how to shop for christmas presents early

How to Shop for Christmas Presents Throughout the Year (Instead of All At Once) AND Save Money, Too!



 

how to shop for christmas presents earlyChristmas is only a few months away! The next few months are going to be busy for many families. The back-to-school season is approaching as well as football season. The holidays will be here before you know it. Christmas isn’t on the mind for many families until towards the end of November. Many families wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to complete their shopping. Some may complete it all at once and some may complete it throughout the end of November and during the month of December. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars all at once to complete your Christmas shopping, why not shop throughout the year?

First, you’ll want to make sure you have your list ready of people that you need to buy for throughout the year. Then, create a budget of how much you’ll be spending for each person, and what he/she may like or want.

How to Shop for Christmas Presents Throughout the Year (Instead of All At Once) AND Save Money, Too!

1. Shop for 1-2 People Each Month

If you set aside money each month for 1-2 people on your list, chances are, you won’t go into a huge amount of debt by getting all of your shopping completed month by month. Budget for about $50-$100 a month for 1-2 people and do this each month until you are finished shopping.

2. Shop the Clearance Aisles

Just about every store has a clearance aisle. You can score some pretty great items at a low price on the clearance racks. If you see items on the shelves that you think your recipient will like, purchase the items and put them in the gift closet and save them for Christmas.

3. Use Rewards Points

If you have any accounts earning rewards points, use your rewards points for Christmas presents! This includes any credit or debit card rewards, Pampers Rewards, Kellogg’s Family Rewards, or other rewards.

Related: Ways to Earn Extra Cash or Rewards This Summer

4. Re-Gift

If you have new items sitting around your home unopened, consider putting them away for someone that may need or want it. Just make sure you don’t give it back to the same person that gave it to you! Re-gifting is not a bad idea if you know you don’t love the item or if you know you’ll never use it.

5. Shop for Brand New Items at Thrift Stores

You can find brand new items at thrift stores at a low price. You’ll be able to tell since the items usually still have the tag hanging on them or the item is still in the box. You’ll pay way less for the item at a thrift store than you would at a retail store.

6. Shop the Lightning Deals at Amazon

I check Amazon just about every day. This doesn’t mean I buy something every day, but I do browse through the Lightning Deals at Amazon to see if there’s anything that would make a great Christmas gift. Many of the times you can get deeply discounted deals on items through the lightning deals if you catch it at the right time!

Remember, you don’t have to go into debt in December because of Christmas gifts. If you plan your shopping ahead of time and complete your shopping throughout the year, you’ll save money and have all of your shopping done early. Then, you can enjoy a less stressful holiday season!

ways to build an emergency fund

7 Ways to Build An Emergency Fund



ways to build an emergency fund

If you are trying to save money, then you’ll probably hear about the importance of having an emergency fund. An emergency fund is just that – a fund set aside for emergencies only. You never know when you’ll need to use the emergency fund (your car breaks down, your AC goes out, etc.) Whatever the reason, the money will be there if you set it aside for a rainy day. Many experts will say that it’s a good idea to save at least $1,000 in an emergency fund if you are starting out. Then, once that fund is set and you’ve paid off your debts, you can always add to it and create a solid emergency fund of up to 3-6 months expenses.

Funding your emergency fund doesn’t have to be difficult! Here are a few ways to build your emergency fund.

1. Earn extra income.

Find a second job or work a few side jobs. Work a few extra nights a week and add the extra money to your fund. You can even try babysitting, mowing lawns, washing cars, etc.

2. Sell your belongings.

Go around your home and start finding items that you and your family can live without. You’d be surprised with how much you can find. Then, either sell those items at a yard sale, online through Craigslist or eBay, or consign the items.

Related: 5 Easy Steps for Throwing the Perfect Yard Sale

3. Avoid Eating at Restaurants.

If you are in the habit of eating fast food on a regular basis, I challenge you to add up your restaurant expenses for one month. Then, try to cut that amount in half, or avoid eating at restaurants at all.

4. Set up automatic payments.

Treat funds going into an emergency fund “like a bill” and set up automatic payments from your checking account. You don’t have to add a lot, but start small, maybe $25 each month. Set the payments up automatically and have it go to your savings account each month. You can increase this amount if you’d like until your emergency fund is where you want it to be.

5. Cut your grocery bill significantly.

Food can be one of the highest expenses in your household. Create a budget for food and stick to it. Most food budgets I’ve seen run around $200-$400 per month for a family of 4. Use coupons to save even more at the grocery store.

Related: The Best Places to Find Online Printable Coupons

6. Shop at thrift stores instead of retail stores.

Thrift stores are a great place to find items you may need or want. Instead of paying full price for items at a retail store, shop at thrift stores. I actually buy the majority of my children’s clothes at thrifts stores, paying only $1.79 per item. This beats paying $10-$15 per item or more at the mall or other retail stores!

7. Earn extra income through online surveys in your spare time.

Look into online surveys that pay for your time. Here’s a list of survey companies that you could sign up for to earn money or rewards for completing surveys.

Having an emergency fund in place can certainly help on a “rainy day.” Start as soon as you can to get your emergency fund in place.

Do you have an emergency fund in place? What tips would you add to the list?

