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23 Apr 2009   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

Reminder: Tonight is the Town Hall for Hope!

Townhall

When just about every media outlet and
talking head out there would have you think our world is coming to an
end, Dave Ramsey is here to sound a message of hope–something we could all use a good dose of right now.

Tonight (April 23, 2009) at 8 PM EDT, Dave Ramsey will be hosting a free nationwide Town Hall for Hope:

Town Hall for Hope is your opportunity to sit
down with people in your community for a nationwide town hall
meeting led by Dave Ramsey. Thousands of venues across the
country will host the event, broadcasting Dave's live
presentation. In the opening half hour, Dave will offer straight
talk about the economy, recession, foreclosures and more.
He'll carefully explain where we've come from, where we are now,
and what we should be doing with our money during this time.
Then, Dave will spend an hour answering your questions
live!

Go here to see what venues in your area are hosting this event. 

Will you be attending? I hope so!

I am so disappointed because my head cold (yes, the same one I had most of last week!) has gotten worse instead of better this week and morphed into the most awful sinus infection I've ever had, so I'm not going to be able to go tonight unless I have some miraculous recovery in the next few hours. However, my hubby is going and I'm hopeful he'll be able to take it all in so he can come home and tell me all about it!

I've been searching high and low to find a webcast of it, but so far I've been unsuccessful. Anyone know if there is going to be a live webcast available online for this event?

18 Apr 2009   ·   165
Money Saving Mom

Anyone have an incredible homemade macaroni and cheese recipe?

I was making my menu for this next week and was suddenly hit with the urge to make homemade macaroni and cheese this coming week. Not only is cheese is so inexpensive right now, but I'm pretty sure homemade macaroni and cheese constitutes a "quick, easy, and frugal meal".

There's only one problem: I have yet to come across a winner recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese. I've tried a number of them and they either turned out soggy or dry or not cheesy enough or something or other.

But I'm not convinced its impossible to make yummy homemade macaroni and cheese. In fact, a few times in my life I've tasted some that was exceptional but I was never able to get a hold of those recipes.

So help me out here with my pregnant cravings, will you? Do you have a blue-ribbon homemade macaroni and cheese recipe? I'd love to get my hands on it and try it out. Post the link to the recipe in the comments section or email it to me. I'd be immensely grateful! And I promise that when I find a really good recipe, I'll be sure to share it here.

18 Apr 2009   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday (and what are your quick, easy, and frugal meal ideas?)

This was my week off from shopping since I'm currently doing the shopping-every-other-week experiment so I spent no money on groceries. And do you know how nice it was to have plenty of food on hand and not have to worry about shopping? I haven't felt well most of this week (a bad head cold combined with being 38 weeks pregnant has left me fairly exhausted most days) so I was so thankful we were just able to stay home and eat from our stockpile.

Before I came down with my head cold, I did have a chance to have a Baking Day (you can read about that here, in case you missed it). I'm so glad I did that because not only did we finish filling up our freezer with snacks and meals for after the baby comes, but it also meant we had some quick and easy snacks on hand for the girls and Jesse to eat while I haven't been feeling well. Also, having chicken cooked up meant I could easily whip up a simple casserole or pizza this week without a lot of effort so we didn't fall back on carryout–something which I find easy to do when I'm not feeling well and haven't prepared some things for the freezer.

One thing I've really been finding recently is that having frozen veggies, muffins and rolls, and cooked chicken and ground beef in the freezer, along with some fresh fruit in the refrigerator, and a number of staples in the cupboards guarantees I'm able to put together a very simple and healthful dinner in minutes, all for a fraction of what we'd pay for picking up something at a restaurant.

Two of our favorite quick and easy meals:

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole–I cook and freeze up rice ahead of time and use cooked and chopped chicken from the freezer and then add in frozen broccoli, shredded cheese, cream soup, salt and pepper, and maybe butter and an egg or two. Using pre-cooked rice and chicken from the freezer, I can put this together in five minutes or so and then bake it for 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. While it's baking, I add some rolls or muffins from the freezer, some green beans, and some fruit and you have dinner in less than 20 minutes of preparation time!

Homemade Chicken Salsa Pizza–I use frozen homemade pizza dough and cooked and chopped chicken from the freezer. I just set it out around lunch time and then 30 minutes before dinner roll out the pizza dough, spread on some salsa or barbecue sauce, and then sprinkle on the cooked and chopped chicken, and generously sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake it (more detailed directions here). While the pizza is baking, add some fruit salad and some veggies and dinner is done in less than 30 minutes.

