Archive for the ‘Frugal’ Category

Site Sponsor Spotlight: Spring Finds at Flourish Boutique

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

As soon as the sunshine peeks out in Indiana, I start dreaming of Spring and finding new ways to freshen up my wardrobe for Spring. This week I headed into our fantastic site sponsor’s boutique, Flourish Boutique, to check out some of their Spring offerings and I was not disappointed in the least! Pictured above is just a sampling that the store offers. Basically, it is my very own Pinterest fashion board come to life.

Here are a few of the spring trends I am embracing right now!

Chevron Fun

I love chevron print anything and Flourish has you covered with chevron print dresses, tunics, and scarves. While I love the bold chevron prints on the dresses, with my petite frame, I look for smaller nods to chevron like this Infinite Chevron Scarf ($29) or this Bold & Beautiful Dress ($59.50) that is edged in a bold chevron pattern to embrace the trend while still adding some neutral balance with my accessories and other pieces in my wardrobe.

Polka Dot Delights

I am a sucker for anything polka dot and the red dress that I pictured above, could not be snatched up fast enough for my wardrobe. The Party Time Dress ($59.50)  is a great dress that could be dressed up for a night out, or paired with a cute blazer, long sleeve t-shirt, or a pair of leggings for cooler Spring nights.

Statement Necklaces

Statement necklaces are one of my new favorite things to add to my Spring shopping to-do list because they can change everything in your wardrobe into a completely different outfit. Even an inexpensive white t-shirt suddenly looks different with the addition of a great statement necklace. This Mint Medallion Necklace ($49.50) is a great example of embracing both the statement necklace and the mint trend! You can find statement necklaces for very cheap, but I have found that they don’t hold up very well and I have started investing in one or two good pieces of costume jewelry for the year instead of buying necklaces that break on me before the season ends.

Nautical Knits

I love trends that never seem to go out of style and nautical is something I am always adding to my closet because it lasts from year to year. Each year I try to get one knit dress that I can dress up or down for the summer. This Nautical Knit Dress ($49.50) is the perfect example of a dress that can be accessorized with a bright belt, a big statement necklace, or thrown on for a day at the beach. Ironically, I spotted almost the same dress in my own Pinterest board that I had pinned ages ago. I already knew that this would be the perfect dress for me!

Coral & Mint Hues

I am loving all things coral and mint for Spring. This Shades of Perfection Top ($49.50)  is so cute and could transition out of these colder days with the long sleeve t-shirt and easily put on sleeveless for Spring. Flourish also offers tons and tons of mint this year in jeans, tops, and dresses. This Timeless Engraving Tunic ($54.50) is just one example that they offer.

I am always so proud to wear Flourish Boutique and am so thankful to them for their sponsorship of MomAdvice! I am a real mom that takes a lot of pride in what I wear. I am no fashion expert, by any means at all, but I truly love taking great care in looking nice for myself (and let’s face it, I like to wow my hubby!). These are just a few of the outfits I have worn in the last month that show off how real and approachable their pieces are.

Boutique shopping may seem out of the budget, but what I think makes Flourish special is their  great sales they offer. Like them on Facebook and you will see a daily deal/sale they are running. Check out their Overstock room upstairs (locally) or Overstock online where you can score many great deals for a fraction of the price.

The store offers online shopping so if you don’t live around here, you can still partake of all of the amazing deals and steals that the store offers on their website. MomAdvice customers receive a 25% discount code. Just enter WEB25 when you checkout!

Thank you again to Flourish for being a valued supporter of MomAdvice.

 

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5 Ideas for Offsetting The 2% Tax Increase

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

 

With the new year in full swing, you may be noticing that your paychecks are a little smaller than they were last year.  Social Security taxes were raised by 2% which may not sound like a lot, but this can truly impact families who are already financially strained or striving to build their savings & retirement. Today I want to share with you 5 ways to offset that 2% tax increase so that your family can prepare for this adjustment to your budget.

Let’s break down what a 2% tax increase might look like:

If you earn $30,000 per year, you will pay $50 more per month in taxes.

If you earn the national average of $41,000 per year, you will pay $64 more per month in taxes.

If you earn $50,000 per year, you will pay $83 more per month in taxes.

For the families that are already struggling, $50-64 a month is a huge chunk out of their budget that could go towards food, utilities, and housing.

Here are five easy ways to offset that 2% tax increase. These are all relatively painless, but yield an incredible amount of savings over the course of your year. 

