DIY Frozen Yoplait Yogurt Pops

DIY Frozen Yogurt Pops



Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Yoplait. All opinions are my own.

DIY Frozen Yoplait Yogurt Pops

The kids are home for the summer and we are filling our days with fun summer activities. One of our favorite activities is swimming, followed by a tasty treat on the back porch — usually an icy pop, ice cream, or snow cone. This summer, instead of purchasing ready made icy pops that are full of sugar with little to no nutritional value, I decided to make our own yogurt pops for my family (adults included) to enjoy during these hot months. I love that these frozen yogurt pops are the perfect wholesome snack to enjoy. Little did I know how much of a favorite these would become and how easy the DIY Frozen Yogurt Pops are to make. The best part? You can get as creative as you’d like with flavors! I already have several flavor combinations that I am going to try this summer.

For our first DIY Frozen Yogurt combination, we used Yoplait Light Vanilla, Original Orange Creme, and Original Strawberry yogurt.

Yoplait Frozen Yogurt Pops

To create your Yoplait Frozen Yogurt Pops, you’ll want to find and use high a quality ice pop molds. I recommend these molds because I’ve used them several times with no issues. The reason I say to use high quality is because I’ve used molds in the past that didn’t hold and the stick would pull right out, wasting the icy pop. We don’t want to waste any money making our icy pops!

Next, fill each mold with your choice of Yoplait Original, Light, Greek, or Gogurt® yogurt. Get creative and layer your yogurt pop to your liking. You can choose one flavor, too if you’d like!

My family loves these DIY Frozen Yogurt Pops. They are a very refreshing choice on a hot summer day. I can’t wait to make more this summer. Here are three more combinations using Yoplait Original Yogurt that I plan to try this summer!

  • Yoplait Original Lemon Burst + Yoplait Original Key Lime Pie
  • Yoplait Original Pina Colada + Yoplait Original Pineapple
  • Yoplait Original Cherry Orchard + Yoplait Original Vanilla
  • Yoplait Original Orange Creme – I loved the flavor in the recipe above so much, that I’d love to try this alone – tastes like an orange creamsicle!

What flavor combinations would you try?

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

Summer

20 Fun and Frugal Summer Activities for Kids



summer activities
20 Fun and Frugal Summer Activities for Kids

Summer is around the corner and the kids will be home all day. Have you planned any fun summer activities for the kids? Here are a few fun ideas! Start planning your summer so that you aren’t stuck in the house wondering what to do!

1. Play at the local park. Call ahead to see if there are train rides or ponds with animals to feed.

2. Head to the pool! Enroll your children in swim lessons if they don’t know how to swim.

3. Take trip to the beach. Build sandcastles or play in the waves.

4. Visit your local library. Let your child sign up for their own personal library card. Check library hours for story or activity times.

5. Enroll your child in team sports.

6. Check with the church and register for Vacation Bible School.

7. Enroll your child in a summer camp.

8. Visit the nearest children’s museum or science museum.

9. Take a trip to the zoo.

10. Go bowling.

11. Go to the movies and see the latest kid/family friendly movie.

12. Take nature walks.

13. Take a family vacation to a fun theme park or go camping at a state park.

14. Visit a local nursery and look at all of the pretty plants and flowers.

15. Take a field trip to the grocery store.

16. Visit the ice cream shop.

17. Play Putt Putt golf.

18. Take your child to Chuck E. Cheese.

19. Schedule playdates with other moms and visit at a local restaurant with a play area.

20. Visit an aquarium.

Leave a comment below and tell us about other fun summer activities for kids! 

summer AC

Cool Off Your Summer Air Conditioning Bill With These 5 Tips



summer AC

I’m not really sure how people cooled off on a hot summer day before air conditioning was invented (Answer: Lots and lots of fans!), but I sure am grateful for the cool and relaxing miracle of the AC. What I’m not grateful for is the high cost of running my AC. But since I can’t live without it, I’ve starting doing whatever I can to reduce my summer electric bill. Over the past few years, my cost-cutting tactics have worked wonderfully. Here’s how I did it:

Take Good Care of Your Air Conditioner – Like any major appliance, your AC requires regular maintenance and care in order to run smoothly and efficiently. To get the most out of your window AC, you should change or clean the filter a few times each summer (most experts recommend monthly cleanings). If you use central air conditioning, there are also a few steps to take to keep your unit clean, but you should probably call in a professional to perform that annual tune up.

Don’t Try to Cool the Entire House – Remember when your father used to yell at you for “trying to heat the whole neighborhood” when you left the front door open during the winter? That valuable lesson is also true in the summer. Only instead of cooling the whole neighborhood, you should avoid cooling your entire house. Only cool the rooms you’re using, which means keeping vents closed in unused rooms and keeping window units turned off in bedrooms until right before bedtime.

