Showing posts with label saving money. Show all posts
Showing posts with label saving money. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gift Ideas to Save Money this Christmas

By Alyssa
It seems like there are so many people to buy Christmas gifts for these days. If you have school aged kids you need gifts for teachers and their assistants, special curriculum teachers, and bus drivers. You might even want to include office staff and lunch ladies.
If your child works with speech therapy, physical therapy, counseling, or a tutor, you might even need something special for them. My son attends his child care three times a week also so I need gifts for his teachers. Don't forget your mailman/lady, house cleaner, friends, Bible Study group -- wow the list can climb!
The good news is that you probably don't need to actually buy something for all of these people because Christmas gifts can get expensive and add up. There are several ways you can still pass on some holiday cheer without dropping some serious cash.

Ornaments -- Ornaments are cute ways to have a teacher or special person remember your child. Applesauce ornaments or salt dough ornaments are great ways to have the kids make something or put their handprint/fingerprint on something. It's quick and easy -- but leave time for drying. I also love to use cheap dollar store ornaments to accent a gift. There is a great pin on using the dollar store for Christmas decorating and gifts. I like to buy a big batch of felt ornaments for adding to packages and cookies/candies. It's a cheap way to decorate. You can also buy ornaments after Christmas on sale for next year.

Candy/cookies -- This is a great way to provide for a large group of people. You can make a batch for office staffs, small group gatherings, parties, and to divide and give to friends. Hosting a cookie exchange party is a great way to gather a variety of cookies if you want to hand some out as gifts. Also, making cookies ahead of time and freezing them helps save time around the holidays. Check out our Pinterest Christmas Cookie and Candy board for some yummy ideas! If you are looking for something different than cookies, make candies like homemade caramels or fudge.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Frugal Friday: Moms Night Out on a Budget

By Amanda

Welcome to Frugal Friday! This is our fourth installment in conjunction with Money Saving Mom and Simply Rebekah where we talk about ways we save money in our households. Last week, Maddie shared her recipe for baked pumpkin doughnuts. Read all the other posts in our Frugal Friday series here.

I love a good night out with my sisters or girlfriends. With three children, finding the spare moolah to enjoy that night out isn't always easy. We're lucky to not struggle too much financially, but there are weekends when going out just isn't in the budget. I'm blessed that I have a great group of girlfriends that are in similar boats so not only do they empathize and help me with tips for budgeting and spreading the dollar, they also appreciate a frugal Mom's Night Out.

Throw a party at home! In the past I've thrown a Favorite Things Party. This idea came from Pinterest and was such a huge hit with my moms group that some took it to other circles where the idea has spread! A Favorite Things party is essentially a way to get together with friends and show off/bring to share your "favorite thing". I gave out bottles of my favorite bottle of wine and put out my favorite dip for an appetizer. The gift exchange involves everyone bringing 5 (although you could modify this depending on total number of guests at the party. My party was small so we only swapped 5 gifts) of their favorite item, which costs 5-10 dollars total (so guests only spend 25-50 dollars. Then everyone puts their name in a hat five times and then draws out the same number of names. Everyone leaves the party with 5 new favorite things!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Frugal Friday: Cutting Satellite Television

By Rachael

TV time with toddler and cat 
... and funky, functional antenna.
Welcome to Frugal Friday! This is our fourth installment in conjunction with Money Saving Mom and Simply Rebekah where we talk about ways we save money in our households. Last week, Maddie shared her recipe for baked pumpkin doughnuts. Read all the other posts in our Frugal Friday series here.

This week, we're talking about television and entertainment. Our first baby was 3 or 4 months old when my husband and I decided to cut our satellite television service. I was a new stay-at-home mom and we were treading water financially. We had enough to pay for our needs, but we were not able to consistently add to our savings. We might add a small amount to savings one month, but we'd have to dip into those funds the following month. We scrimped in the usual ways. We didn’t eat out. I didn’t buy new clothes for myself unless they were absolutely necessary, and I bought all of our daughter’s clothes secondhand. We held off on replacing our older sedans. Yet, we were hoping to find something that would really make a difference in our finances, something that would save hundreds of dollars.

