11 entries categorized "saving money"

A Budgeting Program that's Free & not as Boring as most

I just spent the last hour setting up my accounts in Mint, to get a better picture of where our money goes.  We have always had to keep a rather tight budget (a relative concept, I know. It is not one bit tight compared to so many)....I guess I should say, we have always had to keep a rather tight budget for our quality of living, meaning, we're not willing to do without the second bathroom just to save money.  Since it's there.  And we're not eating cheap Ramen noodles for most meals, except when we (kids) want to (Speaking of that, our 10yo is So Excited that he's now allowed to boil water, so he is going to make me My Very Own Ramen noodle lunch in a few minutes .  And I will be So Grateful, but I will secretly wish I'd have taught him to make marinated grilled kabobs instead of Ramen noodles.)  

Back to money and budgeting and saving.... Since I was having a great time at Mint, I thought I'd tell you about it, too.

You might have heard of Mint before.  It's a popular program that's online, free, fast to set up, and very secure.  You put your accounts into Mint and then it downloads the information and places the deposits and credits into a budget.  The budget is already set up for you, but you'll certainly want to tweak it to include your favorite monthly splurge.

That's about all I know about Mint, since I just started exploring it today, but I thought I'd share it with you, too, in case you want to go exploring with me.  Only, not with me, thankyouverymuch, since you probably can afford a bigger splurge than me, and I don't want to get covetous. 

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A Yummy Coupon for Quiznos

I keep hearing and hearing about couponing and I keep stuffing and stuffing my ears with cotton because I just don't *like* clipping coupons, buuuuuut I finally went to a coupon workshop 2 weekends ago.  Just to see what all the fuss was about.  And then I saved $3 at my next grocery trip.  Ta-da!  It's not a 95% savings, like some gals seem to do, but it's a start. 

I'm still not a Coupon Diva, and probably never will be, but when a good one comes my way...

...I accept! 

If you like Quiznos, too, print out the above coupon quickly; often these offers only allow so many printouts before taking them down.  It expires on June 16th.

p.s. Do you coupon?  Any tips for a newbie?

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If You Would Like to Order Pizza in the Next Town or You Need to Call a Business While Out

Since so many of you liked my last geeky tip (texting Google while out to price compare, get weather info, sports info, stock info...), I thought I'd share one that I've been using for the last couple of years, called Goog-411Goog-411 is directory asssistance without the fees and with categories for the times you don't know a business name. 

You dial the number below, state a business name or category, the city and state, and Google will tell you the top results, including street address. You choose one of the listings, and Google will then connect you for free, if you like.

As mentioned in the title to this post, I've used Goog-411 on the road to:

  • Order pizza in the next town on the way to the beach ("pizza," "city/state")
  • Get the address of a business (I called Goog-411 and named a bowling center in a nearby town, so I could get their address for my GPS)
  • Call the dentist to get directions
  • Call the ballet studio to discuss an extra fee
  • Call the pharmacy to see if a prescription is ready
  • Find the nearest feed store while in another county
  • ....and for many other calls.

It's very handy when you don't have any idea what the business name is, but know the category, or when you forgot to jot down a phone number on your way out the door.

It does not work on residential numbers; only businesses.  Click below to view a quick video on the service, or to read more about it (or just cal 1-800-GOOG-411 and try it out for real).

Goog411, free directory assistance by business name or category

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If You Like Texting And You Like Googling....

I was standing in Staples today (yes, standing!  In Staples!  I was feeling a bit better, thank you for your prayers, and went out with my man after a week and a half of seeing nothing but this house's walls.  But it was a big outing for me, so I'm a bit sore tonight on my spine and down my left pinched-nerve arm.  But, still, I was standing and out today!).

So...I was standing in Staples today, grabbing the HP564 printer ink that I need when I had a sudden, "Ugh, what if this is a horrible price?" thought. 

You know that thought? It's the one that comes to you when you're in the most convenient store, grabbing the thing you finally remembered you needed, and you haven't taken the time to price check anywhere. 

