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15 Nov 2010   ·   28
Money Saving Mom

How to Host a Frugal Thanksgiving for Guests with Food Allergies

Guest post by Sonja from Frugal Gluten Free Living

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful and costly. Add guests with food allergies, and you could find yourself over-stressed and over-budget. But if you stick to a plan, follow these tips and stay true to your budget, Thanksgiving dinner can be memorable, fun and frugal.

1. Have Your Allergic Guests Bring Their Favorite Dish

People with food allergies will be relieved if you ask them to bring a dish. Most will either pack snacks or eat meals before a dinner away, just in case they are unable to eat what’s being offered.

It’s difficult to be a gracious guest when food limitations are so severe. Having a stand-by dish they can trust because they made it will ease your guests’ minds.

2. Do Research

Ask what allergies your guests have. Be specific. If they’re gracious, they’ll probably tell you to not make a fuss, and just go about your meal planning. But you may want to tweak a dish just for them.

For example, if they suffer from a gluten allergy, you can cook the stuffing out of the turkey, so as to prevent cross contamination. Or you can use cornstarch to thicken the gravy rather than traditional flour.

Some changes are so small, but your guests will be touched that you made the effort. I know I’m always overwhelmed with the hospitality my in-laws have shown my family when we’ve stayed with them and they had gluten-free cereals and noodles for my toddlers. I never expect it but it absolutely moves me to tears to think of their thoughtfulness. (By the way, some gluten-free dishes are so inexpensive and easy, you may find you like them, too.)

3. Don’t Be Offended

If your allergic guests stay away from your grandmother’s famous broccoli cheese casserole (drool!), please don’t be offended. They are probably more upset about it than you are.

4. Keep Ingredient Labels on Hand

People with food allergies obsessively read the labels. A little MSG in a salad dressing will make my husband sick for the rest of the evening.

Your allergic guests may never ask to see the ingredient list to a casserole (I wonder about the etiquette rules for that), but you can casually comment that you have the ingredient list for that casserole if she’d like to look it over to see if she can have it.

5. Don’t Stress

Chances are, your guests are more anxious than you are. With my family’s food allergies, I plan at least a week in advance before we go to a function. I try to balance bringing snacks, versus feeding people ahead of time, so our food allergy doesn’t become center stage at an event.

It’s humbling to have such a restrictive diet (we can’t have eggs, dairy, gluten, or most meats) but we’ve learned that family gathering around food is more about family and less about food.

Sonja Stewart writes about ways to stay within the grocery budget while on a gluten-free diet. Her blog, Frugal Gluten Free Living shares recipes and shopping tips for those living with food allergies. She lives in Astoria, OR with her husband and homeschools her two young children.

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality,original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

photo by atmtx

15 Nov 2010   ·  
Money Saving Mom

How to Get More Done in Less Time as a Blogger (Part 1)

As part of the Time Management series, I wanted to share some productivity tips for bloggers, as many of you asked about this. All of these won’t work for you, but hopefully you can find two or three to implement and save yourself time and effort!

1) Create a Computer Time Budget

Just as I found it helpful to have a time budget for my daily activities, so I’ve found it so helpful to have a time budget for my daily computer times, instead of just saying, “I’m going to spend four hours on computer and blogging work each day.”

I currently have my computer time broken down into the following specific blocks:

45 minutes on substantive writing
1.5 hours posting time-sensitive deal posts
30 minutes on email
15 minutes on Facebook/Twitter
15 minutes on a writing project
45 minutes extra — placing online orders, reading blog posts, extra projects

I don’t always follow these time blocks perfectly. Sometimes something comes up which requires I spend extra time working on a technical issue. Or occasionally I’ll have a conference call scheduled. So I’ll shift some things around in order to accommodate these extra things.

But having my computer time all budgeted out, instead of just getting on and doing whatever seemed most pressing, has helped me to get a lot more done in a lot less time. In fact, some days, I’m able to get everything done on my list — with time to spare!

2) Do One Thing At a Time

I know, I know! Multi-tasking can be a very efficient way to do many things. However, when it comes to most computer work, if you want to get concentrated work done in an efficient manner, you need to shut out all the noise and just focus on one thing at a time.

If it’s your time to email, work on emailing. Go through your emails in order of priority and don’t stop until your time is up. If it’s your time to write blog posts, only work on drafting blog posts until your time is up.

If you’re used to trying to post or email while you have a bunch of applications open and constantly dinging at you, you’ll likely be surprised at just how much work you can get done in a distraction-free 20-30-minute concentrated block of time.

And once you get in the habit of doing one thing at a time, you’ll learn where your fizzle out point is when you need to stop and take a break or stop for the day in order to come back to it refreshed and energized. Personally, I’ve found that I do best by working in 20-30 minute blocks and then rewarding myself with a short 5-minute break to check email or Facebook. If I’m working on an in-depth project which requires a lot of brain power, I’ll often set the timer for 20 minutes and work on it and then set the timer for 15 minutes and worth on cleaning up or doing laundry.

3) Tame the Email Monster

A) Eliminate Unnecessary Emails

-Go into your Twitter account and change your settings so that you don’t get notified when someone follows you.

-Go into your Facebook settings and change your notifications so that you don’t get emailed when anyone does anything but replies to one of your posts or sends you a private message.