 

Ditch Your Cable Bill

Last year our family gave up cable television and it is has truly been one of the most financially rewarding and best things I have ever done for our family. We now rely upon Hulu & Netflix for our television watching, reducing our bill from almost $100 a month to under $20 monthly. We are still able to watch all of the shows we want, but we don’t find ourselves wasting hours and hours of our day consumed with the television. The other financial bonus is that we are not exposed to endless commercials, which can send you running to the stores to pick up the latest and greatest things. To learn more about alternative options to cable, be sure to read my article on ditching your cable bill.

(Monthly Savings: $80 or more)

 

Calculate Your Personal Latte Factor

David Bach, author of Debt-Free for Life coined the term “Latte Factor,” to describe the way small indulgences and expenses add up to a lot of money down the drain. Consider the example of a three-day-a-week Starbucks habit. At $3.80 a latte you will spend $11.40 a week, $45.60 a month, $547.20 a year, and $5, 472 over a ten-year period on JUST take out coffee.

You may think, “I don’t buy takeout coffee,” BUT we all have small drains on our budget that can add up over time. That dinner that you pick up at the drive-through each week because your kids have sports activities, the trip to the store for one item that turns into a cart full of junk, even our thrifty endeavors (like thrift and garage sale shopping) can cost us $10 or more a week.

Figure out what that drain is on your budget and stop the leak. One little change like whipping up your latte at home, setting your slow cooker in the morning on busy days, or allocating time towards organizing items you already have instead of buying more can easily save you $10 or more weekly!

Be sure to visit my article on 7 apps to get your family organized to help get your finances back on track this year!

(Monthly Savings: $45 or more)

Get Savvy About Grocery Shopping

When families ask me how to save their family money, the first thing I talk to them about is rethinking their grocery shopping. We all get in habits and ruts when it comes to grocery shopping. Do you buy the same box of cornflakes you grew up on? Do you refuse to try a generic ketchup because you truly believe a certain company is the only one who can make ketchup? Do you have a habit of shopping without a list? Do you find yourself making multiple trips because you didn’t execute your menu plan well for the week?

I highly recommend downloading the free Grocery IQ app for your phone to effortlessly make a grocery list for your family. It pulls the coupon savings for you and you can use your lists from week to week instead of starting a fresh list each time.

Instead of shopping multiple stores, search fliers from all of the grocery stores and jot down the best deals of the week. Take this list with you to Walmart, for example, and have them price match the items for you. You will not only be able to cherry pick the best of the best, but you also will experience the savings of not spending on gas to shop at multiple stores.

To make effortless menu plans to go along with the savings, be sure to visit our Take Five Fridays each Friday on the Facebook group to get 5 budget-friendly meals to create in your kitchen!

(Monthly Savings: $40 or more)

Declutter Your Way to Savings

Clutter not only weighs us down physically, but clutter causes us to spend money when we don’t need to. One look at a cluttered pantry or bathroom closet and you know exactly what I am talking about. Duplicate purchases occur when we don’t have a strong grasp on our inventory in our home and clutter hides us from the real treasures that are in our lives.

Think of clutter not only as the items that fill our home, but also the items that fill our fridges. Do you constantly throw food out because you have “too much” food in your fridge or pantry? Is your freezer full, but you still run to the store because you have, “nothing to eat.” I can raise my hand to these scenarios too and there is a sickening feeling in my stomach when I know that I haven’t done a good job managing this aspect of managing the family finances.

Accountability of our items brings enormous savings and satisfaction. Being a good steward of the stuff that fills your life forces you to edit your belongings and keeps you from  buying as much. I try to live my life by the infamous quote from William Morris, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” If it is not bringing beauty or usefulness to my space, then I can feel good about passing those items on to someone else in need.

I often hear that people think their home is “too small,” but I also often wonder if the excess from their lives was removed if that space wouldn’t feel spacious once again.  When my home is decluttered, suddenly, my kitchen counters feel spacious, the basement really does have a spot for everything in storage, and the house really does have enough space for us all.

I honestly consider cutting the clutter as, not only a way to decrease buying duplicate purchases, but as a project to devote my time to rather than spending it out in the stores spending money. When that boredom spending starts to hit me, I focus on a spot in our home that needs to be reclaimed. Even in a smaller home, there are MANY corners to devote my efforts to.

To learn more about our commitment to our smaller home, read this article on the power of living small.

(Monthly Savings: $30 or more)

Get the Good Life For Less

The entire focus of my first book, “The Good Life for Less,” is truly about achieving good times and a happy home on a budget. The book is filled with make-your-own recipes for commonly purchased items like food mixes and cleaners, as well as outlining simple ways any family can save money on their family budget each week.

In it, I outline how our family paid over $13,000 in credit card debt from unemployment and are on the road to financial freedom.  Our family is living proof that any family can pay down their debt with small switches.