Follow Your Father’s Advice – Speaking of not cooling the entire neighborhood, you can save energy by keeping doors shut whenever possible and by closing the shades, drapes and blinds during the day.

Keep it Cool, But Not Too Cool – A chilly 70 degree living room might feel nice when it’s 90 degrees outside, but the lower your thermostat is set, the more you’ll spend on electricity. The easiest way to save is to turn the temperature up to 76-78 degrees (each degree will save you 3 percent in electricity to run your AC!). When you leave the house for shopping or work, turn the AC up even higher, to 80-82 degrees.

Run Ceiling Fans or Box Fans – If 78 degrees is too warm for you, run your ceiling fans (if you have them). The breeze from the fan will make a 78 degree room feel like 76 degrees. And even through the fans use electricity, you’ll still save money on your monthly bill versus turning your thermostat down to 76 degrees. View this great selection of box fans and small fans.

How do you keep your home cool in the summer?

Budget barbequing

Budget Barbequing: How to Save Money When Grilling this Summer



Budget barbequing

If you’re like most Americans, you’ll be firing up the grill this week to celebrate the Fourth of July in true patriotic fashion. And why not? A little backyard barbeque is not only delicious, it can also be rather economical … especially if you follow these six tips.

Spend a Little Extra on a Grill – How will spending more money on a grill help you save money? It’s simple. If you have a nice grill, you’ll be more likely to use it. And if you’re more likely to use your grill, you’re less likely to go out to eat (which can cost a lot more than grilling at home). You don’t have to buy a top-of-the-line grill, but don’t be afraid to spend $300-$400 to get a grill that gets the job done and won’t break down after six months of use.

Don’t Go Overboard on Accessories – Now that you’ve got yourself a nice grill, you might be tempted to run out and spend $150 on a fancy 12-piece set of grilling accessories. Don’t do that! All you really need are a simple set of tongs and a spatula. Maybe a grilling fork, too. But guess what? If you’ve got all three of those things in your kitchen already, you don’t need to buy more just for your grill.

Protect Your Grilling Investment – A nice grill will last seven to 10 years, but only if you take good care of it. That includes regular cleaning and keeping it covered and out of the weather when not in use.

Don’t Go Overboard on Meat – You don’t need a bunch of fancy accessories and you also don’t need a bunch of fancy meat. For many backyard grillers, meat is the biggest part of any barbeque budget, but you can trim the fat by skipping the steak and fish and opting instead for staples like hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken. If you really want steak, try some more affordable options. Even the cheaper cuts will taste great when cooked over an open flame.

The Butcher is Your Friend – Want to save money on meat? Of course you do. The easiest way to do that is to talk with your grocery store butcher on a regular basis. He or she will tell you when certain meats might go on sale and be able to suggest cheaper options.

Embrace Leftovers – Like any meal, making a little extra means more leftovers the next day. Sometimes that’s not cost effective, but barbeque leftovers taste great even three days later. Grilling extra is also a good idea because it allows you to get more from the fuel you’re burning (especially if you’ve got a charcoal grill).

Ways to Earn Extra Cash and Rewards this Summer



Summer is here! If you are in need of making extra cash and rewards, check out this list below! Companies and brands need feedback from YOU and by completing surveys or even doing simple tasks such as shopping online, you can start working towards earning real cash and rewards. Every bit adds up! Browse through the list below and choose the ones that are right for you to start earning today!

MySurvey – By sharing your opinions about products and services, you are rewarded with Reward Points to redeem for cash and merchandise.

Toluna – Get rewarded for surveys & polls. Sign up to test and review products for FREE!

Pinecone Research – You will earn points for each completed product survey, which can be exchanged for cash and other rewards. PLUS you will be automatically entered into a bi-weekly Sweepstakes to win additional cash prizes for your time. Each interview usually takes 15-20 minutes of your time. Ranked #1 on Survey Police

Global Test Market – Earn rewards like Amazon, PayPal, Macy’s, Kohl’s

Vindale Research – Get paid to review products. Join the finest minds in consumer research and change the world one product at a time. Share your unique opinion and get paid for it! Participation required. Earn $5-$75 Per Survey!

MindsPay – Evaluate products and services of your interest and give us your feedback.You get compensated! Watch your account balance grow, then you can request a payout!

Panda Research – Participate in offers and surveys and get paid up to $50 per offer completed.

Inbox Dollars – Pays members to read emails, take surveys online, play games, and go shopping! New members also receive $5 just for joining.

Swagbucks – Earn 1,000s of free prizes, for doing the things you do every day – like PayPal and Amazon gift cards, toys, clothes, collectibles, games, electronics and more.

ShopAtHome – Get cash back for shopping. Find over 100,000 grocery and restaurant coupons, printable coupons, coupon codes, cash back and hot deals.

