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23 Jul 2010   ·   179
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: 31 tubes of toothpaste and my first ever video blog

So, I’m stepping way out on a limb and posting a video blog of my shopping trip last night. Please bear with me, as it is completely obvious from the video that I have no idea how to do a video blog.You also might brace yourself for impending sea sickness as I’m holding the camera, showing you my groceries and talking with my hands at the same time. 🙂

Enjoy! Oh and excuse the mistake of me saying the bananas were $0.29 each. I meant $0.29 per pound!

This shopping trip is a great example of how I practice the Buy Ahead Principle. Stocking up on 31 free tubes of toothpaste might seem excessive, but considering we go through 1-2 tubes per month and the toothpaste deals have been sparse recently, I went ahead and used all my coupons. That way, if there’s not another deal on toothpaste for 18 months, we’re in good shape.

Wondering where I got 31 toothpaste coupons from? Check out my article on 10 Ways to Get Coupons for Free.

Big thanks to Erin from $5 Dinners for the foil pan deal tip, Mary from The Deal Detector for the Crayon deal tip and to my sister for going shopping with me and making it much more fun than if I’d gone by myself.

_______________________
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.

23 Jul 2010   ·   42
Money Saving Mom

Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: More experimentation and failure

If you’re new here, you’ll want to go back and read the first parts of the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series.

It’s quite often that I get emails from people who say, “I really want to build up a blog and business like you have.” While I’m honored they would want to be like me, I sincerely don’t wish all my failures and struggles upon them.

Many of you have only found MoneySavingMom.com in the last year or two. And you might see a successful blog with hundreds of thousands of readers, the fact that I have a team of people working for me or that we paid cash for our house thanks in great part to this blog and the income it provides.

What you don’t see is the thousands of hours of effort, the miserable failures, the huge disappointments and the nights when I only got a few hours of sleep because I was working 60 to 70 hours per week from home to make ends meet, plus being a wife, homemaker and stay-at-home mom.

I’m very grateful to the Lord for how He has blessed the labors of my hands. And I’m humbled beyond belief to think that someone like me — who has no college degree and struggled with math in high school — is helping hundreds of thousands of families around the nation with their finances. That’s God, not me. He can take the weak things of this world and do mighty things through them (1 Cor. 1:27). I know, because I’ve experienced it in powerful ways in my own life.

But before He could do great and mighty things in and through my life, God first had to take me through some very humbling and difficult failures. Last time, I left you when we were groping to come up with any way to make ends meet without going into debt while my husband was in law school.

I remember wracking my brain to come up with anything — anything — I could do to earn money from home. We really felt like my place was to be home with our soon-to-be born child and yet how we were going to pull that off without debt or government assistance* was mind-baffling.

It seemed there was just no way the ends could meet. I felt helpless and incompetent. I’m one of those people who is not skilled in many different areas: I can’t sew or decorate or make beautiful crafts; I’m quite domestically-challenged despite many efforts to reverse those inadequacies!

I’ve always been very interested in marketing, writing and anything related to computers, but I didn’t really know that it would be possible to earn any more than a small amount from any of those things. My attempts to teach creative writing classes fell pretty nearly on their face. I scoured the internet looking for writing opportunities and only came up with a few very small-paying opportunities that someone with my inexperience could qualify for.

In my heart of hearts, I really wanted to start a website of some kind. And after weeks of prayer and research, I hatched an idea to start a website called Covenant Wedding Source which would provide custom-made, modest wedding gowns and accessories. I found a few young women who were exceptional seamstresses and contracted with them to provide the sewing services.

My job was going to be the go-between. I’d market the website, work with the customers and my contractors would provide the custom-made products. I knew that there were very few websites providing modest gowns and I knew, from talking with many brides, that there was a market for gowns which showed less skin but didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

My husband — always the cheerleader — willingly invested $2,000 of our law school savings to start the business (that money paid to have a website designed, buy a computer, a few other needed supplies and a business license). I look back and wonder what got into him to willingly risk what was a huge chunk of money for my wild and crazy idea.

