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23 Feb 2010   ·   41
Money Saving Mom

Look what we got from Amazon.com today!

The girls were delighted to open up a box from the UPS man today to discover five entire pounds of YummyEarth organic suckers that I’d ordered from them for a surprise.

Thanks to a tip from The Thrifty Mama, I got them at a steal on Friday. All five pounds were only $14.88–which is a fraction of the price we’d pay at the health food store. Plus, I used some of our Amazon gift cards that we’d earned from Swagbucks so we didn’t pay anything out of pocket for them.

It’s a HUGE bag of lollipops and will make for lots of special treats for the girls… and maybe even some for mom, too! Thanks, The Thrifty Mama!

22 Feb 2010   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Menu Planning Makes a Difference

Rhonda recently emailed me about her menu-planning success:

I GET IT! I always thought meal planning was a waste of time. As long as I had plenty of variety in my freezer and pantry and fresh produce and milk, why meal plan?

To be honest, I couldn’t understand why you and many others did this. Well now I get it. I started meal planning as a New Year’s Resolution. I thought I’d try it for a month and prove it made no difference and quit.

Was I ever so wrong!

On Sunday each week, my husband and I now plan our meals for the entire week. I then do an inventory of what we have available. Then I make my shopping list to get the items I need to complete the meals on our menu. Of course, I also pick up a few extra items if they are free or nearly-free to stockpile.

Our weekly menu is posted up on the refrigerator, so there’s no more “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know”-type conversations. The amount of time and money I save meal planning is unbelievable. Why didn’t I do this sooner? -Rhonda

I wholeheartedly concur that planning a menu (or even a basic sketched out plan) makes a world of difference in our grocery budget, how well we eat, and just in my overall sanity. If you’ve never planned menus before, I’d challenge you to consider doing what Rhonda did. Commit to doing it for a month and see how it works for you. You just might be surprised!

Speaking of which, here’s this week’s menu plan:

Breakfasts

Oatmeal, fresh carrot/apple/orange juice
Cereal
Whole-Wheat Blueberry Pancakes
Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls, fresh orange juice
Our Favorite Banana Bread, fresh orange/carrot juice

Lunches
Open-Faced Tuna Sandwiches, carrot sticks
Whole-Wheat Pasta sprinkled with cheese, oranges
Peanut Butter & Honey sandwiches, carrot sticks
Beans and brown rice with cheese, avocados, oranges
Baked Potatoes, cheese, broccoli
Leftovers x 2

Dinners
Homemade Pizza, cantaloupe
Barbecued Beef, Homemade Buns**, peas, oranges
Italian Chicken over rice, steamed broccoli, grapefruit,
Chicken Stuffing Casserole, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls, mixed green salad, peas, fruit salad
Broccoli Ham and Cheese Casserole, fruit, Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins
Dinner at Friend’s House
Dinner Out

**I’m looking for a really good Homemade Hamburger Bun recipe which can be made in the bread machine for tomorrow night’s dinner. Does anyone have a link for an excellent recipe to share?

Photo credit: Jen_Maiser

22 Feb 2010   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Crockpot Italian Chicken

My friend Connie, from Smockity Frocks, is hosting a “What’s In Your CrockPot?” link-up today! Head over to her blog for all sorts of yummy crockpot recipes and ideas.

It’s hard to say whether I love my crockpot or my bread machine more. Both of them are invaluable tools in my kitchen that I use again and again and again.

Recently, I’ve been making Italian Chicken and serving it with Bread Machine Buttery Rolls and some fruit on the side. You can make this complete dinner from start to finish in 15 minutes. How’s that for simple? Plus, if you get the chicken on a good sale, the Italian dressing for almost-free, and use fruit that’s in season and on sale, it’s also very much a budget meal, too!

19 Feb 2010   ·   44
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

After taking the week off from grocery shopping last week, we did more stocking up this week. Here’s what we bought:

My husband took my coupons–and children!–to the store earlier in the week and came home with the above. Get this, he only spent $27.12 and he saved $71. Yep, he’s quite the bargain shopper. And he had both girls with him, too. I’m impressed–as usual!

