Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to the MSM Freebie Library, including my top printables & eBooks.
Classic View
Grid View
18 Jul 2011   ·   60
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Organization for Your School Supply Stockpile

Guest post by Danielle Bradbury

It’s that time of year again — back-to-school sales have started! The two questions I used to struggle with the most during this time were, “How much of what do I need to restock?” and “How am I going to keep it organized?”

The first question is obviously going to differ according to your family size and your method of schooling. However, my solution to keeping my school supply stockpile organized also helps me determine how much of each item I need to restock!

Think “Inside” the Box

My biggest organization “helper” is also extremely affordable — the $1 plastic shoeboxes from Walmart! I have a cheap bookcase that we bought over six years ago filled with those shoeboxes. I write a one- to two-word descriptions of what will be in each box on index cards (pens, pencils, highlighters, paint brushes, etc.) and tape it to the inside of the box’s small end. Then I stack them all up on the bookcase in alphabetical order.

I reserve the top shelf for computer paper, construction paper, file folders, envelopes, and my children’s individual crayon boxes. The second shelf holds Play-Dough and various homeschool games. Since the boxes don’t fill the entire width of the bookcase shelf, coloring books and notebooks can be slide upright into the extra space.

Not only does it keep almost all of our school supplies together, organized, and put away from little hands, it’s also very easy to take an inventory with this system!

An Inventory Checklist Prevents Overbuying and Underbuying

To start, I print out an Inventory Checklist that I created in Word. Then, I simply open each box, take note of how much of the specific supply I have left, how much I would like to stock up on, and what my “max capacity” is for that item. I also take inventory of my various paper supplies and make notes for them as well.

During back-to-school season I keep that Inventory Checklist in my purse. That way if I just happen upon a great deal, I know how much I can safely buy for my family’s personal stockpile, and how much I would need to buy in order to fill boxes for Operation Christmas Child. It eliminates the guesswork as well as the chance of overbuying or underbuying!

When I first started setting up this system, I only purchased two boxes each week (my husband is paid weekly). Eventually I was able to get rid of all the plastic bags my supplies were hidden in, and store them in a much more organized way.

This System is Frugal and Flexible

The best part of this system isn’t just the frugality, it’s also the flexibility. If you don’t have an available bookcase, perhaps you could clear part of your closet shelf, a pantry shelf, shelves above your laundry area, or maybe even space in a basement or attic! Also, if you need more of a supply then what one box can hold, you simply add in more boxes with the same title.

How do you organize your supplies?

Danielle Bradbury lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, son and two daughters. She and her husband are working hard to rebuild their life after bankruptcy. They are also looking forward to starting homeschool with their son this fall.

15 Jul 2011   ·   76
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash: Getting Right Side Up on our Upside Down Mortgage

We paid cash!

A testimony from Jen from Yard Sale Mommy

A year and a half ago I was having hot chocolate with a dear friend over Christmas break, and she told me about this guy named Dave Ramsey and about his Total Money Makeover.  Stop using credit cards, pay cash for everything, never take out a loan, even for a car? We could never do that, I told her.

Three days later we drank the Dave Ramsey Kool-Aid. And I’m so glad we did. In six months, we fairly easily paid off all of our credit card debt and medical bills, built an emergency fund, started giving more to church, and got our debt down to nothing but two mortgages.

Wait… what? Yes, we had two mortgages — one more than we needed.

In 2003, my husband got a new job and we had to rent out our house instead of selling it because we stood to lose money on the sale. Fast forward eight years to 2011 — to sell the house now would mean losing even more money than before. We were underwater on this mortgage, not covering the payment and maintenance with the rent, and facing major repairs in the near future on our twelve-year-old home.

We needed to sell it. But in order to sell it, we had to save and we had to prepare to lose an unknown amount of money.

We put the house up for sale this past February. After three weeks, we were willing to lose five thousand dollars. After six weeks, we were willing to lose ten thousand dollars. After nine weeks, we finally got an offer: $20,000 below what we needed to break even.

I’m happy to say that we were able to bring $19,076.00 in cash to the closing of our upside down mortgage last month.

It took a year to save this much, but I got zealous about buying and reselling things on ebay, spent hours on learning how to better my grocery budget, and decided that a trip to Target should be an errand instead of an activity.

We cut back and did without and we were able to pay cash to get out of our upside down, underwater mortgage. It feels so good to be free from that extra mortgage!

Jen Wise is a SAHM of three sweet girls and the wife of one handsome engineer!  Every Saturday morning she can be found hitting the yard sales in Raleigh, North Carolina.  You can follow her yard-saleing, eBaying adventures at Yard Sale Mommy.

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

15 Jul 2011   ·   48
Money Saving Mom

4 More Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds

Last year I shared 15 of our favorite picture books. We still love those 15, but we’ve added a few new favorites in the last year:
Papa’s Pastries — Every once in a while, we come across a children’s book that we all just love. And that we read over and over and over again — until almost everyone has it memorized word-for-word. Papa’s Pastries is one such book.

Not only does this book have beautiful pictures and an engaging story that our girls have been captivated by, but it introduces children to the reality that so many people around the world are much needier than us. In our affluent and wasteful culture, it’s hard to even imagine what it would be like to not know where our next meal will come from or to be so poor that no one in your family has shoes.

Cousin Ruth’s Tooth — This book has become one of our most-often-requested read-alouds. It’s so much fun to read and all the children love laughing at the funny pictures and silly poem.

Junior Discover’s Spending (Series) — The children have really enjoyed this whole childrens’ series by Dave Ramsey. It teachers practical money management skills in a very fun and engaging manner, plus it’s sparked all sorts of great discussions in our home about wise stewardship. Even Silas (2) loves these books.