I’d read a bunch of books from the library on starting a business and I was pumped about my great idea. But I quickly learned I was in way over my head. I hadn’t a clue about online marketing and I learned very fast that you can set up a great website, but you need a whole lot more than a great website to get more than you and your mom visiting everyday.

After a few weeks of very little traffic and no sales, I decided I had to become terribly pro-active if you wanted people to notice your site. So I came up with every free advertising idea I could concoct. I joined Yahoo Groups which I thought might have a relevant market and would interact with people and include a link at the bottom of my emails to my website. I wrote articles for any website which would publish my articles and include a link to my website in my bio.

After about six months, we actually had had six different brides who were brave enough to send in their measurements and what they wanted for a gown and have their gowns made by a seamstress across the country. But I learned another lesson: creating custom-made gowns according to a bride’s specifications and measurements requires a massive amount of time and work to pull off — and it’s really hard to do if you are trying to do it inexpensively!

I also was very discouraged to look over the books after six months and realize I’d put in countless hours, but I had not turned a profit at all. This was a problem because we severely needed to see at least a small profit in order to survive. It was a business, not a charity and something had to change.

In the past six months, I had been researching everything I could about online marketing and I’d stumbled upon this Yahoo Group which was all about entrepreneurialism. They had some very interesting ideas — many of which were brand-new to me. The more I read, the more I realized the wisdom in what was shared in this group.

I realized I needed to build an email list, look for multiple streams of income to develop on my site and learn more about affiliate marketing. Little did I know that these very things would someday be some of the backbone pieces for the success of MoneySavingMom.com.

After analyzing what my current market might be interested in and how to leverage that, I started experimenting with my small email list to see what worked. Those first attempts were so pathetic that I look back with great embarrassment. But you know what? I learned so much through those failed experiments. And somehow, my email list readers stuck with me!

While I was excited to be learning new things, I still desperately needed to be making more of an income for all my efforts. However, instead of a windfall of profit, I was about to experience one of the most difficult business lessons ever.

…to be continued next Friday

___________

*I know that different people have different circumstances and beliefs, but my husband and I have never felt like it was right for us to accept government assistance. We wanted to trust the Lord to be our Provider and also to be forced to be as creative and resourceful as we could. I’m in no way judging those of you who have chosen differently than us, just sharing how God led our family.

23 Jul 2010   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: A Move to Africa

We paid cash!

Testimonial submitted by Amanda

Moving to Africa two months after getting married is not a plan that many parents understand. Moving to Africa, newly married, while still in college and with a $50,000 student loan burden was almost unfathomable.

I wish this was the story about how God miraculously paid off our debt before we stepped our newlywed feet on that Nairobi-bound airplane, but it’s not. It’s the story of a call and His provision in that call.

The Call

Despite our student loan burden, my husband knew that finishing his college degree and an internship in Kenya was where God wanted him. He also knew that God was drawing us into a marriage together. His heart beats for Africa and mine was newly awakened to the needs of people around the world.

So in a step of faith, we planned our marriage and our big move without knowing how we would survive in Kenya or even how we would get there! Our loan burdens were too big already, so we knew we couldn’t borrow or charge our way there.

A Move to KenyaThe Provision

God’s first provision was to give this journalism major a job. Teaching. Middle school. History. Miraculously, the more-qualified applicant was rejected by HR, and they agreed to let me take on the post for a year, despite the usual two-year commitment. God provided a job and a fabulous community that would be invaluable in the coming year.

His second provision came from the hands of ordinary people. Instead of registering for wedding gifts, we simply and politely asked for money towards our move to Kenya.

Once the wedding celebration ended and we settled into a friend’s vacant and rent-free apartment for two months, we realized we had exactly enough money to cover two round trip tickets to Nairobi and to purchase a small reliable car from a missionary leaving the field (vehicles are more pricey in Africa). Big wads of wedding cash and checks went straight to those huge expenses.