I went to the health food store, Aldi, and Walmart later on in the week and got all of the above for just under $20–which I was very happen about considering quite a bit of it was organic! (The girls asked if they could be in the picture and then they had fun posing with silly faces!)

Since we saved up enough to pay cash for a house a few months ago, one of the few budget changes we’ve made was adding a gym membership for my husband. It’s not something our frugal natures ever thought we’d do, but it works out much better for my husband’s schedule and it also has been a much greater motivation for him than trying to exercise at home.

He loves it and I love that he’s putting forth a lot of effort to be physically fit and healthy. The only thing is that he also needs to add more protein into his diet, so I ordered the above for free using Amazon gift cards I earned through Swagbucks.

All told, we’ve spent around $115 total on groceries this month. The $45 left in our grocery envelope should easily last us through the end of this month.

________________________________

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.

17 Feb 2010   ·   38
Money Saving Mom

Olympic Athletes and Financial Success

I don’t watch TV. Ever.

Except for something historically monumental–like the presidential elections–or, when the Olympics are on. I find the Olympics to be incredibly inspiring and interesting, unlike 99.9% of the rest of what airs on television.

As I’ve been watching the Olympics these past few days, I can’t help but notice so many financial lessons which can be gleaned from the success of these highly-trained and experienced athletes. The principles which they’ve applied to achieve athletic success can be equally as helpful when it comes to finances:

1) Success Requires Strategy

None of the Olympic athletes woke up one day last month and decided they’d compete in the Olympics. No, they’ve spent days, weeks, months, years, and even decades preparing, planning, and practicing.

I read the autobiography of Michael Phelps last year and found it fascinating that he and his coach had set exact goal times–down to the hundredth of a second–that they were aiming for him to hit in each of his Olympic races in 2008. They practiced for these times over and over and over again, and they were forefront in Phelp’s mind at the Olympic games. I have no doubt that having a clearly mapped out strategy is one prominent reason Michael Phelps brought home eight gold medals from Beijing.

If you want to be financially successful, it’s not enough to say, “I’m going to get out of debt.” Or, “I want to save to pay cash for a car.” No, you have to have a clear-cut game plan. You have to have goals and then break those down into attainable, bite-size objectives.

2) Success Requires Sacrifice

Olympic athletes make phenomenal sacrifices. While the rest of us are sleeping, or vegging, or shopping, or eating, they are in the gym training. They don’t live a normal life or participate in many of the social activities that most in our culture do because so much of their focus and energy must be devoted to physical training.

If you want to succeed financially, it’s also going to require sacrifice. You’ll likely have to give up some of the societal “norms” if you’re working your way out of debt or living on a beans-and-rice budget in order to save for a big purchase or stay out of debt. You might be driving an old car, wearing thrift store clothes, and clipping lots of coupons. Your friends might not understand or think you’re weird. That’s okay. In the long run, those sacrifices and your counter-cultural living will pay off with big dividends.

3) Success Requires Self-Discipline

No athlete ever makes it to the Olympics without exerting enormous self-discipline–probably more than most of us can fathom! They push themselves through pain, injury, exhaustion, and excruciating fatigue.

They don’t give up when the going gets tough. Winners aren’t quitters.

I believe self-discipline is one of the greatest keys to financial success, as well. If you’re not willing to stick with a budget, to say “no” to what you can’t afford, and to stop living beyond your means, you’re never going to get ahead.

If you keep going, keep plodding along, keep sticking with your budget, keep pressing forward when it seems like you’re not getting any traction, you will reap the fruit of your efforts.

An Olympic medal is probably not a reality for most of us, but implementing the principles of Olympic athletes in our personal and financial lives can result in amazing success–which will hopefully be much more long-lasting than a one-time Olympic victory.

photo credit: Shazz Mack

16 Feb 2010   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Bookin’ It: January Update

I promised to share a monthly update with you on the books I’ve read this year from my rather-ambitious 2010 Booklist. So here’s what I read in January:

Still Growing: An Autobiography

This autobiography of child TV star, Kirk Cameron, is a fast, fascinating, and humorous read. I had trouble putting it down and read it from start to finish in a matter of a few days.

Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers

The author of this book sent me a free copy to read and review and the title immediately drew me in. I definitely have days when I feel like a lousy housekeeper and am always on the lookout for ways to improve as a manager of our home.

This book is very exhaustive and has lots of helpful ideas and information in it. If you are drowning and have no idea where to begin when it comes to keeping your home organized, this would be a great starting point for you.

However, I personally didn’t find it to be earth-shattering. In fact, I found it a little overwhelming for the type of homemaker I am. I much prefer the simplistic approach of a system like Motivated Moms where I don’t have to spend hours developing a personalized plan, but the plan is already succinctly mapped out for me.

Flipping the Switch…: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability Using the QBQ!

I loved this book. In a day and age when personal responsibility is almost unheard-of and people are always looking for someone or something to blame, this book is an excellent wake-up call. This book contains principles which could very well chance one’s business, finances, and personal life. I was left highly motivated and inspired.

What books have you read the last month? Link up over at LifeasMom.

15 Feb 2010   ·   165
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: What is your stock-up price on toilet paper?

I was wondering, what is a good price for toilet paper? I usually get the kind from Sam’s Club but lately their quality has really gone down. -Katie

Truth be told, I was able to get free 4-packs of Cottonelle toilet paper for so long that now that that deal is no longer available, I’ve been struggling to come up with a good toilet paper deal. I’ve purchased some from Aldi and also got a mega package for free with a gift card to Alice.com while holding out hope another free or almost-free toilet paper deal will surface sometime soon.

Aldi toilet paper is anything but quality toilet paper, in my opinion, but it works in a pinch when the deals are sparse. It is priced at around $0.25 per roll, so I’d consider any quality toilet paper priced at less than that to be a pretty good deal. However, free is always my favorite price when it comes to toilet paper. 🙂

What’s your stock-up price for toilet paper and where do you find the best deals on it? Help me out here!

13 Feb 2010   ·   112
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

After last’s week big shopping trip, we didn’t need to buy any groceries this week. Well, except for milk. But we decided to take our lessons learned from the Pantry Challenge to heart and went the entire week without buying milk.

And you know what? We survived just fine. The girls missed having cereal for breakfast and snacks, but we came up with creative alternatives and everyone was fine.

Next week, I’ll likely do another big stock-up trip since I’ve got some great coupons to use. Stay tuned for details on that.

(And yes, I know that some parents think that children cannot survive without milk. I completely understand where you’re coming from and respect your opinions. However, please don’t flip out over the fact that we don’t drink a lot of milk at our house. I’ve done a lot of research and don’t believe that milk is necessarily the best source of calcium or that one must drink an enormous amount of it for survival. So we choose to get our primary calcium from other sources. And we love you no matter whether you drink lots of milk or not!)

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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.

12 Feb 2010   ·   86
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: Is it necessary to save every receipt?

Is it necessary to save every receipt once the expense has been recorded in the budget expenses?  I have grocery store receipts coming out my ears! -Julie

Is it necessary? No.

Or at least, let’s hope not, seeing as I currently don’t have a single grocery receipt saved!

I personally disdain clutter–especially paper clutter–so I would likely go crazy if I tried to save all my shopping receipts. Truth be told, I only save my grocery shopping receipts until I have time to post about my shopping trips and then I throw them out immediately. The only time I will hang onto a receipt is if I have a rebate or if there’s a possibility I might be returning the item.

We keep detailed tracking of our bills and other expenses which change somewhat each month (my husband track these  in Quicken), but for the items we pay for with cash using our envelope system, believe it or not, we don’t keep detailed track of each of these expenses. Yes, that might seem shocking to some of you who like to account for every penny!

We have found, however, that it works great for us to just put a specified amount of cash in our envelopes for each of our different spending categories for the month. When the money in the envelope is gone, it’s gone. We’ve used the envelope system almost all of our married life, so we’ve gotten pretty accustomed to being able to divvy up the money so it lasts the whole month.

If you want to have detailed reports of all your purchases each month, this system wouldn’t likely work for you. Bt works for us right now–and best of all, it’s very simple!

Do you save your receipts? Why or why not? What’s your system for tracking your expenses? I’d love to hear!

photo credit: Functoruser

12 Feb 2010   ·   17
Money Saving Mom

Whole Foods in a Hurry

Would you like to feed your family healthier foods but you feel like you don’t have time or money to do so?

