How to Save on Grocery Bills by Shopping *THESE* 7 Weeks a Year

how to save on grocery bills with strategic shopping


I was thinking about all the great deals going on this week at Publix, Kroger, Walmart and Target, and it dawned on me that there are really 7 weeks each year that you need to grocery shop . . . and one of them is right upon us! As we’re gearing up for grilling out, the corporate folks at our favorite grocery stores have everything strategically planned around what they know we’ll buy.

Which means all we have to do is outsmart them. 🙂 

Here’s how to save on grocery bills by strategically shopping these 7 BIG weeks of each year.

There are seven big shopping cycles each year that are absolutely the best weeks to shop, because stores know we’re ready to shell out some cash. These are the weeks that stores will have seasonal items on sale for their lowest prices of the year, so you can easily stock up.


Curious which weeks they are? Here we go!


(ranked in order leading up to the very *best* times to grocery shop)

How to Save on Grocery Bills – Shop THESE 7 Weeks:

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7. Super Bowl

Come February when we’re all ready to make every appetizer on the planet, retailers are stocking their shelves with great prices on everything you’ll need to whip up a bit batch of chili. Stock up during Super Bowl on these items:

  • paper products
  • canned tomatoes
  • beans
  • tortilla chips
  • cream cheese
  • sour cream
  • soda
  • canned goods
  • chips and dips

6. Labor Day
  • chips
  • soda
  • ground beef, ribs, boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • corn
  • apples
  • cereal
  • snack size mixes (for back to school)
  • uncrustables
  • everything back to school

5. Memorial Day
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • chips and dips
  • condiments
  • marinades
  • hamburger and hotdog buns
  • chips and salsa

4. 4th of July
  • blueberries
  • peaches
  • watermelon
  • cherries
  • marinades
  • chips and dips
  • angel food cake
  • baked beans
  • condiments
  • beef
  • firewords
  • soda
  • paper products
  • bug spray, sunscreen

3. Easter
  • canned veggies
  • cream soups
  • ham
  • baking supplies – flour, sugar, brown sugar
  • Nestle tollhouse
  • butter
  • eggs
  • vinegar
  • Sister Schuber rolls
  • candy


2. Christmas
  • oranges
  • baking supplies
  • Nestle morsels
  • ham, turkey
  • stuffing mix
  • Sister Schubert rolls
  • cranberry sauce
  • hot chocolate
  • butter
  • eggs
  • boxed potatoes, gravy
  • cream soups
  • canned pumpkin

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1. Thanksgiving
  • pumpkin
  • apples
  • baking supplies
  • Nestle morsels
  • ham, turkey
  • stuffing mix
  • Sister Schubert rolls
  • cranberry sauce
  • hot chocolate
  • butter
  • eggs
  • boxed potatoes, gravy
  • cream soups
  • canned pumpkin

how to save on grocery bills during THESE 7 weeks

Have you found other seasonal cycles that are worth shopping? I’d love to hear which are your favorite weeks to shop! Leave a comment to share.

And if you have other tips and tricks for how to save on grocery bills – I always love to hear them!



Looking for more savings tips and tricks? Here you go: 




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Our 20 Year Anniversary Trip (And What We’ve Learned Along The Way)


We’ve just been to the most amazing place. 



Last Tuesday night my husband and I flew to Calgary, Canada and then drove over to Banff to stay at the Fairmont Banff Resort.


It was incredible.


I turned 40 back in November and our 20th Anniversary is tomorrow, so for Christmas James surprised me with a “we-really-have-survived-this-long-so-we-need-to-go-somewhere-amazing” trip.  


No kids.


Lake Louise

No internet. (Well, very little internet.)


No plans.


Lake Agnes Tea Room



(Y’all, I like my kids and would miss them if we’d been gone much longer, but 4 days without hearing Mommmmmm was just a nice little reprieve during summer break!)


We hiked.


And hiked.




a lot.


Johnston Canyon Trail

On one trail we literally climbed straight up for 2.5 hours, but when we reached the top, the views were worth every step.




As we were climbing for what seemed like an eternity, I couldn’t help but think of how many ways determining to keep hiking was so similar to sticking to a budget.


There were several moments when I just wanted to quit, turn around, and head back down the mountain. But a few things kept me going, and they might just help you if you’re trying to stick towards budgeting too.


1) Don’t go alone.

Having James determined to reach the top just a few steps ahead of me was such motivation. If I’d been on my own I undoubtedly would have given up way before the top of the mountain, and never have seen the views that you can only see when you reach the top.



If you’re struggling to stick to your budget, have your spouse or a friend join you as you go. Decide concrete goals and share them with one another, set your plan in advance, and encourage one another so you don’t turn around before you reach the finish line.



Fresh snow as we hiked up ~ in June?

2) Sometimes you’ll need to slow down.

