Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hard worker

I'm so thankful for my husband who is working extra hard these days! His job is requiring some extra hours at work for trainings for a transition they'll be making this summer. Then, on top of it, he's added a few more responsibilities at our church for a short time frame too. All this to say, he is busy! He's working a lot of extra hours right now, which has been a bummer for our family time, but great for our debt plan! Thankfully, this craziness is temporary!! :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stocking your pantry

Usually, when I have a title like that I'm going to give you a bunch of suggestions or tell you tge deals that are great for stocking up on groceries. Not this time! Today I want to share a mini article written by Patsy Clairmont from Women of Faith. She is a tiny little gal with quite a lot of spunk and personality and I just love her! She is one of my favorite speakersat the conference! :)

Here is what she wrote about stocking our pantry-

The Lord guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. —Psalm 25:9 NIV

Food, what an emotional magnet! It’s a lifetime challenge—well, not for everyone. Some folks actually manage it just fine. Then there’s me. Therapists say eating is one of our earliest nurturing memories, and therefore many of us try to comfort ourselves with food. One remedy is to keep our emotional and spiritual pantries stocked with healthy, nutritious items like these:

Dignity—I have found dignity comes as we embrace our heritage in Christ and as we choose to do what is ours to do.
Discernment—While this is a gift, it also is worked into our hearts as we learn from our mistakes and seek God’s counsel.
Intelligence—This is showcased as we apply God’s Word to our own hearts before we offer it to others and when we think before we speak or react.
Self-control—This means placing balanced boundaries on our choices and our habits.
Preparedness—This means having on hand items such as the wine of God’s spirit, the humble heart of a lamb, and the fruit of righteousness.
Fortitude—This involves internal resolve for whatever arises regardless of the difficulty level.

—Patsy Clairmont

Excerpted from A Grand New Day © 2008 by Thomas Nelson. Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

What do you keep on the shelves in your spiritual pantry?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap-update

Last summer I shared with you that I was going to make my own laundry soap. Well, it has been 9 months now and I have about a week's supply left. It has workedfine for us, it hasn't been perfect, but for the price and the chemical-less benefits it has, I've decided to make a secomd batch. After this one runs out, I'll re-evaluate it again. The cool thing about this time was that I still had plenty of the ingredients left over from last time, except for the bar of soap, which cost about $4. So for $4 and an hour of my time, I have another 9 months or so worth of laundry soap!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Being prepared

I've learned that a lot of the trouble people get into financially has to do with not being prepared. I know it's impossible to be prepared for every situation, but there are ways to be proactive and setting things up as a way 'protection' from unexpected circumstances.

The first, is to have life insurance and no matter what your age or income level, it's affordable and should be done. The most specific advice I've heard is this: 1. Always get term life insurance, 2. A 15 year term policy, 3. Get it in the amount of 10x your income, 4. Don't get it tied up through your job- use your jobs as an extra, not your only. term life insurance is affordable and can cost less then $20/mo for most plans.

Along with that, it's good to have your will and paperwork all lined up so that your loved ones can find things quickly and know how you'd like them.

The next one takes more effort, but will save a lot of stress when things get difficult. We have heard this one A LOT in the last few years from financial advisors-an emergency fund! The most common numbers I've heard is 3-6 months worth of income. It certainly takes a while to build it up, but it'll be great to have money set aside for things you didn't plan on. It's one of the best ways to keep you from going into debt when a crisis occurs too.

We don't have a huge savings put away yet, but that is the next step after we are out of debt. We do have life insurance, but our income has changed so when the term is up we will need to adjust the policy some.

