Showing posts with label Dollar Stretching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dollar Stretching. Show all posts

Nov 3, 2017

Saving Money While Eating Keto (or Whole Foods)

Saving Money while Eating Whole Foods
This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Last December, when my doctor informed me I had type II diabetes and that if I didn't want to take insulin I needed to go on a keto diet, I was worried this new way of eating would blow our grocery budget sky high. Maybe you're trying to switch to a whole foods diet but are afraid it will cost a fortune. Or maybe you're still eating lots of processed, carb-laden food but need to trim your grocery costs. Whatever the case, the following tips will help keep your grocery budget under control, just as they have mine.

(An important point: Many people find their grocery budget goes down when they switch to a keto diet, even without implementing these money-saving tips. It helps that keto keeps you more full than the more popular high carb, low fat diet, but it also really depends upon how much processed food you're used to buying. Our budget remained about the same; previously we ate a lower carb whole foods diet.)


Courtesy of
Meat

* Keto is a moderate protein diet; it doesn't require huge amounts of meat. That should help your budget, right there!

* Learn which grocery stores in your area have a meat clearance section and what day of the week they mark down their meat. Plan to use that meat the same day, or freeze it for later use.

* Watch for meat sales, via newspaper inserts, store websites, or store loyalty programs. Plan your meals around these sale items.

* But cheaper cuts of meat, and learn to cook them so they taste great. Most cheaper cuts are either less tender (so you'll need to learn to cook them low and slow in a crock pot or Instant Pot).

* Considered canned meat. If you're not used to it, canned meat may seem weird or even yucky. But I assure you that minimally processed canned meat, like chicken breasts, salmon, and tuna, is healthy and delicious! Sometimes it's cheaper than fresh, too - especially if you buy it on sale.

* Prepare your own meat. For example, instead of buying chicken tenders, buy chicken breasts and cut them down to size yourself. Or buy a whole chicken and use the meat for several meals.

Produce
Courtesy of Jules

* Buy what's in season; it's almost always cheaper. For example, asparagus is least expensive in spring, when it's naturally abundant. (Not sure what's in season when? Check out the USDA's website.)

* Consider farmer's markets. Sometimes they are less expensive than grocery stores. (But not always!)

* Compare the cost of frozen vegetables with fresh vegetables. Often, frozen is less expensive, yet still quite nutritional.

* Grow as many of your own veggies as possible. Even having a few pots on your porch or balcony can save a lot of money, especially if you choose greens, which grow and grow and grow until killed by frost. (Some greens, like kale and collards will even stay alive in the snow.)

In General

* Shop around. Familiarize yourself with all the grocery stores in your area, so you know for sure which ones are least expensive for the foods you most purchase.
Courtesy of Clyde Robinson
* Keep a price book. Don't rely on your memory to know the best price for the foods you regularly purchase or you may end up buying something on sale without actually saving any money. Click here to learn how to make a simple price book.


* Avoid processed food, even if you think it's keto. This will save you a ton of money - and processed food is frankly never as healthy as whole food. The Internet has a wealth of made-from-scratch keto foods. (Check out my Pinterest boards, for a start.)

* Eat simple meals most days. Few ingredients usually means spending less money to make a meal. Focus on one meat and one veggie for most meals.

* Although organic produce and grassfed meat and dairy are ideal for any healthy diet, don't feel you must buy them in order to eat keto. Sure Kerrygold butter and grassfed steaks are awesome, but you can be very successful at keto while eating conventional meat, dairy, and produce.

* Consider buying in bulk. Find local farmers from whom you can buy half a cow or a pig. When you find a good deal at the grocery store, especially on a staple, buy a lot to save yourself money in the future. For fresh foods, freeze what you won't use right away.

* Meal plan. This will save your sanity, as well as your pocket book, and it doesn't have to be complicated. I usually just determine how many days I'm buying for (typically 14 or so - because the less often I'm at the grocery store, the less I'm likely to buy!), pick that many dinners, and choose basics for lunch and breakfast. Make sure you plan around what's on sale and in season.

