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Tips for Budget-Friendly Home Remodeling and Decorating

The following guest post is written by Kelly from View Along the Way.

When my husband and I bought our previously-foreclosed house, the entire guest bedroom floor was covered in what I can only assume was feces. Soaked through the carpet, through the carpet mat, and into the floorboards.

We had a lot of work cut out for us!

It’s now three years later, we’ve almost completely gutted the place, pouring our own sweat and tears into every project, and we’ve learned many lessons about saving money along the way:

1. Don’t be afraid to DIY.

My husband and I are DIY-ers to the core. We believe you can learn how to do just about anything with the help of Google and a healthy spirit of adventure.

Our kitchen backsplash: our first attempt at tiling a vertical wall.

We’ve learned the pros don’t have any magical powers. They have better tools, but you can rent those. They have more knowledge, but you can find that online. And they have more experience, but you’ll get that quickly. There’s probably a certain level of ignorance-is-bliss necessary to get you started, but you can do it.

We hired professionals for exactly two jobs: installing carpet and installing our quartz countertops. For both jobs, we paid gobs of money and were completely dissatisfied with both jobs.

I learned through hiring those professionals that the people who will care the most about the final result are my husband and me. No one else has to live with the final result.

2. Coupon!

If you read Money Saving Mom®, you’re probably not new to this idea, but did you know there are coupons for home improvement stores too?

Lowe’s and Home Depot accept competitor coupons, and you can buy 10% and 20% off coupons for either store on eBay. We always use coupons on our home projects.

3. Shop with Gift Cards

If you know you have a big purchase ahead – for example, a large appliance – find the best deal, then buy a gift card for that retailer before you make the purchase. Home Depot and Lowe’s gift cards on eBay regularly sell for about 80 – 90 percent of the value, so you can save lots of cash by putting a little time and forethought into your purchases.

4. Work With Your Budget

I almost died when I saw a beautiful upholstered bed at a designer home store for over $2000. I loved it, but there was just no way we were forking over a couple grand for a bed, even if it would completely make the room.

So my husband and I got to thinking, strategizing, wondering: could we make something like that ourselves?

After several weeks of research and trial-and-error, we ended up with this – our first real upholstery attempt:

It’s our own version of the pricey designer bed, which we built out of wood and upholstered with fabric we bought on sale and with coupons for only $278. Yes, 90 percent off!

You can see the whole upholstered bed shebang here.

5. Have some vision.

Shop for furniture at yard sales and thrift shops, then spruce it up to make it your own. There are some incredible furniture pieces with beautiful lines at yard sales for next to nothing, just waiting to for a little lovin’. A quick sand and paint job can turn them around completely and give them character and class.

6. Avoid expensive matchy furniture sets.

You don’t need matching furniture to have a beautiful home. Take a look at the most beautifully designed rooms online and in magazines: they almost always have a collected feel. You’ll rarely see identical end tables or matching sofas and loveseats. The more collected your house feels, the more personality it has.

Unmatched furniture creates a collected, cozy feel. Via BHG

7. Go slowly, and pay with cash.

I might be preaching to the choir once again! Yes, using cash takes a bit longer but allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labor without worrying about how you’ll ever pay the bill later. It saves strain on your marriage, and gives you plenty of time to make the right decisions as you go.

We still have lots of learning to do, but following these tips have saved us tens of thousands of dollars on our home remodel so far.

Do you have any money-saving home improvement tips to share?

Kelly’s blog, View Along the Way, chronicles her attempts to fix up a beaten-down home on a teensy little budget. Be sure to check out the before and after photos of their house on her blog.

Portion-Size Freezer-Friendly Baked Oatmeal


The following is a guest post from Brenda of Sugar-Free Mom

January is always that time of year when everyone looks forward to that fresh start and a clean slate. We have hopes, aspirations, and dreams for a better year than the last. The year always begins with some enthusiastic ideas and hopefully some good planning.

Well, how many of you have ever made a goal to eat healthier or lose weight? Have you hit your goal?

