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22 Jun 2010   ·   57
Money Saving Mom

Tonight’s Target Trip

We’re having a heat wave here in Kansas and it’s been so hot that we’ve not been able to spend a whole lot of time outside. So this afternoon, we were all feeling a little cooped up and antsy.

My solution? I told the children we could go to Target — which is a huge treat for them as Target is one of their favorite stores in the whole wide world. I guess it doesn’t take much to fascinate and excite them! 🙂

In addition, to looking at the toys and letting Kaitlynn spend her birthday gift card, we also picked up some of the great deals:

Nectarines — $0.99 per pound, got 1.6 pounds — $1.59

Apricots — $0.99 per pound, got .54 pounds — $0.54

Glade Fabric & Air Odor Eliminator – $3.49, used $1/1 printable, stacked with $2/1 Target printable — $0.49 after coupons

Tresemme Hairspray (travel-size) — $1, used $1/1 Tresemme coupon (Click on the “Like” button on the Tresemme Facebook Page to print your coupon.) — Free after coupon

Axe Travel Size Body Wash – $0.97, used $1/1 printable — Free after coupon

10 SoBe Water (20 oz.) – $1 each, bought 10 and used 2 Buy One, Get One Free coupons, got $5 Target gift card — $3 for 10 after coupons and gift card

2 BULL’S-EYE Barbecue Sauce — $1.25, used $1/1 BULL’S-EYE Regional Barbecue Sauce coupon — $0.25 each after coupon

1 Scrubbing Bubbles Power Sprayer Shower Cleaner at $8.69, 1 Scrubbing Bubbles Power Sprayer Shower Cleaning Refill at $3.99 — used $5/1 Scrubbing Bubbles manufacturer’s coupon, stacked with $3/1 Scrubbing Bubbles Target coupon, used Buy One Scrubbing Bubbles Power Sprayer Starter Kit, Get a Refill Free coupon — $0.69 plus tax for both after coupons!

2 small packages of Carefree liners — $0.94, used 2 $1/1 coupons — free after coupons

1 Dove deodorant — $1, used $1.50/1 Dove coupon — free-plus-overage after coupon

4 Fruit2o Essentials drinks — $0.89 each, used 2 $1/2 coupons — $0.39 each after coupons

After coupons and a $5 Target gift card I’d earned during my last trip, my total was $11.26. Plus, I got a $5 Target gift card back for buying the SoBe water!

22 Jun 2010   ·   118
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: How do you get started following the Dave Ramsey plan?

My husband and I want to sign up with Dave Ramsey. I was looking on his website and it is so overwhelming. I don’t even know where to begin. If we want help with budget and saving (which at this time we have a big ZERO!), should we do the Financial Peace University, or just financial coaching? What do you recommend? How do we get started? We don’t have a lot of money. -Kellie

As you well know, I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey (read more about how he changed our lives here). The Dave Ramsey website does have a lot of stuff to offer and if you’re a newbie, it can feel overwhelming!

Much of what Dave stresses is common-sense money advice which you probably already know. He just does a great job of packaging it and “selling” it so that the lightbulb goes off and you actually are motivated enough to follow it!

He outlines a seven-step plan for financial success which he calls The Seven Baby Steps. While you don’t need to follow them completely to see financial success, using them as a guideline or road map, can be extremely helpful — especially if you’re really struggling financially.

Since you don’t have a budget and you’re not saving money, I definitely think that you could find some great help and hope from the principles Dave Ramsey teaches. And also just lots of plain encouragement and inspiration. In fact, it just might turn your life — and your finances — completely around!

I’d personally recommend two things if you are strapped for cash:

1. Get a copy of The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. This book will give you a step-by-step plan for getting out of debt, budgeting and saving money, no matter your income level. You can probably check out a copy from your local library or borrow one from a friend. If not, it’s worth every penny of the approximately $15 it costs to purchase.

Read the book, let it sink in and follow the steps outlined. Just getting on a zero-based budget will significantly improve your current financial situation. In fact, it will more than likely feel as if you got a good pay raise. You telling your money where to go instead of the other way around is a powerful thing!

2. Listen to The Dave Ramsey Show. If you don’t have a local station which carries his show, you can listen online or download the one-hour podcast. Listen while you’re driving, exercising, folding laundry or doing dishes. It’s free, it’s engaging and you’ll pick up all sorts of motivation to keep on, keepin’ on when you don’t feel like sticking with your financial plan or eating beans and rice yet again.

