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
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.

20 Jan 2011   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

Stories of Hope: How We Started From Square One

An encouraging story from Carolynn of My Little Bit of Life:

My parents were terrible at finances (they will be the first to admit it). They provided no insight and I really had no idea what real life was like! I do remember being told to not answer the phone at certain times, and now I’m pretty certain it was because creditors were calling.

Growing up, if we wanted something, my mom would usually get it for us. I saw her use credit cards and I just thought that was the way it was!

Our Story

When I got married, I was in for a shock! I came into the marriage with a lot of debt and my husband had a couple of thousands in debt. Together I think we totaled over twenty thousand dollars in debt!

I kept spending the way my mother always did and when we found out we were pregnant, I cried myself to sleep for nights over the fear of not being able to afford this next season of life.

We found a way to get a house back when they were giving money away (okay, not quite, but it seemed like it). We were approved for a $150,000 loan but my husband put his foot down (God’s grace!) and said that we could not afford more than a $100,000 loan. While looking for houses, I quickly realized that I would have to compromise (yikes!) and it took us over three months for me to mature enough to accept this fact.

Hope

When our second child was only four months old, my in-laws provided us with an opportunity to attend Financial Peace University. This changed our lives and it’s been almost four years and we now only have one car payment and a mortgage!

We now have four children and I no longer work, but my husband has received raises which have doubled his income and he now makes about five thousand dollars more than when we had two income!. I know this was God’s grace, but had we not taken Financial Peace University, we would have just dug ourselves a bigger hole to climb out of.

How to Start the Climb (especially if you were not blessed with wonderful role models)

  • Pray and ask for God’s grace everyday!
  • If at all possible, find a way to take Financial Peace University.
  • Create a support system: family members, spouse or even blogs!
  • Read, read, read! (I highly recommend Total Money Makeover and More Than Enough by Dave Ramsey).
  • Don’t give up. Surround yourself with sticky notes that have inspirational quotes on them.
  • Create a budget, live the budget and make giving a priority in the budget. Make it a habit.
  • Expect to make mistakes!

Carolynn has been married for six years. She is a stay at home mother of four children (ages 5, 4, 2 and 9 months). She has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with minors in Early Childhood and Spanish. She taught for five years before staying home. She’s new to blogging; visit her at My Little Bit of Life.

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

20 Jan 2011   ·   141

World’s Best Honey Cornbread Recipe

World's Best Honey Cornbread

I’ve always wanted to find a cornbread recipe which is delicious — instead of dry and grainy. Well, when we were in Branson for a little getaway last year, we ate at McFarlain’s Restaurant. I took one bite of their cornbread and said, “This is it!”

And then I spent the next five minutes taking little bites and over-analyzing how they achieved such a perfect cornbread. All the while my husband is looking at me like, “Are you okay? It’s just cornbread, honey!”

But he did agree that it was out-of-this world cornbread and he’d love it if I could make it at home. So, I was able to get a copy of the recipe and, after making it at home, I can guarantee you this is quite possibly the world’s best cornbread — ever. My husband and children concur.

19 Jan 2011   ·   30
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Couponing for a Friend

Wendy emailed in this great idea which some of you who have extra time and enjoy couponing might consider:

Now that I’ve been couponing a while, I’ve accumulated a good stash of toiletries and cleaning supplies — more than I need. It was killing me to pass up those really good deals and freebies, though, even though I have a year’s worth of shampoo already. (Getting good deals is addictive!)

My solution: teaming up! A friend of mine would really love to coupon but just doesn’t have the time, so she pays me $5 a week and I bring her a bag of surprises! I can still pick up almost-free items I don’t need, and I can pass on the free ones I won’t use. She gets $10-$20 worth of items for $5, and doesn’t have to spend the time clipping coupons. (She still buys specific items if she runs out, but that doesn’t happen often.)

It feels like I get to give her a present every week! Plus we have different “favorite brands” for several things, so I rarely have to choose whether to pass on something or keep it for myself.