This past year I wanted my children to eat less pre-packaged food items, I wanted to finally lose those last few pounds from my pregnancy, I wanted to stick to a food budget, and I wanted to have more freezer meals to make my life easier as a homeschooling momma. The 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series helped tremendously, as well as the post on How I plan my freezer Cooking Day?

Whether you are trying to lose weight, eat healthier, or lower your grocery bill, I’ve got a recipe for you to try! It’s economical, versatile, freezable, portion controlled, and downright delicious.

The best part about this recipe is that it is not made in a big casserole dish! It makes 18 individualized baked oatmeal portion so that I won’t eat more than my one portion. Its also very inexpensive.

A Few More Tips:

  • I buy the basic ingredients at Aldi and the rest at Target or Whole Foods.
  • You can find many varieties of chocolate chips without refined sugar at Whole Foods and online.
  • I use grain-sweetened chocolate chips, but carob chips are also delicious as well.
  • Using different fruits does not change the nutrition info all that much.
  • Using chocolate chips does change the nutrition info and you will see that difference noted above.
  • This recipe freezes wonderfully in Ziploc freezer bags.

If you only start with one goal this year, make it freezer cooking and start with this easy dish!

Brenda Bennett, is a homeschooling mom of three and author of Sugar-Free She lost 50 pounds and has kept it off for the last 8 years! At Sugar-Free Mom, you will find great recipes for yourself and your family, as well as health-related issues about exercise and refined sugar-free alternatives.

Setting Goals and Saving Money

The following is a guest post from Joy of Vim and Vigor:

source: RikkisRefugeOther

Whether you are a mom of one or of seven, whether you hare just married, or whether you are single, the demands of life are many. You know the old saying, “A woman’s work is never done.” That is so true!

Amidst the meal planning, dishes, work schedules, cleaning up of spills, errands, and laundry, we are real women with real needs–spiritually, physically, and emotionally. If these areas are being neglected in our lives, it affects us as woman and those around us.

Crystal has been such an inspiration to me in setting goals and accomplishing them. Seeing her lists of books to read, projects she wants to try, and also her monthly financial goals has been very motivating for me. I especially like how she doesn’t overload herself. Instead, her goals are doable.

One tangible way Crystal inspired me was to write down a budget for our family. To be honest, it was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done. I think less about money now, because I know how much I can spend in each area of our lives. I don’t have to wonder, “Do we have enough money in the bank to cover this check?”

Creating a budget was like getting a raise: we can save so much more since we now know how much we can spend! And one goal I have regarding our budget for the New Year is to look at each category and see how I can spend less.

Here are some of the ways I am cutting back:


I have decided (for the time being) to only shop for myself at re-sale shops and rummage sales.


I have replaced my expensive, high-dollar face cream, and instead have started using a baking soda and water exfoliate. I’m also using avocado oil on my face, which is an inexpensive, natural and superior moisturizer. I now wash my hair with baking soda and rinse with vinegar. It cleans my hair, instead of stripping it, and it works wonderfully!


I had was in the habit of keeping a variety of store bought drinks at home–pop, juices, coffee, etc. However, I’ve decided we can easily save hundreds of dollars per year by choosing to drink water and milk. Juice is now a treat, and purchased only when on sale.

Eating Out:

One way we can save a ton of money is by setting a budget for eating out–and then sticking to it! If we go over budget in this area, I really feel it is my own doing.

I am the one in charge of meal planning, and I am now trying to have a few “fast food” meals handy in the freezer for those nights I don’t want to cook. (Crystal talks a lot about freezer cooking, which has been so helpful for me.)

It really is the little things that can make or break a budget. And as we approach another New Year, I hope this will be a springboard to help you think of a few areas where you too can cut back, so you can do more with your budget, and bless your family in this way.

Have you recently cut anything out of your budget?

Joy is a 33-year-old homeschooling mama to six kids. She is married to her wonderful husband, who lovingly looks past all her faults, and loves her for the wife, mama, and child of God she is striving to be. Through the trials and triumphs of marriage, having a large family, and living as naturally as possible on a budget, God is in the midst of it all. You can read about all the journeys Christ has been bringing this family through, and to be encouraged in your mothering on Joy’s blog.

