Top 10 Christmas Budget Busters

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It is so easy this time of year to pull out that credit card, plunk down a few more dollars, and spend so. much. more. than you planned for this year. 

 

But you don’t have to.

 

Here are 10 Christmas Budget Busters that can completely whittle away your Christmas savings, so take a few minutes today and make sure your spending is in check.

Top 10 Christmas Budget Busters

1. Shipping.

Do. not. pay. for. shipping.

For real.

Most stores offer free shipping with pretty minimal purchases this time of year, and almost all stores allow you to pick up in store for free as well. With shipping costing easily $6-$10, you could easily blow your budget with a few unexpected purchases.

And, don’t forget Free Shipping Day is 12/16/16 ~ it might just be worth waiting for!

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2. Stocking stuffers that cost too much.

In our house my kids love their stockings, but I work really hard to keep the cost of stocking stuffers to a minimum. 

Go HERE to see my list of 101 stocking stuffers all $1 or less.

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3. Gifts to just fill under the tree.

My kids typically ask for a few big (and a few small) items each year.

But oh so often, I’m tempted to buy them extra things just so they have more to open under the tree.

They don’t need any of it.

This year I’m really sticking to giving them the few things they really want, and then letting it go.

I hate the clutter come December 26th, and they really don’t need much of anything.

Skip those extras this year. 

(Download my free Christmas Made Easy Checklist to track your Christmas List and Expenses as you go.)

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4. Unnecessary family and friend gifts.

If you have a large extended family, consider as a group doing a white elephant gift exchange or choosing “secret Santas” ~ everyone will have just as much fun, and your whole family will drastically cut down on Christmas expenses. 

 

And, if you love blessing people who bless you throughout the year (UPS drivers, garbage truck drivers, mail carriers, etc), consider baking a yummy treat for them instead of purchasing a gift this year if purchasing gifts isn’t in your budget. A small act of kindness can go a long way to bless someone’s day!

 

Side note:A few years ago I shared how just about felt gived out by the time December was over. I realized that much of this was because while I happily said yes to every place to donate early in the Holiday season, by the middle of December I was done: and so was my budget.

Since then my husband and I have an honest discussion about what we want to give together so that we can choose to give to those that we both feel most passionate about. (To see more on giving over the holidays, check out The Advent Conspiracy.)

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5. Paying too much to trim your tree.

love Christmas decorating.

Like, I. love. it.

But, I get almost all my decorations 90% off AFTER Christmas, unless I find them at the Dollar Tree.

If you don’t have just what you want right now for Christmas, be patient. 

Wait until December 26th (December 27th is even better), head out to the stores, and score some amazing deals for next year’s Christmas tree.

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6. Spending extra to decorate your home.

Just like it’s way too easy to spend too much on tree trimmings, home decor can get out of hand at Christmas.

Fluff up what you already have on hand, head outside for some fresh greenery, and keep things simple by not over doing Christmas clutter.

 

7. Deals that are “too good” to pass up.

Sometimes I come across a deal (or two, or three?) that I think is just “too good” to pass up. 

But unless it’s something someone really wants for Christmas, it’s just not worth ruining our budget for.

 

Skip those ones you really don’t need, determine to stay on track, and make Christmas more about the season than stuff this year. 

8. Purchasing extra gifts after you are done.

Once you’re done shopping,

you’re done shopping.

Determine this year to get your Christmas list checked off, and then don’t go back to purchase more items that your family really can live without.

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9. Wrapping paper.

Get wrapping paper 90% off at Target and other stores in January ~ last year we had to wait until January 4th, but don’t miss that one this year.

10.The Christmas feast.

Last but not least, be mindful over the next few weeks of deals as you plan for Christmas.

Inevitably every store in town will put ham, turkey, veggies, and more on sale, so your mission this Christmas season is to watch for those deep discounts.

Go HERE to do a quick search of the best sale items on just about everything at your local store, and determine to stick to your budget before spending too much this year.

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What else would you add to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts – also check out the Ultimate Guide To Building a Better Grocery Budget. You can do this!

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How Much Do Real Families Budget For Christmas?

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A friend of mine once asked: “How much do real families budget for Christmas gifts for their children?”

 

Yikes.

 

If there was ever a question I didn’t want to get into at Christmas, that would be the one. 

 

It did get me thinking though—and after sixteen Christmas mornings with a few of the cutest kids running around our home, our family has learned a thing or two.