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5 Ways a Stay-at-Home Mom Can Save Big



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In this uncertain economy, many stay-at-home moms are saving big by adopting smarter shopping habits, stricter budgets, and eliminating unnecessary luxury items. Like these moms, you can make some small changes in your life in order to save more money. As financial expert, Suze Orman, suggests, “By taking care of yourself financially, you will truly be able to take care of those you love.” You can be a money-saving mama, more financially in control, and with a bigger budget for the things that matter most.

Coupons

You don’t have to become one of those coupon-clipping moms from the television, but you shouldn’t avoid clipping altogether. Some women treat coupons like they’re a full-time job. Others take one afternoon a week to clip the coupons they’re most likely to use.

Coupons are for more than groceries. You can find coupons for everything from brand name electronics to clothing. You may find a valuable drugstore promo code or travel savings. Check in your weekly newspaper and online for coupons. Sign up for email alerts from your favorite brands and you may find money-saving coupons are randomly emailed to you.

Related: Best Places to Find Online Printable Coupons

Kids Eat Free

Many websites offer free meals for kids, when the adults in a family order from the regular menu. Instead of paying full price for everyone, try to only eat at those restaurants that offer free meals for children.

Budget

A strict budget is essential when you’re living on a single income. Create weekly and monthly budgets, with areas for projected and actual spending. This shows you where you’ve saved and how much. If there’s a surplus of money, put it into your savings account for a future vacation or larger home payment.

You can visually see where funds are being allocated and how much spending money you have for the week. You may find that you’re overspending on unnecessary expenses and not enough on your mortgage and car loans. For instance, if your husband travels frequently and is consistently overspending when parking at Newark, it may be a good idea to invest in a monthly parking pass.

Related: How to Create a Budget That Really Works

Prepare Meals at Home

Student lunches typically cost around $3, for an average monthly spending of $60. This $60 could help pay a bill or add to savings, so why not pack your children’s lunch? If you’re already couponing for inexpensive groceries, than you have the low-cost items on hand to prepare meals at home.

If your kids prefer what’s being served at school, try and find out if you can mimic those recipes. Another great way to get kids on board is to allow them to pick out a lunch pail with their favorite characters depicted on it. Your husband should be a little easier to sway. He likely finds your homemade leftovers more appealing that what they’re serving in the office cafeteria.

Related: 5 Reasons You Need to Start Meal Planning Today

Trim the Fat

Easily the best way to add a couple hundred dollars to your monthly savings is getting rid of luxury items you don’t need. If you’re paying for a monthly cable television subscription, complete with subscription channels, you’re costing yourself upwards of $250 a month. You should consider downgrading or cancelling this service altogether.

It’s important to not overspend on your credit cards either. Avoid luxury items, by keeping credit cards tucked away for emergencies only. Spend only what you can afford and then save the rest of your money. This is one of the best ways to build a savings and save your family some extra dough. Who knows? If you follow these tips, you may just find yourself relaxing on a beach for a quality family vacation soon.

Disclosure: Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.

save on back to school supplies

Save Time and Money by Buying Extra Back-to-School Supplies



save on back to school supplies
Back to school is right around the corner. Have you completed your back-to-school shopping yet? If not, you better make plans to go shopping soon! It’s amazing the amount of things kids need, and finding everything on a long back-to-school list can take some time.

It seems like every year, the lists get longer and longer and the trips get more and more expensive. Even with coupons and discounts, the costs can add up quickly, especially if you are buying for multiple kids.

As a frugal person, you may be tempted to buy the bare minimum. If the list says 10 folders–you buy 10 folders and no more. After all, you likely shop from a list and you know that adding a few extras in here and there can really add up.

Have you ever considered that buying only the bare minimum can actually cost you more in the long run, however? It’s true! Sometimes, by spending a little more, you can actually save yourself both time and money in the long run! Here’s how.

1. Buying Extra Helps You Avoid High Prices Later

It’s amazing how quickly kids use up their school supplies and need new ones. Not only do their old supplies get used up, worn out, lost and broken, but they always end up needing new things no one anticipated as well. Wait until a few months into the school year and you’re bound to end up paying top dollar for supplies that you could have gotten dirt cheap before the school year began.

Having a few extra supplies on hand, especially pencils, paper, crayons and markers, can help you avoid this sticker shock later. Plus, if you end up not needing them, you can always use them next year.

Related: 6 Ways to Save Big on Back-to-School Supplies

2. Buying Extra Saves You From Last Minute Trips to the Store

Not only does buying replacement school supplies cost you money you weren’t planning on spending, but replacing them usually takes time as well. For some reason, kids never seem to think about the school supplies they need when you are headed to the store anyway. Instead, how often do they wait until just before bedtime to announce that they have a project due and they don’t have the supplies they need?

Unless your evenings consist of sitting around, waiting on your kids hand and foot, chances are, you have other things you’d like to do in the evening than make last-minute trips to the store for poster board, crayons and glitter glue. Having a stash of these things on hand already can save you time–and sanity!

3. Higher Quality Products Last Longer

In addition to buying extras, don’t forget to look for quality products as well. Buying the cheapest products you can find may seem like a good way to save money, but it will only end up costing you if they break or wear out faster and need to be replaced.

