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10 Jan 2011   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Now Available: Free Customizable Chore Charts and Daily Cleaning Lists

Thanks to the efforts of Joy from FiveJs.com, we now are offering free customizable Chore Charts and Daily Cleaning Lists. You can customize all the fields with chores for your children or cleaning tasks for yourself and then save and print them.

Download the free customizable Chore Chart Pack here and the free customizable Daily Cleaning Lists here.

8 Jan 2011   ·   9
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

I ended up not using any coupons this week, but I got some great deals by shopping the markdowns. Here were my grocery purchases:

Health Food Store Shopping Trip #1: Spent $12.90 — see the complete price breakdown and details of this shopping trip.

Aldi Shopping Trip: Spent $16.79 — see the complete details and price breakdowns of this shopping trip.

Health Food Store Shopping Trip #2: Spent $19.35 — see the complete details and price breakdown of this shopping trip.

Would you like to know what the best deals and coupon match-ups are for your local stores? Be sure to check out the Store Deals section of our site where we post the best deals and coupon match-ups each week for over 100 different stores across the country. You can sign up to receive the top deals in your email inbox each week as soon as they are posted!

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.

7 Jan 2011   ·   101
Money Saving Mom

Monthly Financial Update

It’s a new year and if you’ve not done so yet, I’d highly encourage you to sit down and set some financial goals for 2011. It’s amazing the momentum you can receive from having specific, written goals.

Here’s our list, continued over from the middle of last year. We tweaked it a little bit because, after prayer, thought and research, we’ve set our next BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal). By the end of 2012, we’re hoping to have enough saved to purchased a piece of commercial real estate as investment and residual income.

1. Continue to give generously needs in our community and around the world. This is an ongoing goal that we’re making a priority every month, so we’re keeping it uncrossed off from the list.

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

3. Pay cash for a replacement for Old Blue Van.

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room.

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls.

6. Fully fund our IRAs.

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

8. Fund our children’s educational savings.

9. Double our Emergency Fund Savings (Instead of having around six month’s worth of expenses set aside, we’re planning to set aside a year’s worth of expenses.)

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

We’d love to hear about your recent financial goals and successes! You can post about it on your blog and leave your link in the comments. Or, just share about your progress/goals in the comments. Let’s all keep each other accountable to be better stewards of our resources!

7 Jan 2011   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: Japanese Language School

We paid cash!

A testimony from Melissa

My husband was born in Japan and only came to the U.S. 12 years ago. His entire family is still in Japan, so it was important to us that our children learn Japanese.

Our first child was born six years ago, and though my husband spoke to him in Japanese, my son only picked up bits and pieces because I don’t know the language, so my son couldn’t hear real conversation.

The Background

We discovered a Japanese Montessori Language school close to our home, but it came with a hefty price tag — $750 for half-day Japanese instruction and $970 for half-day Japanese instruction and half-day English instruction.

At the same time, my husband was in graduate school and making little-to-no money monthly. We were living entirely off my teaching salary, but it was very important to us that my son learn Japanese so he could communicate with his relatives.

How We Did It

Here is how we paid for three years of Japanese language school (we estimated this cost us $27,000 over the three years):

  • Have only one car. I drove the car, and my husband took public transportation.
  • Limit eating out. We try to spend less than $100 a month on eating out.
  • Cook in bulk. This eliminates the need to eat out after a crazy day and also helps to lower the grocery bill.
  • Take on additional work opportunities. Throughout the three years, I occasionally took on extra work at the school I taught at to make some more money.
  • Subscribe to basic cable. We only had the cable that was necessary to get in regular broadcast channels.
  • Have date night at home. We couldn’t afford the cost of a babysitter and going out, so we often had a date night at home and rented a movie and ate take out. When we did go out on a date (rarely), my mom watched the kids for free.
  • Buy and keep a minimal wardrobe. Many of our clothes come from thrift shops or consignments stores. If I did buy new for work, it was always at a steep discount.
  • Keep electronic luxuries to a minimum. We only have one cell phone that we buy minutes for when we need it. We don’t have iPods, mp3 players or any other modern electronic gadgets. A digital camera is about as advanced as we get technologically.
  • Pack lunches. My husband and I both packed our lunches every day so we wouldn’t be tempted to eat out at work.