By not shopping this week and by having a plan for simple dinners to fall back on instead of carryout, we saved quite a bit of money this week. And it's these little things can really add up over time to make for Super Savings!

By the way, do you have any quick, easy, and frugal meal ideas your family falls back on during busy weeks or when you are feeling exhausted or sick? I'd love to hear them!

———————————

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.

Note: 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.

15 Apr 2009   ·   35
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day Wrap-Up

Finally, everything off the Baking Day list is done! And I have decided our After-the-Baby Freezer Stash is officially complete since our basement freezer is stuffed with the makings of 25 meals plus rolls, muffins, and banana bread! (You can see the full list of everything we made complete with recipe links here.)

It will be so nice to not have to worry about cooking or baking or shopping for at least a month or so after the baby is born. I’m definitely hoping this will not only save us time and money, but will make the transition from two little ones to three little ones go more smoothly. Now if only I could find a way to do a month’s worth of laundry ahead of time, we’d be all set! 🙂

Here were the results of the baking we did yesterday and this morning:

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3 dozen Banana Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 1/2 dozen Whole Wheat French Bread Rolls
3 dinner’s worth of Calzone dough
1 dozen Super Power Muffins
3 bags cooked and chopped chicken
2 loaves Banana Bread

Did you have a chance to do any baking this week? If so, post about it
on your blog and leave your link below to your direct blog post. I’d
love it especially if you could share pictures and recipes so I can get
more ideas for my next Baking Day projects! And I’m guessing many
others would be inspired as well.

14 Apr 2009   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day – Part 3

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The Whole Wheat French Bread Rolls just came out of the oven and can I say "yum"? I love their crispier crust and yet they are still light and fluffy inside. This recipe is definitely a winner. It would be especially delicious served with butter and honey. And best of all, these were quite easy to make.

While they were baking, I was inspired by FishMama to whip up some Calzone dough to stick in the freezer for after the baby is born. I'm not sure whether I'll do calzones or pizza with them but I know that already having the dough made up will be a huge time-saver!

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Putting everything in the bread machine and running it made this dough incredibly simple to do. I didn't feel like it turned out quite as nicely as my usual Homemade Pizza Dough recipe, but it still seemed like it will be pretty good. I'll be anxious to use it and see how it ends up working out.

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We also made the Pumpkin Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. These are definitely a somewhat-healthier alternative to the usual Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins we make and they are quite scrumptious. Plus, it's another great way to use up going-bad bananas–something we often seem to have around here!

I'm taking another break to drink some water and put my feet up and then we'll tackle the Banana Bread, cooking up some chicken, and cleaning up the kitchen. We're having leftovers for dinner tonight, along with the French Bread Rolls, so I'm hopeful the kitchen can be all back in order by dinner time.

14 Apr 2009   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day – Part 2

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We started off the morning with making juice for breakfast. Sadly, I can't drink fresh juice right now due to my heartburn/reflux, but the rest of the family thoroughly enjoyed it. And then I cleaned up the kitchen and started the dishwasher so we could begin our baking with an orderly work space.

After that, I mixed up the dough for the Whole-Wheat French Bread Rolls. While the yeast, sugar, and water were sitting for ten minutes, I whipped up the Super Power Muffins and got those into the oven.

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Then it was back to finish up the roll dough and get that rising.

The muffins came out looking pretty scrumptious and the family taste-testing of them went over fairly well. So I'm guessing these will be something I'll definitely be making again. They were a little more dessert-like than muffin-like, but considering they have peanut butter, bananas, and whole-wheat flour, there's quite a bit of nutrition in them as well.

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I added in an extra mashed banana instead of the applesauce or carrot puree and also added in a little more than the called for amount of chocolate chips. Next time, I'd like to try adding in carrot puree and see how that goes over.

I'm drinking some water and putting my feet up for a little while and then it's back to the kitchen to finish the rolls and make more muffins.

If you're baking today, I'd love to hear how it's coming along.

14 Apr 2009   ·   37
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day – Part 1

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(My cheerful little 4-year-old who will be helping me in the kitchen today!)