Ibotta – Find great rebates, shop & redeem, get cash back!

Opinion Outpost (US) – Rewards include get cash, Amazon gift cards, game points, donations to your favorite charities, and more. Everyone is also automatically entered to a $10,000 sweepstakes by joining and taking surveys. The minimum cash out for Paypal is $10 and only $5 for Amazon gift cards.

Opinion Outpost (Mobile) – Rewards include get cash, Amazon gift cards, game points, donations to your favorite charities, and more. Everyone is also automatically entered to a $10,000 sweepstakes by joining and taking surveys. The minimum cash out for Paypal is $10 and only $5 for Amazon gift cards.

SendEarnings – Earn CASH when you need emails, take surveys, shop online, redeem coupons & more!

Valued Opinions – Don’t give your opinions away get paid for them.

Points2Shop – Earn free rewards and points from shopping!

e-Poll – Be entered into the $1000 Monthly draw and take surveys to earn rewards.

National Consumer Panel – Voice your opinions to help manufacturers and retailers make decisions on what products to develop or improve.

VIP Voice – Confirmed panelists will be entered into a sweepstakes upon joining and will have additional chances to win cash and other great prizes, with each survey taken.

Cash Crate – Simply complete free offers and get paid without spending a dime!

Nielsen Home Scan Consumer Panel – Earn valuable points, which are redeemable for electronics, household items, jewelry, toy, gift cards, and more.

Canada:

Nielsen Home Scan Consumer Panel (Canada) – Points are redeemable toward great thank you gifts offered in our catalog.

Angus Reid Forum (Canada) – Earn Survey Dollars redeemable for cheques, Aeroplan Miles, Amazon gift cards or charity. Get entered into the $1,000 contest draw for joining.

DailyRewards (Canada) – Pays members to read emails, take surveys online, play games, and go shopping! New members also receive $5 just for joining.

Opinion Outpost (Canada) – Rewards include get cash, Amazon gift cards, game points, donations to your favorite charities, and more. Everyone is also automatically entered to a $10,000 sweepstakes by joining and taking surveys. The minimum cash out for Paypal is $10 and only $5 for Amazon gift cards.

mailbox freebies

Mailbox Freebies: How to Get Freebies in Your Mailbox!



freebies

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:

Check out my mailbox freebies from the past! You’ll need to scroll down the page to see past mailbox freebies!

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! 

Coffee Cans

31 Uses for Coffee Cans, Baby Formula Cans, or Other Containers



My husband and I drink a lot of coffee and we always end up with empty coffee containers. We also use formula now with my almost four month old and we end up with empty formula cans. I am not a fan of throwing these away, so I went on to my Frugal Free Gal Facebook Page and asked my fans what they did with empty coffee cans or other containers. I was amazed at the response, so I wanted to share them here. Here are their responses:

(***Warning: Some containers may have sharp edges. I do not recommend using any cans that could be dangerous. Also, do not pour hot grease in plastic containers. Make sure grease has cooled down before adding it to any container.)