My husband, Josh, and I clearly remember the day we decided to cut our satellite television service. It was a mild spring afternoon, and we were enjoying a walk around the neighborhood with our infant daughter strapped in the stroller. Our walks have always been nice couple time, and we like to talk about all sorts of things. The conversation came around to television. We realized how little we really watched. I liked the home and garden channel. It had gotten me through the early weeks and months of motherhood, when I sat exhausted in the recliner with a hungry baby latched to my body. Josh liked to watch the occasional football or baseball game. But was it worth $50 a month for what we watched? The next day, Josh called and cancelled our satellite service. Our decision saved us $600 a year. Many families pay much more than that, so the potential savings is high.

Soon after cancelling satellite, I spotted an antenna still in its box for $5 at a garage sale and pointed it out to Josh. He’d researched antennas and returned several to the store because they didn’t work well for us. He said my garage sale find was well reviewed online. He also mentioned it retailed for $70. He plucked it up.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Frugal Friday: Updating Antique Dining Room Set

By Katie

My frugal dining room addition: a bench
Welcome to Frugal Friday! This is our second installment in conjunction with Money Saving Mom and Simply Rebekah where we add our own two cents (or less!) about ways we save money in our households. Last week, Alyssa shared the awesome do-it-yourself vertical owl cake she made for her daughter's first birthday. This week I tackle a slightly different topic when it comes to savings: furniture.

We have a beautiful mahogany table in our home that belongs to my in-laws. The table was purchased in the 1940s by my mother-in-law's parents when they were first married. It starts small, just big enough for four chairs and has also served as a showpiece table with photos in the past. The table also has the option to extend twice, providing enough surface area for large meals and plenty of diners.

While the extended table itself has always been big enough for our family of six, we only have four of the original chairs. At first we just ate around a kitchen island, the adults standing, but then I decided it was silly to have such a gorgeous table not put to use. So I started searching for chairs to match the style of the originals. I spent a few months looking all over, but I came up short.

Original Chair
Frustrated, I started to look for new dining room sets instead. Nothing was striking my fancy but I noticed that a lot of the larger styles included options for bench seating on one side for the kids. A decorating light bulb went off in my head. If I couldn't find acceptable chairs, I'd just find a bench instead.

So I had my husband pick up an unfinished Norden bench from Ikea for $70 after work one day and I picked up a small can of stain at Lowes that I felt best matched the table and chairs. The bench turned out a little bit darker than the rest of the set, but still looks like it belongs there. My kids love that they can all sit on the same seat, and the bench fits completely under the table when we are not eating providing extra space through our dining area. With the bench, we actually have seating for more like 8 people (if a few are kids), so our table is now guest-ready too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

When to Shop for What: 12 Months of Savings

By Alyssa

Saving money is a big deal at my house, with three kids and being a mom who works part-time out of the house, I am always looking for a good bargain. I know you can save money cutting coupons but there are other ways to save money you may not know about! 

Did you know that every month offers some sort of special discount or deal on something? Most times you might come across things for sale and you don't even realize it's part of a monthly clearance that happens every year. Here is a list composed of each month's special deals so you can be sure to stock up and save!

January: Christmas and other winter decorations, White sales happen at big department stores (items like towels, sheets, bedding, throw pillows, flannels, PJs, hats/scarves/winter items), perfume, dishes, and then electronics are also on clearances as new ones are being released. Cars also tend to be on sale. Toys left over in stock from Christmas also clearance out.

February:  Winter clothes, and the day after Valentine's Day look for Valentine's Day clearance stuff for next year.  