I had the privilege of meeting Jessie from Vanderbilt Wife at the Savvy Blogging Dinner last week and she told me about her current project of cooking a once-a-month menu with only whole foods (no processed foods at all). I knew that many of you would be really interested in hearing about how she’s pulling this off, so I asked her if she could share a little bit of her adventure with you all. Here’s what she wrote:

I’ve been fairly convinced our family needs to go to a whole foods way of eating for quite a while. But it seems that every time I make one baby step forward, something comes around to hinder the path yet again.

There’s cost, of course. Currently living on a high-school teacher’s salary with both a mortgage and a rent, it seems implausible to raise our grocery budget. Maybe after we sell the house. After I am bringing in more freelance income. When…

Time is always another factor. Until a month ago, I was a full-time working mom with a toddler, and my husband lived two hours away during the week. I was feeling blessed to feed my daughter something hot for dinner (and even more happy if she’d actually eat it). And yet every time I’d hand her baby puffs or graham crackers, I’d cringe at the fact that these were processed foods, laced with soy and who-knows-what-else.

As someone who struggled with getting pregnant because of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, I try to be cautious about the amount of artificial hormones in our diet. I don’t want my daughter to have to worry about this like I did. I’ve also always battled my weight, and so I hope to teach her healthy eating habits the best that I can.

When my cousin Tricia, author of Once a Month Mom, asked me to partner with her on an upcoming contest on her site, I knew exactly where I wanted to take once-a-month cooking. I’d done some freezer cooking in the past, but many of the recipes included ingredients like cream of mushroom soup, white pasta, or instant stuffing. I wanted to jump start my whole foods eating by creating what I call “Whole Foods in a Hurry“–a once-a-month cooking menu of only “real food.”

It’s been very exciting to create my menu and think about how I’ll be budgeting it, planning it, and cooking it. And of course, eating it! I’ve picked a variety of recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that will help my family get on the bandwagon with real foods. Cooking it all at once will save me time and money as well as allowing me more time for baking bread and trying other kitchen experiments.

You can see Jessie’s first menu plan here. To follow along with Jessie’s Whole Foods in a Hurry Challenge, be sure to subscribe to her blog for weekly updates, menu plans, and recipes.

11 Feb 2010   ·   37
Money Saving Mom

Meeting Dave Ramsey

While at the blogging conference last week, we had the amazing privilege of going with a group of bloggers to the Dave Ramsey Headquarters.

As I’ve shared in the past, Dave Ramsey has had a significant impact on our lives–both in our finances and in how we run our businesses. My husband and I have been to a few live events before and shook Dave’s hand at a book signing, but to get the opportunity to see behind-the-scenes at Financial Peace Plaza was a huge treat!

We were thoroughly impressed with their offices and staff. Everyone went out of their way to be friendly and helpful, to answer questions, and to make us feel at home. We also loved the cappucinnos and delicious homemade goodies they serve in their coffee shop–where everything is free!

The credit card art on the walls was fascinating.


And the quotes on the wall were so inspirational!

But the best part of all was most definitely the time we got to spend with Dave Ramsey while he was on commercial break. He came out and got pictures with us, answered questions, and even let us do two video interviews with him on advice for bloggers and entrepreneurs (see those videos here and here.)

All in all, it was an incredible time and we are very thankful to the staff at the Dave Ramsey headquarters for helping to coordinate this opportunity for us.

8 Feb 2010   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

How Buying Less Can Set You Free (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Danelle Ice from Home Ever After

We all want to have an inviting home, comfortable environment, and nice things for our family.  As moms, we’re always looking for products to make our lives easier, to make chores go smoothly, and to make our homes beautiful.  The desire for “things” is normal in moderation.  The problem is when buying “things” takes you over, cluttering up your home, controlling your actions, and wreaking havoc on your family budget.

The desire for material things is encouraged by advertisers to get you to buy their products.  Commercials make us think our lives aren’t whole until our kids have the newest bicycles or our husband has a top-of-the-line barbecue grill.  What advertisers WON’T tell you is that not only do you have the power NOT to buy things, but that buying less can set you FREE!