The $27,000 we invested in my son’s language development had a hefty price tag. We still rent and probably will for several more years. However, it is a sacrifice we are willing to make so our children can communicate with their grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins in Japan.

In another year we will be paying for my daughter to attend the same school, but in our opinion, it is money well spent.

Melissa is a stay-at-home mom to three children ages 6, 2 and 6 months. She and her husband are now saving for their next child to attend Japanese school. She blogs at Mom’s Plans and Dining Out Challenge.

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

7 Jan 2011   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

From the Email Bag: Using Coupons Changed Our Lives

I get so many wonderful, encouraging emails from many of you. It’s always inspiring to hear your stories of living frugally and how it has made a difference in your lives.

I just thought I would share this story from Kim in hopes it might encourage and inspire you as it did me:

2009 was a tough year for my family. While we had planned financially for the birth of my son, we hadn’t planned on complications during pregnancy that resulted in my two-month hospitalization away from our home town, extensive medical bills and NICU stay and a 180-mile daily round trip commute for my husband between home, work and the hospital.

Just as we got baby healthy and home, we had another blow: My husband was laid off with no notice right as I was scheduled to go back to work from maternity leave. He qualified for unemployment, but the difference in income from his paycheck was a big one, and we now had lots of expenses from this latest addition to our family.

That was the day I first did a Google search for “coupons” in attempt to find ideas to help stretch our budget and our lives changed dramatically. I always thought because I have a “good” job, that I didn’t need to use coupons because I wasn’t in dire straights. Little did I know that coupons are not only used by those in many different income brackets, but that there is enormous savings potential if you just become an informed shopper.

The $20-$30 a week I was hoping to save quickly turned in hundreds of dollars a month and more. Our family not only learned to survive on less – but to thrive on it. We were able to afford for my husband to be a stay-at-home dad for a year to our preemie son, giving our little guy a chance to get bigger and stronger with lots of personal attention from dad.

We were also surprisingly able to live a more comfortable lifestyle. Even while watching our spending, we were still able to buy everything we needed, and still had room in our budget for growing our savings, starting college funds for the kids and even for extras like vacations. Using coupons and being smart about our shopping has helped our family be in better financial situation than ever before, and earlier this year, we were even able to pay $5000 cash for a new roof for our house.

Steinbeck Roof

My husband is back to work, and my son is now strong and healthy, but we’re still continuing our savings efforts for the better of our family. My husband and I feel it is important to share our good fortune, and our savings efforts have enabled us to be able to generously share with others. We love taking large care packages of our deals to family and friends, and we have also been able to make regular donations to our children’s school, the local food pantry and more.

We’ve had so many people ask us for advice and information, we have even started a blog to share local deals with our own community. It’s great hearing from readers who are now saving money and able to better make ends meet because of information we shared.

-Kim from 2 Kids and a Coupon

6 Jan 2011   ·   67
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Shopping Trips: Aldi and the health food store

Today, Kaitlynn and I had a little outing to the health food store and Aldi. I wasn’t planning to go to the health food store since I’d already gone on Tuesday, but Kaitlynn loves to go there (they have little children’s carts and samples!) and asked if we could please go, so we stopped by. And I was so glad I did because I found some great deals!