Millions of Cats — This is our newest favorite picture book. It’s a fun story about lonely couple who wants a cat and ends up with hundreds, millions, billions, and trillions of cats.

What are your favorite children’s picture books? I’d love to hear as we’re always looking for new books to read!

(Note: The links in this post are my referral links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

14 Jul 2011   ·   101
Money Saving Mom

How to Make Money Blogging: 5 Tips for Maximizing Your Earnings with Affiliate Advertising

As I’ve been writing this series on How to Make Money Blogging, I know that many of you have been scratching your head wondering if I was ever going to get around to talking about how to actually make money blogging! 🙂 All the other posts I’ve shared will help significantly increase your blogging income, but they won’t make you a penny unless you set up streams of revenue on your blog.

And now that we’ve laid a good foundation for successful blogging, we’re ready to dive into those income-earning streams. The first — and easiest — is affiliate marketing.

For those who may have never heard the term of affiliate marketing before, it’s basically when you are paid to promote another person’s product, coupon, deal, or website. It’s typically CPA advertising — which means that you only get paid per action. In other words, a reader must take some form of action (purchase something, click through your link and sign up for something, download a coupon or ebook, etc.)

You sign up for an affiliate program (I’ll share some of my favorites in a little bit), you promote your unique affiliate link that the company gives you, and then you are paid if your readers buy the item or sign up for the item.

For instance, I promoted Amy’s Tell Your Time ebook earlier today. She has an affiliate program that offers 50% of the sales to the affiliate. Since the ebook is on sale for $2, I earn $1 for every person who clicks through my affiliate link and makes a purchase. So, if 100 people buy the ebook, I’ll make $100 in affiliate earnings.

In many cases, people have to make a purchase in order for you to earn money as an affiliate. However, there are also hundreds of other options that require no purchase. To give you an example, I’m affiliate for, RedPlum, SmartSource, and Coupon Network. If I post a great coupon that is on any of these sites, I earn anywhere from $0.02 to $0.80 per coupon printed (I have different agreements with each network and some pay per coupon printed, others pay a flat fee per print session per user per day).

As you can imagine, since one of the key focuses of happens to be using coupons, the affiliate money earned from coupons printed is one of the highest revenue earners. However, it is a win-win situation, because I’m sharing a great deal with you, it’s hopefully helping you save money and get a great deal, and then we both benefit from it.

With that background in place, here are my top five tips for maximizing affiliate advertising:

1. Don’t Compromise Your Values for a Quick Buck

Affiliate marketing can be an incredible income stream for bloggers, but there are some definite pitfalls to be wary of. You want to be very careful that you don’t just give something a great review or post about something because you’re earning something for promoting it.

I always stop and ask myself before posting something that includes an affiliate link, “Would I post about this if I were not earning a referral fee from it?”

2. Promote Affiliate Links In Your Posts Instead of Your Sidebar

I’ve found that it’s much more effective to weave affiliate links into your posts, rather than to just put affiliate links on the sidebar. If you’re already going to be writing about a site or product, check to see if they have an affiliate program so you can use your referral link.

3. Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

It takes awhile to learn what works when it comes to affiliate links. Don’t give up if you try it a few times and it doesn’t work or result in any sales or click-thrus. Keep testing things out, tweaking your approaches, and learning what works for your audience.

4. Be Upfront and Honest

In the last few months, I started denoting all posts that contain an affiliate link with a simple note at the bottom letting you know that the post contains an affiliate link. This way, you know exactly what you’re getting here and when I’m getting something in return. Not only have I received a lot of positive feedback from you all about this change, it also helps to keep me accountable in what I post to make sure I truly am following my policy to have your best interests in mind.

5. Remember That Less is More

A few strategically placed affiliate links are almost always going to be more effective than hundreds of affiliate links all over the place. It’s better to wait and only promote affiliate links that really fit within your blog’s mission and purpose than to post every other affiliate deal and opportunity that arises.

Your readers trust your endorsement more if it’s not something you give as often. If you don’t feel comfortable with something, don’t promote it.

My Current Top-Earning Affiliates (listed in order of their average earnings from the past few months):

Amy has a great list of many different affiliate programs here, if you’re interested.

If you use affiliate marketing, I’d love to hear what programs have worked well for you, as well as some your best tips for maximizing your earnings with affiliate advertising.

photo credit

(Note: Some of the links in this post are my referral links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

14 Jul 2011   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

Easy Homemade Lemonade

Note from Crystal: I made this for my family last week and they all loved it. I used turbinado (raw sugar) instead of white sugar and it came out looking a little brown and funny, but it tasted great!

Guest Post by Holly from Sweeter Hours

In our house we always usher in summer with lemonade. It’s usually the drink we serve at parties in a big glass container with a tap or at playdates in sippy cups.

Even with coupons and sales, I don’t love the high price tag of all natural brands or the additives in the cheaper drinks. In addition, most lemonade drink mixes contain yellow food dye and high fructose corn syrup — both things our family tries to avoid.

So instead of buying lemonade, we make it ourselves. It’s not only easy, it is much less expensive and healthier, too! Here’s our recipe:

For Holly Johnson, the sweet hours of life occur when she is practicing the art of mothering and making beautiful things. Sweeter Hours, her blog, chronicles a little bit of making stuff, a pinch of the green life, a whole can of amazing cookery, and of course, beautiful things for life.

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.

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

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

Watermelon Frosties
All Natural No Bake Energy Bites

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!


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!