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13 Nov 2008   ·   59
Money Saving Mom

Financial Shape in 2008: End-of-the-year report

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It's nearing the end of 2008! Can you believe that? It's been a full year for us with many struggles and triumphs. My husband and I sat down this week and talked about our goals and ran the numbers to see where we were at. And we were very thrilled to find out that we were able, by the grace of God, to accomplish all of our goals for 2008!

Here's the list:

Short Term Financial Goals for 2008

1) Have our fully-funded emergency fund in place (6 months' worth of living expenses) by the end of April. As of March 11, 2008–DONE!

2) Switch health insurance plans and open an HSA. We
were approved for our new health insurance plans in April and have also
set up our HSA. Done!

3) Start up an IRA and invest at least 5-10% of Jesse's income in this. Started in March. (We plan to increase this to 12-15% of Jesse's income as soon as we purchase our home.)

4) Open up a mutual fund for each of our children and invest $50 per child per month in it. Started in March.

5) Save up and invest $30,000 this year towards paying cash (100% down) for a house in 3-5 years. As of the beginning of November, this is also DONE!!

When we listed off these goals at the beginning of the year, they felt very audacious. In fact, we both thought we were being overly ambitious. But, as we've found in the past, it's better to aim high than to be content with mediocrity! And so we did!

Amazingly, through a number of unexpected events and the blessing of God, we were able to accomplish these goals. Yes, it meant some rigid budgeting. Yes, we've made some significant sacrifices. Yes, we done a lot of "living like no one else". But the perseverance is paying off and we're very excited about that.

We haven't sat down and formerly written out goals for 2009, but we do have one already-agreed-upon extremely-ambitious goal that my husband gave me permission to share publicly: We are aiming to have saved up enough money by this time next year to pay 100% down on a home!

This goal looks a little daunting but we've run the numbers and determined that with lots of hard work and scrimping, it might just be possible. One of the biggest reasons we are hoping this goal might become a reality in the next year is because of our recent move.

Not only did moving back home allow us to now be close to our families and back in our home church, it was a substantial career move for Jesse and it put us in a less expensive housing market. These things, coupled with the fact that we'll likely be living here long-term, have given us huge motivation to scrimp and save in order to buy a home sooner than we'd anticipated.

I'll keep you posted on our progress and we'll see what happens!

———————————–
How did you do in 2008? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2008, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes this past year. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

12 Nov 2008   ·   6
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Teaching on a Budget

Guest Post by Misty from HomeschoolBytes.com

I'm a homeschool mom to five kids, ages 8 and
under. In some minds, that makes me either crazy or heroic, but I do
have an interesting household most days. See:

Buying school supplies for a large family means I'm always on the
lookout for a good deal. And there are plenty to be had if you know
where to look. Here are some of my favorites:

Educational Software

Did you know you qualify to purchase the education version of most
mainstream software packages if you are a college student, a teacher, a
homeschool parent, or on behalf of your child grade K through 12?  Yes, all you have to do is have a child in school to qualify! 

And these are full working versions of the software for a fraction
of the cost. You do need to read the education qualifications for the
specific software to verify before purchasing, but usually it just
requires an education ID of some sort. A report card or one of
the free IDS many children get now from the portrait companies at the
beginning of the year works fine. (Homeschoolers, you can get a free eligibility letter from Homeschool Buyers Co-op.)

For example, you can get the latest Microsoft Office Pro for $119.95 on The Academic Superstore, a discount of 70% off the same program sold for $395.99 on Amazon. (If you decide to buy from The Academic Superstore, join Coupon Cactus first and get an extra 1.5% rebate. See this post for more information.)

The only downside is when an upgrade comes along you can't get the
discounted upgrade price since you don't own a 'Full Version'. In the
past, however, I've found that buying the educational version each time
is still cheaper than a full version followed by the discounted
upgrades.