More Things = Less Money + Less Time.

Things are a huge responsibility, and take their toll in many areas of our lives.  First, it takes money to buy things.  Then, we have to find space to store things, batteries and electricity to power the things, time to learn how to use things and teach our family how to use things.  We have to spend time or money to fix things when they break.  We spend time to clean and maintain things.  We pay for a larger house or storage to have room for all of our extra things.

The first step to simplifying our lives is to stop buying unnecessary items immediately. Just saying no to bringing more possessions into your home will immediately give you more time, more money, and less clutter.

What if you want to let go of things but don’t know how to make the change? Here are 5 tips that can help you get started:

1. Realize that  most “needs” aren’t truly needs.

Most “needs” we feel to buy things aren’t real needs, they’re wants.  Food for dinner? Yes. 5 new cookbooks? Probably not.

Worse, they’re never ending.  The desire for stuff doesn’t end when you get that latest gadget.  The empty spot is quickly replaced by another item you don’t have.  Read about the difference between needs and wants here .

2. Stop coveting.

Almost everyone has a friend or neighbor who seems to have everything.  Don’t get caught up in the desire to have everything others have.  Acquiring things to keep up with someone else will not bring you a feeling of contentment with your life or gratitude for what you have; it will only breed feelings of guilt that you can’t afford (or choose not to buy) all those items.

3.  Be grateful.

Be thankful for all the wonderful things you have, and the comfortable lifestyle and loving environment you’re able to provide for your family.  When you feel gratitude for what you have already, it is difficult to feel bad for not having more.

4.  Be content.

We are full, whole, loving people, with or without things.  Material possessions can never make you a kinder, nicer, or a better friend, parent, or spouse.  Desiring and acquiring more things won’t change who you are–at least, not for the better.

5.  Declutter for charity.

Make a family project of decluttering your home to donate unneeded items to those less fortunate.  This is a sure way to put things into perspective and realize that “things” only have value when they fulfill a real need.  Donate items to Goodwill, to less fortunate friends, or to families from church that can use a little help.

Set yourself free of the responsibilities of being a “consumer” and realize that you have the power to stop buying things!  Buying less does a multitude for your mind and soul, including getting you a little closer towards having gratitude for what you already have, not focusing on what you don’t.

This guest post is by problogger Danelle Barbi Ice from Home Ever After, an online Home & How-To magazine specializing in homemaking, decluttering, frugal living, and more.  If you like this article, please subscribe to Home Ever After for free!

photo credit: dawnzy58

6 Feb 2010   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

I’m running behind in getting Super Savings Saturday posted because we’re at the Blissdom Blogging Conference where we’ve had the chance to meet dozens upon dozens of incredible women and learn enormous amounts of valuable information. We’re also enjoying lots of chocolate, good food, laughter, late nights, and this amazing hotel we’re staying at (which we got for a great price by booking online at a discount!). To top it all off, we even had a chance to get to hang out with Dave Ramsey yesterday for a little while.

Without further ado, here’s what we bought at the grocery store this week:

Before coupons and sales, my total was $135, after coupons, I paid $65! (Some of the items we got free with coupons that came from a special package ConAgra sent to all Blissdom attendees.) Our refrigerator and freezer are now well-stocked again after a month of eating from the pantry! And we were also able to buy all the ingredients needed for the Freezer Cooking Day. Yay!

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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.

5 Feb 2010   ·   35
Money Saving Mom

Making the Most of What You Have (Guest Post)

Guest Post by My Friend Kelly

January is over and the Eating From the Pantry Challenge has come to a close. While you may be ready to dive back into grocery shopping, couponing, and restocking, don’t let the momentum end here. The principles behind this challenge can be applied to a variety of other projects which can help cut costs, de-clutter your home, and streamline daily life. Sometimes this means using up excess stock and other times the focus is getting more regular use out of non-expendable items.

Here’s a few ways to do that:

Personal Hygiene Products

Whether or not you can find coupons and deals on the food your family eats, most everyone will be able to find a rebate or rewards deal on hygiene products at one of the drug stores or national chains around the country. Using what you learned during Eating from the Pantry Month, give yourself 30 days before buying any new personal hygiene products. In the meantime, clear out your bathroom cabinets and see what you still need and what you don’t.