* Meal prep. Some people find that if they have pre-made, homemade meals at home in the freezer or fridge, they are less likely to grab unhealthy food elsewhere. If grabbing food-to-go is a temptation to you, commit to spending a few hours every weekend to prep the week's meals.
Courtesy of

* Make your own spice blends. Spice mixes can not only have hidden, unhealthy ingredients (including MSG, soy, and flours), but they are more expensive than homemade mixes.

* Grate your own cheese. Do this first because pre-grated cheese has additives that are high in carbs. Do it second because it's almost always less expensive to do it yourself. Hate grating cheese? Buy a food processor! You can also save a lot of money by buying blocks of cheese on sale, grating it, and freezing it.

* Use leftovers. Either freeze them for a future meal or eat them the next day.

* Avoid eating out. Eating at restaurants or grabbing food on the go is expensive! Bring snacks and drinks with you, and eat out only as a special treat.

* Eat eggs. They are a cheap source of protein. (Even cheaper if you raise the hens yourself!)

* Eat enough fat. Natural fats are healthy and make you feel much more full. (Don't overdo it, though, or you may stall your weight loss or begin gaining weight.)

* Fast. Intermittent fasting has health benefits - and it saves your bank account some cash. Don't starve yourself, though. Just skip a meal; you'll probably find that easy to do after a couple of weeks of eating keto. (Diabetics should only fast if they are unmedicated and have their blood sugar under good control.)

* Avoid snacking. Not only do snacks burn your cash, but they slow weight loss, too. Eat enough at your regular meals that you feel comfortably full.

Courtesy of
* Avoid recipes that contain expensive ingredients. This may seem like a big duh, but a lot of low carb or keto recipes for sweets - something every newbie craves - are costly. Keto-friendly, natural sweeteners, for example, and alternative flours like almond and coconut, hike up your budget very quickly. Keep these treats occasional, and you'll save a ton of money while truly taming the sugar dragon.

* Start doing Swagbucks. This is a site that let's you earn points toward gift cards by doing Internet searches, surveys, and other things. Depending upon where you buy groceries, you can earn gift cards to your grocery store. I mostly shop at Walmart, and find I can easily get $25 - $50 off my monthly grocery bill by using Swagbucks

* Consider a Costco or Sam's Club membership - or find a friend who has a membership and go shopping with her! But be sure to compare their prices to those in your price book! Not everything at these stores is a good deal.


Apr 27, 2017

30 Nights on a Casper Mattress - Our Review, Plus a Discount

This post contains links to the Casper mattress website. If you click any of these links, you will receive $50 off your mattress order, and I will receive a $50 Amazon gift card. All opinion are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Either my hubby or I have always been unhappy with our mattress. When we were newlyweds, hubs wouldn't go mattress shopping with me. "Just buy what you like," he said. Famous last words. I chose a very firm mattress that made his back ache. When we moved, we didn't bring that 16 year old mattress with us because it was literally falling apart, and we ended up sleeping on a mattress left behind by the previous owners...which made both our backs ache, it was so hard. (No wonder they left it behind!)

If it had been my decision alone, I probably would have replaced this cast off by shopping a local sale and buying a medium-firmness box spring mattress. But my hubby had had it. His mind was absolutely set on buying a Casper. So I did some research on the mattress, looking mostly at Amazon reviews and mattress review websites. I admit, I was not impressed by what I read. But hubby kept saying, "There's a 100 day return policy. There's no risk of losing our money. A lot of people really love it. I want to try it."

So, I ordered the Casper mattress.


First of All, What is Casper?

If you haven't already heard about this mattress, here's the scoop: Casper mattresses combine memory foam (which offers conformity to the body, and, many people feel, comfort) and latex (which cools the bed, since memory foam can make you sleep hot). Casper mattresses are only available online, and I believe they were the first online mattress company to offer a 100 night trial. (If you decide you don't like the mattress at any time during this trial, just call them up and Casper will remove the mattress from your home for free and return every penny of your money. Returned mattresses go to a local thrift store.) Shipping is free.