 

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1. Decide when your children are young what Christmas will look like for your family.

 

Goodness, I wish I could tell every momma of a one-year-old that they simply don’t need to spend more than $20 (at the very most!) on that little one.

 

Babies have as much fun with the boxes as they do the actual presents . . . and my bet is a few family members will add a bundle of gifts to their Christmas treasures.

 

By choosing to purchase less when they’re little, you’re paving the way for your child’s future expectations.

 

If you shell out $500 in gifts to a four-year-old, just imagine what their expectations will look like when they’re fourteen.

 

Start simply.

 

Be different.

 

Determine when your kids are young that Christmas will be about more than dozens of gifts under the tree.

 

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2. As your children get older, continue to keep it simple.

Remember the thirty-two bins of toys you hauled to the thrift store last summer?

 

That may have been because your kids simply received a few too many gifts on Christmas morning.

 
Instead, choose a few items that your child will love and let the rest go. Before making a single purchase, consider if the gift will end up in the bottom of the toy bin in a week or two.

 

If so, your child probably doesn’t need it to begin with.

 

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3. You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses. (Really.)

Be okay with doing things differently.

 

Inevitably, on Christmas day when neighbor kids race outside with Christmas treasures, my kids have occasionally felt a wee bit disappointed.

 

“Why did Santa like them better than me?” 

 

That, folks, especially with young children, is a tough one.

 

Our answer has been that Santa checks with parents before he hands out the Christmas gifts, and since our children know we choose to live differently, they seem satisfied with our answer.

 

(And trust me, if you saw our home, you’d have no doubt that our kids have plenty.)

 

Rather than trying to make Christmas special for your child by keeping up with someone else, encourage them to make Christmas special for another child. 

  • Adopt an Angel Tree child and let your kid choose gifts for them.
  • Donate food to a local food drive and let your child help do the shopping.
  • Fill an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox to send to children who may get nothing else this Christmas.

 

And on Christmas morning, be the parent who plops down on the floor to help build that new Lego set. (Your undivided attention will be more valuable to your child than any Christmas gift. I promise!)

 

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4. Christmas will change as your family changes.

What Christmas morning looks like this year in our home is different than what it looked like fifteen years ago.

 

Our finances have changed and our kids have changed, so we’ve made adjustments along the way.

 

For Christmas this year, we’ll spend around $125 on my nine-year-old, thanks to some incredible deals I’ve scored shopping early (and she will have plenty).

 

Christmas for my sixteen-year-old will look a little different, though, and he’ll probably get a few things he needs, in addition to some fun gifts. (Gifts for a sixteen-year-old just cost more. I haven’t figured out a way around that!)

 

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5. No matter their ages, set a budget for each child’s Christmas.

 

Don’t be tempted by a last-minute deal to fill up space underneath the tree. Instead, decide your limits ahead of time, and stick to them this year.
Don’t go beyond your budget to make Christmas special for your children.

 

Instead, make Christmas by creating lifelong memories, choosing unique gifts just for your kids, and making your home just the place your children want to be on Christmas morning. 

 

Especially if your children are little, think small because that sets the expectation for the next year.

 

Determine to make Christmas special by enjoying family traditions, and know that the choices you make today pave the way toward financial freedom in the future.

 

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50 Ways To Make $20 Before Christmas

50 Ways To Make $20 Before Christmas {50x$20=1,000 earned}

With Christmas right around the corner, this is the perfect time of year to start saving some Christmas cash, so you can enjoy the Christmas season and January without extra bills too. And, if you’re willing to work a wee bit, I think you can totally fund your Christmas account, $20 at a time!

 

Here are a whopping 101 ways to make $10 before Christmas. (You can do this!)

 

$10 x 20 = $1,000 earned

Not too shabby right?

 

Let’s get started. 😉

 

Sell your stuff.

1. Garage sale – sell 20 items for $1 each.

Think of it as an everything’s $1 sale – if you have bigger stuff, sell it for more!

2. Head to the consignment store.

I recently made $70 in just two hours this way ~ just a few items can earn you $20 fast!

3. Sell a few items on Facebook.

Have a local Facebook group? Find a few things to sell in those.

4. Sell books on Amazon.

5. Sell electronics on Amazon.

6. Sell DVDs on Amazon.

Amazon makes it super easy to sell things on line – just type in what you’d like to sell, ship it to them (for free!), and get paid with an Amazon gift card. Easy!