Finish up half-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner and use the last bits of lotion from gift sets. Replace the razors with dull blades or broken handles and if you have liquid soap, refill pump bottles.  Toss broken combs or hair accessories and use up the last inch of mousse or gel before starting a new bottle. If someone in your family opposes a particular brand and you have unopened items consider putting together a care package. Check out this post for ideas on what to send and who to send it to.

Pull out fresh floss and mouthwash to improve your oral hygiene and health. If you haven’t swapped out your toothbrush in the past three months or have recently gotten over an illness open up a new one but don’t throw out the old just yet–a toothbrush can clean more than your molars!

Household Cleaners

Maintaining a clean house doesn’t have to take hours and hundreds of dollars in premium cleaning products. Use similar tactics to inventory what you have, see what you need, stretch what you use and find substitutes.  While you’re digging under the sinks use up the last little bit of general cleaner and wipe down the shelves. Try to identify what you use each product to clean and how often you use up a bottle.

Don’t just think about products but other supplies as well.  Re-purpose old towels from the kitchen or bath as cleaning rags, use old worn out toothbrushes to scrub small crevices, find an old pillowcase to clean ceiling fan blades, or lone socks to dust. If you find you have a pile of dusting rags you can reduce the amount of paper towels you buy.

Office supplies

How many different places in your house do you have a stash of pens? Notepads? Tape? Round everything up and sort it out (old shoe boxes come in handy here) and toss or donate what you don’t use.  Find out what you’ll need for everyday use and what school-aged children can take to class. Just like the pantry challenge, make do with what you have–blue pens can work just as well as black ones–and substitute where you can. Whether you write grocery lists on the back of a used envelope or reuse file folders these tactics can keep money in your pocket and clutter out of your home.

Centralize one place for commonly misplaced items like tape, scissors, and sharpies. Or is that just my house?

Crafts & Decorations

If you can be described as crafty, then you’re probably well aware of the dangers that entrap quilters, scrapbookers, knitters and painters alike. It’s easy to hoard supplies and fill drawers, bins and yes, even rooms with projects that we have no hope of finishing in ten lifetimes. Make the commitment to stop buying new supplies for one month and go “shopping” at home. Dig through your stock and try to remember what project you had in mind when you brought home these items.

Finish an old project or start a new one, substitute one component instead of buying new, and give away things you won’t use to someone who will. Consider a swap amongst friends or just a potluck night in when everyone can bring a dish and a project and work together.

As Spring rolls around it can be easy to get tired of our surroundings and want something new and fresh.  Check your attics, basements, and closets for decorative items that were put away or forgotten. Re-hang a picture or touch up the paint on a table. Move around some furniture, pull out the throw blankets, fill glass vases and use the good china.  Put a new picture in an old frame or clear everything off a wall and paint it fresh.  Look for things you already have that can be used in new and interesting ways.

There are also some things we can be getting more use out of, things that are not necessarily used up.

Entertainment

Do you have family games gathering dust? Puzzles, video games, books or movies that go unused? The same principles apply even if using an entertainment item will not expend it for future use. Pull out all your puzzles and look them over together. Maybe some are missing too many pieces, another too advanced for younger children, some too juvenile for older children. Keep what you’ll use, recycle what you won’t. Donate unused items to your school or church, ask friends if their children would enjoy something new.

Do your kids have piles of half used or broken crayons? Turn them into a craft project. Go through your books and weed out volumes you no long read, reference or enjoy. Do the same for family pictures by tossing prints that are fuzzy or faded, or pictures that have no personal meaning or value. Be careful about tossing older photos that may have some value to another family member. Check out this post for tips on preserving family memories.

Clothes

If you find yourself wearing the same outfits over and over again try the Empty Closet Challenge.  Pull everything out and box up things that don’t fit or flatter your figure.  Work with what you have and fill in pieces that will create attractive looks that fit your lifestyle.  At the end of the month pull out the boxes of discarded clothes and sell them by consignment or eBay, return new items to the store, donate to a charity or give to a friend. Don’t forget to look over belts, scarves, jackets, shoes, and jewelry too. Rethinking a wardrobe can be challenge–check out this site for ideas on using thrift store finds to create stunning new looks for under $20!