Monday, September 30, 2013

Allowances for Kids

By Amanda 

I'm used to babies. I rocked the baby stage. Diapers, bottles, breastfeeding, crawling, putting away everything nice and breakable. I had it down. But now the bottles are long gone, diapers are a thing of the past (thank God), and I've started pulling out breakable things and nice things with the slight hope they'll survive being around three happy, rambunctious children.

Photo via Images of Money
One feature of childhood I remember fondly is an allowance. We've toyed with having allowances in our home but so far my children don't seem to grasp the handling of money. I've found my son's wallet laying around, coins used in play littering my children's rooms. I regularly make a few bucks when I clean their rooms because they don't seem to respect cash and I find it stuffed in corners of their rooms or toy boxes. (Mama claims all found money as unwanted and buys herself a latte with her haul after cleaning rooms!)

That said, my children are still quite young, 4, 5, and 7. The 7-year-old is starting to get the concept of money, and while they all can identify coins and dollars, we're going slow with expectations.

We do have a plan for allowances and chores, however, that I stole/borrowed from my older sister. First, her kids don't get money for doing regular chores. Everyone in the family is expected to contribute to keeping the house looking and feeling nice and her children don't get an allowance for meeting those basic expectations. She does, however, give out payment for extra chores. My plan is to print out these extra chores, with the billable amount, on index cards and laminate them and then put magnets on them for our fridge. The kids will get to pick what and when they do these extra chores and we all get lessons on responsibility and choice.

Another idea I'm borrowing is giving an allowance but then immediately breaking that money up into savings, fun, and donation. If my kids get a $10-a-month allowance, $2 would go in savings, $2 would go into donations to a charity of their choice, and they would have $6 to save or spend as they please. If they want to buy something bigger, they'll need to have self-control and some discipline in order to save up for it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Specialty Coffee Drinks at Home!

By Amanda 

Have you heard of coffee milk? It's a Delaware specialty that I learned about while enjoying the Food Network one day. I did a search the same day for a recipe for coffee milk, but I misplaced it.

So I recreated it from memory.  It's simple enough. 
You'll need: 

  • equal parts brewed double strength coffee and white sugar
Boil in pan for 5-15 minutes depending on the consistency of syrup you prefer

Voila! Coffee syrup which can be added to milk to make what tastes like a store bought specialty coffee drink at a fraction of the price! The syrup can stay in your refrigerator for weeks, although mine never lasts more than one week, and that's if I'm restraining myself.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Saving Money on Back to School Shopping

By Amanda 
Back to school shopping! Back to school savings! Back to school sale!

Flickr via Creative Commons
Its that time of year! Many kids were already back to school the third week of August but here in Michigan kids don't go back until after Labor Day (state law, I know, it's weird). So, I did my shopping late compared to many of you. But, I did take on this topic with a goal of saving money and learning some budgeting tips to share.

Fantastic, but how did I actually save money when I have to spend so much of it? I have three school-aged children. Back to school shopping for three kids easily overwhelms the budget between backpacks, supplies, clothes, haircuts, shoes, and odds and ends. How did I turn back to school budget blowout into back to school savings?

  • First, as soon as the back to school sales and items went up I began noting how much everything was costing. I window shopped for a month taking notes and waiting to buy a single item.
  • Second, I only bought exactly what was needed. This sounds easy but if you're ever walked into Target with the intention of buying one single thing and walked out with a cart full of OH MY GOD I HAVE TO HAVE THATS, you know it's not quite so simple. Once the supply lists came out I was determined to get only what the teachers were requesting. This involved self control on my part and not letting any whining or pleading from small children get in the way (hint: do most of the shopping without the children. They don't need to be there to pick out the pencils and markers).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Date Night Ideas on a Budget

By Lori

Photo via:

You’re a parent now, but no fear; date night with a baby is possible and important!  As people grow more comfortable with another and start a family, sometimes romance begins to slip.  You may find your Friday nights at the Italian restaurant with the great fried ravioli are replaced by evenings at home wearing sweat pants and cutting your toenails in front of your spouse.  Get out of your lack-of-dates rut with these fun and budget-friendly date ideas:

Head to an indoor or outdoor ice-skating rink and get ready for a terrific time.  It’s the perfect excuse to grab one another’s hands, slip and “oops” fall on one another and cozy up to keep warm while sipping a cup of hot chocolate.

