What My Mom Taught Me About Money

on up mothers day

I’m the youngest of four children. Growing up, I don’t remember having a lot of excess stuff or the material things I always wanted, but I knew I had everything I always needed. My mom and dad worked very hard to raise us and we didn’t always have extra money laying around to throw towards unnecessary expenses. We did have a house to live in, clean clothes on our backs, hot home cooked meals, clean water, and lots of love.

If I remember learning anything during my childhood about finances, it was from my parents. My mom was very frugal and thrifty. We didn’t shop much, but when we did, we shopped second hand stores, at affordable retailers around town, and used coupons often. As a child, it was hard to be told “no” when I asked for something at a hefty price while out shopping. Now that I have my own children, I find myself following in my mother’s footsteps. I love to shop at thrift stores, pay low prices for quality items, use coupons, and I even have to tell my children “no” often when they ask for something that we either don’t need or if it costs too much.

As a mother now, I hope that I can set an example for my children while they are young. I’d love for them to understand the value of a dollar and how they need to earn money for items they really need or want, while also saving for their future. I’m thankful that I was raised to understand that money doesn’t come from trees and that I must work for the money that I need to pay bills, eat, etc.

SunTrust wants to celebrate moms all month long with #MothersMay. Are you always seeking out more great advice, tools and tips about your money? If so, sign up for onUpdates to get more of “moms” best financial advice tenfold.

I’m very thankful for the financial future that my parents set me up for as a child. Without them, who knows what my financial life would look like!

Did you learn any helpful tips from your mom about finances?

*The picture above is a Mother’s Day gift I received this year from my seven year old daughter!

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. When you feel confident about your money, you can save for your goals and spend knowingly on what matters most to you.  

The onUp movement was created to guide millions of people one step at a time towards a more financially confident life without ever losing sight of the moments that matter along the way.

Join the growing number of people transforming their stress into positive motivation to move onUp.

Join the movement

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.

How to Start a Blog (and Monetize it, Too!)

how to start a blog and monetize it too

I love to save money and I wanted to share my passion for saving money with others online and from the comfort of my own home. My blog, The Frugal Free Gal, started as a hobby in 2009. I was a stay at home mom and found blogging to be a great way to spend my time when my baby was napping. A few months into blogging, I was networking with other bloggers when I discovered a secret! Many of these blogs that I had grown to love were making money from their websites. I wanted to do this, too. Why not? It would be a great way to earn extra income while staying at home with my daughter. I continue to work from home and find new ways every year to improve or monetize my website. I even turned what I do into a business, BSC Media, LLC. BSC = my initials!

During this blogging journey, I’ve had several friends ask about starting a website of their own. The biggest questions were, “How do I start a blog,” and “How do I make money from a blog?” After years and years of doing this, I felt that it was time to write a post about it and share it with everyone. This post is way overdue, but very important to share. My goal is to help others learn how to start their own websites and monetize them, too. Now, here’s something important. This is not a “get rich quick” kind of thing. It took me a few years and HOURS of time building my websites before I started noticing a nice profit. To this day, I still spend a lot of time learning and studying ways to improve my business.

How to Start a Blog (and Monetize it, too!) 

1. Find a topic you are passionate about.

To start a website, you’ll want to choose a topic that you are passionate about. What is something you love? What topics do you absolutely love sharing with others? Do you have parenting tips? Start a parenting/mom website. Do you love to cook and share recipes? Consider starting a food blog. Love to save money like me? Maybe a blog about saving money or finances is right for you. There are so many options out there. Whatever niche you choose, choose something that you will have fun writing about. You don’t want to start a website and dread writing on it everyday because the niche you chose does not interest you very much. My three different websites are about saving money, tips for busy moms, and giveaways.

2. Pick out a blog name.

Once you have your topic of interest, you’ll need to brainstorm names for your website. For this website, I chose “The Frugal Free Gal” because I’m frugal, and I love free stuff! I’m also a gal, so it just worked. I thought the gal at the end of frugal and the Gal at the end of the name was catchy. For my mom website, I chose Mom. Wife. Busy Life. because I’m a mom and wife, and a pretty busy mom and wife, too! Choosing a name for my giveaway website was difficult because most of the names I wanted were already chosen! It took me a while to find something that worked, so Giveaway Fairy it was.

3. Sign up for hosting and choose a domain.

Hosting is like rent. You are paying for your site to have a home online. I recommend signing up for BlueHost for your hosting services if you are looking for an affordable hosting service. Below you’ll see how you can set up your hosting and domain services.

Bluehost offers very affordable plans starting at only $3.95/month*.


Choose the plan that’s right for you, Choose the basic, plus, or pro plan.


Choose a domain that’s available or transfer an existing domain. It’s always a good idea to purchase the domain privacy.

3-Domain Registration

Fill in your account information.

4-Contact Info

Fill in your package information.

5-Choose Plan

Fill in your billing information and click next.

6-Billing Info

Install WordPress.



Select the domain you would like to install to.

9-Install WP

Complete the install process.

10-WP Login


Note: Some of this information may be way over your head and you may be feeling overwhelmed. If you do not feel comfortable setting up your own website, you can always hire this work out to a family member, friend, or other tech guy/gal that knows what he/she is doing. Don’t feel bad about it — I hired help because I’m not good with all of this back-end stuff! I always recommend having 1-2 good referral names on hand in case you need tech support with your website! They come in handy when your site is broken or when things need to be fixed and you are aren’t sure how to fix the issues yourself. 

5. Find a good designer. 

You’ll want your website to stand out from the rest and be visually appealing. Hire a good designer that can help you customize your website the way you want it – from color choice, to logos, to fancy buttons, etc. You name it, your designer should be able to help you create a beautiful website. Laura at Pixel Me Designs designed all of my websites:

The Frugal Free Gal
Mom. Wife. Busy Life.
Giveaway Fairy
BSC Media, LLC

Optional: There are many themes to choose from when working with WordPress. Check out these StudioPress Themes for WordPress.

6. Start writing great content.

Once your website is all set up and ready to go with a great design, you’ll want to start creating great content. Write content that stands out from the rest. Try to remember that adding value is key. Create evergreen content that never goes out of style and can be recycled years from now.

7. Connect your websites to social media and build readership. 

Now that you have an amazing website that you want to share to the world, you’ll want to make sure you create social media networks that connect with your website. My favorites are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. Share your content on your social media outlets and tell all of your family and friends about your new website!

8. Monetize your website.

Now that you have your website ready to go and you are creating content, you can start to monetize your website. You can monetize your website with ads, affiliate links, sponsored posts, and more. Below are the main ways I monetize my website. To get started on monetizing your websites, check out the links below to find the affiliate networks that are right for you. There’s several to choose from, so I listed mine in order based on what I earn in each category as well as my favorites to use.

Affiliate Marketing:

Ad Placement:

Sponsored Posts:

Blog Services:

Individual Affiliate and Referral Programs:

There you have it! You have all of the best tips and tools to starting your own blog and monetizing it, too!

Do you plan to start a new blog any time soon?

ways to save on dog related expenses

7 Ways to Save on Dog-Related Pet Expenses

ways to save on dog related expenses

One of the most popular pets in America, dogs are a natural favorite among young and old alike. Unfortunately, this love often comes at a price. According to americanpetproducts.org, Americans spend an average of $1,641 on their dogs every year between the toys, food, vet visits and everything else that dogs need.Thankfully, just because some people spend thousands of dollars on their pets every year does not mean that you have to as well. Here are seven ways to save on dog-related pet expenses that you can try today. Try one or try them all–your wallet will thank you.

1. Sign Up for Store Loyalty Programs

Do you find yourself shopping at the same pet stores time and time again? Ask if they offer any sort of loyalty discount for shopping at their store. The sign up process is usually quick, easy and free, and you can start saving money right away.

Do be careful about signing up for store credit cards or any type of program that requires you to spend a certain amount, however. You don’t want to pay more in fees or interest than you save by using the card or program in the first place.

