Category Archives: Finance

Can’t Afford a Vacation? Ideas for Family Fun on a Budget

How to have family fun on a budget even when you can't afford a vacation. Get out there and make memories with your kids.

During summer and fall months, Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with pictures and stories of amazing looking family vacations.

“Some years the budget doesn’t allow for a short trip let alone the vacation you’ve always dreamed of taking your kids on. It might be easy to feel mom guilt over not being able to give your kids that trip – but there’s no reason to!!! Instead, focus on the all the areas that you can have fun as a family on a budget!

If your children are young like mine, you can easily find lots of ways to have fun without going anywhere. If you are excited about the awesome year you are going to have staying home, it will rub off on your kids. If you are down and upset about not going on vacation, that attitude will rub off on them.

Here are four ways you can have fun with your family on a budget this year:”

Click over to Money Saving Mom to read the rest of my guest post.

I’d love to hear, what are your favorite ways to have family fun on a budget? Are there any free events I need to look for in my area?

How to have family fun on a budget even when you can't afford a vacation. Get out there and make memories with your kids.

Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons

how to save money on groceries without using coupons

Have you ever wondered if you can actually save money on groceries without coupons?

I live in a small town and I don’t receive any coupons through the newspaper and my grocery budget has ranged from $120-$170 a month over the past 10 years. (Started with just my husband and me and now our third child is one.)

So yes, we are proof that it is possible to save money on groceries without coupons! Not only is our grocery budget pretty stinkin’ low, but I’m still able to feed my family a fairly healthy diet consisting of minimally processed foods.

Often our budgets are tight and we don’t know what else we can cut out to make the numbers work. A great place to start is the grocery budget. Yes, even if you don’t have access to coupons.

I want to share a few tips and tricks with you that I’ve used the past decade. I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who rocked her grocery budget and learn from her. For even more ideas, check out this popular post on how to drastically lower your grocery budget.

If you like e-courses, be sure to check out this FREE e-course on eating well on a budget that Erin at The Humbled Homemaker put together! It’s 5 days long and includes videos and emails!

Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons

Shop the Ads

This is huge! Don’t menu plan or head to the store without knowing what is on sale where.

We don’t get the newspaper but, thankfully, now days you are able to find almost every ad online. Checkout the websites for both national and local stores to view them.

Take a few minutes to look over the ads and write down what’s on sale at each store.

Watch for Markdowns

Grocery shop in the morning, when possible, and keep your eyes open for markdowns. Get to recognize the stickers that symbolize a discount in price.

I’ve gotten steak, chicken, other meat, bread, kale, spinach, arugula, other produce, chips and so much more for super cheap this way.

The meat, and often time bread products, can go in the freezer to prolong their life but you have to be willing to adjust to your menu to take advantage of the produce with a shorter shelf life. It’s worth taking those few minutes in the store to tweak the menu, though.

Price Match

If your week is too crazy to hit up multiple stores, don’t forget that in most places you can price match at Wal-Mart.

Know What to Buy Where

Don’t assume that just because something is on sale it’s the best price. You need to be aware of what the standard prices are at other grocery stores and online before you decide to stock up. Produce sales at several of our local stores tend to be higher than non-sale prices at Aldi.

Which brings me to the next point:

Aldi

I LOVE Aldi! Many of their regular prices are good deals and their weekly produce sales tend to be exceptional. The produce on sale is what I tend to grab lots of and build my menu around. Aldi is also a great store to watch for markdowns.

(Don’t forget to bring a quarter for your cart and grocery bags but it’s well worth it.)

Store Brands

Give store brands a try. Some might not be a contender with your favorite name brands but you might be surprised.

Again, don’t assume store brand is the lowest price. With a sale a name brand might actually come out ahead.

Skip Packaged Products

Cook from scratch! You’ll save so much money mixing up your own taco seasoning versus buying the little packet from the store (and it’s better for you too). Try your hand at making yogurt, bread, popsicles, mac & cheese, and so forth instead of grabbing the box.

Ibotta

Put your smart phone to use and save a little each shopping trip!

Download the Ibotta grocery rebate app to earn money! Use my referral link and you’ll get a $10 welcome bonus! (My referral code is rxlutjp if you need it.) Checkout the rebates they offer before you head to the stores and when you are done, add the info to the app.

These are a few of the ways I’ve save on groceries over the last 10 years  – no coupons involved. That’s thousands of dollars I’ve saved our family by being intentional about how I shop. You can to! Don’t worry about trying to overhaul your shopping in one week, instead take baby steps and each week continue to make little changes until you get to the ideal budget for your family.