I put the box down, thought about waiting, was wondering if I should (gas is expensive, why not just get it?), when I remembered to text Google: price HP564

Within a millisecond (they are fast!), Google texted me back with the three lowest prices on that printer ink.  I found out that Staples was only .02 more expensive, didn't mind losing two pennies (gas is expensive), and left happy that I'd gotten a good price.

So I thought I'd tell you about it, in case you like texting and you like Googling.  To start, you do this (click for more info):

text google for lowest price, flights, calculator, questions You can also text Google for:

text message google for price comparisons, movies, sports

(Don't tell the kids about the calculator one!)

If you're not a texter or a Googler, no worries.  I won't be as geeky next time, okay? 

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Blessings Aplenty

image from www.flickr.com

I felt a little down when I paid the mortgage last week.  It took up nearly all of our 2-week  paycheck, making Christmas look like it’ll be a handmade-like-it-or-not affair, and the  grocery list edited down to cheaper meals like potato soup, chili, and beans and rice.  I like those things, but Christmas goodies call for …butter. Lots of butter.  And pecans and chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.

Then I slapped my cheek. 

So I got all Pollyanna on myself and decided that instead of thinking "That darn bank took nearly all our paycheck and the insurance company is surely run by robbers,"  I should think, “Wow.  Another month in this castle.”

“Castle” it is not, really, with a leak in the verandah roof, a big unpainted patch in our bedroom, and mattresses and couches that are begging to R.I.P. in the county dump, but then again…castle it is, as it is much more than so many in the world have and it really is quite nice when you turn a blind eye to its bad points.

So.  I get another month in this castle. 

"And what about that tight grocery budget?" Well, thought the Pollyanna Me, when on vacation we don’t fill up a pantry and freezer to the brim like I prefer to do at home.  Instead, we meal plan (gasp!), thinking ahead and getting just what we’ll need for that time. Why not meal plan as if we're on vacation for a month in this castle?

So.  I get another month to work on making menu-planning a new habit.

Today I slapped my cheek again.

I read of a blogger who lost her 2 year old son in a drowning accident yesterday afternoon (while Daddy is away at war), then I read of another blogger who normally writes about her child’s cancer but can no longer write – or even talk - because she had a stroke near Thanksgiving, and





That I don’t have any reason at all...not at All...to feel poorly about a tight paycheck or a low pantry or a castle that needs repairs.

We have our babies, we have each other, and we have our health.

That’s blessings aplenty.

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Busy Hands

My hands have been busy lately, crocheting and knitting Christmas gifts. Since I'm always more about the process than the end product, I don't often finish projects.  But this year, I'm happy to say, I've so far completed two in time for Christmas:  a bright red cotton crocheted afghan for my parents and a pea green capelet. Including I and completed in a sentence is worthy of a "whoo-hoo!"

image from www.flickr.com
Pictured, from top to bottom, are the works still in progress:  a blue and white cotton crocheted afghan for our 9 yo little guy; a shades-of-blue checkered (in texture) cotton knitted scarf for our 6yo little gal who chose the yarn and would not budge on it no matter the brighter colors I showed her; a not-yet-started brown woolen knitted helmet liner for our 14yo Civil Air Patrol cadet (this is the project that scares me into frozen numbness, and so it is not yet started); and - finished right after this photo was taken - a pea green cotton crocheted capelet with brown ribbon decoration for our 12yo ballerina.

I have to do more than one project at once, or I'll get so fed up and/or bored that I won't pick the thing up again (I know myself well after all these years of being me!).

But it's easy to do several projects at once when they are so simple. These projects are done with easy-peasy stitches so that my easily-distracted mind can work on them while multitasking.  I've been crocheting and knitting in snippets all Autumn,  taking whichever project tickles my fancy, to ballet rehearsals, to the library, to the movie theatre, to the Nutcracker,  to the beach, in car rides, and even to a church service (I honestly listen better when my hands are preoccupied!).

Are your hands busy making gifts for Christmas? 

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Here's a 15% off coupon for the Children's Place (closed)

UPDATED 10/29/2009:  Thank you to everyone who printed The Children's Place coupon and by so doing gave me $1 (as an affiliate, I got a kickback)!  The offer is now over, but look for more in the future. 

p.s. I still want this outfit for our little gal!