I found this recipe yesterday and it inspired me to have another Baking Day. Our freezer is fairly well-stocked, but since I'm not exactly sure when this baby will be coming, I figured it wouldn't hurt to bake up a few more things to add to our After-The-Baby Freezer Stash or maybe to eat before the baby comes. 🙂

Considering I'm almost 38 weeks pregnant, I'm not planning a long list of baking projects to tackle as I never know when my energy might run out. However, I'm thinking I can manage the following short list today. Or at least try to accomplish it–we'll see how far I get!

To bake today:

Whole-Wheat French Bread Rolls
Super Power Muffins
Banana Pumpkin Muffins
Banana Bread x 2

If I get really ambitious, I might also cook up, chop, and freeze some chicken breasts, too.

Want to join me in the kitchen today? I'll post pictures of our progress throughout the day and will host a Mr. Linky at the conclusion so you can share anything you've baked today, too!

If you're planning to join us, I'd love to hear what's on your list to bake today.

11 Apr 2009   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: My $76 shopping trip

I seem to be putting myself on an every-two-week shopping schedule, without even meaning to do so! Two weeks ago, I shopped on Monday. This week, I didn't shop until Friday. So it wasn't quite two weeks, but it was close. And then I went 16 or 17 days between shopping trips the previous two weeks.

I'm beginning to think maybe this is not that bad of an idea because not only does it save me time but it also is saving us money. I'm not sure what it is, but I can't bring myself to spend more than $80 in a shopping trip, so if I only go every two weeks, that brings our grocery budget back down to our usual $40/week budget.

So I'm considering making the switching–at least for the next few months while we adjust to having a new baby at our house. We'll see. I could change my mind, but I think I'm going to give a shot for at least a month or two and see how it goes!

Here's what we bought at Aldi and Dillon's yesterday:

Photo
You can tell I'm getting closer to the end of my pregnancy (I'm "full-term" now by the way–an update is here, in case you're interested!) because my shopping trips are including more convenience foods in them these days. I love to make almost everything from scratch, but I also am a firm believer that there is a time and place to cut myself some slack.

On the days when I feel energized, I do some cooking and baking. Other days, when I'm feeling exhausted, we stick to really simple meals and snacks. In the long run, I'd much rather that we have quick and easy things to eat at home, than to fall back on fast food or carryout because I'm too tired to make lunch or dinner.

To recap some of our grocery shopping trip highlights:

ALDI:

We picked up some staple items, produce sale items, and a few snack foods at Aldi and spent a total of $23 there. I'm so excited that cheese is $1.29 for 8 oz. at Aldi right now, as opposed to the $1.99 it was all Winter long. We love cheese and can go through quite a bit of it, so the reduced price is definitely a welcome thing! And I also found King's Hawiian Rolls reduced to $0.99! Yum!

DILLONS:

My best scores were strawberries for $1.47/package, a bag of 100% Natural chicken breasts for $5.98, Gillette Body Wash for $0.50 each, and a few reduced items like Blue Bunny ice cream for $1.25! All totaled, I spent $53 at Dillons, which I was really happy about considering I got two packages of diapers in addition to a number of sacks of food.

You can check out more details on some of the deals I snagged here. (Our Dillons didn't have exactly the same prices, but many of them were very similar.)

All in all, it was a great shopping trip and I'm pretty sure I'll have enough food to last us for the next two weeks without a problem.

———————————

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.

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

10 Apr 2009   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Three Rules to Remember When Grocery Shopping

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photo by appaloosa

Guest Post by Sharon from the Good, True, and Beautiful blog

I’ll admit, I’m no math whiz. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to take the SAT exam and I can’t remember much of my high school algebra and geometry (how do you calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle? I have no idea).

Most of the time this isn’t a big problem for me, but lately I’ll find myself standing in the middle of the grocery store trying to figure out the best deal, after coupons, with doubled coupons, by the ounce, pound or liter and my poor mind just goes blank.

Without a doubt, the $1.00 I used to buy my pocket calculator has returned its investment many times over. I have it attached to my price book and it gets a good workout on most grocery trips. Juggling coupons, shopping lists, fliers, and a toddler keep my brain busy enough; I’ll let my calculator tell me the price per ounce on Parmesan cheese!

So, having acknowledged my lack of mathematical prowess, I am glad to share with you my “Three Rules to Remember” when it comes to maximizing the value of coupons and grocery store promotions.  I hope they help you as much as they help me:

1) For marked down meats, buy the smallest package with the biggest discount. One of my favorite ways to save money is to be on the lookout for “late date” items in the butcher section. I can get great deals on chicken, fish, or meat that’s perfectly fine, as long as I put it in the freezer that night. My store will discount the item on the sell-buy date, and I will often see stickers for $1 off, $2 off, even $4 off items!