The Rest of the Story

That first year of marriage in Africa is full of countless stories. We survived robberies, civil strife, malaria and so much else, but we learned so much about God’s provision and how materially blessed we are as Americans.

We came home from Kenya when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, but someday we hope to return (without taking on debt of course).

We are still working on that student loan but are proud to say that we just passed the 50-percent paid milestone and can’t wait to be debt-free!

(Note: Yes, we did write a check for the plane tickets AND the car. No credit cards!)

Amanda Parks is a PhD student and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Sam, and her black lab, Zeke. They just celebrated their third wedding anniversary.

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

23 Jul 2010   ·   40
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: A 15-Passenger Van

We paid cash!

Testimonial submitted by reader, April

When we found out we were expecting our 7th child, we knew we were going to outgrow our minivan (which seats 8).

Having resolved to be debt-free, we began to search online for a good deal. We had our emergency fund, as per Dave Ramsey, so we planned to use that and just make “car payments” back to the emergency fund.

What we found

After searching for a few months, we found a van on eBay that had previously been used by a carpeting company. It had 3 of the 4 benches (so it seats 12) and was in functional condition. It met our criteria of having enough seats and of working perfectly.

The only problem is that we live in Alabama and the van was in Denver, but I didn’t consider that much of a problem.

It was ours!

We won the eBay auction and paid $1950 for a 15-passenger van that runs perfectly. Granted, it is 15 years old and has 150,000 miles, but the pride of it being paid for more than compensates.

After flying to Denver by myself — which should really count as a vacation when you have 6 children — and driving the van home, along with taxes and tag, the total price came to $2400. We, of course, paid cash and made monthly payments back to our emergency fund for about 8 months.

For next time…

Now we have a special savings account called “Car Payment” where we make our car payment for the next time I get to vacation alone. I hope the next van is in Alaska!

P.S. The children have named the Big Van, Shakespeare. We still have the minivan, since it is also paid for, and use it whenever Dad is not home to lengthen Shakespeare’s life.

April Bracker is a homeschool mom to 7.

22 Jul 2010   ·   224

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Don’t Be Brand Dependent

One way to save a great deal of money on your grocery budget is to learn to like and use a variety of brands. The sooner you can get over being a brand-snob, the more your pocketbook will thank you.

Be Brave; Try New Things!

I have a confession to make: when we first started shopping at Aldi, I was really leery of buying their products. I figured they’d taste icky and cheap.

But since my husband and I were living on a beans-and-rice budget, we had to make a meager budget work. It was either that – or pretty much starve! So we hesitantly started trying different items from Aldi.

And guess what? We were pleasantly surprised! Not only was most of it not icky or cheap-tasting, we actually liked some of the food better than the brands we were used to buying.

Base Your Purchases on the Price Rather Than the Brand

Let’s say your shampoo stockpile is running low and it’s time to build it back up. If you’re stuck on only buying Herbal Essence shampoo, the cheapest you may be able to buy it is for $1.50 by combining a sale with a coupon. If, however, you’re willing to look for the lowest price on any brand of shampoo, you may very well be able to find shampoo priced at $0.50 per bottle after coupon and sale.

While the savings of $1 per bottle of shampoo might not seem too significant, think about how the savings could add up if you saved $1 on 15 different items each week at the grocery store because you choose price over brand. That would be a savings of $60 per month — or$720 per year. And in most people’s cases, the savings would likely be much more than that.

Don’t Stockpile 35 Bottles of Something If You’ve Never Tried the Brand Before

While I’m all for trying new things and looking at the purchase price rather than the brand, I do want to caution you not to go overboard. If you’ve never tried Cheeseburger and Cream shampoo before and it’s on a great sale and there’s a good coupon out for it, I’d suggest you buy a bottle or two and determine whether you like it or not before you stock up for the rest of the year.

It’s not saving money if you get a sweet deal on 30 bottles of shampoo and then they stay in the stockpile closet for five years because no one will use them!

