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4 Oct 2010   ·   73
Money Saving Mom

The Rewards of Pushing Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone

Guest post by Heather

Learning to sew was the smartest financial decision I’ve ever made.

I was in 7th grade when I took home economics. I wasn’t very good. I remember the teacher made us start by sewing lines across paper. My lines were never straight. In fact, if it wasn’t for the cooking half of that class, I might have actually failed!

Fast forward a few years. My stepmother bought me a small sewing machine for Christmas. I believe it was a Barbie sewing machine. I tried and failed, tried and failed. I simply did not have the patience for it.

It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I realized how important it was for me to learn to sew. I’m a girly girl. I like pretty dresses and boutique-style clothing, but my bank account (and my cheapskate nature) doesn’t.

For my daughter’s first birthday, I wanted her to wear something special and unique. After a quick scan of area boutiques and $100 price tags, I was determined that once and for all, I was going to conquer my failure at sewing. It took several tries. It took a lot of ripped seams. I remember shedding some tears.

Learn to sewWhen I was done, I had so much more than a pretty party outfit in front of me. I had a new skill — a skill that I honestly wasn’t sure I was capable of mastering. I began to sew the majority of my daughter’s clothes and as my talent grew, my confidence in myself rose.

Others took notice as well. Before I knew it, I was sewing clothes for friends and family members and friends of friends. The girl that couldn’t sew a straight line was making an income off of her new talent (albeit tiny!). I learned how to mend, I learned how to get more mileage out of my family’s clothing and I had a newfound confidence in my ability to learn to do things myself.

That was only seven months ago. Since then I have expanded my do-it-yourself mentality to:

  • home repairs
  • scratch cooking
  • couponing and strategic shopping

The confidence I gained from conquering a past failure opened up so many doors and windows for me. It gave me a sense of control over myself and over my financial freedom. I didn’t realize the potential in me to find a passion that could not only save my family money, but also make my family money. I didn’t realize that this passion would translate into every single area of my life.

Don’t take “no” for an answer. If you think you can’t, prove to yourself you can. You never know your hidden potential until you push yourself past the edge of your comfort zone. Everyone has a marketable skill, some of us just require a bit of a nudge (or in my case…a party outfit!) to find it.

Heather Shaw is a wife and mother of 2 who resides in Houston Texas. She has a passion for sewing, scratch cooking and getting the best deals for her family. She blogs about her life and how she works hard to save her family money at Family Friendly Frugality.

Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and discovered new skills or passions in the process? Tell us about it in the comments.

2 Oct 2010   ·   166
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: I think I’ll just stick to shopping the Target clearance racks!

We didn’t buy a whole lot in the way of groceries this week other than a quick trip to the store to get the basics: bread, peanut butter, milk and cheese. We had plenty of fruit and frozen veggies and meat already on hand, so we didn’t need anything else to round out our simple menu for the week.

We also popped into the store three other times this week because I was trying to get free tuna. My friend had tipped me off to the fact that Dillons had Bumble Bee tuna on sale for $0.99 this week and there were blinkie coupons right next to it which would make it free. Well, I didn’t make it to the store until 24 hours later — and that store was completely out!

My husband stopped by two other Dillons stores during the week and they were also completely out, too. He did manage to pick up some of the coupons, though, which I’m holding onto for another sale. And I’m still holding out hope that maybe our nearby store will restock because I’d love to score some free tuna.

But if I don’t, oh well! I’ll just be glad for all the people in our area who were able to get the great deal and next time I’ll know better than to wait a day before getting to the store.

In non-grocery-store deal news, I headed to Gap today to spend my $50 Groupon. I’d purchased it for free with Gap referral credit and was pretty stoked because I’m in serious need of a few new tops for Fall and Winter. Believe it or not, I’ve never been to Gap in my life so I naively thought that $50 could cover the costs of at least two or three tops for me.

