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Saturday, September 13th, 2014
I had planned to publish a post today about why I love having a budget but decided to change my plans. It’s not that I don’t think budgeting is a good idea, because I do and it’s something that I highly recommend. It’s just that I’ve been realizing the last couple of months that there is something that I believe is even more important t than using a budget. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that it is hands down your #1 money saving tool!
Your #1 Money Saving Tool
I’m convinced that your #1 money saving tool is a good attitude. Here’s why.
1. You Can Control It
There are lots of things that you can’t totally control when it comes to money. You can’t totally control your expenses. (Think accidents.) You can’t control rising prices. You can’t control the security of your job. You can’t control sale prices.
But you can decide to make the best of your limited income. You can decide to think outside the box when it comes to looking for ways to save. You can decide to be willing to try new money making ideas. And you can decide to wait to buy something until it’s on sale. Your attitude is so incredibly important!
2. It Enables You to be Willing to Learn and Change.
Your attitude can make or break you. If you are convinced that you can’t do something, often, even though you are capable of doing it, you actually won’t just because you think you can’t.
Case in point: When we got married almost 8 years ago, money was incredibly tight. All that we had was about $1,000 cash (some of that was wedding gift money), 2 older cars and a few household furnishings to our name. We were trying to live on as little as possible so that after covering the bare necessities, we could hopefully have a bit left over each month to put towards furniture. (Yes, we got married without owning any). We also had the crazy dream of purchasing a house within a year’s time too. (And yes, we were crazy enough to actually end up doing that.)
Anyway, one night we were discussing amounts for a grocery budget and my husband suggested $200/mo. I was appalled! There was absolutely no way that I could get all the groceries that we needed for just $200 a month! I was convinced that we’d be eating nothing but beans and rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for 30 days straight! I was less than happy and my attitude was pretty awful. I didn’t mind trying to be frugal but I was convinced that I was already doing all that I could to save on groceries. And I’m ashamed to admit it, but for several months I felt and acted like a martyr as I half-hardheartedly tried to make that budget work. I did my fair share of grumbling too!
Then one day, I happened across a blog that did coupon match-ups. This blogger showed in detail how to combine coupons with sales at stores like CVS and Walmart to get things for free or really cheap. I was amazed! Suddenly keeping within our $200 grocery budget became a game and I enjoyed the challenge. I started to coupon and before long I was also actively looking for more ways that I could creatively trim our grocery budget. By our first anniversary, we were only spending around $150/mo. on groceries, toiletries and household items combined!
All it took was for my attitude to change. I had to want to make it work.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve interacted with hundreds of readers regarding money related issues. And over and over again I’ve seen how attitude makes such a difference in how one looks at finances, especially in situations where money is tight. Those that have the attitude that they can’t change a thing are often stuck and frustrated. Those that face the situation with a good attitude often can manage to figure out a way to make it work, or at least survive. No, it’s not a magic fix to every situation, but it does make a big difference!
How important do you think attitude is when it comes to money? I’d love to hear from you!
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Monday, August 11th, 2014
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Del Monte. The opinions and text are all mine.
Back to school season is here and if you are like most parents, one of the things that you are not looking forward to is packing your kid’s lunch. Somehow it is just one of those jobs that can get boring and tedious pretty fast, not to mention the fact that a lot of kids can be hard to please when it comes to food!
Take heart! Here are 5 tips that will make packing your kid’s lunches easy and hopefully make them a hit at the same time.
1. Prep Ahead
The more prep work you do ahead of time, the easier your mornings will be. Mix up sandwich spreads, portion out bags of snacks and chop any veggies or fruit. Then all that you need to do in the morning is simply throw the sandwich together and grab your other items. And actually, if you want to make it really easy, you can even make the sandwiches the evening before too!
Want to be even more efficient? Prep a whole week’s worth of lunches at the beginning of the week!
2. Have a Designated Spot for Lunch Food
It makes things super easy if you can always find the items for your lunches at the same spot in the fridge and pantry. Designate a shelf as the lunch shelf or get a small basket and keep your lunch things in it. This not only makes sure someone doesn’t make a snack out of someone’s prepared lunch food, it also will save you time and hassle in the morning when you are rushing around trying to collect everything.