You can also watch Dave’s TV show for free on HULU. Again, you can turn it on and listen while you work on another project. So it’s not taking any extra time out of your day, but it’s giving you lots of financial advice, ideas and inspiration — which I’m guessing is something you could really use right now!

After reading Dave’s book, listening to his show for a few months and implementing the principles gleaned, your finances will invariably be in better shape. Then, you might consider going through Financial Peace University or attending a live event. Neither of these are necessities and there will be some overlap in the materials, but they can serve as excellent continued motivation.

However, none of Dave’s advice or ideas will work if you’re not committed to make them work. But if you’re willing to make sacrifices, be self-disciplined and stick it out for the long-haul, it will make a major difference in your financial situation.

Have you followed any of Dave Ramsey’s advice? How has it impacted you?

21 Jun 2010   ·   29
Money Saving Mom

Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds – Part 3

Missed the first parts of this series? Read Part 1 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds and Part 2 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds.

Remember to check out my post on Five Ways to Get Books for Free for ideas of how to pick up copies of these and other books frugally.

9. The Gingerbread Boy — This story always captures the girls attention and keeps it the entire time. While it’s not a realistic story, it’s still a fun book to read — and the pictures are enjoyable, too. It’s also a great way to teach your children about the fact that, just as the fox in the story, some people can pretend to like you or have your best interests in mind, when really, they are out to hurt you. It’s important to teach your children to be cautious and discerning — otherwise, it could lead to great harm in their life.

10. The Cow Who Fell in the CanalThis book is such a fun read! The pictures are colorful, the story line is engaging and it also opens up opportunities to introduce your children to how different people in different countries live.

11. Any and All Books By Lois Lenski— Hand’s down, Lois Lenski is one of our very favorite children’s authors and it’s impossible for me to narrow down our favorites to just one or two of her books. I grew up on her books and have been delighted to be able to share them with my children, as well. Most libraries have almost the entire collection of them and I’d highly recommend checking them out if you have youngsters in your home.

12. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name — We’ve searched high and low for quality children’s Bible story books. Ones that are accurate, doctrinally sound and not filled with nonsense and fluff are hard to find. I apprehensively ordered The Jesus Storybook Bible about six months ago based upon the strong recommendations of friends I trust. It has since become our most treasured read-aloud. The girls would pick this over any other book any day.

While the pictures aren’t necessarily my favorite and we have a few doctrinal differences with the author, overall, this is a very, very excellent resource in my opinion. We’ve read it over and over again. In fact, the girls would never let us stop reading if they could. It has opened up all sorts of incredible conversations on God, the Bible and what it means to love the Lord and have a personal relationship with Him.

The final installment of this series is coming early next week.

This post is brought to you in part by HarperCollins and the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program. Kids 12 and under can join the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program and earn a free book when they read 10 books. Just fill out this form and bring it in to any Borders, Waldenbooks, or Borders express store by August 26, 2010 to participate in this program. Find more Summer Reading Programs here.

21 Jun 2010   ·   122
Money Saving Mom

Would you pay to have someone write your thank you notes for you?

I get lots of interesting press releases and new product pitches in my email inbox. Most of them go straight into the trash file — often before even being opened.

But when I received an email this morning about a new website which writes your thank you notes for you, I couldn’t help but open and read it. I mean, seriously? What is our world coming to that we have to pay someone else to write our thank you notes for us?

Sure enough, you can pay $5.50 to have a thank you note written, addressed, stamped and delivered straight to your door for you to review and mail out. Or, you can pay $3.50 for them to compose the text and email it to you.

I’m all about ROI and think there are definitely times when it’s a much better use of your time and effort to pay someone to do something for you — provided you can afford it in your budget. But I think one must draw the line at outsourcing thank you notes.

Not only does it seem terribly impersonal — especially if the notes are going to dear friends! — but it also seems impractical and very expensive. I’m thinking that by the time you picked out the thank you cards, got the recipients’ gifts and addresses inputted into their system, placed your order and then reviewed the cards and sent them out, you could have written most, if not all of your thank yous.

Plus, you could have saved yourself around $5 per thank you note. And considering I can write a simple thank you note in about 7 minutes (including addressing it), I wouldn’t say the time saved was anywhere near worth the money spent.

But hey, maybe I’m the odd one out here? I’m really curious: Would you pay to have someone write your thank you notes for you?

19 Jun 2010   ·   20
Money Saving Mom

Financial Lessons From My 13-Month-Old

Silas, my 13-month-old, is in the process of learning to walk. If you’ve ever been around any young toddler, you likely know what this entails. For a few months, he just pulled up on furniture and stood there. Then he slowly started scooting around furniture.