7. Sell gift cards you won’t use.

Have gift cards you’ll never use? Visit Cardpool.com where you can sell your gift cards. You won’t get the full face value but you will get a decent rate, so this is a great way to save if you can’t use a gift card you’ve been given.

8. Sell plasma.

Honestly, this would be a tough one for me to do but is a great way to help someone in need and earn a little cash. Check out this article to learn more.

9. See if you have any money available from Unclaimed Property (I’ve had several readers find more than $100 there!)

10. Sell toilet paper rolls on eBay.

11. Or sell drink tabs on eBay.

12. Or even used tennis balls. (Who knew?)

13. Sell gold or silver. 

14. Help a friend and sell their stuff for them, and charge a small fee.

15. Upcycle a thrift store purchase and sell for more money.

Sell your services.

16. Babysit.

Have kids at home? Offer to babysit for a working mom to earn extra income.

17. Paint something.

Love painting? Charge $100 to paint a room – odds are someone else would love to have that project done for them, and it’s an easy way to learn some extra cash!

18. Offer to clean a house.

19. Do yard work.

Lots of folks have yard work that needs to be taken care of, especially in the fall. Offer to rake up some leaves, weed or mulch a flower bed, or plant a tree or two.

20. Walk a dog, or two.

Live in a neighborhood with many pets? Offer to walk your neighbors pets while they’re away at work each day.

21. Take online surveys or try out Swagbucks.

You won’t quickly earn $100 through online surveys, but each time you take a survey you can earn a dollar or two. The only site that I’ve consistently heard excellent reviews about is Pinecone Research ~ and don’t forget to take advantage of ways to earn for free on Swagbucks too!

22.  Go shopping.

If you shop regularly (and don’t have small children), you can sign up to be a mystery shopper at local stores in your area. Check out ways to earn as much as $25 per shopping trip over HERE.

23. Wrap gifts for someone.

24. Offer to decorate someone’s home for Christmas.

25. Bake homemade Christmas goodies for someone.

26. Grocery shop and menu plan for someone.

27. Take photos for someone.

28. Tutor someone who’s struggling in an area you’re good at.

 

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29 . Give music lessons.

30. Create a craft and sell on Etsy.

31. Offer to organize someone’s pantry and charge $20.

32. Substitute Teach

You can’t beat the hours on this one if you children are already school age

33. Start a blog –  Learn How I Make a Full Time Income as a Stay at Home Mom ~if you want to start one crazy inexpensively, use Bluehost as your host for just $3.95. (This one won’t earn you $20 fast, but if you’re willing to keep at it it can be well worth the time you invest.)

34. Submit Grocery Rebates – my favorites are Ibotta, Mobisave, Checkout 51

Get a seasonal job.

35. Drive – drive for Uber or work as a Delivery Driver

36. Get Paid to Shop & Search Online – Swagbucks, Ebates

37. Get Paid for Your Opinion – Try Pinecone Research

38. Sew 
If you can sew, offer to hem or alter something for a friend ~ people are always looking for these services, and $20 could add up quickly this way.

39. Evaluate Web Sites

Sites like User Test pay up to $10 each when you try out their products

40. Fix errors on Google

Learn more at Leap Force

50 Ways To Make $20 Before Christmas {50x$20=1,000 earned}

Save $20

Take a 5 day spending “fast”.

41. For 5 days don’t eat out.

42. For 5 days only eat what’s in the pantry.

43. For 5 days skip Starbucks, a movie, or even a Redbox rental.

We seriously cut back our expenses for one month, and it was amazing how much we saved simply by really focusing on trimming our budget as a family!

44. Skip meals out for 2 weeks.

45. Give up cable. (If you have Amazon Prime take advantage of their free movies instead.)

46. Skimp on your cell phone plan.

47. Cancel your landline if you don’t need it.

48. Call your internet provider and ask if you’re getting the best price. 

49. Give up your gym membership.

50. Save all your lose change until Christmas ~ easy way to find $20 without even missing it. 

What other ways can you think of to earn cash for Christmas? I’d love to hear them ~ leave a comment to share!

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10 Secrets to Saving on Back to School Clothes

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As the first day of school comes creeping up on us once again, it’s time to hit the back to school sales for new clothes and shoes.  Besides keeping an eye out for specials – there are some other good ways to save money on those back to school wardrobes.   Check out these 10 secrets to saving on back to school clothes shopping!