For example, some cheap pencils don’t sharpen well. You can sharpen them down to a stub before you get a sharp point. Buying quality pencils may cost you a few cents more at the store, but you’ll need far fewer pencils throughout the year. The same applies to other back-to-school products as well, such as jeans, erasers, backpacks and water bottles.

Related: Top 10 Things to Buy for Back-to-School

If you take the time to do your research, you can find tons of ways to save on back-to-school supplies–purchasing the bare minimum amounts of inferior quality products simply isn’t one of them, however. This school year, save yourself time and money by getting good products and by buying a few more than you’ll need.

Have you completed your back-to-school shopping this year? Did you just buy the bare minimum, or did you stock up a bit just in case?

back to school supplies

6 Ways to Save Big on Back to School Supplies



back to school supplies

Paper, pencils, backpacks, calculators, highlighters, crayons, hand sanitizer… the list goes on and on, and it can add up quick! Don’t just make a trip to your local Walmart and stock up on everything you see. Use these top seven ways to save big on back to school supplies and get all the great gear your kids need for less! How you spend the money you save is up to you. (Shopping spree for mom, anyone??)

1. Figure out What You Need

Before you hit the stores, take a minute to make a list of the supplies you’ll actually need. Many schools publish back to school supply lists. Get one for your school and cross off all the items you have lying around the house already. (For example, you may have glue sticks, hand sanitizer or last year’s backpack on hand already). Once you’ve made your list–stick to it. This way, you won’t waste your money on things you don’t need, and you won’t forget anything, causing you to pay more for it later.

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2. Take Advantage of Doorbuster Deals

Back to school time is the perfect time to score some amazing deals on school supplies. All the major stores have sales where they drastically mark down select items. Many stores even sell specific items at a loss just to get you into the store. Instead of getting all of your supplies at once (when some will be cheap and others will be expensive), take a few weeks and get a couple doorbusters each week. Then you can get everything–or at least almost everything–you need at rock bottom prices.

3. Stock Up on Bargain Prices

If you find a truly amazing deal, don’t be afraid to stock up, especially if it is on something that you know your kids will need lots of or that they will need again next year. While you don’t want to be greedy and clear the shelves, don’t be afraid to buy more than you need. For example, one year I saw pencils for 1 cent a box! Now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t buy plenty.

Shop Back to School Supplies for Less at Walmart.com

4. Shop During Your State’s Sales Tax Holiday

While sales tax is a small percentage of your purchase, it can really add up when you are buying tons of back to school supplies. Many states offer sales tax holidays, when you can get school supplies without paying tax. If your state does this, be sure to shop during those dates to save even more. Click here for a list of states that offer sales tax holidays.

5. Know When to Buy Cheap and When to Buy Quality

Buying generic can save you a bundle, but sometimes name brand is the way to go. It all depends on what you are purchasing and how long you need it to last. Feel free to go cheap on: crayons, paper, pencil sharpeners, basic calculators, colored pencils, book covers and erasers. Plan to spend more on: backpacks, graphic calculators, insulated lunchboxes and pencils (Some of the cheaper brands won’t sharpen in old fashioned pencil sharpeners. They just grind into stubs).

6. Avoid Characters

Your child may absolutely adore that cute character backpack or lunch box now, but for how long? It is not uncommon for kids to change interest as soon as only a month or two into the school year. Stick to basic, character-free designs so they can be used year after year.

School supplies may be a necessary expense, but that doesn’t mean that you should spend more for them than you have to. Use these six tips for saving big on school supplies and get the supplies you need for less.

Any other tips use and love? Share them in the comments below! I’d love to hear them!

back to school clothes

7 Ways to Save on Back to School Clothes



back to school clothesWhile summer may still be in full swing, the new school year is going to be here before we know it. As the mother of a little girl who is going to be starting first grade this year, this is a huge deal in our house! We’re all really excited, but we’re all a little nervous too.

One thing I’m not too nervous about, however, is buying new back to school clothes. Sure she’s going to need a ton of them (How girls go through clothes so fast–I’ll never know!), but that’s okay. I won’t be paying full price for them, and you don’t have to either. Just use these seven ways to save on back to school clothes. I plan to save a bundle, and you can too.

1. Shop the Sales

One of the easiest ways to save big on your kids’ school clothes is ridiculously simple: shop the sales and clearance racks! You can often get the exact same brand new name brand clothing for a fraction of the cost just by waiting a couple of weeks until it goes on sale. Find out when your favorite store marks everything down, and go in ready to stock up and save big!

2. Shop Secondhand

If you don’t mind used clothes, there are tons of places you can find them. Search thrift stores, consignment shops and secondhand kids’ clothing stores. Hit up the garage sales and search on Craigslist and Ebay. How many times have your kids grown out of clothes before they’ve had a chance to wear them more than a couple of times? This happens to other moms too, and you can use it to your advantage.

3. Trade with Friends

If you really want to save big and you have friends with kids who are slightly older than yours, see if you can trade or get free hand-me-downs. I’ve gotten tons of clothes from friends who were willing to let me borrow as well as from friends who just wanted someone to take the clothes off of their hands for free!

