MoneySavingMom.com
FREEBIE LIBRARY!
Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to the MSM Freebie Library, including my top printables & eBooks.
Classic View
Grid View
28 Jan 2011   ·   38
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: HDTV

We paid cash!
In November 2007, our family began our Total Money Makeover journey. The very first thing we learned was to pay for everything in cash.

This was, of course, a new way of thinking. After all, we had our debit card, which was “essentially” cash, right? Well, after much praying and hard work, we have stopped using credit, rarely use our debit card and now believe that Cash is King!

We had the chance to put this mantra to the absolute test. We wondered if paying with cash would help us not end up with a case of buyer’s remorse, as we had felt so many times in years past when making purchases.

One Saturday morning in July, 2008, we awoke to learn our television had been struck by lightning the night before. Now, we could have run out and purchased a new one on a credit card — if we owned a credit card, that is! We didn’t, so we marched down the steps to our basement and carried up a replacement television — a 14-year-old, 25″ tube TV.

We then finished working our way out of debt. Afterwards, we began to save for that new HDTV.

How We Saved

We had budgeted a dollar amount for our groceries each pay period. At the end of that two weeks, we would take the money left over and put into our TV fund. Using coupons and working deals usually meant at least 30% went into savings.

We had a garage sale and added our proceeds to our stash. Imagine our surprise when, in less than six months, we had reached our goal of having enough cash to purchase not only our television, but also a new TV stand!

Then came the fun part — going shopping! We knew exactly which television and stand we wanted. We selected both our TV and stand and were armed and ready ask for a reduced price.

We asked the salesman what they could do since we were paying in cash and he said he’d have to check with his manager. Imagine our surprise when he walked up and offered us what we were hoping for — a 5% discount for paying with cash.

What We Learned

With great pride, we handed over our cash. It felt so good. We felt empowered, like we had done something that few had done before.

Sure, it would have been simple enough to just write a check or put the purchase on a credit card (and pay it off right away) but, I had never in my adult life made a purchase of this magnitude with cold, hard cash.

We now know that it is possible to purchase anything with cash. Dedication, hard work and the desire to remain debt free have kept us on track. And our mantra rings true – CASH IS KING!

Penny Pinchin' MomTracie has helped her family eradicate over $37,000 in debt in 27 months. She shares her money saving tips, coupons and deals daily at Penny Pinchin’ Mom.  She and her husband live in Missouri with their 3 children, ages 22 months – 5 years.

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

28 Jan 2011   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: Two College Degrees and a Wedding

We paid cash!

A testimony from Adie

Throughout our daughter’s high school years, we saved up little bits here and there, knowing that college tuition was soon coming. Some years my husband got a bonus, and we usually put most of it aside into the college fund. Other unexpected cash, such as from garage sales, also went into the fund.

We learned that our home state of Georgia has a wonderful perk for in-state college students: if the student has maintained a B average or better during high school, then they are eligible for the HOPE scholarship. This pays full or almost-full tuition at the state universities as long as the student maintains their B average in college.

Except, that is, for homeschool students. The rules are different for all graduates of “non-accredited” high schools, including homeschools. If homeschool students have a B average in high school, they must pay full tuition the first year of college. Then, if they still have a B average, they become eligible for the HOPE beginning in their second year. But they also get a tuition reimbursement for their first year.

So, in essence, we lent the state the amount of tuition for one year. In our case, the tuition cost was $4,000. After our daughter’s first year was complete, we applied for our tuition reimbursement and soon received it. With our son only two years behind his sister, we banked that money so we could repeat the process when he began college.

At the end of our son’s freshman year we again received the tuition reimbursement, and then we had $4,000 in our bank account, unnamed. Thoughts of travel went through our heads, but only briefly. A certain young man had started visiting our home often, and a mother’s instinct told me that we may be planning a wedding before too many months had passed. $4,000 set aside would be a very good start on a wedding budget.

Last December, during their senior year, Daniel asked for Greta’s hand in marriage. A May wedding, soon after graduation, was planned. My husband told the happy couple that we had $4,000 set aside, and we would save up another $1,000 to add to that. Anything over that amount would be their responsibility.