-Unsubscribe from all email lists which you don’t actively read the emails and benefit from.

-Turn off notifications when someone subscribes or unsubscribes from your YouTube or email newsletter service.

-Set up a very comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions page which answers a large number of questions people routinely email you about. Put this in very conspicuous places on your site including smack-dab in the middle of your Contact page. While plenty of people will disregard this, I promise that it will at least cut down on some of your email load.

-Have a search button in a very obvious place on the sidebar of your blog. This encourages people to search for that post or recipe themselves of emailing in to ask you for the link.

B) Don’t Feel Obligated to Answer All Your Emails

State on your Contact page that you aren’t able to answer much of your email. This frees you up from feeling obligated to answer every email which comes in.

C) Keep Your Inbox Cleaned Out

I shoot for having less than 10 emails in my inbox at all times. If they are in my inbox, it means they need to be dealt with within the next 24 hours.

When I check my email, I deal with emails immediately. I either respond, if I have a minute and only a sentence or two is required in response, I archive them if no response is necessary, or I file them in my “To Answer” file in Gmail if a response is necessary but I don’t have time to respond at the moment. Once a week, usually on Saturdays, I try clean out the entire “To Answer” file so that it’s completely empty.

This system works well for me as it helps me to not be bogged down with a lot of emails not requiring an immediate response in my inbox. And it ensures — most of the time, at least! — that nothing highly important gets overlooked or lost in a sea of emails.

By the way, if you’re going to take the time to answer a question in more than a paragraph or two, consider turning it into a post. Then, you kill two birds with one stone — you answered an email and you wrote a post!

Related: Amy shares more tips for keeping your inbox cleaned out.

D) Set Up Canned Responses

I love Gmail’s Canned Responses feature and I highly recommend using it. You can set up responses for emails you often receive and with a click of a button insert them straight into an email.

For instance, I often receive emails asking for my address or how to start a blog. I have a canned response all set up for these questions, so I just click the appropriate Canned Response and it automatically inserts it and in a couple of seconds, the email is pretty much answered.

E) Enable Send and Archive

This is another cool tool in Gmail. You can change your “Send” button to “Send & Archive”. Instead of having to push send and then go and delete the message, you can do it with one click, saving yourself a couple seconds per email. When you are responding to dozens of emails each day, those little seconds add up! See how to set up Send & Archive here.

I’ll be posting Part 2 on Wednesday. Stay tuned!

**Update: This giveaway is now closed.**

Win a free Windows Phone 7!

Would you like to try out a Windows Phone 7 for free? These phones were just released and Microsoft is giving one away to a reader here this month!

To enter, just leave a comment on this post sometime between today and November 29, 2010. Tell us your favorite tip for getting more done in less time as a blogger or in any other facet of your life.

After November 29, 2010, I’ll choose and notify the winner. See the official rules of this giveaway here.

This giveaway is brought to you by the new Windows Phone 7. Less MIA. More PTA: Learn about Windows Phone online and see it in person at local T-Mobile stores today.

photos from Shutterstock

14 Nov 2010   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Ground Chuck & Annie’s Mac & Cheese stock-up

I stopped by Dillon’s to pick up some of the Annie’s Mac & Cheese which was on $0.49 when you bought 10. The children love this stuff, so I always stock up with enough to last us for at least six to eight weeks when it goes on sale.

I also found strawberries marked down to only $0.99 per package, so I snatched up some of those to freeze for smoothies. And then I picked up a few other deals and freebies.

My total was around $21 at Dillons.

Later on in the week, I swung by the health food store to see if there were any great mark-downs. I was extremely excited to find organic, hormone-free ground chuck marked down from around $6 per package to only $1.99 per package! I also found raspberries marked down to $0.99 (which I’ll also be freezing) and a bag of organic apples for only $0.99 plus a few other items. My total there was around $21, too.

And then I bought farm-fresh eggs from my brother.

So our grocery expenditures ending up totaling around $46 this week.


Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

12 Nov 2010   ·   75
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Make a Personalized Plan (Part 2)

Once you have some basic routines in place for your daily living, it’s time to put it altogether and devise a Daily Plan and/or Weekly Plan and then branch out to planning for all areas you’ve determined to be your priorities.

1) Daily/Weekly Plan

Now, I know some of you are rolling your eyes saying, “Oh brother. Here we go again. I bet she’s one of those fanatics trying to put me on a strict schedule for each day. That will never work for me.”

Be encouraged: I am not suggesting you need to have a very regimented, down-to-the-minute schedule which you never deter from in order to manage your time well.

Yes, seriously.

Wanna know a secret? We don’t follow a strict schedule! Instead, we have a plan in place for all areas we’ve determined are our priorities and we stick with a flexible routine.

That’s what I love about the Time Budget. Always before, I’d make these elaborate schedules and then I’d never follow them longer than a week or two because I’d get so flustered because I’d crammed them so full that the whole day was thrown off whack with just one or two little interruptions.

With a Time Budget and margin planned in the day, I’ve felt the freedom to shift things around, as needed. So, if the children are playing together really well in the morning, I might just let them play 30 minutes while I finish up a cleaning project. And then we’ll just skip or condense the cleaning/playtime in the afternoon. 

I think it is really helpful to go ahead and make out a specific routine for your day or week using the time budget and priorities, but use it more as a guide, not as a hard and fast must-follow-to-a-tee slave master. It’s there to give you gentle direction and oversight, not to make your life miserable!