I walked into the store and immediately could tell I was out of my league. Not only was I the only one in the store wearing flip-flops and jeans and a t-shirt from the Target clearance rack, but when I walked up to the jeans display, the first pricetag I saw was over $60! For a pair of jeans! Um, I could buy over 50 pairs of jeans for that price at the thrift store Dollar Days!

Not to be deterred, I started on the hunt for the clearance rack. When I finally found it, I only had to do a quick scan to determine that it was one of the most measly, overrated “clearance” racks I’ve ever seen. And the “clearance” prices were anything but clearance in my book.

So I quickly nixed my original plan of buying clothes for myself and went over to the children’s section hoping maybe the clearance racks over there would have more to offer. Once again, I was thoroughly under-impressed.


I finally ended up with a pair of jeans for Silas, a denim skirt for Kaitlynn, some underwear for the girls and a headband for Kaitlynn. I calculated that this should be right under my $50 budget and so I wouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket. The register would only let me pay with the Groupon if I had a total over $50, so I ended up throwing in the turquoise hair band (which was priced at over $3!!! for a little hair band!).

I have no idea what happened, but when the manager told the sales lady how to key in the Groupon, it took off the price of my entire order — including the $1.07 over that I owed. I tried to pay since I pointed out that I owed them money, but they said that since the Groupon took everything off and that’s how their register read it, that I didn’t owe them anything.

After that kind gesture and them refusing the money I was trying to give them, my view of Gap was bumped up a little bit. But I still am guessing that will be the first and last time I shop there.

Now, please don’t think I’m saying that you shouldn’t shop at Gap or pay $60 for a pair of jeans. I know some people have special sizing requirements or just find that Gap clothes work better. And from the comments on my Facebook page, it would seem that some of you really know how to find bargains there!

We all get to choose where and how we spend our own money, so if you prefer to shop at Gap, go for it — provided you can afford it in your budget. Hey, after all, you might shop at Gap and make your own homemade tortillas! As for me, I think I’ll stick to buying tortillas and shopping the Target clearance racks. 😉

___________________

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.

1 Oct 2010   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: Unemployment

We paid cash!

A testimony from Jill

My husband and I met in high school and started dating. We went to college together and although his military obligations slowed his academic progress, we are both now holders of bachelor’s degrees and I am nearly finished with my master’s degree.

Since we both finished school in such a difficult economic climate, we are both still looking for jobs. We have been on the job search for over six months so far and have yet to touch our credit card or have to ask family for money.

How we are doing it

When I started college, I had a decent savings account and a savings bond that matured just as I entered college. I invested the bond and was very careful with how I spent my savings.

  • Each semester, I would take as many classes as I could to limit my fees.
    • Taking department courses together each semester instead of spreading them out over several semesters allowed me to pay department fees only once instead of every semester.
    • Making sure I used school resources instead of paying for my own, like printers, gym and counseling also allowed me to save money.
  • I did not splurge on items (like a new computer) during college. I made do with what I had and waited until Christmas or my birthday to request items that I needed from family members.
  • I worked summers with my family to earn money. All of that money went into savings to help build it back up.

After I graduated, I still hadn’t touched the bond that had nearly doubled in good investments. During that time, my husband deployed to Iraq, putting his degree on hold, and prompting me to enroll in a graduate program. I continued to manage my savings and my money like I did in college even though we now had a regular income from his pay. I also worked as a TA in the department which covered my tuition with only a little left over.

Now that we are both done with school, we are still living off of the investment. We have to be creative about our spending though, because we don’t know how long our unemployment will last.

  • We are both taking small, low paying jobs to offset the amount we have to take from savings.
  • I’m working as an adjunct professor which pays less than a quarter of our monthly expenses, but that’s money we don’t have to take out of savings now.
  • I take pictures for my family and friends at a discounted cost to them which provides us with a little bit of income as well.
  • We meal plan, clip coupons, search for deals and limit any extra expenses that we can. Since we aren’t working, we are using some of our extra time to save extra money.
  • One thing I have trouble with is wants. I continue to remind myself that many things are wants and not needs. To have a place to go with those, I’m keeping a list of my ‘wants’ on my computer. I include the costs, category, purpose (if it doesn’t have a purpose, I don’t include it), and priority for each entry. This has helped me to really examine my wants, so when I get extra money from different things (or if I noticed any item dramatically on sale/free) it won’t be squandered away.
  • If need be, I have ‘luxury’ expenses marked in our budget (cell phones for example) that we can lose if I begin to worry about the life of our savings account.