We Paid Cash for a little college and a wedding

On May 22, they had a beautiful afternoon wedding in a little country church, with about 150 family and friends there to celebrate with them. A lovely hors d’oeuvres reception and country dance followed the ceremony. They had worked hard to make it uniquely their own and asked friends and family to help out in many ways.

I kept careful records of every purchase, every expense. When all was totaled, the wedding had cost us $4,863!

Adie Noren is a wife of 31 years, mother of three grown children, and grandmother of two. She and her husband paid off their mortgage one month before the wedding! She writes about crafting and homemaking on her blog, Make and Do.

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

27 Jan 2011   ·   63

Homemade Crock Pot Pear Sauce (or Applesauce)

One thing I love to do when I find great deals on soon-to-be-expiring apples and pears is to make homemade pear sauce or applesauce in the crock pot. You could also do it on the stove, but I’ve found that dumping everything in the crock pot and then leaving it is easier for me right now.

Wash and peel fruit.

Core and chop.

Dump chopped fruit in the crock pot and pour a about one cup of water over and sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Let this simmer for a few hours until the fruit is very soft.

Drain off excess liquid, if any and mash with a potato masher or blend in a blender or food processor.

You can store this in the refrigerator in an airtight container for at least a week. It makes a delicious and healthful addition to any meal!

26 Jan 2011   ·   109
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Fruit Juice Alternative

Fruit juice alternative

Tip from Alyssa:

As a health-conscious mom of four small kids, I really wanted to avoid serving my kids fruit juice on a regular basis. Not only was it expensive, I was concerned about the effect on my kids’ teeth (dental work is a real budget-killer!) and overall health from consuming so much fructose (read: sugar) for relatively little nutrition in return.

However, there are times I really need them to drink more fluids, like when they have fevers, when it’s hot outside or when I notice my oldest son having a hard time focusing. I have tried watering down fruit juice, which works most of the time, but it was hard to keep on hand for just those times when they don’t want to drink a large amount of plain water.

My Affordable Solution?

Tea!

Supermarkets typically run boxes of herbal fruit tea on sale two for $4 in my area. I use two bags per liter of cold herbal fruit tea, putting each liter at $0.10. Pretty cheap to me! Bonus: The dry tea is easy to keep on hand. If there are weeks we don’t need flavored drinks, it’s just fine waiting in our cupboard!

How We Make Our Tea:

  1. Boil two cups of water in a small pan, tea kettle or microwave.
  2. Place two tea bags of your choice, in a heat-safe (preferably glass) container.
  3. Pour boiling water over the tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags.
  4. Pour steeped tea into a one-liter/quart pitcher and fill with cold water.

To make a gallon to keep on hand in the refrigerator, I find that six bags are plenty to make adequate tea. This even increases your savings!

About Sweetening

My kids will drink most of the fruit teas unsweetened, but if it’s a hard sell, then you might try sweetening it.

  • Stevia is a natural herb which can be used for sweetening. Stevia extract comes in bottles, powder and packets from brands such as Truvia, Stevia in the Raw or Purevia. Be careful! A little stevia goes a long way so just use a drop or pinch and sweeten to taste. If you add too much, it will be sickening sweet and have a funny aftertaste.
  • Sugar (honey, turbinado, sucanat cane, etc.) To dissolve the sugar in your tea, stir in while it is still hot or take a little of your plain hot water and dissolve your sugar in a separate measuring cup. This will make your own sugar syrup that you can blend in with your tea to taste. (Isn’t this defeating the purpose? Well, in a way, no. You will be in control of how much you put in, and if you’re conscientious, then it will most likely be far less than average fruit juices.)

Alyssa is a happy (if not slightly insane at times) navy wife, and homeschooling mom to four kids, ages 6, 5, 2 and 5 months. She dreams of starting a blog one day, then quickly jerks back to reality where the mountain of laundry beckons, someone needs their shoes tied (again), and someone else begs her to turn the house upside down to find his toy hippo he hasn’t seen in three days.

