really want to save money. But with everything I do toward that, I’m going to check my heart and mind constantly to make sure that my motives are coming from a pure heart, and not one that is consumed.

My guess is many of you have already been at this place. What suggestions do you have to help keep a right perspective on saving money, without making it an obsession?

Lacey Wilcox 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 at her blog.

31 Mar 2011   ·   65
Money Saving Mom

Fun & Frugal: Water scooping and pouring

After my post on Bean Scooping, a couple of you suggested I try something similar with water for Silas.

Silas loved the water (as did Kathrynne and Kaitlynn!) I just laid down a towel on our kitchen floor, gave him some measuring cups and spoons and various bowls and tubs.

I added a little dish soap to the water to make it bubbly and he had at it.

Yes, there were a few puddles on the kitchen floor after he was done, but it kept him quietly and cheerfully occupied for 15 minutes while I cleaned up the kitchen, so it was every bit worth a little mess.

What kinds of fun and frugal activities have you been doing at your house recently? I’d love to hear your ideas!