70 Ways To Cut Your Grocery Budget In Half (Without Clipping a Single Coupon)

 

Looking for ways to cut your grocery budget in half (without clipping a single coupon?) While I save a bundle with coupons, the bulk of my savings come just from shopping strategically, which means you don’t have to clip any coupons at all.

 

 

I also enlisted the advice of the ladies in our Dinner’s Done Facebook group on this post (they had so many great ideas!) If you’d love to get encouragement on making dinner every night, I highly recommend joining this free group ~ go HERE to check it out!

 

 

  1. Always shop with a grocery list
  2. Actually stick to your grocery list once you’ve made it
  3. Menu Plan
  4. Shop Aldi
  5. Be cautious when buying in bulk at Costco and Sam’s Club (more info HERE)
  6. Try out Fresh Thyme or Sprouts for crazy low prices on produce
  7. Always shop Fresh Thyme or Sprouts on Wednesdays during double ad sales day
  8. Always (always) shop your store’s sales ad
  9. Know your prices
  10. Stockpile when you see a good price
  11. Substitute with things you already have (no buttermilk on hand? Mix vinegar and milk)
  12. Shop without children
  13. Shop without your spouse. 🙂
  14. Buy produce in season
  15. Eat your leftovers
  16. Shop your pantry fridge and freezer (then use All Recipes ingredient search to make a meal)
  17. Learn your store’s markdown schedule
  18. Shop the store brands
  19. Use Ibotta
  20. Start a garden
  21. Load store digital coupons to your card
  22. Try shopping once a month
  23. Check the unit price to make sure you’re never spending too much
  24. Buy diapers and toilet paper on Amazon
  25. Checkout Checkout 51
  26. Use Favado
  27. Take advantage of Walmart’s Savings Catcher
  28. Buy in bulk
  29. Pay with cash
  30. Skip the pre-packaged stuff
  31. Don’t use paper towels
  32. Or trash bags
  33. Buy double ply TP and only use single sheets. (TEASING. Just checking in to see if you’re still awake.) 😉
  34. Make seasonings and sauces yourself (get a few of my favorites in the index at the back of this free cookbook)
  35. Store deeply discounted items in your freezer (get the full list of what to freeze over HERE)
  36. Have breakfast for dinner once a week
  37. Don’t cook more than you need if it will go to waste
  38. Only buy meat when it’s on sale
  39. Shop early in the morning when meat markdowns have just been made
  40. Ask the butcher to cup up large bulks of meat to get the best price
  41. Rotate your pantry so food doesn’t expire
  42. Make baked goods from scratch (homemade bread, anyone?)
  43. Cook in bulk
  44. Ask stores to price match
  45. Don’t shop if you’re hungry
  46. Learn the map of your store so you get in and get out fast
  47. Skip any pre-cut meats, fruits, or veggies
  48. Buy big roasts (pork and beef) when on sale and cut them into 2 or 3 chunks, making for several meal (thanks Tiffany!)
  49. Buy eggs
  50. Don’t buy bottled water
  51. Use this database to see which stores in your hometown have sales each week on items you’re purchasing
  52. Buy a rotisserie chicken at Costco or Sam’s and use the meat in soups, stews, and casseroles
  53. Keep a running log of how much you spend at the grocery store each week
  54. Eat eggs
  55. Shop more than one store
  56. Use cloth napkins instead of paper
  57. Skip paper plates
  58. Repurpose glass jars (or use mason jars) and store your homemade dry mixes
  59. Learn to can your own foods
  60. Create a price list for your area (Thanks Ashley!)
  61. Re-use your grocery sacks
  62. Pick up produce in large bags instead of buy the piece
  63. Don’t buy pre-packaged salad blends
  64. Use up every single thing in your pantry
  65. Try out shopping online using Kroger Click List or Walmart Grocery Pickup so you avoid buying extras you don’t need
  66. Avoid the kid snack traps, like packing your own goldfish, making granola bars, relying on fruit, etc (thanks, Amy!)
  67. Base your meals on sales, buy lots of meat when it’s on sale and freeze the extra (thanks, Nicole!)
  68. Instead of using foil or plastic wrap, store food in re-usable containers
  69. Reinvent leftovers. Bones from cooked meats can be turned into broth. Use the trimmings and peels from celery, onions carrots for flavor in the broth. Repurpose leftover bits and pieces into something else. Bake extra chicken, use it in other dishes or on a salad. (Thanks, Robin and Vicki!)
  70. Prioritize what you need most and cut out non-essentials. We no longer buy things like soft drinks, paper towels, most packaged or prepared food. Buy ingredients and cook from scratch. So much healthier for you too (thanks, Tami!)

 

 

 

What other things do you recommend to save on groceries without clipping any coupons? Leave a comment to share ~ I love hearing from you! 

 

 

Need more ideas on how to save on your grocery budget?

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The Ultimate Aldi, Target & Walmart Price Comparison Sheet

Love pinching pennies? Sign up for free daily emails to get my favorite 20 slow cooker recipes, grocery list & menu plan delivered to your inbox!

 

To get Aldi, Target, Walmart Comparison Sheet, go HERE and download your free PDF.

I’m soooo excited to have this updated! 

The PPP team has just updated this amazing (seriously, amazing) reference guide for you to use every time you shop Aldi, Target, and Walmart.

 

 WOOHOOOOO!

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Now, as always, pricing will vary a bit by area and your store, but this gives you a good basic starting place with an idea of what to really expect at each store.

And if you’re like me, I’m betting you’ll be a little surprised at how the prices stack up.

I never (ever?) would have expected Walmart and Target to be higher on so many items (not everything, but many things!), so the results were pretty interesting to me.

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 Here are a few things you need to know to fully take advantage of this list:

  • These are everyday prices on these items and don’t include any special sales at all. If you can wait for a sale at Target or Walmart you’ll get a better price, so this is just your starting point.

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  • We did the best we could to compare things evenly across the board. We looked at basic generic brands as much as we were able to (i.e. Up & Up for Target and Great Value for Walmart), and gave you the exact item name so you can compare too.
  • These prices were updated in the Southeast, so your pricing will vary some by store. This just gives you a handy little reference guide to get an idea of what to expect.
  • You’ll want to compare to see how these prices stack up at Costco & Sam’s Club as well ~ go HERE to print your free list for those stores.
  • ****MOST IMPORTANTLY**** This is such a valuable tool when shopping other store sales. A few weeks ago I was shopping the Mega Sale at Kroger and while I thought I was getting a good price on peanut butter, a quick look at this list let me know that I was getting a serious stock up price. Even if you don’t use this list to compare these stores to one another, it is so stinkin’ handy so that you’ll always know when you’re getting the very best price on an item.  WOOHOOO! 😉 

 

Okie dokie ~ are you ready for it? Here we go! 

 

To get Aldi, Target, Walmart Comparison Sheet, go HERE and download your free PDF.

If you’d love to keep up with penny pinching deals I’d sure love for you to sign up for free daily emails too – go HERE and you’ll receive a free Freezer Printable Guide just for signing up. Thanks so much for joining PPP!!!)

 

Looking for more posts like this? Here you go . . . 

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I can’t wait to hear what you think on these prices and how they stack up ~ leave a comment to share your thoughts!

 

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The Ultimate Aldi, Costco & Sam’s Club Comparison Chart

 Download my FREE Crockpot Cookbook over HERE! 

Oh my word.

I am so.

sooooooooooo.

Seriously, SOOOOOO .

. . . . excited about this!

 

(Did you catch that?) 🙂

 

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My awesome PPP team has put together this crazy fun (FREE!) reference guide for you if you ever shop Aldi. Or Costco. Or Sam’s Club, and just updated it with 2017 pricing!

 

You’re welcome. 🙂 

 

I was shocked (seriously, SHOCKEDby the results. I really thought Aldi would win just about every price, but you know what?

 

They don’t.

 

 

 

 

After seeing these prices, I was pretty surprised at which items Aldi sells way cheaper (canned veggies anyone?), which items Sam’s Club carries for the very best price (check out the sticks of butter), and which items are worth making a trip to Costco for. (Need cooking spray? Costco’s the place to be!)

 

 

Of course, as in everything, there are some limits. The prices at Costco and Sam’s may be higher (especially on produce) than Aldi, but the size of your pineapple (or watermelon, or whatever), is likely smaller.

 

 

And, there’s no way to compare Costco’s amazingly yummy Ghirardelli brownies to the Aldi Baker’s Corner brand (which actually end up costing you more money, WHO KNEW???

 

This is a great reference guide that we hope makes your life shopping and deciding where to shop for certain items just a wee bit easier.