Delivery and Set Up
This is how the Casper mattress arrived.

Right away, I had to admit it was fantastic not to have to worry about arranging the mattress delivery. The Casper came via UPS. (Worried about it being stolen? There's an option to have it delivered only if you're home to sign for it.). Our king sized mattress came in a box measuring about 41 in. x 19 in. x 19 in. It was too heavy for me to handle easily, so I let the UPS guy get it into the house. The box looked a bit banged up, but the mattress inside was perfectly fine.

When my hubby got home, he carried the box up the stairs. (Far easier than trying to get a box spring mattress up the stairs.) He immediately took the mattress out of the box and placed it on our box springs. Once he cut the disposable plastic cover open, the mattress instantly began expanding. It took under a minute for the mattress to open up, so he set it on our box springs. Within a minute or two, the mattress appeared fully expanded.

I was surprised it didn't smell chemically at all.

The First Night

We ended up sleeping on the mattress within two hours of setting it up.

My hubby, who sleeps mostly on his stomach and back, loved the mattress right away. He said he felt like he was floating on a cloud. The next morning, he said it was the first time in our married life that he hadn't awakened with a back ache.

Setting up the mattress.
My first night's experience was less wonderful. I was really uncomfortable sleeping on my side; the mattress made my hips hurt. I wasn't very comfy on my stomach, either. Once I switched to my back, however, I got comfortable and slept more soundly than I had in many years.

The Second Night

My hubby's alarm didn't go off and he overslept. He never used to oversleep! In fact, pre-Casper mattress, his hurting back woke him before his alarm went off.

I slept much better the second night. I could sleep on my side, stomach, or back; all were comfortable. My guess is that the mattress had relaxed more by this time - which is why I think it's a good idea to let the mattress sit for at least a day before sleeping on it.

Still, I didn't love the mattress. If I slept on my stomach, I felt like my rear was in the air. If I slept on my side, the mattress felt too hard. I was really only comfortable on my back. But I was really comfortable that way, sleeping deeply and well.

The End of the First Week
The mattress fully expanded.


By the end of the work week, we were completely sold on the mattress.

My body finally got used to the uniqueness of the Casper, and I could now sleep comfortably in any position I desired. My hips didn't hurt, I didn't feel like my rear was in the air - I just felt cozy.

After 30 Nights

Hubby and I both sleep much more deeply than we have on any mattress either of us has ever slept on. My hubby's back doesn't ache in the mornings, and I don't toss and turn, toss and turn like I used to.

It may sound weird, but this mattress is both soft and firm. Firm because it supports your body, but soft because it conforms to it. It's radically unlike a traditional box spring mattress, which is why it took me a while to get used to it. But if the idea of a firm mattress scares you, remember that my hubs has never liked firm mattresses - yet he loves the Casper.

On this mattress, we both feel really well supported, without any part of our bodies being compressed or achy.

The Cons

*It might take you a while to get used to sleeping on this mattress; it's definitely different from a traditional box spring set up.
* Casper offers only one mattress (in all the standard sizes). When you're used to an abundance of choices, it may seem like a con.


The Pros

* Easy delivery and set up.
* No noticeable outgassing.
* Your partner's movement is much less noticeable than with a box spring mattress.
* Excellent body support; the mattress conforms to your body.
* This bed is quiet - not squeaky.
* So far, we haven't felt hot sleeping on this mattress.
* Comes with a 10 year warranty.
* Has a 100 day money back guarantee.
* Made in the U.S.A. 
 
Discount

If you purchase a Casper mattress through any link in this blog post, you'll get $50 off your order! (And I'll get a $50 Amazon gift card.)

Apr 3, 2017

DIY Seed Tape Video - How to Make Your Own Seed Tape

Last weekend, I had fun making seed tape with my kids. It's a fun, quick, and easy project that will save you money and frustration later. Check out the video below. Or, if you prefer written instructions, click here to see the post I wrote on DIY seed tape a few years ago.