Do you use coupons?

What are your favorite ways to save on groceries?

Grocery Carts: how to save money on groceries

Eating Healthy on a Tight Budget

Eating Healthy on a Budget - You can do it!!! These tips will allow you to buy real, whole foods without clipping coupons. My grocery budget is $150 a month!

“I wish I could buy more fruits and vegetables, but I just can’t afford it.”

“I want to eat healthier, but it costs too much.”

If you haven’t said either of of those things, I’m sure you’ve heard them! They can do it and you can as well. In fact, I think in most cases, families can spend less money and eat healthier at the same time! The majority of people I know, spend more than we do on groceries and buy less healthy foods!

So many people want to change their eating habits and start buying more nutrient dense and less processed food, maybe you do as well, but it can seem overwhelming. You might feel there are so many changes to make and wonder that since you can buy generic brand processed foods for cheap – a lot of times just a dollar of two if it’s really affordable to switch.

There are so many different definitions of what’s healthy, in this post and for our family I focus on whole ingredients, making food from scratch or buying products with minimal ingredients, fruits and vegetables, whole grains,  no artificial sweeteners etc.

You can buy healthy food on a tight budget. These tips really make a difference. For added inspirations, be sure to check out the post on reducing your grocery budget.

Eating Healthy on a Budget - You can do it!!! These tips will allow you to buy real, whole foods without clipping coupons. My grocery budget is $150 a month!

Tips for Eating Healthy on a Tight Budget:

Baby Steps!

Don’t feel like you have to go and throw out everything in your pantry and refrigerator and start over. Transition one ingredient at a time. Replace your canola oil with coconut oil, olive oil, and butter. Buy another bunch of bananas instead of the chips. When your flour runs out, try whole wheat.

Menu Plan!

This is a huge deal to me – I have an entire post on why it’s important. If you go to the store and just start putting things you think you need into the cart, you will spend a lot of money. Plan your meals and snacks so you know exactly what to purchase (but if you find an awesome sale or markdown be willing to adapt when you are at the store).

Stick to the Basics!

The basics are almost always going to be cheaper than specialty ingredients. Don’t feel like you need to buy 10 different fats just because you’ve read about them. Stick to coconut oil, olive oil, and butter.

Cook from Scratch!

Avoid the “healthy” convenience foods. Make bread, cook your own mac and cheese, mix up a marinade for the chicken, make muffins instead of buying Poptarts.

In Season Produce!

Vegetables and fruit will make up a big chunk of your meals and snacks. Buy what’s in season and on sale. Also, don’t forget about the frozen produce. Sure, I love fresh produce but fresh green beans in the winter just aren’t happening.

Don’t Feel Pressured to Buy Organic!

If you can’t buy organic, it’s okay. Produce, even conventional, is going to be better for you than a bag of chips or a candy bar. Don’t let not being able to buy what you think of as best keep you from buying what is better.

Free Range/Grass Fed/Pastured. . .!

This follows the same advice as the produce. Sure, I think grass fed beef is the best, but if I don’t have access to someone splitting a quarter of a cow with me or I don’t find it marked down in the grocery store, my budget simply doesn’t allow it. Do keep your eyes open for great deals, but in the mean time feel good about cooking up your own chicken instead of buying lunch meat or browning ground beef instead of picking up taco bell.

Beans, Lentils, and Grains!

These foods are all pretty affordable. Buy several different kinds-of beans and lentils. Try quinoa. Have oatmeal for breakfast a couple times a week. I like meat but I also like these other foods and they happen to be a little easier on the budget so you’ll see them often on our menu plan.

Don’t Waste!

Plan to use those leftovers! I often have each meal I’m cooking twice a week and then there will be another meal that’s leftovers of the leftovers. Instead of eating the same meal twice in a week you could also plan to freeze the other half and pull it out at a later date.

Not only do you not want to waste leftovers, you want to watch the dairy products, produce, potatoes, and onions and make sure you don’t let all the odds and ends go bad! Turn them into a soup or stir fry. Slice up the bell peppers and stick them in the freezer. Freeze the milk in cup portions.

Stock Bag!

This is a continuation of don’t waste! The ends of the celery, pieces of onions and carrots, parsley that’s going bad etc – throw them into a zipped bag and keep in the freezer. The next time you are making stock, add it to the pot with the bones for extra flavor.

Shop Online!

Don’t assume local stores are the cheapest! If you can’t find local honey, order raw honey online (my favorite place for honey is Vitacost – they have an amazing price. If you sign up for Vitacost with my referral link, you’ll get $10 off your first order!) I also like to check (affilate link) Amazon.