As we were climbing, there were times when we just had to slow down a bit. It wasn’t that we were going to completely quit, but we couldn’t race ahead at the same speed we’d been going and just needed a few minutes to slow down.


There are times in your finances where emergencies arise, life changes, and you can’t fight as hard at whittling down your debt as you normally would. 


But that doesn’t mean you give up. 


Instead, keep going even as you slow down a bit, and don’t lose sight of your long term goal.



3) You will want to quit.


did you hear me?




(Folks, I wouldn’t say it out loud to my sweet hubby who’d just had a heart attack 5 weeks prior to this trip and was still hiking like a pro, but there were plenty of moments when we were climbing that I WANTED TO QUIT.) 


But don’t quit. 


Remember your goal. Remember changing your finances is worth. it. And know that you’re definitely not the only one who would like to turn around.


But you’ll never see the top of the mountain if you turn around, so pull up those big girl panties and just keep moving.


The view of Lake Louise from the top of one of the trails – at the top of the lake on the right if you look closely you can see the Fairmont Inn Lake Louise where the trail started from ~ it took us about 2 hours to get to the top!

4) Once you reach the peak you’ll barely remember the struggle.

As we climbed and climbed and climbed straight up for what seemed like forever I thought I would never forget quite how miserable some of those steps were. (Y’all, we were huffing and puffing along the way ~ 200 flights up is no easy feat!)


Foyer of the Fairmont Banff Resort

But the minute we reached the top I totally forgot just how long the hike was, and was ready to find another mountain to hike the next day.


Once your finances are in order, you will remember the sacrifice, but the victory is so sweet that you won’t regret the steps one bit. 



5) The view from the top is amazing.


Twenty years ago when James and I got married I would never-ever-never have anticipated where we would be at financially today. For years we’ve worked to whittle down student loans, paid off car payments, and chosen to live on a budget to reach our long term goals.


Even on days when we didn’t really want to we skipped dinners out, chose second hand clothes, and clipped coupons to eek out every last penny we could.


Twenty years later, good gravy, the view is amazing and worth every step.


Having the financial resources that allow us to enjoy crazy amazing trips, take care of our family, and give abundantly is so much more than I ever dreamed.


Decide that this is worth it. Know that the sweetness you’ll find on top will be worth the temporary sacrifice you’re making today.


It’s worth it. I promise.


I just can’t imagine a better view.


Have you been able to tackle your family’s finances and seen success? I’d love to hear what’s made reaching your goals more manageable ~ leave a comment to shareHere are a few more posts you may be interested in:

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How I Save $100 On Groceries (Every Week!) In 30 Minutes Or Less

How I Save$100 On Groceries (1)

Save on Groceries

I know that saving on groceries sometimes seems impossible.


And like it’s more work than it’s worth.


But I promise, you can easily save with a few simple strategies, and could literally slash  your grocery bill by $100 or more. It can take as little as 30 minutes each week to prepare for, but saving $100 in 30 minutes make your hourly rate $200 per hour.


Not too shabby, right? 🙂 


Here are the strategies I use every single week to save on my groceries, even when I’m short on time. 

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1. Make a menu plan and grocery list. (15 minutes)

I love Eat at Home Cooks Menu Plan and grocery list, and she even has a slow cooker option and whole foods choices available. You can also make your own menu plan, but doing this one step alone will save you as much as $50 each week ~ so worth it for the 15 minutes in time it takes! (Her plans start at just $1.15 per week or make your own for free. So worth the little bit of time investment it takes!)


2. Shop Your Pantry. (3 minutes)

Before heading to the store, shop your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you already have at home and cross those items off your list. (Easy, right?)


3. Check your store’s sales ad for loss leaders. (3 minutes)

Prior to heading to the grocery store, always take a peek at your store’s local ad to see what their “loss leaders” are. Loss leaders are deeply discounted sale items that the store offers to convince you to walk in the store (so they’ll take a “loss” on that item.) Have your stock up price list in hand, so you’re guaranteed that the big sale item your store is telling you about really is a big sale.

Curious what’s on sale at your local stores? Go HERE to see a complete list of stores sales ads AND coupons that match up with the weekly sales ad at your favorite store.



4. Print high value coupons before you leave home. (3 minutes)

Take just 3 minutes to check out this week’s best printable coupons and see if any are on items you regularly buy anyways. Print them out right before you go, and make sure to check your store for digital coupons as well before you shop.


4. When  you shop, don’t be brand specific. (3 minutes)

If you need a certain item for a meal this week, buy whichever brand is on sale at the best price per ounce. For example,  ifDel Monte tomatoes are “on sale” for $1.25 this week, but the store brand is 73¢, go with the store brand.  From what I can tell, tomatoes are tomatoes (at least when you’re choosing between Kroger and Del Monte), and there’s no way my family will have any idea whether I use the Del Monte or Kroger brand in our recipes this week.