Childrens place coupon

Note:  This offer - to print the coupon and help JPL out -  expires soon.  I'll take down this post when it is no longer valid (today, I think).

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How to Have Healthy Kids (or, How We're Doing It)

Raising healthy kids is the Topic of the Day every day lately, isn't it? 

When our oldest two were little tykes they were So Often ill.  Around ages 6 and 4, sometime in the year 2000, they became healthy.   I know, it could be that their immune systems finally became strong, but get this:  Our younger two, born in 2000 and 2003,  have never had a sickness even worthy of a doctor visit.  And our older two have never needed to see a doctor since 2000, either, except for a broken bone and poison ivy up the nose (sorry). 

While they do catch the occasional virus that floats around, these kids rebound within a day or two, without medicine. 

So...why are these kids so healthy now? 


I wish I could put my finger smack on the One Reason so I could help other parents out.  I'd probably become a millionaire in the process, helping my hard-working man out. 

So although I can't tell you the One Thing that worked, I'll give you a list of things that changed around 2000, when the kids became Super Duper Healthy.  Pick one, if you can, or all, and see if your crew starts fighting mean piggy and non-piggy viruses, too:

  • we quit buying soft drinks at home (they'd still - and do - get one at a party or while eating out sometimes, but the consumption went way down by cutting it out at home)
  • increased our water drinking - by a huge amount!  They can have only one glass of milk and one of juice each day.  For the rest of the day, water is it.
  • the kids get a lot of outdoor time - sunshine and fresh air and dirt.  They may not go out every day, but it adds up to several hours each week.  Sunshine = Vitamin D.  Dirt = microbes that keep your gut healthy (sorry, that's kind of gross)
  • we started homeschooling the kids.  They still share classes, go on field trips, take lessons, so there is no lack of contact with other children, but their contact is never in a small classroom indoors with a couple dozen kids the same age.
  • we switched to mostly natural, sometimes organic products.  We are Not  Rich, so we are not purists in this(or any) area.  We can't always justify the extra cost of organic apples or a cow from the local pasture, but we do at least stay away from:
    • hydrogenated oils
    • weird words on labels that we can't pronounce
    • high fructose corn syrup (Halloween candy excluded.  You know.)
    • high-sugar foods.  No more Little Debbie snacks in the house, no more sugary cereal (one box for the birthday kid, though!), no more junkier-than-not snacks
  • when they don't feel well, these things have cured them above any medicine we used to pump into their little bodies:
    • water
    • rest
    • sunshine/fresh air
    • herbal salves or essential oils (I really should blog about this someday - it's just some hocus-pocus stuff I make that is as simple, honestly, as making a pitcher of sweet tea)
    • occasionally, we'll use something all-natural (homeopathic) that we purchase (I'm looking forward to trying out Boiron - there's a $1 off coupon, here)
  • we stopped going to the doctor as much (in 9 years, they've gone for one broken elbow and 2 poison ivy cases that were so bad they were threatening breathing - yes, I think that kid finally learned not to touch it!)
  • we stopped taking medicine from a bottle. We would, if we needed to, but haven't actually had a need for it, since essential oils work so well (I really should blog about this)
  • we don't buy chemical cleaners.  In the bathroom (sink, toilet), I wipe daily with antibacterial wipes.  I guess those might be "chemical," but they don't spray chemicals around, making us breathe that (cancer-causing?) stuff.  On the floors, I've tried essential oils + water or Clorox's natural products + water.  I also went through a bleach phase, but that was smelly.  So was the vinegar phase. On the windows, I just use water and one of those micro fiber terry cloths.  In the bathtub and shower, I'll use essential oils + water or Clorox's natural brand + water and scrub it good with a scrunchie.  It's amazing how clean a house can be with just plain old water, really.  Or, water and a little soap.
  • we get a lot of rest.  We don't overschedule our days.  We don't set the alarm clocks daily.  And if anyone feels sluggish or gets a tickle in the throat, that person is encouraged to go take a nap.  