  1. My hubby uses coffee cans out in the garage to store nails, screws, etc.  -Delois
  2. To organize the tools in the garage, cut holes in the bottom of the coffee cans to make a week long watering system for your plants, organize crafts (buttons, string, thread) -Trish
  3. Pencil holders, kitchen tools, garage gadgets, make candles in, stored on their side for fabric, yarn or electronics (cords), Legos, small toys, trash collection in the car -Darcy
  4. I use the plastic Folger coffee cans to throw vegetable scraps, onion peels, coffee grounds etc in. Once a day I empty it onto the compost pile in the back yard. We also use them to start seedlings for the garden. -Leeann
  5. Pens, coins, makeup, small gift containers -Lucy
  6. I’m container gardening this year and plan to use my coffee cans for peppers. -Robyn
  7. Teacher appreciation gifts! -Leslee
  8. Lay them on their sides, cover with mac tac, cover with fabric, decoupage and glue together to make a pyramid…ta da… great looking storage! -Vanessa
  9. I have my kids re-use them for crafts as often as I can, but they can only go so far. So far we made road trip bins with the tall cans of formula. (Example: Filled w/a few action figures, matchbox cars, non perishable snacks, a hand held game of some sort, maybe some pictures etc.) Just enough to fit in the can and take on long trips full of stuff that’s still a novelty. I also had them put wrapping paper on some and decorate them and make piggy banks or jewelry boxes for their grandmas, etc. -Chandelle
  10. I finally found a use for the empty Ovaltine containers, my husband brews beer so he keeps different colored caps in each one.  I saw something for using Pringles containers and Oatmeal containers to give cookies or baked items during the holidays. Wrap with scrapbook paper or wrapping paper, use ribbon, etc. We don’t use coffee cans anymore but I hated throwing those out when we did. Those might work good for giving baked goods during the holidays wrapped in scrapbook paper or wrapping paper. -Tasha
  11. My hubby uses them to sort parts in the garage. -Candice
  12. I am covering some with cute paper and using them as utensil holders and putting balloon weights in them to use as centerpieces at a up coming party. Or have the kiddos decorate them and make banks out of them! -Livy
  13. Make mini first aid kits. -Heather
  14. Kids toys. -Danielle
  15. We have used coffee cans to transport dry dog food camping. Any cans you can slap some cute paper on can become a pencil holder. Or noise maker for kids if you have a lid and put some rice in it. -Nik
  16. I get the plastic coffee cans and recycle them. If metal, I use them for grease. -Rita
  17. I use ours for my makeup in the bathroom. -Jennifer
  18. We glue or tape a decorated piece of construction paper, fill them up with goodies (depending on the holiday) and give them out as presents. People love they can re-use it afterwards for office supplies, etc. And they have a keepsake of my children’s handwriting/drawing skills as they progress. -Jennafer
  19. Paint the cans and attach sturdy wire to make a handle, even curl the wire to make it more decorative and use it for valentines or Easter for holding candy. Use them for birthday parties to hold their treasures like a goody bag or for a candy toss–get the kids to decorated it with pieces of cloth, paint etc. The craft possibilities are endless. -Rachelle
  20. We use coffee cans to put used cooking oil in. -Shelli
  21. I put holes in the bottom of the Folgers buckets and use them for planters. If you “rough up” the outside, you can spray paint them and make them look nice. -Jennifer
  22. Paint them and put hair bows/rubber bands. they could also be used to hold the remotes. -Tammy
  23. In my storage dry room I have rows of coffee cans filled with different beans, rice, and noodles. I use them in the garden for my young tomato and pepper plants to keep earwigs and cutworms away–as the tomato or pepper grows, I add more soil. This gives it a stronger root system and nothing is touching the ground to get spoiled. I also save them for camping. -Dianna
  24. I use formula cans as my vase and I make a bouquet of baby stuff for baby showers. They look really cute! -Angie
  25. I use them for old cooking oil. -Kelly
  26. You could donate them to a preschool or save for VBS! -Janet
  27. Spray paint or decorate them with construction paper, wall paper, etc. -Angela
  28. Check with your children’s ministry leader at your church.  They might be able to use them for VBS. -Lesa
  29. My parents use coffee cans for fat oils and freeze it. -Alison
  30. I use the formula tub for chalk outside so it stays dry when it rains. -Margaret
  31. I use formula containers for small toys or to keep toy sets together. -Jennifer

So, before you throw away those empty containers, think of a way in which you can reuse or recycle them!

If you’d like to add your own idea, please leave a comment in this post!

Thank you to the fans that contributed ideas for this post.

Healthy food on table

Five Reasons You Need to Start Meal Planning Today



Healthy food on table

Now that I meal plan every week, I find it almost hard to remember a time when I didn’t meal plan or to imagine how I ever went to the store without a list. Meal planning makes grocery shopping and cooking so much easier; I don’t think I could ever go back. Sure, I don’t always look forward to sitting down to meal plan when I’m especially busy–it does take a little time one night a week–but once my meal plan is done, I’m always glad I did it.

Haven’t started meal planning yet? Here are five reasons YOU need to start meal planning this week.

1. It Will Save You Time

How much time do you spend each evening looking into the cabinets wondering what you are going to make? How much time do you actually spend making those “quick” trips to the store? Even if you only spend 15 min a night trying to figure out what to make, that’s an hour and 45 min a week. Add in three 30 min “quick” trips to the store, and that’s over three hours of your life wasted each week. By sitting down one night a week for 45 minutes to an hour to make a meal plan and a grocery list, you can easily save yourself a couple of hours every week. Plus, your shopping trips will go much quicker as well.

2. It Will Save You Money

One great thing about meal planning is that it allows you to make your list around the items that are on sale or that you have coupons for every week. Instead of just going to the store and picking up whatever looks good, you can intentionally fill your list with items that you can get for less. or example, if hamburger is on sale this week, then this week would be a great time to make more hamburger-based recipes. Not only will you make fewer impulse purchases when you shop with a plan, but you will be able to buy the things that you do need for less as well.

3. It Will Save You Hassle

Figuring out what to eat very night can be a real hassle. Plus, who wants to make extra trips to the store at 5 p.m. when you just got off work or when the little ones are clamoring for dinner? By planning your meals in advance, you can make sure you already have the ingredients on hand, you won’t have to make decisions every night, and you can even do some of the prep work ahead of time. Get dinner on the table and get on with your evening faster with a meal plan.

4. You’ll Eat Healthier

What happens when you need to get dinner on the table in a hurry but you have nothing in your house that goes together to make a real meal? You hit the drive thru or order a pizza instead. While this is okay on occasion, many Americans have taken to eating convenience foods every night only is this very expensive, but it is very unhealthy too. Save your wallet and your waistline by meal planning instead.