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1. Have a Try-On Day

Have a day where the kids try on everything in their drawer/closet to take stock of what’s actually needed.  Make a pile of keepers and a pile of clothes they’ve outgrown (or just don’t like anymore) to donate to Goodwill or take to a consignment shop.

This is a great place to start because you’ll need to know what size they’re in before you head out to shop regardless.  And it will also give you and your child an opportunity to talk about what styles they no longer love, so you can avoid those if you’re shopping without them.

2. Sell Used Clothes at Consignment Stores

And speaking of taking piles of unwanted goodies to the consignment store… they’re also an excellent place to shop for new-to-you clothes for back to school!  (See how I made $70 in 2 Hours cleaning out my youngest’s closet)

So many times you can find really nice brands for Walmart prices at consignment stores.  And if you take in gently used clothing before you shop, you can score a chunk of in-store credit to bring your bill down even lower 🙂

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3. Shop your local thrift store.

Thrift stores can be gold mines when it comes to back to school shopping. For instance, for my high school son I’ve picked up Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie, and Banana Republic brands all for $4 or less at Goodwill, and after he’s seen the prices on clothing at the mall he’s willing to try them out for me.

There are certain days when you can save even more – like Half Price days.  Check out more Secrets to Saving at Goodwill here!

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4. Take advantage of Tax Free Weekend

In addition to other ways to save on back to school shopping – make sure you head out on Tax Free Weekend to do the bulk of your store shopping if you can!

Depending on your state’s sales tax, that could save you as much as 10% extra off things like clothing, shoes and even computers!

 

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5. Don’t miss Old Navy Sales

Old Navy is SUCH a good place to shop for kids’ school clothes.   They have fantastic sales and coupons that you can stack for great deals!  You’ll want to sign up for Old Navy emails so you don’t miss the best sales and coupons – and to make sure you get the best value, check out this post of 10 Secrets to Saving at Old Navy here!

6. Maybe swing by an Outlet Mall

Planning a little trip to the Outlet Malls can be a good way to knock out all your back to school purchases in one swoop. Just beware of going in thinking everything is a good deal. The best way to start a trip to an outlet mall is to check out the website for specials and coupons – and set yourself a budget before you go.

Some outlet stores are actually “Factory Stores” and carry cheaper items made for them that are sometimes a slightly lesser quality than retail stores. (T-shirts may be thinner, dresses may not have a liner, etc…) While with kids clothes that probably doesn’t matter so much – just something you may want to think about going in. 😉

 

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7. Don’t miss T.J. Maxx, Ross and Marshall’s

I love-LOVE shopping for any name-brand clothes at stores like T.J. Maxx, Ross and Marshall’s.  I can’t imagine to paying Mall or department store prices for the good stuff when it’s at least 50% less at these overstock stores.

It’s also an awesome place to pick up name-brand athletic shoes!

If you’re new to shopping these kinds of stores – find out how to maximize your savings in this post 10 Things You Need to Know Before Shopping T.J.Maxx (I love Tip #1!)

 

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8. Children’s Place

The Children’s Place is a greaty shop-from-home option! I love how The Children’s Place seems to know exactly when I’ve just about given up on running all over town trying to pinch every penny on back to school clothes shopping.  Because it’s always right about then they send me an email that says “60% OFF the entire site + Free Shipping”!

Sign up for Children’s Place emails and take advantage of those sales to get sturdy, colorful basics for the kids sent to your home for a great price.  (I love Children’s Place bottoms because they have the adjustable button tabs on the inside of the waistband – so you know they’re going to fit without trying them on!)

 

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9. Have a Clothing Swap with Friends

If you have friends with kids around the same age as yours – set an afternoon or evening to get together and swap clothes.  And if you have friends with older kids, let it be known that you welcome hand-me-downs!

10. Local Consignment Events

Check into local consignment events! While this might not be happening right before school starts – keep an eye out year round for the local consignment events in your town.  I posted some that I knew of back in the Spring – but find more consignment events in your area here!

 

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10 Back to School Shopping Tips for Office Depot & Office Max

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10 Back to School Shopping Tips for Office Depot Office Max

I love back to school shopping season! 🙂 (See all the Office Depot/Office Max penny items HERE this week.)

 

In fact, I love it almost as much as Christmas shopping season, because the deal hunting is everywhere, and you can easily save up to 99% with awesome stores like Office Depot offering some crazy good savings.