We Paid Cash for UnemploymentOne major thing that has impacted us during this process was Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University that we participated in last year. It helped encourage us to make smart choices when it came to our money and gave us the knowledge we were lacking in some areas.

Jill is finishing her master’s degree in Communication Studies at North Texas and lives with her husband and furbaby, Bella Mia. She blogs about her life and experiences at her blog, Two of a Kind.

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

30 Sep 2010   ·   240
Money Saving Mom

Why I Don’t Make Homemade Tortillas

A few months ago, I got an email from someone who was really bothered by the fact that I don’t always make tortillas from scratch. This person felt I’d save so much money by doing so and they were kind enough to pass along their tried and true recipe.

While I very much appreciate the input from this reader (I learn so many amazing things from you all and am constantly challenged by your frugal ways!), I have to disagree with her that I’d save a lot of money by making my own tortillas.

Your prices might be entirely different, but here in Kansas, we can pretty routinely pick up a package of 8-10 tortillas for around $1. When I priced out the ingredients of homemade tortillas, I figured up that it would likely cost me around $0.30 to $0.40 per batch.

So yes, you could say that homemade tortillas are slightly less expensive than store bought tortillas. However, you forgot to factor in one very important part of the equation: TIME.

To make 8-10 tortillas from start to finish would likely take me around 30 minutes. At that rate, I’d be spending 30 minutes of my time to save around $0.60 to $0.70 total.

I could probably figure out a way to make them more efficiently if I did a bigger batch, so let’s say I became the world’s fastest tortilla-maker and I could whip out 70 tortillas from start to finish in an hour. At this rate, I’d still only be saving less than $5 for an hour’s worth of work.

If your family loves homemade tortillas, or you don’t want to eat some of the ingredients in store bought tortillas,  or you love making tortillas, or you go through seven packages of tortillas a week and the least expensive you can find them in your area is $4.99 per package, then by all means, make homemade tortillas. But, don’t do it merely for the cost-savings because, unless you live where tortillas cost $7 per bag, the savings per hour is so slim that your time would very likely be better spent elsewhere.

It’s imperative, in seeking to be better home economists, that we value our time as well as our money. It is easy to get so caught up in trying to pinch every penny, that we lose sight of the big picture. We can become so focused on trying to save money that we end up spending hours and hours and hours of time to save a mere few dollars.

Personally, if I’m not saving at least $20 per hour by implementing a particular frugal practice, than I’d rather invest my time elsewhere. Of course, this rule doesn’t apply if it’s just something I really enjoy doing. However, if I’m doing something primarily for the money saved, then it is important to me that I’m actually saving money!

If you feel like you are spinning your wheels and going nowhere when it comes to saving money, I encourage you to stop and consider how much money you are saving per hour in your various money-saving activities. If it’s below minimum wage, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board and find some other money-saving practices to implement which will give you a better return on your investment of time and energy.

After all, time is money, too.

photo by This Year’s Love

29 Sep 2010   ·   105
Money Saving Mom

When Renting is a Wise Choice

We’re rather radical when it comes to finances. We live on a cash budget, we don’t have credit cards or debt, we just finished up saving up to pay cash for our first home—oh, and we’ve also rented our entire marriage—all seven years of it so far!

Now, let me reassure you that I’m not here to make the case that everyone should rent, or that you should only buy a house if you can pay 100 percent down. Our circumstances were unique: We had a really good head start—we went into marriage without debt, and we also had all the money saved up to pay cash for law school. Because of these factors and the good income we now have, we have been able to live on significantly less than we make, which has allowed us to save enough to pay cash for our first home.