The switches I outlined above, are switches that we worked towards and have freed our family of credit card usage and have allowed us to have a beautiful life that is well within our means.  You can find my book on the shelves of your local Walmart store or purchase it online!

Check out our Debt-Free party we threw for our family when we paid off our $13,000 in credit card debt and how we are living our version of the American dream.

(Monthly Savings: $50 or more)

 

What are some small switches you have made to be able to offset the 2% Social Security tax increase this year?

 

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New Ways to Save in the New Year

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Are you looking for new ways to save in the new year? I have you covered! Today you will find me over on The Goodwill Tips Blog sharing some strategies for ways to save your family in the new year.

There is something so renewing to know that a new year is beginning and that you have a whole new year ahead of you to start fresh. In February, our New Year’s goals may have already been forgotten, but today I want to encourage you to dust those goals back off and start anew again with a goal that is very dear to my heart… being wise with our funds. The goal that I have each year is to continue to reduce our spending and find creative ways to live our beautiful life on a small budget.

Perhaps it is a goal of yours too? Let’s explore some new ways to save in this new year!
Head on over to the article to read more!

 

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The Best Resources For Frugal Readers (And How to Make Reading a Priority Again)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

One of the things that I get asked the most is how I am able to read so many books each month and still manage everything else in my life. If one of your goals this year is to read more, I want to share with you how reading has transformed my life and how it can transform your life too!

The truth is, we all have the same hours in the day and we all choose what we want to fill them with.  Some days I fill it with managing the house and doing everything that needs to be done for my family, but there are days that I let it all go and sit in my favorite chair with my favorite book for an hour instead.

Here are some simple strategies I have used to carve in more time for my fictional reading life:

I Stopped Watching Television- When we dropped our television package, it was the greatest gift in time management I have ever given myself. Our television watching has now whittled down to about four shows a week that we really care about and the rest of the time our television is turned off. It has been so freeing to not feel like I have to dedicate time to the television to justify the bills that we were receiving.

Although watching news has never really been a priority to me, to not be detached completely from the world, I listen to NPR on the way into the gym each morning or while I am tidying up from breakfast. I know what I need to know about world news and local news and then I turn it off and focus on the books I am reading.

I Always Have a Book In My Hand- You will very rarely see me without a book in my hand and I find ways to make the most of every single little pocket of time I have to read my books. Whether I am coloring my hair, cooking, waiting for the kids to get off the bus, waiting at the doctor’s office, or standing in line at the grocery store, you will find me trying to devour a page or two of a book. With devices like the Kindle for your smart phones and tablets, electronic readers, audio books, and the endless supply of great free reading material  from the library, I am constantly trying to find a new way to sneak more pages in my day.

I Make a Goal For Myself- Every year I use GoodReads to create a reading challenge for myself. For me, vague goals of, “I’d like to read more,” usually yield mediocre results. With a number in mind, I know that I have something to work towards and to accomplish. Sometimes I reach my goals, this year, I did not. It doesn’t bother me if I don’t reach my lofty goals because the true point of the goal for me is just to read, read, and read some more.

You can connect with me on GoodReads and see what I am working on right now!

I Want to Be a Role Model For My Kids- I want my kids to model the good things that I do in my life and being a reader is one thing that I am proud of and that I want for them. I don’t want my kids remembering that I sat in front of the television and watched Toddlers & Tiaras every night or that their mom was never without her celebrity gossip magazines. I want them to remember that their mom was always reading, always learning, and also that she wasn’t afraid to tackle hard books and hard topics.

The results for me have been having two kids that are ferocious readers themselves. They beg to go to the library and they are just like me,  often walking into walls and doors because they have their nose in books. If we are going somewhere, they grab their books to take with them when we run errands and one of our biggest struggles is when we have to shut off the lights and our books at night. I love seeing them model me in this way.

I Read What I Want To Read- We have enough pressures on us as mothers, but to be pressured to always be reading award-winning books doesn’t have to be one of them. If your life is full of stress and chaos, a good chick lit book might be just what the doctor ordered. I like to read one heavy book and one light book and alternate them. When my children were smaller all I wanted to read was something that would make me laugh. No matter what you read… just keep reading!

I Want to Be a Well-Rounded Person- I didn’t take a lot of advanced classes in high school like my husband so I was only exposed to excerpts of classic books, rather than reading them. As a woman in her thirties, I am reading these books for the first time in my adult life and I am proud that I am no longer intimidated by classical literature. I won’t let the hurdles of my youth stop me from being a well-rounded person and that is why you will often find me making a goal to read the classics.