Educational Internet Deals

  1. Freebie of the Day–This is a great site with a free homeschooling resource you can download each weekday.
  2. CurrClick–They sell lots of high quality electronic curriculum for decent prices, and if you sign up for their email newsletter you'll get a free downloadable product each week. We really enjoyed a recent free lapbook download about bees.
  3. Homeschool Buyers Co-op–For the homeschool parents out there: Did you ever wish you could
    get the great discounts that schools get by buying bulk? Well, that's
    what the Walter family wanted, too. So they started an awesome co-op
    that now has thousands of members. They go out to suppliers and
    organize great discounted deals for all of us. Best of all, it's free
    to register. Feel free to explore their site; they also have lists of many free resources

Where to Find Used Curriculum

  1. Homeschool Classifieds
    is a goldmine of curriculum listed by homeschool parents for very
    reasonable costs. And unlike EBay, it's free to list up to 7 items,
    with only a $5 charge per year to list more. 
  2. Ebay is always a good place to look for hard-to-find items. Try using a couple newer features to help get what you want: Saved searches can send you an email any time an item you're looking for is posted. Bid Assistant
    will help you grab a bunch of 'like items', specify how much you're
    willing to pay, and it will do the bidding, item by item until you
    either win an item or run out of items. A true time saver.
  3. Local Homeschool Co-ops usually have a
    curriculum sale once or twice a year with great prices and best of all,
    no shipping!  Find a local group here.

Teacher Discount Cards (for public school and homeschool teachers)

  1. Joanns–get a 15% off Teacher Rewards card from Joanns here. If you are a homeschooler, you need to get a PEAH number first here before registering with Joanns. 
  2. Staples–Get a Staples Teacher Rewards card here, print a copy online to use right away, or ask for a card to be sent in the mail. (The best deals are found the last month or two of the summer.)
  3. And check out this great page for more homeschool discounts including Borders, Barnes and Noble, Kinkos, and more.

All-in-all the internet has not just revolutionized teaching with
more resources than you have time to get to, but it has done the same
with finding bargains to make teaching supplies much more affordable. I'd love to hear your favorite places to find teaching and educational bargains, too!

Misty is a homeschool mom of 5 in Michigan who, among other
things, keeps bees in her backyard, had 2 kids while she was in medical school, loves
being a stay-at-home mom, and shows everyone her Kroger receipt proudly
displayed on the fridge that reads "Total $0.39, Savings $104.53!" 
Thank you, MoneySavingMom!  She currently blogs about homeschooling at HomeschoolBytes and alternative health at DocMisty.

11 Nov 2008   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

$40 Menu Q&A: Aldi, menu-planning, recipes, and our budget

Since there were a number of questions on this week's $40 shopping trip and menu post, I decided to answer them in a separate post for those interested.

Do you know of anyone who blogs
about sales at Aldis? Aldis moved my city recently, but the closest one
is about 15 minutes from my house (I have 3 other grocery stores within 5 minutes of my house.) So I don't plan to go to Aldis often, but
would like to know when they have specials. Any tips or ideas for
shopping there?

Aldi doesn't really run many sales but their staple prices are often much lower than grocery store prices. I'd recommend you make a trip or two to Aldi in the next few weeks to familiarize yourself with the store and compare prices.

You might find that a trip there once a month to stock up on staple items will help you to lower your grocery budget. Or you may find that you can usually beat their prices with store sales and coupons. Either way, it will be good to know.

For more advice on shopping at Aldi, check out this article.

I have a question about your meal
plan, shopping lists and recipes – how long does it take you to do this
every week? I'm in desperate need of guidance in this area – we spend
$300 – $500 dollars A WEEK on groceries and other household supplies,
yet we never have anything to put together balanced meals! I'm looking
for a place to start so any advice you could offer would be greatly
appreciated!

First off, remember that I didn't start menu planning and feeding my family on $40 a week last week or even last year. I've been at this for years and the practice really does make a difference.

As for how long it takes me, well, that really depends upon how good the sales are. On dismal sale weeks, I usually try to use what we already have on hand and then hit Aldi for the rest. So the whole menu-planning and grocery-list-writing process might take me 20 minutes or so.

On good sale weeks, I take more time to scour the ad, match-up coupons, find printable coupons, and then make our menu and grocery list. All told, it might take me 45 minutes to an hour. I rarely ever spend longer than that.

My advice for you would be to start our slowly. If planning a week's worth of meals seems daunting, try to just plan a week's worth of simple dinners. Go through your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer and make sure you have everything on hand to make all the recipes you've chose. Plan side dishes, too. And then force yourself to stick with it! Sometimes the determination to see it through is half the battle.

Also, your family needs to be on board with you. If Mom's determined to shop once per week and stick with a menu but everyone else complains and whines and refuses to go along, chances are you likely won't be able to make it work.