4 Tips for Staying Healthy Over the Holidays

Guest post by Pam from Save Money, Be Happy

Whew! It’s hard to keep your healthy routines going during the busy holiday season.

However, don’t use this as an excuse to skip working out, eating healthy, and taking care of yourself. To help you out, here are a few tips for finding a balance between keeping yourself on track health wise and understanding that your normal routine may not work:

1. Get enough sleep.

I can’t stress this enough. If your sleep suffers, everything else will suffer. This is one area I need to work on myself–it is so tempting to stay up to get everything done, but I have to remind myself I’m just “stealing” quality time from tomorrow.

2. Drink lots of water.

It’s easy to indulge in Peppermint Mocha’s from Starbucks and rich hot chocolates right now, but remember to continue to drink water.

3. Eat a healthy breakfast.

Might as well start each day off with a home run this season. A few suggestions: oatmeal with some dried fruit, a veggie omelet, or sourdough toast with peanut butter and a piece of fruit on the side. All three of these will fill you up while keeping your calorie intake at a reasonable breakfast level.

4. Get a little exercise everyday.

Maybe you can’t make your normal fitness routine work in all the busyness right now, but you can do something each day. Open your front door, walk for 15 minutes, turn around and walk back. If you’re traveling, use the hotel gym or see if a local Y or health club will give you a free or heavily-discounted day pass.

Worst case scenario: do 10 push ups, 25 sit ups, and 15 squats as soon as you wake up and right before bed (that will take you no more than 10 minutes total). If you do something, even if it’s not much, it won’t come as a shock to your body (or your mind) when you pick back up exercising regularly in January.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. It is a crazy time of year, people are busy, schedules are full. Just try your best to do a few things to keep yourself on track and if you mess up one day, start fresh the next!

Pam is a work-at-home mom of two (ages 5 and 7). She enjoys healthy living (nutrition, exercise, etc.), learning, saving money, and having fun! She blogs at Save Money, Be Happy.

photo credit

How to Spend Less Money Eating Out

Guest post by Carmen from Life Blessons

For the past two years, my husband and I have kept our monthly budget tacked up on a wall in our kitchen. It may not be the most creative of wall art, but in spite of that, we don’t even bother to hide it when guests come over, because over these past two years, that little sheet has become something of a masterpiece in our house.

You see, the other day, I realized how much I actually enjoy looking at our budget now. One category on the sheet caught my eye: our eating out budget. It was a big, fat zero.

I remembered how when we were first married, that was the category that we struggled the most with; our first month of marriage alone, we spent $376 on eating out! That was one of the main reasons we started hanging our budget on the wall in the first place.

Obviously, we have come a long way since those first days of matrimony. Through it all, we’ve grown not only in our marriage but also our financial savvy. Learning how to be content without eating out was something that took some practice, and here are some of the lessons we learned along the way:

All those little meals add up. When I look back over the spending of that first month, we weren’t dropping wads of cash at every meal. In fact, almost all of our eating-out bills were around $11 each. The most expensive meal we had the entire month was when we took a friend out to pizza and it totaled $30!

Eat out for lunch instead of dinner.
Eating out for lunch can cost considerably less than when you eat out later in the evening. Plus, you’re usually not quite as hungry, so you eat less. That right there will cut down on your spending!

Instead of going out for entire meals, go out for treats.
One thing we’ve done to trim our spending is to go out for things like ice-cream or coffee, rather than full-fledged meals. Sure, you can have coffee or ice-cream at home, but when it scratches the eating-out itch at a fraction of the price, it can be well worth the splurge!

Indulge at home.
Find meals that indulge your taste buds and make you excited to eat at home. For instance, we have a cheesy casserole dish that I like to make, which has become a favorite dish my husband looks forward to, week after week. Even though it may not be super-healthy, I’m sure it’s much more healthy than most of what you’ll find on restaurant menus. But even more than that, it keeps us eating at home–and enjoying it, all the more!

Carmen lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, with whom she just celebrated two years of marriage! She writes about her life and faith on her blog, Life Blessons.

photo credit