4. Buy All Throughout the Year

If you have adequate storage space and are good at planning ahead, buying all throughout the year is a fantastic way to save big on kids’ clothes. For example, if I see a shirt on clearance that is two sizes too big for my daughter but a great deal, I’ll go ahead and grab it now. Then, when the time comes, I don’t have to buy clothes at full price–she already has a whole box full of clothes I’ve picked up for cheap! This does require excellent organizational skills, but it can be done. I monitor the deals at Zulily often to score some great clothes for back to school!

5. Go for Quality

When you see the price tag on a new pair of jeans, it can be really tempting to just purchase the cheapest pair you can find, but resist the temptation! Often times you get what you pay for, and it ends up being much cheaper and easier to buy quality pieces in the first place.

6. Sign Up for Store Deals

If there is a store you shop frequently, make sure you sign up for their sale alerts, newsletter or coupons–whatever they offer. Some stores send out free $10 coupons or $10 off of a $25 purchase coupons to their mailing list subscribers. Get a coupon like this, and you can get clothes for F.R.E.E!

7. Save Your Receipt

How frustrating is it to buy clothes, only to have them go on sale immediately after? Fight back by saving your receipt. Then, if something goes on sale two weeks later, you can just take the receipt back and get the difference.

Honestly, if you are clever and resourceful enough, you really don’t have to pay more for kids’ clothes than you want to. These seven tips will get you off to a great start.

What other tips do you have?

back to school purchases

Top 10 Things to Buy for Back-to-School



Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I was compensated for publishing this post on behalf of DollarTree.com.

back to school purchasesNo, summer’s not over yet, but it’s not too early to start planning your back-to-school budget. Your child’s school probably has the official school supplies list available, so you can make sure that you have the right kind for each class. Most of the items should be available for less at the discount store. Here’s a look at the top 10 things you’ll need to pick up before your kids go back to school.

1. Binders and Folders – Every class requires something to keep loose papers organized. Binders and folders keep them from getting torn and lost in the daily trek to and from class. Your child can also put notebooks, extra paper, a pencil pouch and monthly planners inside their binders so they don’t get lost.

2. Desktop Accessories – From binder clips and pen cups to pencil cases and battery-operated fans, it’s time to stock up for your child’s desk at home and at school. Don’t forget tape, a stapler, pencil sharpeners, erasers and a calendar.

3. Crayons and Markers – Check on the school supplies list to find out what types of crayons and markers are needed. They’ll probably specify crayons by color, or markers by broad tips, felt markers, highlighters or dry erase.

4. Pens and Pencils – Mechanical pens and pencils, lead and standard pencils are always high on the list of required items. Make sure that you have at least some regular #2 pencils, since they’re the standard used for computer-graded tests. Blue, black and red ink pens are common for older kids. Unless your child is perfect, you’ll need ink erasers and correction tape or fluid are needed to fix small mistakes.

5. Tape and Glue – Glue sticks are the most popular options for in-school projects, but glue bottles and dots are also available. Transparent tape comes in clear and translucent styles. Make sure there’s a dispenser in the package, unless you have one at home.

6. Scissors – Children’s scissors are usually five inches long, and they have either pointed or blunt tips. Older kids can use longer scissors.

7. Paper and Notebooks – Depending on your child’s age, you may need wide rule or college rule spiral or loose-leaf paper. Graph paper is an important item for math and geometry in higher grades.

8. Electronics – Once your child reaches sixth grade, items like scientific calculators start popping up on the list. You might also want to pick up some earphones, chargers and extra batteries while you’re shopping – even if they’re not mentioned.

9. Digital Covers and Cases – Keep your child’s phone, digital devices and electronics in good shape with covers and cases. As much as you hate to think about it, they’re going to get dropped and hit. Look for soft plastic phone bumpers and scratch-resistant sleeves. They typically come in an assortment of colors.

10. Hygiene and Sanitizers – Hand sanitizers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Washing their hands is always important, but keeping a bottle of sanitizer or some wipes in their desk, locker or backpack can prevent your kids from picking up germs and getting sick as often. Some schools also request that kids bring in a box of tissues, a roll of paper towels or a bottle of liquid soap for all students to use in the classroom.

Nikki is an independent writer for DollarTree.com. Dollar Tree offers great deals on office supplies, party supplies and more.

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7 Places to Snag Second Hand Back to School Clothes



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It is almost that time! Back to school shopping is upon us and can be a stressful time, where you feel like every other second you are pulling out your wallet for another purchase. Of all the things you need to buy for back to school, school clothing can be the most costly. Whether your child requires a uniform or not, chances are you can easily spend hundreds of dollars keeping your child clothed in the new school year. This year, don’t get stressed and don’t go broke. Instead, take a look at these 7 places to snag second hand back to school clothes below. With a little careful shopping, you can get back to school for less, much less! Take a peek!

7 Places to Snag Second Hand Back to School Clothes

1. eBay

eBay auctions can be a great place to find name brand clothing items as well as uniform pieces for less. Snag items for as little as $1.99 and even get free shipping! Peruse eBay and see what you can come up with for back to school.

Related: 7 Ways to Save on Back to School Clothes

2. Craigslist

Craigslist has a vast selection of children’s clothing items including back to school attire and uniforms as well. Plus it is local so you never have to pay shipping costs. Give Craigslist a glance and see what might be available for pick up in your area.