 

 

So, head on over HERE and print your free list, and please leave a comment to share your thoughts! I’d love to hear which items you’re surprised by (a bunch surprised me) ~ let me know what you think.

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Note – these prices will vary some by region but this hopefully gives a starting place ~ would love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

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Looking for more posts like this? Here you go . . . 

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The $14 Challenge.

 

$14.

 

That’s what we have left in our budget until Friday.

 

Eek.

 

We stick to an all cash budget most weeks, but honestly, if we go a wee bit over and need to use our debit card to get us by, most weeks we just let that go.

 

But this week, I’m determined to make it until Friday morning (at exactly 9AM Eastern Time) with no more than the $14 I have right here.

 

Will you join me?

 

(Misery loves company, you know.) 🙂

 

Hop up.

 

Yup, step away from the computer.

 

Or your phone.

 

Go get your wallet right this very minute.

 

See how much cash really is in there.

 

And decide to use that.

 

Only that.

 

For the next 96 hours.

Really, it’s NINETY SIX  HOURS. We can do this.

 

As I shared in today’s Facebook live video this morning (scroll to minute 15 of the video to watch ~ I’ll update you on Stitch Fix shortly), we’re in a way different season today than we were 20 years ago when we first started penny pinching 20 years ago. 

 

And (thank heavens!) if we spent an extra bit of money this week it really wouldn’t break the bank.

 

But we can so quickly blow through $20, or $50, or $100 if we’re not careful.

 

Most importantly though, we have a 16 year old, 13 year old, and 9 year old who are watching closely right now how we choose to spend our money.

 

Eek.

 

So we’re choosing to stay on track.

 

Here’s what we’re sacrificing this week to stick to our goal:

1. Trash Bags.

 

We’re completely out of trash bags, but rather than going and spending $5-$10 on a big box of bags (these are the ones I normally buy), we’re going to use grocery sacks for the week.

 

2. Paper Towels.

 

For years (and years and years), I pretty much refused to buy trash bags because those were simply not a luxury we could afford while paying off debt. In the last few years I’ve splurged on paper towels (and I’ve got to admit, they’re glorious!) but when I realized we’re almost out this week I knew I could go back to using plain old rags.

 

This is such a tiny savings, but if it keeps me at home and away from the grocery store when I’ll probably buy more, I’m taking it as a win for the week.

 

3. Eating out.

 

As I’ve shared (a bunch!) this last month, eating out is probably one of the easiest places to bust your budget each week. So, like we did last month, we’ll be eating at home (I’m using the Whole Foods Menu Plan from Eat at Home Cooks), and choosing to skip the drive thru this week.

 

(Note – I did spend $60 on groceries yesterday for the weekly menu plan, and we already had a decent stash of produce, milk and snacks to get us through the week. That helps!)

 

4. Our piggy bank.

 

Like many folks, my husband collects his change in a jar each day, so IF we absolutely need some extra moo-lah, I may have to count some coins to pay. As I shared in today’s video my kids are usually the ones who ask for money (not all that often, but occasionally), so if I absolutely think they need it (which is doubtful), I’ll give them the option of the raiding the piggy jar.

 

While this would still be technically considered “spending money”, I guarantee we won’t spend as much change as we would if we went to the ATM and took out more cash (or pulled out a credit card – eek), but I think this will help us have a “no excuses” week this week.

 

Do you need to join me?

 

Go ahead.

 

Count up your cash.

 

Hunt down your coins.

 

Take stock of what’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer.

 

And determine for the next 96 hours to stick with me. 

 

 

We can totally do this, and watching what we save today will make our long term goals come just a little bit closer.

 

Happy penny pinching! 😉

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More posts like this: 

 

 

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The Ultimate Amazon Shopping List: 50 Things You Should *Always* Buy On Amazon

 

 

Do you love shopping Amazon? 

 

Me too! 🙂 

 

For many of us, Amazon offers easy savings (and convenience) on thousands of items, delivered right to our door. But it’s important to know what items really are great prices, and which items are worth heading to your local store for.

 

 

My general rule of thumb is to check Amazon for anything I would make a quick trip to Walmart for, because so many items end up being less money, with no stress. 

 

I love that.

 

 

Here’s a peek at my Ultimate Amazon Shopping List ~ I’d love to hear what you’d add to the list too!

 

 

And to make our lives a little easier – you can even print your own FREE Printable Amazon Shopping List HERE!

Amazon Daily Deals

1 . Amazon Gold Box

2 . Amazon Lightning Deals

 

 

Amazon Prime Deals

3 . Free eBooks

4 . Free Movies

5 . Free Music

6 . Free Photo Storage

 

 

Arts, Crafts & Sewing

7 . Crafting Supplies

**Amazon carries an HUGE variety of crafty goods – from Colored Pencil sets to bulk construction paper and Sewing Machines!

I also think Amazon usually has a better deal on a Silhouette machine than other stores  – I absolutely love mine!

 

 

 

Automotive Parts & Accessories

8 . Auto Parts

*Besides major auto parts – we also see really good deals on windshield wiper blades pretty often!

 

 

Baby

9 . Baby Wipes

10 . Diapers

*Both the diapers and wipes often have coupons you can clip, plus an extra 20% Savings if you’re a member of Amazon Family!  Learn more about Amazon Family and get a Free 30-Day Trial 🙂

 

 

 

Beauty & Personal Care

11 . Drug Store Makeup and Makeup Remover Wipes

12 . Olay Regenerist

*This is my absolute favorite moisturizer and Amazon always carries it for way less than Walmart after you subscribe and save, plus they frequently offer a coupon which makes the price even better 🙂

13 . Pads/Tampons  (compare to Walmart)

14 . Razor Systems or Disposable Razors (when they offer a $3 or $4 off coupon they can be great deals!)

15 . Shampoo & Conditioner

16 . Teeth Whitening Strips   (compare to Walmart)

17 . Toothbrushes (the bulk packs)

 

 

 

Clothing, Shoes & Jewelery

18 . Children’s Hair Bows

19 . Crocs

20 . Scarves

21 . Toms

 

  

Electronics

22 . Cell Phone Charging Cords

23 .  Cell Phone Cases

24 . Photo Memory Cards

 

 

Gifts

25 . Gift Cards

Grocery & Gourmet Food

26 . Coffee Pods

27 . Snack Foods when they include special discounts

*Check out all the current Amazon Grocery Coupons here!

 

 

 

 

Health & Household

28 . Batteries

29 . Some Cleaning Products

30 . Dishwasher Tablets

31 . Disinfectant Wipes

32 . Laundry Detergent

33 . LED Lightbulbs

34 . Mr. Clean Magic Erasers  *Also check out the generic eraser sponges!

35 . Mrs. Meyer’s Dish Soap

36 . Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap

37 . Vitamins & Supplements

Kitchen & Dining

38 . Cuisinart Knives 

39 . Kitchen Gadgets and Small Appliances

40 . Rubbermaid Containers (watch for Lightning Deals on these sets!)

Luggage & Travel Gear

41 . Luggage

42 . Tents (wait for a sale on these – they come around all the time!)

 

 

 

 

Paper & Plastic

43 . Paper Towels

44 . Toilet Paper

45 . Trash Bags

 

 

Pet Supplies

46 . Cat Food

47 . Dog Food

 

 

Reading Materials

48 . Books

49 .  Magazine Subscriptions  *Check out the magazine deal of the day each day!

 

 

 

Toys & Games

50 . We see soooo many good deals on toys and games on Amazon, especially around Christmas.  Keep an eye on the hottest “Movers and Shakers” to catch the biggest sales on popular toys and games!

Some items we often see deals on:

 

 

Can’t get enough AMAZON?  Here you go . . .

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The Ultimate Guide to a Better Grocery Budget Week 4: Pantry Shopping, Menu Planning & Beware The Mega Sale (+ GIVEAWAY!)

 

Congratulations to  e..e..er@hotmail.com (CrockPot Winner) and m..a…9@aol.com (Instant Pot) for winning the giveaway! Thanks so much to everyone who entered ~ I so wish I could give you all a crock pot and an instant pot and I loved reading all of your favorite dishes!  🙂

 

Have you been working to transform your grocery budget with us this month? 

 

I hope you’ve saved a bundle!

 

This is our last week in the series, but I think these three little tips can really help you save big.

 

Let’s get started . . . 

1. SHOP YOUR PANTRY.

If you haven’t learned this already, this can change your grocery budget.

 

Before you run out to the store and spend a bundle, I want you to really (really, truly) shop your pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what you can make using what you already have.

 

Do you have chicken and pasta? Make up some chicken noodle soup. A little ground beef and tacos? Taco Tuesday is perfect.