Don’t Be A Short Order Cook!

Make one meal and have everyone eat it. In our house we all eat the same thing for supper. There’s no fixing something different for a child. It’s good for the kids and it’s good for the budget! Weekday lunches the kids eat the same thing and the adults do salads. Breakfast my youngest likes oatmeal and us other 3 eat the same thing. Having to buy ingredients to fix two separate meals adds up!

Garden. . . If You Have a Green Thumb!

Herbs are an awesome thing to grow. Fresh ones from the store are expensive. I’m about the worst gardener ever, and have yet to really succeed with planting, but my sister’s herbs flourish! Try tomato plants, squash, lettuce. See what grows well in your area and try something!

Limit the Snacks!

Snacks really aren’t necessary. Even for kids. If we don’t have fruit with breakfast, my kids will have some midmorning and then around 3-4 in the afternoon they’ll have a little something. Fruit, veggies, nuts, popcorn, rice cake etc. It really varies. That’s it. There’s no snacking in the evening because they didn’t eat dinner. Snacks are easy to inhale and can be expensive. Plus, they often cause your meals to go to waste.

How do you handle eating healthy when you are on a tight budget? Any favorite tips to share?

You can do it! Just take baby steps and keep plugging away. We are all doing the best we can. Thankfully there are lots of ways to save, if gardening was the only one we be broke and starved.

If you enjoyed this post, we’d love for you to join our community on Facebook and follow us on Pinterest!

Eating Healthy on a Budget - You can do it!!! These tips will allow you to buy real, whole foods without clipping coupons. My grocery budget is $150 a month!

Linking up to these fun parties!

 

Easy Ways to Save Money

These are a few of the ways we use to save money! They really make a HUGE difference as we live on a low income and work to pay our house off early!

Saving money. It’s probably something most of us want to do for one reason or another.

We are in the middle of paying off our house early. Hopefully that will happen within the next 15 months. This means we are always looking for ways to cut costs and save money. Every little thing adds up.

After the house is paid off we’ll still be trying to save money so we can put more toward retirement, take a vacation, and save some money up for kids’ college funds. Watching what we spend, budgeting, and making our money work for us is a part of life.

I have a list of 10 easy ways we save money.

Some of them we are doing for a season and others are a pretty permanent part of our lives but together they are allowing us to live on less so that we can put more toward our mortgage.

10 Easy Ways to Save Money

1. Lower Your Grocery Budget

This is one of the first things to look at when you are trying to save. It’s easy to gradually start spending more and more on groceries over time. If you don’t want to keep it super low forever, that’s fine but do it to help out while you income is lower or your are trying to reach a savings goal.

This is a big one in our house. In fact, our most popular post is on how I keep my grocery budget at $150 a month. Over the next year, these tips are especially important  for us as our extra money that sometimes went toward grocery splurges is now all going to the house.

Some favorite ways to lower your grocery budget: cook from scratch, menu plan, and using meat as a condiment.

2. Simplify Birthdays, Christmas, and Holidays

It is super easy to go overboard. How often do we keep on finding one more present for our child or want to give them the newest and best gadget. The Easter basket has to be piled high.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but you might want to consider scaling back. Set a smaller budget and stick to it. Spend time with your kids and make memories with them instead of spending.

You or your spouse can consider doing without gifts altogether. As an adult, it’s easy to understand why and see the big pictures. Shaun and I aren’t giving each other birthday or Christmas presents and we keep things simple with the kids.

If you minimize your gift spending try using the next tip and you might be able to cover a good portion of your gifts without spending anything out of pocket! Here I have some tips on Christmas Presents on a budget and taking the emphasis off of gifts at Christmas!

3. Earn Gift Cards with Swagbucks for Presents

I love Swagbucks. It’s an easy way to earn points you can redeem for gift cards. If you follow tip number two and cut your birthday and Christmas spending down, the gift cards you earn will cover a good chunk.

If you work at using Swagbucks (and have a smart phone) you could earn over $300 in a year. This post has some of my favorite easy ways to earn Swagbucks on your computer and I’ll have another one coming on how easy it is to earn on your smart phone!

4. Drink Water

Forget the pops, juices, coffees, and teas for a while and just stick to water! Not only is it good for you, it’s also the most affordable! The costs of all those other beverages really add up. I promise your kids won’t die without milk at every meal and juice for breakfast.

Milk for drinking and juice are super rare purchases in our house and it really helps save money.

5. Skip the Vacation

Our vacations consists of trips to see family and a season tickets to a theme park 5 hours away. This year, since we knew we were going to be pinching pennies, we decided to forgo the season tickets.