26 Jan 2011   ·   59
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Selling extra coupons?

Today’s question is from Christy:

I used to coupon heavily, but do much less now since switching to a whole foods/organic approach last spring. I still get my weekly papers, and wondered if anyone had experience selling extras on eBay or through another method? I am the mother of a preschooler and work part-time so I have a little extra time. -Christy

Note: Comments left regarding the ethics of selling coupons will be deleted per our comment guidelines. Please keep your answers to the question asked. Thanks so much!

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

25 Jan 2011   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

Ask Jesse: Interest-bearing accounts for emergency funds?

We are aggressively trying to get our emergency fund to five months’ worth of living expenses right now. However, when I think about all that money sitting around and not making any interest, it bothers me. Have you all found any good accounts that are accessible and still earn a little bit of money? I am just having a hard time thinking $15,000 is just “sitting around”. -Shannon

It can give you heartburn to think of having a substantial amount of your hard-earned money sitting in a non-to-low interest bearing account earmarked as an emergency fund. I know the feeling well; we money “nerds” always try to think of better ways to have our money work better for us!

When it comes to the emergency fund, I’ve found it is helpful for me to think of it more as an insurance policy than a fund that needs to be earning money. With an insurance policy, you are constantly paying premiums for a product that you more than likely will never need. In addition, an insurance policy is a product that is usually for a certain amount in the event of a loss and is not indexed to increase with inflation. So in reality, with an insurance policy, you are losing money due to inflation and constant premium payments, albeit for a specific purpose — risk management.

It is the same with the emergency fund. It is not an investment where your goal is to make a certain rate of return. Rather, it is a “insurance policy” to protect you from a significant loss or set back. When you have an emergency fund, what could be a disaster becomes a mere inconvenience.

Just as with insurance, you do indeed lose money with having an emergency fund in a liquid, easily accessible account due to inflation. That is a price I am willing to pay, however, for the peace of mind that comes from having a cushion to soften the blows when trouble strikes.

We currently have our emergency fund in a local bank’s money market account. I chose this for the easy access and CD-like rates. It may not be keeping up with inflation, but at least its not losing as much as keeping money under a mattress — not that that is a bad place to keep it if you had the discipline not to touch it! I know myself well enough to know if I were to keep the emergency fund in it’s most liquid form (cold hard cash), I would find “emergencies” all over the place.

Some people like CDs; those are a safe place for your fund, but you will have to pay a percentage fee to get the money out in case of an emergency before the maturity date. Another option is a money market fund with check-writing privileges.

In today’s economy, you might as well be resolved to the fact that your emergency fund is going to lose money by sitting there, no matter if you are getting interest or not. In the end, though, the non-tangible benefits of having the emergency fund readily accessible far outweigh any tangible losses.

Jesse Paine is a licensed attorney who owns his own law firm. He’s married to Crystal and is the numbers nerd of the MoneySavingMom.com team! If you have a question you’d like him to answer in a future column, you can submit it here.

The content of this column intended for informational use only and is not to be construed as providing legal, investing, accounting or other professional advice. Your situation is factually specific and you should accordingly seek qualified professional counsel concerning your specific legal, investing or accounting needs.

24 Jan 2011   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan

Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Bread recipe I created this week (I’ll share it next week!)

Breakfasts:
Oatmeal
Smoothies, Toasted Bagels with Cinnamon/Turbinado
Muffins
Steel Cut Oat Groats with Walnuts and Raisins
Smoothies, English Muffins
Fresh Orange/Carrot/Apple Juice, Toasted Bagels with Cinnamon/Turbinado
Raisin Toast, Scrambled Eggs

Lunches:
Chicken hot dogs
Macaroni & Cheese
Leftovers
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
Cheese Quesadillas
Seapak Frozen Fish (they sent us some free products to try)
Leftovers

Dinners:
Chili Burgers, Seasoned Baked Potato Wedges, Steamed veggies, pineapple
Tilapia, Sweet Potatoes, Homemade French Bread, Broccoli
Turkey Sausage and Potatoes, Steamed veggies, Fruit, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls
Steak, Mashed potatoes, Homemade Cinnamon/Sugar Bread, Steamed veggies
3-Bean Chili Chowder, English Muffins, Veggies/Fruit
Dinner With Friends
Dinner at Extended Family’s House

Green Chili Chicken and Lime Soup (I tweaked the originally recipe a tad, but it was very delicious and I’ll definitely be making it again!)