 

And before you race to the store for one more item you really don’t need, consider doing a 1 week no spend challenge and really tackle that grocery budget. We saved hundreds of dollars trying this out a few years ago, and I’m already thinking about a group challenge coming in in March (so get ready.) 🙂

 

groceryweek3

2. Don’t turn a Mega Sale into a Mega Mess

 

Good gravy, this can be huge.

 

When Kroger (or Publix, or Target, or wherever) has their crazy deals, it can be so very tempting to grab them all even if you’ll spend way more than your grocery budget.

 

To grab all the deals.

 

To not pass by a single thing that has the lovely blue tag screaming “I’m-a-mega-sale-price-so-you-really-need-me.” 

 

But your job as you’re whittling down your grocery budget is to focus on spending a little of your grocery budget on the deals, but not more than your grocery budget.

 

Okay?

 

However, even to the best of us it sometimes happens.

So what do you do when you’ve spent too much?

1. Give yourself grace.

If you’ve overspent already, there’s nothing you can do to change it. Give yourself grace, determine to focus more on your total budget the next time you shop, and be thankful you have a nicely stocked pantry.

2. Determine to use what you’ve bought.

Once you’ve overspent, there’s no going back, but you can make a plan to use what you’ve bought (saving money in the long run!)

3. The next time you shop, be mindful of what the “deals” really are.

An easy example of this was on the Quaker Oatmeal. The Quaker was priced at $1.89 after the Mega Sale. However the store brand was $1.50, and there was a $1/2 Kroger ecoupon on Kroger Oatmeal. Definitely the best price! Next time you shop, be really cautious of the “Mega Sale” deals to make sure they really are your best prices. If they’re not, pass those by (and remember stores like Aldi may offer a better deal every day!)

 

Guys, I’ve said it a jillion times here, but there is no other area in your family’s finances that you have complete control over. You can’t lower your car payment or mortgage or electricity bill today, but you can choose how much you want to spend at the grocery store. 

 

And last but not least . . . 

3. MAKE A MENU PLAN AND STICK TO IT!

Guys ~ I cannot tell you the value of having a menu plan.

 

It’s huge. 

And starting next Monday (2/6/17), we’re starting a Countertop Cooking Challenge and I would just love for you to join me.

 

My friend Tiffany from Eat at Home Cooks is offering us her VERY best prices for a few days only to the very first people to sign up using the code EARLYBIRD at checkout, and I want you to be included! 

HERE’S WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU SIGN UP: 

  • Weekly menu plans for the entire month
  • A set of slow cooker menu plans
  • A set of whole foods menu plans (those are the ones we’re using right now)
  • A set of traditional menu plans
  • One quick click to download all 3 sets of menus (in color or black and white ink)
  • This month, because there are 5 weeks in the month, you’ll actually get access to FIVE WEEKS of menu plans for as low as $1.13 per week!

>>>USE THE CODE EARLYBIRD AT CHECKOUT TO GET THE BEST PRICE ~ THESE ARE THE LOWEST PRICES YOU’LL FIND ON THIS MENU PLAN!<<<

 

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Here’s how the prices breakdown:

Determine to make 2017 the year that you transform your family’s grocery budget ~ you can do this! 

 

Wanna make this a little more fun? It’s clearly time for a giveaway! 

Because I love you (really, I do!) I’m giving away ONE Instant Pot and ONE Crockpot this week to two lucky winners who sign up.

Here’s how to enter to win:

So, pull up those big-girl-panties and let’s get ready to save big in February ~ we can do this.  I would love to hear how you’re doing on your grocery budget too, so leave a comment to share!

 

 

Note: this giveaway is not sponsored by anyone, just a way for me to thank you for keeping up with PPP. So thankful for you! Giveaway will end 2/2/16 at 10 PM Eastern Time. 

 

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The Ultimate Guide to a Better Grocery Budget Week 2: Coupons, Sales and Resourcefulness

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Note: this is a four part series we’re doing each week this month ~ go HERE to start with week 1. 

 

Are you tackling your grocery budget this month with me?

 

I’m so glad I’m not alone! 🙂

 

The biggest thing I discuss in coupon classes that I feel is so very important and absolutely need you to hear today is this:


There is no other area in your family’s finances that you have such control over than your grocery budget.

 

You can’t change your car payment. (At least, not easily.)

 

You can’t drop your mortgage by 50% this month.

 

You can’t skimp on your health care costs. Or your utility bill. Or how much you pay for your cell phone.

 

But every single week, you decide how much you spend at the grocery store.

 

You know what I love about that?

 

you. have. control.

 

{I like control.}

 

{ahem.} 😉

 

You decide where you want to shop and exactly what you want your money to do every single time you shop.

 

I just love that. 

 

So, start off with last week’s tips.

 

And then?

 

Tackle these two strategies too.

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1. Use a coupon AND a sale.

Please, please, PLEASE hear me on this one!

While coupons can save a ton of money, your goal is to use a coupon almost exclusively when it’s combined with a sale to see the largest amount of savings at the grocery store.  (Remember, the secret is in the sale!)

 

So, if you have a $3 off coupon, you want to WAIT TO BUY THAT ITEM until that item goes on sale.

 

Did you hear that?

 

Honestly, 30%-50% of my grocery savings comes from shopping the sales ad ~ not just using coupons. While a $1 off coupon is pretty amazing, a $1 off coupon combined with a 50% off sale makes for some smokin’ hot deals.

 

Note: the only store I don’t think this is true at is at Walmart who doesn’t tend to have sales that are significant at all. When you shop there, ALWAYS use those high value coupons!

So ~ print your coupons, organize your coupons, and then watch the ads for the very best sale on what you’re looking for. (See all the PPP store sales included over HERE.)

 

You can do this.

 

And #2.

 

This is huge.

 

Are you ready?

 

2. BE. RESOURCEFUL.

 

Folks, this tip alone could save you $20 this week.

 

Don’t believe me? 

I spent just under $100 this week for enough groceries to make 6 meals at home (plus scored an extra roast since they were Buy One Get One Free this week!) 

 

Let me show you how.

 

Yesterday I went to the store with my Eat at Home Cooks grocery list (remember, these go up in price tonight, so order soon if you’re interested.)
While I love her lists, there were a few things there that aren’t regular purchases for me and would have been  pretty large expenses on my grocery budget this week, so I got a wee bit creative. First, I looked through her list and checked my pantry, fridge and freezer to see what I already had in stock (easy, right?)

 

Then, I did this while I shopped: 

 

1. on the list ~ cranberries (not in season and only found in the frozen aisle or as whole cranberries in the dried produce aisle.)

Because I was determined to only spend $100 this week, and a big bag of whole cranberries would cost me $8.99 (eek!), I grabbed a 6 pack of small Craisins that happened to be on sale for $1.50.

Now, they won’t be the same as cranberries (but I couldn’t find them at my store anyways), and for $1.50 instead of $9 I’m pretty sure our Pork Chop, Veggie and Cranberry Sheet Pan will taste just fine. (Honestly, I could have probably omitted them completely but it just sounded so good!)

 

2. on the list ~ cajun seasoning ($6.99 ~ eek!)

Many spice blends can be made at home, and since we don’t use that one all that often it’s way cheaper for me to use what I already have at home. I looked up this Cajun Spice Mix on All Recipes, and sure enough have everything in my spice cabinet I need to make that one pretty easily.

 

3. on the list ~ 2 tsp sesame seeds (also $6.99)

I really struggled with this one (because I knew the sesame seeds would last through several recipes), but I realized that in 20 years I can’t remember even once cooking with sesame seeds, so they aren’t a necessary staple at our house. I also knew that my kids aren’t big fans of sesame seeds, I could care less whether they’re there or not, and my husband would never know the difference.

 

Honestly? I’m like this every time I shop, and with just about everything we use. 

 

I constantly think of ways to use less ~ like using rags instead of paper towels, plastic grocery sacks for trash instead of large bags, and cloth napkins instead of paper ones.

 

This has changed some in the last few years as we have a little more money and a lot less time, but when I can, I still try to be resourceful as much as possible.

 

Most seasoning packets, mixes and even cleaning supplies can be mixed up at home, costing you a fraction of the cost.

 

You probably have lots of items already in your pantry that you use before buying one more thing, so this week I want you to constantly think of ways to be resourceful and use what you already have. Remember ~ you have control over what you spend, so see how much you can save with this one simple trick!

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Ready to get started?

 

Use your coupons with a sale as much as possible, and always be willing to think out of the box when it comes to your grocery list. You totally have control of this, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you!