2. Shop in Bulk

For dog supplies you go through quickly, particularly dog food, you may want to purchase in bulk, preferably when they are on sale. You can save yourself a great deal of time and money by purchasing large quantities less often than by grabbing the small bag every time you are about to run out. Check stores like Costco, Amazon and other online pet supply retailers to see what sorts of bulk discounts you can find.

3. Purchase Quality When It Counts

Do keep in mind that cheaper isn’t always a bargain, however. Purchase cheap dog food and you may find yourself with vet bills after a while. Purchase cheap dog toys and you may find yourself replacing them constantly. Don’t consider just the price when purchasing items for your dog; consider the value as well. Some things are worth spending a little more for.

4. Ask for Discounts

While the price of pet supplies is often non-negotiable, the cost of the services your pet needs can sometimes be negotiated, especially if you choose an individual provider or small business for your services instead of a corporation. The next time you take your dog for training, grooming or to the vet, don’t be afraid to ask if the price is flexible. You may be able to take advantage of a two-for-one or percentage off deal, or you may be able to get certain upgrades or extra services for free.

Related: 6 Tips for Saving Big on Pet Expenses

5. Request Free Samples

Are you considering choosing a new brand of dog food but you aren’t sure which type your dog will enjoy? Why not write a few dog food companies and request a free sample? While you probably won’t get a large amount of food this way, you can save yourself a fair amount by not having to buy several full sized bags to find the brand your dog likes. If you’d like to try a few new products, this is a great, low-risk way to get them.

Related: Freebies and Free Samples

6. Consider Dog Insurance

You pay for health insurance for yourself and your family. Have you ever considered purchasing health insurance for your dog? Every dog will need to visit the vet at some point, and you never know when that huge, unexpected expense will occur. Arm yourself in advance by looking into dog insurance, especially if you have reason to suspect that your dog may have health issues either now or in the future.

Related: 6 Ways to Save on Vet Bills

7. Start a Pet Blog

If you love dogs and dog products and want a great way to get tons of great, new products for cheap or free, you may even consider starting a blog about pets in general or dogs in particular. Oftentimes companies will send bloggers free products in exchange for their honest review. Grow a quality blog and you may just be surprised at how many free products and opportunities you receive.

Your dog may be your baby, but that doesn’t mean that he needs to be as expensive as another person. Use these seven tips to keep your dog costs low and spend your days enjoying your dog–not working to afford him.

ways to earn extra cash

Five Ways to Earn Extra Cash

ways to earn extra cash

Whether you have back to school supplies, birthday presents or unexpected medical expenses to pay for, chances are you will need some quick, easy cash at some point in your life. Don’t rack up your credit card and don’t mess with an unscrupulous pay day loan company. Use one of these five great way to earn some quick cash instead. They won’t provide you with an extra, sustainable income, but they will get you the cash you need fast.

1. Sell Your Unused Belongings

Do you have extra furniture, clothes, toys, collectibles or other home items lying around your home that you don’t want or need anymore? Sell them in a garage sale, to a consignment shop, or on a site like Ebay or Craigslist. Not only will you declutter your home and help someone who needs those items, but you’ll make some quick, easy money too!

2. Sign Up for Inbox Dollars NOW and Earn $5

Join Inbox Dollars right now and you’ll earn $5 in your account just for joining! Then, you can do things like read emails, take a few surveys, play games, or shop to earn more. Once you reach $30 in your account, you can request payment!

3. Donate Plasma

Are you a relatively healthy individual? If so, you could make big bucks by selling your plasma. Depending on where you live, reputable companies may pay you as much as $20-$50 per visit, and you can usually go twice per week. Your body replenishes itself quickly so you aren’t out anything except an hour or so of your time. And for $50, I’d say that’s an hour well spent!

Related: Creative Ways to Make Money on the Side

4. Babysit, Pet Sit or House Sit

Babysitting, pet sitting and house sitting are all great ways to make some quick, easy money without too much work. Depending on the arrangement, you could work from your home or theirs, full time or part time, once in a while or on a consistent schedule. This option is especially great for stay-at-home moms who are home all day anyway.

5. Take Online Surveys

You can take online surveys for cash and rewards from the comfort of your own home. I like using my rewards from surveys for birthday and Christmas presents. My favorites are Toluna, Vindale Research, and Pinecone Research!

Related: Ways to Earn Extra Cash and Rewards

All of these ideas are super easy to do, and there is no wait time to find a job or get paid.

What ways do you like to earn extra cash? 

saving money on clothes

Saving Money on Clothes – 5 Tips to Maximize Your Money

saving money on clothes

Saving money on clothing is a big deal. It’s not like clothes are something we can go without – at least not without getting arrested. With that in mind, we have to figure out how we can make saving money on clothes something that is attainable without making us LOOK like we’re trying to save money on clothes.

Saving Money on Clothes is Totally Doable

It’s not that difficult to be beautiful on a budget for you and your family. Of course, any time you implement a budget you’ll have to make sacrifices, but those sacrifices don’t have to be monumental changes that totally strip you of your style.

Related: How to Create a Budget that Really Works

Lose the Name Brands

Everyone wants the “swoosh” or the “fox” or some other name brand logo. The thing to remember is that you do not need them. You can be just as stylish in a trendy look put together at Old Navy as you can in the same look put together at some store that sells shirts for 3 times as much because they have an embroidered logo on them.

Shop for Sales

Like all stores, clothing stores have sales. Watch for those sales, and swoop in when there’s  a really good one. A good sale on clothes can save you an obscene amount of money when the store is trying to clear out seasonal inventory.

Use Those Gift Cards

If you have gift cards, stockpile them for the sales I just mentioned. You can stretch those little plastic wonders so far when you hit on a really good sale.

Use a Store Credit Card

This is a great options for saving money on clothes if you have a large family. Using a store’s credit card can help you earn points towards future purchases at that store. For example, with an Old Navy card, every purchase – not just at their store – nets you points for use at Old Navy stores or online. When you combine those points with sales, you can save tons and tons of money.

The Thrift Shop

It’s not just a Mackelmore song folks. You can find some unique, funk-tacular pieces at your local thrift shop, and you can find them for dirt cheap. If you already like the eclectic look, the thrift shop is ground zero for saving money on clothing. Because sometimes, you really do look incredible when you wear your grandpa’s clothes. 😉

Saving Money on Clothes Doesn’t Mean Sacrificing Style

You don’t have to look like you haven’t been in style since the late 90s when you’re on a saving money mission. Looking for deals and saving money on clothing are not synonymous with being out of style. All you need to do is make smart decisions and wait for your moment. And if you’re already into that eclectic look, hit the thrift shop. Hey, you never know what you’ll find!

Related: 100+ Ways to Save Money

Do you have any tips on saving money on clothes?

monthly grocery budget

How We Found an Extra $1,000 in Our Monthly Budget

monthly grocery budget

My husband and I got serious about money in August of 2015. We’ve always been frugal for the most part and we’ve always been savers since graduating from college, but over the last few years, we were a little “arrogant” with our money and we spent whatever we wanted to. We were not being good stewards of God’s money and resources like we could have been, so we sat down and made changes. We are back to aggressive saving and we continue to be debt-free with the exception of a rental home. We also put extra money each month towards our kid’s college accounts and retirement. Romans 3:8 “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” 

If you need any motivation on saving for retirement, I highly suggest reading Chris Hogan’s new book, Retire Inspired. If you are serious about simply saving more, I recommend Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover and following Dave’s Baby Steps.

Do you know how much you spend on groceries each month? If you are unsure of the amount you spend at the register on a monthly basis, I challenge you to sit down and dig through your finances and come up with a total for the last month. This will give you a good idea of what you are spending. Be warned though – this can be a very eye opening process for some. Your grocery expense might be one of your biggest monthly expenses!

After my husband and I went through our own finances for the month in August to determine what we were spending on groceries, our mouths dropped to the floor. We were a bit shocked and this opened our eyes to where our money was going each month. We also determined what we were spending on other food purchases. Not only were our hard earned dollars going towards groceries, our money was also going towards fast food purchases that occurred often during the week as well as fancy date night dinners. With my husband and I being big tippers as we are (Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”) sometimes our date night dinner would cost anywhere from $60-$100 for just two of us! Get this. One month, our grocery and restaurant purchases totaled $1,500. That, my friends, is foolish. We were being DUMB with our money and we were throwing most of it away each month on food. Not anymore.