3. Allow Variety
Chances are your kids will be more excited about their lunch if it’s not the same old boring peanut butter and jelly sandwich every. single. day. Add some variety by switching the sandwich for a slice of pizza, a cheese quesadilla, hummus and crackers or even the occasional hot dog.
Prefer sticking with sandwiches every day? That’s fine! Just change things up and keep it interesting by making different kinds such as chicken salad, meat and cheese, tuna salad, egg salad or even cream cheese and banana. Of course you could easily sub a wrap for the bread some days too just for something fun and different!
4. Make it Easy to Eat
If your child is anything like mine, they have a hard time getting their food eaten in time. Packing easy-to-eat foods like sandwiches and wraps, cheese, carrots, trail mix, No Bake Energy Bites and Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers and Plastic Fruit Cups make it easy for them to get their lunch eaten.
5. Keep it Simple
Above all, keep it simple! Yes, you could spend extra time and make a sandwich that looks like an animal. And if you enjoy doing that kind of thing, go ahead and make them occasionally. But fancy looking sandwiches are totally not necessary to give your kids a healthy, delicious lunch. Chances are that you’ll stick with packing healthier lunches if you keep it simple and therefore easy to do.
Enjoy a little contest? From August 1 through September 1, share a photo of your kids’ favorite Del Monte snack- Fruit Burst Squeezers or Plastic Fruit Cups (Squeeze or Spoon?).
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Del Monte. The opinions and text are all mine.
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Monday, July 7th, 2014
Some of you have wondered where I get my printable coupons. Here are the main coupon sites that I use: Coupons.com, Coupon Network, Smart Source, Red Plum, Ibotta, Hopster, Checkout 51 and Saving Star. Manufacturer websites and Facebook pages are another great source.
It was a good week filled with the usual daily things and ending with a trip to Maryland to visit my parents and spend time with my family over the weekend! It was so good to be “home” again. I was especially grateful to get to visit my grandparents again. They are 90 & 91 (and have been married 70 yrs!) and I treasure every time I get to see them since I know we most likely won’t have them around for much longer. It’s always so fun to see them light up when they see our children. What is it about kids that just bring old people to life again?
As far as shopping goes, I didn’t do a whole lot. I was just in the mood for a slower week. In fact, there were some really good deals at Rite Aid but I just didn’t feel like going so I skipped them! It’s kind of nice to do that sometimes.
My favorite buys:
* $0.99 Utz potato chips
* Cherries for $1.99/lb.
* 8 pk. batteries for $1.99
Total Spent: $38.11
Total Saved with Coupons: $7.24
Total Saved with Sales: $14.80
Total Saved: $22.04
Saved with Coupons: $5.24
Saved with Sales: $10.20
I actually went to CVS because they had a good diaper deal but unfortunately they were totally out of the size 3 diapers that were included in the sale and since that is the only size I really need right now I just ended up getting a rain check for them. While I was there I noticed that Blue Diamond almonds were on sale for a good price and so I grabbed a couple of bags. We enjoy them on salads and for the occasional snack. I was also thinking ahead a bit when I bought them. We’re hoping to go on a week long trip in August and one of the ways that we cut vacation costs is to take along most of our food. I figured these almonds would be a great, healthy snack for then too!
I also spied CVS brand batteries for $1.99 after coupons and sales. I usually buy our batteries on Amazon and pay for them with gift cards earned through Swagbucks but since we were almost out of AA batteries, I figured I might as well get them now.
And the Pepsi? It was just $0.50 after coupons/sales and since we were heading to my parent’s for the weekend I figured I’d grab it for my mom since I know she loves her Pepsi.
