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7 Feb 2011   ·   136
Money Saving Mom

Why markers are once again banned at our house

I had to make a quick five-minute phone call this morning to get some tax paperwork straightened out. While I was on the phone, I made the mistake of not keeping Silas (my 22-month-old) within my line of sight.

Somehow, he found two markers — which I had thought were well-hidden — and whipped up a rather large wall mural for us:

The good news? He was thoughtful enough to do his artwork with washable markers instead of permanent markers, so a Mr. Clean Eraser and lots of elbow grease later, all traces of the drawing were removed.

We really should buy stock in Mr. Clean Erasers for how often I’ve been using them recently. I’ve yet to find anything which holds a candle to them when it comes to removing kid-stains off the walls.

Here’s to hoping your day is off to a smoother start than mine! 🙂

5 Feb 2011   ·   27
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

I had big plans to hit four stores this week seeing as I sort of took last week “off” from shopping. But by the time I planned to go out and go shopping on Tuesday, the snowed at moved in and the roads were getting quite treacherous. So I stayed home, re-vamped the menu with what I had and we made-do.

We didn’t eat the most balanced diet ever because we kind of had an odd assortment of ingredients on hand, but our bellies were filled and we were thankful to be in a warm house with electricity — something I know many others didn’t have this past week.

Once the roads cleared some, I took Kaitlynn out for a quick shopping trip on Thursday to Dillon’s to purchase the above groceries. You can see the full details on Thursday’s shopping trip as well as a price break-down here.

Other than that, we stayed home most of this week and enjoyed lots of extra reading and snuggling time. My husband even stayed home from work half of one day and we had an at-home afternoon movie date — something we’ve not done for a very long time! It was wonderful to enjoy such a relaxing pace for a few days.

The snow is finally melting so I’m planning to go out to Target, Aldi, Dillon’s and maybe even Walmart and the health food store later this afternoon. In case it snows again this coming week, I figured I had better take advantage of a Saturday afternoon when Jesse’s home to go out and get a bunch of grocery shopping done!

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.

4 Feb 2011   ·   225
Money Saving Mom

Monthly financial check-up

How did you do in January? We finally sat down together with our financial advisor and got some things straightened out/set up for our businesses and retirement savings. It feels good to have that all in place and to now be saving 10% of our income towards retirement. Lord-willing, this will allow us to not be a burden to our children financially when we are old and feeble someday!

We’re now working hard at funding our children’s educational savings accounts. We decided to do something rather out-of-the-ordinary and actually fund them in the amount we’ve both agreed upon in one lump sum, rather than just put in a yearly amount. Since our children are still young, we realized that compound interest is going to play out favorably for them over the next 12 to 17 years, so it would be less expensive for us to go ahead and just put in one lump sum for each of them now. This also will allow us to have one less thing to have a budget category for once we are finished saving the amount we’ve determined we feel we want to put towards their education.

We are not putting this money in typical educational savings accounts, even though it’s a little less tax efficient because we don’t want it to only be ear-marked for college. We definitely expect that at least some of our children will attend college, but some may be more entrepreneurial and may want to start a business in high school or pursue learning outside of college (such as a hands-on internship).

While I definitely think that college is a wise choice in many circumstances, since I didn’t go to college, I tend to be rather counter-cultural in believing that traditional college is not necessarily a necessity for every single young person. We hope to encourage our children to seek God and determine what their own bents, interests and passions are and then we want to help them out financially as they pursue those — whether that be college or some other route.

At any rate, here’s our financial goals update for January:

1. Give generously to the needs in our community and around the world. (This is an ongoing goal that we’re seeking to make a priority each month so we’re not checking it off.)

2. Pay cash for a replacement washer and dryer for our very used set. (DONE)

3. Pay cash for a replacement for Jesse’s van. (DONE)

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room. (DONE)

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls. (DONE)

6. Fully fund our IRAs. (DONE)

7. Bump up our retirement savings to 10% of our income. (DONE)

8. Fund our children’s educational savings.

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 40% towards our goal of paying cash for commercial real estate.

