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15 Nov 2008   ·   14
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Kroger and Aldi

The girls and I just did a simple shopping trip to Kroger (Dillon's) and Aldi this week:


Altogether, we spent a total of right at $40 for all the above groceries–right on our budget target. Yay! You can read more about this shopping trip here.

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.**

14 Nov 2008   ·   29
Money Saving Mom

Five Simple Ways to Earn a Little Extra Cash


Wanting to have a cash-only Christmas this year but struggling to come up with the cash?

Here are just a few ideas you might try:

1) CoinStar–Gather up all your loose change and take it to the nearest CoinStar machine to be converted into gift cards or cash. If you can come up with $40 worth in change, you can get an additional $10 bonus. Read more here.

2) Cash4Books–Look around your home and find used books you no longer need or use and sell them to Cash4Books. They pay promptly through Paypal so you can quickly have your money in hand after shipping off the books.

3) Turn your "trash" into cash–Sam's Club, Amazon, and Costco all offer programs of rewarding you gift cards for old electronics, cell phones, and so on. Read more details here, here, and here.

4) Etsy–If you're skilled in the area of arts and crafts, consider setting up a simple shop on Etsy and selling some of your handmade goods. Read this article here for ideas on getting started.

5) YouData–You won't make a lot of money off of this, but if you have some extra time to view some commercials online, you can earn a few dollars each week through YouData. Best of all, they pay via Paypal at the end of every week so it's a very quick turnaround. More details on this are here.

Those are just a few simple ideas I had for quick ways to generate some cash. I'd love to hear ideas from the rest of you–especially if it's something you are personally doing this year to help shore up your Christmas budget.

14 Nov 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

It’s a “lazy” Frugal Friday

We had a busy week this week and I woke up feeling rather icky this morning so we nixed our plans to go to the zoo and instead are staying home and having a "lazy day". We're doing some cleaning, laundry, a little baking, and mostly just taking it slow and enjoying being together.

I think we might cuddle up under a blanket with some hot drinks and read our current read-aloud, too. Sounds like the perfect thing to do on a rather cold day like today!

And don't worry, I'll also be popping in every once in a while today to post some of the deals which are sitting in my inbox waiting to be shared. I've gotten rather behind on email this week so I hope to have a chance to clear out my bulging inbox during little pockets of extra time throughout today.

If you need a dose of frugal encouragement or inspiration today, be sure to head over to my other blog for Frugal Friday. There's already a host of great links up over there.

13 Nov 2008   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Using Your Freezer and Cooking from Scratch to Save Money

I recently shared about our regular Baking Days (see posts here, here, here, and here if you missed those posts) and many of you were interested in doing something similar. Michelle's guest post below is packed with tips to help you get started using your freezer and cooking from scratch to save money. Enjoy!

Guest Post by Michelle from Leaving Excess

I have always enjoyed cooking and baking from scratch. In my quest to be more frugal, I have been able to utilize my kitchen
enthusiasm to prepare wholesome food for my family; adding convenience by
making mixes ahead of time or freezing foods to use later. This helps me
to save money by not buying reducing the need for prepackaged convenience foods
or needing to rely on fast food or take-out meals during our often busy
weekdays and weekends.

Recently, many manufacturers have been putting
less product in the same package and still charging the same. The stakes
on the game of feeding your family for less just got higher. The
following are my tips for using your kitchen to save you money.

Tip #1: Work ahead. I love to cook. But I do not love to cook when I am under the gun to prepare dinner in a
hurry. Taking time to plan out meals and prepare the foods we will be
eating during the week ahead saves me a lot of time, headache, and money. 


example: I recently committed to making all of our bread at home. The bread machine is a convenient way for me to mix the dough (which I prefer
to bake in the oven), but sometimes even measuring all the ingredients feels
like too much to fit into my busy day. 

I now mix together the dry ingredients to our
family’s favorite bread recipe
up ahead of time and store it in the
cupboard. When I need a loaf, I just put in the wet ingredients and yeast
and press a button. That makes it more manageable for me.

In addition, it saves me time because it is easier to measure the ingredients out five times, put
them in individual containers and be done that to drag the ingredients out five
different times. I also do this for our brownies,
cookies, quick breads, pizza dough, etc.

Tip #2:  Make Extra. When I make a dish
for my family that can be frozen, I always make two. I have all the
ingredients out, so why not? In the end, you save time, mess and

Simply make two of the same dish and wrap one for the
freezer. You can put the dish into a freezer bag, work the excess air
out, zip the bag, and put it into another bag and do the same. You can
also use disposable baking pans, cover the top of the dish in plastic
wrap, and then cover the top again in foil. 

