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26 Aug 2008   ·   50
Money Saving Mom

My Swiffer came!

Swiffer2

I was so excited to get the mail yesterday and find a box containing a brand-new Swiffer Sweeper Starter Kit in it! I can’t wait to try these out on our floors–it might be just the motivation I’m needing right now to do some cleaning!

A big thanks to CouponMom for giving away 500 Swiffer Sweeper Starter Kits and for letting me know as soon as she posted about it so I could sign up for one before they were all gone.

Did anyone else get one, too? I hope I’m not the only one!

By the way, if you regularly use Swiffer products, there are a bunch of printable coupons here. (Thanks, Samantha!)

22 Aug 2008   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday (and winners of the Bertolli giveaway!)

The five winners of the Bertolli Premium Pasta Sauces are: Sue (marklovessue@), Shaunta (taychambers@), Michele (mflaherty@), Ram (ram1118@), Hil’Lesha (LilacButterfly@) Winners have been notified via email. Thanks to everyone who participated!

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And now for Super Savings Saturday… I have nothing to report this week since I stayed home all week. My husband was kind enough to make a quick trip to Aldi for us and that was it. I’ve not so much as even touched my coupon box and am just trying to get our home back into our and some semblance of a routine back into place.

However, next week, I hope to hit some deals hot and heavy seeing as we’re running low on a few things. I also hope to bring the $40 weekly menu feature back to life, too. So stay tuned!

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How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and bargains you were able to snag this week or other ways you saved money on your blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below. **To make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post. Links
going to the homepage of your blog or any other part of your blog
besides the direct link to your Super Savings Saturday post will be deleted.**

22 Aug 2008   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Living long-term on lower income

Guest Post from Lyn

My husband and I since we have been married (4+ years) have been living on a lower-than-average income. He works with teens in a group home. It is a very challenging job but he enjoys it very much. I am at home and live with chronic illness. We live only on my husband’s income.

My job is being "keeper of my home" and a helper to my husband. With the limited energy I have, I cook, care for my home and try to be as frugal as possible to the best of my ability. There are days I am successful and days that I am not. The amazing thing has been that I have been able to remain home on one lower-income salary. God continues to look out for us.

Several years back we wanted to simply get out of debt. At first, we started to chip away at medical bills–bills we had due to a terrible health insurance plan at the time. We progressed onto consumer debt and have fully paid one debt off and are hoping to pay off the rest in the very near future.

Last year we had to come up with money for a roof repair of $2,000, numerous car repairs, and have recently had to have a new toilet installed. The encouraging part though has been that we have paid off well over $10,000 the last 2 years in medical bills, debt, home repairs and car repairs, all while living on a very modest income.

We were still able to achieve this when last fall due to a downsizing of my husband’s work hours we lost $800-$900/month in pay. It was difficult but it also showed us how to scale back to our basic needs and to be thankful for all that we do have.

Our salary this year will be around $21-22K net. It is only from the Lord, really that we are able to do all of this. My husband has never made more than a mid-30K net income (this was one year with much overtime, often working 70-80 hours per week). Otherwise it’s always been in the $20K range or less. 

We live in New England, where the winters are very cold and the cost of living is high. We own a small modular home and are responsible for all repairs, upkeep, taxes, and insurance.   

Some practicals on how we achieve this:

::Putting all extra cash (holiday pay, income tax refunds, government rebate, extra from 3-pay check months twice per year) towards debt  (*Tip, once you are out of debt, do the same to build savings.)

::Not going out just to spend (extra money is always put towards debt, bills or future expenses).   

::Padding some of our bills ahead as we can (planning ahead really helps)

::Not going on vacations (for now). Our last vacation was our honeymoon.

::Giving up cable and reducing all categories of income (We cut everything when husband’s hours were reduced.)

::Utilizing coupons–I tend to use those that are for healthy foods and will use coupons for free or close-to-free items (thanks to moneysavingmom!). This really helps our budget. (One of the only non-necessity items we have kept is our internet because I feel it saves me so much more than what I pay for it.)

::Stay home most days/live with one car

::Eat out minimally and when we do it’s done inexpensively

::Make a game out of being frugal. This helps you to be creative with what you have, instead of focusing on what you don’t.

::Shop at home with what you already have and look for solutions to your needs instead of buying more.

::We each have a small stipend each pay day and can do with that amount what we please (the rest is budgeted). It really helps our mindset to have something to be able to spend if desired.

::Choosing to live in smaller and less expensive housing (reduced utilities, less to clean and maintain)

The best thing anyone can do if they live on a smaller income is to get out of debt. Do whatever you can to accomplish this as it will help you to better manage your money in this challenging economy.

Once we are out of debt we will have a little wiggle room. However, we will still need to be able to manage on a smaller income, and we shall.