Now, there are some items which a certain brand really does seem better, but if you can give yourself a little freedom to try out the less expensive item, you might save quite a few pennies each week just for going with the sale item! And, if you really do love your Charmin or Quilted Northern (toilet paper seems to be one of those areas where people love their brands?)  watch Amazon or the drug stores for a really good deal.

Save $100 on your grocery budget

5. Watch for easy coupon & savings deals at your regular grocery store and double check your list. (3 minutes)

Always watch for items on sale throughout the store, especially if your store offers digital coupons. While you’re shopping, keep your eyes peeled for items that are deeply discounted, and load digital coupons that match up with those sales if your store offers digital savings.

Recently I noticed orange juice was on sale for $1.49 at our store, so even though we had some in the fridge I grabbed it because I knew that was a great price. And I always watch for deep discounts on things like shampoo, toothpaste, and personal care items, because some weeks those items are deeply discounted. It takes just a few extra minutes to walk down those aisles, but can save a bundle when I take the time to do it!

And, while you’re at it, always, always, ALWAYS double check your list one last time before you leave the store. While you may not want to walk back for one more thing, it will save you the time of making an extra trip, and is so worth it. There’s nothing worse than getting home and realizing you’re missing that one extra ingredient, so be sure to double check that list before you check out!




BONUS TIP: If time allows, shop 2 stores.

Folks, this is huge and I know may not work for everyone, but is well worth it for our family. I typically shop Kroger each week for major sales and loss leaders, but also make a trip to Fresh Thyme (or a similar store) for meat and produce at least every other week, saving our family a bundle.


If you have an Aldi, Fresh Thyme, Sprouts, or even possibly Trader Joe’s in your area, I highly recommend a trip once a week (or at least every two weeks), to stock up on meat and produce. 


Their sale prices are significantly lower than anything I’ve seen at local grocery stores (unless your grocery store has a rockstar sale), and it’s pretty easy to get in and out in a few minutes. I don’t shop anything else at those stores at all (really, only produce and meat), but it saves a bundle and is well worth the extra trip at least every other week for our family!


Do you have other tips on how to save on groceries even when you’re pinched for time? I’d love to hear your tips ~ leave a comment to share!

How I Save$100 On Groceries (2)

Looking for more ways to save on groceries?


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5 Steps To Budgeting {On An Irregular Income}

budgetirregularincomeDo you have an irregular income? If your paycheck varies each month, monthly budgeting can be hard, but there are a few things you can do to make it work for you.

Irregular incomes can be extremely hard to budget for obvious reasons. You can never count on a set amount of income from month to month. It can leave you open to not having enough income to cover your expenses, having to draw from your savings and other financial stresses. Learning how to budget your irregular income can help prevent those and other financial crisis moments from happening. 

5 Steps To Budgeting {On An Irregular Income}


Here’s what you can do though to make budgeting on an irregular income work for you: 

1.  Determine your average income.

To do this, take the past 3 or 6 month’s income and add each month up. Take the number you are left with and divide by the number of months that you added (3 or 6). This will give you the average income that you make each month. You will use this average when figuring your budget.


2. Create your budget.

Just like you would normally do, create a budget based on the average income you found in step #1, create budget categories and assign income to your expenses. Ideally, you should have fewer expenses than you do income. Once your expenses are covered, be sure to place any income that you have left over into your savings account. Doing so will allow you to build a buffer of savings for yourself so that your budget can handle a month when your income might fall below your average (which absolutely will happen from time to time.)


3. Skim your expenses.

When budgeting an irregular income, you really want to skim your expenses down as far as you can. To do this, consider your “must-cover” expenses first. When you put your budget together make sure that you budget enough to account for these expenses before anything else:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Groceries
  • Gasoline and car related fees
  • Must have medical costs




4. Budget for non-necessities.

Once your main expenses are covered, you’re free to account for any budget items that aren’t necessary such as entertainment, extra-curricular activities for your kids and so on. When your income is irregular though, it’s incredibly important to make sure your basics are covered, and as much as you can put money into savings to bulk up that savings account when you’re first starting out. Be sure to focus on covering those primary expenses first, then take care of a few non-necessities, and finally add any excess income into savings to cover months where your income is less.

savenomoney35. Bulk up your savings.

After a few months of budgeting especially focusing on those main expenses, work towards building up your savings so that you can cover up to a full month or more of your budget using your savings account. Once that happens, you can officially live off of last month’s income, which will allow you to constantly stay one step ahead of yourself and your expenses. Living off of your previous month’s income can take the financial stresses of having an irregular income away and give you a sense of peace about your financial future.  If you’re new to budgeting and totally lost at where to start, I highly recommend checking out Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover ~ you’ll learn more tips and strategies to help you live on a budget, no matter your income.

How Real Budgeting Works In Our House

Looking for more budget solutions?

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9 Secrets to Saving on Medical Expenses


If you’ve been looking for ways to save on medical expenses, you’re not alone!   The cost of office visits, prescriptions, and follow-up care can be overwhelming and disheartening – but there are several things you can do to lower your costs.   Check out these 9 tips and tricks to save money on your medical bills!