Are you prepared for the unexpected? It only takes a few days to get these things in order, don't put it off until it is too late.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Best Coupon Deal

In the midst of other things going on, I forgot to tell you all about my best coupon deal! It happened a couple weeks ago when I was buying some things for the Philadelphia Cream Cheese party I wrote about before. As a hostess I got some "FREE" coupons so I took those with me to the store and there happened to be some $1.50 off coupons there as well. I figured I'd grab one and give it a try. I had a few other things to buy too, so after everything rang up and I had given them all the coupons (including the store one), turns out the store owed me $0.24!! :) How awesome is that?!? That's my kind of shopping day. :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Simple solutions to everyday problems

I love some of the real simple ideas I get in my inbox each day. Today's was especially helpful. They gave ways to use everyday or old things (in some cases garbage), to solve some of our household cleaning issues! I liked it s much, I'm sharing them with you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Surveys, opinions and cash!

Throughout the country there are companies that conduct surveys and taste tests for large companies looking to change or expand a current product they sell. Getting your name and informaion in their databases is an easy way to make a little extra cash, usually for very little effort. Each company looking for participants has a specific target audience they want to get opinions from, so there are opportunities for people in all stages of life. Do a little research to see if such companies exist in your area (usually in all large metro areas) and enjoy a little extra cash flow! :)

I just did a taste test for Kraft yesterday and in an hour (including driving time) made $30!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dave Ramsey address gas prices

Here is a quick article from Dave about ways you could cut back things in order to make room in your budget for the rising gas prices.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A tempting time of year!

If you are like me, this season of the year is a hard time to not over spend. I find that the sunshine, cute spring clothes (for both me and the kids!), going out and about more often and an overall feeling of happiness and freshness that comes with spring, makes me want to spend money! I'm glad I recognize this tendency of mine, because now I know how to prepare for the temptations that lie ahead! I've done a good job of saving up some of my "fun" money throughout the winter, so I have some spending money now that I keep seeing cute things. Of course, I still have to live within that budget and still say 'no' to things I want.

What are your spending tendencies? Do you have times of the year that put you on a sppending mood? What things do you do to keep yourself from spending beyond your means?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reducing Food Budget Article

I've written about a lot of these same tips, but here is an article all about reducing your food budget!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cheap, Easy Breakfast

Today instead of giving you a cheap, easy dinner idea, I'm giving you a breakfast idea! I did this a couple weeks ago and have been meaning to post about it, and just haven't gotten to it! My breakfast idea is breakfast burritos. My husband fends for himself at breakfast since he gets up at 3:45 AM--yikes! So I decided to make up a large batch of breakfast burritos for him. It really didn't take much time and was reasonable budget-wise and then I wrapped them in foil and put them in the freezer, all ready for him to just heat up and enjoy.

Here's the run down:
-12 tortillas- $1.60
-6 eggs- $0.79
-1 package of hash browns (I used ones I made, but I've seen them on sale for $1 a lot)-$1
-1/2 lb of breakfast sausage (didn't buy it, but I'll estimate a price for you)-$1.50
-1 C of salsa- $0.25 (estimate)
-2 C of cheese- $0.50

Total cost for 12 breakfast burritos: $5.90

After cooking all of the ingredients separately, I scooped small amounts of each ingredient into the tortillas, wrapped them up in foil for easy freezing and baking. If you freeze them, you can bake them to reheat them or unwrap them and warm them in the microwave.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

House Party & Giveaway

Last weekend I had the opportunity to host a party through the house party. They look for people to apply to be hostesses for parties they put on throughout the country. The hostesses then receive a package full of coupons and gifts to give to their guests as a way of promoting a new product. I've hosted them a few times and have enjoyed it. This week I we had a cooking party with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The product they were wanting us to try are their new Cremes that make for a great, easy dinner solution.  I have a few of the gifts left, so I'm doing a giveaway on here too!

The treats you'll get include:
-$1 off coupon for Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cremes
-Wooden spoon
-Note pad
-$10 off HSN purchase coupon
-Philadelphia Cream Cheese Recipe book

If you'd like to have your name put in the drawing leave a comment below answering this question:
What is your favorite, easy dinner recipe? 

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

20-minute clean up!

