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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!

________________________________

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.

10 Apr 2010   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Finally, my cupboards are cleaned out!

So, I’m not doing so great on this Clear Out the Clutter Challenge. Well, or at least it seems like I’ve been as slow-as-molasses-on-a-very-rainy-day in getting it done. My garage sale starts on Thursday, so I better get my act together here!

I thoroughly impressed with all of you, though. You’ve been inputting your progress in the form here and I’m blown away! Hundreds of you have cleared out dozens–or even hundreds!–of items. One of you even said you cleared out a thousand items from your home this past week. Wow!

At any rate, I finally did get around to finishing up my kitchen and stockpile.

BEFORE — two of my cupboards and household stockpile closet:

AFTER — much better!

So far, I’ve collected three boxes of clutter to give away, throw away and sell. I’m thinking I’ll have gathered up around 15 boxes before my clutter war is over!

Assignments #3-5 in the Clear Out the Clutter Challenge will be posted on Monday through Wednesday of next week… and I’m going to try and work ahead today so that I actually am on track come Thursday morning!

If you’re following along with the Clear Out the Clutter Challenge, make sure to input your results in the Tally Form here so you can be entered to win a prize.

9 Apr 2010   ·   174

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Everyone Should Use Coupons

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

I’m going to make a bold statement: I believe everyone should use coupons.

There. I said it.

Wait. I take my statement back. If you are one of the .0002 people in America who have never touched food unless it was grown in your own yard, you make toothpaste out of tree bark and use cloth toilet paper, then I’ll exempt you.

But the rest of you? You’re non-exempt.

And I know some of you are making excuses right now and explaining why you’re the exception to my rule. Well, give me a chance to address your excuses and see if I can’t change your mind just a tiny little bit.

Excuse #1: I Don’t Eat Processed Food

Newsflash: Coupons are not just for junk food.

In fact, there are often coupons available for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, flour, baking soda, toothbrushes, razors, toilet paper, and light bulbs.

Like I said earlier, unless you literally grow all your own food, make all your household products from scratch, and you use cloth instead of disposable for all paper products, there are likely at least 10-15 items you routinely buy which you could get for much less if you used coupons.

In addition, once you become adept at using coupons, you will usually regularly happen upon deals which give you overage. Even if your family doesn’t use the item which gives overage, you could buy it to donate and then use the overage to purchase items your family does use.

Excuse #2: I Tried Using Coupons and Didn’t Save Any Money

If you buy your Sunday paper, clip all the coupons and then use them all on your next shopping trip, you’re not going to save any money. Instead, you’d probably end up buying  a lot of over-priced items you won’t use or wouldn’t normally buy and end up spending a considerable amount more than you save.

That’s not how to use coupons.

Using coupons wisely requires strategy and patience. In most cases, it involves waiting until an item is at its rock-bottom price and then pairing it with a coupon (and perhaps even a catalina deal!) so that you get it for pennies on the dollar–or even more than free!

Excuse #3: I Don’t Have Time to Use Coupons

Life is busy and there are constantly a hundred demands pulling us in different directions. The thought of adding in something extra like clipping coupons might be overwhelming–but it doesn’t have to be.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

One of my favorite ways to evaluate whether a money-saving idea or technique is worth my time is to evaluate it in terms of an hourly wage. For instance, if it saves our family $30-$50 and requires an hour’s worth of work, it is totally worth my time.

Coupons are worth my time because when I put in an hour’s worth of time, I’m usually saving $40-$75 for doing so. That sounds like a pretty good hourly wage to me!

Yes, it takes a bit of time to learn the ropes. Don’t expect that you’ll go out tomorrow and save 90% off your grocery bill if you’ve never used a coupon in your life.

However, it doesn’t have to take hours of your week. In fact, I think that you can see significant savings by committing to spend an extra hour each week to checking the sales fliers, making a menu plan and grocery list, clipping coupons, and mapping out your shopping route.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be sharing tips and techniques for obtaining, organizing and using coupons effectively to make the most of your time and maximize your savings. Slowly implement the ideas I share, find out what works best for you and reap the rewards of money saved!

Do you think everyone should use coupons in some way, shape or form? Why or why not?

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!


8 Apr 2010   ·   220
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: How do you save on pet care?


Emily emailed in the following question:

I’m writing because there is an area of our budget I haven’t been able to trim: pet care! Our dog was our first “baby” and we got him when we were both employed. Since that time, I got laid off from my job in sales and chose to stay home with our two small children.

While we’ve adjusted our food budget, as well as most other areas of our finances, I’ve yet to adjust our dog food. We raised the dog on Iams, which is good food but quite pricey. We’re hesitant to switch, as dogs normally don’t fare well during the switch. And some cheaper dog foods are just JUNK!

I’d love suggestions on where to find high-value coupons or how to cut our spending on dog food. Thanks so much – Emily

While we don’t have any dogs–yet!–I do know that My Pet Savings is a great blog to follow if you have pets of any kind. You’ll find lots of ideas, coupons, freebies and more for pets there.

Aside from that, I’m pretty clueless when it comes to saving money on pets. But I have no doubt that my readers are a wealth of wisdom when it comes to this subject.

So chime in with your great ideas on saving money on pet food and how to trim the budget when it comes to pet care without sacrificing quality.

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.

8 Apr 2010   ·   43
Money Saving Mom

Clear Out the Clutter Challenge: The Kitchen and Stockpile

How’s the decluttering going at your house? We’re making good headway here!