24 Jan 2011   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Turn tax savings into true savings

This tip comes from Jamie W., a CPA in Alabama:

Although tax law is not the most exciting thing to blog about, it is one thing that affects every American, every single dollar we earn, and every household budget.

Congress recently enacted legislation that reduces the amount of Social Security tax an employee pays from 6.2% to 4.2%. This change will result in a paycheck increase of 2% for most wage earners in the United States beginning in January of 2011.

For example, if you earn $40,000 per year, you will save $800 in payroll taxes during the year. Although the change is not a huge tax break, it provides an opportunity for many of us to make smart money decisions.

This tax break is unusual in that it is not a lump sum that you receive in the form of a refund at tax time. Instead, your payroll taxes are lowered on each paycheck, thus increasing your take home pay. It could be very easy to spend this money without a purpose. However, you can make this money work for you.

  • Automatically direct 2% of each paycheck into a savings account. These savings could be used to increase your emergency fund or could be saved with a specific purpose in mind.
  • Apply 2% of each paycheck to debt reduction. Multiple small payments through the year will put a dent in your debt by the end of 2011.
  • Budget with a purpose. If there is an area in which you have been struggling financially, direct this 2% of your earnings to that budget line. This will give you breathing room and allow the money to be spent intentionally.
24 Jan 2011   ·   131
Money Saving Mom

How to Manage Your Time (and Sanity!) as a Military Mom

Guest post by Megan at To Love a Soldier

I wake up to the shrill sound of that horribly annoying ring and I smile. It is 6 a.m. and he is calling. “Good afternoon! How is your day so far?” There is no noise on the other end.

“Please work, please work, please work,” I think to myself.

Then I hear it, a voice that has become all too familiar to me, “The call could not be completed. Please try again later.” I jump out of bed and begin to pull up the sheets, flatten out the comforter and smooth over the coverlet. I grab the throw pillows from the empty side of the bed when the phone rings again.

“Hello?” I say, truly asking. White noise. “Hello?” I ask again knowing there won’t be an answer.

I touch “end call” and place the remainder of the pillows in their places. I head into the bathroom, start the water and place the phone next to the shower, it rings one more time. “Hello?” I ask again.

Static. I put the phone on the hamper lid and step into the steam.

The way I see it, Military spouses have two choices when our loved one is deployed: pull up the covers over our head or smooth out the comforter. A year is a long time — and this is how long my husband will be gone from myself and our two boys. For them, for me and for him, I choose to get out of bed.

There is so much that goes into a day when you are the mother of a two-year-old and a nine-month-old and all of this becomes so much greater when your husband is in Kandahar. My focus is on these things: keeping this family strong and together and helping fellow military wives do the same.

There are many things we can do to make the time go by faster, to make the homecoming seem closer. I try to focus on what can be done and what must be done to thrive in this very special life. It can be overwhelming, it can be stressful, it can be heart-breaking; but it can be so incredibly rewarding and full of joy.

It is easy to get lost in the struggle, to become broken in the battle and to grow tired of the heart-break. But each day brings us closer and each day can make us stronger. Here is how I do it:

Wake Up!

It is quite possibly the most important step of each day along this journey. And I don’t mean wake up at 8 a.m. and lie in bed waiting for him to call and then maybe go watch TV and eat a bowl of cereal. Seriously, wake up! My number one goal is to wake up before my children because if I wake up after them my entire day changes.

You should know that I am not a morning person. I am a triple-shot-venti-give-me-as-much-espresso-as-you got-if-you-want-me-to-speak-clearly kind of person! But I cannot tell you how much better I feel each day if I am up and showered before my kids start babbling or my son sits on the potty still wearing his pj’s (forgetting that all too important step, yet again!).

And if I get to wake up to the sound of my soldier’s voice, it is already a blessed day. But if I stay in bed and wait for that phone call, I could be waiting for a long time.