5. You’ll Waste Less

Another great perk of meal planning is that you can plan meals with similar ingredients for the same week so nothing gets wasted. Have a recipe that requires half a bag of spinach? Plan another spinach recipe the same week and put that spinach to good use! Stop throwing out all of those leftover ingredients. Make a meal plan, and you’ll reduce your waste and your grocery budget.

Need a little bit of a meal planning boost? Try eMeals Meal Planning. eMeals offers a variety of plans including low fat, low carb, portion control, gluten free, clean eating, paleo, vegetarian, natural & organic, and classic plans. You pick your plan, get great recipes, shop and save, and cook and enjoy! eMeals helps to take the “guessing” work away so you can start planning great meals for your family.

Do you meal plan? If not, what’s stopping you?

memberships

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.

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.

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

Price tag over jeans background

Five Ways Decluttering Can Actually Save You Money



Price tag over jeans background
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!

Read: 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.

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.

Read More on Decluttering and Organization.

How is your money-saving strategy working for you? Are you saving your family money, or simply acquiring more and more clutter?

credit cards

Three Ways to Eliminate Your Credit Card Interest Payments Today



credit cards

When it comes to paying off your debts, there are a lot of things that can get in your way. There are surprise medical bills, old habits that die hard, and–perhaps most annoying of all–interest. I absolutely hate paying interest. So, I set out to find ways to avoid it, and I came up with three really good ones.

1. Pay Off Your Balance

This should go without saying, but if you are continuing to buy things you can’t afford by putting them on your credit card, stop! You are only digging yourself into a deeper hole. If you have to put it on a card to afford it, you can’t afford it. Switch to cash and pay off your credit card balance as soon as possible.

2. Switch to a “No Interest” Card

In the meantime–while you are working to pay off your credit card debts–why not transfer your current credit card debt to a new card with a zero percent introductory interest rate? Now, I am NOT advising you to go card hopping constantly–this will hurt your credit. But if you don’t have much left to go, why not speed up the process by getting rid of the interest?

DO read the terms and conditions before you sign. It will completely defeat the purpose if there are huge fees or if the interest rate skyrockets before you are able to pay off your balance in full. This technique works best for relatively small balances on cards with high interest rateswhen you know you will have it paid off before the introductory period ends.

3. Make Payments Immediately

Okay, this one is going to take a little explaining, but it works really well if you can get the hang of it.

Say you had to use your card for an emergency expense, and now you have a $1,000 balance. If you stopped using your card to make any more purchases, you would pay interest on that $1,000 until you eventually got it paid off. That interest would really add up over time, especially if you couldn’t afford to pay the $1,000 off right away, and all of that money would be wasted.

BUT if you CONTINUE to use your card for the normal, everyday purchases that you would make anyways, and you pay off your new purchases as soon as you make them, then you can avoid paying interest on that original $1,000 all together.

Here’s how it works: Say, for example, that this month you need $600 for groceries, $125 for cable, $100 for a doctor’s payment, $75 for new clothes for your family and $100 for miscellaneous purchases. That equals $1,000. Instead of paying cash for those things or putting them on your card to pay off next month, pay them off as soon as you purchase them (or weekly works well too).

When you pay off all new purchases right away, instead of waiting until you get the bill for them, the $1,000 that you pay down on your card will go towards the original $1,000 first–not the new purchases. To you, it will be like you are ignoring that original $1,000 and just paying for new purchases. But to your card, you’ll be paying the previous balance off in full every month, which means NO interest! And then, the next month, when you pay next month’s bills, it will be applied to this month’s balance. And continue on this way each month until you are able to get your debt paid down.

Now, this technique won’t get your balance paid off–you’ll have to pay extra to do that. But it is a great way to avoid racking up interest when you really cannot spare any extra to pay down your debts right now. It kind of puts them in “limbo.” That original $1,000 balance is there, but you aren’t paying interest on it.

Obviously, these three techniques won’t work for everyone. If you are seriously behind on bills, have huge debts or have terrible credit, you probably won’t be able to eliminate your interest altogether. But if you have a smaller debt that you are working hard to pay off, these three tips are a fantastic way to eliminate your interest payment and get your debt paid off faster!

summer activities

Seven Free and Cheap Summer Activities for Kids



summer activities

Summer is right around the corner! How will your children spend their long summer days? While there is definitely a lot of value in unscheduled time running around outside in the backyard, you will want to have some fun activities to keep them occupied as well. Thankfully, fun doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are seven summer activities for kids that don’t cost much at all.

1. Go to the Library

Has it been a while since your kids have visited the library? If so, you might be surprised at just how many things they have. In addition to free books and movies, most libraries have a kids’ area with games, story time and even computers full of educational games. You can probably even find fun summer classes or programs.