Related: How to Create a Budget That Really Works

We set a strict food budget and watched what we spent on groceries for the next month. We were able to significantly reduce our food expenses from $1,500 to only $600, and we are still trying to find ways to cut that expense down even more. Our goal is to get our grocery budget down to $400 and cut out most of the fast food purchases. After looking at this month’s finances, we are right on track. Do you know that by watching what we spend on food purchases, we were able to give ourselves a $1,000 raise each month? $1,000!!! That’s a lot of money! While I know many of you come no where close to spending as much as we were, that was one area we really needed to improve.

Instead of throwing this money away each month, we are now smart with our money again. We invest for our retirement each month as well as put away for our kid’s college. We also continue to tithe 10% of our income each month. Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” 

Related: How to Cut Back on Eating Out

Do you know how much you are paying for groceries and food expenses each month? 

buying a car new used

Buying a Car: The Pros and Cons of New vs. Used (and the Best Time to Buy It!)

buying a car new used

Your house will always be the biggest purchase you’ll make, but your car is probably second on that list. And while you put a lot of thought into your home, you should also put some careful thought into what sort of vehicle you’ll be parking in your home’s driveway.


The first question you might ask yourself when you start the car-buying process is a simple one: New or used? Here are a few things to consider when answering that question.

New car advantages

New cars are reliable and accident-free. They’ve also got a great warranty (although many used cars do, too). And that new car smell can’t be beat!

New car disadvantages

The biggest drawback is the higher cost. A brand new family sedan without all the fancy extras will probably cost around $30,000. The same sedan loaded with features but three years old can be had for $20,000 to $25,000.

Used car advantages

Lower cost is a big used car advantage. Like we discussed above, used cars cost far less than their newer counterparts.

Used car disadvantages

Used cars are, well, used. They’ve got some miles on them, which means repairs will be needed sooner than they might if you bought a new car. The warranty on a used car also has a few years on it, which means it will likely expire soon (if it hasn’t already).


Now that you’ve decided whether you’re buying new or used, your next decision is figuring out when you’ll buy your car. Believe it or not, there are times of the year, month, and week when buying a car is better. There’s even a good time of day!

Best time of the year

The end of the summer and the end of the year are the best times to buy a car. The end of summer is good because that’s when dealers are trying to clear out the current year’s stock to make room for next year’s models. The end of the year (December) is good because that’s when dealers are trying to meet their year end sales quotas.

Best time of the month

Like the end of the year, the end of the month is a good time to buy because dealers will be anxious to meet their end-of-month sales goals.

Best time of the week

Hit the dealership in the middle of the week – Tuesday or Wednesday – to get the best deals. That’s when the dealerships will be least crowded, which means salesmen will have more time to focus on you and will be more likely to want to make a sale.

Best time of the day

If you’ve applied all the lessons above, you’ll be headed to the dealer at the end of the summer (or December), on a Tuesday or Wednesday at the end of the month. What time of the day should you stop in? About an hour before closing is best. That’s when dealers are wrapping up for the day and more likely to make a deal before clocking out.

How did you save on your last car purchase?

ways to save on laundry

7 Ways to Save on Laundry

ways to save on laundry

Doing load after load of your family’s laundry doesn’t just take a lot of time; it can also end up costing you more than you realize financially as well. In fact, it is estimated that American families spend anywhere from $80 to $600 per year on laundry alone! Just imagine the savings you could have if you didn’t have to do laundry all of the time!

While you probably can’t stop doing laundry altogether, it is possible to save big on this common household chore. This post will show you how.

1. Wear Things More Than Once

Just because you’ve worn something once doesn’t automatically mean it’s dirty, especially if you only wore it for a short period of time. Sweaters that don’t even touch your body, the pajamas you can barely keep on your toddler and the shirt your son only wore to church for an hour are all prime candidates to go right back in the drawer. Towels can be used more than once as well.

Similarly, make sure your children are only putting clothes in the wash that are actually dirty as well. If your daughter develops a bad habit of deciding what to wear by throwing everything on the floor or your son throws everything in the hamper to avoid folding it and putting it away, that’s a lot of extra laundry you don’t need to be doing.

2. Wash Only Full Loads

Rather than doing laundry after a specific amount of time as passed (such as every morning or every evening), wait to do a load of laundry until you have a full load. Not only will you spend less time doing laundry, but you can save big on your water bill as well.

Alternately, if you need to do your laundry on a schedule to make sure that it gets done, try lengthening the amount of time between loads. For example, instead of doing laundry every day, you could do laundry every other day or every three days, depending on the amount of clothing your family owns.

3. Use Less Laundry Detergent

When adding detergent to the laundry, do you usually just throw some in without bothering to measure? If so, you may be using way more than you need. While a little extra laundry detergent won’t break the bank right away, all of that wasted detergent can really add up over time. Not only will you need to buy extra detergent, which can be expensive, but you may shorten the lifespan of your clothes or washer as well.

4. Invest in an Energy Efficient Washing Machine

Consider replacing your old or run-down washing machine with an energy efficient washing machine. My sister has an energy efficient washing machine and she absolutely loves it. Our washing machine is about 10 years old and still working, so when that time comes that it decides to give out, we will be replacing ours with energy efficient machines.

5. Switch to Cold Water

Unless your clothes are exceptionally dirty, chances are that hot water isn’t really necessary. Make the switch to cold water for the majority of your laundry loads and save the hot water for the towels and undergarments only. This will ensure that the germs on these sensitive items are well taken care of without needlessly wasting money with every load.

6. Skip the Fabric Softener

What if I told you that you really didn’t need fabric softener to get your clothes nice and soft? It’s true. Skip the expensive fabric softener and use 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of vinegar instead. Vinegar not only helps soften your clothes, it also helps prevent fading, keeps your washing machine cleaner and helps remove excess detergent from your clothes. Just be careful not to mix it with bleach, as this can result in a toxic gas.

7. Don’t Forget the Laundry!

Have you ever thrown in a load of laundry, only to completely forget about it until several hours later or even the next day? Having to rewash a load more than once isn’t just frustrating, it’s also an expensive and time-consuming habit to get into. Set a timer if you need to or make the laundry part of your daily routine, but don’t forget to flip it!

Related: 5 Tips to Keep Up With Laundry

If you are looking for additional ways to save money that don’t take a lot of time and effort, saving money on the laundry is one easy and excellent way to do just that! Try it out for a few weeks. You may be surprised at what a big difference just a few easy changes can make.

How do you save on laundry?

create a budget

How to Create a Budget that Really Works

create a budget

According to an article on StatisticBrain.com, the third most popular New Year’s Resolution people made last year was to spend less and save more. This comes as no surprise, considering that the average American household owes an average of $7,283 on their credit cards, not including their hefty mortgage and student loan debts. (Source)

Whether you owe a lot or a little, one thing’s for certain: If you want to get control of your finances and pay off your debt, you need a budget, and you need a budget that works.

If you’re one of the many Americans who has tried to budget before and failed, you aren’t alone. Many Americans have trouble making and sticking to a budget. The good news is, creating and keeping a budget that really actually works doesn’t have to be so difficult. Just follow these five steps!

1. Write Down the Numbers

Before you can figure out where you’re going, you have to figure out where you are now. Print out the last few months of bank and credit card statements. Get out a sheet of paper and write down how much you make every month (from work, child support, loans from your parents… everything that comes in). If it varies, write down the lowest amount you consistently make.

Then, write down ALL of your expenses and how much you spend on them. This includes bills like the mortgage, groceries, and cable as well as all the little things like gas station snacks, Starbucks trips and Target runs. If you use cash and you don’t know where your money is going, put that money in a “cash” category.

While you’re writing down numbers, go ahead and write down all of your debt on a separate piece of paper as well. It’s time to get honest.

2. Set Some Tangible Goals

For most people, budgets themselves aren’t intrinsically motivating. Therefore, if you want to succeed, you need to figure out your why. Do you want to get out of debt? Do you want to be a stay-at-home mom? Do you want to save up for a nice vacation? Figure out your motivation, and then put a tangible reminder where you can see it. For example, you might put a picture of a beach house on the fridge. This will help motivate you when times get tough.