Health Food Store Shopping Trip:

3 loves of Rudi’s Organic Bread — marked down $0.99 each

1 bag of Rudi’s Organic Hot Dog Buns — marked down to $0.99

3 bags of Rudi’s Organic Bagels — marked down to $0.99 each

1/2 gallon of organic milk — marked down to $2.99

2 4-packs of priobiotic drinks — marked down to $0.99 per pack

1 bag of avocados — marked down to $0.99

1 bag of sweet potatoes — marked down to $0.59

2 bags of oranges — marked down to $0.99

2 bags of apples — marked down to $0.99

Spent $19.35

Aldi Shopping Trip:

1/2 gallon of orange juice — $1.79

2 cans of refried beans — $0.69 each

1 dozen eggs — $1.16

1 bag dried cranberries — $1.39

1 bag oranges — $1.49

2 bags baby carrots — $0.99 each

Tortillas — $0.99

2 packages of cheese — $1.79 each

Lemon Juice — $1.89

Spent: $16.79

6 Jan 2011   ·   106
These Cinnamon Glazed Scones will be the BEST you've ever tasted -- flaky, soft and beautifully delicious!

Glazed Cinnamon Scones Recipe

These Cinnamon Glazed Scones will be the BEST you've ever tasted -- flaky, soft and beautifully delicious!

When Angela from The Coupon Project emailed me the link to her Cinnamon Scone Recipe, I immediately knew I wanted to try it! And I knew it would be the perfect addition to our Christmas Brunch.

While Kaitlynn and Silas were taking their afternoon naps, Kathrynne and I had fun whipping these up. She’s getting old enough to really be a help in the kitchen and it’s fun to have her work alongside me — and end up actually getting more done, than just having extra messes to clean up! 🙂

After mixing up the scone ingredients (see below), roll these out to about half an inch thick and eight inches in circumference. There’s no need to do it perfect; I believe the beauty of homemade scones is that each one has a little bit of personality!

Put onto a greased baking sheet. Or, get smarter than me and roll it out on the greased baking sheet so you don’t have to mess with the transfer! Slice like a pizza into eight pieces (or more, if you prefer smaller scones).

Brush with beaten egg whites, sprinkle with cinnamon and turbinado and bake.

Once baked, drizzle with the glaze and serve. These are one of the best scones I’ve ever tasted — flaky, soft and beautifully delicious!

Do you want to take better control of your grocery budget? If so, you’ll want to read my newest eBook, 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget!

This eBook will give you all the tips, tricks, and practical advice you need to create a grocery budget tailored to your family’s needs that you can actually STICK to (because that’s the key!)

In this eBook, you’ll learn:

  1. How to create a grocery budget that fits your family’s needs and your finances!
  2. New systems to help you keep track of what you spend at the store!
  3. How to actually stick with your new budget and save money for years to come!
  4. Ways to save up to $50 off your grocery bill THIS WEEK by using the 10 simple strategies outlined in this eBook!

Read to get started? Just use the form below to sign up!

Need to overhaul your grocery budget?
I want to help! Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to my new eBook, 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget. Sign up now!
I want to help! Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to my new eBook, 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget. Sign up now!


5 Jan 2011   ·   78
Money Saving Mom

24 Books I Plan to Read in 2011

This year, instead of coming up with an entirely-too-ambitious list of books I want to read (like I did last year!), I decided to only pick 24 books I want to aim to read in 2011. I’ve broken my list down into a month-by-month basis to help keep me on better track.

Business and Financial Books I Plan to Read and Review This Year:

January — 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

February — Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

March — Becoming a Person of Influence

April — Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking

May — Life on the Wire: Avoid Burnout and Succeed in Work and Life

June — Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents

July — Have a New You by Friday: How to Accept Yourself, Boost Your Confidence & Change Your Life in 5 Days

August — Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t

September — America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money

October — Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

November — Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet

December — Personal Investing: The Missing Manual

Other Books I Plan to Read This Year:

January — Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment

February — Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

March — The Possibilities of Prayer

April — The Blessing of Boundaries

May — Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

June — Honey for a Child’s Heart

July — One With Christ

August — A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning

September — Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit

October — The Rose Conspiracy

November — Disciplines of a Godly Woman

December —Benjamin Rush: Signer of the Declaration of Independence

I plan to review the Business or Financial book of the month on my blog on the third Friday of each month and I’ll also give a little update in that post on the other book(s) I’ve read in the past month.

If you want to read more this month and could use some accountability, Jessica from LifeAsMom is hosting a Booking It In 2011 Challenge.