2. Have a Picnic at the Park

You have to eat lunch anyways–why not make it fun? Grab a big blanket and head to the park with a picnic lunch. Bring some of your kids’ friends along too for double for the fun. Just be sure to grab a shady spot and bring plenty of drinks from home!

3. Go Bowling

If you are lucky enough to live in one of several select cities, your children can actually bowl free all summer long. You just have to buy shoes. (Tip: If you plan on going several times, just buy an extra pair of “bowling shoes” instead of paying each time.) Bowling is a great way to beat the heat and have some fun. Click here to see if Kids Bowl Free has a program in your area.

4. Take in a Matinee Movie

Alternately, you may be able to find movies for free or cheap, especially if you go in the afternoon when theaters are dead. You don’t have to live next to a dollar theatre either. Simply call your local movie theater and see if they offer any type of kids’ program or special discount. Many do.

5. Visit the Animal Shelter or Pet Store

Looking for a fun summer activity that also helps out your community? Why not visit the pets at the pet store or animal shelter? These poor penned up pups need lots of love, and if your kids love animals, they will love helping take care of them. Visit regularly and the workers might even allow your children to help with extra, fun responsibilities.

6. Be a Tourist in Your Hometown

Do you live in a city that has a rich heritage? If so, take an afternoon and learn more. Visit your local tourist center in your city to find out what little-known highlights your city has to offer and then spend the afternoon exploring them. This is a great way to make history really come to life!

7. Tour a Museum

Do you have any fun museums in your area? If so, call and see what kind of discounts or special programs they offer. Many kid-friendly museums have special exhibits, events or discount rates for kids. Your kids will love wandering around, you’ll love the educational value, and you’ll all love the air conditioning!

This summer, don’t spend an arm and a leg to keep your children occupied all summer. Check out these seven free and cheap summer activities for kids to have a blast without paying a fortune.

What do you and your children love to do in the summer? Do you have any additional inexpensive activities to add?

How to Request Coupons from Companies

How to Request Coupons from Companies



How to Request Coupons from Companies

Is one of your goals to save money this year? If so, here’s a great tip for you!

I have been writing to companies online asking them to send money saving coupons and/or free samples of my favorite products to me in the mail. So far, 6 out of 7 have sent me coupons. I received 4 letters in the mail from companies and 2 emails back with coupons. Only 1 company failed to send coupons. I have written to several other companies as well and plan to continue doing this so that I can save money this year!

The results:

  • Luna Clif Bars: 2 coupons/Free Luna Bars, 2 coupons/50 cents off
  • Haagan Dazs: 1/$1.00 off coupon, 2/50 cents off coupons
  • Meow Mix: Buy 2 get 1 free wet cat food, $1.00 off dry cat food
  • Lindsay Olives: 1/50 cents off coupon
  • Drano: coupon offer through their newsletter
  • Hain Celestial Group: 3/55 cents off coupons
  • Nabisco 100 Cal Packs: Nothing

Go here to see how many other coupons I scored from companies!

How to write your favorite companies for coupons:

1. Make a list of products you buy on a regular basis.
2. Find the company homepage online.
3. Find the “Contact Us” link on the homepage.
4. Fill out your information. In the comment section, tell them about the product you like and why you like it.
5. In that section, ask them if they could send money saving coupons and/or free samples for you and your friends. Submit.
6. Repeat this process for the other companies.
7. Check your mail box or email in the next few days and weeks to see what the company will send you.
8. Leave a comment here if you have any luck!

Don’t want to wait for coupons? Print coupons now!


Does this take a lot of time?

Not at all! It is easy and well worth the time. Start slowly, writing to about 2-3 a day. Then add more once you get used to it. It can be fun to because you never know what they will send you. Sometimes you will get free items–Luna sent coupons for 2 free bars!

Money Saving Tip:

These coupons usually have a long life and do not expire for a while. Save them in your coupon file and wait until they go on sale to maximize your savings. Pair with a store coupon to maximize even further.

What companies do you plan to write to for money saving coupons?

budget 2

5 Easy Ways to Significantly Reduce Your Monthly Budget



budget 2

When most people think about reducing their spending, they generally think about their variable expenses such as their groceries, clothing or Starbucks addiction instead of their regular monthly bills such as their mortgage, electric bill or student loans. While your grocery and clothing costs are often the easiest to reduce quickly, if you really need to reduce your budget, you may need additional ways to save big. Here are five easy ways to significantly reduce the rest of your monthly budget that you may not have considered yet.

1. Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Is your older home wasting you countless dollars due to poor energy efficiency? If so, there are plenty of ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency and save your hard-earned money. Seal any cracks around your doors and windows, add extra insulation in the attic, switch to CFLs, reduce the temperature on your hot water heater, and purchase energy efficient appliances when your old ones give out. These changes may seem small, but they can really add up to big savings.