Related: 7 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund

3. Adjust the Numbers Accordingly

Once you figure out what you’re making and spending, it’s time to adjust the numbers so everything fits. On a clean sheet of paper, list ALL of the things you spend money on each month, and divvy up your income into each category. Your grand total of expenses has to be equal to or less than your income (with wiggle room!) for your budget to work.

Do your best to make your numbers frugal, but realistic. After all, if your budget is unrealistic, you won’t be able to stick to it. Make sure you include a category for fun or anything else that you HAVE to have as well, even if the category is small.

Depending on how much you need to cut back, you may need to get rid of some things, sell some things, work longer hours or even get another part time job. But you CAN make it work. It might just take work and sacrifice.

4. Choose the Right Budgeting System for You

Figuring out how much you can afford to spend is the easy part. Sticking with the budget is much harder. While having a motivating goal can help tremendously, choosing the right money management system is crucial as well. I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and follow most of his advice. You can find several great books that may help you create a budget and pay down your debts. Here are two books I recommend of many:

The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money: The Handbook of Financial Peace University

5. Stick to the Budget!

Lastly, stick to the budget and wait! It won’t be long until your debt starts slowly melting away, your savings start piling up, and you experience financial freedom like you’ve never felt before! Just imagine how amazing that will feel!

Your debt isn’t going to get rid of itself, and the longer you wait, the worse it will get. The time to take action is now. Start today and bring yourself one step closer to financial freedom.

Do you need to take better care of your finances this year? What’s standing in your way?

decluttering saves money

Five Ways Decluttering Can Actually Save You Money

decluttering saves money
Shopping sales, using coupons and getting items for free are all fantastic ways to save your family money. Unfortunately, however, these money-saving techniques can come with a certain risk that no one talks about very much: clutter. When we get things for cheap or free, we tend to stock up, hoarding more than we really need. We think “Better safe than sorry–I’d better hold onto these items just in case.” And while it is good to be prepared, sometimes there comes a time when “being prepared” crosses the line into being a pack-rat.

You may think that holding onto things and accumulating as many things as you can for the future is a great way to save money. And, honestly, doing this might save you a little. But what many people don’t realize is that decluttering can actually save them money too. (Plus, it’s simply a nicer way to live.) Here are five ways decluttering can actually save you money.

1. You Can Earn Money By Selling the Extras

The quickest and most obvious way that decluttering can save you money is simply the fact that you can earn money by selling the items you don’t really need anymore. Sell the clothes and toys your family has outgrown on Ebay or at a consignment shop. Have a garage sale and get rid of all of the extra stuff your family doesn’t need anymore. Just think of what you could do with all of that extra money instead!

Related: 5 Easy Steps for Throwing the Perfect Yard Sale

2. You Won’t Waste Money on Things You Won’t Ever Use

Between coupons and sales, there are some incredible deals out there! With items like toothbrushes, ketchup and bathroom cleaner going on sale for next to nothing, it only makes sense to stock up, right? Yet, how many times have these items gotten lost or gone bad before you’ve even had a chance to use them? Clean out your stockpile and take inventory of which items you actually use and not. Even if certain items didn’t cost you very much, if you aren’t using them, the money you spent on them was wasted.

3. You Won’t Have to Buy So Many Replacements

How often have you not been able to find something, so you go out and buy another to replace it? How often have your things been broken because you have too much stuff to store it nicely (think: kids’ toys)? When you have less, you can keep better track of what you have and take better care of it. It becomes less expendable, and you spend less money replacing it.

4. You’ll Use Less

When you have 30 extra things of toothpaste and 50 extra boxes of cereal on hand, it becomes all too easy to become wasteful. After all, you have plenty on hand. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t have a stockpile–you should! But if all of that excess is causing your family to go through items much more quickly than you would otherwise, you may need to reevaluate how much extra you keep on hand.

Related: 10 Ways to Declutter Your Home

5. You’ll Have More Time and Energy for Other Tasks

I’m not sure I would even want to know how much time I’ve spent looking for items I couldn’t find because they got lost in all of the clutter! Not only is searching for your items annoying, but all of the time and energy you spent searching for things was time and energy you didn’t spend doing other, more productive tasks, like working from home, cutting coupons, finding deals or cooking from home so you wouldn’t have to eat out.

Here are more Decluttering and Organization Resources if you’d like to keep reading!

Do you declutter on a regular basis?


Are Yearly Memberships Worth It? (Zoo, Gym, Pool, etc.)

Are Memberships Worth It?

As a frugal shopper, you likely weigh every purchase very carefully before you make a decision. You don’t just want to reduce your spending; you also want to stretch your dollars and get the most bang for your buck.

One way to get an incredible value on summer entertainment is to purchase a yearly membership to a place like a zoo, a pool or a museum. When you divide the price of a yearly pass by the number of times you’re allowed to go, the savings are amazing! But are they worth their high price tag? Here are four questions to ask yourself when deciding if a yearly membership is a good buy for you.

1. How Often Will You Go?

The first and most important question you should ask yourself when considering a membership is “How often will we go?” If you know for sure you plan to visit the zoo, pool, or museum several times over the course of the summer, then a pass is likely a great value. If you enjoy visiting, but probably won’t have a chance to visit often, it may be a waste of money.

2. What Would You Do Instead?

Next, consider the alternative to buying a yearly membership. You aren’t likely to sit at home all summer. If you don’t have a yearly membership, will you visit a new (and expensive) place every week? If so, a yearly membership might make sense to you, because it would save you the expense of doing other activities out of boredom.

3. Do You Have the Money to Purchase One Right Now?

While purchasing yearly memberships for everyone in your family can lead to great savings, they are often quite the investment up front. Do you have the money to pay for one now, or can you skimp and save so you do? If you seriously cannot find a way to come up with the funds, you may have to find a different activity to do this summer and keep saving until next year.

Related: Four Ways to Save on Gym Memberships

4. What Other Hidden Costs are Associated With This Purchase?

Whether you are visiting the zoo, the pool or the museum, the cost of your yearly membership likely isn’t the only expense you will have. How much will you also end up spending on gas, parking, snacks, sunscreen and all of the extras? Don’t forget to factor these costs into the equation when you are deciding if a yearly pass is right for you.

Yearly passes can be a great investment, but only if you use them frequently enough to get your money’s worth. Be honest with yourself. Would getting a yearly pass help you save money this year, or is it just another thing to spend more money on because it’s such a “great deal?” This is a question only you can answer.

Related: Skip the Gym Membership! 10 DVD Workouts to Do At Home

Do you ever buy yearly passes on entertainment? What activities and events do you buy them for?

tips for saving big on pet expenses

6 Tips for Saving Big on Pet Expenses

tips for saving big on pet expensesBeing a pet owner comes with a lot of benefits. Not only do pets offer love and companionship, but they can also improve your family’s health, reduce your stress level, teach your children responsibility and help you stay in shape.

Unfortunately, however, these benefits do come at a cost–pet ownership can be very expensive if you don’t take steps to keep it affordable. Here are six ways to do just that.

1. Choose the Right Pet for Your Budget

The cost of purchasing and caring for a pet can vary widely, depending on what type you get and where you get it. If you have a tight budget, you may want to consider purchasing a smaller, less expensive pet, such as a hamster, bearded dragon or fish. These pets provide several benefits without all of the expense.

Alternately, you may consider purchasing your next pet from the humane shelter, from a friend or from a newspaper or Craigslist ad. Find a good pet that needs a new home and you can save significantly over simply stopping by the pet store over the weekend.

2. Consider Overall Cost, not Just Purchase Price

When trying to figure out what type of pet you can afford, don’t just consider the purchase price. You’ll also need to factor in the costs of pet supplies and routine care. Consider one-time expenses such as spaying/neutering, training, microchip implantation and trips to the vet as well as recurring expenses such as food, toys, leashes and other essentials.