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!

4 Feb 2011   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: Seven Months to Invest in Our Business

We paid cash!

A testimony from Susan from Frugalouis

On a date night shortly before my husband’s computer programming contract ended, we got to musing. What if he just took time off after this contract instead of trying to jump right into something else? What if we were purposeful and set aside a period of time to invest in our own business? Could we do it?

My husband Ed wrote and sold software long before we married. This business brought in a very part-time income for us, but not nearly enough to support our growing family. If we ever were to get to the point of being fully self-employed, we both knew his software needed to be available on the web.

And so “Project GROW” was born: Get it Running On the Web.

Seven months for a family of four to choose to live on little-to-no income, with the goal of being self-employed and flexible down the road.

Here’s how it worked for us:

  • That night at the restaurant we hammered out a detailed schedule for our family. Included in each week was about forty-five hours of time set aside for Ed to work on Project GROW. We knew that this way if (when!) things ate into his time, he was still likely to get in at least forty hours a week.
  • We made sure to schedule in time for date nights and our family. With other things being tight during this time, we wanted to maximize time with Ed/Daddy.
  • We set goals and a time-line. This included how long we were planning to devote and some markers to guide us toward completion.
  • Our budget became our friend. Since we were blessed to go into Project GROW with a fully-funded emergency fund, we knew we had the resources at our disposal to live without income for several months. However, we were not guaranteed that Ed would find work immediately after Project GROW was complete. With this in mind, we set a budget that was significantly less than our spending prior to Project GROW. This budget amount became our “income” for each month.
  • Money-saving became serious business around our house. While I had been couponing and following MoneySavingMom.com for about a year prior to this, now we really needed to stretch the bucks. Our commitment to using cash increased as Project GROW progressed. While we had gone into the project paying off our one credit card in full each month, by the end of our seven months we chose to be completely credit card-less.
  • We knew we were in this as a team. I think this was a crucial piece of the equation. Together we came up with the name “Project GROW”, which ended up being a great “handle” for all the times we referred to this huge adventure our family was on. We started out dreaming about Project GROW together, and we planned our schedule together. And most importantly, together we prayed about this undertaking.
  • My husband knew the skills he was learning and refining would make him more marketable regardless of how our new product sold. In many ways this was our “safety net” for investing so much time and money.

What happened is that we only made about three months’ worth of transfers out of the savings account. God provided in amazing ways, including a small inheritance and simply making our money stretch.

The year before Project GROW, we had the largest income we’d ever had as a couple. Living frugally during that time of plenty helped us prepare for this chosen time of drought.

We Paid Cash Build BusinessOur seven months of investing full-time in our family business are now passed. Project GROW is mostly complete, and the web-based version of our product will be debuting soon. We realize that it will likely take years for us to get to the point of self-sufficiency. But imagine what it will be like when we do!

As a couple and a family, we’re glad that we stepped out and took a calculated risk toward financial independence. Instead of wondering and wishing, we did it, and now we’re excited to see what’s around the next bend.

Susan lives in St. Louis, is married to Ed and stay-at-home mom to their two little ones, ages one and three. She blogs at Frugalouis, “a frugal St. Louis Mom’s guide to the city”.

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

3 Feb 2011   ·   79
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Failure: So much for my beautiful Cinnamon Sugar Bread!

You know how I promised you the Cinnamon Raisin Bread and Cinnamon Sugar Bread recipe this week?

Well, um, I thought I had tweaked the recipe and worked out the perfect combination of ingredients. However, when I went to make a final batch to make sure it worked correctly, I made a serious mistake: I forgot to put the paddles in the bread machine!

So I ran the whole dough cycle without any paddles. Which, ahem, is a rather pointless exercise.

When I finally discovered my mistake, it was too late in the day to run another dough cycle and bake the bread, so I just let the ingredients sit until the morning.

In the morning, I tried to run the dough cycle again, this time with the paddles in. Only (you’re not going to believe this!), one of the paddles wasn’t in all the way, so only half the dough got mixed up.