We aren’t saving a ton on money because as vacation go, it really is quite affordable but the ticket purchase and gas costs for driving there several times save us hundreds of dollars. If you take bigger vacations, this could equal thousands of dollars.

We are still looking forward to a few trips to visit family though and having fun locally and frugally!

6. Shop Your Closet

Avoid the mall and all the clothing deal sites for a while and just wear what you have. I’m already a big fan of buying used clothes and shopping clearance racks but sometimes you just need to take a break from even that.

A perk of this, when you have some money to spend on clothes again and go through  your closet you’ll know exactly what to get rid of.

7. Eat at Home

It’s nice to get a break from cooking, but restaurants aren’t cheap. You have the cost of a meal and then add the tip in and you could cook a lot of meals at home with what you just spent going out. Even at a fast food or fast casual restaurant things add up when you are buying for a family.

If eating out is something you love, put gift cards on your birthday and Christmas list (and use coupons when you go out to make them go even further). Otherwise, think about your big financial goal or view it as something you are giving up until your finances increase.

8. Cut the Cable

Get rid of your paid television service. No more cable or dish.

It’s okay. I promise you’ll survive.

When we got rid of it several years ago I think my husband was pretty skeptical. It really hasn’t been that bad. Then take it a step further and don’t replace it with Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime. How much TV do we really need to watch anyway? Utilize your library, free Hulu, and free streaming on network sites so you can keep up with a couple of your favorite shows.

9. Cheaper Cell Phone Rates

Cell phones are straight up expensive but there are a few things we’ve found to do to save money.

  • Save money by negotiating lower rates with your cell phone provider. We saved an additional $15 a month by talking to the retention department.
  • My husband has a smart phone and uses Google Voice instead of paying for a texting plan. It has its quirks, but it is fine for his needs.
  • Use a dumb phone. I’ve occasionally thought about getting a smart phone over the years but it’s something I can’t justify doing right now. An extra $15 to $30 a month might not seem like a lot, but all those things add up so I keep my basic talk only phone. (Yes, I even have texting turned off). Maybe after we get our house paid off or our income increases I’ll reconsider, but right now it works.

10. DIY Lawn Care and Pest Control

Okay, so honestly weeds in the yards are something that don’t really bother me. Let them grow. (Bonus: it would  mean no toxic chemicals I have to worry about.) My husband, on the other hand, can’t stand them. Plus it makes all your the people in your neighborhood upset if you don’t take care of your yard. Instead of paying a lawn care company to come take care of it, he went to the local lawn and garden store and got their recommendation on what to use and when. It takes a couple hours a few times a year but it saves a lot of money and we can put the money saved toward something else.

The same goes for spiders and insects. I’m not a lover of toxic chemicals being sprayed around the house, but I’m also really not a fan of venomous spiders (or actually any kind-of creepy crawly insect) in my house. You can pay someone or once again you can go to the local store and get recommendations for your area and do the spraying yourself.

This is just the start of the ways we’ve found to save money in our house. I think a part two might be coming.

Those little things that you don’t think make a difference really do add up. Put them together and you’ll find you are saving a decent amount!

11. Read Good Books!

Erin Odom, The Humbled Homemaker, has a new book coming out soon called More Than Just Making It! In it you’ll be encouraged she tells her family’s story and how God has provided for them over the years and come away with money-saving tips and motivation to go from financially stressed to more than just making it. Go here to pre-order and find out about all the pre-order bonuses she has available!

What are some of your favorite easy ways to save money? 

Be sure to join our community on Facebook and follow us on Pinterest!

These are a few of the ways we use to save money! They really make a HUGE difference as we live on a low income and work to pay our house off early!

Linking up to these fun parties!

How to Set Financial Goals

How to set financial goals (and succeed at them)!!! Great tips that will help you decide what to set and keep you motivated! (Paying off the house is our BIG goal right now!)

We recently set a pretty big financial goal. It’s a little scary, a little exciting, and a lot “I can’t believe we are doing this”!

Goals and planning are important. A budget is a plan and we’ve talked before about how I think a budget is a key to financial success. Today I’m going to share how to set financial goals and some of the though behind our plan for the next 18  months.

How to Set Financial Goals:

Discuss the Options

Sit down and discuss big saving projects you have or if there are any loans you need to pay off.

Mortgage, loans, car funds, remodeling project, college funds, retirement fund, emergency fund, investment opportunities, and travel are all ideas to get you started.