I Want to Be a Great Writer- Great writers are great readers. Other writers constantly inspire me to be better at what I am writing. I found it a hard juggle to work on my own book and still squeeze in time to read. My pockets of time had dwindled, but I still tried to make it a priority because reading is that important to me.

Reading has changed my life and has shaped me into a better person than I could have been without the words of great writers. Books provide an escape, they challenge how I view the rights and wrongs in life, they take me to countries I may never visit, they make me weep, they make me laugh, and they made me dream that I could transform someone else with my own words. 

Great Reading Resources To Get You Started:

 

GoodReads or Shelfari- Goodreads is my ultimate resource for keeping me motivated to read daily. I use it for my yearly reading goals, to keep track of books that I want to read in the future, and to rate and review books that I have finished reading. The best feature is the barcode scanner that you an use to scan books to quickly pull them into your to-be-read or reading virtual piles.

BookCrossing- This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf- This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

What Should I Read Next?- One of the big hurdles with reading is finding the perfect reading material. What Should I Read Next? allows you to put in the name of your favorite author or favorite book and then gives you a reading list of similar reading material that it thinks you would like based on your preference.

Paperback Swap or Bookmooch- Just two of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads- Amazon offers oodles of books for free for your Kindle or you can download the free Kindle app for your phone or tablet to read your books on. Explore this free list when you are in need of a new book to read!

 

Be sure to visit our Great Reads section to get you started on selecting great books to tackle!

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The Top 7 Apps to Organize Your Life

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

If you asked me the one thing that I could not live without, it would be my iPhone. Today I want to share the top iPhone apps that have organized my life and my family. This gadget has brought more organization to my life than I dreamed possible and is what I rely on daily to tackle the day-to-day tasks as a mom. Of course, you don’t have to have an iPhone to benefit from these apps, almost all of these are available to any smartphone user. Here are my top 7 apps to get your family organized.

Cozi

Whenever I talk about the best apps to organize a family, I always think of Cozi first. Over the years, this app has evolved so much and fits perfectly into our family’s everyday needs. Cozi is a calendar app that is made with a mom in mind. It is easy to use, color-coded (for each family member), includes pictures of your sweet little ones, helps you with your grocery list, and offers text message alerts to you for appointment reminders…all from one central location.

My favorite feature that has saved our family countless fees and embarrassment is their text reminder service. When I input our family’s appointments, I can have a text sent to myself or to my husband that reminds us about that appointment. The reminders can come whenever you designate them (one hour ahead, one day ahead, one week ahead, etc..).  Does your child have jean day at school? Super silly hair day?  Little things like that are even input in this handy calendar and a text reminder goes out to me first thing in the morning to save my children from their mom’s forgotten dollar or the super exciting monthly “skip your uniform,” day.

(Free. Available for the iPad, iPhone, or Android.)

 

Mint

If you are looking to get your family’s finances back on track this year, my favorite and most reliable financial reporting comes from Mint. Mint can be set up through your home computer, your smart phone, or tablet.  An account with Mint can be set up in less than five minutes and gives you the chance to set budgets to your spending categories and track them with handy pie charts and graphs. In one glance, you can monitor your checking, savings, investments, and retirement at any moment during the day.

Most of the spending categories are immediately categorized for you while unfamiliar categories (like your favorite local restaurant or doctor’s visit) may need a quick categorization for accurate reporting. For tax purposes, you can also tag items for reimbursement so that it can help later when filing your taxes.

The best part, I have found, is that Mint will alert you via email when spending or withdrawals seem high. Did the mortgage company take out an extra payment? Did you have an unusually high amount of withdrawals in one month? Was a large deposit made? Mint sends you an email to alert you of unusual transactions happening in your account which could potentially save you from being the victim of credit card fraud.

(Free. Available for most devices.)

 

Grocery IQ

Making and sticking to your grocery lists has never been easier thanks to the Grocery IQ app. With Grocery IQ you can type, speak, or scan grocery list items into your list. The list automatically adds your items into categories and then alerts you if coupons are available for any items you might be adding to your list. Coupons can then be sent to your email when your list has been made or (if you have a wireless enabled printer) can be sent to your printer for printing. As you gather your items from your list, simply check it off and the item moves to the bottom of the list. Once your whole list is complete, everything is shifted towards the bottom and then can simply be clicked to add those repeat items back on the list for your next visit.

Since I always have my phone with me,  switching to an electronic grocery list has been much easier than I thought it would be. The coupon feature helps save our family money on items we were already planning to buy and the list helps keep our family budget on track. I also love that I can sync my list from my iPad to my iPhone so I can use whichever device I have handy to add items when we need them.

(Free. Available for the iPad, iPhone, or Android.)