Determined not to waste the ingredients, I ran the dough through yet another short cycle. It rose and rolled out normally and baked into a beautiful loaf.

But the looks of this beautiful loaf were very deceiving, because when I cut into it, I found a practically hollow loaf.

Oops.

The girls and I ate the bread, regardless of the mishaps, and it was still quite good. But I thought the filling needed a little more tweaking and, obviously, I need to get my brain cells connected better so I can make dough correctly.

I promise I’ll experiment some more over the next few days and hopefully be able to present a delicious and near-perfect Cinnamon Raisin and Cinnamon Sugar Bread recipe next week. Hopefully!

Note: Apparently, I’m not the only one with bread issues this week, since Tammy also had a similar mishap. I guess I’m in good company. 🙂

3 Feb 2011   ·   83
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Dillon’s Shopping Trip

The roads finally cleared of snow enough for me to venture to the store today, so I headed to Dillon’s with Kaitlynn. Here’s what we got:

7 cans of tomatoes — on sale for $0.49 each when you buy 10 participating items, used 2 $0.80/3 coupons,$0.26 each after coupon

10-lb. sack of potatoes — marked down to $1.79

Quart of Silk soymilk — marked down to $1.49

1 tube Colgate toothpaste — on sale for $0.98, used $1/1 coupon, free after coupon

1 8-oz. block of Cheddar cheese — $1.77

1 Dannon 4-pack smoothies — marked down to $0.99, used $1/1 coupon, free after coupon

1 Yoplait yogurt — used free coupon

1 organic Mango — $1.79

1 4-pack of Activia yogurt— on sale for $1.88, used $1/1 coupon, $0.88 after coupon

Gallon of milk — $3.18 (Ouch! Anyone else noticing high milk prices recently?!)

Balance Bars — on sale for $0.50 each when you buy 10 participating items, used $1/3 Balance Bars coupon, $0.17 each after coupon

My total, after coupons and the Mega Event discount, was just shy of $15.

2 Feb 2011   ·   79
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Basic book on doing your own taxes?

Today’s question is from Charlotte:

I’m wondering if your readers can recommend a good, basic book about doing your own taxes or just taxes in general?

My husband has always filed our taxes because whenever I try to get involved, I quickly get overwhelmed. I feel like I know so little about tax laws, tax brackets and tax breaks, so I’m looking for a place to build a little knowledge base. I just don’t want to be afraid of taxes anymore.

What I’m looking for is a very basic book. Perhaps a tax book written for High School students, or at the very most freshmen in college. -Charlotte

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

1 Feb 2011   ·   118
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: How do you save money on groceries in rural areas?

I’m writing to you to see if you have any suggestions for people who live in rural areas, far from Walmarts, Targets and Walgreens. My husband and I live and work at a Baptist camp in the Panhandle of Texas with our sweet baby girl. We try to use cash for everything, and have tried to narrow our budget down as much as possible in order to eliminate. The nearest of any of the stores I mentioned above are at least two hours away. I can use coupons and things like that at the local grocery stores, but things are so much more expensive here (for example, sometimes $6 or $7 for a box of cereal).

I am also trying to be healthy for my family: whole grains, lots of fruits/vegetables and little processed foods. That, however, also adds up. Healthier foods are often more expensive, and the produce sections can be really shabby. Do you have any suggestions or advice?
-Lacey

Lacey, it sounds like you are doing a great job already, so be encouraged!

I’ve never lived far, far away from big box stores before, but my advice would be to “think outside the box”. You’re not going to be able to score some of the amazing deals other readers here do, but you can still keep your grocery bill rather low. Here are a few ideas I had (many which you’re probably already doing!):

Stick with simple meals. It sounds like you are not using a lot of processed foods, which is likely helping you keep your grocery budget low. If your husband is okay with it, you could plan a weekly meatless night where you have burritos or beans and rice. A weekly breakfast for dinner, a weekly soup night and a weekly homemade pizza night are a few other simple ways to keep dinners inexpensive. If you serve meat as a condiment rather than the main thing, you’ll usually greatly reduce your grocery budget. (Mary Ostyn writes more about this in her book, Family Feasts for $75 Per Week. Excellent book, if you’ve not read it yet!)