5 Jan 2011   ·   58
Money Saving Mom

Yesterday’s Shopping Trip: The health food store

I stopped by the health food store after a lunch date with my husband yesterday. I needed to get some more turbinado and just decided to buy it at the health food store, even though it’s more expensive, since a trip to the bulk foods store was not in the schedule this week.

I was excited to find some produce markdowns while I was there! And I also picked up a few cups of steel cut oats. Well, they said “Steel Cut Oat Groats”. Is that what I’m looking for, or did I get the totally wrong thing? (Yes, I’m clueless about steel cut oats, can you tell?!)

Here’s a price breakdown:

2 bags of grapefruit — marked down to $0.99 each

2 bags of organic pears — marked down to $0.99 each

1 tub of yogurt — marked down to $1.99

Organic Steel Cut Oat Groats ($1.29/lb.) — $0.88

Organic Turbinado — $5.19

Total spent: $12.90

The pears were getting pretty close to past their prime, but I couldn’t pass them up at $0.99 per bag for organic pears. I’m making pear sauce in crockpot with them today. Yum!

4 Jan 2011   ·   93
Money Saving Mom

Ask Jesse: Should we stop contributing to our 401K to pay off debt?

I was wondering what you thought about our decision not to start contributing to a 401k until we are out of debt. My husband and I are both early 30’s and while it scares me sometimes that we have not even started saving for retirement, I feel a stronger need to get out of debt first. We have a long way to go on our debt-free plan (four to five years), so I don’t know if we should try to do both at the same time, because it would slow the debt payoff. What would you do if you were in our shoes? Thanks for your advice! -Alysia

The question of continuing retirement investing while paying off debt or getting onto a better financial footing is a tough one. There are many opinions, but you specifically asked what we would do so that makes it much easier.

I started retirement investing about a year after graduating from law school. At the time, I was working for a government agency and was not eligible to contribute into the State’s retirement system, because I had not been working as a full time government employee long enough.

I had the opportunity to take advantage of a deferred payment plan, but elected to keep more of my paycheck to help us get our emergency fund established. Once we reached our $1000 emergency fund level, I cut up the credit card I was keeping from law school supposedly for “emergencies.” Having the same amount of cash that I had as a credit level made me feel a lot more free to get rid of the thing.

It was not until then that I sat down and began planning for retirement. Because we were in our late 20’s, I opted to only throw a couple hundred dollars at it monthly through my automatic investment program with the mutual fund provider. This allowed us to save more towards our short-term goals. I know Dave Ramsey may not approve, but that is what I did because it fit our budget and our plan.

When we started saving in earnest for our house, I stopped retirement savings and funneled everything to that savings goal. My thinking was that we are young and would much rather have a paid-for house now and catch up on our retirement savings later. However, if we didn’t have the blessing of a good income and low expenses and it was going to take us longer than five years to pay cash for a house, we likely would have tweaked our plan and saved for retirement while we were saving for a house.

So, to answer your question, yes, I would (and did!) stop retirement in the short-run to build momentum to meet short-term savings goals but only if this would put us in a better long-term financial situation.

If it is just saving for a vacation or a new car, forget about it. Nothing in the short-run, apart from paying cash for a house or paying off debt, would deter me from taking advantage of the Eighth Wonder of the World in my retirement account — compound interest!

Jesse Paine is a licensed attorney who owns his own law firm. He’s married to Crystal and is the numbers nerd of the MoneySavingMom.com team! If you have a question you’d like him to answer in a future column, you can submit it here.

The content of this column intended for informational use only and is not to be construed as providing legal, investing, accounting, or other professional advice. Your situation is factually specific and you should accordingly seek qualified professional counsel concerning your specific legal, investing or accounting needs.

4 Jan 2011   ·   4
Money Saving Mom

Four Free Goal-Setting Resources

If you’re working on setting goals for 2011, here are four free resources to aid you:

Simple Mom has a free PDF to help you Set Reachable Goals for 2011.