Yes, Brand Does Matter Sometimes — But Not Much of the Time

Okay, before any diehard brand-dependent person flips out on me, I must clarify that I believe it’s totally acceptable to have a few items where you are stuck 100% on a certain brand.

For instance, we only use Pampers diapers. I have two children with extremely sensitive skin and we’ve tried multiple brands of cloth diapers, Huggies, Luvs, store-brand, you name it and Pampers are the only diapers who don’t break them out in severe diaper rash. So it’s worth it to me to spend the extra money on Pampers (though, since the advent of Swagbucks, I’ve not been paying for diapers out of pocket, so the extra costs don’t hurt as much!).

We also use Shout almost exclusively for stain removal. We have three young children and oh do we have need of a good stain remover! Shout is the only stain remover I’ve found which consistently gets out pretty much 100% of the stains. However, I can usually get it for under $0.75 per bottle by matching a coupon with a great sale, so I’m not really spending much more on it.

Other than Shout and Pampers, we try to keep a pretty open mind when it comes to brands and shopping. And we save so much money by doing so!

What brands are you non-negotiable on? Have you been pleasantly surprised when trying new brands?

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22 Jul 2010   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

A few more reader-recommended survey sites

After posting about iPoll yesterday, a number of you asked for other recommended survey companies. So here are a few others I’d encourage you to consider joining as either I’ve used them myself or they come highly recommended by readers here:

Synovate — This site gives you 100 points for survey screeners —  even if you don’t qualify for a survey! I personally haven’t used this site, but it comes highly recommended by a reader.

MySurvey — I signed up with MySurvey around a year ago and have been paid by them multiple times. Unlike many survey companies, you earn points for every survey and screener you take and these points can add up quickly!

LightSpeed Research — This survey site pays in points and they are fairly generous in their points given. Once you’ve accumulated enough points, you can cash them in for cash, online gift certificates, music downloads, and hundreds of other prizes. Or, build up your points for bigger prizes in your Lightspeed Points Account.

MyPoints — This is a site which rewards you points for online activity such as reading emails, taking surveys, signing up for offers and so forth. When I was doing this, I mostly just read the emails and clicked on the links and slowly accumulated points. You won’t get rich quickly doing this, but you can earn enough points by reading emails to get a few free gift cards each year.

20/20 Research — A reader commented and said, “You won’t get a ton of surveys from 20/20 Research but when you qualify for a prescreen subject they compensate you really, really well. I got $150 Amazon gift card last year and $100 this year for a follow up. The forum was a week long in both cases and great fun. Because the forums are smaller groups you get alot of interaction and really get to contribute.”

Edit: And don’t forget about Swagbucks! Two readers commented to remind me that they now have a survey section on their site. Take the surveys and you can rack up more points towards gift cards and other items. Just another great way to earn Swagbucks.

Please realize that you’re likely not going to make hundreds of dollars each money filling out surveys. But if you stick with it and learn which survey companies work best for you, you can likely make at least $8-$10 per week filling out surveys — and sometimes more than that if you qualify for some of the higher-paying opportunities.

What are your favorite survey sites? I’d love to hear!

22 Jul 2010   ·   21
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Earn money writing for Examiner.com

Sarah emailed in the following tip:

I thought I’d suggest another way for your readers to make a little extra money. They can write for Examiner.com. Each article (300-500 words) earns $1 plus additional residual money that grows with site traffic and such.

It’s not much, but you can write up to five articles a week for $1 each. Every once in awhile, they also have special incentives. For example, if you post two articles in one day, you’re entered into a drawing for gift cards and prizes.

To become a writer for Examiner.com, first go to the Become An Examiner page and choose your location and suggest an area you want to write about. There’s just about every kind of topic available, so there should be something for everyone. (If you don’t see what you want to write about, you can suggest an area and a topic. That’s what I did since there was no one focused on my current town and topic idea.)