So how can you make the most of these deals? You need to make sure that the $ off coupon represents the greatest percentage possible. A $2 off coupon will be a greater discount on a $4.00 package than it would be on a $4.50 package. So, go for the smaller package and maximize the savings.

2) When there is a Buy One, Get One Free sale, purchase items which are close in price. My local grocery will often have Buy One, Get One promotions on meat and poultry and, like most stores, they charge for the more expensive item and then you get a like item for free.

These deals can be thought of as a 50% discount, but only if you keep the price of the two items as close as possible. If you spend $10 on one item and get a $6 item for free, you are getting $16 worth of meat for $10.00 (a savings of 40%). But if you buy two items that are both $8.00 you’ll have the same $16 worth of meat for only $8.00 (a 50% savings)!

3) If you have a "$ off when you buy $$" coupon, stay close to the "when you buy" number! This is a strategy that is particularly useful at drugstores, which will regularly offer some version of the “$ off when you buy $$” promotions (CVS just emailed me a “$5 off when you buy $20” as I write this!). 

In order to leverage the full value of these discounts–and minimize your out of pocket costs–stay as close to the “when you buy number” as possible. It all comes back to the percentages. You want to make sure that the discount represents the greatest percentage of your purchase possible.

It’s also important to remember that the store is using that coupon to make you think that you’re getting a good deal and then tempt you to spend more than you planned. But if you keep your focus on hitting the "when you buy" number, you can win at this game!

Armed with these three simple rules, I’m confident I’ll make my dollar stretch as far as possible. And if I'm not sure what the best deal is, I'm glad I can always whip out my handy-dandy calculator!

Sharon is the woman behind the Good, True, and Beautiful blog and is learning how to live abundantly on a budget! After 15 years of a successful corporate life, she is now applying her business skills to the best job of all–mom. She lives on a small farm in Upstate NY with her husband and infant son.

9 Apr 2009   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

100 Different Ways to Save $100 This Year – Part 5

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If you missed the first parts of this series, you can read them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Here's the fifth installment in this series of ideas of ways to save $100 or more this year:

20) Brown Bag It. If you're willing to put in a little time to plan ahead so you have the necessary food on hand and then to take a few minutes every evening or morning to put together a sack lunch, the return on this small investment of time can be quite remarkable.

In fact, I figured out that most of the lunches I've packed for my husband cost anywhere between $0.75 to $1.50 each (remember, that's mostly because I shop the sales, use coupons, and stock up on items when they are at their lowest prices!). A lunch at a fast food restaurant is likely going to cost at least $4-$5 at a minimum.

Based upon these calculations, it is very safe to say that packing a lunch has saved us at least $3 per day. Over the course of the year, that's $750 saved! And that's a very low figure. If someone is eating out at nicer restaurants most days and spending $7-$12 per lunch, the savings are significantly higher!

In addition to the savings, there's also the added benefit of homemade lunches also often being much more healthful for you as well–especially when compared with fast food meals.

21) Utilize PaperBackSwap. My husband and I are both avid readers and books are something we could spend a fortune on–if we had that kind of money to spend! In order to stick within our meager budget when Jesse was in law school, we put ourselves on a self-imposed book-buying moratorium. Our rule was that any book we read had to be checked out from the library, borrowed from a friend, or given to us as a gift.

Then, I discovered PaperBackSwap. For the cost of shipping out a book via Media Mail (usually somewhere around $2-$3 maximum), you can choose from a constantly-changing selection of hundreds of thousands of books.

Not only do I love the concept of passing along books you no longer need or use to someone who will appreciate them, I love the fact that you can acquire books you really would like to own so inexpensively through PaperBackSwap

I'm especially appreciative of PaperBackSwap now that we've moved to a town where the libraries aren't much to speak of (at least not compared to our beloved neighborhood library in Kansas City where we could put hundreds of books on hold at a time without ever paying a dime!). Instead of mourning the loss of a wonderful library system at our disposal, we're building our own home library now, courtesy of PaperBackSwap!

(By the way, PaperBackSwap also created a site in the last few years for swapping DVDs: Swap-a-DVD.)