It’s fun, it helps a friend out, and it makes me feel like I’m really getting my money’s worth out of my time spent couponing. What’s not to like? -Wendy

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!

18 Jan 2011   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

Cash4Books.net: $5 bonus for selling three books in January 2011

If you have books around your home which you no longer need or want, you should definitely see how much they are worth on Cash4Books. If you sell three books to Cash4Books in January 2011, you’ll earn an extra $5 bonus! Just include this email in with your box of three books and you’ll get $5 extra credited to you via Paypal.

Cash4Books pays promptly through Paypal so you will quickly have your money in hand after shipping off the books.

If the amount offered from Cash4Books isn’t very high, you could consider taking them to a local bookstore to exchange for cash or bookstore credit. Or, you might consider trying to swap them on PaperBackSwap.

Find more simple income-earning ideas here.

Thanks, Thrifty Ways and Ideas!

18 Jan 2011   ·   59
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: Stockpiling Food

I have a questions about stocking food. I currently have the “drugstore” game mastered and have a great stock on personal/household items. I currently am working very hard at lowering the grocery bill at the same time eating more whole foods. I have in the past read your post about your weekly shopping and notice that most grocery items are for the week. Do you stockpile food? I know kinda hard to do with eating more whole food. But things like meat, pasta, frozen veggies, etc. -Melissa

I get asked this question a lot and the truth is, I’m always “buying ahead” — just not usually in vast quantities since I’m more of a minimalist and typically don’t like to store more than what I’ll be able to use in the next three to six months. We also have a smaller family so food lasts longer around here than it would if we had five teenagers. 🙂

For instance, last week I stopped by the health food store to check on their markdowns. I ended buying four loaves of bread, two packages of hot dog buns, two packages of chicken hot dogs and a gallon of milk. These were all marked down to less than I can get at Aldi or on sale with coupons so I bought them and put them all in the freezer since we don’t need any of them for our menu last week. I’ll incorporate them into our menus over the four to six weeks or so.

In addition, last week I purchased three bags of turbinado from the bulk food store. This will likely last us for the next four to five months, since I try use sugar rather sparingly.

I had the extra cash to purchase these items and I knew they were all things we’d use, so I went ahead and purchased them. This is typically the way I stockpile: in small quantities here and there as I come across great deals or opportunities to buy food in bulk and have the cash to purchase them.

While we might not have rooms stuffed to the ceiling with cans and boxes of food, we always have quite a variety of food on hand, we are able to keep our grocery budget lowered since we aren’t paying full price for most items and I have a number of different options on hand to use as the basis for planning our weekly menus.

If I have the time and coupons, I also occasionally will do a major stock-up of something — such as the 31 tubes of toothpaste I got for free last year! — but by and large, I usually just buy ahead in small quantities as part of my weekly grocery shopping trips.

In all honesty, as we’ve shifted more to a whole foods diet, I’m using coupons less and focusing more on buying markdowns at the health food store and loss leaders at the grocery stores. This has simplified my shopping routine a great deal — I clip and organize fewer coupons, don’t have to spend a lot of time planning out my shopping trips and I make fewer trips to the store.

This method of shopping and stockpiling is working well for our family right now, but I can see as my children grow older and their appetites increase, we’ll likely be tweaking this in order to accommodate the need to buy more groceries. For now, though, I’m enjoying keeping it simple!

18 Jan 2011   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: The Benefits of Menu Planning

My apologies that this didn’t get posted until this morning, instead of last night as promised. We filmed it yesterday on our new Flip video camera (a Christmas gift from my dad) and then I spent three whole hours (I’m not kidding!) trying to get the thing to upload correctly.

There were some connection/login issues, but I’m pretty sure the majority of issues had to do with user error. Yes, you are welcome to laugh at my technical ineptitude; at least I now know 331 different ways not to upload a video. 🙂

Hopefully, I’m getting the hang of it and it will take me significantly less time to get this uploaded next week!

Related: Menu-Planning Saves Your Sanity