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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.

17 Jul 2010   ·   65
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: So much for my good intentions

I have a confession to make: we blew the grocery budget this week.

We were doing so well at sticking to our budget in the middle of moving. We’d only gone out to eat once each week, like usual. We’d only gone a little over our usual grocery budget because we had bought a lot of quick foods. And I was feeling pretty good with how it was all going.

Then, right after we moved, I came down with a 102-degree fever (very likely due from living on little sleep for two weeks while burning the midnight oil doing everything involved with pulling off a move). And instead of going to the store and re-stocking our cupboards like I was planning, I spent a lot of time in bed.

And well, we blew the budget. So much for my good intentions. In fact, to be very truthful, we subsisted on peanut butter and jelly, cold cereal and takeout for almost an entire week.

I’m not even going to add up how much we spent on takeout this week because I know I’d be discouraged. But sometimes, you just gotta do, what you gotta do.

However, I’m finally feeling better and am headed to the store and hoping to get us back on track this coming week. Because I think we’re all a little tired of takeout. 🙂

________________________

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.

16 Jul 2010   ·   73
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: We Built a Home

Testimonial submitted by reader, Michelle Thomas

My husband and I have been married for 12 ½ years. Unfortunately, we started out our marriage about $25,000 in debt. After our wedding, we immediately established a budget and started paying off debt. Within about 14 months, we were debt free and began to save for our home. Very early in our marriage, God spoke to my husband. He wanted us to commit never to go into debt again, for anything.

My husband is a public school teacher, and at this time I was working full-time for Christian Financial Concepts, founded by the late Larry Burkett. So, we had very average incomes.

Ways We Saved

We built our home with cashSo, we began to save to pay cash for our home. We owned a piece of land, and we began to make plans to build a home on it. Instead of continuing to rent an apartment, we decided to ask my grandparents if we could live in the upstairs of their home so we could save more money. We lived with them for a couple of years and were able to save tens of thousands of dollars toward our home.

We broke ground on our home in February 2000. We had decided to frame the entire house but finish the basement first and move into it while saving and finishing the remainder of the house. By doing it this way, the outside of the house would look complete, as we hoped not to annoy our neighbors with our lengthy building process.

We were able to move into the basement in August, 2001 (and we found out the day after we moved in that our first baby was on the way!).

We built our home with cash 2We did a lot of the work on our home ourselves, with much, much help from friends and family members. God perfectly orchestrated all of the circumstances of our financial path. It took us about 3 ½ years to complete our home and move upstairs, and we’ve continued to save for upgrades and finishing touches since we moved in.

What We Gained

God has been so faithful and so good to us through this entire journey, and hopefully we’ve encouraged others along the way. We lead a financial Bible study in our church periodically, and I’ve done budget counseling through the years also.

We continually praise the Lord for His faithfulness to us, and we wonder what our family would have been like had we continued on the widely traveled road of debt on which we began our marriage.

Watch more about our story and how we built our home debt-free in the video below:

Michelle Thomas lives with her husband Trevor and four small children in Gainesville, GA. She graduated as valedictorian from North Georgia College with a degree in Sociology. Michelle homeschools her children, handles the bookkeeping for their church, works part-time from home for Crown Financial Ministries and loves saving her family money.

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

16 Jul 2010   ·   191
Money Saving Mom

I Paid Cash! :: Medical Expenses With No Insurance

Testimony submitted by reader, Jody

About four years ago I began to have terrible pain in my lower abdomen. I had been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an “incurable disease” ten years prior to that, and knew that because of this, my chances for developing colon cancer were greatly increased. After much prayer I decided to consult with a doctor, despite the fact that I had no health insurance.

How I Saved

I was blessed to find a doctor who only charges forty dollars per visit if you are paying out of pocket. She spent more time talking with me than any doctor I have ever interacted with. She prescribed a CT scan to find out what was going on. Rather than just heading to the hospital to get this done, I went home and opened up the Yellow Pages.

I found about four or five facilities that did the CT scan procedure and called to find out how much they would charge me. The prices varied from over $1000 to about $600. When I told the place that was going to charge $600 that I would be paying cash, they reduced the price to $500.

I made an appointment to have the scan done with them. Then the morning of the procedure my brother suggested that I call and ask, “If I pay the cash today when I come in, how much will you charge me?”