Mar 20, 2017

The Best - and Cheapest! - Produce to Buy in Spring

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full 
 information. Thank you for supporting this site!

When I tell people about my success with the keto diet - how I reversed my diabetes, normalized my cholesterol, and have lost oodles of weight - the first thing I hear is something congratulatory. The second thing I hear is that they are shocked I can loose weight and get healthy on a high fat diet. And the third thing I hear is how expensive my grocery bill must be. I will no doubt address #2 sometime soon, but today I want to address #3, to which my normal response is: "Au contraire!"

My grocery budget has not gone up since going keto (or even since going whole foods, which is what I did for years before being diagnosed with diabetes). Good, healthy food does not have to be more expensive!

Sure, it helps that a keto diet is high in good fats. Fats, among other things, are filling, so I eat less now than I used to. But I'm also a sales watcher, a price book keeper...and I shop for produce seasonally.

There are a lot of good reasons to buy in-season fruits and vegetables: Better nutrition (some studies show that growing produce out of season reduces their nutritional value); energy saving (out of season produce is usually flown or trucked into your area from a warmer clime); and, yes, saving money (in season produce is less expensive than fresh produce that's out of season).

The problem is, Americans are so used to seeing all their fruit and veggie favorites in the grocery store all year long, most don't know which ones are naturally in season at any given time of the year.

So let me help you out.

Produce that's in Season in Spring
(March, April, May)

Throughout this post, I offer recipes to try with each vegetable or fruit. If a recipe is mentioned, but there's no link to the recipe, you'll find it in my cookbook A Vegetable for Every Season (available in both paperback and ebook format). It's only $2.99 for devices, folks!

http://amzn.to/2nAHakd

Carrots
Carrots are a veggie that take months to grow from seed to store, and the cool months are when they are usually pulled from the ground. They are high versatile - a good snack or salad fixing when raw, sweet and wonderful when roasted, and easy to toss into a savory pie, soup, or stew. And - happy dance! - they are kid-friendly.

Some of my family's favorite carrot recipes:
Fermented Pickled Carrots
Carrot Fries
Carrot Oatmeal Cookies
Carrot Chips
Glazed Carrots (pictured)


Radishes
Don't skip past this one because you hate those peppery red balls. First of all, there's more than one kind of radish, and they aren't all strongly flavored. Secondly, people are doing some creative things with radishes - including using them as a low carb potato substitute! (I haven't tried that yet myself, but here's a link.)

Some of my family's favorite radish recipes:
Radish Chips
Pickled Radishes (pictured)

Peas
These family-friendly veggies are at their sweetest and best at this time of year.
Some of my family's favorite pea recipes:
Easy Garden Snap Peas
Roasted Peas
Green Peas, Mint, and Tomatoes





Beets

As a cool season crop, beets will be out of their prime soon! Grab 'em while you can!
Some of my family's favorite beet recipes:
Easy Refrigerated Pickled Beets
Russian Borscht with Beets
Beet Cake (pictured)

Asparagus
Spring is the time to eat asparagus. The later in the year it gets, the thicker and more woody asparagus gets. (It may seem counter-intuitive, but thinner asparagus is more tender.) We eat it often roasted, but it's also wonderful a myriad of ways.