Ways to Save on Medical Expenses


1. Be Honest With Your Doctor

It’s normal to fear your upcoming medical costs before you ever leave the examination room.  Rather than wondering and worrying if there’s anything that can be done – have an honest chat with your doctor before you go.  Ask if all the tests/procedures are necessary (especially if you have a high out of pocket deductible) and if there are any generics for the prescriptions he’s writing.   Sometimes there might even be an over-the-counter medicine that’s equally effective.

Simply knowing you’re in a bind might prompt your doctor to offer you options, or a helpful tip.

… and be sure to ask for SAMPLES!

Doctors offices normally have a supply of various drug samples that are up for grabs – if you know to ask.  By requesting a sample of the drug you need, you may save yourself a few weeks off the purchase of the prescription.

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2. Get Some Prescriptions FREE

Before you run out to fill that new prescription, check around to see if you can get it for free. Some pharmacies (like Publix) have a list of prescriptions they offer at absolutely no cost – while Walmart & Target have a similar list of $4 prescriptions.

Here are some examples of what prescriptions are routinely offered for free or at a value price:

  • Blood Pressure Medication
  • Common Antibiotics
  • Diabetes Medication




3. Make Sure to Get the Best Prescription Price

Unfortunately – only a handful of prescriptions are part of the free or cheap group above.  When you’re faced with a pricier prescription, arm yourself with the tools to find the absolute lowest price in town.  It could mean BIG savings for you over time!

One useful site is GoodRX (they also have a mobile app).  GoodRX  lists the costs of your prescription at pharmacies in your area.  The nice part is, you don’t need to drive all over town to get the best price – just show the cashier at your pharmacy and they’ll match the lowest price around!

*Read more details here

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4.  Check for Manufacturer Coupons

Anytime you have a new prescription, it’s a good idea to search the internet for coupons.  Manufacturers will sometimes have printable coupons, rebates or copay discount cards available!

5. Call the Company and Ask for Help

It never, ever, ever, EVER hurts to try – right?

There may come a time when the prescription that you need is just completely unaffordable.  That’s an awfully scary place to find yourself – and people do every day.
Often, a simple call to the company that makes the drug in question, can be the first step to HUGE savings.  While there’s no guarantee, if you call the company to explain the situation, and ask if they offer a drug assistance card – you could receive phenomenal discounts out of sheer goodwill.  I know of a woman who’s worried phone call to a drug company brought her $2000 prescription down to only $10 a month ~ it never ever hurts to ask!

6. Pay the Bill Up Front for a Discount

You can often get a discount if you offer to pay off the full bill up front for a medical expense.  While that’s not always possible – getting the bill paid in full can leave a lot of extra money in your pocket over time.  Of course that requires budgeting for medical costs…

Just getting started budgeting?  Check out How Real Budgeting Looks In Our House and print out my Free Printable Budget Spreadsheet.


7. Review Your Bill for Mistakes

You guys . . .  this tip might seem a little silly, but wait until you hear the stats.  While researching how to save on medical expenses, my mind was completely blown when I read in an article that 9 out of 10 hospital bills contain overcharges (9 out of 10!!)  If that’s the case – we should all be reading through our medical bills to make sure there are no add-ons or discrepancies.


8. Take Advantage of Employee Health Savings Plans

Does your job offer a health savings account like an Flexible Spending Account (FSA)?  If so, learn all you can about it!  These are great ways to help you save if you have a high-deductible plan.

An FSA is basically money you set aside for the year’s out of pocket medical costs and whatever you put aside will not be counted as taxable income.  The only thing to remember here is that whatever you don’t use by the end of the year – you LOSE (watch the cut off date for when you lose that money – typically March of the following year).  Here are some things you can spend your remaining FSA cash on so you won’t lose it:

  • Sunscreen (be careful not to overstock – this does expire after awhile!)
  • Breast Pumps
  • Contact Lenses
  • Reading Glasses
  • Over the counter medicines (time to toss out anything that’s expired!)
  • Teeth cleaning
  • Chiropractor visits
  • Diabetes testing kits
  • Blood pressure monitor
  • Canes, Walkers, etc

Whatever you spend it on – don’t let it go to waste!



9. Staying Healthy

We’ve all heard the saying prevention is the best medicine… and in many cases it’s SO true!  Staying in shape, eating healthful foods, and avoiding health risks are all ultimately saving you big money on future medical expenses.

If you need some motivation for living frugally while managing to eat well and get in shape – you might also enjoy these tips for how to save on organic food!

What other tips do you have for saving on medical expenses? I’d love to hear your thoughts ~ leave a comment to share!

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How To Travel On A Budget: 12 Ways To Save




We love to travel. 


Love to travel.