You can see our written Daily Schedule here. However, that’s just the written schedule. We never follow it perfectly.

In fact, if you want to have a more accurate idea of what a day at our usually house looks like, it’d be more like this:

::Get up, read Bible, journal, pray

::Check email, clean out email inbox, blogging work

::Exercise, start a load of laundry

::Get children up (if they aren’t already up!), oversee their before-breakfast chores

::Get children started on breakfast (we eat oatmeal pretty much every morning), shower, dressed, make bed, clean up room

::Quick clean up of kitchen (while the children play or finish their morning chores) and make main dish for dinner (this usually involves about one minute of pulling out chicken or fish from the freezer and marinating it)

::Baths, dressed, chores (if the children didn’t finish their morning chores yet)

::Bible Time (We’re going through Teach Me About God, a Bible story coloring book and Hymns for a Kid’s Heart right now), Art (I eat a bowl of oatmeal sometime in here!)

::Kaitlynn and Silas usually go play nearby and I finish My Father’s World with Kathrynne (this is a unit study curriculum which encompasses almost all subjects, though it’s a little weak in some which is why we supplement).

::Kathrynne then works on her math lesson while I oversee and switch the laundry and finish any kitchen cleaning.

::Children watch a DVD or play while I do some blogging work

::Lunchtime and read a chapter from our current chapter book read-aloud

::Finish cleaning chores for the day

::Read to Kaitlynn and put her down for her afternoon nap (she sometimes just lays in her bed and looks at books for 45 minutes to an hour) or listens to a story CD. Recently, though, she’s been taking a good 1.5 hour nap most afternoons — probably because she’s been getting up earlier!

::Sing, rock and read with Silas and put him down for his nap.

::Return phone calls, extra projects or cleaning

::Clean out inbox, blogging (Kathrynne watches her school DVDs or plays.)

::Everyone help with folding and putting away laundry (I try to do at least one load from start to finish each day.)

::The children play together while I read, finish cleaning or extra projects.

::Finish dinner prep, set table and finish afternoon chores (if they weren’t finished earlier), clean up house

::Read together (if time)

::Dinner, family time, read Bible together

::Children ready for bed/to bed (Jesse usually gets the children ready for bed and puts them to bed and sends me to put my feet up and read or blog! Yes, I know, I’m very spoiled!)

::Time with Jesse


This loose schedule is only for Monday through Thursday, as we only follow the morning routine on Fridays and then leave the rest of the day open for extra projects, errands, hospitality, getting together with friends and/or field trips. We pick one “big” fun thing per Friday to do and then also usually tackle some extra loose ends.Saturdays are much more relaxed at our house. Jesse usually takes the children out for a few hours while I have my Weekly Planning Retreat and then we just spend extra time hanging out together as a family, sometimes going out shopping or on a fun outing, sometimes just hanging out at home working on projects. We go to Jesse’s family’s house on Saturday evenings for dinner and our weekly “Family Night” (when everyone congregates to eat, catch up, play the Wii and laugh until our sides ache!).

Sundays are extremely laid back — well, apart from the last-minute rushing around to attempt to get to church on time! (One of these days we’re going to master getting three children out the door and everyone looking presentable at an early morning hour. We’re still getting the hang of that… and it seems like every time we’ve almost mastered it, we add another child to the mix. :))

We usually hang around church until we’re the last ones there and then we head to Cracker Barrel or head home for a very simple lunch and afternoon naps. We spend Sunday evenings at my family’s house (usually all the extended family comes over and we eat, talk, laugh some more and just catch up on the past week). The only project I do try to accomplish on Sundays is a quick clean-up of the house and organizing my coupons (which I do while we’re at my family’s house).

And that’s that — at least for now! Our schedule is always evolving and changing as our lives change, our children’s needs change and as new responsibilities come along and old ones are set aside.

I share these details with you just to give you an example of how our family operates (and because so many of you begged to see our daily schedule).It goes without saying, but I’m still going to say it: please, please, please do not try to copy our schedule or feel like you have to do something similar to what we are doing.

What works for our family will not work for you. Find what works for your family — be that a full-fledged schedule, a simple routine, a different schedule for each day of the week, a different schedule for each week of the month, something in between or something totally different — and do that.

The key is to make a plan and loosely follow the plan. Because a plan doesn’t work unless you do!

2) Homemaking Plan

In addition to a Daily/Weekly Plan, I’ve found it very helpful to have a Homemaking Plan. You can see my current homemaking plan here. There are also sheets available to download (for free, of course!) to create your own plan.

I don’t always get to everything every week, but by getting to most things most weeks and keeping our home pretty streamlined of clutter, things stay in fairly good shape around here most of the time. (Now, if you drop by, I can’t promise there won’t be crumbs or fingerprints or toys on the floor, but our home usually can be “company-ready” in about 45 minutes. And I’m happy with that for now!)

You can see my Daily Docket that I print and use each day here. I normally print these on Saturday for the following week and keep them in my home management binder. I try to keep it simple and only assign five to eight things (or less) on the to-do section and one to two projects/ministries per day. Whatever doesn’t get accomplished in a given day, either gets bumped to the following day, or I decide to just cross it off the list.