3. Consignment shops

Consignment shops are an ideal spot for back to school clothing and uniforms. They carry quality pieces that are in ready to wear shape, plus many offer discounts for cash and frequent shopper discounts. Give your local consignment shop a try and see what you can find.

Related: Created Extra Income Through Consignment

4. Garage sales

Garage sale season is still very well in effect, so get out and start browsing to find quality children’s clothing for as low as .25 cents. This is a great way to stock up for less, and you never know what you might find. Keep your eyes peeled for other accessories too such as backpacks, shoes, belts, and more.

Related: 5 Easy Steps for Throwing the Perfect Yard Sale

5. Clothing swaps

Many schools offer back to school clothing swaps where parents can set up a table and swap out clothing with other parents. See if your school is offering anything like this. If not, perhaps you can put yourself in charge of setting one up. Parents will love you for it.

6. Ask your friends  

Ask your friends to pass any clothing along to you before donating it to thrift stores. Chances are if you ask, you will receive. Asking for hand me downs is a great way to get children’s clothing that is clean and of great quality.

7. Freecycle.org

Freecycle is a great way to snag clothing items for FREE that people are ready to part with. Keep your eyes peeled for clothing and uniform items that may be available for free. Visit freecycle.org and see what may be available in your area for FREE!

As you can see, these are 7 great ways to snag second hand back to school clothes for less and even free. Give some of these options a try and see how easy it is to go back to school for less.

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Sweatin’ the Savings: Four Tips to Save on Gym Memberships



save on gym memberships

Save on Gym Memberships

If you’re like me, one of your resolutions is to lose a little weight (again). Dieting is a big part of that plan, but regular exercise also helps.

When it comes to working up a sweat, you’ve got two options: Work out at home or get a gym membership. Yes, the gym membership will cost money, but when you consider that you’ll have access to state-of-the-art gym equipment and expert advice, it’s money well spent. And just like your shrinking waistline, it is possible to trim the cost of that investment by following a few basic rules:

Explore Your Options – Like any sizable investment, you’ll want to shop around for the best deal. Remember: The gym closest to your house isn’t always the best one and the one with all the fancy equipment isn’t either. Find a gym that has all the equipment you need, without all the extra stuff you don’t, at a decent price.

Get Ready to Haggle – The membership coordinator at your gym is usually willing to negotiate a bit. Ask for a lower initiation fee or, better yet, no fee at all. Also see if they can match a lower monthly rate at a competing gym or throw in some classes that normally might cost extra.

Think Short Term – Most gyms will require you to sign an agreement that locks you into monthly payments for anywhere from six months to a year. Thing is, there’s a good chance you’ll be over this New Year’s resolution and done with the “gym thing” in two months (hey, just being realistic). Ask for a short-term contract – either month-to-month or three-months. You might pay a little extra for the privilege, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Wait Until March – If you sign up during the busy season (January), your chances of scoring some negotiated discounts and perks are pretty slim. You’ll also have to deal with going to the gym during one of the busiest months of the year. Instead, wait until March, when gyms are more eager to please potential new members. In the meantime, use that time to research your options … and practice your haggling skills.

Workout At Home – If you really want to save money, you can choose to workout at home and skip a gym membership. Here are 10 Highly Rated DVD Workouts to do at Home. You can also try Daily Burn for FREE for 30 days. With Daily Burn, you can work out at home or on the go without having to pay for a gym membership!



How do you save on gym memberships?

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Toys for Less: 5 Ways to Cut Costs on Toys for the Kids!



Toys for LessChristmas seems so long ago, doesn’t it? It was actually only a few months ago, but to your kids, that’s like forever – especially when it comes to the “newness” of their toys. By now, they’ve probably grown tired of many of Santa’s gifts, which means you’re buying new toys for the spring and summer season.

Before you shell out a small fortune to refresh your children’s toy box, you might consider trying a few of these money-saving tips. And in case you missed it, feel free to check out the other entry about saving on toys, which was posted back in January.

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane – Today’s toys are all wires and technology, which means they’re a lot more expensive than toys were when we were kids. Ironically, the cheaper toys from our childhood were also a lot more durable. Revisit the good old days by investing in classic toys for your tots, including Mr. Potato Head, Lincoln Logs, and Legos.

Hit the Road – Just about every list of money-saving tips (saving on clothes, saving on furniture) includes a trip around your neighborhood in search of a good yard sale. Toys are no exception. As long as they’re in good condition and can be cleaned, it’s one of the easiest ways to save money on toys.

Get Crafty – Kids are pretty resourceful, and can find joy in all sorts of everyday objects. Put this resourcefulness to the test while also saving money, by transforming things around the house into “brand new” toys.

Swap with Friends – You can throw a toy party, which we talked about in our last toy entry, or you can just throw your child’s unwanted toys in a box, ask a friend to do the same, and swap boxes. Now wasn’t that easy?