Will you need to fence in your yard, build a shaded outdoor area or pay for trips to a kennel while you’re out of town? Are you likely to need to replace or repair furniture, shoes or other belongings while your new pet is adjusting to your home? Is your pet likely to need any special medications as he or she ages? Be sure to factor in those costs as well.

3. Shop Around

Very rarely is the price you see the price you have to pay for pet supplies. Shop around and you may just be surprised by how much you can save. You don’t have to buy all of your pet supplies at the pet store. You can often find a bargain by shopping at a supercenter, dollar store or online retailer. Look for pet supplies on Amazon or check out various online pet supply subscription companies as well.

4. Use What You Already Have

Of course, the fewer items you have to buy, the less money you will need to spend. Instead of purchasing several items specifically for your pet, try to make do with items you already have on hand. For example, you likely already have bowls that will work for food and water, and you may have a baby gate you can use instead of purchasing a special puppy gate. Use a belt instead of a collar and a piece of rope instead of a fancy leash. Get creative!

5. Look for Deals, Rebates and Promotions

For those pet supplies you do have to buy, be sure you get a good deal. Many stores regularly offer sales, rebates, coupons and other promotions. Ask for free samples and inquire about free shipping, membership discounts and bulk purchase discounts. Even small savings can really add up over time.

6. Visit the Vet

Visiting the vet may be expensive at first, but keeping regular check-ups can save you significantly over your pet’s lifetime. Not to mention the fact that routine check-ups will keep your pet healthier and happier as well. Don’t wait until your pet has had an injury or is in severe pain to bring them to the vet. Schedule and keep routine check-ups instead.

Related: 6 Ways to Save on Vet Bills

Just because your pet is worth every penny you spend on him or her doesn’t mean that you should have to spend every penny you have to keep your pet happy, healthy and safe. Use these six money-saving tips and tricks to keep your pet costs low and your time with your pet enjoyable.

What type of pet do you own? How do you keep it affordable?

How to Save Money at Disney World 2

Save Money at Disney World

Save Money at Disney World

Save money at Disney World. That may not sound like a doable statement, but it is. A lot of us still have this idea that going to Disney World and saving money are mutually exclusive ideas, and way back in the day, it used to be. It’s not like that anymore. While Disney used to be the place you went on vacation if you had money to burn, it can now be more affordable. Here are some tips to save money and still experience the wonder of The Magic Kingdom.

Save Money at Disney World with These Tips

With these tips, you’ll be able to experience Disney World in all its glory without worrying so much about your pocket book. Because let’s be honest, it’s hard to have fun when you’re worrying about your wallet.

1. Go During The Off Season

Just like it is with almost anything, the off season is one of the best ways to save money. Everybody and their brother goes to Disney World during the summer and for holidays. Instead of visiting during those peak times, head to the park during the off season. You’ll find better pricing because they need more visitors. Another bonus of the off season is that the park isn’t so crowded.

2. Check with Disney for Deals

I wasn’t kidding when I said that Disney has become more affordable. There was a time when going to Disney meant paying through the nose and living with it. Now, even Disney is offering deals on their park. A great way to save money is going right to the source and seeing what sort of offers Disney has going for your desired vacation time. Just remember that off season tip. You’ll get the best deals from Disney in the off season.

3. Purchase Multi-Day Passes

There are a lot of ways to save money on your Disney trip, but extra cheap tickets aren’t one of them. That’s one cost you’ll just have to live with going into it. However, if your trip is long enough, and you plan on being at the park everyday, consider getting a multi-day pass. With a multi-day pass, the ticket price isn’t quite so bad. In fact, an adult pass is almost 50% cheaper if you opt for a 7 day pass.

4. Don’t Drive

You might think that driving to Disney would save money, but these days, Disney offers buses via the free Disney Transportation System. All you need to do is get yourself that far, and then you can use the free DTS. While this saves you money on gas, be aware that the buses are generally crowded, and the travel is slow going. If you have the patience for that, it’s an excellent way to save money, and especially hassle. Have you ever tried finding a parking spot at the park? Yeesh.

5. Don’t Stay at the Resorts

While the magic of Disney Resort vacationing is touted heavily on television, you can save money and still vacation in style without them. Rather than staying at one of the resorts – which gets especially pricey for families of more than 4 – consider staying at a McMansion instead. There are hundreds of them, and they’re only a few miles away. They’re swanky, too. They come decked out to the nines with pools, grills, big-screen TVs, and more, and 3 bedroom rentals start at as low as $165 a night.

6. Pre-purchase Souvenirs and Trading Pins

Souvenirs purchased at the park can cost a pretty penny. Instead of purchasing souvenirs at the park, purchase souvenirs ahead of time and pack them with you. The Disney section at Walmart has a great selection of Disney items at an affordable price. You can also find several cheap Disney items at your local dollar store. If your child insists on buying souvenirs around the park, this is a great time to pull out a special surprise that you have pre-purchased, saving you a lot of money! If you are into trading pins at Disney World, you can find Disney trading pins at Amazon.

7. Pack Lunches and Snacks

Packing our own food was one of our top ways to save money at Disney World. You are allowed to bring in food and snacks that do not require heating to the parks at Disney World. It’s always a good idea to eat a big breakfast at your hotel before arrival to the parks and then eat a packed lunch and/or snacks throughout the day. Our favorite foods packed were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, granola bars, and other light snacks. By evening, you may run out of food to eat depending on how much you packed, so you’ll either have to opt for eating at the park (which can cost about $40+ for a family of 4) or you can wait until you leave the park to eat.

8. Request FREE Water

You know I love freebies. Request free water at Disney World Parks at any counter service or snack station. You can also bring your own Brita water bottle with a filter and fill up in case you stop at one of the water fountains for water.

9. Bring Your own Small Spray Bottle

If you go to Disney World during the spring, summer, or early fall, you may want to bring your own small spray bottle and spritz yourself or your children to keep cool during hot months. Spray fans are sold in the park, but they are pretty pricey.

10. Take Your Own Stroller or Borrow One From a Friend

We borrowed a large stroller from a friend and took it with us to the parks to avoid having to pay for lockers. It had a large basket underneath to fit all of our belongings. We were able to use the cup holders in the stroller for drinks, the middle compartment for a few loose items. We could hang our camera bag and other bags from the handle of the stroller. Our small kids switched riding in the stroller when they were tired. It was a HUGE lifesaver on our Disney World trip. A double stroller is a good option if you have very small kids.

11. Bring Your Own Camera and Take Your Own Photos

You have the option to buy photos with the PhotoPass service, but you’ll be paying a lot for your memories. Bring your own camera and take your own photos. You can use your camera to take photos of your family with all of the characters as well as around the park.

12. Don’t Forget an Autograph Book and Pen

Never leave home without a Disney autograph book and pen! You can buy these at the park, but it may be wise to purchase them in advance and have them handy to avoid standing in lines and being tempted to spend more at souvenir shops!

13. Pack the Sunscreen

Protect yourself from the sun. Pack plenty of sunscreen for the whole family to avoid getting sunburned. Take small breaks around the park to avoid getting overheated.

14. Request a FREE Disney Parks Vacation Planning DVD

Make the most of your time at Disney by requesting a FREE Disney Parks Vacation Planning DVD. Just click the Mickey Mouse banner ad below to request your free DVD.

Save Money Without Skimping on the Magic

The Magic Kingdom is a wonderful place to vacation as a family. Heck, it’s a wonderful place to vacation as an adult if you’re a big time Disney lover. And while, for most of us, it seems like an expensive proposition, the costs can be heavily mitigated with some smart decisions. There is nothing stopping you from seeing Disney World in all its glory while you save money.

Do you have any other tips on how to save money at Disney World or Disney Land? 

5 books that helped me save money

5 Books that Helped Me Save Money

5 books that helped me save money

My love for frugality and saving money started after college when I started my first teaching job as a second grade teacher. With my husband just starting his career and me starting mine, we had to find ways to live beneath our means so that we could also save for our future. I remember starting our financial journey in the year 2005. It’s true when they say the earlier you start the better, and it’s never too late to start no matter what age you are! I had help though, mostly from reading books. There are only a few books that I have read that have helped to motivate me to save, save, save. Below you’ll find the list of books that helped motivate us towards financial success. These books are placed in order in which I read them. Some books I read years ago, and some I’ve read within the last year or so. Take a look and maybe one or two (or all) of these would be of interest to you, too!

1. Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach

This is THE book that motivated me to take my very first steps to saving, read in 2005 at our first duty station in Pensacola, Florida. When I was a teacher, I found myself reading this during break times. It didn’t take me too long to get through the book because it was very interesting. I was a young teacher and I knew that saving money as early as possible was key, so I didn’t waste time. We found a financial advisor, set up our first investment accounts for retirement during this time and have been contributing ever since.

2. The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach

After reading Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach, I wanted to read more of his content. I read Automatic Millionaire in 2007 in North Carolina at our second duty station when I was working out on the treadmill at our apartment gym. This was another great read as it taught us how to save money by setting up automatic payments. Each month, we set up automatic payments to go directly into our retirement accounts and savings accounts. To this day, we still follow the automatic savings plan and it works great for us! The money leaves our account and goes directly to savings each month without us having to worry about it. Every bit adds up over time!

3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

I always heard great things about Rich Dad, Poor Dad, so I read this book on a flight back from Texas to North Carolina in 2008. I remember mostly reading about assets vs. liabilities as well as financial investing. We continued to invest monthly towards our future.

4. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

The Total Money Makeover is one of my favorite books of all. I read this book in August 2015 here in South Carolina. This book is the book that got us back on track after years of saving but not aggressively saving. It’s the book that taught us how to be gazelle intense with our finances. My husband read this book after I did and we both continue to listen to Dave Ramsey’s podcasts daily as well. Thanks to this book, we were able to follow Dave’s Baby Steps and we are currently on baby steps 4-7. We will finish Baby Step 4 for the year next month. We continue to save for college, pay off a rental home, and give at the same time.

5. Retire Inspired by Chris Hogan

This is a brand new book released in 2016. My husband and I read this in January in South Carolina. Retire Inspired is what I call the kick in the pants that we all need to save for retirement. This is an eye opening book as it motivates us to save even more for retirement. After looking at our own numbers, we realized that we needed to kick it into higher gear and put away even more each month. We discovered Chris Hogan (he has an amazing voice!) on one of Dave Ramsey’s podcasts and on another podcast by Ramsey Solutions, Chris Brown on Air. These three guys (Dave Ramsey, Chris Brown, and Chris Hogan) are three financial pros that I highly recommend listening to this year if you want to get on track financially.

If you’d like to get motivated and inspired to get on track this year financially, I highly recommend finding some good books such as the ones listed above to help you get started. It took the very first book on the list to motivate me to get started years and years ago, and I don’t regret the decision to start early and save one bit!

Have you read any of the books listed above? What money saving books do you recommend? 

ways to save on vet bills

6 Ways to Save on Vet Bills

ways to save on vet bills According to an AP-Petside.com poll, pet owners spend more than $500 a year in vet costs. Depending upon the age and health of your pet, some of you might pay much more than that. But even though that expert assistance is well worth it, it is possible to save a few bucks (or a lot of bucks!) when it comes to health care for your pooch or kitty.

1. Shop Around for Pet Insurance – Pet insurance can cost anywhere from $25 to $50 a month, but it can be a lifesaver for your pocketbook when it comes to expensive operations and procedures. Since pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, the best time to insure your pet is when they’re younger.

2. Score Discounts with Pet Assure – If insurance is outside your price range, you might consider a more affordable option like Pet Assure. The plan offers up to 25 percent off all medical services and 50 percent off pet products from participating vets. And at just $99 a year for dogs, $79 for cats and $149 for a four-pet family plan, it can pay for itself with just a few visits.

Related: 6 Tips for Saving Big on Pet Expenses

3. Get a Written Estimate – Imagine being told your car repairs will cost $300 and then being charged $700. The same can happen with vet bills. A written estimate can help you avoid “surprise” costs and make sure both you and the vet are on the same page when it comes to your pet’s care.

4. Get Regular Check Ups – Can you save money by going to the vet more often? You bet! Regular check ups for your pet are like yearly tune-ups for your car – they’ll help diagnose smaller problems before they become expensive bigger problems.

5. Visit During Regular Hours – Emergency visits, either after hours or during working hours but without an appointment, can be costly. If your pet is truly sick or injured, definitely take him to see the vet immediately, but if he’s merely under the weather and can wait 24 hours or so, go ahead and make an appointment.

Related: 6 Ways to Save on Cat Expenses and 7 Ways to Save on Dog Expenses

6. Take Advantage of Discounts – There are all sorts of vet care discounts available to pet owners. Those cost-cutters include senior and veteran discounts, but can also be used to save money if you’re a multi-pet owner or the owner of a stray or rescued animal. Not all vets offer discounts, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask!

mailbox freebies

Mailbox Freebies: How to Get Freebies in Your Mailbox!


Do you want freebies like k-cups, mouthwash, feminine products, body wash, cat food, coupons for FREE products and much more to arrive in your own mailbox at home? It’s simple! Just subscribe to my daily email and you’ll get a FREE daily email that will list several great freebies we found around the internet! All you have to do is click on the links in each freebie post, fill out the required forms, etc!

Check the freebie category on my website often, you never know what you’ll find! Keep in mind that whatever is posted on my website, I try to sign up for as well, so you’ll find us posting only freebies from sources we trust! Not all freebies do arrive, but most do.

How to Get Mailbox Freebies:

Follow me via social media to get updates when freebies are posted:

FREEBIES from the Past: 

Check out my mailbox freebies from the past I paid $0.00 for everything you see pictured. I simply signed up for the freebies as we posted them here and most of them did arrive!

Here’s what arrived in my mailbox recently:

mailbox freebies

1. Four Folger’s K-cups – Black Silk, Lively Colombian Decaffeinated, Caramel Drizzle, and Vanilla Biscotti + $1 off coupon

2. Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash + $3 off coupon

3. Olay Sensitive Body Wash + P&G coupon book

4. Herbal Essences Body Burst Body Wash

5. Four U by Kotex Pads and two pantiliners + $1 off coupom

6. Coupon for FREE Full Size Suave Professionals Visible Glow Product (up to $8.99 value)

7. Purina Cat Chow Healthy Weight Cat Food (2 oz.) + $1 off coupon

8. Kate Somerville Skin Moisturizer, Face Serum, and Exfoliating Treatment packets + coupon

9. Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin, & Nails Gummies with Biotin (2 gummies) + $1 off coupon

10. Nivea Extended Moisture Body Lotion + $1 off coupon

11. Joyce Meyer Enjoying Everyday Life magazine

Tell me what you received in your mailbox! 

tips for beginner couponers

5 Tips for Beginner Couponers

tips for beginner couponers

Coupons can be a great money saving tool when used correctly. Other times, coupons can actually make you spend more money if you aren’t careful! Several years ago, I followed the “Extreme Couponing” trend. It was fun while it lasted, but it didn’t last too long. You can read my article The Dangers of Extreme Couponing to see why I stopped. I still have a passion for using coupons at the grocery store, but my passion has changed over time and the way I use coupons changed, too.

Grocery expenses are one of the biggest monthly expenses in many households. Depending on the size of the family, grocery budgets cost families hundreds of dollars a month. I’ve always heard that a good budget for a family of four is between $400-$600, but I know of larger families that are able to knock their food budgets down even lower than that! Coupons are one great way to knock down the total of your grocery bill. If you are new to couponing or if you are looking for ways to improve your couponing skills, here are a few great tips to follow.

1. Print coupons found online.

My top 3 favorite go-to place for printable coupons are Coupons.com, RedPlum, and SmartSource. If you aren’t a fan of ink costs, I suggest using refill ink if you are going to print a lot of coupons. Refill ink is very inexpensive. I also recommend setting your printer to “Black and White” and “Quick Print” to save money on ink.

Related: Best Places to Find Online Printable Coupons

2. Find coupons on brand websites.

You can often times find coupons to your favorite products on brand webpages. If you follow a certain brand on social media, you may get updates when new coupons are released.