After that, he got brave and started letting go and standing without holding onto anything. Soon, he would let go and take a few tentative steps. Now, he’s trusting his footing enough to take up to seven steps at a time.

Along the way, there have been lots of tumbles and spills. Sometimes, he will altogether give up and refuse to even try. Other days, he wants to keep trying again and again and is very excited about his accomplishments.

As I’ve been watching him, I’ve thought a lot of how a toddler learning to walk correlates with financial success. If you’re deep in debt, you usually don’t just wake up one day to a completely transformed financial situation. Instead, it’s usually very much a slow process. And it often involves babysteps.

You have to believe that you can stand on your own two feet and live in financial freedom. You have to stop sitting in your financial mess or crawling around in circles and borrowing money.

You have to make positive changes that help propel forward. You have to make sacrifices, cut your expenses, get on a budget and maybe even find creative ways to earn extra money on the side.

It takes work, practice, sweat and effort. There are often bumps and bruises along the way. Just as a baby will never learn how to walk if he gives up halfway through the process, so you will never realize financial success if you are a quitter.

But if you keep at it, keep going, keep on taking those babysteps, and keep getting back up when you fall, over time, you’ll start to see some significant progress. And soon, you might find that you’re freely running and dancing instead of just barely taking babysteps!

19 Jun 2010   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Dillon’s and Walmart

We went to Dillon’s and Walmart this week:

At Dillon’s, we bought vegetables, peaches, organic milk, toilet paper, yogurt, trash bags, orange juice, chicken, ice cream, Sobe, and nine boxes of Annie’s macaroni and cheese (which were on sale for $1 and free after the $0.50/1 coupons doubled). All totaled, we spent $23.25 after coupons.

A friend also found organic eggs marked down at the health food store and they were free after coupons so she generously brought us some!

And then we went to Walmart and purchased everything pictured above for $12.46. Read the full details on this shopping trip here.

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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.

18 Jun 2010   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

House-Hunting: A Realtor is Priceless

In hunting for a house, we’ve found a realtor to be invaluable. Since we’ve never bought a house before, despite doing a lot of research, we feel like this has been a whole new world that we know nothing about.

How We Found a Good Realtor

1. We did initial research online and offline.

When we knew it was likely we were going to be looking for a house soon, we started investigating potential realtors in our area. We paid attention to which ones were successfully selling homes and which ones were selling homes in the areas and price ranges we were looking at. We also discussed specifics of what we were looking for in a realtor.

2. We asked friends and family for recommendations.

Once we’d done our initial research, we started asking for recommendations of good realtors from friends and family. We were looking for a competent realtor who had our best interests in mind — not someone who was related to someone we knew. (Unfortunately, you can often get burned if you choose Uncle Jim just because he’s your uncle instead of because he’s really competent and the best fit for you.)

3. We “interviewed” potential candidates.

After narrowing down the field to a few potential candidates for our realtor, we called and/or emailed them to ask them a few telling questions we’d prepared. How they responded, how professionally they responded and how quickly they responded helped us to make our final decision of which realtor to hire.

4. We prayed for wisdom.

Last but not least, we prayed for wisdom in making the decision. We believe wholeheartedly that God cares about all the details of our lives — from the big things to the little things. So we asked Him to give us wisdom and direction in this process.

It might seem like we went to a lot of trouble to choose a realtor, but our efforts paid off as our realtor has been absolutely wonderful. She’s honest, very hard-working and we have 100-percent confidence in her. She’s been an amazing asset to us as we’ve navigated these previously-uncharted waters — and we truly feel like we would be lost without her help!

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I’ll be sharing more about our house-hunting and house-purchasing adventures. (And yes, if you’ve not caught onto my subtle hints over the last few weeks, we bought a house! More on that soon!)

Have you successfully hired a realtor before? If so, what advice would you give someone looking for a good realtor?

18 Jun 2010   ·   42
Money Saving Mom

Yesterday’s Walmart Shopping Trip (um, where did the ice cream go?!)