Instead of a fancy wine bar, hit up the local dive.  Choose a place with a dartboard or pool table and challenge your man to some games.  My husband and I have done this a few times, and we always have a blast. 

Lace up your tennis shoes and find the nearest rock-climbing gym.  Have a friendly race to the top of the wall.  Loser has to give the other a massage. Added bonus: it's great exercise for a busy mom!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: What Will You Change Long Term?

As the year comes to an end, I’m reminded of the age old tradition of setting resolutions. Have you made one? Some of the most popular examples are losing weight, quitting smoking, joining a gym, saving more money, etc. 

A few years ago, rather than making a resolution, I began participating in 101 Goals in 1001 Days. I really liked the concept and I accomplished almost half my goals in the first year. The problem though is that 1001 days is almost three years long. A lot changes in three years. (Heck, in three years, I had two pregnancies, three kids, quit my career of almost 10 years, completely changed job industries, and now work from home!) 

A lot of the goals were simple or even silly things: taking the girls to go strawberry picking for the first time, touring new parts of our city, visiting family close by more often, etc. Then there were big “resolution” type goals like saving up an emergency fund, paying off debt, and remodeling things in the home.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Plan a Birthday Party on a Budget

By Heather C.

This weekend, my two littlest ones will celebrate their first birthday. As many of you probably know, birthday parties tend to take a lot of planning, a pretty large budget and more energy than most moms have.  I’ve come up with a few tips to plan a great birthday party on a budget (both for you AND your guests).

The evite I created for my oldest's party
1.   Rather than renting out a hall or facility, host the party from your home. If your child has a birthday during good weathered days, host a backyard barbecue. Put on the invitation to bring lawn chairs if you don’t have enough outdoor seating. The city I live in charges for park pavilion rentals but this is also a good idea to check on for an outdoor party.
       Dealing with a winter birthday? If your home really doesn’t have enough space, host multiple parties. Do a small one for your child’s friends and another small one for your child’s family. If you do both parties in the same day or same weekend, you won’t have to worry about wasting leftovers or spending more money on multiple sets of decorations.

 Keep in mind, my house is under 1000 square feet and I’ve still hosted my whole family for holidays and birthdays: 30 people crammed into a small space with no major complaints. (And yes, the larger majority sits on the floor or stand. We have enough seating for maybe 12.)

2.       Keep it short. The birthday party does not have to last all day. Plan for a 2 hour window. This is enough time for your child to open presents, guests to eat snacks and the cake to be served. If you are doing a party for just your child’s friends, consider skipping opening presents in front of the big group and plan fun games instead. Use craft sites like Pinterest to plan cheap and easy options.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What You Want For Mother's Day: From Free To $3,000

By Heather Curlee Novak  

I was in an awesome store called Lifestyles in downtown Valparaiso, Indiana.  It has something for everyone and even my husband enjoys shopping there.  For anyone!  (And they gift wrap for free!)

I buy or want to buy  essential oils, incense, sassy hats, kitchen gadgets, yard decor and indulgent beauty products. gifts for babes and grandparents and everyone in between. 

They have an ah maze ing upstairs with art and furnishings and WOW.  When I was there last weekend buying a gift a lady and I were swooning over the really big wind chimes.  Like as big as a person deep tolling immediately soothing like a spa vacation big wind chimes.  She was saying she wanted really deep ones and I said they were probably a couple hundred dollars.  (But even crazier: Check out these three thousand dollar ones!)

She checked the price tag and they were over four hundred dollars!  She says "I think I will ask for those for Mother's Day." 