Some of my family's favorite asparagus recipes:
Cheesy Baked Asparagus
Asparagus Chicken Stir Fry (pictured)
Smokey Grilled Asparagus

Cabbage
There's a reason cabbage is connected to St. Patrick's Day; it's cheap at this time of year! It also goes a long way at the table, and lasts a long time in the fridge.
Some of my family's favorite cabbage recipes:
Bubble and Squeak (pictured)
Small Batch Fermented Sauerkraut 
Borscht (Russian cabbage stew)Braised Red Cabbage

Greens
All types of greens, including lettuce, collards, kale, beet greens, radish greens, chard...They are highly versatile. Eat baby greens fresh in salads, or stir them into stir fries, casseroles, and egg dishes, or saute them on the stove top.
Some of my family's favorite greens recipes:
Sauteed Greens (works with any type; pictured)
Kale and Roasted Garbanzo Salad


Broccoli
If you love it, now's a great time to eat it. At the grocery store, be picky and choose only broccoli with tightly packed florets and beautiful color.
Some of my family's favorite broccoli recipes:
Chicken and Broccoli and Stuffing
Parmesan Roasted Broccoli (pictured)
Broccoli Tots


Cauliflower
The great cauliflower shortage seems to be over, and prices for this versatile veggie are inexpensive again. Eat it, well, like cauliflower, or use it to mimic pizza dough, garlic bread, rice...
Some of my family's favorite cauliflower recipes:
Cauliflower Chowder (pictured)
Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Cheddar Pasta Salad
Mashed CauliflowerCauliflower Tots
Healthier Cauliflower Alfredo
Better-Than-Twice-Baked-Potato Cauliflower






Avocado
Here's a fruit that is an excellent source of good-for-you fats. My kids love to eat it plain; I just cut it up into chunks for them.
Some recipes I want to try:
Avocado Greek Salad
Creamy Avocado Pesto


Brussels Sprouts
A lot of people think they hate Brussels sprouts. I think they are nuts :)  But, truly, if you hate them, try eating them fresh from the garden. Store bought Brussels sprouts, by comparison, are bitter. Our favorite ways to eat Brussels sprouts are steamed, roasted in the oven, or cut in half and cooked in a skillet.
Some of my family's favorite Brussels sprouts recipes:
Skillet Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Parmesan Sauce
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (pictured)

Leeks
If you've never cooked with leeks, don't be intimidated. They are basically a weird looking onion, and can be used just like one. They do, however, have a more mild flavor than the spherical onions you're probably used to.
Some of my family's favorite leek recipes:
Cock-a-Leekie Soup (a Scottish Chicken and Leek soup)
Potato Leek Soup

Mushrooms
Mushrooms sprout up when the weather is wet, so spring is their last hurrah.
One of my family's favorite mushroom recipes:
Roasted Lobster Mushrooms (pictured)

A recipe I want to try:
Creamy Garlic Parmesan Mushrooms

Parsnips
They may look like anemic carrots, but parsnips are better, in my opinion! They have a unique flavor that is excellent roasted or added to stews.
Some of my family's favorite parsnip recipes:
Parsnip Fries (pictured)
Parsnip Cupcakes

Feb 14, 2017

16 Tips from the Great Depression that are Still Useful Today

Whether you're struggling to make ends meet or you just want to save more of your hard earned money for the future, history provides some of the best ideas for doing so. Since the days of Genesis, people have struggled through financially difficult times - but perhaps no time is easier to apply to our modern days than those of the Great Depression. Fortunately, many of the ways our grandparents or great-grandparents used to survive those difficult years still apply today. In fact, you may find that following these guidelines makes your life happier and more fulfilling, even if you aren't strapped for cash. I know I do.

1. "Use it, Wear it out, Make do" was the motto of the Depression and WWII. Patch clothes, make do with household items that aren't perfect but still get the job done, and never replace an item you can fix.

2. Reuse, reuse, reuse. This is especially true of containers. If you buy a jar of food, save the jar for storing something else later. You know the old joke about Grandma's house not having Tupperware, but being full of old margarine tubs? Yep, do that. And if my grandmother had Ziplock bags back in the 30s, you'd better bet she would have washed them and reused them until they fell apart.

3. Don't use convenience foods like frozen French fries or jarred spaghetti sauce. Make your own! It really doesn't take much time, but it saves a lot of money - and the homemade versions are usually healthier, too! (Learn how to make some convenience foods here.)