The children and I stopped by Walmart yesterday after naps and here’s what we picked up:

2 cartons of strawberries at $1.67 each

6 ears of corn at $0.28 each

5 lbs. of bananas — $0.18 per pound (price-matched with a local store that has bananas at this price on Thursdays)

2 packages of Schick razors — $1.97 each, used $2/1 coupons — free after coupons

6 packages of Taco Bell seasoning — $0.50 each, used 3 $1/2 coupons — free after coupons

3 bottles of Masterpiece barbecue sauce — $1.42 each, used 3 $1/1 coupons — $0.42 each after coupons

2 bottles Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce — $1.50 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons — $0.50 each after coupons

2 Suave deodorants — $1.72 each, used $3/2 coupon — $0.22 each after coupon

1 Kotex liners — $1, used $1/1 coupon from a freebie mailing — free after coupon

1 trial-sized Pantene — $0.97, used $1.50/1 coupon from a freebie mailing — free plus overage after coupon

1 bottle Genesis Today Juice — $6, used free coupon I signed up for on another blog (no longer available) — free after coupon

2 Simply Go-Gurts — $2.25, used 2 free coupons — free after coupons

1 Pampers wipes — $1.97, used $2/1 coupon — free after coupon

6 Skinny Cow ice cream cups — $1.22 each, used 4 $1/1 coupons, used 2 Buy 2, Get 1 free — 6 for $0.88 total

Before coupons, my total was around $48. After coupons, I paid $12.46 for everything pictured — and the ice cream and Go-Gurt not pictured. Ice cream and yogurt doesn’t last long at our house. And it’s not just because daddy and the kiddos are eating it! 😉

17 Jun 2010   ·   149
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Food You Can Fix in a Hotel Room?


Janet emailed me the following question to ask you all:

In a few weeks, my family will leave for a weekend beach vacation to our favorite destination spot. In the past, we rented a small room with a kitchenette. We packed food from our freezer to eat during the time we were on vacation.

On this trip, though, we downgraded to a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave. We will also have access to a grill. We want to make our own meals, if possible, but I’m needing ideas of what to fix besides sandwiches and cold cereal. -Janet

What suggestions do you have for Janet? I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

16 Jun 2010   ·   50

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Follow a Few Helpful Blogs

Once you’ve started getting your toes a little wet in this whole lowering your grocery budget thing, you’ll find that one of your biggest helps will be finding and following a few blogs.

When I first started MoneySavingMom.com back in 2007, there weren’t any other blogs posting deals. (Yes, seriously, can you believe that?!) There were deal forums, but they were hard to follow — and very overwhelming for a newbie.

I searched for a blog which had the deals at Walgreens and CVS mapped out for me and came up empty. Since I was already compiling the best deals for myself and a few other friends, I figured I might as well do what I wished someone else were doing and start a blog with the best deals all outlined each week in a neat and tidy manner.

Well, the idea caught on a little bit. And a few years later, there are now thousands of deal blogs of every size, shape, kind and color available. There are bloggers covering just about every store out there from every angle imaginable.

The good news is that there are so many deal blogs out there, there’s something for everyone.

The bad news is that there are so many deal blogs out there you can get a little overwhelmed or spend too much time reading them.

Choose Wisely

Just like you want to be a wise steward of your money, you also want to be a wise steward of your time. When it comes to deal blogs, I suggest choosing no more than five to follow.

Pick blogs which inspire you, give you new and creative ideas, which routinely cover stores you shop at and which you find easy to follow. If a blog isn’t inspiring or helping you, stop following it. (That goes for this blog, as well. There’s no point in you wasting time reading here if you’re not getting anything out of it!)

If you find five quality blogs which regularly post the best deals and which cover the stores in your area, you’ll likely be notified of just about every truly great deal out there. Oh, I’m sure if you followed 35 deal blogs, you’d probably find a few more deals than you’d find just following five deal blogs, but I honestly doubt you’d really miss much. I follow 5-10 deal blogs at any given time myself and I find that it’s rare I miss some really amazing deal — and if I were only following them for myself (instead of also looking for deals to share with a nationwide audience), five would totally suffice.

Now, please don’t feel like I’m saying you’re wrong to follow more than five blogs. You can do whatever works for you! I’m just trying to alleviate you of the feeling that you’re missing out on all sorts of great stuff if you don’t follow at least 76 different blogs! 🙂

You’re better off following a few blogs and spending the rest of your time implementing what you’re learning, than spending hours reading about all these great ways to save money but never actually doing anything.

Use Feed Subscriptions

I’ve found that it’s much more efficient to read blogs through a feed reader, rather than visiting each of them individually. I personally use Bloglines, though I’ve been told repeatedly that Google Reader is better. Most blogs also now offer the option of email subscriptions, so you can get an email in your inbox once per day with all the posts from the previous 24 hours in one concise little email — saving you from even having to visit a blog if you’d like!