Have a family meeting, let your family members give input on meals and snacks, and work out a plan. And then work the plan! Don't expect changes to happen overnight, but be encouraged as you start heading in a more organized and cost effective direction. You can do it!

Do you add up your price (net of
coupons) on your calculator each time you add an item to your cart? I
know I would forget something and never quite get my total right! How
do you stay so perfectly within budget?

Yes. My biggest help is that I only bring $40 cash to the store. No credit card (we don't have those–thanks, Dave!), no debit cards, no nothing else besides the cash. Believe me, when you know you only have your allotted amount to spend, you usually are pretty determined to stick within the budget!

I usually try to leave a few dollars extra wiggle room and have mentally picked out a few items in my cart that I can always take off my order if I end up being overbudget. That has happened a few times and I want to be prepared.

Ok…spill your recipe for peanut butter smoothies. I bet my kids would love them!

Here you are:

Yummy Banana Peanut Butter Smoothies

3/4 to 1 cup sliced frozen bananas (like this)
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon peanut butter

Blend in the blender until smooth. The above makes about 13-15 oz. I can drink all of that  for breakfast but I'm also pregnant and nursing.

Word to the wise: Do not give these smoothies to young children who like to make messes. Otherwise, in the process of eating it, they will spill it all over themselves and your kitchen and you'll have sticky banana goo to clean up. Ask me how I know. 🙂

What is crockpot ragout? Could you share a description or recipe? I love using the crockpot.

Here's the recipe. This is my first week to try it so I can't say whether it'll become a regular at our house or not.

do you have a recipe site? i have
wanted 2 of your dishes now…enchilada casserole and another taco dish
you made. please share!

No, I don't have a recipe site and I'm afraid I'd not be a very good candidate for a recipe blogger. You see, I'm not one to use recipes very often. After years of tinkering in the kitchen, I've found I prefer to use recipes as a guideline or launching pad rather than a strict standard to be followed.

For instance, the enchilada casserole will be based upon a recipe but then highly modified based upon the mood I'm in, our taste preferences, and the ingredients we have. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but my hubby loves most everything I cook and I do, too. Plus, the creativity in the kitchen helps us to use what we have on hand and spend less at the store. So I guess you could say it's a good problem that I don't like to follow recipes very carefully. 🙂

Would you consider doing a post
about your ENTIRE budget? I would love to see a real world example of a
real family's entire budget.

Here's a link to a post on my old blog which has both our bare-bones $1000/month law school budget and our current budget. We've modified it a bit since that post was written, but it's very similar. Feel free to ask if you have any questions. I can't promise I have great answers, but I'll try to answer as best as I can!

11 Nov 2008   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

This week’s $40 shopping trip and menu

We did our weekly grocery shopping at Aldi and Dillons this week. Here's what we came home with:

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I was so excited to find some mark-downs on bananas, steak, milk, and yogurt. Plus, with the sweet mix-and-match sale going on at Dillons, we were able to score some other great deals–including a number of free and more-than-free items.

The best deal was the Scotch-Brite nailsaver sponges which were on sale for $1 and part of the mix-and-match sale of Buy 10, Get $5 Back. I bought five and using five $1/1 coupons, I was paid $0.50 for each one I bought. And we just opened up the last package of sponges I'd purchased on a deal last year. I love it when sales work out like that!

Before sales and coupons, our total would have been right around $70. After coupons, we paid right around $14.50! Gotta love Kroger!

We picked up a few staple items at Aldi and spent right around $25.50. So it worked out to be almost to the penny $40 for groceries this week. It's amazing how only having cash and a calculator forces you to stick with the budget!

Here's our menu for this week:

Breakfasts:
Pancakes, yogurt, juice
Banana/milk/peanut butter smoothies (these are soo good!), whole-wheat toast
Oatmeal, fruit
Banana bread, yogurt, fruit
Scrambled eggs, toast, juice
Granola over yogurt with fruit
Cold cereal with fruit

Lunches:
Egg salad sandwiches, carrots
Baked potatoes with cheese, veggies
Leftovers
Beans and rice, veggies
PB&J, carrots
Rice cakes, yogurt, fruit
Grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit

Dinners:
Chicken noodle soup over mashed potatoes, homemade bread, grapefruit
Birthday dinner for my mom at my family's house–I'm bringing make-ahead mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin rolls
Crockpot ragout, homemade bread
Meatballs, twice baked potatoes, veggies, homemade bread, pear crisp with whipping cream
Enchilada casserole, green rice, veggies
Hamburger mashed potato casserole, fruit
Dinner out
(Can anyone tell that I'm craving anything with potatoes right now?!)