There are times I am discouraged by this, but for the most part I am grateful to be where we are at and to have what we do. I find my efforts and abilities are best utilized in helping to maximize the income we do have. In this season of my life it is easier to try and spend less than to be concerned about earning more.

To be honest, it can be challenging to put more money into savings on a lower income. I continue to be positive and look for ways to cut back and spend less. The more creative and proactive I become, the less time I have to worry, feel defeated or feel sorry for myself. We are blessed and there are so many in this world that have much less than we do.

Lyn is a full-time homemaker who resides in lovely rustic New England. She enjoys frugal and simple living and strives for a balance of both while living with long-term chronic illness.  Although living on a smaller income, she feels blessed with all the Lord provides, as many have so much less. She can be contacted at spendingsimply (at) yahoo (dot) com.

22 Aug 2008   ·   38
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Friday: It’s been a quiet week and I’ve loved it!

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(My mom just gave me this quilt. It was made by my great grandma using pieces from the dresses my grandma wore when she was a little girl!)

It’s Frugal Friday on my other blog today. You won’t want to miss all the great tips and hints shared there. And I’d love to have you weigh in on my question on getting rid of set-in stains.

It’s been a really good week here, despite some bumps in the road. After weeks of going-going-going, I’ve stayed home every single day this week. And I’ve loved it.

I’ve been cooking and cleaning and just enjoying my family. It’s been wonderful and I’m hoping the trend can continue now that our vacations and travels and other things are behind us.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy short seasons of excitement and adventure, but I always love coming back to our quiet, peaceful home and routine. I’m itching to take back up my handwork, do more experimenting in the kitchen, spend more time playing and reading with the girls, and keep the house more organized.

What about you? Do you like staying home, or going and doing, or a little of both?

21 Aug 2008   ·   43
Money Saving Mom

Hospitality on a budget

My
family of 5 has been keeping a grocery budget for two years now, but I
have had to create a separate money envelope for "hospitality" to set
aside cash for extra groceries for when we bring dinners over to
friends and when we bring snacks to church and Bible studies.

I
just can’t seem to fit meals for our friends into our weekly grocery
budget. I also feel that if I sign up to bring a meal, it needs to have
bread, salad, and a dessert. Is that what you do as well?   

Last
night I took a meal of taco salad, corn bread, and brownies over to a
family (all relatively inexpensive items, or so I thought…) but I
ended up paying $12 for all the ingredients (it was actually double
that, but I made two meals for different families out of all the
ingredients I used). 

With
what we are putting to pay off a school loan each month, we have little
room to spare in the meals we take to our friends. But I still want to
be able to help them out. I still have 3 more meals to go before the
month is up!!    Do you have ideas on money-saving meals for friends you could help me out with? – JoAnna

Great question, JoAnna! I think that having a giving, hospitable spirit–even when you are on a tight budget–is so
important. Giving to others blesses us so much in return! However,
giving to others on a limited budget usually means we need to get
really creative!

I remember once when my husband was in law
school and we were on a bare-bones budget a family we knew had gone
through a really traumatic time. We wanted to take them some food and
show them that we cared but we had next to nothing left in our grocery
budget to work with.

What did I do? I put on my thinking cap,
and got to work! I looked through my freezer and cupboards and was able
to scrounge up some snack goodies (that I’d gotten free with coupons!)
and then I made them some homemade pizza and a few other simple frozen
foods.

To spruce things up a bit, I wrote out pretty little
notes with encouraging Scriptures on them and taped them to each item.
Even though we couldn’t do much, I could do what I could do from a
heart of love and I know that meant more than if I’d brought them an
elaborate, five-star dinner.

So, my biggest advice is to keep it simple and focus on showering others with love and I’m sure your friends will be blessed–even if it’s a very frugal meal!

Just a few practical ideas:

-Plan your company meals around what you already have on hand and what is on sale. When
we are going to have company or bring food to someone, I look first
through our cupboards and through the store fliers and plan the menu
based upon that–just like I plan our own menus.

-Plan in advance for hospitality.
If you have a little extra room in your budget one week, buy some
ingredients to make up muffins or soup to stick in your freezer and
have on hand for taking meals to people. Or, double up your own meals
when cooking and freeze one to share. If you already have a few things
in your freezer to work with, it really makes it much easier to take
food to people or to have people over on the spur of the moment.

-Bring breakfast on Saturday morning.
A lot of times, breakfast or brunch foods can be less expensive and a
nice change of pace for a family–and who wouldn’t love a good homemade
breakfast to wake up to on the weekend. A pan of homemade cinnamon
rolls and some fruit would be simple to make and quite
inexpensive–especially if you used in season fruit. Or what about
bagels, muffins, and juice?

-Make up a pot of soup and a loaf of bread. There are so many soups which are inexpensive to make and can be so filling and delicious!