- Pepsi $0.99
- 2 Blue Diamond Almonds $5.49 each
- CVS batteries $5.99
- $0.24 Pepsi CVS printable coupon (received at Red Coupon Machine in the store)
- $5.00 in Extra Bucks (CVS coupon that print at register for purchasing specific items)
- $0.25 via Checkout 51 for purchasing the Pepsi
- $4.00 in Extra Bucks coupon for purchasing the CVS batteries (can be used on next purchase of any item)
Saved with Coupons: $2.00
Saved with Sales: $4.60
I was tempted to skip Giant this week since the deals were pretty much non-existent. But unfortunately I was almost out of flour again and so I kind of needed to get some. I also grabbed two bags of chips while I was there as well since they only $0.99.
- 2 Utz Chips $1.99
- Gold Medal Flour $2.99
- Two $0.75 Utz printable coupons (doubled to $1.00 each)
I did usual stock up trip to Aldi and got my typical Aldi items. I also grabbed two packs of cherries while I was there because they had them on sale. We went to my parents for the weekend and I took them along there since I knew my Dad would really enjoy them!
Great produce deals are just one of the 6 reasons that I love to shop at Aldi!
- 4 Tortillas $1.19 each
- Cashew Halves $2.59
- 2 Black Beans $0.59
- Canola Oil $2.49
- 2 Cherries $1.99 each
- 5 lb. Red Potatoes $3.49
- Corn Chips $0.89
We had a Walmart gift card given to us a couple of months ago and I finally got around to using some of it. I needed nursing pads and decided to grab some while I was there. Unfortunately they don’t carry my favorite brand so I decided to try the Nuk ones. Just in case you are wondering, I wouldn’t recommend them. They are super thin and I’m finding them rather frustrating! (And yes, I know it says Ultra Thin right on the box. I guess I just figured they still might be decent. I was wrong!)
We’ve also been needing packing tape and small light bulbs so I grabbed them too.
- Nursing Pads $5.97
- Light Bulbs $1.78
- Packing Tape $3.24
* I used grocery cash to pay $9 for a ½ gallon of Fuller Brush Fulsol Degreaser. My mom sells it and allowed me to just buy half a gallon from her. This degreaser is absolutely amazing! It takes care of grease like nothing else and the awesome thing is, you only need a tiny little bit to get the job done so it last for pretty much forever. (That’s why I only felt like buying a ½ gallon right now.) I use it to clean anything that gets greasy, including clothes.
* I also used grocery cash to buy 3 heads of lettuce at our local farmer’s market for $6.25. I took one of the head to my parents place to make a salad there, the rest we will enjoy.
* I bought a ½ bushel of green beans from a local produce farm for $7.00. They were some of the nicest beans I’ve seen! We ate probably about 2 qts. just fresh, used some in this Cheesy Ham, Potato & Green Bean Casserole and I froze 9 qts.
* My mom -in-law generously shared some of the last of the strawberries from their patch with us! I was so happy because I had wanted to get some more but just wasn’t getting to the local stands to buy some. We enjoyed them with shortcake, ate a bunch plain and I also made a Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake with them too.
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Saturday, June 28th, 2014
Here are the things I’m loving this month…..
1. I’m a sucker for yummy beverages, but unfortunately most good drinks are pretty heavy on the sugar. I first heard about stevia through a blogging friend several years ago, and while I loved that it was zero calories, I was a bit skeptical. Plus it was pretty pricy!
But last year I finally broke down and used an Amazon gift card that I earned through Swagbucks to by some. And guess what….I love it! I primarily use it in my beverages and while it does taste a tad different, most times I don’t notice it. If I do mind the taste too much in something, I’ll use some regular sugar and sub stevia for the rest and then I don’t notice it at all, but I get to enjoy not sipping all the calories!
I know there are lots of different stevia brands, but I’ve only ever tried the NOW brand powder and that’s what I love. I’ve heard that most other brands aren’t nearly as good.
2. This Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake is a.m.a.z.i.n.g! It’s so incredibly moist and well, just delicious. I made a few change: I used 1 c. whole wheat flour and 1 ½ c. white flour, used 1 c. white sugar and 1/2 c. brown sugar. I also baked it in a 9×13 (because I don’t have a bundt pan) at the same temp but only for 45 min. The glaze is really good but you could easily skip it (and the calories) and it would still be very tasty!