2. Get Rid of Subscriptions and Memberships

Whether or not you use the subscriptions and memberships you have, you can probably get the same items for free or significantly cheaper elsewhere. Cancel your gym membership and go running outside instead. Cancel your magazine subscription and check out your favorite magazines from the library. Cancel cable and use Netflix or Hulu. Get rid of your home phone and just use your cell phone instead. You can still enjoy all of the benefits you had without the added expense.

Don’t forget to create your FREE budget today while you are here!


Need help with a budget? Read and learn more about personal budgets!

3. Call Your Credit Card Company

While having no credit card debt would be preferable, at least take steps to reduce your interest rate while you work to get your card balance paid off. If your card has a super high rate, call your company and ask them to lower it. Many will just because you asked! If your company won’t, shop around for a new card with a lower rate. A card with a 0% introductory rate might be just what you need to finally get your balance paid off once and for all. And always, always, always make sure you pay your bill on time to avoid interest rate hikes and fees!

4. Consolidate Your Student Loans

While student loan interest rates are generally lower than credit card interest rates, that doesn’t mean that paying them every month is enjoyable. If your loans are higher than they should be, see if you can consolidate them for a better rate. Alternately, see if you can get a discount for paying on time every month or for signing up for monthly auto-debits. Even a savings of 0.25% can really add up if your balances are high.

5. Refinance Your Home

For many people, their mortgage is their biggest expense. If yours is too big, see if you can refinance for less. If interest rates have gone down, if your credit has improved or if you have passed the 20% equity mark, you probably can. Some companies will even allow you to include your closing expenses in the cost of your new mortgage so refinancing doesn’t have to be expensive, and this one-time process can really save you big over the life of your loan.

Do you need to reduce your monthly budget or have you already? Which of these tips do you think will work best for you? Do you have other tips to add? Share them below!

yard sale

5 Easy Steps for Throwing the Perfect Yard Sale



yard sale

It’s yard sale season. And while you should definitely use yard sales to find great deals on furniture, toys, books and all sorts of other stuff, you should also consider throwing your own yard sale. You’ll not only get rid of some of your unwanted stuff, you make a few dollars (or several hundred dollars), too!

And while throwing a yard sale can be fun, it also takes a lot a planning to get it right. Here are five tips to help you do exactly that.

Treat Shoppers Like Friends – If you’re nice to people, they’ll be nice to you, which means they’ll be more likely to buy something and more likely to buy it for the price you asked. When shoppers arrive, don’t just sit in your lawn chair. Walk up to them, smile, greet them, and make small talk. Just like you would if a friend were visiting your home.

Offer Freebies – Have you ever noticed that yard sales that offer free coffee, soda and snacks (doughnuts are a good choice) usually have the most people? That’s because people like free stuff. And even if they only stop by for the free soda, they’ll still take some time to look around and they might even buy something.

Make Sure Your Stuff Looks New – Okay, you might not be able to make it look “new,” but you should at least take some time to dust it, clean it, or repair it as much as possible. This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many sellers skip this step – and then wonder why no one wants to buy that barely used (but very grimy looking) toaster oven.

Start Early – Yard sale shoppers get up early, which is why the peak yard sale hours are between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. With that in mind, you should definitely resist the temptation to sleep in until 8 and then take an hour to set up your yard sale. Wake up at 5 (on a Saturday? Yes!) and be set up and ready to sell by 6 a.m.

Grab a Friend – Waking up at 5 a.m. and standing around your front lawn for four hours is a lot more fun with friends. For that reason, you should definitely invite a friend or two to bring some of their unwanted goodies and join you. You’ll not only have a companion to talk to during the slow periods, but all of your stuff put together will make your yard sale look bigger, and when it comes to yard sales, bigger is better!

trim from budget

Five Things You Can Trim From Your Budget Right Now



trim from budget

Whether you are finally realizing how much financial trouble you are in or you are suffering because of an unforeseen circumstance such as a job loss or injury, there are times in your life when you may need to cut back on expenses right away. While measures like refinancing your mortgage and couponing can save you big bucks in the long run, they usually take some time to go into effect. Here are five things you trim from your budget right NOW.

1. Overdraft and Late Fees

With overdraft fees and late fees, you pay money and get absolutely nothing in return. Even if these fees are small, if you are paying them regularly, they can really add up. Banish overdraft fees from your life for good by switching to a cash system. Banish late fees by leaving books and movies by the door where you will remember to take them back or by marking important due dates for bills on a calendar that you check regularly.

Create your FREE budget today!

2. Cleaning Products

Because of the ease and availability of store-bought cleaning products, many people don’t even ever consider making their own. Making your own cleaning products is actually incredibly easy, however, and it is way cheaper too, especially since you probably already have many of the ingredients on hand. Plus, they work great and they are better for the environment as well.