-Pair up with another friend.
If you know of another friend who might also be short on finances or
time, ask if she’d like to help you with making a meal. One of you can
make the main dish and bread, another the salad and dessert, and you’ve
just pulled off a great meal for half the cost. Or you could even go
together with three more friends and each only make one thing!

-Make homemade pizza, a green salad, and cookies or brownies. This is another very inexpensive, filling, and delicious dinner.

-Offer to bring over a basket of frozen goodies instead of a whole dinner.
Look through your cupboards and freezer and figure out some items you
can make with what you have on hand. Sometimes instead of making a full
meal, I’ll just make up some banana bread, muffins or rolls, and some
cookies and put them in a pretty basket with some notes of
encouragement taped onto them. Bring it over and tell the family they
can stick everything in their freezer and use them when they need to.

-Make up a basket of mixes.
I’ve always thought this was a nice gesture and can be done quite
economically. Best of all, the family can use them whenever they like!
You could make up a simple bean soup mix, bread mix, and cookie mix and
you have yourself a meal in a basket!

Those
are just a few ideas. I’d love to hear from the rest of you: How do you
afford to be hospitable or to take food to others on a limited budget?
What ideas do you have for JoAnna and the rest of us?

Originally published March 2008.

20 Aug 2008   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

Our gift card came–yay!

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After weeks of wondering whether it was really going to arrive or not, one of our Shell gift cards arrived in the mail yesterday for the Sears/Dockers deal. Yay! I’m just hoping the second one arrives shortly, too.

Have you gotten yours yet?

20 Aug 2008   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Budgeting 101 – Part 1

Budgeting… one of those
words which conjures up dreadful pictures of living in a straitjacket,
not being able to ever do anything fun or spontaneous, and always
having to worry about pinching pennies.

One of the purposes of
this series is to debunk the former myths that many have regarding the
confinement and limitations a budget puts on a person and to show you
how you not only need to live
on a budget, you just plain can’t afford to live without one… unless,
that is, you decide want to never be able to get ahead, or never be
able to enjoy saving up and
paying cash for things you need or want (yes, your real, very own,
hard-earned dollars and cents!), unless you really aren’t all that keen
on living on less so that you can save more, invest more, splurge
sometimes, and–most importantly–to be able to give more.

So, I want you all to begin this series by committing to set aside your many excuses for why a budget won’t work for you. Oftentimes, the excuses are just really manifestations of laziness or selfishness.
You don’t want to live on a budget, you don’t want to wait and save up
to pay cash for something when you can afford it, so you’ll come up
with a nice list of reasons why you are the world’s exception in the
case of living on a budget.

I hope that by the end of this series you not only want to live on a budget, you will be fired up and excited about the possibilities that lie before you if you’re willing to put forth a little effort to make your money work for you.

Why
am I such a big proponent of living on a budget? Because I know that
were it not for our budget and the grace of God, we would very likely
be up to our eyeballs in debt right now, barely making ends meet–just
like pretty much all the rest of our law school friends are. We
wouldn’t be living comfortably below our means, we wouldn’t have
an emergency fund of six months’ expenses in the bank, and we certainly wouldn’t be on a savings plan to pay cash for a home in a few years.

Yes,
we’re frugal (I came into the marriage frugal, my husband has learned
to be out of necessity!), but we would be miles behind where we are now
without a written budget. I know this because we’ve done the math and
we know without a doubt that having a written budget, giving every
dollar a name, and putting it on paper, on purpose (to quote a few Dave Ramsey lines) has saved us literally thousands of dollars over the last five years.

Our
written game plan for our finances enabled us to get through law school
debt-free living on around $1000 per month, it enabled us to weather
over three months of my husband’s unemployment last year without
us having to touch our savings, and it is currently enabling us to live on less than we make so we can save more and give more.

Think you might be interested in joining us on this budgeting adventure to see what incredible things it could do for your finances?
Well, stick around because in our next installment, I’ll be sharing
about how we got started on this journey and how you can too!

Originally published in 2007.

19 Aug 2008   ·   89
Money Saving Mom

Ask the readers: Inexpensive anti-virus software?

Linnea wrote:

I was wondering if your readers have any recommendations on anti-virus/anti-spyware/firewall software.  I’m looking for something that works, but is inexpensive as well.

Since I’m not that knowledgeable about this I’m very interested in hearing what other people use and like.  My current subscription is up in early September so I’d like to do some research before then.

Hope you can help!

Anyone have tips, suggestions, ideas, or input? Fire away and tell us all about your experiences and recommendations!

18 Aug 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

A peek into our lives

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For anyone who might be interested in seeing a peek into the last three weeks of our lives, you can check out my picture-filled post here on my other blog. Thanks again for your patience as I’ve been somewhat-absent from the blogosphere this past month.