I try to never have more than eight items on my daily to-do list, otherwise, I find that it can be discouraging and overwhelming from the get-go. I’d rather just have three items on the list and actually get them all finished, than 30 items and overwhelm myself and finish none.

3) Blogging Plan

During my Weekly Planning Retreat on Saturdays, I map out the blogging projects and posts for the upcoming week on Google calendar and prep anything that I can. I also prioritize things by posts and projects which must be done and those which I hope to get to, but aren’t quite as imperative to write/finish.

To be honest, up until about six months ago, I mostly just blogged by the seat of my pants — without clear plan or purpose. Setting goals for my blogging posts and projects each week and then revisiting them on Saturdays has helped me to be much more intentional in my blogging. And hopefully, this has also allowed me to do a better job at the actual act of blogging. In addition, it’s helped me to actually follow through on my promises (most of the time, at least!).

4) Other Plans

Ministry Plans: On Saturdays, I also map out plans for ministry opportunities for the following week — picking out at least one to three different ways that I feel God wants me to serve or reach out to someone in our church or community. I don’t always get to all of it, but having it planned, helps me to be more purposeful in exercising hospitality, serving and meeting needs.

Homeschooling Plans: Our homeschooling curriculum doesn’t require much extra planning and preparation right now, but there are times when I spend at least a small chunk of time on Saturday planning out the projects, printing worksheets and getting things all ready so that come Monday, we’re not scrambling.

Menu Plans: Since we’re eating really simply right now, I just make sure that we have the ingredients on hand to have oatmeal for breakfast every morning, and simple lunches and dinners every day. I pick one meal off the list for dinner each night and write it on my Daily Docket the night before.

Plan XYZ: For me, I’ve found that if I have a good Daily Plan, Homemaking Plan, Menu Plan, Blogging Plan, Ministry Plan and Homeschooling Plan, life flows along fairly smoothly and doesn’t usually feel too stressful or chaotic (though there are definitely those moments!). This is what is working for me at this season of our lives. I encourage you to examine what areas in your life could be benefited by regular planning and to set aside a small time block each week to plan. At first, it might be rough going, but over time, you’ll likely really start to reap the fruit!

It’s well been said that 10 minutes of planning can save you 20 minutes in execution. And it can also save your sanity and lower your stress levels, too!

On Monday, I’ll be sharing some time-saving tips for email, blogging and the computer in general, since many of you have requested this.

Helpful Resources:

Organizing Your Life as Mom

This 125-page ebook walks you through how to create a personalized household notebook. It includes:

  • worksheets to help you think through your jobs at home
  • calendars that cover all the bases: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.
  • planning sheets for the holidays, your budget, your mealtimes — your life
  • Download a free 15-page sample here.

Motivated Moms Chore Planner

This chore planner tells you exactly what you need to do each day to keep your home organized and running smoothly. There are a few different options to choose from and you can purchase the chore planner for November and December 2010 to try out for only $1 right now.

12 Nov 2010   ·   68
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: Wedding Rings

We paid cash!

A testimony from Sandi

I had been dating Nathan for awhile when talk turned to marriage. We both highly approved of the idea, but I could tell something was making him hesitant about proposing. I had waited for this moment all my life, but it didn’t look like he was going to get around to it anytime soon. It was driving me crazy!

When we finally talked about it, I found out that the hold-up was money: he couldn’t afford a ring. A long-time bachelor, Nathan had gotten used to living exactly within his means; while he didn’t rack up credit card debt, he didn’t save very much either. I wasn’t about to let something so unimportant keep me away from the man of my dreams, so I came up with a plan.

The Background

Feeling a little embarrassed, I talked with a local non-chain jeweler about getting a wedding ring with a cubic zirconia instead of a diamond. I quickly added that we would upgrade to a diamond in a few years when we could afford it.

The jeweler surprised me by taking it all in stride. He confided that my idea was not new; a lot of couples buy a CZ first and then get the diamond later. I was elated! I picked out the ring I liked and went to Nathan with the plan.

How We Did It

He was dumbfounded when I told him. He was so happy and so relieved that I didn’t care about having the most expensive rock out there.

I told him I would rather have him, and would rather not start our marriage making monthly payments on a $4000 ring like a lot of my friends did. Dutifully, he went to the store and found the ring I had picked out.

Wedding RingsHe spent $300 cash on the CZ and the white gold setting, which has four tiny real diamonds in the band. (Admittedly, the price of gold has gone up a lot since we got our rings.) As a bonus, we got his simple white gold ring for $25 since we’d purchased both rings there, and the jeweler even engraved the inside of both rings with our favorite Scripture references for free. I used my ring as my engagement ring as well, so there was no added expense.

My ring is just what I want, and I love it. No one has ever guessed that the large “diamond” isn’t real! Now we are saving for that big rock replacement (on which I may not be so frugal! :)) and hope to get it next summer.

Sandi is a stay-at-home mom of 1.5 children who loves cloth diapers and coupons. Nathan is a few months away from graduating (debt-free) as a Registered Nurse. They’re favorite date is a Dr. Mario tournament on High speed (with Oreos) after their daughter is in bed.

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

10 Nov 2010   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Christmas Gift Guide: My six favorite kitchen items (and you can win them, too!)

A number of months ago, Federated Media (my ad network) contacted me about possibly doing a Gift Guide for Christmas. I’ve never done a Gift Guide before because I’m a minimalist and all and didn’t think I could come up with enough items I could wholeheartedly encourage you to considering buying to actually put together a gift guide!