Evernote

If you are trying to stop the paper pile-up from school, Evernote is a fantastic tool for  clipping and saving those papers in one spot that you can access from your phone or computer. When items come home to us that I might need to reference for our family later, like the cafeteria lunch schedule or the recess schedule, I can either take a photo of what I need or I can scan that item into Evernote and tag it with, “School,” for easy reference.

Things that I often refer back to, like our library card numbers, gift card numbers that I want to store on my computer, receipts for purchases, or even keeping track of the books my children are reading in a particular series are all housed in my Evernote account for easy accessibility when I need them.

No more scraps of paper all over the house or hanging on to newsletters for one paragraph of information, Evernote has become my virtual notebook to keep us organized.

(Free. Available on most devices.)

SpringPad

Menu planning can be a challenge for families and keeping track of all of those recipes you want to try can be a challenge when your Pinterest boards are overflowing with ideas. I have come to rely upon SpringPad for creating our family’s weekly menu plan. I think of SpringPad as a virtual notebook where you can privately or publicly share things you want to reference to manage your life. Notebooks can be created on any topic, but I create weekly notebooks of menu plans for my family, adding those recipes into a notebook so that I can reference them later, whether I am cooking in the kitchen or I am at the grocery store and not sure if I added all the ingredients to my list like I thought.

Depending on how the recipe is input into the source, SpringPad will either pull the recipe right into your notebook so you can view it right from the notebook, you can manually add in the recipe, or a link to the recipe will be provided so you can access it from the page you found it.

(Free. Available on most devices.)

30/30

Setting a timer to get tasks done around the house is an old school method that works remarkably well for productivity that has now been brought to the future with this 30/30 app for organizing your day.  The idea behind this app is very simple: you work for thirty minutes and focus on a single task with no distractions. When your time is up, you give your mind a break and do something completely unrelated, also for thirty minutes. This 30/30 cycle is repeated until your tasks are done.

Type in what your ideal day will look like including blocking out times for a little down time like enjoying a cup of coffee, time wasting on sites like Facebook or Pinterest, or just time with a great book.  Then set up what the rest of your productive day will look like and use the 30/30 app to visualize if you are going to get your tasks done in the designated time.  It provides a countdown and a visual reminder of what you are working on and beeps when your time is done. Simple, visually pleasing, and highly effective, I can’t recommend this app enough to increase your productivity.

(Free. Available for the iPad or iPhone.)

8MM Vintage Camera

Capturing my children on-the–go is one of the main reasons I decided to get an iPhone. While I rely heavily on Instagram for capturing still images of our family from day-to-day I also love to capture movies of them.  Although we have many fancy camcorders laying around our house, the one recorder I always have with me is my phone. I am a huge fan of vintage looking film and pictures so I have found that the  8MM vintage camera app is a fun way to add a little vintage to our family’s most precious recorded moments.

($1.99. Available for the iPad or iPhone)

What are your favorite apps for keeping your family organized? Chime in here and share your family’s favorite tools!

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DIY Rosette Bib Necklace Tutorial: Valentine’s Day Link-Up Party Fun

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and today I wanted to show you how to dress up a plain t-shirt with a DIY Rosette Bib Necklace. This tutorial for a DIY Rosette Bib Necklace will help you make a pretty piece of inexpensive jewelry that you can wear year after year to spice up an item you already have in your wardrobe for Valentine’s Day.

Supplies Needed

A simple chain or bead necklace (in the jewelry supplies)

Jewelry cutting tools (if needed to trim the sizing of your chain)
Fabric (you can use scrap fabric or buy inexpensive fabric quarters)
Felt
Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
Scissors
Blow Dryer
Tweezers

Editor’s Note:I found my supplies at Walmart because I was already at that store shopping and they cost approximately $5 (if you don’t count buying jewelry cutting/shaping tools, hot glue gun, or scissors which I already owned).

1. Begin by measuring and cutting 5 strips of fabric into 1 1/2″ strips. The length can be determined by you. I used the length of the fabric quarters that I bought for this size rosette, but you can adjust to the sizing of your choice. I chose two different fabric prints for mine, but you can certainly do all the same color, if you prefer!

2. Add a knot to the end of your fabric to begin the start of your rolled rosette.

3. Begin twisting your fabric, adding small dabs of hot glue to hold the twisted rosette in place. Keep twisting and dabbing with glue until you get almost to the end of your fabric or until you reach your desired sizing.

4. With the end flap of your fabric, add a dot of hot glue to the back of your rosette, and then fold it behind to secure it in place.

5. If you have any gobs of hot glue (which is very easy to see with plain fabrics), use your blow dryer on a low setting to get rid of any hot glue strings or to slowly melt the glue a bit to pull it off with tweezers.

