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19 Apr 2010   ·   134
Money Saving Mom

Dealing With Toy Overload – Part 1

When you come to our home, you might notice one thing right off: it’s bare. We don’t have many knick-knacks, we don’t have piles, and we have white walls.

It might seem utilitarian to some and extremely bland to others, but it’s the way we prefer to live. It saves us time because we don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for misplaced items under heaps of clutter. It saves us energy because we don’t have a lot of extra things to pick up or dust. And it saves us money because we’re content with keeping it simple.

Even though we have three young children, you won’t see many toys at our house. This is not because they are all stuffed in some closet or strewn about in a toy room. It’s because we just plain don’t have very many toys.

You see, when we got married and had our first child, we were living in a tiny basement apartment. Space was scarce so we had no choice but to stick to the basics. If it wasn’t essential, we couldn’t keep it because there wasn’t any room.

We grew to love living the minimalistic life and found that it made things so much easier to keep picked up and clean that we opted to continue living like this–even when we moved to a larger home. We figured at some point, our children would want to have more toys but we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.

Well, so far, we’ve found that our girls really don’t need many toys. In fact, they are perfectly happy with a few quality, versatile toys. They’d much rather play with cardboard boxes or build tents with old sheets, folding chairs and couch pillows than have the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos. The few bells-and-whistle toys we’ve had in the last couple of years served to entertain for a short while and then were abandoned for Legos, puzzles and creative play.

Tomorrow I’ll share some ways we’ve found to keep toys simple, organized and pared down at our house–including ideas for dealing with well-meaning relatives who are adding to the toy overload at your house.

19 Apr 2010   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

I’ve been lax in posting our menus recently so I thought it was high time I shared again–lest you wonder if we’re actually eating here!

Cooking ahead on the Freezer Cooking Days makes menu-planning such a snap. And meal preparation is even easier. In fact, I rarely spend more than 15 minutes total getting our meals together–and that often includes making homemade rolls!

So here’s what’s planned in the way of meals at our house this week:

BREAKFASTS

English Muffins, Yogurt, Fruit
Cereal x 3
Pancakes, Yogurt, Fruit
Orange/Apple/Carrot Juice, Toast

LUNCHES

Spinach Casserole, Fruit
Steamed Veggies over Noodles, Apple Slices
PB&J, Peas, Oranges
Leftovers x 2
Annie’s Mac & Cheese, Applesauce, Peas
Mixed Green Salad with Hard-Boiled Eggs, Chicken Strips, Tomatoes, & Avacados

SNACKS

Fruit
Ice Cream
Cereal
Yogurt

DINNERS

Deer Roast (from my brother-in-law), Sweet Potatoes, Homemade Rolls, Fruit
Southwest Roll-Ups (from the freezer), Rice, Peas and Carrots, Salad
Chicken Spaghetti (from the freezer), Homemade Rolls, Grapefruit, Broccoli
Grilled & Ready Chicken, Brown Rice, Salad, Fruit
Waffles, Eggs, Bacon, Hashbrowns, Juice
Dinner with Family
Dinner Out

19 Apr 2010   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Living Organized: Proven Steps for a Clutter-Free and Beautiful Home (free ebook)

I was really excited to see this ebook available for free. Download a free copy of Living Organized: Proven Steps for a Clutter-Free and Beautiful Home by Sandra Felton.

This ebook is specifically for Kindles, but you can go here to download a free application which enables you to read Kindle ebooks on your PC.

Thanks, Jessica!

17 Apr 2010   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Why it pays to watch the register

Our garage sale is finally over with and all together we made around $1000 total from the sale (including what my siblings and parents made). We ran a “Fill a Bag For a Buck” sale this morning and got rid of most of the rest of the stuff. My house is much cleaner and clutter-free and lots of people came and got great bargains!

We ran to the store last night since they were having a 50% off Kellogg’s cereal sale on Friday and Saturday. Here’s what we came home with:

2 bottles of 7-Up — on sale for $1 — free after $1/1 7-Up coupon

1 box of Snuggle — on sale for $3.49, used $3/1 coupon — $0.49 after coupon

1 package of ChipsAhoy — free after Facebook coupon

2 blocks of cheese — $1.98 each (not a great price, but I needed them and wasn’t willing to drive to Aldi just to save $0.75!)

1 bag of SunChips — free after Facebook coupon

3 bags of Tyson Grilled & Ready Chicken — used 3 free product coupons that Tyson sent to me (I’m doing a review/giveaway soon so they sent me some coupons to try it out. You’ll have a chance to win some, too!)