But the more I discussed the possibility with Federated Media and thought about it, the more I realized this could be a great win-win! So, I’m excited to tell you that Pier 1 is underwriting my first-ever Christmas Gift Guide and for the next six weeks, I’ll be sharing about one of my favorite kitchen items every Wednesday. This will be an item which has been given as a gift to me and which I’ve used over and over and over in my own kitchen.

Not only will I be telling you about my six favorite kitchen items, but I’ll be giving one (or more!) of each of them away to a reader here each week!

First up, Marie Madeline Aprons. Head over to see some adorable pictures of my girls and to enter to win a Marie Madeline Apron of your choosing (to keep for yourself, or give away to someone!).

9 Nov 2010   ·   183
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: How can I be organized when I have a nursing baby and toddler?

Bridget left the following comment on my recent time management post:

The thought of getting up before my children seems impossible right now as my 6-month-old is still waking up in the night and I feel like I never get enough sleep. He has a feeding around 5 a.m. and then my 2-year-old is up and ready between 6:30-7 am… and I constantly feel like I’m run over by a train. I would love to be more organized but it’s just hard when you never get a set amount of sleep. Any tips would be appreciated! -Bridget

I realized after I wrote my last post on time management that it’s possible some people might think I was saying you needed to adopt a morning routine similar to mine. Or that you need to get up before your children do.

Please know that this is just what is working for me right now. And while it is really helpful, I certainly don’t think it’s for everyone. Nor would I be getting up when I do right now if I were up multiple times in the night with a baby or toddler!

I’m at an easier season of life right now. I’m not pregnant, Kathrynne is old enough to help me with quite a few different things, Kaitlynn is learning how to to help and can do a number of things by herself, Silas is almost weaned and all three of my children are sleeping through the night most every night. So, what works for me won’t work for you because you’re at a very different — and much more difficult! — season of life right now.

However, I can very much relate to where you’re at because Silas did not sleep through the night for the first entire year of his life. In fact, for 12 months, the longest stretch of sleep I got was six hours — twice. It was hard, especially because Kaitlynn wasn’t even two when he was born and she was still waking up at night on occasion for that first year of his life.

Here are some things which helped me (They may or may not be helpful to you. Take what helps you and leave the rest!):

Give Up the Expectation of a Good Night’s Sleep

Instead of getting frustrated over how little sleep I was getting or how often my sleep was being interrupted, I gave up my expectation of being able to get a good night’s sleep and asked the Lord to please give me grace and bless and supernaturally multiply whatever sleep I was able to get. This was hugely helpful to me to realize that God knows how much sleep I need, He’s not confined by a clock and I can trust Him to provide what I need.

Make Sleep Your Priority

At the same time, I think it’s vitally important to do everything you can to make sleep a priority. Let the dishes sit in the sink, turn off the computer and go to bed as soon as you can at night.

I know the temptation is great to use that quiet, uninterrupted time to tackle your list of 997 things you haven’t gotten to in the last six months, but your body needs sleep. If you can squeeze in a nap in the afternoon or on the weekends when your husband is home, snatch the opportunity. Sometimes even a 10 or 15-minute catnap can do wonders!

Lower Your Expectations

This is not the time for tackling big projects, volunteering for ministry opportunities or doing detailed, in-depth cleaning. Stick with the basics and lower your expectations. If your family has clean laundry and food in their bellies, most of the other stuff can wait.

Develop a Simple Routine

Don’t worry about specific times, just make a basic list of 10-12 things you want to accomplish every day in the same (or similar order). Such as:

1. Get up, read Bible

2. Breakfast

3. Start a load of laundry and load the dishwasher

4. Take the children out on a walk.

5. Morning naptime for baby, toddler play with a special toy box or basket in the playpen — put the laundry in the dryer, do one cleaning project*, thaw something for dinner

6. Lunchtime

7. Read picture books and play with the children.

8. 2-year-old watch DVD, baby in swing while you fold and put away laundry

9. Afternoon naptime (everyone naps, including mom!)

10. Quick pick up of the house, finish dinner prep

11. Dinner

12. Bedtime

I’ve found that just having a basic routine mapped out is so helpful. It keeps things calm and more structured and everyone knows what to expect next. Plus, it ensures that the most important tasks get done every day.

*Consider coming up with five homemaking tasks — one for each day of the week — and tackle one per day. Something like:

Monday: Vacuuming

Tuesday: Bathrooms

Wednesday: Mop Floors

Thursday: Dusting

Friday: General Straightening and Clutter Removal

Give Yourself Grace

Don’t beat yourself up over what you’re not doing. Don’t compare yourself to other seeming “supermoms.” Don’t stress over what’s being left undone.

It’s just a short season. Now’s the time to just love your little ones, take care of your health and keep your marriage strong. The dust bunnies will still be there waiting for you whenever you’re ready to attack them! 🙂

Laugh Often

Learn to laugh instead of cry and things will be much better all round. Find the humor in every situation that you can. Surround yourself with positive people and encouraging messages to help build you up.