Snacks:
Banana bread
Granola bites
Fruit
Yogurt

11 Nov 2008   ·   7
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading: Queen of my Trailer and Freezer Cooking Co-op

::I stumbled across a fun blog last night titled, Queen of my Trailer. It doesn't appear the blog is updated very often, but there were some interesting and inspiring posts on making the most of a trailer living.

::Monica over at The Full Table is doing a series on hosting a successful freezer cooking co-op this week. I found myself motivated to see if I could do something like this in our area (anyone want to join me?). It sounds like such a great (and fun!) way to fill your freezer quickly and fairly inexpensively.

10 Nov 2008   ·   20
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Earning Money With a Bag of Balloons and a Balloon Pump

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Guest Post by Irina Patterson from My Life and Art

I know way too well myself how to live on a limited budget. Raised in Russia, I grew up with a few possessions. And when I came to America in 1992, I had a hard time to find my first job.

Looking back, I wish I knew what I know today. If my story inspires at least one person to create a job for herself, I will be very happy.

For the last four years I have made my living as a balloon artist and event entertainer. I work mostly weekends and I set my own schedule and my pricing. Depending on the area and experience, a balloon artist can make from $50-300 per hour. (I wish someone told me about this opportunity when I was working at $5 per hour at a copy shop, night shift in 1993!)

Granted, being an event entertainer is not for everyone. You can't be shy and you have to be somewhat good with your hands and enjoy interacting with people. Still, it is a good opportunity to know about. If you are in great need of some cash quickly, you'd be surprise what you can overcome.

Believe it or not, I had never even seen a balloon animal until about four years ago. I don't have children and I don't go to the malls so I saw balloon animals for the first time at a private party and totally fell in love with the process and found the bright colors of the balloons not only cheer me up, but cheer many others up as well!

I studied art in my teens and those balloons just awoke a sleeping artist in me and showed me a way how to be a practicing artist and make a living at it. I couldn't believe how easy it was to earn by twisting balloon art. If I didn't experience it myself, I would not believe it!

When I first started doing balloon art on the side, I was working in a good-paying job at a public relations firm. I found balloon art was so much more exciting that after six month of doing balloon art as a side gig, I left my day job for good.

My ballon art business was profitable from day one. I think I spent $100 on supplies and administrative fees. When I started, I practiced at home for about a week. Then I went to a mall and paid a $75 monthly fee in order to do balloon art there for tips. I ended up making that $75 in tips right back on the first day!

I only paid that $75 fee for two months because I quickly learned you can find places where you can make balloon animals without rental fees. In fact, many restaurants will pay you to entertain their customers. Where I live, in Miami, restaurants usually pay $50-100 per 3-4 hours on a weekend plus most customers will give a tip. So you can easily expect to make about $150 for about 4 hours as a restaurant balloon artist.

However, the best part is this: while you are entertaining at a restaurant, you are also marketing your private party entertainment. Private parties will always give you better return on your time. In Miami,
on average, a balloon artist can earn $100-200 per hour at a private event. And you are usually booked for more than one hour.

If you are just starting out as a balloon artist, you'll want to invest a little money in balloons and a small balloon pump. I recommend you take a class, if there is one in your area. If not, make friends with someone who is already an established entertainer. They are usually very friendly. You can find an
entertainer in your area by searching for your zip code here.

Start out by volunteering to do balloon art at community events. Get some practice under your belt and get comfortable with working with people and creating balloon art and then start calling local restaurants and offering your services as a balloon artist for tips. Have business cards handy and make it known that you're available to do private events. Pretty soon, you'll likely have plenty of good-paying business!

Many people think that to be an event entertainer you need to go to a circus school or have some other special training. But all you really have to do is want to do it. The cost of minimum supplies is $10 and you can learn the basics in about two hours.

If you want to learn advanced balloon art, all the power to you. But if you have bills to pay and need money now, grab a bag of balloons and a pump and get busy!

Irina Patterson, aka The Russian Queen of Balloons, is based in Miami. She twists balloon art at events worldwide. She finds her job enjoyable and financially rewarding. To learn more, visit her blog, My Life and Art.