Our family doesn’t wear fancy clothes, have tons of cool gadgets, or visit “high-falutin” restaurants all that often, but my oldest has visited over thirty six states in his first 15 years of life. (I know . . . that’s nuts!)


So, when we pinch those pennies in our grocery budget, a lot of what we’re saving goes towards our travel budget.


(In fact, we’re traveling back home from a 9-day ski trip to Canada as I’m sharing this!)


And while we love it, it’s an incredibly easy way to bust a family’s budget.  Here are a few tips that we’ve found have made traveling a little easier on our pocketbook.


1. Determine an annual travel budget.

There’s no way around it, traveling costs money. (And when you have a large family, it can cost a lot of money!)


About four years ago, we discussed where we wanted to go each year and divided our annual travel expenses into twelve monthly “payments”.  We automatically take that amount out of my husband’s paycheck each month, so if a deal on part of our trip comes up, the money is already there.  Here is a free budget printable for you to get started.




This has given us so much more freedom to get a deal while traveling.  Several years ago we had money in our vacation fund but were not expecting to travel because my father-in-law had become ill and we just weren’t sure we should go.  One Thursday in February of that year, my husband called me and found round-trip airline flights into Jackson Hole, Wyoming from Huntsville, Alabama for $179. (If you watch airline flights at all, you know that’s an incredible deal!)


The only catch was that we had to travel that Friday.  But since Jackson Hole was one of the places we’d always wanted to visit, we literally booked the flight that morning, packed up three kids, winter clothes, skis, and boots, and hopped on the plane the next day.  (We also got some great deals on accommodations because we were traveling so late!)  

Because the money was in our vacation fund, we didn’t have to question where the money would come from.  It was there, just waiting for a deal!


2.  Price driving vs. flying to your destination.

There’s no way that we could have driven to Jackson Hole for the same price we flew on that trip, because the airline deal was so good, and the cost of hotels, food, and gas along the way can get pretty pricey.  Especially if you’re traveling with your children, the price of driving often is much cheaper than flying.


However, make sure it is your very best price, and consider all the factors involved.  When we traveled to Colorado for Spring Break one year, we planned our trip and expected to save about $1000 by driving.  My hubby loves to drive, and there were several capitols that we wanted to show our kids along the way, so we decided it was worth it.  But when we factored in the crazy high price of gas at that time ($3.69/gallon for 3000 miles is a chunk of pennies!), I’m not sure our savings was quite what we’d hoped for!  We did have a great time though, and our kids undoubtedly will have some stories to share with their kids one day of our ridiculously long ride through Kansas. 😉


3.  Consider staying with family along the way.

We often will head towards our family’s homes as a breaking point in our trip if we’re driving.  It’s free, the kids love visiting family, and it breaks up a long trip into smaller chunks.


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4.  Check out Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO).

Vacation Rentals By Owner is a great way to save on family-friendly condos/houses as you’re traveling.  Because they’re condos, they usually have kitchens (which can save tons of money on food while you’re there!)  If you’re up for a little bargaining, you can often negotiate a better price by contacting the owner directly, and we’ve gotten some incredible condos through VRBO. (I highly recommend checking them out . . . we’ve always been pleased with them!)


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5.  In addition to VRBO, check out travel sites like, Travelocity, & Hotwire for airline tickets, lodging, and rental cars.

We’ve found our best prices on hotels and rental cars through Priceline, and have usually had good experiences.  (We do usually request a hotel with at least 3 or more stars when trying out Priceline.)


{Before booking through Priceline, read this ~ these 7 tips will definitely guarantee you a happier stay.}



6.  When you can, get creative with meals and in the room.

My kids tend to be picky eaters, so spending $30 (of lots more) to feed our family just makes me nuts!   They’re usually happy with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and sometimes will splurge on a fun dessert instead of dinner while in a new town.  (Our one exception to this rule is Casa Bonita in Denver. . . if you’ve been there you know it’s a must see for your kids ~ what a hoot!)

And, if you’re driving, bring Mrs. Potts along to help out with the cooking. 🙂 

Also, while staying at a hotel, make sure to book one with a free breakfast.  When you are feeding a family of 5, it can be expensive, so having one meal paid for really can make a difference.



7.  Plan for your trip a few months out as you’re grocery shopping and avoid last minute purchases at full price. 

Watch for deals on sunscreen, bug spray, portable snacks and juice boxes before your trip, so that you’re not stuck at the last minute paying full price. Also, request all those free samples of laundry detergent because they’re great to have on hand when traveling, and are so convenient instead of trying to pack laundry detergent if you’re planning to do a load or two on the road!



8.  While eating on the road, bring a Frisbee or football and take a break at a rest area.

Taking a break for a picnic lunch at a rest area and skipping the drive thru is probably my favorite way to saveI asked my kids if they’d rather pack a lunch (including Cheetos ~ we never buy those!) or make a quick drive thru McDonald’s, and they all agreed rest area lunches are one of their favorite road trip stops. Love, love, love saving $25-$30 at the drive thru at each meal, and giving them time to stretch their legs a bit!