I was really embarrassed to make that call. I honestly did not want to. But I did it and instead of them laughing at me, they reduced the bill by another $100!

Hooray! They even seemed rather amazed when I handed over the money that day.

What I Learned

  • Even though I am a patient, I am still a consumer and should shop around.
  • Medical facilities spend a lot of time and money trying to get people to pay their bills. You will save them that hassle by paying up front.
  • It never hurts to ask!

What I Gained

I waited for the results and was very relieved to find that the pain was not caused by a tumor, but an ovarian cyst, which eventually went away.

I am so thankful for the wisdom and guidance that the Lord has given me as He has led me through this illness. It has been quite a journey, and I have definitely received more than a bit of scorn for my choice not to carry insurance — especially considering my condition. For now, I do not believe that that is a burden that He has called me to bear, so I am trusting Him and rejoicing in His faithfulness as He continues to heal me.*

Every year I have been getting better from this so-called “incurable disease”, and I rejoice at the words of the song by Joseph H. Gilmore:

“He leadeth me, Oh blessed thought! Oh words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whatever I do, wherever I be, Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me!
He leadeth me, he leadeth me, By his own hand he leadeth me:
His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand he leadeth me.”

I Paid Cash for Medical ExpensesPsalm 68:6 says, “God setteth the solitary in families”. He has truly done this with Jody by transplanting this Midwesterner to Texas to live with a family of nine and help with their home business.

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*Note from Crystal: While I completely respect Jody’s decision to not carry health insurance, my husband and I would strongly encourage you to prayerfully consider health insurance as a big priority in your budget. We’ve seen families whose finances have been destroyed by being hit with unexpected medical bills. We believe strongly in trusting in the Lord, but we also see carrying health insurance as being wise stewards of the resources God has given us.

Please note that comments which are discussing political views on healthcare, bashing other reader’s decisions or which are deemed to be inappropriate will be deleted. Let’s keep the discussion cordial and focused on the topic at hand.

15 Jul 2010   ·   154

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Don’t Waste

“Waste not, want not.” We’ve all heard the phrase, but are we following it? Purposing to not waste food is a simple thing, but it can make a big difference in our grocery budget. Here are a few ideas for eliminating waste:

1. Make the Most of What You Have

Back when my husband was in law school, we often only had $17 to $20 to spend on groceries for an entire week (all 21 meals). I quickly learned that creativity was a poor cook’s best friend.

I usually stocked up on mark-downs, loss-leaders and the rock-bottom deals and then concocted the best menu I could based upon these. I rarely ever followed a recipe exactly as written, because we usually didn’t have all the ingredients and couldn’t afford to buy them. But I discovered you don’t always have to follow a recipe perfectly in order to get a fabulous end result!

AllRecipes is a great resource if you’re working with an odd assortment of ingredients. You can plug in what ingredients you have and don’t have and it will pull up recipes you can make. You also can find lots of great substitution ideas online, such as at these sites: Emergency Kitchen Substitutions and Ingredient Substitutions.

2. Repurpose Leftovers

Instead of pitching those leftover mashed potatoes or vegetables, why not repurpose them? Once again, AllRecipes is a great resource. There are also some excellent ideas in these articles: How to Turn Leftovers Into Scrumptious Meals, Creative Uses for Leftovers and Leftover Recipe Ideas.

3. Use Up the Last of the Bottle

My mom taught me never to throw out a bottle of anything unless you’ve used up the last drop. When the bottle of ketchup or salad dressing or laundry detergent is almost empty, add some water, put the lid back on, and shake it up to get the last remains cleaned out of the bottle and stretch it just a wee bit longer. It’s a small little thing, but the little things can add up to make significant differences.

4. Use Half the Recommended Amount

Did you know that you can get by with using a whole lot less than the recommended amount of shampoo, laundry detergent and so forth? Challenge yourself to try it and see how little you can get by with using without noticing any difference.

Want to do something really radical and inexpensive? Try the No Shampoo Experiment. I’ve not gotten that brave yet, but I have friends who have done it with success.

Put a rubber band around the neck of pump-style soap dispensers to limit the amount of soap dispensed per pump. — 40 Practical Tips for an Ordinary Rubber Band

What simple things have you implemented in your home to eliminate waste? I’d love to hear your ideas to possibly try!

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