The other morning we set the timer for 20 minutes and all had the mission of cleaning a room until the timer went off.  It was hugely successful! My husband loved that there was an end in sight to the chores for the day, my kids-mostly my daughter and my son helped me in his room a little-worked hard and loved having the "race" to finish. AND, I loved having 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms mostly cleaned in 20 minutes. It was more of a tiddy up, wipe down and vacuum kind of clean, but it worked! So if you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of messes in your house, set a timer and put everyone to work! :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cleaning Short Cuts!

I saw this article and thought it was one worth posting for all of you! I know you all will love me for this! ;) Now, don't be snooping around next time you visit, either! 

How to Fake a Clean House

When you’re short on time, here's how to give your living spaces the illusion of cleanliness.

Woman cleaning living room
Tim Evan Cook
The Living Room
  • Reserve one side of sofa cushions to be shown to guests. Before company arrives, flip over the cushions to reveal good-as-new fabric. When guests are gone, flip them back.
  • Rid the sofa of pet hair by wetting the fingertips of rubber gloves and gliding your hand over the sofa. The hair will stick to the rubber.
  • Stack books, catalogs, and magazines in neat piles on the floor or arrange them in a deep decorative basket.
  • To disguise windows in need of washing, pull curtain panels closed.
  • Fold a clean blanket neatly and drape it over a stained sofa. Strategically placed throw pillows can also camouflage soiled upholstery.
Kana Okada
The Kitchen
  • When the dishwasher is full and the sink is overflowing, stow dirty dishes and silverware in a stockpot and pull them out later to be cleaned.
  • Cover up the lingering aroma of last night’s supper by boiling nutmeg, cloves, or cinnamon and orange peels in a sauce-pan on the stove.
  • Declutter the refrigerator by taking down notes, drawings, and magnets and throwing them in a plastic bag. Sort through it later.
  • Fold hand towels to hide stains. Two tips: Hang the clean side over the oven handle (with the stains in the back), or roll towels in neat spirals and stack them pyramid-style next to the sink.
Pedestal sink covered with a fabric skirt
Jonny Valiant
The Bathroom
  • Glide a sticky lint roller over the bath mat to pick up hair.
  • Light a candle. Everything looks better (and cleaner) by candlelight.
  • Hang a fluffy bathrobe on top of damp towels dangling from the hooks on the back of the door.
  • Store a rattan or canvas basket on top of the toilet and throw in stray cosmetic brushes.
  • Hang fresh guest towels. The humidity in this room makes textiles look droopy, even after a recent machine washing.
  • Mound cosmetics and hairstyling products in a container underneath the sink. In a pinch, pile them in the tub and close the shower curtain. Cross your fingers that guests don’t snoop.
Keyboard Organizer
Charles Maraia
The Home Office
  • Stash stray office supplies, like pencils and pens, in decorative stationery boxes or filing containers on your desk.
  • Take down calendars and notes from bulletin boards and file them in folders. Or align them so that the tops are all in horizontal lines.
  • Rearrange crooked books so that all spines are facing the same direction and the titles all read from top to bottom.
  • Stow the keyboard and the mouse in a drawer so only the computer monitor tops the desk.
  • Temporarily hide wayward Post-it notes and to-do lists underneath the keyboard.
Stack of classic children's books
 Yunhee Kim
The Kids' Room
  • Stash scattered puzzle pieces in a drawer; stack the boards on a shelf.
  • Stow pajamas under the pillow. This way, they’re off the floor and ready for later.
  • Put blocks in a handled shopping bag and hang it on a hanger or a doorknob inside the closet.
  • Put homeless stuffed animals in extra pillowcases. Or prop them up behind shams.
  • If your kids have a play tent, hide toys and clothes inside it.
  • Pile books neatly on the floor, largest to smallest, next to a chair or a desk.
  • Spritz a deodorizer spray around the diaper pail to eliminate odors.
Iron, ironing board, and clothing
Christopher Coppola
The Laundry Room
  • Fold clean towels neatly on the drying rack. Rope lingerie items on hangers, then place them in the bedroom closet, away from prying eyes.
  • Drape a scorched ironing board with a clean white sheet, tuck in the edges to fashion a make-shift cover, and place the board in the far corner of the room or behind the door.
  • Pile any laundry that needs to be folded in baskets or storage containers and lay them on the washing machine to be sorted through later.
  • As for dirty clothes awaiting washing, simply toss them in the washer.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Some deals