We often pack sandwiches to eat for at least one of our meals as we’re driving, and the kids love stopping in different areas of the country to play. You won’t miss McDonald’s at all, and you’ll get some much needed fresh air while you’re there.



9.  If big vacations just aren’t in the budget, take a mini excursion close to home.

While traveling far away is great to see new places, we didn’t start out that way when our kids were little.  If there’s a large city within a few hours from you, go for just one night and visit a free museum, or choose one destination spot while you’re there. For us, we’ve found that just being away from home for a few days (or even just an all-day trip!) is such a good way for our family to enjoy each other, and gives us a break from the busy-ness of everyday life.


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10.  Don’t pay for roaming charges.

If you’re traveling outside the US and know you will need access to your mobile phone – look into changing your plan for the month.  It will usually only cost you and extra $10-15 to upgrade to an international plan, just remember to change it back when you get home.


You can also check cell phone carriers that offer data plans for Mexico, Canada and international locations ~ some offer unlimited data and texting so it’s worth it to compare your options before you switch or travel out of town.


When we’ve traveled to Canada we’ve chosen to put our phones on airplane mode for the entire length of the trip (using free wifi at restaurants and our hotel), which can also work. (The only downside is you won’t have a way to get incoming phone calls in case of emergencies, however most text messages and emails will continue to work, so you can have access to family from home without paying any additional fees.)


11.  Stay just outside of your destination if it’s an expensive city.

You can save a LOT of money if you say right outside of your destination, especially if it’s an expensive city like Los Angeles or Miami.  If you want to absorb the culture of your destination (i.e., London or Paris) spend one or two nights but find other culturally rich places just outside of the city.  I promise you will save!  Make sure to price your transportation costs to and from the city if you plan on being there the entire time to visit – this way you can make sure you are getting the very best deal.

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12. Be sure to spend your miles and points.

While I don’t recommend credit cards (ever!), after many many years of never using a credit card we did choose to get a Southwest Visa several years ago to earn points. Because my husband’s job requires him to occasionally purchase things that get reimbursed the following month, we use the Southwest Visa to pay only for those thing and then pay them off the following month when his company reimburses him.

(Note ~ we never ~ ever ~ carry a balance. The only way I would ever recommend you use a credit card is if you absolutely-1oo%-always-always-always pay it off each month. Just to be clear on that!) 🙂 


A few times we’ve also put major purchases on that card to earn points as well ~ always knowing that we had money in our savings account to cover the purchase. Those points really do add up, and we were able to purchase 5 round trips to Seattle, Washington this week for “free” using those points.


We also had 1 free night’s stay in a Marriott because of other traveling he’s done for work. Definitely take advantage of those special ways to earn ~ they really can add up (and saved us a whopping $2500 this week alone. Success!)



And as always, remember, we are not all at the same place.


My hubby and I have been married for(ever?) and have taken almost twenty years to get to a place financially where we can afford to travel more often with our family. (And believe me, there’s been quite a bit of penny pinching along the way!) But, if you do love to travel, look at ways to make it work for you, and determine to save ahead of the trip so that you don’t come home to a credit card bill. I promise, you can do this!


What other ways do you save when traveling to pinch a penny as you go? I’d love to hear your suggestions!


Dreaming of a trip to Hawaii? Don’t miss these  17 Secrets You Need to Know Before Planning a Trip to Hawaii. I’m dreaming of one with you! 🙂




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What Kind Of Saver Are You?


I’ve been thinking lately that there are three different types of savers and spenders out there.  Here are the types I’ve seen . . .


1.  Folks who save 70-90% on their grocery bill by using coupons at the grocery store. 

I would include my buddy Shannon in this group, and while I’ve been that girl before (and kind of miss her many days!), I wouldn’t put myself in that category right now. These are the people that never (ever) buy anything without a coupon or serious sale, spend a few hours each week reading frugal blogs, clipping coupons and organizing their grocery trips, and menu plan well so that they can use what’s in their pantry to maximize their savings. 


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2.  People who are a little more subtle about their savings and save probably 50-70% on their grocery bill. 


This is where I’m at right now, and where I’ve been for the last few years. People like me always (always) shop the sales ad, look over their store coupon matchups before shopping (sometimes using their mobile phone), and primarily print coupons from their computer without stressing over a coupon binder. Savings for them won’t be over 90%, but they do save quite a bit without too much effort. (And, if you’re one of those folks like me, you probably order many of your household products on sale at Amazon ~ have I mentioned grace lately? This is the grace I’m giving myself right now.) 😉




3.  Others who really don’t pay attention to how much they save. 

These people go to the store because their pantry is empty, grab what they need (without considering the cost), and might feel pretty discouraged when they get home. (I tried just shopping this way at Walmart at the end of last year hoping to make life a little easier, but I was sick when I got home each week and realized how much money I was throwing away each time I shopped ~ I just can’t do that!)