Today’s assignment is a bigger one–at least for me! Take a few days to finish it, if you need to:

Clear Out the Clutter Assignment #2

::Go through your kitchen cupboards, pantry, under the sink, stockpile shelves and any other closets or cupboards which reside in your kitchen and then ruthlessly clear out any and all clutter and unnecessary items you find. Consider passing on extra food and household items to friends or donate these to someone in need.

::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!

I’ll post my pictures and accomplishments later on today–once I finish this fairly mammoth task! Looks like I have my work cut out for me:

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!

8 Apr 2010   ·   26
Money Saving Mom

Clear Out the Clutter Challenge: Share how many items you’ve decluttered to enter to win a prize!

Are you participating in the Clear Out the Clutter Challenge? If so, you can enter how many items you’ve decluttered in the form below in order to enter to win a prize!

Here’s how it works:

::Participate in one or all of the five Clear Out the Clutter Challenge Assignments I’m be posting over the next week.

::Get rid of stuff and tally approximately how many items you’ve gotten rid of.

::Fill out the form below with the number of items you’ve decluttered (you can enter up to five times per person since there will be five different assignments).

::Once the Challenge is over with, I’ll tally up the results and randomly pick five winners from all those who’ve entered.

The five winners will receive one of the following prizes of their choice, donated by me: a $15 iTunes e-gift card; a $20 Barnes & Noble e-gift card; or a $20 Target e-gift card.

Happy decluttering!

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7 Apr 2010   ·   103

Five Ways to Cut Down on Clutter

You’ve heard the saying before: “A place for everything and everything in its place.

Now, as you can clearly see from my house, I’m not a perfect homemaker. I have three young children and I’m not always as self-disciplined as I’d like to be. However, I do make a concerted effort to keep my home clutter-free and organized.

Here are five things which help me:

1) Ongoing Garage Sale Boxes

I have a designated spot in our home for garage sale boxes. In our current home, this is under the stairs. As I find things we no longer need or use, I start filling up a box. When one box is full, I fill up another. And so on.

Instead of moving an item around from one room to the next when we aren’t using it anymore, I pitch it in the garage sale boxes and it’s out of our way. This method makes preparing for a garage sale quite simple since I already have a huge head start on collecting stuff to sell.

Thinking of having a garage sale? Check out my 10 tips for having a successful garage sale.

2) Annual Clutter Elimination

Once or twice a year, I go through my home from top to bottom and am ruthless about eliminating clutter. Every nook and cranny is cleaned out and every item is evaluated. By doing this on a regular basis, no area of our home ever becomes unmanageable. Rooms or closets might be messy or unkempt at times, but they never get so overwhelming that I can’t deal with them.

3) The No-Pile Rule

Except for my husband’s dresser and our laundry basket, we try to strictly adhere to a no-pile rule. I’ve found that a small pile quickly grows–without any effort. So if you don’t start a pile in the first place, you can avoid a lot of disorganization.

4) In the Door, In Its Place

Instead of piles of paper around from place to place until you have time to deal with them, take care of them immediately. When the mail or other papers come into our home, I go through it right then and there and throw out everything that we don’t have to keep.

Bills go on my husband’s dresser, magazines go in my top dresser drawer to await the next doctor’s appointment, freebies go in the household product stockpile closet, coupons go in my coupon box, and junk mail goes in the trash. Within just a few minutes, the mail is completely dealt with

5) Avoid Clutter-Collecting Furniture

I’m a minimalist, if there ever was one, and I’ve found my utilitarian nature helps avoid heaps of clutter. How? Because we don’t have furniture which tends to be clutter hot-spots for others. This might come as a shock, but even though I have a home business, I don’t have a computer desk. I have a top dresser drawer that I keep a few business-related items in and we have a small filing cabinet–and that’s it.

I’ve found that when there’s no place to collect piles, you are much less apt to make them.

What about you? What are some ways you cut down on clutter in your home?

photo credit: *Ann Gordon


7 Apr 2010   ·   43
Money Saving Mom

Save Up to $20 Per Year By Switching Fonts

Rochelle from Scripture Adventures sent me the link to this fascinating article today. Maybe you all know this, but I certainly didn’t:

MILWAUKEE – Here’s a way you might save $20 this year: Change the font in the documents you print.

Because different fonts require different amounts of ink to print, you could be buying new printer cartridges less often if you wrote in, say, Century Gothic rather than Arial. Schools and businesses could save thousands of dollars with font changes.

Data on the subject from Printer.com, a Dutch company that evaluates printer attributes, persuaded the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to make a switch. Diane Blohowiak, coordinator of information-technology user support, has asked faculty and staff to use Century Gothic for all printed documents. The school also plans to change its e-mail system so it uses Century Gothic.

“The feedback we’ve gotten so far has been positive,” she said. “Century Gothic is very readable.”

The school of 6,500 students spends about $100,000 per year on ink and toner cartridges. Although students and staff can change the default font to something more ink-intensive, Blohowiak said the university expects to save $5,000 to $10,000 per year with the font switch.

When Printer.com tested popular fonts for their ink-friendly ways, Century Gothic and Times New Roman topped the list. Calibri, Verdana, Arial and Sans Serif were next, followed by Trebuchet, Tahoma and Franklin Gothic Medium. Century Gothic uses about 30 percent less ink than Arial.

The amount of ink a font drains is mainly driven by the thickness of its lines. A font with “narrow” or “light” in its name is usually better than its “bold” or “black” counterpart, said Thom Brown, an ink researcher at Hewlett-Packard Co., the world’s top maker of printers.

Also, serif fonts — those with short horizontal lines at the top and bottom of characters — tend to use thinner lines and thus less ink than a “sans serif” counterpart.

Read the full article.

photo by Renway2007