Pick a project

We are debt free with the exception of our mortgage. We recently purchased a new to us mini van and still have a little money in a car fund that we are slowly adding to. We have a fully funded emergency fund/living expenses. We have no known major expenses coming our way. Sure, our retirement fund and kids’ college accounts could use more but we went for paying off the mortgage.

Look at the Numbers

When we knew paying off the house was a huge goal of ours I spent some time looking at the numbers, seeing how much time we had left paying off the house as is and then started seeing when we’d be done if we put all of my paychecks towards it. Talk about motivating.

Seeing the numbers and looking at dates on the calendar made it seem real and possible!

Pick a Start Date

Decide when you are going to start and just do it! Big goals are hard. You can spend a lot of time thinking about them instead of acting. That will get you nowhere. Go for it.

Know it Will Be Hard

It’s not going to be easy. It wouldn’t be a BIG GOAL if it wasn’t. Expect challenges, prepare yourself for them, know it’s not going to last forever and commit to it 100%!

Have an End

Goals are hard to keep after when the going gets tough and hard to keep momentum going if there is no end in site. You can have two types of ends:

  • a time – a date in the future when you’ll be finished
  • a dollar amount end

I have both in my head. I know how many months it will take to pay off our mortgage and we also see the dollar amount decrease each month.

Celebrate the Milestones

Saving up $10,000, $25,000, or $100,000 is daunting! It might seem like you’ll never get there. To help keep the end in site and the momentum going, break your goal down and celebrate the mile markers along the way. It doesn’t have to be anything big, you are on a budget after all. Have a family game night, complete with homemade ice cream, have a picnic at the park, rent a movie and pop some popcorn. Do something your family would enjoy that doesn’t cost much (or any) money.

Visual Reminders

Keep the goal in front of you! Don’t shove it in the back of your mind where you will forget it.

  • Make a paper chain with one ring for every thousand dollars. When you put in $1,000, remove a chain.
  • Draw in outline of whatever you are saving for or paying off and section it into parts. Each time you are a thousand dollars closer to your goal, color in a section.

Having even simple visual reminders and being able to see the progress can keep you motivated!

Plan a Party

Plan something fun that you want to do when your goal is 100% met! Go out to your favorite restaurant, take a day trip to the zoo or amusement park, buy everyone’s favorite foods at the grocery store that haven’t made the budget cut the last year. Make it fun and something to look forward to!

Don’t expect it to be easy, but with these 9 steps on how to set financial goals you can select a goals and start tackling it! We can cheer each other on. Do you have any tips for successfully setting financial goals? Any goals that you are trying to nail this year?

How to set financial goals (and succeed at them)!!! Great tips that will help you decide what to set and keep you motivated! (Paying off the house is our BIG goal right now!)

 

You might also want to check out these posts:10 super easy ways to drastically lower your grocery budget! I've saved thousands of dollars doing these over the years. GREAT ideas!

The Secret to Financial Success! Sitting down and doing this as a couple and actually following through as made a world of difference. You'll want to start today!

Financial goals can be scary and exciting! This year we are focusing on paying off our house - here's how we are doing it!

5 steps to go from surviving to thriving

 Linking up to these fun parties!

Paying Off Your Mortgage Early

Financial goals can be scary and exciting! This year we are focusing on paying off our house - here's how we are doing it!

Image source: 401KCalculator via Flickr (license)

Financial goals. They can seem daunting or exciting. Debilitating or exhilarating. Sometimes, a combination of everything.

This year we are challenging ourselves to try and meet a pretty big financial goal. We pay our mortgage (and taxes and insurance) each month but we are going to put a much larger chunk for the next 18 months towards paying extra on our principal!

Is paying off your mortgage early important to you?

How Budgeting Looks in Our Home:

My husband works in Christian radio and I work 24 hours a week at our church.

We budget off of my husband’s salary and work hard to make it possible. Even to make it possible, we have to eliminate certain categories and have others less than we’d like, but we want to know that we could live off of that income if we had to.

The money I earn we budget separately. Here is where the “extras” come out of. Things like:

  • Vacations
  • Extras for clothing (to supplement the very little that comes out of our regular budget)
  • Putting extra towards saving goals – new cars, storm shelter etc
  • Putting extra toward the mortgage
  • Projects we want to tackle around the house
  • The list goes on. We sit down and look and see what’s going to be happening each month and decide what we are going to do with the money.

Our Financial Goal

This year, we are going to be doing something a bit differently. We are going to be budgeting (and living) off of my husband’s income as usual.

Where the big change comes in, for the next 18 months we are planning on every penny I bring in (after giving) going towards paying off our mortgage early.