4 boxes of Kellogg’s cereal — on sale for $1.99 to $2.24 each — used $1/1 coupons — $0.99 to $1.24 each after coupons

1 jar Skippy Natural peanut butter — on sale for $1.79, used $0.50/1 coupon (doubled) — $0.79 after coupon

2 Avacados — $1 each

5 containers of Yoplait Greek yogurt — $0.99 each, used 1 free product coupon and 4 $0.45/1 coupons (doubled) — free and $0.09 each (A generous reader received these and sent them to me!)

12 bags of frozen veggies — on sale for $1 each

1 box of Mom’s Best Naturals cereal — on sale for $1.99, used $0.75/1 coupon (“doubled” to $1) –$0.99 after coupon

I also had $4.50 in catalinas from my last shopping trip so after coupons and catalinas, my total was $25.32!

When the cashier was scanning my coupons, he only scanned two of the Tyson coupons. Because I was double-checking the screen–like I try to always do–I noticed this and politely asked if he’d scanned all three coupons.

He said he had, so I again graciously but firmly re-iterated that I only saw two taken off. He again said he’d already taken it off, however, because he could see I was politely persistent (!), he went and looked. Sure enough, he’d only taken off two bags, not three.

Because I was watching the register, I caught a mistake which saved me $7.49! Yes, it pays to double-check the cashier and to politely ask if you think there might be a mistake.

In addition to the shopping trip shown above, Jesse stopped at the store and got milk, toilet paper and ice cream (the essentials, you know!) earlier in the week. So we spent about $35 on groceries total for the week.

______________________

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 Apr 2010   ·  
Money Saving Mom

Coming Next Week on MoneySavingMom.com

Amy, Joy and I have been working hard behind-the-scenes tweaking things on this site and brainstorming how to make MoneySavingMom.com a more user-friendly and helpful blog. We have lots of ideas for new features and ways to improve how things currently are. However, we want your input in this as well. As, after all, YOU are the reason this blog exists.

So, we put together a simple reader survey that I’ll be asking you to take a minute to fill out next week. The survey will go live on Tuesday and you won’t want to miss it because every person who fills it out will be entered to win a $500 Visa gift card! Come back next Tuesday for more details.

Also, I’m running a bit behind on posting here due to the busyness of our garage sale this weekend. So a few posts which were planned to run this week are getting bumped to next week. Since I know some of you have been waiting expectantly on these posts, I didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten. So here’s a few subjects I’m tentatively planning to cover next week:

::The final two installments of the Clear Out the Clutter Challenge (including pictures of my girls’ room which will make it clear once and for all that I am very far from perfect!)

::Dealing with Toy Overload

::How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

::Turning Your Clutter Into Cash

::Four Methods for Coupon Organization

::And finally, I’ll be sharing Part 4 of our Saving 100% Down for Our First Home

We’re also launching a brand-new coupon database feature on our site which I’m very excited about! More details on that early next week.

And, of course, there will be giveaways, freebies, high-value coupons, links of interests, and whatever else strikes my fancy to share here. Because you know that I’m too much of an off-the-cuff blogger to stick to a strict blogging regimen. That would just be boring.

16 Apr 2010   ·   72

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: 10 Ways to Get Coupons for Free

Psst! Want to cut your grocery bill? Be sure to check out these 10 easy ways to cut your grocery bill by $50 this week!

Missed the first posts in this series? Read them here.

Maybe after last week’s post on why I believe everyone should use coupons, you’re seriously considering trying out this whole couponing phenomenon. If so, your next question is likely: where do I get coupons?

Well, the obvious answer is that you can get coupons from your local Sunday paper. That’s usually the first thing most people do when they are jumping on the couponing bandwagon. If you already get the Sunday paper and plan to continue doing so, then you’ve got a ready supply of coupons to get started with.

If you don’t already get the paper, I suggest waiting to subscribe until you’ve pursued other alternatives. You see, there are dozens of ways to get coupons for free. In fact, I never pay for coupons. We don’t have a Sunday paper subscription and I don’t order coupons from coupon-clipping services or eBay. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but I’ve found that it’s not necessary because I have a pretty much unending supply of free coupons!