Once you choose an area, you enter your personal information. Then, tell a little about your experience and submit a sample article that you would write if you become an examiner. What’s nice is if you’re accepted as an examiner, you can publish that article and get paid for it.

Like you say about survey-taking, you’re not going to get rich from writing for Examiner.com, but it’s a little extra money. Plus, it’s fun to share the articles and know people are reading your writing! -Sarah Hernandez

Looking for more ways to earn money from home? Check out the brand-new Income-Earning Ideas page I just finished putting together. And if you have any great ideas to share, be sure to leave a comment or send me an email with a tip or suggestion for me to consider posting.

21 Jul 2010   ·   225
Money Saving Mom

Eight Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Coupons — oh really?!

Yahoo Finance released an article earlier this week on 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Coupons. Articles like these always leave me shaking my head.

No offense to the author, but I believe she is very misinformed. A quick internet search would have proven most of her points invalid.

Of course, I’m biased as I believe everyone should use coupons in some way, shape or form. Unless you make half a million dollars each year and own an island, I believe you could benefit from using coupons — if even just to casually use them for a few products each week and shave $40 off your grocery budget every month.

Andrea did a great job of responding and rebutting each of the author’s points in her post. And, just for kicks, I thought I’d do the same. So here are the eight arguments for not using coupons from Yahoo along with my rebuttals:

Argument #1 You have to buy a newspaper.

My Rebuttal: Actually, I use lots of coupons and haven’t purchased a newspaper in over two years. Check out my article on 10 Ways to Get Coupons for Free.

Argument #2: Clipping coupons takes time.

My Rebuttal: Yes, clipping coupons takes time, but in most cases, it’s time very well spent. I mean, where else can you find a job you can do from your home that earns you $30-$50 per hour in tax-free savings?

To be honest, I really don’t spend any extra time clipping coupons. I bring my coupon box each week to a regular family gathering and clip and file while engaged in our discussions. I figure if my mouth and brain are going to be busy, I might as well keep my hands productive, too.

If you want to save even more time, try the no-coupon-clipping method of using coupons.

Argument #3: Getting a newspaper invites lots of additional advertising into your home.

My Rebuttal: Who says you have to bring the whole newspaper into your home? We don’t. We only bring coupon inserts to be clipped.

Argument #4: Many of the coupons will be for things you neither need nor want.

My Rebuttal: Yes, and that’s why there’s this thing called a trashcan. No one says you have to clip and use every coupon — especially if you didn’t pay for them. Use the coupons which work for you, toss the rest.

However, I’d also argue that if you’re willing to try new things which are free, almost-free or more-than-free, you might discover some new products you love! Or, if you have the time and energy, you could also consider buying things you can get for free or more-than-free with coupons and donating them if you won’t use them.

Argument #5: Coupons can tempt you to spend your grocery dollars on things you shouldn’t.

My Rebuttal: If coupons are tempting you to spend your grocery dollars on things you shouldn’t, you might consider not going grocery shopping because just walking down a grocery store aisle can tempt you to spend all sorts of money you shouldn’t spend. One reason you need to learn self discipline is that, otherwise, you’ll likely spend money on things you shouldn’t all the rest of your life.

My advice is to create a grocery budget and shop with cash in order to help encourage self-discipline. After all, it’s pretty hard to spend a lot of money you don’t have at the grocery store when you have a budget and pay with cash!

Argument #6: The same coupons tend to be offered over and over again.

My Rebuttal: Seriously, has this author ever even clipped coupons before? Yes, there are some coupons that you see regularly, but the whole point of coupons is very often to introduce new products. So there is a wide variety of coupons offered — especially with the advent of printable coupons and coupons offered through Facebook.

And at any rate, I like it when great coupons which net free or almost-free products appear again and again. It enables me to keep my pantry and stockpile filled for pennies on the dollar!

Argument #7: You might become a slave to coupons.