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mommy 101: Tips For Easter Savings - Breakfast, Baskets, Hunts and More

The Mommy 101 posts are part of an occasional series in areas where we feel knowledgeable. Each mom brings her own set of life experiences to these posts and we hope that you can benefit from these tidbits. Read all of the posts in the Mommy 101 series here.

By Heather C.

My oldest in her first Easter dress
With the birth of two new babies in our home, and my new position as a stay-at-home-mom, our budget has gotten significantly tighter. It has definitely changed our lifestyle and it’s even safe to say that we’ve struggled through a few paychecks. So with Easter right around the corner, I did some research and had to come up with some of my most creative ideas to make sure our daughters still get the special holiday they deserve.

·    I know Easter breakfast has always been a big family thing for us. Many years in the past, the family would all meet up at a restaurant for brunch. $10-$15 per person later, we’d all hug and part ways. Instead, have your family members each bring a dish to your house. Try a quiche or hash brown casserole. One person can be responsible for bringing juice and milk, etc. Eating at home not only saves you money, it gives you more time to spend with your family.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Call Me Cheap... But It Hurts To Pay Full Price

By Tricia

Frugal, deal-seeker... or just plain cheap. I love saving money.
I will be the first one to admit that I’m cheap. I prefer words like "frugal" or "deal finder" but the truth of the matter is that I am a cheapskate and proud of it. I was always under the impression that my cheapness was somewhat of a secret but when I was out to dinner with a couple of friends I realized that I’m not so mysterious. When one complimented my sweater the other one immediately said “Then she’ll tell you it was only $2.” This induced a round of laughter from the table because anyone that knows me knows that's true. I love the deal almost as much as I love the sharing of the deal details with everyone else.

I’m not embarrassed by my frugal ways. In fact, I take great pride in them. A few years ago when my job ended and I became a full time stay-at-home mom I really started to focus on saving money. This is why as a mother of two and a self proclaimed cheapie, I will share my cheap tips with my fellow mommies.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why You Should Use A Credit Card For Everything

By Heather

Maybe it’s the years of sales training instilled in me, or maybe it’s actually a smart idea. Either way, I make all my purchases with a credit card and I’m here to tell you that you should too. Credit cards have gotten such a bad rep over the last couple of years. You constantly read articles about how the credit card companies are out to get you, charging high interest and ridiculous fees; even how they negatively affect your credit score. So before you count me out and skip this post, let me tell give you my sales pitch.

If you can earn money by spending money -- why not?
·    Do you know what happens to your card when the waiter takes it after you pay your dinner bill? We assume he takes it to the register, swipes it and brings it right back; but what if he doesn’t? What if he takes it around the corner, out of sight and writes down your card number? He goes home and goes on an online shopping spree. If you gave him your debit card, that money he spends comes out of your checking account. This could be your car payment or worse, your mortgage. Yes, you report it to your bank and Visa protects you and yes, you will get your money back, but did you know it could be 7-10 business days before you have that money back into your account and that by law it could be up to 45 days? Do you think your mortgage lender is going to care that your payment is late because you were a fraud victim? It’s harsh, but no, they don’t. If you’d paid with a credit card, the money Mr. Steals-A-Lot spends doesn’t affect the money you need for your bills.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Five Things To Do With Your Tax Return

By Heather

Photo via
As parents, we have the honor of claiming our children as dependents on our tax returns. Growing up, I know my parents always made a big deal out of this but I never knew the numbers. Claiming our 2 ½ year old for the first time was pretty nice but this year when we did our taxes? Our jaws dropped! Adding two more children to our return did wonders for us.
So what do you do with all that money? Here are five common things that people do and my suggestions on how to make the most of your choices.

Save it.