How do you get free coupons? Well, you just start thinking outside the box! Here are 10 ideas to get you started:

1. Ask friends, relatives and co-workers for their extra coupon inserts

Start asking around and see if anyone you know already gets the Sunday paper and doesn’t use the coupons from it.  You might be surprised at how many coupon inserts just get thrown out because people don’t want to mess with them.

2. Stop by Starbucks or McDonald’s on Sunday afternoons

Many people purchase Sunday papers, read them at Starbucks, McDonald’s and other similar venues, and then leave them. Some of my friends stop by a few Starbucks or McDonald’s locations on Sunday afternoons and are able to pick up at least 3-5 complete coupon inserts from extra newspapers left behind by customers.

Know someone who works at restaurants like this? They might be able to collect the leftover coupon inserts and give them to you later in the week. In addition, some gas stations will also give you their extra unsold Sunday newspapers on Sunday evening or Monday morning. It never hurts to ask.

3. Make friends with someone who delivers newspapers

Not all areas allow this, but some people who delivery Sunday newspapers are able to pass on any leftover newspapers and coupon inserts to other people. Or you might be able to find the recycling center they drop them off at and be able to obtain them there.

4. Trade coupons

Trading coupons is a great way to get coupons you need in exchange for giving away coupons you don’t need. For instance, if you have a dog and don’t have children in diapers and I have children in diapers and don’t have a dog, we could trade diaper and dog food coupons.

You can trade coupons with people in your own area or you can join coupon trading forums online and trade with people from all over the country. While it will cost you postage, it’s often better to trade online since different regions get different coupons. So trading with people from other states allows you to diversify your coupon portfolio.

Hot Coupon World has some very active coupon trading forums, if you’re interested in trying this out.

5. Join Coupon Trains

Here’s a simple explanation of what a coupon train is from an article at Suite 101:

Before the internet, people wanting to save money with coupons would turn to joining or forming a coupon train. A train is maintained by one person who sends an envelope of coupons through postal mail. The package contains a mailing list, and as one person takes and adds coupons to the envelope, it is mailed to the next coupon train recipient on the mailing list.

Coupon trains allow individuals between cities, or even across states and provinces, to organize and share coupons. By establishing a group, the coupon train leverages each person’s coupon clipping power to share coupons with a larger audience. Read the full article.

Interested in joining a Coupon Train? Hot Coupon World has a very active forum with Coupon Trains you can participate in.

6. Check your local library

Pretty much all libraries receive newspaper subscriptions. Often, they will allow you to have the coupon inserts from their Sunday papers if you just ask.

7. Dumpster Dive

Dumpster diving for coupons doesn’t have to be as “ew!” as it sounds. Let me tell you, it really works! In fact, this is one of my biggest “secrets” for obtaining the majority of my coupons. I hit some very clean newspaper recycling bins on my way home from the store every few weeks and in 15 minutes, I can usually salvage 10-15 coupon inserts!

8. Pick up coupons at the store

Keep your eyes peeled at the store and pick up any coupons you find on tearpads or in the blinking dispensers. If there are plenty of extras, snag multiple copies of these. A lot of times, this very item will be on an exceptional sale just a few weeks later and you’ll be more than glad you picked up that handful of coupons!

9. Print coupons out online

If your store accepts printable coupons, this can be a great source of coupons which cost little more than your printer ink and paper. And oftentimes, the coupons available to print online are much higher than what you’ll find in the newspaper inserts.

I usually highlight the best printable coupons on my blog as they become available. But you can also do a search for the product name plus “printable coupon” online and it will often bring up many different coupons.

10. Write and ask for coupons

What products do you regularly use and love but rarely can find good coupons for? Write to the manufacturer, tell them how much you like their product and politely request that they send you any coupons they have available (don’t forget to include your mailing address, too!).

Usually, it only takes a few minutes to do so through a company’s contact form and you’ll very likely get some sort of coupons just for asking. In many cases, you’ll receive high-value coupons or even free product coupons!

While I’ve not done this a lot, I’ve had great success in writing to a few companies when there was a problem with a product I purchased. Find more ideas on how to contact companies for coupons here and find an alphabetical list of company contact form links here. Just for fun, you’ll also want to check out The $39 Experiment.

What are your best sources for obtaining coupons for free? Tell us in the comments section.

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
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16 Apr 2010   ·   92
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Extending the life of fresh produce?

Today’s question comes from Shannon:

I love fresh produce. I especially love getting it on sale. However, I can’t stock up for a month because it will go bad. How can I extend the life of my fresh produce? -Shannon

I’ve found that certain fruits–such as apples and citrus fruits–can keep in the refrigerator for up to 3-6 weeks. So when I find a good deal on a quality batch, I’ll often buy enough to last for the next two to four weeks.