 

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And don’t forget, today’s the last day to get access to Eat at Home Menu Plans before they go up in price tonight. Head on over HERE and check out Tiffany’s Menu Plans ~ they’re as little as $1.15 per week right now, and I really do just love mine. (Honestly, they’ve saved me at least $100 this week, and our family has eaten well. See a peek of me making yesterday’s meals over HERE!)

 

 

 

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The Ultimate Guide To A Better Grocery Budget: Week 1

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Anyone else ready to tackle their grocery budget this month? 

 

You’re not alone!

 

After Christmas I always feel like it’s a great time to reign our grocery budget in, so today is the perfect day to start.

 

Each Tuesday for the rest of the month (going right up until February 1st), I’ll be sharing the Ultimate Guide to a Better Grocery Budget, including tips to help busy families transform their grocery budget (even if you don’t have tons of time to clip coupons.) I’ll also include pics of what we actually buy, so you hold me accountable too. 🙂

My biggest tip?

Start with a great menu plan.

(THIS is the one I’ve been use and I. love. it. Highly recommend if you’re looking for one! AND, starting next Monday we’ll be doing the Countertop Cooking Challenge with this program. Use the code EARLYBIRD at checkout to get the lowest price!)

Ready?

Let’s get started . . .

 

 

1. First things first ~ determine your grocery budget.

Before you start really tackling your grocery budget, look at what you’ve spent over the last few months on groceries and decide how much you’d like to cut your grocery budget.  Expect to save about 20% on your grocery bill over the next month as you’re building your pantry with basic staples, and you should see significantly larger savings in the next six months.

 

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2. Decide how much you want to spend each week on “stockpile” items.

Remember that just about every item in the grocery store will go on sale within six to twelve weeks, so purchase enough non-perishable items when they’re on sale so that you won’t have to purchase those items again at full price. When I see a great price on something I’ll purchase as much as my grocery budget can afford, so I’m not paying full price when it’s not on sale. 

 

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3. Know your prices.

Goodness, this is probably my biggest frustration ever when talking to folks who spend too much on groceries!  So many people naively go blindly into the grocery store with a list in hand (or maybe worse, with no list at all), without even considering what’s on sale. This is the easiest way to spend way too much at the grocery store, and you can easily save big if you just put a little forethought into shopping!

 

Can I just tell you the easiest thing you can do EVER to reduce your grocery budget is to know what really is a good price? By determining a stock up price (at the very least just for produce, dairy and meat products?) and only buying items at their stock up price, I’m betting you can cut your grocery bill by at least 1/3 each week.

 

And above all else . . . 

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shop with a grocery list and menu plan. 

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When I’m completely on track, I use Tiffany from Eat at Home Cook’s Menu Plan and love. it. Before shopping I go through her list, shop my stockpile, and mark off what I can by shopping my pantry before heading to the store. It’s quick, easy, and I get my grocery shopping done in record time.

 

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Head on over HERE and check out Tiffany’s Menu Plans ~ through next week they cost as little as 1.13 per week when you use the code EARLYBIRD at checkout, and I really do just love mine. If you’ve tried them out in the past I’d love to know if they’ve worked for you!

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Here’s what our grocery shopping looked like this week . . . 

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(My big splurge this week was on those pre-sliced apples for $4.98. I know it’s WAY too much to pay, but my kids gobble them down like candy and I love that they have an easy healthy snack ready whenever they need it!) 

I followed Tiffany’s Menu Plan exactly, shopped my pantry before heading out, shopped at Walmart (gasp!) and spent $45.99 for all the groceries I’ll need to make 5 meals + 1 dessert.

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(Note, I’m using the Whole Foods option this week ~ made the Chicken Florentine Quesadillas last night and they were fantastic, and her slow cooker beef tacos are cooking up in Mrs. Potts right now. Success!)

 

 

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So, start with your grocery budget, know your prices, and make a menu plan and grocery list ~ I know you can do this. 

And starting next Monday (2/6/17), we’re starting a Countertop Cooking Challenge and I would just love for you to join me.

My friend Tiffany from Eat at Home Cooks is offering us her VERY best prices for a few days only to the very first people to sign up using the code EARLYBIRD at checkout, and I want you to be included! 

HERE’S WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU SIGN UP: 

  • Weekly menu plans for the entire month
  • A set of slow cooker menu plans
  • A set of whole foods menu plans (those are the ones we’re using right now)
  • A set of traditional menu plans
  • One quick click to download all 3 sets of menus (in color or black and white ink)
  • This month, because there are 5 weeks in the month, you’ll actually get access to FIVE WEEKS of menu plans for as low as $1.13 per week!

>>>USE THE CODE EARLYBIRD AT CHECKOUT TO GET THE BEST PRICE ~ THESE ARE THE LOWEST PRICES YOU’LL FIND ON THIS MENU PLAN!<<<

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Decide today to really transform what you’re spending, and I promise you’ll see success. Leave a comment if you’re joining us, and (if you feel comfortable) let me know what you’re spending so we can all decide to stick together and transform our finances in 2017.

 

Happy penny pinching! 

 

Looking for more ways to change your grocery budget?

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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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Free Budgeting App + Giveaway at 9PM Eastern Time

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Have you tried the Budgeting App Every Dollar, created by the Dave Ramsey team? 

 

It’s an online program that includes a free app allowing you to easily manage your budget, no matter where you are. 

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From your computer or phone, you can . . . 

  • Create your first budget in less than 10 minutes
  • Add and split transactions
  • Set and achieve your money goals

Here are a few reasons to try it out . . . 

1. It’s free.

What have you got to lose? 🙂 

 

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2. Create your budget from your computer or tablet.

Just create a free account and lay out your monthly budget on your computer or tablet.

 

You’ll also get a free Guide to Budgeting when you sign up, so if you have no idea where to start, you’ll be walked through every step of the way.

3. It automatically updates everything for you.

Once you’ve gotten started,  Every Dollar will automatically update your totals while you work through your expense list, and easily gives you access to “Baby Steps” to encourage and motivate you along the way.

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4. Once your budget is set up, you can add in purchases as you go from your phone, almost creating a “virtual” envelope system.

What I think is genius about this program is that you and a spouse could both set up accounts on your phone, and both people can keep up with what’s really being spent. If you’re both willing to really determine to track your spending, this adds in so much accountability and will help you work towards your goals together!

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5. It might just change your financial future.

If you’re not tracking your budget, you have no idea where your money is really going. Choosing to stick to a budget really will transform your finances, because you’ll know exactly where your money goes each month.

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This is an easy way to start working on that for free which I love. Head on over HERE, sign up for your free basic account, and let me know what you think!

 

 

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BONUS: I’m super excited because the Dave Ramsey team gave me THREE Rachel Cruze Budgeting Wallets with Clip Systems to give away to 3 lucky readers (wow!)

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Go HERE to check them out, and join me at 9 PM Eastern Time on Facebook live to enter the giveaway. I’m so impressed with the quality of this wallet, and think you’ll love it too. Go HERE to enter to win at 9PM Eastern Time! 

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This is a sponsored post from Dave Ramsey, however all opinions are my own. I really did try it out and love it, and think you’ll love it too!


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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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Looking for more money saving tips? Here you go:

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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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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!

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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.

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9 Secrets to Saving on Medical Expenses

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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

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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

 

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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.

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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!

 

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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

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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.

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(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.

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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.

 

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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!)

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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 Priceline.com, 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.

 

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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!

 

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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!)

 

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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!

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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?

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

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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.) 😉

 

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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.

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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?

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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.

 

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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.  

 

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

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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

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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!

 

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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!

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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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Debt Free Letter From A Reader

I received this email from a reader yesterday, and it was so inspiring to me! If you’re overwhelmed with your finances, know that YOU HAVE CONTROL TOO. Thank you so much Cathy for allowing me to share and your kind words!

Hi Laurie,  My name is Cathy and I have to thank you so much for your blog.   

 

My story goes something like this, I was very poor as a child so when I got married I decided that I would not do without to that degree.  So hubby and I proceeded to get ourselves in debt.

 

If we wanted a new couch and could afford the monthly payments we got it.  We barreled along like that for a few years until we were pretty deep in debt.

 

Enter the first loan consolidation. 

 

We continued on this path until 2007 or so. 

 

I looked at my life and did not like what I saw.  I started researching money saving ideas, frugal hacks, and how to save.

 

Enter coupons. 

 

I continued this way on my own for a year or so and then hubby jumped on board.  By this time I had a vision and realized that we could be debt free.  After, five years we were.

 

We had paid off a little over $55,000.00 for our home, two credit cards and my student loan.  Boy did it feel good.  The only thing is we lost a little bit of our control afterwards and started spending.