22) Exercise at home. I'm a big proponent of staying fit and healthy but I don't think it needs to cost you an arm and a leg to do so. The gym memberships and fancy workout clothes are great, but they are not necessary to stay in shape. If you have a little personal self-discipline and some accountability, you can be very successful at a fitness program right in your own home.

My husband bought an elliptical for me off of Craigslist two years ago for $100. It was in like-new condition when he purchased it and I have spent hours on it and its still going strong. A similar product purchased brand-new would be around $300-$400. So not only did we save $200 to $300 at the outset by buying it barely-used, but it was a one-time investment which I can use again and again and again. It doesn't require a monthly fee to use, I can work out at any time of the day or night, I don't have to drive to another location to use it, and I don't have to worry about childcare.

I also have found SparkPeople.com–a free nutrition and fitness tracker–to be enormously helpful to me in maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically fit. This was especially helpful to me in getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight after my second baby was born and I'm anxious to begin another weight-loss regimen as soon as Baby #3 makes his or her arrival.

If you are interested in other ideas for frugal weight loss and fitness, I've written more of my thoughts and what has worked well for me here.

photo by Refracted Moments

8 Apr 2009   ·   35
Money Saving Mom

Get Your Finances in Line in 2009: Monthly check-up

It's April and guess what that means? It's time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in March?

After not making a lot of headway on our savings goals last month, we were determined to kick it up a notch in the savings department–especially since the end of March would mean we'd be a fourth of the way through the year.

So my husband and I sat down and had a "money meeting" of sorts and determined what areas we could squeeze a little more from our budget, possible things we could give up, and ideas for cutting corners. Here are a few significant changes we made as a result:

1) We didn't fund our envelopes for a month, outside of groceries. We had leftover money in all of our envelopes from previous months and there was nothing we needed to purchase which couldn't wait another month or couldn't be purchased with what we already had in the envelopes. (If you are unfamiliar with how the envelope system works, check out this post here.)

2) We skipped grocery shopping for two weeks and held an Eating From the Pantry Challenge instead. This was a fun challenge to take on and it not only helped clear out some groceries and pantry items we needed to use up, it also allowed us to put some extra money into savings.

3) We had a monthly Restaurant Night instead of a weekly Restaurant Night. We usually budget to go out to eat once a week as a family but we decided to skip three of the four weeks in March in order to have a little more money to put into savings.

I'll admit that this was probably the hardest for me as I enjoy the luxury of having dinner out once per week. However, it is definitely not a necessity–we lived without restaurant food for months when my husband was in law school!–and it's certainly something we can easily live without. So it was good to make the commitment to make dinner every night. I'm definitely thinking this is something we could do more often–especially once this pregnancy is over and I have a little more energy!

These were just a few examples of ways we freed up some extra cash in the month of March. There were a myriad of other little ways, too.

The good news? All of the cutting of corners paid off because at the end of this month we were able to put enough into our house savings to push us past 40% of our goal!

We're beginning to get excited as we're starting to little by little see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to paying 100% down for a house. (If you're new here and are wondering why we've made this goal, you can read more on that here.) We've been looking at houses in the area just to get some ideas as to what is out there and we're realizing it's very possible we might be able to get something for less than what we were hoping to pay.

Armed with this knowledge, we've decided that as soon as we hit 70-75% of our goal, we'll be able to start seriously looking at houses. We plan to only look in the price range we currently have saved and then as we are able to save more, we'll continue to bump up our price range until we find a house.

So our current plan is to continue saving in earnest for the next six or seven months and then see where we're at. Depending upon the housing market, it's beginning to look possible we just might make our big goal of paying 100% down for a home in 2009.

It still seems very far off, but we're excited at the traction we're making and invigorated to keep on cutting corners, pinching pennies, and forgoing little non-necessities (and big non-necessities!) in order to make faster headway. It certainly can't hurt anything!

To recap our March progress:

We began the month at 37.5% of our house savings goal. We ended the month at 40.5%!

We're excited to see what April brings!

——————————————–
How did you do in March? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in March and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in April. 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!

7 Apr 2009   ·   6
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading: Clothing Exchange and Frugal Fashion

::I loved this post on HeavenlyHomemakers about hosting a Clothing Exchange. Our church does something similar and it's been such a fun way to share our extras, find things we need ourselves–without spending a dime!–and declutter our homes at the same time. I'd definitely recommend trying this out in your community, too!