4. When looking for entertainment, do what's free (or cheap). Instead of paying $18 or more to go to the movie theater, get a Redbox rental. Better yet, check out a movie from the library. Go on hikes. Have a family board game night. Have a neighborhood potluck. Often what costs least is the most fulfilling.

5. Grow or raise your own food, as much as possible. This is cheaper and healthier!


6. Eat your weeds. Weeds are a free source of food that are high in nutrition. One of the most commonly eaten weeds during the 1930s and 40s were dandelion leaves.

7. Stretch meat with beans. Lentils, in particular, are cheap, take on the flavor of what's around them, and easily blend in with ground meat. Grab more ideas for stretching your meat budget here.

8. Learn the difference between real needs and wants. One trick to help: Imagine someone offering you cash instead of the item you're considering buying. If you'd pick cash over the item, you don't need the item.

9. Before you buy, consider how many hours you have to work to pay for that item. It may make you reconsider. (More here.)

10. Buy used. Lots of things - maybe most things - we need can be purchased used for a fraction of the cost, and work just as well as new. Cars are an excellent example. So is furniture. Clothes, too, if you live in a fairly affluent area. Even kitchen items.

11. Use up everything. Use your soap scraps. (Tip: Just lay them on top of a fresh, wet bar of soap and they will stick there.) Dip down into your lipstick tube and get every last bit. Scrape the sides of food cans and bottles. It may feel inconvenient, but over time, you'll save money. Plus, it feels better not to be wasteful.

12. Don't use credit cards. It's good discipline, and will save you a huge amount of money in interest.

13. Use leftover meat and veggies in stews and soups. Plan on having soup or stew at least once a week.

14. Never throw away vegetable and fruit scraps. Most veggie scraps can be added to the pot when making stock or broth (learn how here), and all veggies and fruits can go into the compost bin. Vegetable and fruit scraps are also excellent feed for animals like chickens.

15. Eat simple food. That doesn't necessarily mean eating high carb foods like beans, rice, and pasta. Even just paring down to a palm-sized piece of meat, plus a side of veggies, will reduce your grocery bill (and make you healthier).

16. Stash away cash. Even if the amount seems insignificant - those little amounts do add up over time. I remember reading about a lady who took small amounts of cash - sometimes just a dollar or two - to her bank to pay off a loan there. The clerks often raised their eyebrows at her, but she paid off her loan many months in advance, saving a lot of money in interest. The principle is the same if you're saving money. A dollar a week may not seem like much, but in a year, you'll have $52 more dollars saved than if you hadn't stashed that cash.

You May Also Like:

* How I Lowered Our Natural Gas Bill by Hundreds
* The Easy Way We Save Thousands Each Year
* Saving Money on Garbage Fees
* How We Homeschool on a Shoestring Budget
* Make Your Produce Last
* Top 12 Tips for Saving Money on Groceries



Sep 9, 2016

How Moms Can Make Money at Home

It's a question I frequently hear - on playgrounds, on social media, among friends meeting for coffee.
It's a question I also ask myself: How can I make money to help out my husband or family? A reader also recently asked this question of me:

"Hi Kristina,
My name is Jamie. I'm a 34 year old Christian wife and homeschooling mama of 4 little ones (only 2 of them are school aged)...I have a simple question to ask you that may be difficult to answer but I'd love any advice you have! I often think about what it means to be a Proverbs 31 wife, and something has been tugging at my heart for several years now. I long to help my husband out in the financial area, (i.e. work from home) but there's one major problem...I don't know what my talents are! Sounds funny I know, but I honestly don't know what I could do to make a little extra money to help us out. We are not necessarily in dire straits with finances but my husband is self employed and is often stressed about money since all the weight is on him and I wish I could do more to help...I feel stuck. And I know we are total strangers but do you have any advice? Right now the only answer I can come up with is 'Pray.'
Thank you for any help!
In Christ,
Jamie"

Jamie, you're not alone! I think most stay at home moms ask themselves this question on a regular basis. Many stay at home moms even feel guilty for not helping their family financially. In fact, it seems that in our society, it's expected that both the husband and wife should bring in some income. Even in my own household, I often feel there's an expectation that I must bring in some sort of income, or earn extra money when it is needed.