Examine your expenditures. Where are you spending the bulk of your grocery money? If it’s on household products, consider making your own cleaners, using cloth diapers or and eliminating paper products.

Look for great deals online. Based upon the price of cereal in your area, I’m guessing the sales at Amazon are usually always going to beat your local prices. You could also look into ordering from places like Mountain Rose Herbs or other online sites. Watch for specials, free shipping offers and coupon codes.

Consider growing a garden for as much of your produce as you can. If you don’t have a green thumb, see if you can find a friend who grows a garden who might be willing to sell you produce or barter their extra garden produce for your willingness to bake them bread or babysit.

Buy in bulk. If you’re eating mostly whole foods, I’d suggest making a trip to the nearest town every few months to stock up in large quantities. It would totally be worth a drive of an hour or two both ways to save $500 on your groceries. You’ll want to calculate in the cost of gas as well as the wear and tear on your car, though, when considering how much this will save. And remember that your time is valuable, too, so I’d only recommend a big day trip like this every six to eight weeks.

Keep a positive attitude. Maybe you can’t get great deals on groceries where you are living and you’re probably going to have a higher grocery bill than others, however, I’m almost certain that living where you live is providing you opportunities to bless and minister to others which are worth the extra costs.

What ideas do the rest of you have for saving money on groceries when you live in rural areas?

31 Jan 2011   ·   93
Money Saving Mom

31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: Use Cash to Save Money on Groceries

I tried really hard to talk louder in this video since so many of you said you were having trouble hearing me in the last few videos. The problem is, I think in talking louder, I ended up rambling more. But I guess you get to hear me exactly as I am here — rabbit trails and all! 🙂

Also, forgive my husband’s finger over the side of the video frame for half of the video. He was probably so distracted by all my rabbit trails that he forgot to pay attention to holding the camera to take the video. 😉

31 Jan 2011   ·   17
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

(Three-Bean Chili Chowder — recipe coming next week!)

Breakfasts:
Muffins (from the freezer), Fruit
Raisin Toast, Scrambled Eggs, Fruit
Mango Lassi, Toasted Bagels
Pancakes (from the freezer), Fruit
Smoothies, English Muffins
Toasted Bagels, Fruit
Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls, Fruit, Scrambled Eggs

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

Dinners:
Homemade Macaroni & Cheese, Homemade Cinnamon/Sugar Bread, Peas, Fruit
Carrots/Turkey Sausage/Potatoes in the crockpot, Homemade French Bread
Chili Burgers, Seasoned Baked Potato Wedges, Steamed veggies, Grapefruit
Brown Bag Burritos, Green Rice, Tossed Salad
Valentine’s Dinner at Church
Dinner Out
Dinner at Extended Family’s House

31 Jan 2011   ·   67
Money Saving Mom

Time Management Tips for the Single Mom

Guest post by Missy

Mothering in any sense requires serious time management, but when the number of children increase and the father leaves, it becomes an essential life skill.

1. Assess your resources and enlist help

  • Car pool with a neighbor and split the number of trips made to school, along with less time spent in the minivan lineup.
  • Trade chores. This works with meals and babysitting – other single moms are especially good prospects for this.
  • Get your sitter or nanny on the same page. Have the kitchen clean and toys picked up when you get home.
  • Enlist your children’s assistance in meal preparation, writing lists, putting away silverware and other simple tasks.