This works well for
casseroles, meat with sauces, and marinades. For a marinade, I make two
batches at once, use the first, and store the second in a freezer bag (double
wrap as described above). When you are ready to use the marinade, simply
put the frozen meat in with the frozen sauce (in the bag) and store in your
refrigerator for a few days. As the meat thaws, it will absorb the
marinade. Turn the bag once or twice a day to evenly distribute the
marinade. Be cautious when freezing casseroles, as dishes with uncooked
potatoes, sour cream or mayonnaise do not freeze well.

Another wonderful thing to make extra of is cookie
dough. I usually make a double batch, bake one batch, and then freeze the

There are two ways to freeze the dough. First, you can make
the remaining dough into logs (about 12 cookies per log, so if your batch makes
3 dozen, make 3 logs), wrap the log in plastic wrap, wrap again in foil and
freeze. When you are ready to bake, you can slice the log into disks and
bake the cookies that way.

The other way is to use a scoop to make balls
of dough. Place the balls of dough close together on a baking sheet and store
in the freezer (uncovered) for about 1-2 hours, or until hard. Once the
dough is hard, place the dough balls into a freezer bag and double wrap the bag
into another freezer bag (being sure to remove excess air). 

Freezing the cookies individually first prevents the dough
from freezing to itself and being one big clump.  That way, you can take
out just as many as you need at one time. 


I do this with hamburger
patties, freezing them individually, then store them in a bag until we need
them.  Read the details here


I also do this with waffles, making a double batch and freezing the extras to
be popped into the toaster on busy mornings. Read about that here.

Making extra muffins (our favorites are Banana Chocolate Chip and Zucchini),
packaging them individual, and freezing them makes mornings much easier. Simply toss a bag of muffins into your bag, and by the time you get to work or
school, the muffins will thawed and ready to eat.

When freezing, but sure
to label and date each item, so that you can find what you need, see what you
have and use what you have before it goes bad.

Tip #3:  Preserve Nature’s Bounty. Have
you ever seen those convenience bags of pre-chopped frozen onions or
peppers? You can easily do this
for yourself during the peak of the season.

When you find a great sale on
onions, stock up, and freeze some for later. I like to prepare mine a
couple of different ways: I like to chop some to be used in casseroles or
sauces and I like to slice some to be used in stir-frys or on hamburgers and


Follow the same directions above for freezing cookie dough balls:
lay out the onions in a single layer on a baking sheet (you may want to cover
onions to prevent the smell from taking over your freezer!), freeze until
frozen, and then pour into bags and double wrap. That way, you can take
what you need and not have to fight a big clump of frozen mess. Read more
about freezing onions here.

This tip works beautifully for red, yellow, and green peppers
(ones destined for cooked dishes); woody herbs such as thyme and rosemary; and
fruits such as blueberries and strawberries (for baking or smoothies). Again,
you will want to label and date your bounty, so you can find and use the
food before it expires, generally about 3–6 months for fresh produce,
assuming a zero grade freezer and well packaged foods.

Tip #4: Prepare In Advance. Sometimes it is
just not physically possible to get home and get a meal ready all at the same
time. On those days, I rely on my crock pot to have a hot, nutritious
meal waiting for me at the end of a long day. I prepare what I can the
night before, chopping vegetables, opening cans of tomatoes or beans, and
assembling the dish in the crock pot bowl before storing it in our refrigerator

In the morning, I finish any last minute details and set the
bowl into the cooking unit and let it go to work. Often, I prepare rice
in the rice cooker using the delayed function to accompany the crock pot
meal. It is such a relief to know that dinner is already done on those
busy days! For more crock pot tips and links to hundreds of recipes for
the crock pot, read this post here.

Even on days when I am home, I notice that my stress level
is much lower when I have menus planned out for the week in advance. Not
having to scramble to figure out what is for dinner makes all the difference in
my day.

It also enables me to look in my freezer and pantry and see what
needs to be used. I can then plan my meals around those items, to be sure
I am wisely and efficiently using the foods that I have taken the time and
money to prepare ahead of time. When I know I am using chicken in two
days, I can take it out to thaw in the refrigerator so that I am ready to go
once the dinner hour strikes.

Finally, I would like to share that preparing foods in
advance and using the freezer may be heading into the unknown for you, but it
is not hard to do. If you have specific questions, feel free to leave a
comment on my blog, here on this post, or do a search online with the ingredient
you want to freeze or store in the search title. Just put one foot in
front of the other and enjoy the journey!

Michelle is a CPA, turned stay at home mom to four,
turned somewhere in between.  She challenges the excesses that society
tells us we need and experiments with living a simple, uncluttered life on her
daily blog, Leaving Excess

13 Nov 2008   ·   59
Money Saving Mom

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


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

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

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

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:


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:

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

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

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?!)

Banana bread
Granola bites

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


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:


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?


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!