Two bloggers have teamed up to create the 3 in 30 Challenge, encouraging you to tackle three goals per month in 2011.

Ann Voskamp has a free printable 100 Days Calendar to help you finish a project or develop a new habit.

Brenda is hosting a year-long One Year to a {More} Organized Life Challenge on her blog. She’s embarking on a journey to organize her schedule, home and life and she’s putting together a program with weekly challenges, printable worksheets and more for herself and anyone who’d like to join her.

3 Jan 2011   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

5 Time Management Tips for Busy Families


Guest post by Jennifer from I Heart Organizing

1. Invest in a Great Daily Planner

My daily planner is my lifeline. It goes with me everywhere I go.

Color Coding Daily Planner

Planners have been around forever, but they are really the most genius way to keep it all together. Every paper that comes home from school with a date on it, instantly gets written in the planner.

What’s for lunch on Wednesday? It’s in the planner. What should I blog about on Monday? Oh yes, also in the planner. What night is garbage night? Family night? It’s all written down in the planner, and color-coded by category (i.e. blog post, meal plan, school event, etc.) When the planner is not physically attached to me in some way, it’s sitting on our counter to be viewed by anyone in the family.

If budgets are tight, with a little creative thinking, a spiral notebook could be transformed for anyone looking to adopt this idea.

2. Make Family Night a Priority

Family Night gets scheduled in each week at our house, just like an appointment.

Schedule Family Night

Family comes first and with the hustle and bustle of all things entertainment, family functions, school activities and sporting events, important family bonding can quickly become obsolete. Making sure to pen it in each week and learning to say, “No” to other obligations that may come up on the same night, is extremely important to us spending quality time together on a weekly basis.

3. Solve the Schedule Equation

On top of tossing all of our important schedules and appointments into the planner, we quickly found that it was still easy for us to get lost in our nightly routine. A quick video game or blog post writeup could simply turn into hours of lost time.

Trying to juggle homework, making dinner, baths, one-on-one time, story time and blogging was definitely a lot to manage without any type of direction. I knew I had to figure it all out, in order to completely maximize our evenings together (not to mention our super speedy wake-up-and-get-on-the-bus mornings!)

Something I found incredibly easy to do, was to break out the day in half-hour increments and plan out a “typical” day in our life.

Daily Schedule

Just looking at all the times slots paired up with all the things that I was dreaming of accomplishing in any given day was great for ensuring we get time to do all the things that matter, from time with our little ones to personal time on our hobbies or interests. I popped my visual breakdown right on the side of the fridge, because it’s great to have a time management reference point if I ever feel like we are getting a little lost.

I was beyond surprised that when the day was broken out there was so much time in the day that I then instantly wondered how I had been wasting it away in the past! Of course not every day is laid out perfectly as there is such a thing called life, but having a plan for our days has definitely proven to keep our daily goals in check and ease in our time management prioritization.

4. Create a Meal Plan

A very obvious time saver for us is meal planning. We have a meal plan/shopping list that hangs inside our pantry door, ensuring that when something runs out, we can it right to the list. Using the coupons that we have clipped along with trying at least one new recipe each week, we plan out our weekly meals before we head off to the grocery store.

Meal Planning

Only spending time shopping for what we need, saving some money not buying what we don’t need and then doing as much of the preparation ahead of time means all we need to do is peek at the planner each day and make whatever is on the list!

5. Set Up a Dump Zone

We use a memo station to stash kid’s papers that we get home throughout the week, along with all of our mail.

Sorting Station

Each Sunday I take a quick 10-15 minutes and recycle or file all the papers in each slot. We also have a dump basket with the same philosophy.

Dump Basket

Since piles can form so quickly, and as much as I believe in the “return things right where you found them” idea, it’s not always practical. Keeping one basket or bin dedicated to dumping our “stuff” each week, is easy to stash away when company comes, and is gone through at least once a week to return items to their home. This is also a great task for little ones looking for ways to become more helpful around the abode!