Buy Fewer Toys – This one is easier said than done, but the simplest way to save money on anything is to buy less of it. Talk to your kids about consumerism (if they’re old enough to understand the lesson), and make a conscious effort to buy less and enjoy the toys they have a little more.

clothes folded up in a retail store

Five Ways to Transition Your Wardrobe from Summer to Fall



clothes folded up in a retail store

Fall is right around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about switching out your summer wardrobe for your fall one. Just because the weather is turning cooler doesn’t mean that you need to put all of your summer clothes away and go buy all new ones for fall, however. Not only would this take a huge chunk out of your bank account, but it would leave your closet feeling stuffed as well. Instead, save yourself time, money and hassle with these five tips for transiting your wardrobe from summer to fall.

1. Layer with Cardigans and Blazers

Extend the life of those summer tank tops and sleeveless blouses with cardigans and tank tops. All you need is a few simple cardigans in colors you wear frequently and a blazer or two in a professional navy, gray or black and you’ll be able to wear your favorite summer T’s long after the weather turns cool. Cardigans especially are very affordable and widely available so don’t be afraid to buy several.

2. Add Thick Tights or Leggings

Think fall marks the end of sundresses? Think again. Add thick tights and leggings underneath your favorite sundresses as well as a cardigan or blazer on top and you’ll be cute, fashionable AND warm all fall long. Tights and leggings are a great way to make summer dresses into a whole new look. I recommend buying a few different pairs in grey and black, but don’t be afraid to throw in a brightly colored pair occasionally as well.

3. Roll Up the Hems

The transition from summer to fall can be tricky. There are plenty of days when it isn’t quite warm enough for short sleeves, but it isn’t quite cool enough for long sleeves either. Plus, the temperature can vary widely throughout the day. Stay comfortable by rolling up your long sleeves or pant legs into cute cuffs. The cuffed pants with heels look is very “in” right now, and it’s a great way to stay comfortable all season long.

4. Add a Scarf

Scarves are one of my favorite fashion accessories, and one of the best parts about dressing for fall. Something as simple as adding a scarf can really dress up your outfit or make it more playful. You don’t have to wear thick wooly scarves to stay warm either. You may just be surprised how warm a light, airy scarf will keep you when you wrap it just right. Check out Pinterest for unique and creative ways to tie your scarves. There are so many ways to tie them that you can create all sorts of looks no matter where you are going.

Amazon has a great selection of affordable scarves to choose from!

5. Switch Up Your Footwear

Don’t put away the sandals just yet. When it comes to footwear, anything goes! Wear flip flops with jeans and t-shirts or tall boots with sundresses and cardigans. During the short time between summer and fall, anything goes! Don’t be afraid to mix and match and see what types of unique combinations you can come up with.

Do you have summer clothes you aren’t ready to put away just yet? What other tips do you have for making your clothes last?

ways-to-get-furniture-at-a-great-price-300x450

5 Ways to Get Good Furniture at a Great Price



ways to get furniture at a great price

Furniture isn’t cheap. Actually, that’s not true. Some furniture is cheap, but good furniture isn’t. And at the end of the day, we all want good furniture, right? At the end of the day, we all want to save a few bucks on that good furniture, too. Here are five ways to do exactly that.

1. Spend More For Quality – Saving money by spending more money might not make sense at first, but it will in the long run. By spending a little extra on higher quality furniture means your purchase will last longer and you won’t need to buy another couch, bed, or dresser in a few years.

2. Buy Used Furniture – The first rule of buying used furniture is to not think of it as “used.” Instead, think of it as a deeply-discounted great deal! I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to pass on hand-me-down upholstered furniture like couches and mattresses, but hardwood pieces like tables and TV stands are much easier to wipe off and restore to like-new condition.

3. Shop Around – Just about every list of money-saving tactics includes this tip. It’s good advice, especially when shopping for more expensive items like cars, electronics and, in this case, furniture. Compare similar pieces of furniture in at least three different stores – or five stores if you really want to make sure you’ve found the best price.

4. Timing is Everything – The best time of the year to buy furniture is during the big holiday sales (President’s Day, Fourth of July, Christmas, etc.). If you can’t wait until then, shop at the end of the month. That’s when salespeople will be eager to earn some extra commission and, in some cases, they’ll even be willing to negotiate when it comes to price!

5. Buy the Floor Sample – Yes, that couch has already been sat on, but buying the furniture on the showroom floor is an easy way to save 25 to 50 percent. You probably won’t be able to buy it right away (it might be a few weeks or even a few months until they ready to part with it), but if time is on your side, it’s well worth the wait!

From trash to treasure

Trash to Treasure: 5 Ways to Cash in on Your Trash



From trash to treasure

Do you feel that little tinge of guilt whenever you toss something into the trash? Feeling like you might be wasting something of value is a terrible feeling, but you might be unsure of what is trash and what is treasure. If you have wondered what items in your trash might actually have some value, you have stumbled upon your answer! Below, you will find 5 ways to cash in on your trash. So many of the items you use to pitch are actually worth a little change in your pocket. Give these 5 ways a good look and think twice about what you keep and what you toss.

5 Ways to Cash in on Your Trash:

1. Wine corks.
Crafting with wine corks is really popular these days. Many crafty gals and guys are looking for wine corks to make peg boards, key chains, coasters, and more out of. Save your wine corks and you can get as much as 0.50 cents a piece each. Just gather yours up and head over to eBay or Etsy where you can sell your corks for cash. List them in one giant lot together instead of piece by piece. The more interesting the corks, the more money they will fetch you.