Most of these apply to the locals, but there is one for everyone. :) I know I'm getting the word out late, but Starbucks is giving away a free treat 'pop' with the purchase of a drink. These are a new thing they will be selling, so they want to get people hooked on them. ;) the rules: applies today and tomorrow from 2-5pm, until supplies last. Enjoy!

The next one I found on Groupon. It's a tour of local food joints in Denver. I've actually been looking into it already for a date idea this summer. It looks like a lot of fun and you get to chose from a few different tours (gourmet, sweets and street food). It normally costs $49/person, but with the groupon deal you can get them for $25 each. Follow this link to get the deal. But, hurry, the deal is only on until the end of the day. Also, if you're planning on doing it as a date, be sure to get 2 since you're allowed! This could also be a great outing for company coming this summer or to give as a gift.

The last one is a stock your pantry deal. Safeway is offering a coupon for $0.79/box of barilla noodles. It's not a huge savings from the $0.82/box price @ Walmart, but it's an opportunity to stock up. The limit is 8, so guess how many I got?, ;)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Movie Nights!

One of our new favorite family hang outs is having a movie night. We rent a family friendly cartoon, make popcorn and hot chocolate (or some kind of 'special' drink), lay the futon down as a bed, bring blankets and pillows down and all snuggle up! It's a great time to bundle up together and have some bonding time. Our son usually doesn't make it through the whole movie, usually because he is to excited to sit still, but as soon as we tell him to lay down or he'll have to go to bed, he immediately lays back down! Hehe. Even after several of those moments, he ends up missing the last half of the movie, because he goes to bed! I'm glad we have started this little tradition though, the kids just love the time spent together. It's amazing how those moments seem to get them more excited then constantly going to places and spending money on outings.

Once again a reminder that the small, simple and low-cost or free pleasures are often times the most remembered!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Grocery budget Q&A continued

Yesterday I answered the main question about keeping our budget low each month. Today I'll dive into a few other questions about grocery budgets that I hear often.

~Does your budget include toiletries and household products (paper towel, laundry soap, etc)?

The short answer is NO. Ours is a separate category in our cash budget system.

~What's a reasonable grocery budget amount?
I have heard two different numbers to answer this question, so I'll tell you both as well. The first answer is $100/person per month. After looking into it further I have come to the conclusion that this number DOES include toiletries and household products. The second number is $50/person per month. This number is ONLY food. So we took those numbers and figured out what that would be for us and since we are trying to get out of debt we challenged ourselves to use even less than those amounts, at least for this season. Thankfully we have been able to meet those goals, but it does take a lot of discipline and is not always easy.

~How do I know I'm getting a good price?
I'm a price memorizer. I can tell you almost every price I pay for things I buy regularly-to the penny- so I notice when things are going up or are more expensive then I can find some where else. I know not everyone is like that, but you could keep a list of common items you buy and their prices to use as a reference point until you become more familiar with the prices in your area. The other great tip I learned from the grocery shrink was to keep your meat prices under $2/lb and your produce prices under $1/lb. Which is totally doable! I've kept this in mind while shopping since hearing it and have found it to be a useful reference point and very attainable if you pay attention.

~Does this take a lot of time?
No more than a trip to the grocery store at this point. We did do some research to find things in bulk and local growers, but now we simply order through them when we need to. Most of the time I shop at one store and use the ads to get the lowest price, which takes about 5 minutes of my time each week and then another 5-10 extra minutes at the store to match the products and prices. Other then those things, I really don't spend a lot of time on it. In fact, I go to the store less often, which is wonderful! :)

A well stocked pantry and freezer make a world of difference at the grocery store. Everything is bought at a low price and you always have food on hand to make into a meal. It has in all reality, simplified my life.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Grocery Budget Q & A

I've been getting a lot of people asking about how I've been keeping our grocery budget so low($150/mo) so I decided to do a quick post to hopefully answer most of the questions, if you're a regular reader this may be a little repetitive at some points.