In explaining her point, the author says:

“It can be very difficult to buy something without a coupon once you get used to using coupons. Knowing that you can get ice cream for $2.50 might make it difficult for you to spend $4 on it…”

My Rebuttal: Okay, I admit it. I’m a Coupon Slave. Because seriously? Who pays $4 for ice cream? It’s very rare we ever pay over $2 for it!

Jesting aside, she does have a point here. It is possible to become so obsessed with coupons and bargain-shopping that you spend excessive amounts of time planning and shopping.  That’s why I always suggest you consider how much time you realistically have to invest and how much you are saving per hour.

If your other priorities are suffering or you are saving less than $15 per hour, you need to step back and take a look at how to streamline things so couponing is more effective and rewarding for you and your family.

Argument #8: Shopping takes longer.

My Rebuttal: It can, but it doesn’t have to. If you take the time to plan a menu and plan your shopping trip, you can actually save time on shopping and meal prep.

How? Because having a plan and following the plan is always going to save you time and effort when compared to having no plan and just flying by the seat of your pants. Instead of waiting until 5 p.m. to figure out dinner and then running to the store to pick up things to make dinner, you can write out a menu for the whole week and make one big shopping trip to buy everything.

Now, of course, if you enjoy couponing and see it as your hobby (a hobby that saves your family money, too!), you can spend more time grocery shopping than average folks do. But usually, the savings you’ll reap is also very significant. (And if it’s not, then you likely need to see my point above about re-prioritizing!).

Whew! There’s so much more I could say on each of these points. It was hard to condense my rebuttals to a paragraph or two. But I figured I’d leave it at that and let you chime in.

Do you agree with any of the author’s arguments for why you shouldn’t use coupons? Why or why not? I’d love to hear!

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photo credit: Miss Messie

20 Jul 2010   ·   91
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: Is it possible to avoid a car payment?

We currently have a 1999 Sedan with about 130,000 miles on it. It’s been paid off for 6 years. Our plan is to drive it until it dies. Our other car is a 2004 SUV which has only been paid off since December. We’ve been rolling that car payment amount of our budget into saving for a replacement vehicle when the Sedan dies — which could be anytime now. 🙂

My husband and I have been going back and forth about what to do when the Sedan does die. Unless it lasts us another few years, we won’t have any significant money saved for another car. We’ve considered using what we have saved and if necessary (as in the car dies tomorrow or in the very near future) possibly taking a small loan ($1,000-$3,000 that we’d pay off in at most 2 years) out to get a decent car.

My concern then is that “new” car will die about the time our SUV needs to be replaced and we simply can’t afford 2 car payments and we won’t have enough savings for 2 cars. So then we consider trying to buy a newer car that would last longer but we’d have to take a loan out? What would you do? -Angela

Since my husband and I have made a commitment not to borrow money for anything, if we found ourselves in your situation, here’s what we’d do:

1. We’d stop worrying about it too much.

Yes, it’s great to have a plan. Yes, it’s great to work hard towards that plan. But you can waste a lot of time worrying about a worst-case scenario which, in reality, will likely never come to pass.

I personally am guessing that if you take good care of the 1999 Sedan, it just very well might keep rolling along for another few years. 130,000 miles isn’t all that much, if you ask me. Our vehicles usually last until somewhere around 170,000 miles. 🙂

2. We’d keep rolling the former car payment into the Vehicle Replacement Fund as you’ve been doing.

If you’re putting $150 to $200 in your Vehicle Replacement Fund per month and the Sedan keeps hanging on for another year, you should have around $3,000 saved — which is plenty enough to pay cash for a  decent used car which could last for another few years. If the Sedan hangs on for another two or three years, you’ll likely have more like $6,000 to $9,000 saved — which should be enough to purchase a good used car which will last you another five years or more. And don’t forget, even if the Sedan isn’t drivable when it does breathe it’s last breath, you could very likely still get some money for it by selling it for parts.

As soon as the Sedan dies for good and there’s no bringing it back to life, you can replace it with whatever amount you currently have in cash in your Vehicle Replacement Fund.