I know it seems overwhelming when you think of all the places to apply the principles you learned during Eating from the Pantry Month. But just like January, take one thing at a time, make adjustments as you go, and share what you’ve learned. By 2011, you might just have a cleaner, uncluttered home, more money in the bank and new routines. Then your only challenge will be finding a New Year’s Resolution you haven’t already accomplished!

Kelly is a 25 year old single homeowner living in Northern California. Despite a high cost of living and tough job market, Kelly has created a cozy home without acquiring debt. Now just $3,000 away from eliminating student loans (the last of consumer debt), Kelly looks forward her first trip abroad, thrift store decorating, and teaching financial awareness. Kelly blogs at My Friend Kelly.

Photo credit: Fauxto_credit; Kevin McShane; Patrick Q

4 Feb 2010   ·   64
Money Saving Mom

Buying a Car with Cash: How We Did It (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Toni from The Happy Housewife

A little over two years ago we called the Dave Ramsey Show and screamed, “We’re DEBT FREE!” at the top of our lungs. It was a life changing event and a moment I will never forget. Since then, we’ve committed to live debt-free. Doing so has meant we’ve had to change our thinking about many things.

For instance, I always thought it was acceptable to have one car payment in order to have a safe and reliable vehicle. When we decided not to borrow money anymore we had to figure out a way to drive vehicles without a payment. We had purchased cars with cash in the past, but typically they were beaters that my husband drove to and from work. We wanted our next car purchase to be a late model vehicle that we could drive for at least ten years.

Is it possible to save up and pay cash for a quality vehicle in this day and age? Well, here’s how our family did it:

1) We Paid Ourselves, Instead of the Bank

When we wrote up our first debt-free budget, we included a “car payment” category. But instead of paying the bank, we paid ourselves.

We did some calculations and decided we would need to replace one of our vehicles in two to three years. Based on the vehicle we would need and the time we had, we decided to put $300 a month towards our car payment. Each month that money grew in a high interest money market account while we continued to drive around in our paid-for vehicles.

Considering the average American car payment is almost $400 a month, we were still saving money by not having a loan on our vehicle.  We figured that after three years, we would have saved over $11,000 and felt we could replace one of our vehicles with that amount if we added in the amount from the sale of our current vehicle.

2) We Got Creative and Flexible When Things Don’t Go According to the Plan

Our plan seemed great, but then I ended up getting pregnant with our seventh child and our eight-passenger suburban wasn’t going to work anymore. Suddenly, there was much less time to save and more of a car to purchase.

We had about $8000 in our car fund at the time and realized we needed about $15,000 for a van. So we decided that for a short period of time we would stop funding other savings accounts and aggressively work towards saving for a van.

We were planning on selling one of our vehicles anyway, so we estimated the selling price, subtracted that amount and the $8,000 from the $15,000 and realized we needed to save about $5,000 in eight months. That amount came to about $625 a month.

While that seems like a lot of money, it was really only $325 a month because we were already saving $300 a month in our car fund. We stopped saving in other areas in order to meet our vehicle savings goal.

3) We Did Extensive Research Before Buying

During the time we were saving for a vehicle, I spent about fifteen minutes a week checking the Auto Trader, Craig’s List, Ebay, classifieds, and car dealerships websites looking for vans. I checked safety records, resale value, and owner reviews. I wanted to know what was available and the average prices.

After several months of research, I’d learned that white vans were the cheapest, sliding side doors were hard to come by, and Fords were usually less expensive than Chevys.

When we reached our savings goal, I actively began searching websites for a van that met our criteria. After four weeks of searching, I found a van that had all of our needs and preferences and it was still under warranty.

We purchased our van almost one year ago. While it was hard to part with so much money at the dealership, I don’t ever stress about not being able to make a car payment. Paid-for vehicles are fun to drive!

Toni is an author, homeschooling mother of seven children, and military spouse. Her blog, The Happy Housewife, inspires and educates on frugality, budgeting and how to thrive on one income in a two-income world.

Photo Credit: Emilio Labrador