While I don’t expect many people to follow in our exact footsteps, I do think renting gets a bad rap. In fact, I’m going to make a counterintuitive statement: I think renting can be a really wise choice for some situations.

Read the full article.

Note: This article was written a few months before we bought our house. Also, I just thought I should clarify that I had committed to writing three articles for Currency.com months ago — and just found out a few weeks ago, to my dismay, that this new financial site was going to be sponsored by American Express.

I would not have written the articles for them had I known of the AMEX sponsorship, as that would be a conflict of interest for me as I do not support or encourage the use of credit cards. However, the articles were already written and slated for publication so I wanted to share this one with you as I’m often asked whether I believe renting or buying is a better option.

photo by ASurroca

28 Sep 2010   ·   76
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: How much time do you spend clipping coupons and bargain shopping?

I wondered what your time investment is, very roughly, that you spend per week deal-hunting and clipping coupons. Could you comment in an upcoming post? It would be so interesting to hear your commentary. -Emily

Great question, Emily!

As I recently alluded to, I’ve streamlined things a great deal in the last six months. And to be completely honest, I feel like I’m not as organized as I once was about things. (Of course, this is true in just about every area of my life and I believe that it’s just the reality of having three young children. I had to give up on perfect or even close to perfect and settle for “good enough!”)

We’re not using as many coupons these days as we’re sticking more to whole foods and simple recipes, but I still clip a fairly large amount of coupons — especially for health and beauty products.

I don’t have a perfect system in place for this, but it usually works something like this:

Throughout the week, as hot printable coupons become available, I immediately print those I’m pretty certain I’ll use and stick them in my coupon box, unclipped. I also stick in any coupons which come in the mail (or the entire All You magazine when it comes!).

Putting all these coupons in my coupon box means that they are in a safe place, but I’m not having to stop everything and clip and file them numerous times throughout the week.

We usually go over to my family’s house on Sunday afternoons, so I lug my coupon box there and spend some of the time while visiting clipping and organizing the coupons which have piled up over the week. Since I often get multiple inserts, I stack them in like piles and then clip in bulk. This saves a lot of time clipping and filing.

While I’m filing, I go ahead and put coupons in the individual store envelopes I keep in my coupon box which I know will make for a good deal at a particular store. For instance, the $1/1 any Tide coupons from the P&G inserts don’t ever get filed; they just go straight into my Target coupon envelope because I know that Target always sells the travel packs of Tide for $1.04 and $0.04 per travel pack is the cheapest I’m going to find Tide.

I usually spend no more than 45 minutes on this, often less, but it happens while the conversation and family time is taking place so it’s not requiring any additional time, it’s just utilizing a weekly time slot when my brain is busy but my hands are free.

Other than that time, I also try to set aside 15 to 20 minutes each week to plan a simple menu, browse the weekly grocery sales fliers and devise my grocery shopping list and plan. If there are some really amazing deals at multiple stores, I’ll check my schedule to see if I can squeeze in an extra quick grocery trip. If the deals are pathetic, then I’ll either skip shopping, just go to Aldi or have Jesse pick up some basics on his way home from work.

All totaled, I average around 2 to 2.5 hours on grocery shopping, planning and coupon-clipping throughout the week. Occasionally, I’ll have extra time and energy and I’ll do a big stock-up trip or coupon shopping trip and then I might spend as much as 3 to 4 hours in a week’s time. And then there are weeks when I don’t even touch my coupon box or step foot in a store!

What about the rest of you? How much time do you spend deal-hunting and coupon-clipping?

28 Sep 2010   ·   94
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Getting discounts on newspaper subscriptions

I loved your post on how to get coupons for free. I know you said you haven’t paid for a newspaper subscription in ages, but I wanted to point out that a lot of newspapers in my area (and I’m sure other areas as well) are having problems keeping subscriptions, and they are offering delivered papers for much less than you would normally pay.