 

But, if you’re new to shopping (ahem, saving) at Office Depot, there are a few things you need to know to make sure you get the most bang for your buck, so I figured we needed a little Office Depot saving course. Let’s get started with these 10 back to school shopping tips!

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1. Office Depot and Office Max are the same store.

So, if you see someone mentioning a sale at Office Max, those items are also on sale at Office Depot. And, vice versa.  Learn more HERE.

2. You need to sign up for an Office Depot/Office Max rewards account.

Sign up for Office Depot/Office Max Rewards to take advantage of the best deals at Office Depot & Office Max. It’s free to sign up.

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3. Here’s how Office Depot/Office Max Rewards work:

  • When you purchase a rewards item at Office Depot/Office Max, you’ll get a certain amount back in your Rewards account.
  • The Reward is in the form of a store rewards certificatet, only to be used at Office Depot/Office Max.
  • The Reward won’t show up in your account for up to 5 weeks after your purchase.
  • At checkout, when giving your rewards account information you automatically get the reward (no extra rebate form to fill out.)
  • So, let’s say this week you buy a ream of paper included in the Rewards special for $6. You’ll pay $6 out of pocket, and get a $5 rewards back in your account. The reward won’t show up for a few weeks in your account, but when it does you can use that certificate to shop for anything at Office Depot.

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4. Especially during the Back To School season, Office Depot offers huge loss leader discounts on specific items in the store.

Watch the very front page of your Office Depot flier to find crazy savings on specials all year long, but especially July-September. For example this week (7/17/16 – 7/23/16), score 1¢ spiral notebooks, 1¢ pencil pouches, 1¢ 3 pack erasers, and even 1¢ glue sticks.

 

To get that savings you’ll need to spend $5 in the store, but that’s going to happen more easily  than you think. (Keep reading!)

 

5. Take advantage of bonus rewards offers to also score the penny items for a steal.

Okie dokie guys, here’s my secret trick. It’s one of my very favorite back to school shopping tips EVER.  To get the penny items I mentioned in secret #1, you need to spend a minimum of $5.

 

But.

 

Here’s a little work around (you’re welcome!)

 

You can purchase any item that includes Bonus Rewards at Office Depot to bump your total up to that $5 minimum, then get the rebate back.

 

Clear as mud?

 

Here’s an example using this week’s sale items (running 7/17/16 – 7/23/16)

Buy 1 Office Depot Brand Multipurpose Paper, $6 each
Buy Papermate Mechanical Pencils 12ct – $1
Buy (3) Spiral Notebooks (Wide or College Ruled) – 1¢
Buy (3) 2-Hole Pencil Sharpeners, Assorted Colors  – 1¢
Buy (3) Vinyl Storage/Pencil Pouch, Assorted Colors I – 1¢
Buy (3) Paper Mate Pink Pearl Erasers, Medium, Pack Of 3/4 – 1¢
Buy (3) Scholastic Glue Sticks, 0.32 Oz., White, Pack Of 4 – 1¢

  • Pay $7.15 out of pocket, Get $5 in Office Depot/Office Max Rewards
  • $2.15 total after Office Depot/Office Max Rewards

The sales vary each week at Office Depot/Office Max ~ go HERE to see current sales and scenarios. 

6. Earn rewards when you recycle ink and toner cartridges.

For every ink or toner cartridge you recycle, you’ll get 200 Rewards points (like $2 back) when you spend $10 on a qualifying purchase in one month.) Learn more HERE.

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7. Watch for Office Depot coupon codes.

Use sites like Coupon Sherpa or Retail Me Not to see if there are additional coupons available at Office Depot/Office Max. For example this week you can save $10 off your $50 or more purchase ~ love that!

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8. Sign up for Office Depot/Office Max texts and emails to get additional savings. 

9. Get free delivery from Office Depot/Office Max online when you spend $35 or more.

Or, order online and have it your items available to pick up in stores to get free delivery as well.

 

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10. Office Depot’s chat is awesome.

If you have any issues with your rewards account or any other questions, try Office Depot’s online chat (look for it on the top right hand side of the screen over HERE.)

I used it earlier this week, and they set up my Rewards account while I was online, and even gave me a 1000 bonus for starting things up (like $10!) That won’t likely happen for everyone, but I was pretty impressed.

 

Looking for more Back To School Shopping Tips? Here you go:

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Back To School At Staples: 7 Secrets You Need to Know Before You Shop

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Back To School at Staples: 7 Secrets You Need To Know Before You Shop

Oh my word. 