2. Aluminum.
The cost of scrap aluminum keeps fluctuating, but the fact is it is still worth cash. Keep your aluminum pop cans, food cans, food wrapping, house materials, and other aluminum scraps and redeem them at a local recycling center for cash. They pay per pound, so the more you have the better. Kids will love coming with you to watch how the scrap is weighed and fed to the conveyor belt, so take them with you to get in on the action.

3. Broken jewelry.
If you broke a piece of jewelry, are missing the match to an earring, or even just have some extra backings, check them for marks. If they are 10, 14, or 18 karat gold, or if they are sterling, they are worth cash! It does not matter what condition they are in, just head to a local jeweler’s and have them weigh and pay! If you find costume or other scrap jewelry pieces not gold or silver, no worries. Crafters on eBay and Etsy are looking for all sorts of scraps for their creative needs. List your pieces on there as one giant lot and see what you can make!

4. Old clothing.
If you have clothing that is torn or stained, don’t pitch it, cash in on it. Crafters use all sorts of scrap pieces of wool and denim, as well as vintage t-shirts for their creative needs. Offer your scrap clothing on eBay, Etsy, or the Craigslist Crafting Section and see what you can get for it. You may be surprised! Even if you just get a few bucks per piece, that is better than the nothing you would get by throwing it away.

5. Paper items.
Some paper items are highly collectible and valuable. If you are cleaning out a junk drawer and stumble across old restaurant menus, cookbooks, instruction manuals, owner’s manuals, save them. People are always looking for these items on eBay. You may just get a few bucks a piece each, but hey it’s something!

See how easy it is to get cash for items otherwise destined for your trash? Give these tips a try the next time you are cleaning out a drawer or room and see how easy it is to drum up a little extra dough!

great ways

Five Great Ways to Earn Some Quick Cash



money2

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.

Recommended Read: 55 Tips On How To Make More Money: Great Ideas to Earn Extra Cash

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!

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 Panda ResearchToluna, Vindale Research, and Opinion Outpost!

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

Could you use a little extra cash in your pocket? Which one of these are you going to try first?

grocery bills

Grocery Bills Got You Down? Cheer Up with These Five Cost-Cutting Secrets



grocery bills

There are all sorts of ways to overspend when it comes to grocery shopping, which is kind of sad because groceries are expensive enough as it is. Luckily, there are plenty of tricks designed to help you beat the supermarket system and trim your weekly grocery budget. Below are five tips that will help you do exactly that!

Don’t Shop with the Kids – Kids aren’t easy to shop with – every mother knows that. But in addition to being a hassle to corral in a busy supermarket, kids can also add several dollars to your grocery bill. Take one trip down the cereal aisle with a five-year-old and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Don’t Shop Hungry – Most of us have heard this tip, but few of us actually follow this good advice. As you may know, shopping hungry means you end up buying bags of potato chips, cookies, and containers of deli potato salad that you never really needed (and calories you never needed!). To help, shop only after lunch or dinner and always shop with a list.

Don’t Buy Pre-Cut Foods – Pre-cut cheese, pre-cut sandwich meat, pre-cut lettuce, and pre-cut fruit aren’t really that expensive, but all that pre-cutting comes at a cost. Instead, buy your cheese and sandwich meat from the deli (they cut it for free!) and buy lettuce and fruit whole and cut it yourself.

Don’t Buy Prepared Deli Foods – It’s hard to pass up pasta salad or pre-made tuna salad, isn’t it? After all, they’re not only delicious, they’re also super convenient. But just like the pre-cut foods mentioned above, that convenience costs money. Instead, make it yourself for a lot less money and add your own spices to make it just as delicious!

Don’t Buy Toiletries – Of course, you should buy toiletries, just try to avoid buying them at the grocery store. Why? Because the grocery store has great deals on food, but they don’t always have the best deals on toiletries. Instead, buy your deodorants, soaps, shampoos and other toiletries from a stores that specialize in that type of stuff (like WalgreensWalgreens Deals, Rite-Aid, or CVS).

Home-Cents

Home Cents: Seven Uses for Super Savvy Seltzer Water



Home Cents

Chances are, your grandmother knew the super savvy uses for seltzer water! Over the years, people have not given this miracle liquid the credit it deserves and have pushed it to the back burner. But lucky for you, seven uses for super savvy seltzer water are just waiting for you below!

What comes to mind when you think about seltzer water? Most of us think of seltzer as something just to sip on, or the stuff that clowns use to spray in people’s faces, but seltzer is great for more than that! Did you know that it is very budget friendly? And that you can purchase seltzer at just pennies an ounce? That is a real value!  And who knew those fizzy little bubbles packed some serious punch? Now you will! Take a peek at some of the ways seltzer is ready to serve you, instead of you just serving it in a glass!

Seven Uses for Super Savvy Seltzer Water:

1. Power off poo

I know, this sounds gross! The next time birds decide to use your car for a potty, shake up a bottle of seltzer and let the contents onto the stains. The seltzer won’t harm the finish or paint on your car but will cut through the caked on bird poo. Just rinse with cool water when done. Hooray, no more poo!