Don’t Neglect Your Health

Make sure that the foods you are putting in your body are nourishing you — especially as a nursing mother. It’s worth it to spend a little more at the grocery store to stock your refrigerator with healthful foods you can grab for snacks — such as fresh fruits and veggies. In addition, make sure you are drinking plenty of water, eating plenty of good protein and whole grains and taking a good multi-vitamin.

I’ve found that I feel so much better when I eat a big salad at least once a day, drink 8-10 glasses of water, take my vitamins and get fresh air and exercise.

Enjoy Your Family

Your babies are only little once. Take time to just enjoy them. To stare into their faces. To soak up their cuddles and smiles and giggles and firsts. Stop and listen to them, talk with them, love on them. Cherish them.

And don’t neglect your husband, either. You might not have a lot of energy left at the end of the day, but at least meet him at the door with a kiss and a smile. Ask him how he’s doing. Make time for him.

This stuff is so much more important than a clean house or an organized kitchen. And if you’ve got to choose between cleaning or cuddling, always choose the cuddling. I promise you won’t regret it at the end of your life!

What advice or tips do the rest of you have to add for Bridget? Share them in the comments.

9 Nov 2010   ·   107
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Make a Personalized Plan

Up until now, we’ve mostly talked about theories. We’ve discussed streamlining your life, determining your priorities and creating a time budget. It’s now time to turn those theories into real-life applications.

I know. This is the hard part. But I promise that if you’ll stick with it, it will pay off in incredible ways!

You Need a Plan

Just like you’re never going to get control of your finances until you make a detailed budget and stick with it, so you’re never going to be a good manager of your time unless you have a plan and stick with it. Without a plan, you’ll just aimlessly wonder through life, not knowing where you’re going or what your final destination is.

personalize your time plan
A plan allows you to rise above the tyranny of the urgent and focus your efforts and energies on what is truly important. A plan gives you purpose, vision and momentum.

When it comes to our daily plan and homemaking plan, I’ve found that a plan gives me freedom, saves me a great deal of time and brings peace and order into our home. I can focus on the task at hand because I know the other tasks will get taken care of during their designated time in the day.

For instance, I can walk past the pile of laundry on my bed at noon because I know that I have a time slot at 4 p.m. to fold and put away laundry. I don’t have to find myself stressing over “What’s for dinner?” at 5 p.m. because I put together the main dish after breakfast and it’s just waiting in the refrigerator for me to stick in the oven. I can enjoy reading a book or spending time online during the designated time slots for it because I know that my family’s need are met and my house is in order.

What Would a Perfect Day Look Like?

Find a quiet room sometime in the next few days and take a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and jot down a rough draft of what a perfect day would look like for you. This exercise is not meant to discourage you, but to get your creative juices flowing and to help you start to formulate a plan to improve the order and efficiency of your home and life.

Start With a Routine

After you’ve written out what a perfect day would look like, take your list of priorities and your time budget and start mapping out a realistic plan for your day. If you’re new to the whole concept of routines, don’t try to create this massively-regimented schedule.

In fact, I’d discourage you from making a strict schedule to begin with and would instead suggest you create a routine. This way, you’re not setting yourself up for failure from the get-go. Once you become a adept at a routine, then you can get a little more detailed, but don’t bite off more than you can chew when you’re first starting out.

I love many of the concepts from FlyLady and one of the things she encourages is to have a morning routine, an afternoon routine and an evening routine. If you have no structure in your life right now, I’d encourage you to begin by writing down five things you want to do in the same order every morning and commit to getting up and doing these first thing every morning for three weeks.

My current morning routine:

::Get up, read Bible, journal, pray

::Check email, clean out email inbox, blogging work

::Exercise, recovery drink, start a load of laundry

::Get children up (if they aren’t already up!), oversee their before-breakfast chores

::Shower, dressed, make bed, clean up room

I’ve had a morning routine for a number of years, so mine is a little more than five things. But it’s sort of meshed together so that I view each line as one “thing” and lump them together like that!

Don’t try to add anything else new for the next three weeks, just stick with faithfully implementing a morning routine. Once you’ve consistently stuck with your morning routine for three weeks, then add in an afternoon routine for three weeks and then an evening routine for three weeks. At the end of nine weeks, you should start to feel some significant order in your life just by these simple routines!

Be Flexible; Life Happens!

Remember that your routines are not a slavemaster; they are a guideline to help you. If your children or husband need help or something else important comes up, take a detour from them and then come back to the next thing as soon as you are able.

The whole purpose of a routine or schedule is to benefit you and your family, not to be an excuse to bull-doze everyone over! If it isn’t serving your family, it needs to be tweaked or changed.

In the next post, I’ll be sharing more about creating a Daily Plan, as well finding time to plan and what to do when things don’t go according to the plan. Later on in the week, we’ll be talking about creating a plan for homemaking, laundry and other areas of life.

9 Nov 2010   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

Do-It-Yourself: Draft Stop

Rachel over at Frugal and Simple shows you how to make a draft stop to cut down on heating costs this winter. I couldn’t get her picture to load on my blog for some odd reason, so I snagged one from Door Sixteen who also posted a similar tutorial.

Do you have a fun and frugal DIY idea to share? I’d love to hear about it! Read the submission guidelines and submit it here.

8 Nov 2010   ·   111
Money Saving Mom

Make Christmas Clutter-Free with Consumable Gifts

A guest post by JessieLeigh from Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles

Last Christmas, I was bound and determined to not bring more clutter into my home. Having just recently pared down the playroom, the last thing I wanted was more, well, junk filling our house.