So, what kind of saver are you, and how do you want your budget to look in 2014? As I’ve shared before (over and over!), there is no other area in your family’s budget that you have so much control over as you do grocery shopping, so this is a fantastic place to start.  I encourage you to decide TODAY how much you want to spend on groceries this month, and can’t wait to see how we do this year together!  Leave a comment to share your goals too.


And one more thing ~ if you haven’t gotten my free stock up price list I highly recommend checking it out so you can determine what your basic prices should look like before picking up groceries each week. That alone should help you get started!



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How Much To Budget For Car Repairs?


A few years ago, my husband was out of town and I’d taken my youngest to run some errands while my other kiddos were at extracurricular activities.


We stopped at several different places, and sure enough at our very last stop my car completely stalled.


Now, I know nothing about cars, and of course (really?) I left my phone at home while hurrying out the door.




So I was completely stuck, and ever so thankful for the sweet man who helped jump start my car. When I got home, I called my husband and he suggested I take it to get a new battery ~ thankfully they fixed everything right up and the car was just fine.


So why on earth am I telling you all this? 😉


While it really wasn’t a big deal at all, for a few minutes I was stranded, with no phone, no one really to call to come save me, and I was pretty worried.


However, I wasn’t worried at all about the cost of the repairs, because I knew we had saved for exactly this situation.  




We had enough set aside in our car expense budget, and even though the situation was stressful, I could at least check that one off my worry list.


Wanna talk real numbers?  


Each month, my husband has a spreadsheet including all of our expenses (all based on the Dave Ramsey plan), so we budget $75 monthly for oil changes and car repairs per car.


We’ve been fortunate and haven’t needed much work on our minivan, so whatever additional money is put in that account now goes towards a new car fund when we need one. (Our car now has 189,000 miles on it, and it won’t be too long before we’re needing it!)


It’s worth keeping a minimum $700-$1000 in that account because I know just how quickly those car repair bills can add up, but you may decide on a different number, especially if you already have an emergency fund.


I really can’t tell you how much peace comes from having money set aside for specific items in our budget. Right now the big ticket items we save for monthly include home repairs, gifts, yard projects, a vacation fund (our favorite!), clothing and even our kids activities. If you don’t have a written budget, schedule a few minutes this week to get started.  (It will give you so much freedom!) And while I know it’s not always fun to put away some of your hard-earned money for not-so-fun expenses that pop up, I promise it’s so worth it.



Do you save towards car repairs or other specific items that you know can bust your budget? I’d love to hear how you determine what to save . . . leave a comment to share!


New to budgeting and don’t know where to begin? Here are a few posts to you get started:



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How Real Budgeting Looks In Our House


How Real Budgeting Works In Our House


Download your free copy of a Monthly Budget Spreadsheet HERE to get started.


I get tons of questions for more information on exactly how we handle budgeting around here, so here’s a quick overview of our monthly budget planning.


We by no means have it all figured out, but this is what’s worked for us for almost twenty years . . . maybe it will help you too!


We started years ago using the Financial Peace envelope system, however, at least for our family, keeping up with cash for every single item was just difficult to manage. So, here’s how we’ve tweaked it to work for us:

  • Every two weeks (on Friday), we withdraw cash for groceries, dining out, and entertainment
  • Once a month, we have an automatic withdrawal taken out of our checking account and deposited into savings for other specific items (keep reading)
  • When we need one of those specific items, we transfer money back into checking from savings to cover those expenses.


So, what kind of things do we budget for beyond food? Here’s an idea . . .
  • Kids sports and extracurricular activities
  • Vacations
  • Christmas gifts (we start saving every January)
  • Birthday gifts
  • Car expenses
  • Car replacement
  • Life insurance
  • Home Owners Association dues
  • Real Estate Taxes
  • Yard Maintenance
  • Furniture Replacement (I don’t think my husband puts much in this one, but I forced him to add it in the spreadsheet) 😉
  • Clothing
  • Dry Cleaning
  • Hair Care
  • School Supplies
  • College Fund
  • “Blow” money
Then, within our monthly budget we have a separate tab (we use a simple Excel spreadsheet) that includes our savings account totals. I just looked at it this morning and the one that we currently are using has been around since 2007 ~ it was interesting that we now have well over ten times what we started with in that little savings account, and I can’t tell you just how much freedom comes with that!




If you’re new to budgeting, here are several free budget spreadsheets you can use to get you started :


I’d love to know how your family handles monthly budget expenses, and what other suggestions you have. Leave a comment to share ~ I love hearing from you!



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5 Steps To Start A Blog Today


Not all that long ago, I shared how I make a full time income as a stay-at-home mom.


As a stay-at-home-mom-and-blogger, to be exact.


I’ve been blogging now for over six years (c.r.a.z.y.), and while I still feel like I’m learning every single day, there are a few tricks over the years that really have helped it go more smoothly. And, while I love clipping coupons and saving big at the grocery store, being able to earn our family an extra income through blogging has been an incredible opportunity.