 

I have so much to tell you about Staples!

 

(I know. It’s that exciting, right?) 🙂

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This is the time of the year when Staples will be rocking out some incredible deals, and if you don’t know how to shop there you might just miss some savings.

 

Which I just can’t allow.

 

Because you’re my friend and I want you to save crazy big this Back to School season.

 

You’re welcome. 🙂

 

If you’re new to Staples shopping this should help. And if you’re a regular hopefully I’ll teach you a thing or two too.

 

Let’s get started.

 

1. Become a Staples Reward member. It’s free.

Just by signing up for Staples Rewards you’ll get 5% back on everything you spend, that you can use on anything available at Staples (including stamps!) Here are a few more benefits of Staples Rewards:

  • Free shipping on all Staples.com purchases that are $14.99 or more
  • $2 in rewards for every ink or toner cartridge you recycle if you spend at least $30 every 6 months on ink or toner at Staples
  • You’ll receive your Staples Rewards once you’ve earned $5 in Rewards via email or snail mail
  • Teachers get an additional 10% back in rewards on art and teaching supplies

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2. Watch the store sales ad.

 

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Staples offers a ton of crazy “loss leader” items each week in their ads, and these are the items you’ll want to focus on each week. For example right now (week of 7/11/16), they have 12 pack erasers for 25¢ (limit of 5.) Stock up on those each week to get some crazy savings!

 

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3. Also stock up during the back to school season on their “less list” items.

During the back to school season (July – September) Staples will has a “less list” that includes dozens of school supplies on sale at deeply discounted prices. These prices are competitive with Walmart and Target, and such a great way to save during this season.

(Get your free printable Walmart and Target Back To School Cheat Sheet here so you can see how the prices stack up.) 

 

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4. Sign up for emails to save $10 off your $50 purchase.

Save $10 off your $50 purchase when you sign up for Staples email updates ~ head on over HERE to sign up. 

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5. Sign up for text messages to save $5

Get $5 off your purchase of $25 or more when you text OFFERS to 555444. Love that!

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6. Watch your receipt for bonus savings.

Be sure to scan your receipt closely for extra savings. I had a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $20 or more ~ use those towards bigger back to school purchases to save even more.

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7. Take advantage of their 110% Price Match Guarantee.

Through 9/17/16, Staples will guarantee their competitor prices + give you an extra 10% off that price. Learn more HERE.

 

8. Pick up penny paper at Staples.

At least a few times a month, Staples offers paper for just a penny when you take advantage of their Easy Rebate program. You’ll pay $4-$7 out of pocket, but get that money back when you fill out a form online (no rebate form to mail in – they make it easy!) You get the rebate in the form of a Visa gift card to use at any store.

 

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9. Don’t miss their Better Binder Warranty.

I usually recommend getting inexpensive binders at Walmart and Target, however this might just make me change my mind. Staples offers a 100% guarantee on Better Binders, meaning if the binder wears out they’ll replace them for free. The binders are a little more expensive, but if your kids are like mine and wear theirs out quickly, it’s probably worth paying more for these!

 

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10. Get 25% off your entire back to school purchase when you buy a backpack at Staples.

Staples will give you 25% off your entire purchase when you buy a backpack. I think their backpacks are a little pricey, but especially if you have several kids to purchase supplies for, this could save a bundle!

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I’m betting you’ve found other ways to save at Staples, and I’d love to hear them (leave a comment to share!) I scored everything in the picture above for $13 yesterday, without clipping a single coupon. Next week I’ll head back with my $10 off $20 coupon (woohoo!) ~ can’t wait to stock up!

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Can’t get enough Back To School Shopping Tips? Here you go:

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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

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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!

 

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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)

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We’ve just been to the most amazing place. 

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

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It was incredible.

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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.

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Lake Louise

No internet. (Well, very little internet.)

 

No plans.

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Lake Agnes Tea Room

Perfection. 

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(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!)

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We hiked.

 

And hiked.

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And HIKED.

 

a lot.

 

canada3Johnston 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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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3) You will want to quit.

 

did you hear me?

 

YOU WILL WANT TO QUIT. 

 

(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. 

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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.

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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!)

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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. 

 

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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.

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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.

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It’s worth it. I promise.

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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?)

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

 

 

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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.

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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.)

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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

 

 

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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

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