To save my own time running around getting free inserts, I have two different papers delivered to my home. One of them offered me a Wednesday/Sunday subscription for $26 per year, which I count as $0.50 per Sunday paper (the only one I care about). The other paper, which I prefer, gave me a subscription for $52 for a year.

I also get a lot of coupons for free from friends and my mother always gives me her inserts, but the convenience of having two newspapers delivered is a huge benefit to me and worth the $78 per year I spent on it! -Sarah

Do you pay for a newspaper subscription(s)? If so, how many newspaper subscriptions do you have and how much do you pay per subscription? Do you feel the cost/time-savings is worth it?

photo by Brit

27 Sep 2010   ·   91
Money Saving Mom

How to Deal with Not-So-Friendly Cashiers

Guest post by Stephanie from Couponing101.com

“Back in the day,” the customer was always right. These days though, it is fairly common to be argued with, be treated rudely, or even be accused of stealing — all because you’re trying to save money by using coupons.

There are, of course, some great cashiers who can make your store experience pleasant. This post, however, is about how to deal with the ones who make it not so pleasant.

When you have a bad experience at a store, you can always call or email customer service later. However, that can only take place after your experience. Here are some tips to deal with rude cashiers during your encounter.

1. Follow the Rules.

If you are purposefully trying to use a coupon wrongly, then you won’t get any sympathy from me. Make sure you know the store’s coupon policy and comply with their rules. If that store does not accept printable coupons, don’t try to “sneak” one in the stack. Just because every other store you shop at accepts them, doesn’t mean you should be able to use them at a store that does not.

2. Have a Conversation.

Cashiers are people too, and deal with the same things you do. They have bad days, deal with grumpy bosses and get stuck in traffic. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. Make polite conversation and make them realize that you are a real person too, not just a customer.

3. Be Polite and Confident.

When you sound like you truly know what you are talking about, they are much more likely to believe you. There is no need to be rude though. Becoming angry will likely cause them to become defensive and less likely to want to come to an agreement.

4. Ask for Help.

If the cashier is insistent on not allowing a coupon that you know should be allowed, ask to speak to a manager. They are just doing their job and they don’t want to get in trouble with their boss for accepting a coupon they shouldn’t. Also, asking to speak to a manager may make them rethink their reasoning for rejecting your coupon.

5. Ask for Proof.

If the cashier claims they have a new policy for not accepting printable coupons (or anything else), then ask to see a written copy of this new policy. Let them know you don’t mind waiting right there in line while they look for it.

You could also ask to use their telephone so that you can call corporate and find out for sure. If it is truly a new policy, they will be able to locate written proof quickly and won’t mind if you call corporate to verify.

It is helpful to carry a copy of the store’s coupon policy with you to the store in case a cashier is not familiar with it. Some policies are available on the store’s website, but if it isn’t then you can email them and ask for a copy.

Above all else, don’t let rude cashiers discourage you! In the long run, the benefits of couponing far outweigh the inconvenience of a few rude cashiers!

Stephanie is a stay-at-homeschooling mom of two young children. She blogs at Couponing101.com about coupon strategies and money-saving techniques that will make your cashier encounters far more interesting.

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality, original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

25 Sep 2010   ·   52
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Quick grocery trips and some bonus pictures

I didn’t have a time slot big enough during the day to fit in a longer grocery shopping trip this week, so I settled for a couple of quick grocery stops. Above is my quick stop into Dillons and the health food store. I was especially excited to find tilapia marked down — yum!

And later on in the week, I stopped in Walmart to pick up free razors, free dish soap and $0.18 per pound bananas and I also stopped by the health food store (again!) to pick up apples.

Near the end of the week, we were almost out of milk, so my husband picked up a gallon of milk and chocolate (not pictured). I also bought three dozen farm-fresh eggs from my brother (not pictured).

Altogether, we spent just under $40 on groceries this week.

And while these pictures have nothing to do with saving money, since I was posting pictures of my groceries, I thought I’d share a handful of other pictures on my camera. These just melt my heart!