 

We did not get in debt but we spent our whole salaries.  Then last April I lost my job,  but thankfully we had learned how to live frugally.

 

Now I feel that God is teaching me how to live content in what I have.   It has been a challenge and so far I have had no luck finding a job.

 

But we can afford to wait. 

 

It has been blogs like yours, the first one I read every day, which have encouraged me to keep going.  So please keep up the good work.

 

Guys – Cathy’s story is so inspiring to me ~ as I completely know that she’s been able to change her finances dramatically, which allowed herpeace during a difficult time. 

 

If you’re in a place where you feel like your finances have overwhelmed you, I encourage you to stop, take a deep breath, and really determine how you want your finances to look.
Determine today to take control, and set things up so that you win.

 

I have faith in you. Just like Cathy, you can do this. 

 

Be encouraged right now, right where you are. Today’s the day to transform your financial future ~ you can do this!

top10budgetbusters

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

 

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10 Ways To Save When There’s No Money Left

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There are times when there’s NOTHING left in your budget to save.
Truly, nothing. 
But there are somethings you can really do in those seasons to still save even when you feel like there’s not a penny left.

 

 

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Here are a few ideas:

1. Find every spare cent in your home and stick it in a savings account.

Raid the piggy banks, check underneath your coach cushions, and look for loose change underneath the seats in your cards. Even though this may not add up to much, it will be something, and you’ll have a quick “win” to motivate you to keep at it.
Savings = Up to $20 or more

2. Sell anything you have in your home that you don’t really use.

If you have anything, anything that you can sell, sell it. 

 

Sell furniture on local Facebook group sites (I’ve had a lot of success with those), sell books and electronics on Amazon, or old CDs, DVDs, game systems and phones on Decluttr – and you can even sell gift cards that you won’t use. 
Savings = potentially $100 or more

3. Find a need that someone has and tackle the job.

Do you know someone who needs a babysitter for their kids? Offer to babysit.
Love cleaning? Consider finding a few homes to clean.

If you love to paint (and are good at it!) offer to paint a room for someone and charge no less than $100.
Savings = $100 or more
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4. Sell a product.

Do you love to bake? Maybe you know someone you know loves homemade goods, but doesn’t have time to bake them. Offer to bake for them and get paid for something you already love to do!

You could also sell handmade goods, either to local friends or open a shop on Etsy. 
Savings = $50 or more

 

5. Sell your services on Fiverr.

If you love to write, do design work or know anything about online marketing, check out Fiverr. They pair your expertise with someone who’s looking for it, and you can make $5 (or more) for each project you work on. Learn more HERE.
Savings = $50 or more

 

6. Give up that fancy phone.

Data plan expenses are so high on phones, so if you don’t really need it, get rid of your Smartphone.

I’m not going to lie, this would be hard to do, but would easily save you $20-$40 per month.
Savings = $40 or more

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7. Don’t eat out.

This is by far the biggest budget buster for just about everyone I know, but can easily be fixed if you’re really willing to work at it. Make a focused grocery list when you shop (including a menu plan) and decide that having more money in the long term is worth making short term sacrifices today.
Savings = $50 or more

8. Sell plasma.

This one may not be easy, but you can get paid $40-$50 (and help someone in need!) by selling plasma. Go HERE to learn more.
Savings = $40 or more

9. Take surveys for online websites.

Pinecone Research has opened for new survey participants for specific ages:  just complete their surveys, and you receive cash. You won’t get rich completing surveys, however you may earn an extra penny or two.
Also be sure to take advantage of Swagbucks when searching online as well.
Savings = $10 or more

 

10. Give up cable.

If you’re willing to cut cable, you can save a bundle every month. With free movies fromAmazon Prime or Netflix, you may be able to do it without missing many of your favorites, and you’ll save several hundred dollars over the course of one year too!
Savings = $50 or more

 

Can you think of other out-of-the-box ways to save when there’s no money left? I really believe if you’re willing to make some purposeful changes, you can save a few dollars (or more?) every single month. I’d love to hear your tips ~ leave a comment to share.

top10budgetbusters

 

Looking for more ways to pinch a penny? Here you go: 

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How To Survive Survival Week: 7 Days To Spend Nothing?

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Okie dokie folks . . . anyone ready to really change their grocery budget this week? 

 

We’re taking on the challenge to SURVIVE SEVEN DAYS TO SPEND NOTHING, and I’d love for you to join me too.

 

Now, we’re all at very different places in our lives and finances, so this is going to look different for each of our families.  I’ll share how it’s going to look at our house, and I’d love to hear how you’d like it to look in your home too!

 

Here’s what you need to do to join me:

1) Decide if you’re going to do a complete no spend challenge or “partial” no spend challenge (like our family is doing.)

You may have enough in your kitchen that you can survive an entire week without a single purchase. (If that’s you, WOOHOO!) Or, if you’re like me, you may need to stock up on a few basic pantry staples ~ that’s totally okay too.

2) Take stock of what you have already, and what you really (REALLY) need.

Now, you may have everything you need, but if you don’t, take stock of what you absolutely must have to survive a week. Here are the essential items on our family’s list (they definitely may vary for your family):

  • eggs
  • milk
  • loaf of bread
  • flour
  • sugar
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • fresh fruit & veggies

Because I’ve been doing the 21 Day Fix (watch for details coming soon ~ I’d love for you to join me in February!), I had to tweak this a little bit from what we would normally do. While we have plenty of meat in our house we were almost out of chicken (again?!) so I did re-stock at Fresh Thyme yesterday when I saw it on sale for $1.67/lb.

 

This list may look very different for you. You may be able to make it without those items, and you may absolutely need more items on your list! Tweak it to fit your family, just don’t go buy an entire week’s worth of groceries when you shop ~ only stock up on things you absolutely need to get you through the week.

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3) Get ready to bake.

(and cook.)

(but I like baking more.) 🙂

If you’re out of something that your family thinks they need, baking (and cooking too!) can will save you in a pinch. If you run out of store bought snacks, make some muffins (these or these are great).

 

If there are no Oreos left in the cupboards and your family can’t survive (ahem), bake up some cookies from scratch.

 

Your family will love it (and you’ll save so much time eating out and going to the grocery store that you may actually have time to bake!)

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4) Think outside the box.

All out of bread? Bake a loaf from scratch. No hamburger buns to use with barbecue? Make loaded barbecue stuffed potatoes.

Get creative and see what ways you can use what you have on hand to come up with a meal.

 

Not sure even where to start? Here are our favorite what-to-eat-when-there’s-not-much-left-meals:

 

5) Really use what you up what you already have.

Do you have a roast that’s been hiding at the bottom of your freezer for 6 months? This is the week to use it.

 

That pasta that hasn’t been cooked since you stuffed it in the back of the pantry a year ago? Time to eat it up too.

 

If you’re not sure of what to make with the ingredients you have on hand, I highly recommend All Recipes ingredient search – you literally can type in the few items you do have at home, and in just a few seconds hunt down a delicious meal!

 

 

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As for how this is going to look for us this week, I’ll be honest and say that we’re still going to eat lunch out after church on Sunday (because it’s just one of those things we do.) I did run to the store yesterday to grab the staples we absolutely had to have, but still saved a bundle on a full grocery trip!

Here’s what I bought. . .

Aldi

  • 3 gallons milk $1.49 each (I love that price!)
  • 2 dozen eggs $1.39 each
  • Total = $7.25

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Fresh Thyme

  • 10.32 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast at $1.67/lb = $17.23 (I hated to spend so much, but didn’t want to run out and that was too good a price to pass up)

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  • 5 pounds potatoes $1.50
  • Granny Smith Apples $3.99
  • 2 bags organic carrots $.99 each
  • 2 bell peppers $.99 each
  • 4.73 pounds bananas at $.37/lb (I was so excited about that price!) = $1.75
  • (also in pic above – Organic Salad Blend from Kroger ~ $3.99)
  • Total = $30.99

 

TOTAL FOR BOTH TRIPS = $37.69

 

TOTAL GROCERY SPENDING IN JANUARY, INCLUDING WEEK 1WEEK 2  and WEEK 3 = $323.25 or $80 per week for our family of 4 ~ and our pantry is still pretty packed!

 

Would you like to join me? I would so love for you to enjoy a few days off of spending too ~ I promise you’ll be amazed at how much you can easily save! Leave a comment HERE if you’re joining us ~ I love hearing from you!

 

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Top 10 Grocery Budget Busters

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Feel like you’re spending more at the grocery store than you want, but aren’t sure where that extra moo-lah is going? Here are the top 10 Grocery Budget Busters that can quickly ruin your grocery budget.