3. Love this reminder (it’s actually a free printable!)….I’m never going to be a perfect mom but I can do lots of things to be a good one!
4. Trying to simplify life and pare down your wardrobe? I came across this simple tip that makes it super easy to see just what clothes you actually wear and which ones never get use. Pretty nice, right?
5. We eat a lot of fresh veggies and fruit in the summer and I love, love, love my Tupperware FridgeSmarts! They keep produce nice for so much longer than just a regular container. I often have lettuce in one for several weeks without it getting nasty. And I had fresh picked strawberries in one for over a week and they were still as nice as the day I put them in there! I know mine have paid for themselves just because I throw a lot less produce out due to it spoiling.
6. I was just realizing again lately how much I love having a wireless printer. I was up on our third floor printing something from my husband’s laptop and remembered how I used to have to run down to the 1st floor, plug in the computer to the printer, print my document and then have to run up to the 3rd floor again to put the laptop away. The convenience of our wireless printer has been worth every single penny! And I highly recommend the one we have: Brother HL-2270DW Compact Laser Printer with Wireless Networking and Duplex.
7. Just today I planted some flowers in pots and used this helpful tip. It was an easy fix to a problem that had long bothered me!
8. And finally, I loved this practical list of 25 ways to choose joy when you are struggling. Sometimes when we are having a rotten day, we just need to take a step back and refocus! (And I know the image is not anything that looks like it relates to the list but since there was no image that really fit, I just chose the blogger’s header image.)
What are you loving right now? Which of these were your favorite?
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Friday, June 6th, 2014
One of the questions I get asked a lot by friends and by those of you that read my Weekly Spending Summaries is how I manage to do so much shopping with my children in tow. Doesn’t it get a little crazy?
Well, yes, as a matter of fact it can! And honestly, I much prefer shopping by myself while my hubby stays home with the children. Unfortunately, most of the time that just doesn’t work out and since he really dislikes shopping of any kind, I generally end up doing it and taking all or some of the children along. Thankfully I’ve learned a few tricks over the last almost 6 years that help keep it from getting too wild and stressful. No, these tips don’t solve all the problems but they have sure benefited me an awful lot and I hope that they’ll do the same for you!
(Just for reference sake, I have 3 children- an almost 6 yr. old, a 2 ½ yr. old and a 3 mo. old. I typically go shopping weekly and usually we’ll go to at least 3 stores. Occasionally I’ll do two trips instead of one if it feels like it is going to work better that way.)
1. Have a Detailed Plan
The more planned out my shopping trip is, the less muddled I’ll get when I have a 2 yr. old trying to pull something off the shelf or a 5 yr. old who suddenly needs to go to the bathroom.
In fact, I always shop with a shopping list in hand. And on it I write down every single thing that I need to buy- even when I shop at the mall. Somehow, when you have children distracting you it is just too easy to forget that one item that you were sure you’d remember even though you didn’t bother to write it on your list!
I’m an avid coupon user and so I also like to have all the deals that I plan to do written down in detail on my list. For instance, here’s what I wrote this week for one of my deals:
(3) Glad trash bags $6.49 each
– (3) $0.75 coupons
– $5 off instant savings
This told me at a glance that I needed to make sure that I had the 3 coupons ready when I got to checkout and that I also needed to make sure the $5.00 instant savings came off at the register. (Because believe it or not, there are too many times that it doesn’t!)
Find what works for you. Some people feel it is helpful to write out their shopping list in the order of the aisles of their store. Or maybe you simply want to group it into categories such as “Frozen” “Produce” “Baking”. Really, it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you have a method that helps you stay organized and keep your head clear as you shop!
2. Don’t go Hungry
You know how they say to never go shopping when you are hungry because everything will look so good that you’ll end up buying more than you planned? Well, when you go shopping with kids and everyone is hungry, it’s twice as bad because you’ll be dealing with grouchy kids too! And really, I can’t blame them because I can get kind of grouchy myself when I’m hungry.