6. Glue your rosettes, in the center,  onto your piece of felt in a necklace arrangement. Make sure you leave the edges of the felt loose to tuck your chain behind it.

7. Use your scissors to trim the felt around the flower. Secure the flowers with a little more hot glue between them to help hold them together into one piece.

8. Secure your chain with hot glue between the layer of the rosette and the felt.

9. Trim your chain to the desired length and add the ends to your chain, if needed.

You can begin wearing your beautiful handmade necklace immediately! I wore mine for our annual Valentine’s Day Bunco night with a black top and red patent leather belt! It’s such a fun way to spice up items you already have in your wardrobe and could be made in a variety of colors, depending on your holiday occasion!

I do love Valentine’s Day around here and here are a few other fun Valentine’s Day projects you can spy on MomAdvice! Tomorrow I will be sharing an elegant Valentine’s dinner you can share on a budget!

DIY Tissue Paper Pom Poms
Red Velvet Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream
Valentine’s Day Yarn Wreath
DIY Coffee Filter Flowers
Rolled Rosette Rings (to match your necklace)
Peppermint Marshmallows (cut them in hearts!)
Be Mine Fluffy Cake Doughnuts

Today I also happen to be  helping host the 2nd Annual Valentine Week Party! Last year’s week long event ended in a great party with 275 Valentine’s Day projects added!

This is really HUGE my friends! You can add your Valentine’s projects on any of the blogs and be seen on ALL 9 of them! That’s over 100,000 readers that will see your projects!


Meet your hostesses…

Now, it’s your turn to showcase your Valentine’s Day Ideas to the Party, simply click on the little blue button where it says “add your link” and your posts will show up on ALL NINE BLOGS! How cool is that? I can’t wait to see what projects you have been working on for Valentine’s Day!!



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The Best Paper Snowflake Templates on the Web

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Winter days can be long with kids, but paper crafts can be a fun way to keep little hands busy with items you already have. Today I want to showcase the best snowflake tutorials we found on the web as a fun winter craft to break up those long winter days. Good old-fashioned paper snowflakes don’t have to be old-fashioned. In fact, there are so many fun snowflake tutorials with current fun characters that, I bet, you will have a hard time choosing where to start.

How to Make Basic Snowflakes

Step 1: Fold your  paper in half diagonally to make a triangle.

Step 2: Now, fold the triangle in half so the pointy corners meet.

Steps 3 and 4: Fold your triangle in thirds.

Step 5: Cut across the bottom of your paper so it is straight.

Step 6: Cut your folded paper so it looks like the triangle above. Then unfold it very gently. Be careful, these tear easily!  Decorate, embellish, and make your snowflake stand out. After all, no two snowflakes should look alike!

(If you are looking for a printable you can use, I like this design-your-own snowflake printable)

If you are looking for a template to create snowflakes, here are a few of our favorites: 

Snowflakes for Little Kids (but don’t tell her that!)

Little hands will benefit from less complex designs that will help them feel more accomplished with snowflake cutting. Mom & Dad may have to help guide the cutting process through the layers, but little ones can help to accessorize their snowflakes with a little sparkle, glitter glue, or crayons/markers, even if they aren’t able to cut them all by themselves. Cutting skills can be challenging with kids and I find this activity to be one that helps challenge them, but also can be fun at the same time.

Happy Dots Snowflake (Pictured Above)

Simply Snow Snowflake Pattern

Cork Stamped Snowflakes

Coffee Filter Snowflakes (a thinner medium for small hands)

Snowflakes for Big Kids (Rock On, With Your Bad Selves!)

Even if your kids are big, cut-outs in the center of the designs can be tricky even for the most skilled adults. I use my self-healing cutting mat and a utility knife to try to cut out eyes and mouths on these super cool snowflakes. As you can see, there is nothing old-school about these snowflakes!

Angry Birds Snowflakes (Pictured Above)

Star Wars Snowflakes (Pictured Above)

More Star Wars Snowflakes

Classic Snow Crystal

3-D Snowflakes

Thanks so much to Walmart for challenging me to craft up some snowflakes with my kids. It turned into a morning of smiles and delight  as watched our snowflake creations unfold.

Happy snowflake-making, friends!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

What is your favorite winter craft to do with your kids?

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The Good Life For Less #GNO Twitter Party (Tuesday 01/08)

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

I am so excited to get to be participating in my first Twitter Party with Mom It Forward to promote my new book, “The Good Life For Less.” As you can see, I am not happy about it  at all (ahem).

This virtual party will be hosted on January 8th from 9-10 PM ET and will give you the chance to participate in a great chat on frugality and how to truly achieve the good life for less with CELEBRITIES. Yes, I said it, the celebrities in my life happen to be the superstars in the frugal world.