It will be tight. We’ll have lots of decisions to make and I’m sure it won’t be easy. I’m guessing that there will be times when we wish we could just use a hundred dollars. We’ll have to say no to lots of things we want to do.

At the same time it’s exciting.

It’s exciting to set a big goal and see it get chipped away at.

It’s exciting to see each thousand dollars come off of the total.

It’s exciting to see the difference short term sacrifices are making.

Not only is it exciting (and scary) I think my husband and I will see plenty of other benefits over the next months besides the obvious perk of our mortgage disappearing.

Benefits of Tackling a Financial Goal as a Couple:

  • Our creativity and trust will be stretched.
  • We’ll have extra motivation to try and increase our side income projects.
  • We’ll have to be resourceful to come up with money for things we want or need that come up during the year.
  • We’ll learn to be content with what we have.
  • As we tackle this big project together, hopefully our communication and relationship will be strengthened.

I’m looking forward to 18 months from now and hopefully having our home paid off and being able to look back over that year and half and see how the sacrifices and determination paid off!

What financial goals have you tackled? Did you see benefits from it? Is paying off your mortgage early, something you’ve talked about?

Did you set any big financial goals this year?

Financial goals can be scary and exciting! This year we are focusing on paying off our house - here's how we are doing it!

Image source: 401KCalculator via Flickr (license)

You Might Also Enjoy These Posts:

10 super easy ways to drastically lower your grocery budget! I've saved thousands of dollars doing these over the years. GREAT ideas!

The Secret to Financial Success! Sitting down and doing this as a couple and actually following through as made a world of difference. You'll want to start today!

Great (and easy) tips for going wheat free! Make the transition easy on your budget and your family!

Linking up to these fun parties!

 

The Secret to Financial Success

The Secret to Financial Success! Sitting down and doing this as a couple and actually following through as made a world of difference. You'll want to start today!

I’m excited to be a part of the New American Dream Blog Tour along with hundreds of other bloggers! To learn more and join us, Click Here!

The secret to financial success?

Have a budget and stick to it! Sure, more money might be nice, but if you don’t know how to budget you’ll never have enough! (I speak from experience. When we’ve had a budget on paper, but not follow through we wasted money and spent more.) 

Why Budget?

Sometimes it can feel like a drag being limited by the cash in your envelope system when you really want to eat out instead of cook or buy the new piece of furniture for your house. It’s important to remember the big picture when you feel those thoughts of remorse and woe is me. You don’t have to say no forever to buying something for your house. Just wait until you have the money for it. You can go out for dinner sometimes, but when the money is gone, it’s gone!

Keep in mind the bigger picture – remember why you are doing what you do.

Budgeting reduces stress! It gives you a freedom you wouldn’t already have. Telling our money where to go and being able to put money aside in savings has been such a blessing over the 8 years of our marriage.Without budgeting and being careful with our money, we wouldn’t have an emergency fund built up. When life happens, as we know it will, we’d be sunk.

As I think back, our marriage started off with immediately paying off my husband’s school loans and car. After that we started saving for purchases and building the savings account for those unanticipated costs.

Over the past 8 years we’ve been thankful for a job with great health insurance. But still, without our savings my 9 day stay in the hospital with severe double pneumonia could have sunk us anyway. When our second car had officially fallen apart, we wouldn’t have been able to purchase a new (to us) vehicle. We had enough for a large down payment on our home and when the foundation needed piers, we were able to have them put in.

Being able to encounter most of what life throws at you without being stressed and worried about where the money is going to come from to pay for yet another thing is so worth it!

Start Today!

The Secret to Financial Success! Sitting down and doing this as a couple and actually following through as made a world of difference. You'll want to start today!

Even if you have debt and feel overwhelmed, today is the perfect time to start taking baby steps! You don’t have to stay burdened by money forever. Sit down and go over your expenses and your income. See where you can save, what you can eliminate entirely to free up even $10, $100, or $1,000 a month. Use that money to build an emergency fund and pay off the debts. It can be done!

Your stress will go down and your happiness will increase as you start living the New American Dream!

Does the idea of budgeting give you a sense of freedom or does it make you feel tied down? I’d love to know how budgeting has been a blessing to you over the years.

Mark and Lauren Greutman are the faces behind The New American Dream. They found themselves living the old dream. One that involved fancy cars, custom homes, and a pile of debt. They exchanged that overrated, stressed out dream for their new American dream of enjoying life together while living within their means. They’ll teach you how to jumpstart your new American dream. Visit them here.