When is the last time you bought a car with cash? Or maybe on a smaller level, when’s the last time your car needed new tires? I believe in having two savings accounts. The first is for living expenses in case of extreme life changes, emergencies, etc. The second is what I call a spendable savings account. For:  when Little Johnny needs new tennis shoes because his are talking to you and payday is still 2 weeks away; when the check engine light comes on; How about when Suzy fell off her bike and went to the emergency room? These are all unexpected events, not really something you want to dig money out of your life savings for, but things you really don’t want to put on credit either. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the money already waiting for you?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mommy 101: How To Get Things For Free

The Mommy 101 posts are part of an occasional series in areas where we feel knowledgeable. Each mom brings her own set of life experiences to these posts and we hope that you can benefit from these tidbits. Read all of the posts in the Mommy 101 series here.

By Rachael

This week, I've given readers some tips on how to live on one income and how to take advantage of the secondhand market. Those tips are great for surviving and having the necessities for your household. But let's say you’re looking for some entertainment and a few ways to save even more money. Look no further.

Here are 10 ways to get things for free.

Some free fun at the Sachs Butterfly House
1.      Use your library. It’s okay to buy new books once in a while, but resist the urge unless it’s a book you’ll really treasure. Instead, check out books from your library, which your tax dollars already support. We also check out movies and music, and we go to weekly story times and other special events. In the past year, we’ve seen a performance by an Irish dancing school, met live birds like hawks and owls from a local bird sanctuary, decorated pumpkins, and met the mascot of the St. Louis Blues hockey team. All for free!

2.      Find out if local attractions offer free – or reduced – admission on certain days. We have it particularly good in St. Louis where our zoo is always free, and the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House offer free admission to county residents on specific days of the week or month.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thursday Three: Indulgences You Can Make Yourself

By Maddie

Everyone loves to spoil themself from time to time. There's no harm in that. But if you feel like spoiling yourself a little more than your wallet will allow, there are some creative ways to make it happen. Here are three of my favorite splurges and the ways that I have found to make them on my own at home:

1. My favorite Starbucks breakfast
Chai latte via
My personal favorite Starbucks breakfast is a low-fat Chai latte and a bowl of their Perfect Oatmeal. It costs $6.39 to buy. I have definitely gone through spurts where I stop there 3 or 4 times a week and buy breakfast! The past few weeks, I have tried re-creating the whole breakfast at home. A box of pre-sweetened Chai (I use Tazo brand and so does Starbucks!) concentrate and 1% milk make a pretty darn good replica of a Chai latte. It would be even cheaper to buy the tea bags and make it at home, but I am willing to spend a dollar or two more to make it more like the real thing, and thus make myself more likely to enjoy my own. The oatmeal is also super easy to replicate. A canister of quick oats, some brown sugar and a bag of raisin/dried cranberry mix is just right.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mommy 101: Buying Secondhand

The Mommy 101 posts are part of an occasional series in areas where we feel knowledgeable. Each mom brings her own set of life experiences to these posts and we hope that you can benefit from these tidbits. Read all of the posts in the Mommy 101 series here.

By Rachael

On Monday, I talked about ways to save money and get by on one income.

So let's say that you’ve made cuts to your budget. Maybe you’re eating more meals prepared at home, driving an older car, and couponing like a mad woman, but the money is still really tight. You should consider getting things that you need secondhand.

Here are six ways to take advantage of the secondhand market:

Secondhand Slide Love
1.      Buy things you need at garage sales. I get almost all my daughters’ clothing from garage and yard sales. They’re also great places to find inexpensive toys, and if you’re sneaky about it, you can buy nice toys and save them for birthdays and Christmas. Other good finds we’ve gotten from garage sales include a toddler bed, television antenna, small television for our kitchen, and speakers for our home theater system.

2.      Sell things you don’t need at your own garage sale. Be on the lookout for unused or unneeded items all year. As you come across an item in your home, put it in a box designated for your garage sale. At the end of the year – maybe sooner – you’ll have lots of things to sell. You’ll clear clutter out of your home and make a little money in the process. Get together with friends and pool your stuff so your sale will be larger and appeal to more buyers.
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