1. Pre-cooked meat or chicken.

Folks, if you purchase items pre-packed you can spend a bundle without meaning to. For example, I love having grilled chicken handy for a quick salad or taco in a hurry. But paying for convenience can ruin your grocery budget.

 

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The container on the left in the picture above shows how much chicken is in a Tyson Grilled & Ready package (a little over 1 1/4 cups) which costs around $4. On the right is what I made myself for $4.09 after stocking up on chicken breast at Fresh Thyme while on sale ~ almost 5 cups of chicken!

 

Here’s the math:

  • 1 1/4 cups Tyson = $4
  • 5 cups chicken that I grilled myself = $4.09
  • 1 1/4 cups Tyson ($4) X 4 to get 5 cups = $20

To get the same amount of Tyson I would spend over $20. Craziness.

 

(UPDATE: if you absolutely love having chicken pre-cooked for you, you’ll love what I found out at Costco last week.) 🙂

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2. Uncrustables.

You are paying a bundle for convenience here. It really doesn’t take all that much time to make a pb&j, so take a few minutes to do it yourself!

Here’s the math: 

 

Soap Scum Remover - PINTEREST

 

3. Certain cleaning supplies.

If you have dish soap, lemon juice, baking soda, peroxide and vinegar in your home most of your cleaning can be taken care of. Here are a few homemade cleaners to try:

Best Homemade Window Cleaner

4. Fabric softener.

Don’t want to pay a high price for fabric softener? Try vinegar instead. Add 1/2 cup to your load before washing.

 

5. Refrigerated & frozen convenience foods, as well as pre-cut fruit or veggies.

Walk down the refrigerated & frozen aisle at your grocery store and you’ll see a ton of processed foods ~ everything from mashed potatoes to macaroni and cheese to frozen pizzas.

 

You can make just about everything from scratch yourself in these aisles, and you’ll save a bundle! And, cut your fruit and vegetables yourself. You’ll pay a pretty penny to have someone else do the cutting up for you.

6. Food you won’t really eat.

Every time I walk past the fresh fish counter at the store, I am so tempted to purchase some because I know it’s good for me. And, a few times I’ve actually gone and ahead and bought it.

 

However, our family just isn’t doesn’t eat much fresh fish (my husband and I do like salmon), so to spend money on food that won’t really get eaten isn’t worth it. If you know you’re not realistically going to cook it for dinner, skip those foods.

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7. Name brand stuff.

So often folks feel like they need a certain brand to get a good product, but nowadays store brands are fantastic. They’ve come a long way from the Malt O Meal cereals I remember as a kid (Malt O Meals are even pretty good these days!), and many stores carry store brand foods that are manufacturered in the same facility as their brand name competitor.

 

There are times when it’s actually cheaper to buy a name brand when it’s on sale (especially with a coupon), so watch for those deals when they pop up. But, be open to trying the name brand because you really can save!

 

8. Expensive toiletries.

High end toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, razors, soaps, etc.) can quickly bust your budget. If you have extra wiggle room in your budget each week that’s fine, but if you’re really trying to save, shop the generic brands at your grocery store and watch for coupons to get the best prices.

11 Easy Ways to Save on Organic Food
9. Certain organic foods.

Organic foods cost a bundle, and can quickly bust your grocery budget if things are tight in your home. Some fruits and vegetables have “thicker skin”, so you may opt to purchase the non-organic version of those foods. See more on the Dirty Dozen HERE to know what’s really worth paying more for, and find tips on how to save on organic food over HERE. 

 

10. 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. And when there’s lots of room in my budget that’s fine, but usually (because we like a tiny grocery budget at our house) that can end up ruining my budget plan for the week.

 

If you see a deal that you just can’t miss, buy enough of it to last your family the next 6 weeks, because in that amount of time it will almost always go on sale again (promise.) Don’t spend too much of your grocery budget on things you don’t need right now, because those deals really do come around again!

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What else would you add to the list? This month as we’re really reigning in our grocery budgets 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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Looking for more ways to pinch a penny? Here you go: 

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Upcoming Penny Pinching Coupon Class In North Alabama (1/2/16)

Hoping to start off 2016 on a budget? We’re here to help! Come join us Saturday, January 2nd from 9:30am – 11:30 AM to learn how to use coupons strategically, and save over 70% on your grocery bill every week!

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I’m so excited about our upcoming coupon class that Shannon and I will be teaching  Saturday, January 2nd at Southside Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama from 9:30 – 11:30 AMWe’ll discuss how to save money at Aldi, Publix, Kroger & Target, as well as share basic information on drug store coupon policies. We’ll also talk about how to organize your coupons, what all those crazy abbreviations mean, and where to begin if you’re a new couponer.

 

Here’s a link to the registration form that I’ll leave up on the right side of the site.  If you’re a new couponer (or even have been at this penny-pinching stuff for awhile . . . ) we’ll hopefully teach you a few new tricks, and promise to answer all your questions.

Eventbrite - Penny Pinching Coupon Class
Thanks so much for registering ~ we can’t wait to meet you there!

Not in the North Alabama area?  Check out the list of beginners tips and videos, and as always, feel free to ask questions in the comment section or on the PPP Facebook page.  We’re always happy to help!

 

 

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How We Saved (More Than) $2000 By Doing It Ourselves

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The foyer is now almost done ~ check out the (almost?) completed project over HERE. 

 

Goodness gracious, I cannot begin to tell you how important it is to try doing a few things yourself! I’m not going to do a complete update of my husband’s foyer project (watch for that in January when we’re all done), but goodness, just last week in 8 hours he saved over $2000.

 

And that didn’t include any of the trim work. 

 

Back in October he decided to add to the trim work in our foyer, and after a few weekends with an air compressor and nail gun he was almost done. So last week, as I determined to have things looking a little more put together before Christmas, I called a painter to come tackle the paint job.

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We’d budgeted money for the project, and as it’s a crazy time of year I knew I wouldn’t have time to paint, and felt like James really didn’t either. 

 

Until the estimate came back at over $2300. YIKES.

 

The estimate did include painting and sanding the trim work several times (to make it look like real wainscoting), and it went the entire length of our hallway upstairs as well as on the stairwell. So, in fairness to the painter, it was quite a job, but he estimated it would be done in 3 days.

 

So we did the math:

24 hours of work ÷ 2300  = $95 per hour

$95 per hour? For painting? Even if that estimated for two people working, it still would come out to $47 per hour.

We just couldn’t justify that.

S0 my sweet husband set out to start painting (which is his least favorite DIY project ever. He’d rather build a fireplace any day.) 

And after about 8 hours of work he’s primed, sanded and painted the entire project.

Success.

I think he’s still got another 8 hours ahead of him, but 16 hours of work to save that much money was the best choice for us! 

If you’re looking to hire something done for you that you can realistically do yourself, before hiring it out make sure to just do the math on the hourly rate! Sometimes it’s well worth it hire help for certain projects (I’ve shared before that we have housekeepers who come every other week and I. love. them. They’re worth every single penny to this way-too-busy-working-mom.)

But sometimes the math just doesn’t add up, and if you have a few hours of free time doing it yourself can be oh so worth it. For James it’s meant giving up a few nights of watching football on the couch (he’s been listening to it instead .  . . ) and we’re thrilled to have it almost done.

The best part? I didn’t have to wait for a painter to fit us into their schedule ~ as soon as we decided to start he picked up the paint. I love having control of our DIY projects, and never dreamed it would be almost done before Christmas!

So for us it was worth it on this one. 🙂 Have you tackled any DIY projects in your home? I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

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Looking for more penny pinched projects? See how we saved $10,000 on our outdoor fireplace.

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(UPDATE: here’s a peek at the finished foyer. We love it!)

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The Ultimate Black Friday Cheat Sheet 2015

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Be sure to take advantage of this free list to help make your Black Friday shopping easier! To print the list, you’ll need to use either Safari or Internet Explorer as your internet browser. (I wasn’t able to print it in Chrome.) Hope that helps!

I am so (sooooooo) excited to share this with you! If you’re like me and overwhelmed trying to keep up with who has the best prices on what this Black Friday, this is for you.

 

In one quick and easy document, here is a huge list (HUGE, folks I’m telling you ~ HUGE) with all the best prices on top selling Black Friday items including tablets, televisions, video gaming systems, video games, printers, appliances, housewares and so. much. more. The list is still being updated as more stores Black Friday ads come out, so keep checking back over the next few weeks to plan your trip well.

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Because Amazon doesn’t offer a traditional sales ad, I’ll continually update those like I normally do, as well as highlight any awesome deals that I see as well. But, I wanted to give you this guide to keep you on top of things! Bookmark this page, print it (although it will be a lot to print?), or keep it handy on your phone so you know exactly where to find those best prices.