Jennifer is currently a stay at home mom, that not only cares for her own children {three uber beautiful little boys}, but also has the opportunity to spend her days with a couple other little ones as well, as a daycare mom. She is also currently working to start up an in-home organizing business, manage an organizing blog {where she talks about things like managing cleaning schedules and creating easy ways for kids to get organized} and working on expanding an Etsy shop as well.

3 Jan 2011   ·   47
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

Thank you for all the Crockpot Oatmeal tips and recipes; I can’t wait to try some of them! Now I just have to figure out where to procure steel cut oats. (Yes, believe it or not, I’ve never bought them before!)

Here’s this week’s menu plan. You’ll notice some repeats from last week since we ended up eating soup more than one night, so we didn’t make it through our list of planned dinners.

Breakfasts:
Cold Cereal
Cranberry Scones
Smoothies
Orange Poppyseed Cake
Cold Cereal
Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins from the freezer
Amish Baked Oatmeal

Lunches:
Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Egg Roll Burritos
Macaroni & Cheese
Leftovers
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
Vegetarian Lentil Chili
Cheese Quesadillas

Dinners:
The Pioneer Woman’s Beans, Pico de Gallo and The Best Cornbread Ever (I’ve been searching high and low for a fabulous cornbread recipe and I think I’ve finally found it. I’ll share it later this month!)
Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, Sweet Potatoes, Cooked Veggies, Flat Apple Pie
Dinner Out
Potatoes and Turkey Sausage, Green Salad, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls
Hamburgers, Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole, Fruit Salad
Birthday Party
Dinner at In-Law’s House

3 Jan 2011   ·   90
Money Saving Mom

My Goals for 2011 (plus some blogging changes)

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions; I think they only set one up for failure and discouragement. However, I’m a huge fan of creating realistic goals and breaking them down into bite-sized pieces. So, at the beginning of every year, my husband and I sit down and come up with a list of goals for each facet of our lives.

Normally, being an optimistic over-achiever, I come up with many more goals than I could ever actual accomplish in a year. This year, though, I decided to make a new policy for all goals on my list: they could only be on my list if there was a time slot for them on my schedule.

Taking the things I learned from Amy Andrews’ ebook, Tell Your Time, I tweaked our daily schedule and created a slightly different schedule for each day of the week for 2011. This allowed me include time slots for everything on my 2011 goal list — from reading to sleeping to once-a-week lunch dates with my husband to time with my children to ministering to others to blogging.

This was incredibly helpful to me in streamlining and just picking goals which are actually doable. Instead of being a bit overwhelmed by an ambitious list, I’m excited this year as I feel like — barring some major catastrophe or unexpected upheaval in our lives — most of these goals will, Lord-willing, become reality.

My Goals for 2011

Personal:
Read through the Bible in a year (I’m using the chronological plan here.)
Read at least 25 inspiring books (I’ll share the books I’m planning to read in 2011 on Wednesday.)
Continue to eat well, exercise faithfully and drink enough water (I’ve finished P90X and am taking a break at least for a few months to do my own and slightly less intense workout regimen. I’ve been tracking my exercising, eating and drinking through SparkPeople and it’s been very helpful in keeping me accountable and on track with my personal health/fitness goals.)
Continue to make getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night a priority
Tackle 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects

Marriage:
Once-a-month evening dates with my husband
Once-a-week lunch dates with my husband
Twice-a-year Marriage Retreat
Flirt with my husband every day 🙂
Read four books together
Go on a cruise! (Something we both decided we’d do if we paid cash for a house before I turned 30!)