10 Nov 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Need some encouragement to get your home in better order?

Making your home a haven button

If so, consider joining me over on my other blog this week as I follow along with Monica's Making Your Home a Haven Challenge.

Lord-willing, I'll be sharing my daily to-do lists, before and after pictures of areas I clean and organize, how I involve the girls in my daily tasks and make it fun for them, and just a general peek into our everyday lives.

Want to come along? Then go here to read more. I'd love to have you participate in the challenge, too!

8 Nov 2008   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Kroger, Aldi, and pears

We spent $39 at the store this week. Here's what we bought:

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You can read more of the details of this trip here.

My sister also stopped by Wal-Mart on Thursday and picked up five pounds of bananas for us at $0.19 per pound (another grocery store offers bananas for $0.19/lb. on Thursdays so she just price-matched at Wal-Mart since it's right on the way to our house).

So our total altogether was $39 for groceries this week–including diapers! You can see our menu for this week here, in case you're interested.

We also saved money by creatively using two grocery sacks of pears which were given to us. Read more about what we did with those here.

Those are a few ways we saved money this week. 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.**

5 Nov 2008   ·   136
Money Saving Mom

Input requested: Ideas for using pears?

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My family has a pear tree and lots of extra pears this year so my mom shared two big grocery sacks full of pears with us this week. I've been having fun coming up with creative ways to use them.

I've already made some pear sauce and am thinking of pear muffins or pear crisp, but I'd love to hear any and all ideas you all might have for ways to use the abundance of pears I have on my hands right now. I'm especially looking for very inexpensive, fairly simple ideas which are also nutritious.

Any input? I'll share what I end up doing with them in a post soon!

4 Nov 2008   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

Our $40 menu this week

You can see the groceries we bought this week here for $38. Of course, we're not just using those to make the following meals; many of the ingredients are coming from things we already had in our cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer.

The beauty of bargain-shopping is that stocking up on sales enables you to have a variety of ingredients at your fingertips at all times. With our move and my break from shopping while in my first trimester, our stock was somewhat diminished. However, I'm hoping to quickly replenish it all the while sticking to our grocery budget. Follow along with my shopping trips over the next few weeks to see if I'm able to do that!

BREAKFASTS
Whole wheat waffles (From the freezer–I made a batch of these during breakfast one morning and froze them.), homemade yogurt, grapefruit
Whole wheat toast, scrambled eggs, apple juice
Homemade granola over homemade yogurt with strawberries
Whole wheat pancakes (from the freezer), yogurt, orange juice
Cold cereal, apple juice
Banana muffins (from the freezer), yogurt, strawberries
Fruit smoothies, whole wheat toast

LUNCHES
Mixed green salad with hard-boiled eggs and shredded cheese
Beans and rice with cheese, steamed veggies
PB&J on whole wheat, carrot sticks
Baked potatoes with cheese and broccoli
Egg salad sandwiches on whole wheat, apples
Leftovers
Soup in the crock pot, mixed green salad, whole wheat bread

DINNERS
Lasagna, steamed veggies, whole wheat bread
Snack foods (We're going to an election watch party where food will be served so I'm just feeding the girls some snackie foods before we go to tide them over.)
Taco pie, steamed veggies, grapefruit
Goulash, steamed veggies, whole wheat bread
Meatloaf, cooked carrots, baked potatoes
Dinner out
Leftover (Sunday night)

SNACKS
Yogurt with fruit
Cheese
Banana muffins
Carrot sticks
Apples

3 Nov 2008   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

Today’s shopping trip: I used e-coupons!

Ya'll, I have entered a new level of couponing as of today: I used e-coupons. You know, those hi-tech, new-fangled coupons that you load onto your card and can't see or feel, you just have to believe that they are there and believe that they will work? Yep, those.

And contrary to all my fears, they actually worked. Every single last one of them.

Okay, so I only used four, but still, it felt like a major victory. Almost as good as when I went in and tried CVS-ing for the very first time.

Lest you think I did it all by myself though, I have to tell you that Lorrie was at the store, too, and she held my hand through the whole process. If it weren't for her, I would have never tried them in the first place.

I think I'm hooked now, though, as they worked beautifully and saved me some extra money! Yay!

Here's what I got at Dillons and Aldi:

044

The Idahoan potatoes were free, thanks to coupons a kind friend shared with me. The Yoplait, oatmeal, and Cottonelle were also free, thanks to e-coupons. The Progresso soup was $0.30/can, cheese was on sale for $1.58/8 oz., butter was $1.88, milk was $2.99, Kashi bars were $1 after the $2/1 coupons and a sale.