::My friend, Jen, is doing a fabulous series on Frugal Fashion over on her blog. If you've ever thought that its impossible to look chic and put-together on a budget, you certainly need to check out her posts. The first two are here and here.

3 Apr 2009   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: My Dillons and Aldi shopping trip

Have noticed I've been a little missing around here this week?

No, I didn't have the baby–not yet, but I'll be "full-term" next week so hopefully I'll have some good news to share on that front pretty soon! Instead, I've been preoccupied with details surrounding my brother's wedding tomorrow, including spending lots of time with out-of-town guests and relatives.

Needless to say, blogging has been almost last on the list of priorities this week. I've missed you all, though, and look forward to jumping back into the swing of things once the wedding celebrations are over around here.

I did make it to the store this week. In fact, I had quite the trip to Aldi and Dillons. After going over two weeks without stepping foot in a store, I made up for it on this shopping trip!

Here's what we bought:

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I was so happy to be able to snag so much high-quality ground beef, a roast, chicken breasts, produce, staple products, lots of dairy products, cereal and granola bars for $0.50/box and much more. Our cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer certainly look a bit more stocked now!

However, I did something completely uncharacteristic of myself when I was shopping this week and I don't know that I'd recommend it: I didn't use a calculator. I did sort of calculate the totals in my head (I guess it's impossible for me not to do this somewhat!) but I honestly didn't know how much my total was going to be when I went up to check out.

Since I had two weeks' worth of grocery money ($120 total) to use due to our not shopping for the last few weeks, I thought it would be a fun experiment to see what would happen if I didn't keep a running total as I put things in the cart.

The final verdict? I splurge more when I don't calculate. I could have guessed this, but it was good to be reminded of why I use a calculator. I'm pretty sure that I could have shaved $10 off my grocery bill had I been calculating totals and not doing a little bit of impulse buying.

That said, I still stayed quite a bit under budget. In fact, my total was just shy of $80. So in spite of the bit of "impulse buying", it was still a pretty good trip.

And now I'm off to the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. I'll be back tomorrow evening (hopefully!) with the usual CVS and Walgreens deals and am excited to get back to more consistent blogging around here beginning next week.

In the mean time, 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.

Note:
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.

3 Apr 2009   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Being Generous While Living on a Budget

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photo by jek in the box

Guest Post by Katie from Three Blondes and a Redhead

In these uncertain economic times, it's wonderful to see how many people are finally accepting the benefits of budgeting. I still remember many of the frustrations I felt when we transitioned to living on one income in preparation for our first child.

One of my biggest challenges was reducing the ability to generously give gifts to friends and family. After nine years of marriage to a very frugal accountant, I've wised up about the money dedicated to "gifts" in our budget, I have learned how to get creative when giving and am quite proficient at stretching our dollars. 

Here are some of my tried-and-true bargain shopping methods:
 

::Develop a Gift Stash–I've always kept some generic gifts on hand. It began in the form of a box of picture frames, bath soaps, and candles. Gradually, it transformed into a small shelf in my linen closet and is now a large under-the-bed storage bin full of gifts for adults and children of all ages.

One of the things I've noticed over the years is that last-minute shopping can cost 2-3 times as much as you could have paid had you planned ahead. Having small items available at a moment's notice for a hostess gift or a birthday celebration can save you time, money, and stress.

I remember the days when I would actually decline a birthday party just to avoid buying a $10 gift that wasn't in our budget. But now, as long as the schedule allows, my kids get to attend many of the parties we're invited to because I try to have a couple of gifts in my stash for boys, for girls, and some which could be for either gender.

::Shop the Clearance Sales–One particular Super-Target location in our area always seems to have the best clearance sales. Whenever I am near that side of town, I plan a trip to that store with the sole purpose of roaming the end caps.

They often have toys marked 75% off, so I can grab $20 gifts for upcoming birthday parties for $5. In the past, when I've tried to find a $5 gift at the last minute, it's usually something junkie and I end up paying a premium for a bigger gift that I know the receiver will actually enjoy.

The key to shopping clearance sales is to think ahead. Plan for Mother's Day, Father's Day, and any upcoming birthdays and baby or wedding showers.

::Think Generic–Don't get hung up on buying a Hello Kitty present for little Sally Sue because you know it's her favorite. If you know that Sally Sue's birthday party is coming up and you see a Hello Kitty item on sale, by all means, get it!  But don't feel trapped into individualizing your gift purchases. You can be generic, while still keeping it thoughtful. 