 

 

Go HERE to access it, and let me know what you think. I hope this makes surviving the Holiday season a little simpler in your home, so you can enjoy the things that matter most this Christmas!

 

Kohl's 7-Piececomforter sets

And don’t miss all the great deals going on at Kohl’s Black Friday deals that have already started online: 

 

 

blackfridayshoppingLooking for more Black Friday Shopping tips? Go HERE to check out these 10 Secrets You Need to Know about Black Friday Shopping 

 

 

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10 Secrets You Need To Know About Black Friday Shopping

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Good gracious folks, Black Friday is just 3 weeks away from today (crazy!) So, to get you ready I thought I’d put together my most important tips for shopping Black Friday well.

 

Ready? 

 

(Nope, me neither, but we’re going to tackle it anyways.) 🙂 Let’s get started.

 

1. Many stores offer a few “Black Friday deals” all month long . . . 

. . . and honestly, they go in full force on many online sites the Sunday and Monday before Black Friday. Kohl’s came out with their big door busters last year Sunday night, so my bet is that will happen again this year, and online retailers everywhere will start offering great prices.

 

For most deals though, you really don’t need to leave your home at all, so be sure to watch PPP for the very best deals each day. (You can even sign up for once daily updates, delivered to your inbox over HERE.)

 

Do know that many of these deals go quickly, so you’ll want to visit a few times throughout the day and follow on Facebook as well to keep up.

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To take advantage of Amazon deals, sign up for a free month of Amazon Prime if you haven’t tried them out before ~ you’ll get free shipping on everything you order for the entire month! 

 

2. Newer Apple products don’t often go on sale at deeply discounted prices.

You may see a few discounts on iPads and iPhones, but don’t expect seriously deeply discounted prices (if you find savings of $50 – $100 off you’ve done pretty well.)

ipad Mini

However, Walmart already has their iPad Mini2 on sale for $199 right now, which is a pretty incredible price. Because it’s not the newest model you’re getting some significant savings, so watch for discounts on older model Apple products is definitely a great way to save Black Friday.

 

(Amazon does usually offer incredible deals on Kindle products though this month, and have already started discounting their Kindles for Amazon Prime Members!)

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3. Televisions are great to buy on Black Friday.

One of the best times of year to buy televisions is Black Friday, but if you’re not in a hurry you may want to wait until the Super Bowl to purchase one in January.  If you’re looking for a higher end television you probably want to wait for January, however the Black Friday deals on smaller TVs usually can’t be beat.

 

. . . and video game savings are huge on Black Friday as well.

There are a ton of video game and video game console deals that come out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well. However, those deals are already starting on some sites now, so watch the price of the game and console you’re looking for to guarantee the best price.

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A peek at last year’s Kohl’s Black Friday deals

4. Buy all your kitchen gadgets on Black Friday.

Kitchen gadget savings will be huge on Black Friday and really throughout Black Friday “week” and Cyber week too. 

 

So what kind of items to watch for? Usually we’ll see the best prices of the year on Kitchenaid Mixers, Ninja Blenders, Cookware, Pyrex Sets, and just about anything else you’ll need in the kitchen. These are usually my favorite deals of the Holidays, so I’ll be watching right with you!

5. These stores are just a few that offer price matching.
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Best Buy
  • Lowe’s
  • Staples
  • The Home Depot
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Sears
  • Toys R Us

Take advantage of price matching at several stores to get a great price, in case the item you’re looking for isn’t in stock at your store. If you can bring proof of the price in a physical ad to show to your cashier. (Although most will accept these ads from your Smartphone, having the real ad in hand may make price matching even easier.)

Remember that on some special Black Friday deals retailers may not price match all the deeply discounted deals stores have to offer. To find out if another store is price matching a specific Black Friday ad, call ahead and ask your store management.

6. Don’t forget that many stores also offer price adjustments.

If you purchase an item in a store within a few weeks of a better price during Black Friday sales, check to see if your store offers a price adjustment. While all stores won’t offer that (especially if they have deeply discounted items on Black Friday), it never hurts to (nicely!) ask. Make a quick call to your store to see what they offer.

 

7. Stores offer huge loss leaders to get you in the door on Black Friday.

Most stores offer a limited number of “loss leaders” which really are your best deals. Stores like Amazon and Walmart tend to also offer these deals in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday, so keep up with PPP as we’ll be here bright and early working to get you the very best deals.

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Shannon’s CVS Trip: Black Friday Early Sale

8. Don’t forget the drug stores.

Y’all, my favorite Black Friday shopping ever happens at the drug stores, and what I love is that they typically are best on Thanksgiving morning. Now, I am not one who likes the idea of stores being open on Thanksgiving at all, but because the drug stores supply their customers with needed medications they really do need to be open to serve those in need.

CVS actually offers their new Black Friday ad at 6PM the night before Thanksgiving at any stores that AREN’T open 24 hours, so if you want to sneak in early you can save big and beat the crowds. I go first thing on Thanksgiving morning before my family is awake, then and home and ready to help with Thanksgiving cooking by 9AM. To see what Black Friday looked like at CVS in 2014, go HERE.

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9. Some “doorbusters” just aren’t worth it.

Some deals are fantastic on Black Friday, however some tend to be lower quality items that really aren’t worth it. Make sure that what you purchase is really what you want, and you’re not just picking up something quickly to get a deal that you didn’t really need in the first place. (Read more HERE.)

 

 

10. Keep up with PPP for all the very best deals this Christmas season.

Sign up for PPP daily emails to get the best deals, not just on Black Friday but throughout the Christmas season. We’ve got a big surprise that’s going to help you out a ton this year at Christmas, and the whole PPP team is working hard to make sure you never miss a deal.

 

 

So there you have it, my top 10 tips! I’d love to hear what other thoughts you have on Black Friday shopping too. I’ll be right here behind my computer bright and early on Black Friday (and the days prior to Thanksgiving as well), so be ready to save big this year!

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Looking for more tips on how to save at your favorite retail stores? Here you go:

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6 Things You Need to Do Before Christmas Shopping


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Okie dokie folks, time for a little heart-to-heart about that fantabulous (don’t you love my new word?) Holiday just around the corner. . . Christmas. Grab a cup of coffee and a piece of Halloween candy, curl up on your sofa, and let’s just pretend we’re having a chat face to face about how we’re going to handle this one.

 

In just a few days, the deals are going to be flying fast and furiously at you (including quite possibly a few hundred here on PPP ~ yikes!), so I want you to be prepared. I promise you’ll see deals on Legos and Powerwheels and Kindles and Barbies and just about anything you could ever imagine anyone on your gift list will ever need.

 

But that doesn’t mean you have to buy them.

 

Because the deals are out there, my job is to make sure you see the best of everything, and find you as many awesome deals as I can.  However, I do not want you to purchase a single item that you do not need or cannot pay for even if it’s a dealDid you hear me??? I mean it.

 

So, how do you know where to start with Christmas shopping? Here are six things you need to do before Christmas shopping:

 

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1. Consider the 4 gift plan that my friend Lynette uses.

I. love. this. Honestly, we didn’t start this when my kids were younger, and I kind of wish we had. Back then our budget was pretty tight throughout the year, and Christmas was our time to “splurge” (within our budget) so we bought kids extra clothes they needed, along with fun toys and more.

However, they get a ton of gifts from family, and I think this is a really (really) smart concept to start when your children are young. If you’re new to this idea, see how Lynette breaks it down over HERE. 

2. Set a Christmas budget meeting with your spouse & decide your Christmas budget.

I cannot tell you how very, very, very important this one is, but trust me on this. To make January 2016 happier in your home, you have got to sit down and talk about what you both really want Christmas to look like, and who’s going to purchase which gifts for who.

While my husband and I have always had a Christmas budget, inevitably we both struggle with keeping to our lists (~ahem~). However by going over the plan beforehand it just keeps us working together throughout the frazzled Christmas season.

 

Set up a budget “date” night and determine exactly how much money you have to spend on Christmas and what to purchase for every single person on your list. (Be sure to include a budget for shipping and gift wrap – those expenses can really add up!)

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Not sure where to start? There are some fantastic free printable gift lists you can print (I like this one and this one and this one), or even use an app like Santa’s Bag to keep track of your list.

Make sure to have a general idea of what the items on your list should cost, and then watch for any deeply discounted savings. In the next few weeks we’ll be rolling out some Black Friday price comparison sheets, so know those “hot ticket” items on your list and watch for savings on them. I really believe just about everything goes on sale during the Christmas season, so be patient and watch for a deal!