3. Meals Out

While there is nothing wrong with the occasional celebratory dinner, if you are making a habit out of grabbing lunches out or hitting the drive-through, you are spending way more on convenience food than you need to. Start making your own lunches to bring to work, and prep meals ahead of time so they are already ready for you by the time you get home from work. Crock-Pot meals are fabulous for this.

4. New Clothes

While clothes are a necessary expense, new clothes are not. Instead of buying your children tons of new clothes every time they grow out of their old ones, come up with a more creative solution. Buy clothes from secondhand stores, consignment shops, garage sales, Ebay or Craigslist, or organize a kids’ clothing swap with all of your friends. You can do the same thing with your clothes as well.

5. Childcare

Paying for a sitter doesn’t have to be a necessary part of date night. Instead of paying someone, arrange to swap childcare with a family friend. For example, you could watch all of the kids one Friday; she can watch all of them the next. This allows both sets of parents some time to go out for date nights or to get errands done, and the kids will have a ball playing together too.

So many of our daily expenses are unnecessary, but we don’t realize it until we take the time to find good alternatives.

Do you have any items you’ve successfully cut out of your budget!? Do you think you could cut any of these five items out?

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.

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.

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!

Christmas

Our Financial Goals for 2015 + Money Personality Quiz!



Christmas came and went and we just finished packing up the remainder of our Christmas decorations to store away for next year. I feel like our preparations for Christmas took a while and I treasured each day that I was able to work from home enjoying my cozy, decorated home while listening to Christmas music and drinking coffee. I feel like all of the time it took to prepare for the big day was a lot compared to the actual morning of Christmas when it took literally no time to rip open all of the packages to see what Santa brought each of our girls!

Christmas

I have to be honest with you all here when I say that I didn’t quite stay within my budget for the holidays this year. In fact, I overspent due to poor planning and well, being a deal blogger. You see, as a deal blogger, I know where to find good deals so as I was posting some of those deals for you, I was buying a lot of what I was posting because the prices were too good. I knew that I could get more for less. I was very happy with my purchases this year, but I could have done with buying less.

I also spent more on gifts that I didn’t pre-plan for. There were so many gifts that I ended up buying simply because I wanted to give certain special people in my life a special gift to let them know I cared about them. While doing so, I did things like pay way too much for shipping. At one point, I shipped a $12 gift for $12.95! I wasn’t too happy with that, but I knew the recipient would appreciate the gift when they opened it up. It was definitely one of those “why did I just do that” kind of moments, but it’s in the past and I can only look to the future to improve.

Speaking of the future, it’s a brand new year and I have a lot to look forward to in 2015. My husband and I already sat down at the beginning of the year to discuss our financial goals. We looked back at 2014 and saw that we didn’t save as much as we would have liked to and we want to make changes this year.

In 2015 we’d like to:

  • continue to give 10% to the church
  • maximize our Roth IRAs
  • contribute more to an emergency fund
  • contribute monthly to our girl’s 529 college accounts
  • take 1-2 family vacations with leftover funds

I’ve already made a few important calls to get the ball rolling on these goals and I’m excited to see what this year brings!

If you are interesting in saving more in 2015, take this fun money personality quiz and come up with a list of your own financial resolutions for this brand new year!

At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well being. They help you get organized, make a plan, and stay on track so you can get and stay in control of your finances. When you are confident about your money, you can save for your goals and splurge knowingly on what matters most to you.

What is your money personality? Find out here

To find advice, tips, tools and motivation to start your new year click here

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

heart pendant of gold, diamond and lemon quartz

Jewelry and Other Accessories for Under $3 Each!



heart pendant of gold, diamond and lemon quartz

Are you looking for affordable jewelry and accessories? Here’s a list of affordable jewelry and accessories all for under $3 each! Please note that prices can change at any time, so I’ll try to update this list as often as I can!

Under $1

Under $2

Under $3

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.

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.

When it comes to budgeting and money management systems, you have several options. One new option I recently learned about that I love is LearnVest. LearnVest is a really neat new budgeting tool that helps you easily track your spending, analyze your habits and set and achieve your goals. With LearnVest, you can learn more about budgeting through special members-only articles and classes, visualize your progress and goals, and get the help and support you need to get back on track.

LearnVest even offers a Strategy Session with a real live Financial Planner who can help you define your goals, create a personalized budget that really works, and finally achieve financial freedom in a way you never thought possible! If you’re ready to finally get serious with your budget, you need this incredible tool.

Read more about all LearnVest has to offer here.

5. Stick to the Budget!

Lastly, once you’ve worked with LearnVest to create the perfect budget for you and you’ve gotten the personalized support that you need, all that’s left to do is to 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. Check out LearnVest 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?