The Secret to Financial Success! Sitting down and doing this as a couple and actually following through as made a world of difference. You'll want to start today!
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Where to Buy Used Clothes and How to Get a Good Deal

I love buying used clothes! Often you get items like new for a fraction of the cost and sometimes for less than a dollar! I have a put together a great list of where to buy used clothes that I use when needing to add something to our wardrobe.

Where to buy used clothes and how to get a good deal on them! Great list of ideas!

Thrift Stores:

After my daughter was born I stocked up on clothes for her first year at the thrift stores. Babies wear each size for such a short period of time, you normally have a lot of options. When you get into the preschool and elementary aged sizes you tend to find less selection as they tend to put a lot more wear on their clothes. Check each item for rips and stains. Thrift stores don’t have a screening process so you will want to do so carefully. Call and ask about sales. Most of our local thrift stores have a different deal each day of the week – fill a sack for $5, half off children’s clothes, half off yellow tagged items etc. Know what you want to buy and go the day you can get the best deal.

Garage Sales:

These are another great way to build up wardrobes. It requires a little more research and time as you have to look over the classifieds each week to see where you want to go and then drive numerous places but when you hit a house getting rid of clothes the size you wear or your kids are going into, you won’t beat the prices! Don’t forget to look for shoes and jackets as well as regular clothing. If you are buying a large amount, be sure to ask for a little discount. Last year we picked this winter coat and a pair of Converse for my daughter for a $1 each:

Where to buy used clothes and how to get a good deal! Where to buy used clothes and how to get a good deal!

Consignment Shops:

You know you can find end of season clearance deals at retail clothing stores, but don’t forget to check out local consignment shops. I love shopping our town’s consignment shop. Everything is organized by size and color and each piece has already been looked over for stains and tears. Sure, the regular prices on a shirt are more than a thrift store with most between $4 and $15, but if you wait until the end of season you can get a bargain. Ask your store when they swap the clothes out. At our store the kids clothes switches over the beginning of August so families can do their back to school shopping. So you’ll want to look for deep discounted children’s items in July. The women’s clothes are switched over later, so I went in the middle of August and the summer shirts, dresses, shorts, and some pants were marked down – most 70%. I bought 6 shirts and 2 dresses: Where to buy used clothes and how to get a good deal! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Guess what the total was? $19! You can’t beat that. Even if I just wear the shirts for a year or two. It was worth it. It’s also a great way to try out a style or color you normally don’t wear. If you love it, you know what to look for more and if you hate it, no biggie. Just pass it on.

Consignment Sales:

This is another option a lot of people love. To be honest, it’s my least favorite way to buy used clothes. I find the prices to be more than thrift stores and garage sales and the items aren’t looked over and carefully selected like they are at the consignment store so you have to carefully look at every item for stains and rips. If if checked out the other options, though, and you still need clothes, you might want to check for a sale in your area. Some one puts one on in our city twice a year. For the best selection you can bring your own clothes and help set up so you can shop early. Or if you are wanting a great deal, wait until the last afternoon and some consignors will allow their items to be marked down 50%.

Online Stores

Did you know there are online stores you can buy used clothes from? Pretty cool, huh? Shopping the in convienence of your home, while and kids are napping or playing sounds about perfect. Here are three places you’ll want to check out:

ebay

I’ve been looking on ebay so soft soled shoes for my toddler. Great way to get shoes and other clothing for a fraction of the cost and still have it be in good condition. You can also find a good selection of maternity clothes on ebay.

Like Twice

If you are looking for gently used women’s clothing, Like Twice has free shipping over $49 and $4.95 on smaller orders. If you purchase something and you don’t like it, you can use a prepaid return label if you want store credit or if you want the refund in cash a $4.95 shipping fee will be deducted from your returns. If you have women’s clothing, check and see if it would be worth selling to Like Twice.

If you sign up through my referral link  –  liketwice.com/eciEm – as a new customer, you’ll get $10 off your first order! If you like them on Facebook you’ll get a 15% off code as well.

Thred Up

Another store that has women, kids, shoes and handbags is Thred Up. They also have free shipping over $50 (or you can pay $19.99 and have free shipping for the entire year on any size order). Returns can be made within 30 days with tags still on but you do have to pay return shipping until you purchased using their app. You can also send your items to them so see if they will purchase them. If you sign up using my referral link, you can get $10 off your first purchase.

What’s your favorite place to buy used clothes from? Do you have any tips to share?

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Staycationing in a Small Town

Staycationing in a Small Town - Fun and easy ideas your kids will love!