3. Decide how you’re going to Christmas shop.

Do you love Black Friday shopping? Is online shopping for you? Whatever you choose, have a general idea of how you’re going to tackle Christmas gift purchasing before you’re bombarded with Christmas deals.

I do about 90% of Christmas shopping online because I’m already here watching deals every day. (Sign up for free daily emails from me with those deals delivered to your inbox every day over HERE.)

While there are some great in-store offers to be had, I’ve found that with all the free shipping and codes available through the Christmas season I can get some incredible deals while shopping in my pjs. Decide what you want Christmas shopping to look like for you, and plan ahead so you’re not stuck at the last minute wondering the best way to get whatever you need.

4. Set a plan for how you’re going to spend.

Using cash will definitely help maintain control of your spending over the holidays, however I know that can be difficult when so many deals are available online. If you shop online, put your budgeted amount into your checking account and use a debit card, and remember to keep a detailed list near your computer so you don’t miss what you’ve spent.

If you absolutely are set on using a credit card to earn points or for other reasons, be sure to write down every single purchase on your list so that you don’t over-spend. As we all know, those credit cards can be a HUGE budget buster!

5. Anticipate how you’ll spend your “savings”. (This is a bone of contention in our home!)

My hubby is one incredibly passionate penny pincher, so he feels that if we get a great deal on an item, those savings should not be spent during the Christmas season. However, I always want to spend the full amount on each person that I budget on my list, so if I find a great deal I’ll buy them more great deals! This is not the greatest way to spend my savings, but we have so many people purchase for our family who are incredibly generous. (And I want to be generous right back!)

However, if your budget is tight this Christmas, don’t spend those savings on more Christmas gifts. Instead, put it right into a savings account. (Wouldn’t it be fun to fund a savings account with extra Christmas spending money because of your penny pinched deals?)

6. Plan what you’ll spend to give to those in need.

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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Ultimately, decide that Christmas is about more than just oodles of gifts under the tree.

I love Christmas presents. 

I love spoiling my kids with fun surprises on Christmas morning.

I am so not against that fun and completely know how magical that time can be.

But.

The gifts are just the icing on Christmas, not the whole cake. Christmas for us is the cooking and baking and decorating and all the wonderful things rolled up into this one just beautiful season.

It’s the giving and music and lights and Silent Night and just the wonder of this special time of year. If you haven’t already, create special Christmas traditions that make Christmas even more precious to your family, no matter the gifts under the tree. Give to someone in need, decorate cookies as a family and let Christmas gifting just be the fun Christmas topper on top of your Christmas tree.

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I hope you’ll find some deals here on PPP, and my promise to you is that I’ll only post items I see at their lowest prices or so close to that pricing that I don’t want you to miss it. But, I do not want you to spend one single penny on things that you have absolutely no business buying.

Got that? 🙂 

 

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Go get your kids ready for a few days of Halloween festivities, enjoy an extra piece of chocolate for me, and watch for the online deals to go a wee bit crazy here over the next few weeks. But, in the midst of it all, take a deep breath, determine to stay really focused on only what you need to purchase (and even more focused on what this season is all about), and choose to enjoy every bit of the Christmas season as it races its way towards us.

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Can You Shop Aldi Only? How To Make Aldi Your One Stop Store

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Could you shop Aldi only? I shop Aldi occasionally for produce, milk, spices and eggs, but have never gone to the store expecting to buy my entire grocery list there.

 

However, yesterday when I was shopping I noticed that they really do have everything. And the because they don’t have so much of everything (for example 101 types of cereal in the cereal aisle like our local Kroger and Meijer do . . . ) I can get in and out without spending hours perusing the aisles.

 

As a busy mom, spending way too long at the grocery store drives me nuts, and I love that Aldi is small enough that I can quickly get in and out of the store. And, if I forget an item at the checkout lane it doesn’t take me too long to run back through the store to get what I missed.

 

So I started looking closely and questioning if you could buy absolutely everything there? Here are the things I noticed . . .

Aldi has an abundance of snacks, including gluten free options. They also carry Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (priced at $1.85 – I usually only buy them on sale at Kroger for $.99, so that’s pretty pricey for me but their store brand is priced at $1.49 per package at least?)

 

Aldi has tons of baking products. I tried to see if there was anything they were missing, but couldn’t find anything  we would need that wasn’t there. They have olive oil (for just $2.99!), real vanilla, cooking spray and spices.

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I tested their Aldi brand semi sweet morsels (for research purposes of course . . . you’re welcome.), and honestly they taste almost identical to Nestle Morsels. At $1.79 per bag that’s a pretty incredible price (they rarely go below $2 at the grocery store), so I may switch over to buying them completely. (Which is saying something, I’m pretty picky when it comes to chocolate chip cookies!)

 

Aldi has a  huge selection of bread products. I was shocked at the price of English Muffins there – I’ve paid as much as $3 for them at the local grocery store, but Aldi had them for just $.99!

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They also have gluten free items, and be sure to watch for discounts on bread as well. My store had a huge bin of discounted bread for $.25 per loaf (several different types, including whole wheat and low calorie breads, which was all incredibly fresh when I checked it.) I asked the cashier about it and he said their policy is to not let it get closer than 5 days out from their sell by date, so definitely watch for those deals when you’re there!

 

Aldi has a huge selection of dairy products, including eggs, milk, cream cheese, real butter, and even coffee creamer. The best price I noticed was on their store brand cheddar cheese (16 oz. for $3.29), and I’m pretty sure you could find everything your family would need when you’re there.

The toughest one for me to buy of course at Aldi is . . . meat. I have never bought meat at Aldi (I’m just funny about that!), but when I asked my cashier he shared that most of their chicken comes from the Tyson distributor, and even looking at the packages they had Butterball Turkeys and Appleton Farms Hams. The prices were decent (although I have seen better prices occasionally on sale at my local grocery store), and Aldi allows you to return items if you’re not pleased with them so their meat might just be worth trying out.

 

(I’ve had several friends buy meat at Aldi and they’ve been pleased with their meat ~ I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve purchased meat there!)

 

Aldi has paper products and cleaning supplies, however you won’t find the jillion items you might see at a larger grocery store. We’re almost out of toilet paper (gasp!) so I bought some of their store brand TP and while I don’t love it quite as much as Quilted Northern, it wasn’t too bad. 🙂

 

They do carry some name brands (like Tide laundry detergent), but the price on that at Aldi is high. If you love name brand items at all I wouldn’t recommend shopping Aldi because even though they carry a few of those items they just don’t have great prices on them, but if you’re willing to try Aldi store brands you can easily save!


Aldi also has pet food, a few pet treats, and kitty litter. I had no idea they carried pet supplies at all, but my dog loved the treats I brought him home yesterday. 🙂
Aldi does carry a very small selection of toiletries, including personal care items, shampoo, and soap. I also noticed sunscreen, razors and even batteries, so you might really be able to make Aldi your one stop shop!

 

When I asked the cashier about things he’s heard people complain about missing at Aldi he mentioned shaving gel and bug spray ~ so you might have to head to another store every once in awhile. But, as I went through the store I realized they really do have just about everything we use (just packaged as Aldi brands), so I’m seriously considering trying a month to see how switching would effect our grocery budget.

 

I won’t try to make the switch until January (the grocery store sales during November and December are too good to miss!), but maybe we’ll try out a January-Aldi-Only-Challenge here in 2016. Anyone wanna join me? 🙂

 

If you shop only Aldi I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’d love to know how you’ve saved by shopping there. Leave a comment to share ~ I love hearing from you!


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Looking for more about shopping Aldi? Don’t miss these posts!

 

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The Once A Month Grocery Shopping Experiment Week 4: I Finally Did It!

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After failing a bit last week at our once a month grocery shopping experiment, I’m thrilled that this week was a success! I went to the store just once, and spent just $13.80, well under my budgeted weekly bill of $25 that I’d planned during this month for weekly “extras” like produce and milk that just wouldn’t last the full month.

(Read more on my month long plan over HERE)

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Here’s what our totals look like so far this month: 

 

I am planning to head to Fresh Thyme Market this Wednesday to stock up on more produce (they have watermelons for $2 – love that!) I’m also hoping for a decent sale on chicken, because honestly as long as we have chicken at home (we have completely depleted our stockpile), I think we could go another week or two for the most part just cooking up what’s in the kitchen.

 

I have missed a few sales and may swing by Kroger over the weekend to stock up on those, but in all honesty feel like we’ve spent so much less by having a better monthly plan in place prior to shopping. If you’ve been working to cut your grocery budget I’d love to hear what you’re doing too – leave a comment to share your thoughts!

 

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