2. Streamline everything you can

  • Make your mornings simpler and set a better tone for the day by placing all needed things together the night before.
  • A two-week menu plan keeps my grocery list relatively constant. Immediately add used items to the shopping list. I clip coupons (or print online) for the items I know we’ll use and let other deals go. Occasionally, add in something new or seasonal to the repertoire.
  • For me, it works best to have daily, weekly and monthly routines as described in Emilie’s Creative Home Organizer. To save time on laundry, I put a load in the wash each morning and move it to the dryer after dinner. I have to be committed to folding and putting away just as soon as they are dry. If I don’t, it piles up and gets overwhelming.
  • Clean as you go. I’ve also found with two little boys that flushable cleaning wipes are also great for a daily quick bathroom touch-up!
  • Combine tasks. I clean the bathroom while the children are in the tub. My one who bathes in the morning often eats breakfast in the tub. I do the dishes while the children are cleaning up their evening toys and I garden, weed or mow while they are playing outdoors. We all know to combine errands, that stopping by the bank, the dry cleaner or the market on the way home from childcare are standard ways to avoid fragmenting my day. I keep clipboards in the van so that homework and artwork can be done en route. We also practice our memory verses on the go and read our daily Scripture during dinner.

3. Work the Web

  • Make the most of your time by connecting with family and friends online.
  • Upload photos and print from home.
  • Do your Christmas shopping online.
  • Earn extra money through sales on ebay or Craigslist.
  • Donate items to others via Freecycle – they will even come pick up!
  • Look for grocery bargains, make your lists online, send yourself reminder notes.
  • Of course, do your banking, bill paying and rebates online.

The possibilities are endless, just don’t get sucked into spending more time here than is beneficial. I loved Crystal’s computer time budget suggestion.

4. Capitalize on personal time

Not every single mother has a co-parent. But for those who do, I simply cannot express the importance of managing that time when your children are at the other parent’s home.

This is the time to get in as many errands as possible, tackle bigger projects like painting or re-arranging your furniture, steam cleaning the carpet, cleaning the refrigerator and whatever else is impossible to with children underfoot. If you do not co-parent, ask grandparents or a friend to keep the children overnight from time to time.

4. Celebrate!

Make an end-point to your day, then relax in the tub, read or just indulge in extra sleep. Such sweet times for yourself empower you to be all you can for those little ones depending on you.

Missy June is a hard working optimist doing my best to enjoy life with my three little ones in this not-so-perfect world. She blogs at Little House in the Foothills.

Are you a single parent? If so, what tips, tricks and ideas do you have for time management? Share them in the comments.

29 Jan 2011   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Dillon’s shopping trip + free fruit!

I planned to do more grocery shopping this week, but it was just one of those weeks where life trumped the plans and a lot of things went undone. So we revised our menu plan a bit and ate from the freezer and pantry.

I did end up stopping by Dillon’s yesterday to get a few deals in their Mega Event:

Dillon’s Shopping Trip:

2.5 dozen eggs — on Manager’s Special for $1.99, used $0.55/2 dozen eggs coupon (no longer available — “doubled” to $1), $0.99 after coupon

2 cans of Hormel Chili — $0.89 when you purchase 10 participating items, used $0.55/2 coupon (“doubled” to $1), $0.39 each after coupons

2 Reach toothbrushes — $1 when you purchase 10 participating items, used $2/2 coupon (no longer available), free after coupon

4 bags of Garden of Eatin’ Chips — $1.79 when you purchase 10 participating items, used $1/1 peelies on bags, $0.79 each after coupon

3 bottles of Honest Tea — $1.25 (these were supposed to be part of the Buy 10 Mega Event, but they weren’t marked as such at our store), used 3 $0.50/1 coupons (doubled to $1), $0.25 each after coupons

1 Excedrin used free coupon

2 rolls of Scotch tape — $1 when you purchase 10 participating items, used $0.55/1 coupon (“doubled” to $1), free after coupons!

Total spent: $9.01

Total saved (according to my receipt): $31.29

My mom also gave me some grapefruit and oranges she got this week. And we bought a gallon of milk at Braum’s.

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.

28 Jan 2011   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Fun: Lipstick and bread-baking

A sample tube of lipstick + two creative girls = lots of fun and giggles

Plain bread dough mixed in the bread machine rolled out + cinnamon

+ raisins

+ honey

Final product: delicious Cinnamon Raisin Bread and a fun memory of baking with mom in the kitchen (full recipe coming next week. It’s really yummy, let me tell you!)