Other fruits and vegetables don’t fare so well, but I often freeze those I’m able to buy them on a great sale. Chopped onions and green peppers freeze well and can be used in soups, stews, and casseroles once thawed. You can see my method for freezing tomatoes here.

Bananas and berries are exceptional when frozen and used in smoothies. I also often use frozen bananas in Banana Bread or muffins.

How do you extend the life of your fresh produce? Tell us about it in the comments.

Have a question you’d like me to pose for our weekly Ask the Readers feature? Email it to me and I’ll be glad to consider doing so.

15 Apr 2010   ·   28
Money Saving Mom

Are Coupons Just for Crazy People?

As you well know, I believe everyone should use coupons in some context. Well, if you’re still skeptical, Kris from Cheap Healthy Good has written an excellent article which you must go read. Here’s a snippet:

When you think of couponing, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Is it GoGurt? Is it a planet-sized binder and never-ending stack of circulars? Is it a crazy cat lady, forever in search of the single slip of paper that will net her 14 free packets of McCormick fajita seasoning?

It’s understandable. Long stereotyped as the favorite pastime of bargain-happy grandmas and moms of 47, clipping coupons gets a pretty bad rap. Many believe it gets you minimal deals on junky food. I didn’t touch coupons for years, figuring the time it took to collect them was disproportionate to the amount of money they saved.

Now I know better. While I still buy groceries primarily based on the circular, I’ve come to realize that a simple, no-frills approach to couponing nets good money for little time investment. I don’t freak out, I don’t buy rainbow-colored faux food, and I save a couple hundred bucks each year. Not too shabby.

Read the full article.

photo credit: Always Breaking

15 Apr 2010   ·   52
Money Saving Mom

Baby Shower Gifts on a Budget

Amiyrah posted some great ideas for frugal baby shower gifts yesterday. I especially loved her idea of giving service gifts. They cost nothing and are so appreciated–believe me, I know!

If you’re wondering what I’d suggest you get for a new mom, well, you can check out my list of must-have essentials for baby. Yes, it’s quite short. But really? How much does a baby need. Love and nurturing is much more important than things–at least in my view.

Photo credit: izadd

14 Apr 2010   ·   84
Money Saving Mom

Giving on a Small Budget

Not only can using coupons significantly lower your grocery bills each week, they can also allow you to donate to those who are needy–even when you’re strapped for cash yourself.

See a real-life example of this over at Living the Domestic Life. Like Amy encourages in her post, if you’re already taking the effort to match coupons and sales, why not just buy a few extra of things as you’re able in order to donate them to others?

Have you blessed someone with your coupon freebies recently? If so, tell us about it in the comments. I’d love to hear!

See more ideas for giving on a small budget here.

photo credit: Mindful One

14 Apr 2010   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins

Have a craving for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins but you’re out of pumpkin?

Never fear! The Frugal Girl has re-created my recipe using, yes, sweet potatoes. Plus, she reduced the oil in the recipe and used some whole-wheat flour. See the recipe here (and there’s even a snazzy printable version available).

Her pictures of the end result look delicious–and she promises me they are, too!

Photo used with permission from The Frugal Girl.com.

13 Apr 2010   ·   27
Money Saving Mom

The $20 Bill Challenge

Jessica from Life As I See It emailed me about a challenge she is doing with her husband this year:

Several weeks ago I was thinking about ways to earn a bit of extra money and I had an idea – what if Paul and I each started with a small amount of money and used it to make even more money over the course of a year.

From this idea our Twenty Dollar Bill Challenge was born.

The challenge is simply this – we each get one $20 bill and at the end of the year the person who has made the most money wins.

Wins what we haven’t yet decided. But the satisfaction of beating the other person would be pretty great on its own. We’re each others biggest cheerleaders but we enjoy a good challenge between us too.

We’ve made a few simple rules to keep ourselves on target:

– We are able to sell personal items but we’ll still check with each other to make sure the other person doesn’t mind the item that’s being sold.
– We can’t ‘borrow’ money to invest in another project if our current funds are all tied up in a current project.

Those are the simple rules we have made up – if other issues arise along the way we’ll sit down and see if we need to add to the rules, but the point of this is to challenge ourselves to think outside the box and see if we can keep investing money in projects and make a larger return.