~Stocking up
I started doing this unintentionally because of my two least favorite things about food: not having the ingredients I needed for a meal I was making and going to the grocery store! My dislike for both of these things is why I would buy several of the things I knew we would use when I found them for a good price. Which goes along with my next point.

~Buying in bulk
We've always bought our meats in bulk, usually from Sam's Club because we noticed a savings per pound that way. It also was convenient to have meat in the freezer to simply pull out for a meal. I did the same thing with pasta, rice and other items that we found to be cheaper and nice to have in large amounts on hand.

Then, I discovered that this method of shopping is actually a common practice for the frugal minded and something that made the grocery shrink so popular. So I've taken my philosophy to a new level and started stocking up on veggies through out the summer and other things I hadn't thought to stock up on as often (like homeade freezer meals). This process has been the number one way I've kept our budget so low because I buy meat about once a year and other items much less frequently as well, so on a monthly basis I have very few things I need to buy to make a meal (usually just the fresh/perishable ingredients). The rest of the budget is going to continuing the stock pile.

The bonus is that I don't go to the store very often either! :)

~Price Matching
Like I've said before I take in all the local ads and get the best price in town for the items I need! :) Knowing the prices for the things you buy is the best way to know if it's actually a deal or not, so memorize them or keep a book to log your local prices. Then, while looking through the ads you'll be able to quickly identify which prices are actually a "deal" or "sale" and which are still more expensive then the prices at other stores.

~Buying the cheapest brand
I'm not loyal to any brands, so I always get the cheapest brand (per unit price) on nearly everything. If there are things that we prefer a specific type of--like our bread--then I'll buy a ton of it when it's on sale and freeze it. Otherwise, we usually buy generic, unless there is an occasional sale or coupon that makes the name brands less expensive.

~Buy what you'll use
Especially when it comes to perishables. If you can't freeze it or can it before it goes bad, then don't over buy it, even when it's a good price. I usually buy just one or two vegetables for the week and then rely on frozen or canned produce we've stocked away to fill out the week's meals if necessary. Then I always keep things like apples or oranges on hand because they last much longer then other fruit. Then, when I find other options on sale, I'll buy only enough for a few days and resort back to the apples/oranges for more fruit until the next visit to the store.

~Avoid convenience items/individual packaging
I've mentioned this before--a lot! This has to be one of the best ways to keep your grocery budget lower. Rather then paying more for those items at the store, I make my own convenience items. I know that for someone working a full time job, those items are almost necessary, but I'd encourage you to find ways to minimize them as much as possible. Even when I worked full time, I would get the large packages of yogurt and pour individual servings into containers for my lunch. I found that the larger container would get me more servings as well. I do buy some convenience items, but I try to keep that to a few. By convenience items I'm referring to pre-made meals or frozen dinner type things. It's usually significantly more expensive then making those meals from scratch yourself.

The end result is more money left in your hand and plenty of great food to feed your family! :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bag credit

Did you know that grocery stores, at least all of them in Colorado, will give you a $0.05 credit per bag? Just a fun little tip.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I'm going to have to be honest, I'm not good at this. I just struggle to keep up with the system and it takes so long to get my list, coupons and stores all figured out, that it just doesn't end up happening. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I am a casual coupon-er. By this I mean, if I have something on my list and I have a coupon for it, then I will use it at the store I'm already at. Much more effort then that, right now, I'm just not interested in putting the time into it. Since I've been able to keep our grocery bill so low without it, I figure I can let myself off the hook for this one. Hopefully you can too. ;) Sorry to disappoint...
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