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And seriously one of my favorite accomplishments besides being wife to my cute husband and mom to three super fun kids. 


If you’ve been looking for a way to earn real, legitimate income from home (and are a decent writer ~ that’s kind of a requirement!), this might just be for you. 


Curious how to get started? Here are the very beginning basics . . . if you’re willing to really work (like really work) this may just be for you!


1. Decide what you’re going to blog about.

Do you love home design? Kids? Cats? Dogs? Saving money? Laundry? Cleaning house? Christmas?


If there’s something out there that you love and you think other folks would just love to read about too, you  might just be able to write a blog about it 


Determine one main focus for your blog, and stick to it. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started:

  • Is this something I can write about for an extended period of time, and never get tired of talking about?
  • Is this something other people care about?
  • How can what I’m sharing help someone else? Will it be something people want to read every day?
  • Is this something I’m passionate about?
  • Is this something other people will be passionate about too?

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2. Start your blog with Blue Host.
  • Go HERE to start your blog with Blue Host.
  • Blue Host charges just $3.49 per month when using my link (otherwise you’ll pay more!), and will give you a free domain for 12 months when clicking through this link.
  • Included in your Blue Host account is WordPress, which is the very best program out there for starting new blogs. I was clueless about all this stuff the first few years that I blogged and started out on a platform called Blogger, and it took forever to move everything over to WordPress. It’s so worth starting out using the right program, and will make blogging easier for you in the long run.



3. Choose your blog name and set up hosting.

As soon as you register with Blue Host, you’ll need to create a domain name. I chose Publix Penny Pincher back when I started (before realizing I’d want to share deals at other stores), then swapped to Passionate Penny Pincher a few years in.


To make your life easier, choose a domain name that’s broad enough to work with you no matter what you want to write about, but focused enough to make sense for your audience. For example, my friend Michelle over at I Heart Publix runs an amazing site talking about nothing but Publix, and having a clear focus for her site has been very successful.


But, if you’re a little more willy nilly (like me!) and need some variety in your life, you may want to consider a name that can work with you no matter what you choose to write about.


Choosing Blue Host makes your domain name free for one year, so it’s a great way to start out with minimal fees up front. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll need to decide which plan to use – I’d stick with the basic plan for now and you can always upgrade later if your needs for web hosting change.


Quick tip – if you’re curious what web hosting even is (like I was when I started!), it’s a place that basically “hosts” your blog’s content so that people can access it. Think of it as your little room on the internet where folks can come read what you have to say!

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4. Create your WordPress account.

Once you sign up with Blue Host and have your domain name and hosting all set up, you’ll need to actually create your WordPress site.


Quick tip – WordPress is basically the program you use to make all the content you want to share with people “pretty” and accessible for them to see. 


This may sound overwhelming (it did to me too!), but basically once you set up your Blue Host account you’ll get an email that includes information about the “MOJO MARKETPLACE”. Once there:

  • Click “one click install” button
  • The choose the WordPress icon under blogs
  • Choose the “start” button to start installing WordPress.
  • Decide which domain you want to install WordPress on – there will be a drop down menu including your new domain.
  • Under “advanced options”, update your username and password (be sure to choose something secure – hackers OFTEN try to get into websites so you need to make sure your name and password are difficult to figure out.)
  • Check “automatically create a new database for this installation”
  • Click “install now”


5. Start blogging.

Once your site is up and running, you’ll want to start blogging, right? Here’s my suggestion and what I did when I first started:

  • Decide your blog “schedule.”
  • Blog for 2-3 weeks before sharing so that you have some content to share (and so that you know that you love it before putting it out there – I blogged for about a month just for myself to see if I really loved it – and obviously 6 years later I did!)
  • Once you know you love it (I bet you will!) start sharing with friends and family.

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When I first started I literally just emailed it out to a few folks I knew (I was TERRIFIED), and now get anywhere from 1.3-2 million pageviews each month (seriously, it’s nuts!)  Honestly though there’s no other job I could ever love as much as this one (I get to be home with my kids, work on my own schedule, and decide exactly how much I want to work each day), and goodness, I love it so much that I have a hard time walking away at the end of the day. It’s so fun to wake up each morning, set down to my desk and figure out what to share with you each day!




While it has been a lot (seriously, a lot) of work, I love (almost?) ever minute of it and am just amazed that your really can make a full time income blogging. It blows me away every day!  It’s not easy, but so worth it, and might just be a great way for you to earn an extra income too.



Would you love to know next steps on blogging? There are so many more tips out there and I would love to share them, so leave a comment here or send me an email if you’d like more and I may do a full series on blogging over the next few weeks. I love hearing from you!

how I make afull time income

Looking for more about how blogging works? Here you go!


This post contains affiliate links.  See my disclosure policy to learn more.

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