That's what's working for us, but I'd love to hear from you, too...

Do you have healthy kids, too?  Please share what you do.

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The Art of Making Do When Money is Tight

2009: This is a flashback post!  While transferring old blog posts to my new collection site, I ran into this post, which, surprise!, has a lot of relevance today.  In 2004, when we were dead broke, nobody else was, it seemed.  We're perpetually broke (but broke-r sometimes than other times, but wealthy as can be compared to the "3rd world," er, "developing country" where I grew up).  It's all about perspective.  But, still, we're usually on the broke-n side of the fence, so although I feel so very badly for those going through it, at least we are in good company now!

2005: I wrote the following last September (2004), when my man lost his job and Hurricane Ivan hit us, within 2 weeks of each other.  As we were spinning, literally and mentally, I learned a few things and wrote them in the below article: 


2004: A side benefit to being frugal with money (ie. broke) occurred recently when the children wanted to decorate cupcakes. We'd run out of sprinkles but my!, they were amazed that I could make colored sugar. They kept hollering, "Look! Mama MADE this sugar! Look, it's colored!" I've learned a few other things about being frugal in the house in this hard time:


* Buying generic brands in everything is frustrating to me, but it has also introduced me to a few alternate products. The store-brand Saltines in one store, for example, taste like the Premium brand.


* Laundry gets just as clean on a longer cycle with half the detergent called for on the box.


* Dishes get just as clean on half the detergent, as long as you rinse them well first.


* Breakfast is cheaper by far without cold cereal. Cereal uses too much expensive milk! I've been making muffins, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, etc. (my 9yo said, "Mom, I don't know why, but our breakfasts have been really good lately!")


* The children don't need prepared snack foods like Cheez-Its and Rold Gold pretzels. They will keep content as long as they have something when they are hungry.


* Free, fresh eggs from our chickens are awfully useful.


* Margarine, even though I'm not happy to have it instead of butter, at least spreads more easily when cold.


* The chickens can live - and thrive - on only table scraps (thanks to the baby, we have plenty!) and free ranging (that's a term for letting them loose).


*  All scrap paper should be saved.  The toddler (2) doesn't notice that one side is used when she is in a scribbling mood. 


*  Children are immensely amused with scissors, magazines, a glue stick, and paper.  Tell them to create a book by folding the paper  in half and stapling it (or using a hole punch and yarn) on the folded side.


* People love homemade cards from the children, made from the above.


*  Meat does not have to be a main dish.


*  Rice & beans or pasta can be an inexpensive main dish, with meat as the "seasoning" or as the side item.


*  Water and microfiber cleaning cloths (.99 at WalMart in the automotive section) can polish any window or stainless steel, and can clean any smooth surface of grime - without expensive, unhealthy chemicals.


* A garden is an important thing to plant each year. You never know when life will throw you a curve ball. 


* Hospitality is still important, even when broke.  I have been more blessed by going to a poor gal's home and experiencing her generosity with her homebaked goods and tea, than I ever have in a rich gal's home who can afford the fancy things she offers. 


* When you give away extra things generously, God will always bless you back.  I have seen this many, many times. 

I wonder:  Do you have anything to share?  I'm sure you must.  By sharing your tips, you may be helping someone (me, for one!).  You never know if your words will be read this year or four years from now. 

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On Money: Losing the Home?

Even in my outwardly "perfect" little town, things behind the doors of homes aren't really so perfect. There are houses for sale at much less than what the owners owe in every neighborhood.  It's a sad scene on any newscast in America, but when those homeowners are friends, it's downright heartbreaking.  More than one family we know is having a hard time getting food on the table and money to the mortgage company.  

For the sake of our children, we need to clean up this mess. The sooner we can start teaching them how to manage money, the better.  This quote sums it up for me:

“If we aren’t careful, our children will come down with ‘affluenza,’
a disease that causes them to confuse wants and needs. We need
to teach our children what my grandmother taught me: Think twice
about spending money you don’t have on things you don't need, to
impress people you don’t like anyway.”

— Michelle Singletary, Washington Post syndicated personal-finance columnist