Pick the Best Deals, Leave the Rest

I’ve said it repeatedly, but it bears repeating again: you don’t have to hit every deal. Once you’ve subscribed to the five or so blogs you want to follow, just skim through the posts on a regular basis and pick and choose what deals you have the time and energy to do and have no guilt in leaving all the others behind.

Sometimes I get emails from readers who are all flustered trying to figure out how I do all the deals I post about. Um, want to know something? I probably actually do around 5-15% of the deals I post here. And I don’t feel one bit of guilt over the others I choose not to do. If I did all the deals I posted here, we’d be way over-budget, our house would be bursting with stuff we didn’t need and I’d have my priorities way out of whack.

Instead I just pick and choose what deals work for our family based upon our budget, our needs and the time I have. By doing this, we get plenty of great deals and save a boatload of money — and I have time for many other more important things in my life.

Blogs are so helpful when it comes to saving money on your grocery bill as they share the best deals with you in a concise, step-by-step manner. But remember that they are there to serve as a tool, not a burden.

Do you find that following blogs helps you to save on your grocery bill? What tips do you have for streamlining your blog reading?

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16 Jun 2010   ·   60
Money Saving Mom

Yay! I just won free toilet paper from Kroger!

The girls and I have been playing the Kroger Summer of Savings Instant Win Game every single day since it started and we finally won something today. And it was a free 4-pack of toilet paper — which is probably one of the best prizes seeing as deals on toilet paper have been far and few between around here recently.

Have you been winning anything?

15 Jun 2010   ·   102
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: At-Home Hair Coloring (Advice needed!)

I  have a question that I really need answered: how do others do their own hair coloring? Are there websites or blogs that teach you how?

I have always gotten my done at the salon, but I’m not able to afford that right now and I can’t stand the grays that are coming in!

There are so many deals on hair coloring kits, but there are so many different kinds, I just don’t where to begin and I’m terrified of doing it wrong and ruining my hair. -Carol

A friend of mine highlighted my hair one time using a coloring kit you buy in a box, but that’s the extent of my knowledge when it comes to at-home hair coloring. And, as I shared with you all not too long ago, we save money in many areas so that we can splurge in a few — one of them being my hair. So I’m probably not the person to be asking about at-home hair coloring, but here are two ideas I had for you:

1. If you know someone who went to beauty school or is a hairdresser, I’d suggest asking them about bartering. Maybe you could make them freezer meals or clean their house or teach them a skill in exchange for their willingness to do your hair? Get creative and you might be able to come up with a way to still get your hair done, without breaking your budget to do so.

2. If bartering wasn’t an option, then I’d ask your friends if any of them dye their own hair. You might be able to get some hands-on help to learn the ropes.

I did a quick Google search on “How to Dye Your Own Hair” and it looks like there are quite a few great articles and videos available online to help you color your own hair without ruining it. However, there’s no guarantees that what you read on the internet will work for you!

My readers are much more reliable than Google, though, so let’s open up the floor to them: Have any of you colored your hair (or someone else’s) before? What advice, tips and suggestions do you have for Carol?

15 Jun 2010   ·   14
Money Saving Mom

Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds – Part 2

Missed last week’s post with Part 1 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds? Read it here.

Picking up where we left off last week, here are four more of our favorite children’s read-alouds:

5. The Story of Ferdinand — The girls never tire of this story and it always produces a plethora of questions on bull-fighting, bees and everything in-between.

6. Keep the Lights Burning Abbie— This is one of Kathrynne’s most-loved stories. It’s a beautiful tale of a girl who shows great responsibility and determination to stick to her commitments — in spite of great difficulty.

7. Caps for Sale — Despite how many times we’ve read this book, it never ceases to capture the girls’ complete attention. They find it fascinating. Plus, it offers lots of opportunities for us to discuss entrepreneurialism and how “way back when” people really had to get creative when it came to earning a living.

8. Bless the Lord: The 103rd Psalm — With absolutely gorgeous and detailed artwork, this book has the rich phrases of the 103rd Psalm contained in it. If your children are anything like mine, they will want to spend a great deal of time just studying the pictures.

Part 3 coming early next week…

This post is brought to you in part by HarperCollins and the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program. Kids 12 and under can join the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program and earn a free book when they read 10 books. Just fill out this form and bring it in to any Borders, Waldenbooks, or Borders express store by August 26, 2010 to participate in this program. Find more Summer Reading Programs here.

photo credit: Washington State Library