Send an Email

I know, I know. How technology-dependent have we become? Well, very. And at this point, I don’t answer emails, mainly because I probably only have a couple minutes (if that) before my kiddos are up and moving like they’ve had three shots of espresso and because I don’t want people to begin to think that I will be up and ready to answer their questions at 6 a.m. every morning.

I check my email for one reason: to see if he sent me a message. If he did, he is probably frustrated with the phone system and apologizing for the call not going through (as though it is his fault at all). If he didn’t I know that his plate is even fuller than usual so I email him a few encouraging words, an “I love you” and a “stay safe” and log out.

Enter the Craziness

Yup, there’s my two-year-old, sitting on the potty, pants on, smiling. Luckily, since I have been up and showered, I catch him in time. Pants down, diaper off, M&M looming before him and I hear the babbling in the other room. I open the door and there is my 9-month-old, standing in his crib laughing at me. I wish my husband could see that smile.

Answer Emails

This is important for me because there are 18 soldiers (other than my own) who have their families depend on me to be their link to them during this deployment. Their parents, their spouses, their children, their fiancees, all have my information if they need me. I do not, for a moment, take that responsibility lightly.

I check to see if any questions have come up and I answer them quickly through an email if appropriate or a phone call depending on the time and taking into account the four different time zones there are family members in. This will bring me into perhaps one of the most important things for a Military Wife to remember…

Reach Out for Support

We cannot get through this alone. Okay fine, you can, if you want to be mediocre, if you want to just make it through and if you want to burn out somewhere down the line. But to be a strong support to my soldier, to be a good mother to our children, to take care of myself, I need to recognize that support is nothing but good.

I can only speak for the Army as far as personal experience, but there are so many incredible resources at our disposal during deployments. There are so many people who can help along the way — to do the simple things or to manage the hard things.

Every Army post has an MWR and ACS building/center that can be a major life-line for a military spouse. Use them! I cannot stress this enough. Any welcome center on a military installation can direct you to this building or center and when you enter you will find a plethora of information and people to help you to understand it. (Army OneSource is the online version).

This is also a great way to know what amazing free shows, deals and events are being offered for military families in your area. My children saw Disney on Ice: Toy Story 3 free because of information like this! You won’t know about it if you don’t reach out.

Set a Goal

Deadlines make everything go by so much faster and to have a deadline for something other than when your soldier will return home keeps your mind focused on other things. Many women run marathons, begin blogging, go back to school or volunteer.

To volunteer in the military community has been one of the most fulfilling things in my life. To support those in the same situation and to find support in them does nothing but strengthen the spirit.

Make Time Everyday for Daddy

My children have so many reminders of their Daddy. We aren’t able to Skype right now, so my husband has not seen our boys in about two months. But our boys have a Hallmark book that holds his voice, video recordings of him reading stories, a doll that is a likeness of him and each has a stuffed animal with his voice telling him goodnight.

Everyday we go through pictures, watch videos, talk about him and keep him present. This may be one of the most difficult things to juggle. We are like single parents when our soldiers are away — but at the same time we aren’t.

We are constantly trying to keep our soldiers part of their children’s lives and it can be so stressful. As a friend pointed out, it can make it difficult to enjoy the moments they are missing because we are constantly videoing, snapping pictures, taking notes and trying to keep them up-to-speed.

Let Him Know About Today

Each night I email my soldier with what went on that day and what amazing things are children did. I try to describe it as best as I can for him. This is a double-edged sword: I know he wants to know these things so very much but I also know how much it hurts him to know that he is missing these moments.

My son has crawled, sat up, pulled up and began to try to walk; when my soldier left he was rolling. When he returns, my son will be running.

I tell him about myself, too: what I did, what I hoped to do the next day. I also tell him how much I love him and how proud I am. I do this each day and I will continue to.

Make Time for You

I said how important and stressful it is to keep “daddy” present everyday. But it can be so very tiring, and it is so easy to get caught up in it. So everyday, when you put your children down to sleep, when the world has slowed for a moment, take that instant and breathe.