We bought eggs and fruit at Aldi, since it's much cheaper there and Aldi is so close to Dillons.

If only the Pampers were free. *Sniff* I'm certainly missing CVS when it comes to free diapers. I considered going back to cloth and/or off-brands almost exclusively but after a few days of severe diaper rash, we switched back to our beloved Pampers. There are just some things you can't skimp on and diapers happen to be it for us right now.

All in all, we spent about $38 total this week to buy all the groceries pictured above. Considering I saved $45 at Dillons and that I also bought diapers, I'm pretty happy with that total–especially since it's under our $40 weekly budget.

I still have a freezer full of meat and frozen veggies, along with lots of yummy baked goods from our Baking Day last week, so aside from picking up some free carrots at Target and some $0.19/lb bananas at Wal-Mart (a nearby store has $0.19/lb bananas on Thursday so I can price-match at the Wal-Mart down the street!), we should be set for this week. I'll post our full menu soon so you can see the specifics of what we'll be eating this week.

3 Nov 2008   ·   99
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Food ideas for a road trip?

Cherilyn emailed and asked:

We are planning a 16+ hour road trip in December with three
adults, two kids, and two dogs – yikes! The decreasing gas prices are a
blessing but we would like to save even more by taking most of our own
food. We don't want to have to stop for every meal. Can you give me
some ideas for inexpensive ideas for eating on the road? Ideas beyond
bottled water, beef jerky, and muffins are appreciated since that is
all I can come up with. Thank you! -Cherilyn

I know many of you will probably be doing some traveling to visit family and friends over the next two months so I'd love to hear any and all ideas for road-tripping on the cheap–especially when it comes to food. What are some of your favorite frugal foods to pack and eat on the road? What ideas do you have for keeping food fresh and tasty while traveling? I'm anxious to hear!

1 Nov 2008   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Baking, mark-downs, and not going to the mall

It's Saturday and that means it's time to share the great deals we've gotten this past week and other ways we've saved.

I saved money by having a Baking Day to stock up the freezer and by shopping mark-downs at Dillons. (If you missed those posts you can see them here, here, here, here, and here.) Also, I was struck very profoundly this week with another ongoing way I save a lot of money each year–by not going shopping very often!

You see, yesterday I went to replace my one and only pair of black boots. I've worn these same boots almost every day during the Fall/Winter months for the last three years. To say I've gotten the use out of them would be an understatement! (Being the minimalist I am, I only have two pairs of shoes for the cooler months–classic, versatile black boots and tennis shoes.)

My husband and I opted to go to the mall to look for new boots since we figured we'd have more of a selection of stores carrying decent-quality boots. I honestly can't remember the last time I went to the mall to shop and as soon as I'd been in there for a little while I knew exactly why I try to avoid going there.

Why? Because it made me discontent. When I stay out of stores bombarding me with the latest and greatest in things I "must have", my small little wardrobe is plenty enough for me. In fact, I find it very simplifying to only have a few tops and a few bottoms that I can mix and match with a few pieces of jewelry and a few pair of shoes.

But not yesterday. As we walked in and out of stores, I began to feel the "need" to expand my wardrobe, update my styles, and–you guessed it–buy more stuff. Stuff I've lived happily without for years and stuff I don't need.

While I did get the perfect pair of boots at a great price, I left the mall feeling like I'd not purchased enough–like I would have been much more satisfied if I'd have also purchased those cute tops I saw or bought an additional pair of shoes.

And then it hit me: this is so silly! None of that stuff is going to make me any happier or more content. In fact, probably the more money I'd spend in there, the more I'd feel the need to spend.

Compared to many, my wardrobe might be small. I might not have all the latest styles or name brands, but I'm content with it and it serves my needs. And having only a few items of clothing–all of which I like– makes it so easy for me to choose what to wear in the morning. It saves me so much time and effort (and money, too!) to keep it simple.

While I still think I have a long way to go in learning to be truly content, I do think that staying out of the mall as much as is possible is a huge help. And next time I need new boots (which hopefully won't be for another three years!), I think I'll skip the mall and go straight to a shoe store.

Do you find that shopping less or avoiding certain stores or shopping malls helps you be more content with what you already have? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Those are a few ways we saved money this week. 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.**