But I'd like you to question this whole idea.



Until quite recently, in all but the very poorest American families, wives were not expected to make money. Not because they weren't capable of doing so, and not even because our society expected husbands should be able to support their wives and children all by themselves. Wives generally didn't work because...they were already working.

They were working in the home. Caring for the children, keeping the house tidy, cooking...All important things, and all things that would cost an arm and a leg to hire someone to do.

So, if you think about it, they were helping their husbands financially by not going out and getting a job. 

Even today, if you add up what the average working mom earns, then subtract all the expenses of her working away from home (including fuel, work clothes, lunches, convenience or restaurant dinner food, and childcare), you'll usually find she's not adding much at all to the family income. (Here's a good example.)

Maybe that's why so many modern moms strive to work at home.

But here's another little secret that didn't use to be a secret at all: Back in the day, housewives contributed to the family income in another important way. They were excellent house managers.

That's not a term we hear anymore. What exactly is a house manager? It's someone who keeps the household running smoothly. It's someone who saves her husband time and frustration. It's someone who makes it easier for her husband to go off to work every morning. And it's someone who sees to it he has to work less hard, rather than more hard.

That's a far cry from many wives I see today, who go on shopping sprees with the attitude that "he'll just have to figure out a way to pay for it."

And so one very important way you can contribute to the family income is by spending the family income wisely.

How much can you save by being a good household manager? Potentially thousands every year.

Now, maybe you already are a good household manager and all you (and your husband) need to do is appreciate just how much you contribute to the family. If that's the case, another thing to consider is your lifestyle. Do you live like the average American, expecting expensive vacations, the latest gadgets and grown up toys, lots of stuff, lots of "going out," and lots of debt?

If so, learning to love a life living within your means is an important goal. Start recognizing that debt is slavery. (Really think on that!) Start realizing that stuff is also a sort of slavery. And start recognizing that if your husband is stressed out trying to pay for things you don't really need it's not worth it. At. All.

I don't know you, Jamie. So I don't know what your lifestyle is like or whether I'm "preaching to the choir." You may still be thinking, "We still need some extra cash." I get it. I seriously do! So here are some thoughts on how you can save or earn money, making your family more comfortable:

* Keep praying. Prayer is so powerful, and if you allow God to, he will either change your heart so you don't feel the need to work, or he will provide the perfect job for you.

* Remember Proverbs 31. I don't believe for a second that she did her trading and clothes selling while she had young children at home. Because young children require pretty much everything a woman has! That section of the Bible shows us the entire life of one "noble woman." Keep that in mind.

* Build skills. Build one of your interests until you're an expert at a marketable skill. For example, in the full version of the email you sent me, you said you like to write; so consider developing that skill by blogging and contributing to small local publications, and eventually you may become professional enough to grow your blog or write for national publications. Or choose one of your other interests to develop.

* Use Swagbucks to earn gift certificates for places like Amazon, where you can buy discounted food and other necessities. Or use those gift cards for school supplies and gifts throughout the year.

* Consider doing more shopping online. Some people find they can get better prices on diapers, toilet paper, and so on by shopping at Amazon, especially if they use Subscribe and Save.

* Keep a price book for groceries, toiletries, and other commonly used household items.

* Stock up when you can. When items you use go on sale, buy a bunch. In the long run, that saves money.

* If you're not already, get organized about serving food. Meal plan (here's my super easy method) and always have easy peasy meals on hand (in the pantry or freezer) for those "I'm too tired to cook nights." Eating out is not only unhealthy, but it burns through money fast.

* Pack your husband's lunch, if possible. If he loves eating out for lunch, see if he'll agree to doing it only once or twice a month.

* Shop used. Children's clothes, for example, are so much cheaper used. Also, depending upon where you live, you may find thrift stores, Craigslist, etc., can provide quality household goods for a fraction of the cost.