3. Write to your favorite companies for coupons.

Some companies will send you an envelope full of coupons if you ask. There are companies that will reply that they do not send out coupons, but at least you’ll know after you try.

Related: How to Request Coupons from Companies

4. Ask family and friends to save coupons.

Ask your family and friends to save coupons for you when they come across any if they aren’t into using coupons. You could even have coupon swaps where you swap coupons you don’t need for ones that you do need.

5. Don’t Use Coupons Just Because You Have Them.

Coupons can actually cost you more money if you aren’t careful. By this, I mean that just because you have coupons for items doesn’t mean you have to purchase that item. My best advice is to use only coupons on products that you know you need and buy on a regular basis.

How to Organize Your Coupons

Now that you know where to find coupons, you’ll want to organize them.

I recommend a small accordion file that fits in your purse. These are easy to carry around and have on hand when you need it. However, the one drawback to these is that you find yourself searching and flipping through coupons at the store because they are in a big clump by categories. If you have 50 coupons in your frozen food section, you find yourself wasting time trying to find the coupon you know you have in that stack!

save money with coupons

You can see that I organized it like this: Personal Care/Medicine, Cleaning/Household Supplies/Pets, Meat/Dairy, Sauces/Dressings/Condiments, Canned Goods/Soups, Pasta/Rice/Seasonings/Crackers, Beverages, Flour/Baking/Oil, Cereal/Breakfast Foods, Frozen Food/Bread, Paper Goods/Baby/Containers, Desserts/Snacks. The front section was reserved for store coupons.

If the accordion style does not work for you, you can organize your coupons in a coupon binder with plastic baseball card protectors. You can see each coupon when you use a coupon binder. You flip right to the section, have a picture of what you are looking for, making it easier. However, the binder is bigger, cannot fit in your purse, and you do have to take it everywhere you go to get your maximum savings. You also have to be one that doesn’t care that people see you carrying a coupon binder around the store! You just have to ask yourself, “What is funny or embarrasing about saving money?!?” You should be questioning those that give you looks why they don’t use coupons!

save money with coupons

To create your coupons binder, all you need is a binder that zips, dividers, and plastic baseball card sheets. You can always buy more of the dividers and baseball card sheets if you need them. It took me two hours to organize my binder. Once it is organized, it is very easy to discard the expired coupons and add new coupons. In the outside pockets of the binder, keep a pen, pair of scissors, and a calculator. In the inside pockets, keep store circulars, large coupons, and rebate forms. Keep a price book in the front of all sections so you can compare prices on certain items.

Organizing Sections of Your Coupon Binder

The first section of the binder is specifically for FREE coupons.

The second section are for store coupons, including department store coupons and restaurant coupons.

The third section is the food section divided up into these categories: Meat/Dairy/Milk, Cereal/Granola Bars/Bread/Cold Breakfast, Frozen Food, Snacks/Chips/Candy, Condiments/Sauces/Dressings, Pasta/Rice/Seasonings/Crackers/Baking, Canned Goods/Fruit Cups, Beverages.

The fourth section is the Health and Beauty section divided into these categories. Toothpaste/Toothbrushes/Oral Care, Shampoo/Conditioner/Hair Color, Deodorant, Shaving Cream/Razors, Feminine Products, Body Wash/Soap, Make-up/Eye Care/Moisturizers/Face Wash, Sunscreen/Vitamins/Medicine.

The fifth section is for household items and is divided into these categories: Diapers/Baby Wipes, Pets, Toilet Paper/Paper Towels/Paper Products, Laundry Care, Dish Cleaners, Multipurpose Cleaners, and Air Fresheners.

I recommend taking a sharpie and labeling each page of coupons. For example, if you have a large Meat/Dairy/Milk file, write meat on a page and keep all of your meat coupons together, write dairy on a page and keep yogurt/butter coupons together, and milk on one page, keeping all milk coupons together.

Remember: Do not throw your coupons away just because you do not need them that week! The key is to save them until you need the item and it is on sale. You can then pair the coupons with a sale, getting it for a very low price, or even free.

Now that you have organized your coupons, it is time to put those coupons to use.

Do you save money with coupons? 

ways to save at the grocery store

10 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store

ways to save at the grocery store

Do you find yourself struggling to save money on groceries? Groceries make up a huge part of the monthly budget. We spend a lot of food, almost comparable to making a large car payment each month! You can significantly cut your food budget when you shop smart and plan ahead before your shopping trip. Here are 10 ways to save at the grocery store.

1. Create a monthly budget for groceries.

Decide on what you can spend on groceries each month and try to stick to your budget. A typical family food budget is anywhere from $400-$600 depending on the size of the family.

Related: How to Create a Budget that Really Works

2. Use the store circular to determine what’s on sale.

Sit down with the store circular and look for the items that you know you buy on a regular basis that are on sale. You’ll be able to use this to create your list in the next step.

3. Create a list before you go to the store and buy ONLY what’s on the list.

It’s easy to get to the store and think, “Oh! I need that, too!” It’s ok to buy these items, but remember that if you are on a budget, you may be going over your budget if you do not stick to what’s on the list.

4. Find coupons to match your list.

Create your shopping list first for the items that you need. Next, search for coupons to match. You’ll be less tempted to buy things you don’t need and avoid that impulse feeling of buying just because you have a coupon.

Related: The Best Places to Find Online Printable Coupons

5. Eat before you shop.

Have you ever gone to the grocery store on an empty stomach? When you go to the store hungry, you are much more tempted to pull items off the shelf that you don’t necessarily need. Your stomach is telling you what to buy!

6. Shop alone, if possible.

Toddlers can be great at keeping us distracted while shopping as they sit in the cart, get out of the cart, push the cart, ride on the front of the cart, and try to get away with whatever they want to do. We also know that they like to pull items off the shelf. (Does any of this sound familiar?) Try to leave the kids at home with the husband or a sitter if necessary. When you do this, you have more time to compare prices and read labels. Often times, shopping alone for moms can feel like a nice vacation!

7. Stock up on items that you regularly buy that are on sale.

If you find an item on sale that you buy on a regular basis, stock up. By doing this, you are saving money in the long-run and cutting your store trips down. *Note: This is a great method if you consider this in your budget.

Related: How to Create a Small Stockpile

8. Browse your cart before checkout.

Scan your cart before heading to the checkout line to make sure you have everything you need and want. Compare your list to the items in your cart and place items back if you don’t need them or if you feel you may go over your budget.

9. Use your coupons!

How many times have you taken coupons to the store only to realize you forgot to use them? Keep coupons organized in an envelope, small coupon file, or binder. Before checkout, have your coupons ready to go!

You can see my coupon binder in this post. I no longer use a binder, though. I went back to using an accordian style file since it fits into my purse. 

10. Double check your receipts.

Cashiers are human, and they make mistakes. At times, items are not scanned correctly, and are scanned twice. There are times when prices do not show up correctly. Check your receipts after you checkout to make sure everything was scanned correctly.

Do you have any tips for saving at the grocery store?

cut back on eating out

How to Cut Back on Eating Out (and Save Money, Too!)

cut back on eating out

For the last few years, my husband and I developed a bad habit of eating out at restaurants often. We were being foolish with our money, and I was ready to change. The first step towards changing was admitting that we were wasting money on eating out instead of being wise with our money and investing towards our kid’s college or our own retirement. The second step was finding out exactly how much we were wasting on eating out at restaurants. This step was the eye opener. I went through our statements and wrote down every restaurant expense. It was a shocker. We were blowing so much money on restaurants without even realizing it. Then, we added up our grocery expenses and added that to our overall total and it was at that moment that we knew we needed to make changes.

The last few months, my husband and I have been following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps towards a healthier financial life. This book is the book that motivated us to start. We do not carry debt, but just because we had the money to spend, did not mean we could blow it on anything we wanted. We wanted to be good stewards of our money and make sure it was going to the right things — our emergency fund, college, retirement, and giving.

On September 1, we made the commitment to stop eating out and to cut back on it. We didn’t give it up entirely, but we do limit it to only a few times a month. If and when we do eat out at restaurants now, it’s a treat for us because we don’t do it often.