Life has slowed down considerably around here finally so I hope to be more regular and consistent in blogging. Although you never know what tomorrow holds… 🙂

18 Aug 2008   ·   27
Money Saving Mom

Worth reading: A husband’s perspective on marrying a couponaholic

You will get a kick out of this post by Ryan whose wife recently become a die-hard coupon aficionado. Ryan’s analysis of the "strange products" he gets to try as a result of this couponing thing was right on.

My poor husband has been subjected to countless "lunchbox surprises" thanks to coupons. The good news? I’m married to a man who loves trying new things so he gets a thrill out of it, even if the product turns out to be a real dud.

What does your family think of the interesting things you pick up with coupons? Found any real winners or losers as a result?

15 Aug 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Friday: I’m taking the weekend off

It’s Frugal Friday over on my other blog today! I share a post on transitioning from two incomes to one. You’ll want to check it out.

Also, we’re headed to Wichita this afternoon for the Christian Family Entrepreneurship Seminar so I’ll be away from blogging until Monday. I’m short on time since I’ve spent most of my blogging time the last few days getting the blog re-design up, so I’m skipping our usual Super Savings Saturday round-up, thanks for your understanding! In addition, the typical Saturday evening CVS and Walgreens deal posts will wait until early next week.

Thanks so much for your patience with me the last few weeks as I’ve been pretty hit-and-miss with blogging. Life has been unbelievably crazy around here so I’ve had to put blogging on the back burner. Things should slow down quite a bit starting next week so I hope to be back with more regular posts and consistency in our weekly features. At least that’s the plan!

Have a wonderful weekend!

15 Aug 2008   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Frugal and green: Cutting down on waste

Inspired by Stephanie’s post on cutting down on waste,
I begin contemplating areas where we’ve cut down on waste in our home.
As I thought about these things, I realized just how much being frugal
can go hand-in-hand with being environmentally-friendly.

Here are a few of the ways we’ve cut down on waste in our home:

1) Utilizing PaperBackSwap and the library instead of buying books new.
Also, unless it was an exceptional book, I usually pass it on once I’m
finished with it so that someone else might enjoy it and our home can
stay pared down from unnecessary clutter.

2) Buying clothes at second-hand stores at least 50% of the time or more. We also readily accept offers of hand-me-downs from others. What we can’t use, we pass on to someone else.

3) Cooking from scratch as much as possible and thus eliminating much of the packaging from processed and boxed foods.

4) Thinking before I throw something out, "Is there another way I can use this?" If not, then I try to always ask myself if it can be recycled.

5) Reusing foil and plastic bags for as long as possible.
We also use Tupperware or pans/containers with lids instead of
disposable containers whenever we can. (I’ve gone for long stretches
without buying aluminum foil and have found I can almost live without
it. Almost.)

6) Eliminating paper towels and using cloth rags/towels instead.

7) Keeping it simple: Staying home more, not having an excess of clothing or household items, drinking water most of the time, and trying to only buy what we need.

8) Reusing magazines to make greeting cards.

9) Only requesting free samples for items we’ll use.

10) Using baking soda and Basic H for all household cleaning.

So
those were a few I came up with–what about you? I’d love to hear your
list and be inspired and challenged by how you are reducing waste and
being frugal at the same time!

Originally published March 2008.

14 Aug 2008   ·   92
Money Saving Mom

And we’ll add this to the list of frugal failures

As
you all know, I’m always in the market for new ideas to reduce our
outgo. So, I thought I came upon another one recently when I’d heard of
a number of people who only did their laundry in cold water.

Brilliant,
I thought. It’s much better than taking cold showers (yes, we did that
for quite some time when we were first married!) and, best of all, no
one will even notice.

Well, let me tell you, lots
of people will notice. You see, after a week of washing everything in
cold water only, I learned that cold water does not get pre-treated
toddler stains or six-month-old stains out of clothing.

Not in the least.

I
guess the people who do the cold water only thing must not have
children. Or at least they don’t have children as messy as mine.

At
any rate, despite lots of stain remover and hot water-washing, the
stains are still there on multiple articles of clothing, some which
were almost brand-new. Let’s just say that I think any money saved by
using only cold water would be quickly lost in all the clothing we’d
need to replace.

So much for a great idea.

Your turn: Have
you ever had a brilliant frugal idea which flopped on its face? And do
you have any great suggestions for reducing the costs of running
laundry besides using cold water?

Originally published January 2008.

14 Aug 2008   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

CVS is buying Longs Drug Stores

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Those of you in California, Nevada, and Arizona have cause for rejoicing!

According to this article, CVS is buying Longs Drug Stores and the transition from Longs to CVS will take place over the next few years, most of the stores being re-converted in 2009.

Great stuff and I’m happy to see our beloved CVS doing so well!

Now if they’d just get the memo and build some stores where my parents live since we’re hoping to move back there soon… It’s pretty bad when you determine whether you can move to an area based upon whether or not there are CVS stores close by!