Staycationing can be much easier (and more budget friendly) than a full fledged vacation. What happens, though, when you live in a small town that doesn’t have any of the big attractions or activities of a city?

We live in a small town in Northern Oklahoma. The places with zoos, large amusement parks, shopping malls etc are all almost an hour and half away. That’s still doable for a day trip, but I certainly don’t want to make that drive everyday of our staycation.

These are all things that we can do in our town:

Local Library

We love to take advantage of story time and the play center in the children’s area of our library. My kids don’t ever want to leave. In the summer there are other fun activities for children during the week. My kids would be happy to know an entire afternoon was going to be dedicated to the library and they could leave with books and movies.

Free Movies

Our historic theater downtown shows free family friendly movies every Thursday. We rarely go the the movies so this is a fun treat for the kids.

Water Fun

The key here is to avoid the hottest (and busiest) times of day. Go first thing in the morning or in the evening for a more relaxing trip and you won’t have to worry (as much) about your children getting sun burned.

  • Splash Pad
  • Pool
  • Beach

Miniature Golf

Miniature golf is something we only do when on a trip. What better time to check out your local course than your staycation!

Dinner at your favorite restaurant

Growing up we seldom went out to eat. Going to a restaurant was a treat and something we looked forward to doing on our vacations. Plan a meal at a favorite restaurant (or maybe one you’ve never tried) in your town.

Ice Cream Shop

So many touristy towns have ice cream shops lining the streets of downtown. One afternoon, visit your local ice cream shop as a special treat. This would be the highlight of my 3 year olds day!

Picnic

Picnics and vacations, they just seem to go together. Whether hiking in the mountains, a trip to the lake or beach, or in the car while on a road trip a picnic seems to happen at least once. You could have a picnic in your backyard, living room floor, local park, or a pool.

Stay up late

Rest is important and I definitely wouldn’t want to keep my (fairly young) kids up late every night of our staycation. Pick a night or two and let them stay up – plan a fun activity that will go past their bedtime. Maybe the trip to the beach or splash pad or an after supper ice cream excursion.

Crafts

Take time to make a mess and get creative. Go to Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or your local craft store and add on to your craft supplies and have a family art session. Maybe you could all decorate shirts or design wood plaques. If you aren’t creative (goodness knows I need all the help I can get), you can also find kits with instructions for some great projects.

I think that the key to making these seemingly little and normal things fun is to turn them into a big deal – combine ideas and splurge a couple of times on things you normally wouldn’t. After your afternoon at the library pick up pizza and continue with a movie night. Head to the beach in the morning and finish the trip off with a picnic. Evening miniature golf followed by a stop for ice cream.

What things do you like to do on a staycation when in a small town?

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Free Ways to Beat the Heat with Kids

Today I am honored to have a guest post up on Monday Saving Mom. If you are stopping by from Crystal’s site, welcome. I’m glad to have you.

For more ideas on making your summer more fun, check out my post on making a staycation fabulous and come back tomorrow for ideas on what to do on a staycation in a small town.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and like the craziness of summer has you just suriving, you might want to check out the most popular post on From this Kitchen Table – How to go from Surviving to Thriving.

Or if cooking is more of your thing, the most viewed recipe is this Easy Alfredo Sauce . Not only is it easy, it is also amazing!

For my regular readers, here is the post on 10 free ways to beat the heat with kids:

I live in Oklahoma. Our summers can be pretty miserable, but my children aren’t happy with spending the hottest months of the year cooped up in the house. In an effort to save my sanity, I have 10 free ways to beat the heat with kids during those hot months.

1. Library

Take your kids to Story Time which often includes a few songs and a craft, and then let them check out a pile of new (to them) books and maybe a movie or two. Not only will you kill a couple hours, you come home with supplies that will keep them entertained.

Our library also shows a movie once a week and has special performances for kids during the summer! Call and ask what they have going on or pick up a printed calendar they have available.

2. Splash Pad

Okay, I know sitting outside in the 100 degree heat isn’t high on your list of fun. It isn’t on mine either. Avoid the hottest times of the day and let your kids enjoy the water while you sit and read a book under the covered bench.

3. Mall Play Space

Air conditioning and space to run. When you need to get out of the house during the hottest time of the day, turn to indoor recreation. Let your kids climb and slide without worrying about sun burn.

4. Park

Once again, I know it’s summer and it’s hot but go early early in the day. Have a breakfast picnic at the park and let your kids swing and play before the sun heats up the play structure. An added bonus is that you miss all the crowds and daycare groups.

Head over to Money Saving Mom to read the rest of the post!

What are your favorite ways to beat the heat during the summer with your kids?

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