How to Cut Back on Eating Out (and Save Money, too!) 

1. Add it up.

Go through your (and your husband’s) previous month’s statements and write down every restaurant expense on a piece of paper. Add the amounts up to come up with your total. This will give you an idea on how much you are spending monthly on restaurants. Do the same for groceries and then add the two together to get your total food expenses. Take some time with your significant other to discuss the total. Too high? It’s time to make some changes! This is time to get creative and come up with a plan to cut back on eating out.

2. Shop from your kitchen.

If you were to place all of the food items from your pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards onto a conveyor belt at the store and let the cashier ring it up, what do you think the total would be? You’ve already purchased the items in your kitchen, now it’s time to eat them up! Each week, I take a piece of paper and divide it into five categories: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Drinks. Then, I look through my kitchen to see how many items I have that I can place in each category. I try to come up with different meals to make with what we have and write those down in each category. When I see that our items are running low in each category, that means it’s time to shop for groceries.

3. Meal plan.

When there’s no plan for meals, it can be easy to opt for eating out at a restaurant instead. When we weren’t meal planning, we were buying a lot of random items at the grocery store. Many times, we couldn’t even come up with full meals from those items, so we either found ourselves eating out more, or making several trips to the grocery store for food. Now that we meal plan, we only get the items we need from the store to make simple meals for a week or two. Meal planning has been a huge factor in cutting back on eating at restaurants.

Related: 5 Reasons You Need to Start Meal Planning Today

4. Shop for groceries. 

Once you have a meal plan in place, then it’s time to shop for 1-2 weeks worth of meals. Shop from your list only. It may be tempting to pick up a few items here and there while shopping, but you’ll save money if you stick to the list. It’s a good idea to set a food budget every time you shop.  Use coupons to help you save more at the grocery store.

Related: 10 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store

5. Limit eating out at restaurants.

If you’ve been used to eating out at restaurants, it can be hard to cut back entirely. You don’t have to give up eating out altogether, but limit it to special occasions or even just once a week. We try to limit it to once per week, if that. When we do eat at a restaurant, we try to go the cheapest route possible to save more money.

6. Get creative if you do eat out at a restaurant.

If and when you do eat out at a restaurant, get creative to find how you can cut your bill down even more. Do you have kids that don’t eat everything on their plate? Order one meal and split it up so they can share it. Order water instead. Skip the value meal and order from the $1 menu. It has become a game that whenever we do eat out at a restaurant now, we try to find ways to shave the cost down.

Related: 5 Ways to Save Big When Dining Out

7. Have date nights at home.

The night my husband and I discussed cutting back on eating at restaurants was the same night we dropped $75 on our meal during date night. It was our anniversary dinner and we hadn’t discussed saving before then, but I’m glad we don’t spend foolishly like that anymore. For date nights, we decided to skip eating out and spend time at home cooking in our kitchen and on the grill for a delicious homemade dinner. My husband usually grills up a delicious steak and I cook the veggies inside. We love to cook, so for us, this is something we enjoy. You may not enjoy having to cook on a date night – totally understandable! But if you do, this is an option. We also watch a movie after dinner to avoid paying for a movie, drinks and popcorn at a theater.

8. Pack your lunch.

Prepare lunches at home and take them to work! When you have food available to eat, this helps you to avoid the temptation of wanting to go out to get something to eat from a restaurant.

9. Pack snacks and food for the kids. 

This has been a HUGE money saver for us. I keep a snack box filled up for the car with some juice boxes as well. When I pick my kids up from school, they choose a snack and drink from the box and that keeps them satisfied until I can get home to make dinner. If I know we are going to be out for a long period of time running errands, etc., then I’ll pack lunches for everyone and stop for a picnic or allow them to eat their food in the car.

10. Take advantage of free meals.

There will be times when you’ll find activities and things to do where food will be free. Take advantage of these free meal offers! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying free food if it’s being offered. Some restaurants offer free meals for kids. Plan ahead if you must eat at a restaurant and take advantage of the kids eat free feature.

11. Skip the coffee shops.

Coffee shop expenses can add up, too. Make your own coffee at home and you’ll save a lot! We used to go to the coffee shop to get doughnuts. Now, we purchase a big box of doughnuts at the store for under $5 and freeze them for those times my girls want to enjoy a doughnut! They haven’t asked to go back to the doughnut shop since switching to buying store-bought doughnuts.

12. Tell your family and friends about your plan.

If you are in the habit of going out to eat at restaurants with family or friends, they may not be as motivated as you to save on eating at restaurants. Kindly inform your family and friends of your plan and come up with ways to still enjoy each other’s company without having to spend a lot of money eating out. It may be a hard adjustment at first, but remember, this is YOUR money and you get to decide where your money goes.

You can do this!

At the end of each month, total up the amount spent on eating out at restaurants and the amount spent on groceries. Challenge yourself to keep these amounts as low as possible. Set time aside to talk to your significant other on your progress and come up with ways to improve, etc. Cutting out restaurant expenses can be difficult at first, but once you have a good plan in place and see how much money you are saving by not eating out motivates us to keep going! Try this for a month and see how you do! You may become hooked to this plan like we are. The money saved by not eating out will be added to college funds, retirement, and giving to others instead of wasted on restaurant expenses. That sounds like a winning plan to me!

Do you have any tips to help cut down on eating out at restaurants? 

cheap books for kids

10 Places to Find Cheap Books for Kids

cheap books for kids

Brand new kids books can be expensive. If you walk into any book store and pick a kids book from the shelf to buy, you can expect to pay a lot–sometimes up to $20+ (for one book!) Prices on books for kids are outrageous, so I take the time to find books for almost 75%-100% off at the following places:

1. Garage Sales/Yard Sales

You can find great books for about $0.25-$1.00 at garage/yard sales. I try not to pay more than that, unless the book is just that awesome. You can even try to talk the price down. If you wait until the very end of the sale, you may walk away with free books that the family just wants to get rid of!

2. Thrift Stores

Depending on the thrift store, you can find books that range anywhere from about $0.50-$1.50. Often times, hardback books are a little more pricey than the softback books. I have found several great books at thrift stores–in new to like-new condition!

3. Local Consignment Stores

You can find inexpensive books, depending on the store. The prices on books at a consignment store are usually higher than kids books at thrift stores, mainly because someone has consigned the books and are trying to make money off of a sale.

Related: Creating Extra Income Through Consignment

4. Amazon

Need a specific book and don’t have time to search garage sales of thrift stores? Browse through the children’s books at Amazon. You can find new to used books here, but you will be paying a shipping charge. You have to determine if the shipping charge is worth it or not.

5. Once Upon a Child

This children’s consignment store usually has a great selection of gently used kids books, for $0.50-$1.00 or more. If you have any gently used books you would like to sell, you can sell them to Once Upon a Child, getting cash or store credit (depending on their policy).

6. Ross Dress for Less/T.J. Maxx

If I need cheap kids’ books to give as gifts, this is the place to go. You can find great board books here along with titles from popular authors like Eric Carle or Dr. Seuss. Sometimes they put the books on sale, even when they are already at a low price.

7. Book Swaps with Family and Friends (hand me downs)

This is a good way to get books for free! Trade with family or friends. Some family or friends may even pass down their kids’ books to you

8. Freecycle

If you have a strong and active Freecycle community, you can score a ton of great items, especially kids’ books. I have used this site many of times and have received several great books. You request that you are looking for kids’ books and if someone has a few to offer, you can set up a way to get them, FREE!

9. Dollar Stores/Dollar Aisles

You can find a few books at Dollar Stores. You won’t find many classics or popular books here, but there are a few great ones for kids. I remember buying a few Sesame Street books from the dollar store. I also buy coloring books there. You can find cute books in dollar aisles (such as Target) also.

Related: Items Worth Buying at the Dollar Store

10. Book Store/Library Sales and Closeouts: Book stores and libraries usually hold book sales when they need to make room for new inventory. You can usually find some great deals on kids’ books at these sales and closeouts.

Related: More Than Just Books: 8 Library Freebies to Take Advantage of Now

Do you have any other places to add to this list?