I decided to chose a couple of needed articles of clothing and then only gave consumable gifts. Consumable gifts are a great way to have something to put under the tree to rip open on Christmas morning, without cluttering your home or the homes of others.

Here are five of my favorite consumable gifts to give or receive:

1. Favorite treats/snacks

Think about some of the purchased treats your kids love and ask for all the time, but don’t usually make the “budget cut.” Think about those cookies your sister makes that are your son’s absolute favorite in the world! These are great things to ask for as gifts! Your kids will be delighted to have those special treats tucked in a lunch bag or for a fun afternoon snack.

Truthfully, my husband and I do this for each other, too. He adores Monster energy drinks and I love pizza-flavored Combos, but we don’t purchase them ordinarily. Christmas is a fun time to indulge each other. Even better? Once the treats are eaten, there’s nothing left cluttering up our home!

2. Fun bath/shower products

My sister-in-law once gave my children a three-pack of those “fizzy bath bomb” balls that you drop in the bath tub. My kids thought they were amazing and I was thrilled that, after three joyful, giggling baths, they were gone.

My sister and her family gave my kids little Disney soaps one time too… they brought many smiles while they lasted! Aim for small, specialty items in this category, rather than ultra-jumbo bottles of bubble bath.

3. Coloring Books/Puzzle Books/Stickers

When people ask for ideas for my children, these top the list. They are all readily available, inexpensive and cheap to ship for those out-of-staters. My children love sitting at their art table, coloring or solving fun puzzles and decorating with stickers.

What I love? When it’s done, it’s done. I’ve never had a child miss a completed coloring book that I’ve tossed.

4. Cooking Kits

My kids, like most children, love to cook. Pre-measured cookie, quick bread or muffin kits make wonderful gifts! These can be mixes you put together on your own or even mixes you just buy in the store — children will be delighted either way.

We also happen to have a hand-me-down EasyBake oven. If you, or someone you know, does too, you could also make up some fun little mixes to be baked in there. I’ve had great success with the recipes at this site!

5. Craft Kits

By this, I mean craft kits designed to make gifts for others. My kids love to make bracelets, bookmarks and magnets for their grandmas and aunties. The “gift” for them is in the fun they have doing the crafting!

Craft kits keep them happy (and entertained) for many hours and, when they’re done, the results are happily passed on to others with much pride and joy. Win-win!

Do you have any tips for cooking back on the clutter at Christmastime? Share it in the comments!

JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles. She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles.

photo by craftapalooza

7 Nov 2010   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: A quick trip to Aldi

My husband and I attended Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership Simulcast most of the day yesterday (I’ll have to share more on that later!), so I didn’t get the shopping done that I was hoping to this weekend. Dillon’s is having some great sales right now, so I did get my coupons printed today and am hoping to make a trip there on Monday night.

However, we made a stop at Aldi to pick up some basics (not everything is pictured because half the bread and cheese got eaten for a snack as soon as we came home from the store. I figured it was more important to feed the hungry masses than to get a perfect picture of my groceries!). We also bought three dozen eggs from my brother and my mom gave us a big bag of pears from their pear tree.

All told, we spent around $42 on groceries for the week.


Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

5 Nov 2010   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: A Car Engine (with a twist)

We paid cash!

A testimony from Meagan

The Background

My husband and I got married young, while we were both still in college. Our first year together married, we lived in a tiny basement apartment that didn’t even have heat, much less a washer or dryer. I began to loathe going to the laundromat, and started daydreaming about being able to someday own my own washer and dryer.

After that first year, we found a new apartment that had hook-ups, and my husband agreed that we could use the summer to save up for a pair of energy-efficient washer and dryers.

How We Did It

My husband got a fantastic internship in a city 1500 miles away from where we went to school, so we spent the summer there, saving money for my dream washer and dryer. We even picked them out and scheduled them to be delivered a week after we were to arrive back at school.

However, on the way back to school, in the middle of a New Mexico highway, our car totally broke down. After spending a night sleeping by the road, my husband and his brother managed to tow our car to a repair shop, where it was determined that the engine was un-fixable and we’d either need to replace it or give up on our car.

We Paid Cash Car Engine

We decided that our best option would be to replace the engine with a refurbished engine. It turned out that the new engine cost only $200 more than the washer and dryer we had been saving for, and we had enough left over from our summer moving budget to make the difference.

This all happened the day before we were to have the washer and dryer delivered, so I canceled the delivery and cried because I was so sad.

The Best Part

I was so bummed about not getting my washer and dryer that my husband suggested looking on Craigslist for something cheaper to use while we saved up for nicer ones.

I found a washer and dryer set for free! The owners didn’t know if they’d work, and they were in pieces, but when we put them together (using a generous amount of duct tape and other odds and ends), they both worked. And it’s been three years and they have still kept going!

We paid cash Care engine with a twist

They are not even close to as nice as what I was hoping for, but they get the job done, even with two kids and cloth diapering. We consider every day our washer keeps running a miracle.

Meagan and her husband Tyler currently live in Little Rock, AR while Tyler attends medical school. Meagan stays home with their two daughters and is having a blast learning how to be a mom.