Silas is 16 months old and still doesn’t have anywhere near the vocabulary the girls did at this age (though he has long ago perfected the art of communicating by grunting and vowel sounds!) Can you tell he’s rather mischievous and did I mention busy? However, I’m very thrilled that he’s finally starting to enjoy being read to, rocked and sung to. And I’m soaking every bit of his snuggles up because he’s growing up so quickly.


Kaitlynn! There aren’t adequate words to describe this bundle of energy. She keeps me laughing and praying for God’s continual protection over her. (And we sincerely hope she will someday soon develop a healthy fear of something. At the present, she’s almost fearless — which I know can someday be a great asset. But for now? I pray for lots of protection for her and for wisdom and foresight to care for her and guide her.)

Sisters who are fast becoming best friends — well, most of the time that is! It’s so much fun for Kathrynne to finally have a sibling old enough to play along with the creative ideas that she’s constantly coming up with. In a day’s time, the girls might be everything from soccer players who are in a fierce competition, to nurses delivering babies, to entrepreneurs setting up their own card shop. You just never know what they’ll come up with next!

Kathrynne has recently traded her long-held desires for getting a dog to instead save up for a horse. We’ve tried to explain to her that horses are very expensive and we’ll need to move to a place with a bigger yard, but she’s not a bit dissuaded and often talks about, “When I get my horse…” like it’s a done deal. We’ll see!

Ever wonder why you don’t see many pictures of all three children together? Well, it might be because getting them all to stand still long enough to snap the picture is quite a feat indeed. 🙂 The good news is they ensure that no day is ever dull at our house nor do we ever run out of things to do!

We love ’em to pieces and thank the Lord constantly for giving us these three children to train and raise and nurture.

___________________

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.

24 Sep 2010   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: C-Section and Hospital Stay

We paid cash!

Testimonial by Mary from Practical Strawberry

The Plan

When we found out we were expecting in October of 2005, we immediately started saving for the birth. My husband’s income covered most of our expenses, so most of my earnings from my work as a massage therapist went to the Baby Fund. Because we planned to use a midwife, we knew how much the birth would be and it gave me a very concrete, motivating goal.

I feel energized by literally seeing my money accumulate, so I kept a jar on my dresser labeled “Baby Bean” were I would put my spare change and tips from clients. As my belly grew, so did my savings.

By May, I had reached the Birth Fund goal and started to get excited that the rest of the money I earned between then and the baby’s birth in July could be used for some fun new furnishings for our house. Some afternoons after working, I would lay on our bed and mark pages of the IKEA catalog, getting excited about the idea of getting to spend some of our money on something fun, instead of bills, rent, groceries and cars.

Having been a “saver” all my life — although my husband was very sweetly encouraging (he’s the spender) — I eventually decided there was nothing that we really needed and I enjoyed the peace of mind knowing we had the extra money in savings instead of new stuff. And it was a good thing I did!

We paid cash for our boys' birthsThe Unexpected

Our son ended up being breech and instead of the home birth we had planned, I had to have a very expensive C-section delivery and a bit of a hospital stay. Our insurance deductible and other expenses were almost five times as much as we had saved in our original Baby Fund!

Fortunately, the extra money that I had been able to save, combined with what we had been saving in our general savings account was enough to cover the bills. I was even able to negotiate a lower amount for the hospital bill because we paid it in full up front instead of dragging it out for years. It was such a blessing to not have a “baby payment” as part of our early life together as a family of three.

The Second Time Around

When our second son joined our family, we paid cash for his delivery as well, but the process of saving wasn’t as eventful. We just pulled the money out of our general savings account, which we try to add to each month, although the amount was much less the second time around because we were able to use our midwife.

What We’ve Gained

In telling our story, I often say “I” or “we” when referring to our savings, but am more than aware that our ability to save and the resources that we saved all come from God. I truly credit the Holy Spirit for calming my IKEA coveting, at least that time ;).