There are lots of easy ideas for generic gifts for kids of all ages including: art supplies, puzzles, dress-up items and board games. I also like to stock up on nice picture frames to fill with our annual family picture and give them to my extended family for Christmas. It's amazing how much they appreciate a 5×7 picture I printed for $0.50 in a pretty $3 clearance frame!

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photo by allerleirau

::Shop After-Holiday Sales–Personally, I don't go nuts with this, but I do try to hit a few clearance sales after Christmas each year. Why pay full price for a Christmas ornament in early December when you can pay one-fourth of the price in early January and hold onto it for a year?

Again, keep your eyes open and think ahead: Does your office have a White Elephant gift exchange each Christmas? Would your parents appreciate a picture of your child in an ornament frame? As always, don't buy clearance items just because they're a good deal. Give it some thought and have a recipient in mind when you make your purchases.

::Shop Throughout the Year–We had no income this past Christmas because my husband had recently been laid off so I was very thankful that I'd stashed a few particular items away throughout the year for our families. I'd found a great doggie gift in July for my brother-in-law at 75% off that I hid under our bed until Christmas, I took advantage of some free photo book offers in September and made books for each set of grandparents, and I had a pair of earrings for my mom that I'd found at a bargain a few months back. 

However, don't forget that you bought items for certain people once the holiday arrives!  I suggest putting a sticky note on the item with the recipient's name and the intended time frame you want to give the gift.

::Keep a Small Stock of Cards and Gift Wrapping SuppliesI save gift bags from presents I receive and store them in one giant
gift bag near a standing box of wrapping paper and ribbons that I've bought
on clearance.
In addition to keeping stocked on wrapping supplies, always have a stack of greeting cards handy.

Before I learned to make my own cards, I used to go to Hallmark every few months with a list of upcoming birthdays and buy several $0.99 cards to have on hand. You can also buy a set of 8 or 10 blank note cards and write "Happy Birthday" inside. No one says you have to buy a card with a poem that someone else wrote!  Let's be honest: people usually throw away their greeting cards, so don't spend too much money on them.

::Build it into the Budget–This is so important! None of these ideas will work for you if you haven't built a line item in your budget specifically for "gifts." Pretty much everyone buys gifts, whether they can afford them or not. Why not write down an amount that you'd like to spend on certain people for holidays and put it into the budget?

If you use the cash envelope system, put a little money in the gifts envelope each month so you have a pool to pull from when you find a great sale.  If your budget is strictly on paper, take some time with your spouse to write out who you plan to buy gifts for in 2009 and the amount you'd like to spend.

Having a $50 bouquet of flowers delivered to your mom for her birthday will likely seem excessive once you see the grand total of your gift-giving budget at the end of the year. You can buy her a beautiful bunch for $10 and deliver them by hand and save yourself a lot of money.

Are you beginning to see a common thread here? Plan ahead! Put money aside for gifts, intentionally keep your eyes open for good deals, and pretty soon you'll find you're able to give generously while staying within your budget!

Katie is a Christian wife and a stay at home mom to a 4-year-old son, a 2-year-old daughter, and a new baby due in October. She blogs about managing her family, frugal living, cooking, organizing, and all things homemaking at Three Blondes and a Redhead.

2 Apr 2009   ·   48
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Save Money by Buying “Scratch and Dent” Appliances

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Melissa, from The Inspired Room (a blog dedicated to sharing inspiration for creating a beautiful life and home on a budget), recently wrote and shared this tip with me:

If you have ever thought about updating a kitchen, you know the price tag of new appliances could stop you in your tracks. But did you know there is a way to get a brand new appliance for as much as half of the retail price?

When I remodeled my kitchen a few years ago, I was pinching every
penny. I wanted all new appliances in addition to some cabinetry, so
the remodeling bill was adding up fast. As I wandered through the maze
of options at a local appliance store, I ended up in the back room
where I discovered a great selection of "scratched and dented"
refrigerators.

Imagine my glee when I found the exact stainless steel bottom drawer freezer model I was looking for at one-half of the retail price! The refrigerator was brand new and came with a full warranty. The
small ding near the bottom of the freezer drawer was barely noticeable.
And the reality is, we put our own dent in the refrigerator a few
months later.

Being willing to accept that small imperfection saved me around
$700! If you want to get the most bang for your buck in a kitchen
remodel, it definitely pays to shop around for discounted appliances.