So if at all possible, do you shopping right after a meal or at least well before the next meal. If that isn’t an option, then take along a snack or be prepared to buy some food so that everyone can stay calm and hopefully happy as well.
3. Don’t go Tired
Kind of like point #2…if kids (or mom!) are tired, it’s about four times as hard to have a good shopping experience. The grumpies hit and everything seems bigger and more tragic than usual. I realize that depending on what season of life you are in as a parent it’s going to be hard to go shopping when you yourself aren’t tired. But at the very least, make sure the kids are rested and don’t be out over their nap time. Because they will get cranky!
4. Grab the Necessities
Before you head out the door, always make sure you have the necessities that you may end up needing while you are out. For me this includes: diapers and wipes, pacifier, my water bottle, sippy cup for my toddler, my phone, and a snack, just in case. Some seasons of my life (like when we are potty training) I even make sure that I have an extra change of clothes along for the child that might need it.
I’ve done this long enough that I simply have the mental checklist in my head. But if it is helpful for you, go ahead and actually write one up and post it somewhere that you can easily refer to it. Because the 5 minutes that it takes you to collect these things and make sure they are in your purse will be well worth it!
5. Communicate Expectations
As my children got older, I discovered that it helped if I clearly communicated what I expected of them before we went into the store. At first it seemed kind of silly. I mean they already know that they aren’t to go running down the aisles or grab things off the shelf, right? So why do I need to go over that every.single.time? Because children are just that- children, and they need to be reminded again and again about what is right and good.
So before we head into a store I might say something like this: “Remember the 3 things that you need to do when we are in the store? I need you to walk beside me and hang onto the cart, I need you to look and not touch and I need you to be kind to each other and not fight.” (Why is it that they so often like to pick fights when I am out shopping?!) And as I say each one I hold up a finger as a visual. Then, just to get it good and clear, I like to ask them to repeat it back to me too.
My 5 yr. old is old enough now that I often just have him tell me the rules before we head into the store and that is a good enough reminder for my 2 1/2 yr. old as well.
It took me a while to figure this tip out, but I’ve been amazed at what this one simple little thing did to make our shopping trips less stressful!
6. Praise the Good
It’s so easy to focus on what your child did poorly, like how he was running down the aisle and almost knocked down that genteel elderly lady while you stood there mortified. (Um, please don’t ask if this is an illustration taken from real life!) It’s okay to gently remind him that was not acceptable behavior, but it is just as important to focus on what your children did well.
When we are done shopping and are settled back into the car I like to try to think of at least one thing that I can praise the kids for, one thing that they did well. It might simply have been that they obeyed cheerfully when I asked them to stop touching something. Or maybe they showed kindness and helped someone by picking up something that they dropped. Whatever it is, I let them know that I noticed and I praise them for it. In fact, I’ve been know to occasionally even reward that behavior with a stop by Sweet Frog! Because sometimes you just need an excuse to celebrate, right?
7. Let Them Help
Yes, it takes longer, but your children will enjoy it more and be happier if you allow them to be involved. Let them grab an item off the shelf for you, give them a box of tissues to hold, have them help you put the groceries on the conveyer belt or scan the items at the self checkout. If you are trying to decide between two flavors of something, give them the chance to choose. You’ll make it fun and in the long run you’ll usually be farther ahead because you’ll keep them engaged and happy.
8. Be Flexible
No matter how hard you try to plan everything out perfectly, you are still going to need to be flexible. There will be interruptions that cause you to be out longer than you planned. One of your children might suddenly become hungry and grouchy even though lunchtime is 1 ½ hrs. away. Or you might get to the store and realize that you left your shopping list or coupons at home. Be willing to be flexible! Sometimes it is worth spending the extra money to buy the children a snack to keep them happy, other times it is best to just cut the shopping trip short and head home. Decide what is going to benefit you in the long run!
Do you shop with your kids? What do you find most frustrating about it? Anything else that you’ve found helpful?
PLUS: What’s your parenting style? Find out with our FREE quiz. Or skip the trip to the store and find your baby kids needs at Shop Parents.
Linking up at Living Well Spending Less.
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