I write to my boys or I simply sit still. It is amazing the amount of emotions that run through the body if we sit still for a moment when they are gone. And I still say to take that moment and feel it. I do not think we should wallow in our heartache but I do think we should acknowledge it. To be present in it for a time is healthy, to overcome it is empowering. To hurt when they are gone does not make us weak, but to only hurt when they are gone will make us broken.

Read a book, find a blog of a military wife who lets you know that we all feel how you feel. We all hurt how you hurt. We all fear what you fear. Be empowered by the strength that exists within the band of sisters that surround you. Reboot. Recharge. Relax! You cannot be Mommy and Daddy everyday if you don’t.

I love this life. I miss my husband but I am so very proud of him. I want our children to be proud of him, too. If they see me sulk while their daddy is away, if they grow up with that image in their head, they will only remember that. They will not remember the pride, the love and the support.

I want them to understand the importance of his job as they age. I have to set the example by my actions as they grow. What our young children think of their fathers rests on our shoulders. There is so much we should do, everyday, to make sure that image is the same thing we see.

Stay strong. Stay committed. Persevere!

Megan is an Army Wife to a wonderful soldier currently stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan for a 12-month tour. She seeks to strengthen those around her, encourage those she’s never met and enlighten anyone who doesn’t understand this life. She supports the men and women in uniform with everything in her and looks forward to the next time she will see her husband marching in formation when they welcome him home next summer. Megan blogs at To Love a Soldier.

22 Jan 2011   ·   50
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Seafood and pineapple

I stocked up on seafood and pineapple this week!

Dillon’s Shopping Trip:

8 packages of fish — marked down to $0.79 each
1 package of Tilapia — marked down to $1.79
Excedrin — used free coupon
Colgate toothpaste — on sale for $1, used $1/1 coupons = free after coupons
Gallon of milk — $2.69
16 oz. block of cheese — $2.69
Vitaminwater — on sale for $1, used $1/1 coupon = free after coupon

I also used a $1 catalina, so my total ended up being $13.80 after coupons and my receipt says that I saved $10.73.

Pineapple was on sale for only $0.99 each at Aldi this week so we bought four! I’m looking forward to fresh pineapple — yum!

Would you like to know what the best deals and coupon match-ups are for your local stores? Be sure to check out the Store Deals section of our site where we post the best deals and coupon match-ups each week for over 100 different stores across the country. You can sign up to receive the top deals in your email inbox each week as soon as they are posted!

Find

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

21 Jan 2011   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Books Read in January: 168 Hours, Calm My Anxious Heart, Today Matters

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think is definitely one of the best time management books I’ve read. And that’s saying something, because I’ve read a lot of books on time management. It was right up there with Tell Your Time.

The principles and real-life examples very much resonated with me. I often get emails from people asking, “How on earth do you do all you do?” This book basically lines out how I do it: I choose not to do many things so that I can do a few things well (or, at least, attempt to do a few things well!).

We all have 168 hours in every week. When you think of it, that’s really a great deal of time. So why are so many people completely overworked and out of time? Well, 168 Hours would argue that not only are you trying to cram too much into your life, but you’re probably also not wisely using the hours you already have.

If we prioritized our life (i.e. sat down and really determined what we want our main priorities to be) and then we lived life according to those priorities, we’d be less tempted to get so distracted with non-essentials. Priorities give you freedom to say “no” more often.

One of the biggest takeaways from this book for me was to focus on my core competencies. It’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up if we’re not doing everything (or most everything) that we see others doing.

For instance, I could feel guilty that I don’t make homemade tortillas. I could beat myself up for this, constantly feeling like a failure if I feed my family storebought tortillas and wasting hours of time trying to perfect the art of tortilla-making when it’s just not a skill I possess. Or, I could guiltlessly buy tortillas at Aldi for $0.99 deciding that making homemade tortillas is not something I’m gifted at and is something which takes much more time than it’s worth.

All of life involves choices. When we say “yes” to one thing, it means we say “no” to something else. Using our time wisely doesn’t mean that we never have margin in our life and run around like chickens with our heads cut off so that we can get 331 different things done every hour. No, it means that we are choosing to use our 168 hours every week in a way that gets us closer to our goals and priorities.