3. We’d consider working out a temporary one-car arrangement.

One viable option is to go ahead and sell the Sedan now, put the money you make from the sale into your Vehicle Replacement Fund and then work out a temporary one-car situation while saving your former car payment and everything else you can squeeze out of your budget towards a new vehicle.

Or, you could wait and see how long the Sedan holds out, keep saving your former car payment and if it dies before you have $3,000 saved, you could just go to having one car while you were saving up for a replacement.

This might not be an ideal situation if you’re both working and/or in school, but it can be done. In fact, my husband and I have managed to survive with one car even back in the early years of our marriage when I was working part-time, he was working part-time and he was in school.

4. We’d consider doing something a little radical to help beef up the Vehicle Replacement Fund.

If you have any extras in your budget (such as eating out, cable, gym memberships, etc.), consider cutting these for a short while and throwing the extra savings into your Vehicle Fund. Or, take on a side job short-term and put the extra income towards your Vehicle Fund. You could even go through your home and find items you no longer love and use and have a garage sale or sell stuff on eBay or Craigslist.

If you got creative, were willing to drive a vehicle which might not win “Best Car of the Year Award” and kept saving your former car payment every month, I think it’s very possible for you to avoid getting a loan on your next two replacement vehicles. And then, once you replaced both of those vehicles, if you kept saving your former car payment money in a Vehicle Fund, I think it’s entirely possible you could put yourself in a position to be able to always pay cash for cars in the future.

20 Jul 2010   ·   62
Money Saving Mom

Operation Christmas Child: Start filling your boxes now!

With all the wonderful back-to-school deals going on right now, it’s a great time to think about planning ahead for possibly being involved in the Operation Christmas Child project. For those unfamiliar with this ministry, it is a yearly opportunity for families to pack shoeboxes full of school supplies, hygiene items, toys and other special things for children in impoverished countries.

Living So Abundantly has a post up on how she’s preparing now for it. And don’t miss the below video from Clair over at Mummy Deals on how they packed 45 boxes for $45:

(I posted this video last year, but I thought it was well-worth posting again!)

19 Jul 2010   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

15 Favorite Preschool and Kindergarten Resources – Part 1

I’ve briefly mentioned our homeschooling adventures over the past year and many of you have written in with questions on recommended resources for teaching young children. I’m nowhere near an expert on the subject considering I only have one year of “official” homeschooling under my belt. However, I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite preschool and kindergarten resources from the past year for those of you who are interested.

So, I condensed my list to 15 resources and books and the next three Mondays, I’ll be sharing a post with five of our favorite resources. Here’s Part 1:

1. My Father’s World: Kindergarten

We absolutely loved this Kindergarten curriculum! It is very simple, fun, hands-on and easy-to-use. There are 26 units and each unit covers one letter of the alphabet and corresponding Bible, Character Development, Art, Math, Creative Thinking, Reading, Phonics and Science lessons.

We didn’t do every thing in every unit, but more used it as a springboard for our weekly curriculum. I thought it made an excellent framework and the girls thoroughly enjoyed it. We usually spent 20-45 minutes 3-4 days per week on the lessons and supplemented with a variety of other great resources (mainly the other 14 resources I’ll be mentioning in this series!).

After doing this curriculum for a year, I’d highly recommend it if you are looking for a Bible-based curriculum with a mix of Classical Education and Charlotte Mason approach.

2. StarFall

This is an entirely free website has lots of fun interactive educational games and teaching tools for preschoolers and kindergartners. We don’t allow a lot of computer time for the girls at our house, but Starfall is a special treat which our girls get to enjoy on occasion. There are a few minor things on the website which aren’t in line with our Christian worldview, but overall, we’ve been very impressed with Starfall.

3. Letter of the Week Curriculum

One of my very favorite homeschooling blogs, Confessions of a Homeschooler, has a fantastic Letter of the Week Curriculum which has tons of printable worksheets which we used to supplement the letter we were studying each week in My Father’s World. The curriculum is only $10 and an exceptional buy for all the amazing downloads and helpful resources which come with it.