Many times we fail on our budget, but I know that God is conditioning my heart so that I won’t become overly prideful.

Mary blogs about the adventures of life with her crazy guys (husband and sons included) at Practical Strawberry.

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

23 Sep 2010   ·   81
Money Saving Mom

Financial Goals and Update (and come link up yours, too!)

Many of you have asked what our financial goals are now that we paid cash for our house. A few months ago, I promised to let you know what these were and I’m finally getting around to doing so! It’s taken us a few months to sort through and develop a game plan financially for this season of our lives, so thank you for your patience.

The question we received a lot when people knew we were living on less than we made and saving to pay cash for a house was, “Will you change your standard of living once you buy a house?”

Our heart’s desire is that we would wisely steward the blessings God has given us by giving to others. We want to be conduits. For some reason, God has chosen to bless us financially and we want to use this blessing to reach out and freely give to others.

We’re very content with what we have and we feel like there’s no need to increase our standard of living. Instead, we want to increase our standard of giving and also invest our money wisely so that we’ll be in a position to give even more.

With this in mind, we are currently researching and praying about our next BHAG, as we like to call them at our house. We’ve not 100% decided on what it will be, but we’re looking into the possibility of investing in commercial real estate (paying cash, of course, because we’re weird like that!)

While we pray and research and start setting aside some of our savings towards that, we do have some more immediate short-term financial goals:

1. Significantly increase our giving to needs in our community and around the world.

2. Pay cash for a replacement washer and dryer for our very used set. (This got moved to the top of the list when our washer up and quit last week!)

3. Pay cash for a replacement for Old Blue Van (We’ve almost finished this goal and it’s a good thing because the driver’s door no longer opens from the outside!)

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room (Which currently is devoid of furniture while we save for it!)

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls.

6. Fully fund our IRAs.

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

8. Fund our children’s educational savings.

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)

Our goal is to have all of these items accomplished by September 1, 2011. We have no idea whether that’s possible, but it’s what we’re shooting for. We have the goals broken down by month and there’s a possibility it might all happen by then. But we’ll see as you never know what curve balls might be around the bend.

If and when we accomplish these goals, the plan is then to throw our extra monthly savings into our BHAG.

photo by Alan Cleaver

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What are your current financial goals? Many of you have asked for me to bring back the monthly financial check-up for us all to share about our financial goals and the monthly progress and set backs. So I’m bringing this feature back beginning the first week in October. I’d love to have you link up with your financial goals and successes below!

23 Sep 2010   ·   305
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Do you think it’s a good deal to purchase half a cow?

I have recently been wrestling through the pros/cons of buying regular grocery store beef vs. grass fed, hormone free, antibiotic free beef. I am trying to go through some of my options, and I came across the option of buying a half of a cow. I would just love to know whether or not this is actually more beneficial and cost-effective than just buying it pre-cut and packaged, as needed. -Abby

Long-time readers here may remember that we attempted to buy a quarter of a grass-fed cow one time and it ended pretty disastrously. In fact, I still have visions of four inches of blood at the bottom of the deep freeze. Eww!

However, if you are smarter than us, and put your freezer somewhere where the outlet won’t shut off and spoil your meat while you’re on vacation, then I definitely think buying half a cow can be a very good investment. In fact, we’re hoping to do that ourselves sometime soon now that we have space again for a deep freeze.

To be completely honest, we’re still trying to work up the courage to makes such a big purchase again after it failed so miserably last time. However, we would really like to be able to use higher-quality meat and buying it in bulk makes it much more affordable, so I think we’re going to take the plunge. This time around, though, we’re going to invest in a freezer alarm, we’re keeping the freezer somewhere other than the garage and I’ll probably be a little OCD about checking to make sure the freezer is running. 🙂

Have you invested in a side of beef before? Did you think it was a good investment? Any pointers or tips for Abby and our family to consider (other than the obvious of don’t plug your freezer into a weak garage outlet!) I’d love to hear!

photo by Skinnyde