I was asked to pick a few friends to help assist me with my talk. It wasn’t hard to think up a fantastic dream team panel, but to expect them to spend a Tuesday night on Twitter with me seemed impossible. Of course, you know you have awesome friends when they agree to do this for you to help promote your project. I want to give each of them a shout-out because ALL of their blogs should be on your must-read lists!

Savings Lifestyle (Andrea Deckard)

With a motto like, “Save on what you need. Spend on what you want,” you know that you are in for a real treat! Stay up-to-date on coupons, savings at the grocery store, take advantage of great freebies, and learn to achieve a beautiful life for less. Andrea is an all-around fantastic person and I am so lucky to call her my friend!

Hoosier Homemade (Liz Latham)

If you aren’t following the Hoosier Homemade you are missing out on a real treat..and I mean treat. She is famous for her cupcake skills, but is also an all around jack-of-all-trades when it comes to making a beautiful home for less. You will absolutely love this site and did I mention that she is a fellow Hoosier girl?

Deal Seeking Mom (Tara Kuczykowski)

If you coupon, you know my friend, Tara! Tara has a fantastic coupon site filled with just about every deal on the internet. It is a site I reference frequently when making my purchases and I highly recommend you do too. The best part? She is one of the sweetest people I know.

Frugal Upstate (Jenn Fowler)

If you are looking for a blog that truly gets back to the basics of frugality and achieving the good life for your family for less, you will definitely want to visit Jenn’s blog. It has everything you need from menu planning advice, great recipes to share around the table, and fantastic DIY projects. Jenn knows a lot about a frugality and is a trusted frugal resource for me!

The Happy Housewife (Toni Anderson)

If you want to know anything about anything, than I am sure you are familiar with my friend Toni and her site, “The Happy Housewife.” This website has everything from how to manage your home, how to manage your family budget,  how to feed your family, how to score the best deals at the grocery store, and even advice on homeschooling your kids. I guarantee that once you start browsing this site, that you will lose many hours in your day just soaking all of that knowledge in. I adore Toni and am so thankful to call her my friend!

Party Topic

Join Amy Allen Clark (that’s me!)  who is the author of The Good Life for Less@MomItForward, and our panel of experts as we chat about frugal living. The party will be held on Tuesday, January 8 from 9-10 p.m. ET (8CT, 7MT, 6PT)Click here to see details about the giveaway and enter for a chance to win.

Party Details

Jot down some questions that you would like to ask us and be prepared for a fun night on frugality. I am so excited to be giving away more books and also would love to acquaint you with our new Book Landing Page where you can grab all the information you need about my book, sign up for our new newsletter, and find out where I am headed for book signings! 

I’m also excited to share that Mom It Forwardwill be covering ideas from, “The Good Life for Less,” in a four part series! How cool is that? Visit the site to learn more about our frugal journey and what you will find in the book!

I never made it out of my pajamas yesterday because I just sat at my computer in complete awe at the stir that all of you created with this book. Pictures were being posted all over IG and Facebook of you running out to buy your copies at your local bookstores, the shares from my family’s big day at the bookstore went completely viral, and the words from people who had already read it… There are just no words to how overwhelmed with emotion we were.I am just a gal, in a small town in Indiana, preaching a little message about simple living and I never dreamed that we would be experiencing a moment like this. Thank you all for your love and support of this project! I could not do it without you! The Amazon sales rocked my world yesterday as well as all of those beautiful pictures of you heading to your stores to make my dreams come true! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Looking forward to chatting more at the Twitter party!

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Our Top 12 Posts of 2012

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

What a wonderful year 2012 was for our site and our family. MomAdvice continues to grow & I can’t wait to share with your our best posts of this year.  Today I wanted to highlight our top 12 posts from 2012.

Do I thank you enough around here? I never feel like my thanks is sufficient enough for all of your love and support for us. 

Thank you for sharing our site with others.

Thank you for your continued support.

Thank you for your comments.

I can’t tell you what they mean to me.

Here are the top 12 posts that happened on MomAdvice this year:

1. How to Dye A Faded Pair Of Jeans

Our top post this year, by a LONG shot, was my tutorial on how to dye your old jeans. With over 205,000 views, this one went viral and that box of Rit fabric dye was, perhaps, the best purchase of the entire year! Not only did I get a “new” pair of jeans, but this post grabbed the attention of a lot of new readers that were looking for some ways to freshen up a few tired pieces in their closet. This tutorial explains a variety of methods of dying your clothing and the comment stream continues to grow as readers share their own success stories with fabric dying.