This book gave lots of practical outside-the-box ideas. It is written more for those who work at least 30 hours each week, but even if you’re a stay-at-home mom, I think you will find it encouraging and applicable.

Also read in January:

Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment — Loved this book and would whole-heartedly recommend it to any Christian woman who is struggling with anxiety, fear or worry. Very thought-provoking.

Little House on the Prairie — Finished reading this aloud to the children. We’ve already read Farmer Boy, so we’re jumping ahead to On the Banks of Plum Creek. I’m so excited because they are really getting into chapter books these days and will sit and keep begging me to read another chapter and another chapter. I love the questions and discussions that books spark, too!

Today Matters — This was my first audiobook ever to listen to and it was excellent. I’ll likely be using some of the things I picked up from it in later posts, but I loved it and would highly recommend it for anyone who could use some inspiration in their life.

24 Books I Plan to Read in 2011

Business and Financial Books I Plan to Read and Review This Year:

January — 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think
February — Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living
March — Becoming a Person of Influence
April — Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking
May — Life on the Wire: Avoid Burnout and Succeed in Work and Life
June — Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
July — Have a New You by Friday: How to Accept Yourself, Boost Your Confidence & Change Your Life in 5 Days
August — Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
September — America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money
October — Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
November — Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet
December – Personal Investing: The Missing Manual

Other Books I Plan to Read This Year:
January — Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment
February — Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
March — The Possibilities of Prayer
April — The Blessing of Boundaries
May — Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time
June — Honey for a Child’s Heart
July — One With Christ
August — A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning
September — Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit
October — The Rose Conspiracy
November — Disciplines of a Godly Woman
December –Benjamin Rush: Signer of the Declaration of Independence

What books have you read recently? Any you’d highly recommend?

21 Jan 2011   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash :: A New Vacuum

We paid cash!

A testimony by Crystal from A Simple Heart for Home

A few months ago I was vacuuming our couch when it suddenly shut off. I guess I had sucked up one too many Cheerios and after my husband’s multiple attempts to fix it, we found that our vacuum had finally bit the dust.

We are in the process of building a new home, and with five small children and brand-new carpets, a good vacuum is a necessity. I did some research and finally decided on the Shark Navigator. The $199 retail price didn’t fit into my budget, though, so I knew I needed to start saving.

How We Did It

We have a coin-counting jar we keep on top of my dryer. When I find change in my husband’s pockets, it goes in the jar. It didn’t have very much in it at the time, but I went through the house and found all our little coin collections — the container in the kitchen, a piggy bank in our bedroom — and I dumped it all in that jar.

The total started rising and it was named my “Vacuum Fund”. It was so motivating to see the amount with just adding in the change from around our house!

It was also during this time that my husband and I decided to use cash only. We rarely used credit cards, but we were debit-card-dependent and it had become too easy for us to just swipe that card and not think about the money that was leaving our bank account.

We started paying cash for groceries, gas and spending money and wrote checks for everything else. If we ran out of cash, we had to stop spending until payday.

Now that we were using cash, my husband was coming home with handfuls of coins everyday and my vacuum fund doubled in a month!

My kids were even excited about it and I caught them a few times dumping their piggy banks into my change jar. I told them not to worry about it but they wanted to help. It became a family project.

It was hard to be patient. I had a huge pity party the day the hamster cage was knocked over and there was bedding and hamster food all over the floor. My old vacuum just pushed it around and I found myself on my hands and knees picking it out of the carpet. But I knew that the sacrifice of a few more weeks in a dirty house would all be worth it when I finally met my goal.

The day finally came and my jar was full. I took it to our bank’s coin counter and walked out with $191.03 in cash! I was able to find my vacuum at a discount and I had a 20% off coupon making it only $143!

I have to admit, until now I didn’t think much of a penny, but now I’ve seen that every little bit counts.

Crystal is happily vacuuming after her husband and their five children ages 7, 5, 3, 2 and 4 months. Check out her new blog, A Simple Heart for Home.

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