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

4 Nov 2010   ·   84
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Create a Time Budget (Part 2)

For years, we’ve used a cash envelope system for much of our budgeting. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it basically works like this: We have different envelopes for each area of spending (for instance food, clothing, gifts and so forth) and we have a budgeted amount of cash that we put in them every month. That’s the allotted money we have to spend on clothes and food and gifts and so forth.

Because we have a budget, we know where our money is going, we know how much money we have to spend in each category and we’re able to make sure that we’re spending our money on what matters to us — instead of just letting it pass through our fingers like sand. Having a plan for our money and sticking to the plan gives us peace, allows us to make financial traction and frees us from a lot of worry and stress.

Budgeting our money is a no-brainer for us. But truth be told, I’d never considered how this concept could be applied to my time. To me, time management had always meant trying to find a way to be as productive as possible every day.

I equated busyness with productivity. So I’d have these big, lofty plans and make these detailed schedules, but I’d always crash and burn quickly because I was trying to cram in about 32 hours’ worth of projects into a 24-hour day.
busyness does not equal productivity

When Amy shared the concept of creating a Time Budget with me, it completely revolutionized my life.

I’d never thought to approach my time like I approached my money. Instead of starting with everything I wanted to do in a day and then trying to find a way to fit it all in (it never did because my list was way too long to begin with!), for the first time, I started with the time I had and then divvied up my responsibilities and priorities into time brackets which equaled less than 24 hours.

My Daily Time Budget

30 minutes Bible reading/journaling
1 hour with Jesse
4 hours of homeschooling, reading and playing with the children
1 hour of exercise
30 minutes shower/dress
2 hours cleaning/home management
7 hours sleeping
2 hours meals/meal preparation
4 hours blogging/computer work
2 hours of extra/”margin” time

It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to repeat it anyway: Please remember that this is my time budget which currently works for me in this season of my life. Yours will likely look much different. Do what works for you. Do not pattern your time budget after mine because it won’t work for you. I only share mine as an example, not to encourage you in anyway to emulate it — unless you want to try and get as much (or more!) sleep than I do, okay?

Keys to Success When Making a Time Budget

1. Make Sleep One of Your Highest Priorities

I used to think that burning the midnight oil would make me more productive, but I’ve actually found that I’m much more productive if I get at least seven hours of sleep almost every single night. I’ve found I’m most productive in the mornings so I make it my goal to go to bed by 10 p.m. and get up between 5 and 6 a.m.

You might be the other way around. Do what works best for you, but whatever you do, put getting enough rest high up on your priority list.

You’ll feel better and more energetic and I’d wager to guess that you’ll also find an extra hour or two of sleep at night helps you to be more productive than if you spent that time trying to pry your eyeballs open with toothpicks and get more work done!

2. Deduct at Least Two Hours for “Margin Time”

I know that there is a great temptation to fill up every single waking moment with something, but may I heartily encourage you to include at least two hours of margin time in your budget? It’s sort of like our “blow” category for our cash envelope system; we can use it for those little incidental expenses which come up that we weren’t expecting. Or, we can choose to “blow” it on something fun.

If you have margin built into your time budget, when you have someone knock at the door, or the phone rings, or the baby has a diaper blowout or the washer overflows and there’s water all over the laundry room floor, your whole day didn’t just go down the toilet. Instead, you can just stop what you were doing, deal with the unexpected interruption and then go back to what you were doing — and you know that you still have plenty of time to get everything done you needed to get done!

You know what else I love about including margin in my time budget? It means I have time to stop and really enjoy my children and seize teachable moments with them.

For instance, the other day I discovered a four-foot long black snake in our backyard. If I didn’t know that I had a time cushion in my day, being the Type A person I am, I likely would have just run on to the next task. But instead, I called the girls outside and we spend 45 minutes observing and taking pictures of the snake.

We emailed the pictures to Jesse and he looked up what kind of snake it was and researched more about it so that when he came home from work, he was prepared to give the girls an impromptu “lesson” on our backyard visitor — which they just lapped up and then enjoyed sharing with me and anyone who would listen for the next few days.

If our lives were so packed full that we didn’t have any margin in them, we would daily miss out on fun opportunities like this. Planning margin into our day gives us the freedom to be spontaneous.

3. Be Ruthless About Eliminating the Unnecessary

As Americans, I think we are sometimes addicted to busyness. We always have to be on the go-go-go. And I sometimes think we find fulfillment and self-worth in piling our plates too high. As if, the more busy we are, the more important it makes us feel.

In reality, I think our culture, by and large, is exhausted, overworked and overwhelmed.

What’s the solution? It’s really very simple: just say “no”.

Stop doing things just because you feel obligated to do them by something or someone else. Stop doing things just because you’re afraid of what people might think of you if you don’t do them.

Stop over-committing yourself. Stop letting people manipulate you into a miserable existence. Just say “no”.

Want more step-by-step help in creating a time budget and becoming a better time manager? Be sure to get a copy of Amy’s ebook.

She’s offering it for almost 50% off through midnight tonight (Friday, November 5, 2010) when you use coupon code MoneySavingMom. What she shares in this ebook has revolutionized my life — and brought so much more peace and order to our home!

Beginning Monday, I’ll be sharing more about our daily routine, my homemaking/cleaning systems and, if there’s time, some time management tips for bloggers.

If you have created a time budget, I’d love for you to share yours in the comments section so that we can all be inspired and glean ideas!