* Dump the dish or cable. TV is outrageously expensive. Learn to live with Netflix (saving thousands per year). Consider DVDs from the library, too (as long as you can get them returned in a timely way).

* Cook from scratch as much as possible. Your family will not only be more healthy, but you'll save a lot of money. I also think you'll find that cooking from scratch often really isn't that much more time consuming.

Readers: What are your suggestions for how Jamie - or anyone - can save or earn money?



Aug 25, 2016

How I Earn Extra Money for My Family Using Swagbucks

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 This post originally appeared last year, but Swagbucks has recently made it even easier to earn gift cards, so I felt it was worth updating you!

This month, I earned an extra $25 using Swagbucks for 1 - 16 minutes each day. And yep, that will come in handy during the back to school season! Best of all, most of the time I spent on Swagbucks was time I would have spent on a different search engine...except that by using Swagbucks, I earned money.

What is Swagbucks?

Swagbucks is site that allows you to earn points for doing things you probably already do online (like use a search engine). Then you can turn those points into gift cards for PayPal, Amazon, Walmart, Target, and many businesses you likely already shop at. How much money those gift cards holds really depends upon you. I tend to put in very little time, and get at least one $25 gift card a month - but I know of someone who let her points rack up and used them to have a $0 Christmas! That's right; she didn't spend a single dollar on her whole family's Christmas gifts!

(UPDATE 8/16: My goal for 2016 has been to use my Swagbucks not only for school supplies, but also for birthday gifts. So far, I've met my goal!)




How I Use Swagbucks


There are a lot of ways to earn points on Swagbucks. I don't use them all. In fact, I'm sure there are some ways to earn points that I don't even know about! But I earn the most points just using the search engine, which is a version of Yahoo. I use it just like I would any other search engine, looking up the answers to the crazy questions my kids ask, looking up local business phone numbers, finding news stories on certain topics, etc. If I think of it, I also go through the Swagbucks search engine when I'm going to a site I already know the web address for. For example, if I want to go to Facebook, I type "Facebook" into the Swagbucks search engine, then click on the search results in order to get there. It takes seconds longer than typing in the web address myself - and helps me earn points. As you search, Swagbucks periodically gives you points. One time, you might earn 20 points, another time you might get 6 points. It's pretty random.

I've also developed a daily routine for Swagbucks. When I turn my computer on, I usually go to Swagbucks first. (FYI, you can use Swagbucks on any device that goes online.) There, I take the daily poll, go through the daily offers, and click on the "daily crave." The poll is a super quick question. The daily offers are mostly information you can send away for if you like - but I never do; I just click through them and when I'm through, I get points. The "daily crave" is either two videos or two slide shows. I just let the videos play in the background. In total, this routine takes 1 - 2 minutes to complete, and results in 4 points.

(UPDATE 8/16: Swagbucks recently introduced a very handy home page daily "to-do" list with 7 easy ways to earn Swagbucks. If you complete at least 6 of those items, you get bonus Swagbucks for that day. Because I do my daily 6, I'm now earning more Swagbucks than ever.)

If I have a little extra time, or I just really want to earn more money, I do surveys. I tend to stick to the shorter ones (usually 10 - 15 minutes is the estimate for them, but I find they are usually quicker than estimated) and choose the ones with the highest earnings first. However, some surveys sway me to take more time if they offer more Swagbucks for completing them.

(UPDATE 8/16: An awesome new update at Swagbucks is that if you attempt any survey, you get 1 Swagbuck, even if you don't qualify to complete the survey. (If you're not familiar with doing surveys, there are always a few questions to see if you're the sort of person they want to a"talk" to. This is called "qualifying."))

And that's it! I find that if I stick to this routine, each month I can easily earn enough points for a $25 Amazon gift card (my favorite!)  - or a gift card worth more, if I spend extra time on surveys.
 
Now it's your turn! Sign up for Swagbucks right here.  Why not give it a try?