Children/Homeschooling:
Once-a-month dates/outings with both of the girls individually
Play with the children at least three times each week (games, Wii, etc.)
Finish reading through the Little House on the Prairie series together
Memorize Psalms 1 and Psalms 23 together
Finish first grade, begin second grade with Kathrynne
Finish preschool, begin kindergarten with Kaitlynn
Go on at least one field trip every month
Have a weekly Family Night

Ministry/Friendships/Extended Family:
Have at least one family over for a meal each month
Write one encouraging handwritten card or letter at least every other week
Be involved in ministry opportunities in our local church
Continue with weekly get-togethers with both sides of our extended family

Business/Blogging:
Continue to practice media-free Sundays
Continue working towards keeping strict Office Hours for the business/blogging time each day
Follow a weekly blogging plan (see below)
Plan blog posts out a month in advance
Write blog posts at least a week in advance

Financial:
Continue to tithe 10% of our income
Give generously to needs in our community and around the world, as God prompts us (We’ve been looking for 1-2 specific needs to give to each month and find so much joy in giving as God leads us!)
Complete all items on our current Financial Goals List
Save at least 40% towards our Commercial Real Estate Investing Goal

One major change I’ll be making is in the area of blogging. Thanks to the help from my team, I’ve gotten much more organized and efficient this past year (and also really good at saying “no” to stuff — one of the most freeing things ever!). Instead of feeling constantly overwhelmed and behind, I’m actually keeping up with things most day.

But, there is much room for improvement — especially when it comes to the actual writing of posts. While I’ve actually been planning my blogging out a week in advance, I’m still writing most of the posts the day they are supposed to be posted.

Amy Andrews has helped me to re-prioritize things enough in my life and blogging work, that I’m finally to a point to be able to blog ahead — something I’ve always wished I could find a way to do! During the last month, I’ve been working behind-the-scenes to come up with a way to have my blog posts, features and series planned out at least a month in advance and written at least a week ahead.

One thing which is going to help me carry out this plan is to actually have set days for posting set things. I know that I’ve been a source of frustration to many of you all many times because you just never know what is going to be posted when. I’m sorry and I hope you will find much more consistency here in 2011.

In fact, for the sake of accountability — and so you’ll know pretty much exactly what to expect! — here’s my blogging plan for the first half of 2011 (I’ll be re-evaluating and changing things up somewhat halfway through the year):

Monday: A guest post, our weekly menu plan, Giveaways Galore and a new 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget video blog series (starting next week)

Tuesday: Ask Jesse feature, a DIY idea and possibly a Shopping Trip post with pictures and price breakdowns

Wednesday: The next post in whatever series I’m working through (During the first half of 2011, I’ll be finishing up the How We Paid Cash for a House series, then the 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series then re-writing and re-posting my Blogging for Profit series.), and an Ask the Readers question

Thursday: A recipe, a DIY idea and possibly a Shopping Trip post with pictures and price breakdowns

Friday: We Paid Cash feature and a weekly rotating feature (Week One: Financial Update, Week Two: My DIY Experiment, Week Three: Book Review, Week Four: Frugal Family Fun post)

Saturday: Super Savings Saturday

Most of these items will start this week, though a few aren’t starting up until next week. Of course, there’ll be the usual fare of hot deals, coupons, freebies and the occasional giveaway, as well. And I’m sure I’ll throw in some unexpected, written-on-the-fly posts here and there, too, when inspiration strikes and I can’t keep silent. 🙂

Thank you to each and everyone of you for reading here, for leaving comments, for sending in deal ideas and frugal tips, for your encouraging letters and many suggestions for how I can improve this blog. My hope is that you will find better content and consistency in posting in 2011, which will, in turn, allow you to glean more ideas to save money, spend less than you make and give generously!

photos by Paul Worthington; jek in the box

3 Jan 2011   ·   11
Money Saving Mom

Turning emergencies into inconveniences

Being intentional with our money turns emergencies into inconveniences.

It’s not enough to pull in the reins and spend “only” what we make. Being intentional with our finances means spending less than we make and stashing the rest for the inevitable. It means sacrificing cable, lattes, and home fashions now in order to stay warm and be mobile when things go wrong.

It’s not always fun being so disciplined with our income. Saying no (or not now) to things we want and opportunities that come our way does bring satisfaction, though, when we’re able to pay cash for inconveniences.

-Read the full post over at Amy’s Finer Things

photo by onwheelz2