If you can’t afford to buy the curriculum or would like to check out some of the printables before purchasing, there is a huge list of incredible free printables available here.

4. Wee Sing Bible Songs

The girls love listening to this CD before they go to bed or while playing together. And they’ve learned so many great children’s songs as a result!

5. Come Look With Me: Enjoying Art With Children

These are the best books I’ve found so far for teaching art appreciation to young children. Each book in the series introduces children to twelve works of art and engages the imaginations and interest of young children by asking thought-provoking questions about the picture.

…To be continued next Monday

19 Jul 2010   ·   41
Money Saving Mom

The Blessings of Being a Work-At-Home Mom

Note from Crystal: A bunch of you have asked if I’m going to finish the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series. I know I kinda fell off the wagon with that for awhile — and I’m sorry! But for those of you who have been patiently waiting for the conclusion, you’ll be happy to know that it’s on the blog calendar to be finished over the next few Fridays. So come back this Friday and the following Fridays for the final installments of the series. In the mean time, enjoy Laura’s post on her experiences as a work-at-home mom.

Guest post by Laura from Heavenly Homemakers

First, let’s all acknowledge that working from home truly is work. It’s hard work. The work is always there. You don’t leave it at the end of the day.

But as a Work-at-Home-Mom, what else don’t I have to leave? My children. My home. And some days, my most comfy slippers.

My husband and I chose for me to work from home 13 years ago when our first son was born. We have always maintained a frugal lifestyle and we have always lived on a modest income. My husband has always been a hard working provider for our family. But a little extra income has never hurt. Anytime I have earned extra money for our family, it means we’ve been able to breathe a little easier. It means we can save up for a new (to us) vehicle a little more quickly. It means we can give more generously when we are made aware of the needs of others.

Through the years, I’ve participated in all kinds of “work from home” opportunities as the Lord provided. I’ve offered day-care for extra little ones. I’ve sold Stampin’ Up! products. I’ve done sewing and mending for people. (That job was very short lived as sewing and mending are not my strong suit!) I’ve baked and sold goodies at our local Farmer’s Market. (These homemade soft pretzels sold particularly well!) I’ve made craft items and sold them at craft shows.

Currently, I write a weekly column for our local newspaper as well as maintain the blog Heavenly Homemakers where I share on all varieties of subjects regarding simple living, healthy eating and good ol’ family silliness. (We have four sons. There is a lot of family silliness to write about!)

While I’m able to earn a little income through these endeavors, I am constantly overwhelmed with joy that this “job” not only provides some financial help to our family, but it has also become a wonderful hobby and a beloved ministry. How awesome is it that all three of these blessings could be wrapped up into one!?

Oh the joy of being able to stay at home while I work and to absolutely love what I do! I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to homeschool my children. I’ve been blessed with the ability to drop whatever I need to drop in order to help my husband or to be flexible around his work schedule. I’ve been blessed to leave what I’m doing to go help a friend in need. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be right beside our four boys as they grow, learn, discover, struggle, overcome, cry, laugh and love. I do believe I have the best job in the world!

Use your gifts! Be creative! Discover what it is that you can do to bless your family from home.

Laura Coppinger and her husband have four sons ages 5-13. She loves to cook healthy, family-friendly food, create new recipes, watch her boys play soccer and spend time with her husband. She strives to balance it all while she writes and shares what she’s learned at Heavenly Homemakers.

Do you have a work-from-home success story to share? If so, drop me a line and tell me about it. I’d love to consider sharing it with the readers here!

19 Jul 2010   ·   20
Money Saving Mom

I want the high-value freebies and coupons from Facebook, but I don’t want a Facebook account

If you don’t have a Facebook account and you’ve been feeling left out on all the great Facebook freebies and coupons which have been coming down the pipe, I’d encourage you to read For the Momma’s article on how to set up a Facebook account that you can use to sign up for the Facebook freebies and coupons, without compromising your privacy.