Jessica and Paul have already invested their money in some pretty creative ways. Read more here.

Have you ever held a challenge related to money in your home or with your friends? I’d love to hear more about it!

13 Apr 2010   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

Clear Out the Clutter: The Master Bedroom

Things are slowly taking shape for our garage sale this weekend and my pile of things to get rid of has grown to a massive size. I think my stuff breeds behind closed doors or something because I really and truly have no idea how I can cull together such a huge garage sale pile every year–especially since I’m a minimalist!

Since I didn’t get this posted last night as planned, I’ll likely be posting two Clear Out the Clutter Assignments today. I hope I don’t overwhelm you! Just remember that you don’t have to do it all today. Take a week per room, if you need to.

Clear Out the Clutter Assignment #3

::Go through your Master Bedroom (including the closet and dressers) and ruthlessly clear out any and all clutter and unnecessary items you find. Consider passing on extra clothing to friends or donate it to someone in need. Or, add it to your garage sale pile!

::Tally up the approximate amount of items you’re getting rid of and input it into the Items Decluttered Tally Form in order to be entered to win some fun prizes!

What I Accomplished

I told you a few days ago that I don’t have a computer desk, but I do use my top dresser drawer for extra storage. And sometimes, it gets a little out of hand. Like today:

(Um, and for the record, I have no idea how that red froggie ended up in my dresser; it was supposed to be in one of the garage sale boxes!)

There, much better!

My husband also went through his clothes–without even being prompted to do so!–and gave me a big pile of them to get rid of. I still need to go through my clothes and see if there are any that I haven’t worn in awhile. Although, since I only have a few outfits to begin with, it’s not that big of a chore!

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Are you blogging about your Clear Out the Clutter accomplishments and progress? If so, leave your direct link to your blog post below (with pictures, if possible!) so we can visit your blog, cheer you on and be inspired!

12 Apr 2010   ·   57
Money Saving Mom

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Clutter

As we’re clearing our homes of clutter, here are five questions to ask yourself:

1) Do I Need This Item?

Need is the keyword here. Sometimes it’s hard to look at our own stuff objectively, but it’s a really good exercise to do so.

If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not you truly need something, step back and think, “Could I live without this? Is my survival dependent upon this item?”

I’m not saying that you can only have things you need in your home. Flowers are not a need, but I enjoy them so I buy them on occasion. But once you can discern between needs and wants, it helps you to be much more free to streamline what items you keep in your home.

2) Do I Use This Item on a Regular Basis?

As you’re going through your home, ask yourself: “How often do I use this item?” If the answer is less than a few times per year, it’s high time you consider getting rid of it. You can always borrow it from someone if you need to use it once a year or so.

There’s no point in having stuff take up space in our home if we’re not using it on a regular basis.

3) Do I Like This Item?

Sometimes I think we keep junk around our home just because we always have. It becomes a “part” of our home without us even realizing it.

If you don’t need an item, you don’t use it on a regular basis and you don’t like it, what on earth are you hanging onto it for? Pitch it and be free from excess stuff.

4) Is This Item Taking Up Space I Don’t Have?

If you’re short on space, you especially need to be ruthless about clutter, otherwise it will greatly hamper your productivity. Either you control the clutter or the clutter controls you.

5) Could I Bless Someone Else With This Item?

I find so much joy in blessing others with things I don’t need or use. Now, please don’t go dump off ten bags of junk at your friend’s house. They probably won’t see that as a “blessing”! However, if you have something  that someone else could find more use out of, ask them if they’d be interested in having it.

photo credit: Lori Greig

10 Apr 2010   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Strawberries and whipped cream!

I didn’t get a picture of all our grocery purchases this week,  but I spent around $35 at Aldi and the health food store.I splurged on a beautiful bouquet of flowers priced at $3.99 at Aldi because I had a little extra grocery money. I love to buy flowers on occasion; they just spruce up the whole house it seems!

My mom also found strawberries at a local store priced at $0.88 each! The cheapest I’ve ever seen strawberries here was $0.99 at Aldi, so I was pretty stoked about $0.88 strawberries! We ended up getting six containers of them and I’m going to freeze whatever we can’t eat in the next few days.

After the strawberry bargain, I was especially excited to discover organic whipping cream marked down to $1.99 at the health food store. After my coupon, it was only $0.99 each–what a deal!

Guess what I’m making this weekend? Whole-Wheat Strawberry Shortcake. Yum!

______________________

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.