2. Get fluffy

Everyone loves fluffy fresh food. Next time you whip up pancakes, waffles, or eggs add seltzer instead of tap water. The carbonation will make for an airy and lighter texture in the finished product! Sounds yummy, right?

3.  Add some fizz

Who wants to drink something dull and boring? Make boring juice drinks a little more fizzy and fun without adding lots of sugar or calories. Add a splash of seltzer to your cranberry juice or grape juice to give it some spark! It will taste so fresh and delicious!

4. Scrub stains away

Forget about stubborn stains. Seltzer is a pro at banishing dirt and bacteria. Add some to your mop bucket or spritz on your counter top when cleaning. It cuts through grime and will leave your hard surfaces spotless. Presto!

5. Sip away your pain

That sure sounds soothing doesn’t it? Nothing soothes an achy tummy like some room temperature seltzer water. The natural minerals found in it offer fast and soothing relief! This home remedy has been used by people for years, now you know it too!

6. Clean your carpets

No one likes dirty carpets! Do you have pets or super messy kiddos? Splash a little seltzer on juice or wine spills. Blot the carpet gently with a clean cloth. The bubbles in the seltzer provide some oxygenated cleaning powers sure to cut through nasty stains. Your carpets will look like new!

7. Stainless steel solution

Do you have rusty or crusty stainless steel? Seltzer water can be applied to stainless steel pots and pans to bring them to a shine. Just apply liberally and scrub with a soft cloth. Rinse in cool water when done. Just look at that shine! Even your neighbors will be jealous.

As you can see, seltzer IS a wonder liquid! It is frugal and convenient to use, and a bottle will pay for itself over and over again! Don’t waste another minute, instead make sure you have a bottle on hand for instances such as these. During a recent grocery store trip, I was able to snag a generously sized bottle for less than $2.00. I know I will be able to use it dozens of times!

Seltzer is a super savvy solution to everyday problems that won’t break the bank. So let’s all give two cheers for seltzer and its hard working little bubbles! They sure are worth their weight in gold!

more than just books

More than Just Books: 8 Library Freebies to Take Advantage of Now!



more than just books

When you think of a library, what comes to mind? Books? Is that it?

I use to be the same way. I use to think libraries were just for books. After all, that is the first thing that catches your eye when you walk into one, rows and rows of books. And while the site of thousands of books at your disposable may be enough to warrant a visit from you, what is even more exciting is the many other offerings your local library has for you just for the asking. Libraries these days seem to be obtaining grants and funds for a variety of other goods and services as well. These goods and services are often free, but sadly, often overlooked.

Have you checked out your local library lately? Here are a few free or inexpensive services and programs that may be available!

1. Special Interest Clubs- Ask your librarian if any special interest clubs are held at your library. Garden clubs, reading clubs, and book clubs for kids are often available as well and a chance for them to earn free rewards for their reading efforts. Why not check and see if your local library has a COUPON CLUB for you to join?

2. Educational Toy Rental- Many libraries offer free check out of educational toys, games and puzzles. Surprise your child with a new-to-them toy to explore! Once they tire of it, return it and try a new one.

3. Daily Newspapers, local and national- Libraries offer a variety of daily newspapers including the coveted Sunday paper. Your library may even allow you to take day old copies (and coupons!) home with you. Please ask first. They are usually willing to allow you, you just want to have permission.

4. Budget Book Sales- Libraries will often sell their overstock or used books for just pennies. This is a great way to pick up children’s books for your home library, books and magazines for yourself. You can also buy them and donate them to your child’s classroom, local shelter, or just start making your own home library.

Related: 10 Places to Find Cheap Kids Books

5. Movie/Music Rental- Video games, dvds, cds, and computer games are all available at your local library. Books on CD are a great treat for  children in the car! Items for children are typically free of charge, as are audio rentals or instructional dvd’s. Dvd’s for adults are a nominal fee, usually less than $1 per day, which is less than you would pay to rent from a store or other service.

6. Free Ticket Rental- Are you wanting to check out your local museum? Many libraries offer free tickets to local museums if you just ask. Tickets may only be available to use during certain days of the week but for free, you can be flexible, right? Usually, one ticket is valid for 4 people, so you can really save.

7. Free Computer Classes- Want to learn how to use your computer? Why not ask your library if they offer free technology classes? In addition to these free classes, laptops are often available for on-site check out as well as a printer for a nominal fee. This is a great way to print extra coupons or activities for kids.

Related: 10+ Educational Websites for Kids

8. Craft Time for Kids- Libraries may hold a special day each week just for kids where a read aloud is held accompanied by a craft. These are often free and a great way to meet other moms while your child experiences some great literature and hands on activities.

Did you know all of these wonderful services exist? These are just a few of the many wonderful benefits your library may have to offer! Taking advantage of these offers can save you some serious dough in the long run. Not to mention that libraries are wonderfully quiet and serene places to enjoy these free services at.

Perhaps you do not know where your closest library is. Use this site to find one fast! www.publiclibraries.com It lists all of the libraries categorized by states for easy searching. Once you have found a library in your area, you can click on the link and be directed to their own website. Websites will display many of the special offers that library has available as well as a calendar of events, hours, special events, and everything else you need to know. You might be able to reserve materials as well.

So check out your local library today and start enjoying everything it has to offer for FREE!

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?