2. How To Be a Pinterest Superstar

I am so excited to see that my guidance on growing your blogs through Pinterest proved to be valuable information to other bloggers. In this article, I share everything I have learned about getting your content and readership to grow through Pinterest. If your New Year’s goal is to harness the power of Pinterest, I can’t recommend this article enough for growing your audience. 

3. Rainbow Cake in a Jar With Cloud Frosting

Anything in a jar, to me, is absolutely delightful and delicious. For the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, I share a recipe for making beautiful little rainbow cakes in a jar and my recipe for a perfectly fluffy cloud of frosting to top these festive little cakes. The best part is that  these can be made from items you already have lurking in your pantry!

4. The Good Life For Less

Well, the excitement around here must be contagious because our 4th most popular page this year is for my first book, “The Good Life For Less.” I’m so excited to share that it is now available on store shelves! I would be, of course, be honored if you bought a copy and I am so excited that this was one of your top destinations this year on the site!

5. How to Ditch Your Cable Bill

Oh, we were a radical bunch this year as we said goodbye to our family’s astronomical satellite television bill. Apparently, I’m not the only one who wanted to say goodbye to it because this was a frequently visited article for many of our readers. After a year without cable, I can’t tell you how much happier we are. We are especially enjoying the savings we are experiencing by changing the way we watch television.

6. The World’s Greatest Homemade Bubbles Recipe

If there is one thing my kid’s love, it is this homemade bubble recipe. Neighbor kids flock to our home in awe of their super awesomeness and moms will be begging for your secret. This super easy recipe was a popular one on the site and replicated in many a home!

7. Slow Cooker Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

This recipe was created and has been devoured in my home weekly since its development. If you crave a thick & hearty soup filled with brown rice, veggies, and a tomato broth, then this soup is the one for you! This was a popular one for many of our readers with food allergies and I am excited that we were able to cater to that need a bit this year.

8. How To Make Glow-In-The-Dark JELL-O Jars

Science project plus edible treat? This is a win-win situation, people! This post got so much love that JELL-O even featured it on their site (which thrilled me to no end!) My kids got a kick out of making this treat for Halloween and we loved sharing the science behind their spooky glow.

9. The Best Books Read in 2012

 

I absolutely love sharing my reading lists each year and I can’t wait to continue sharing book reviews with you in the upcoming year. I take this list so seriously that it keeps me up at night the night before, worrying that I made the wrong picks for you guys. I have been getting oodles of messages though, from many of you, sharing how much you have already been enjoying off of this reading list. I am already tackling the next round of books, as we speak, for another “best of” list for next year!

10. Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Who wants to buy stuff you can make? That is why you come here, of course! My homemade enchilada sauce recipe is one of my favorite DIY creations in the kitchen. Once you make this enchilada sauce, you will never buy that jarred stuff again!  If you haven’t tried this recipe yet, I highly recommend it!

11. How to Knit Great Chemo Caps for Charity

I have, sadly, knitted far more chemo caps for people I know than I would have ever wanted to this year. If you are a knitter and looking for some tips on making really great chemo caps (that will actually be worn) than this post is just the post you will need to get started. I share everything I have learned from selecting the right yarns, to selecting the right patterns, to adding a little “sparkle” to your hats. I am so happy to see that this was a post that you have been referencing!

12. How to Make a Homeless Care Package

 

Last, but certainly not least, our Homeless Care Package post was our final top post of the year. We were so excited to be able to create these homeless care packages for those in need in our area and we shared a free printable list of supplies as well as a local resources sheet that other families could use to replicate our giving this year. Our family made giving to charity one of our top priorities this year and we look forward to giving back more to those in need in 2013.

 

What would you like to see featured in 2013 on our site? I would love to hear your ideas for posts as I begin planning my editorial calendar for the year!

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Christmas Gift Ideas Under $25 For the Ladies

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Christmas gift ideas under $25 can be a hard budget to achieve. Today I wanted to share with you 12 great Christmas gift ideas under $25 that would be perfect for yourself, a great gift for your girlfriends, a sister, or a mother.

These ideas are actually something that I have been thoroughly enjoying this year and believe you will to! I only like to promote smart shopping so these have all been carefully hand selected and are gifts I believe anyone would love!

Small Homes Grow Tight Families Print- One of my favorite pieces of art in our home is this print that reminds me of our commitment to live in a smaller home. I ordered this for our house and it is now one of my favorite things in our home. You can personalize it with your own address and choose your own colors. Supporting Etsy sellers is always on my holiday to-do list for unique and thoughtful gifts. ($15)

Rice Cooker- If there is one appliance that gets a workout in our house, it is our rice cooker. If you eat a lot of rice or quinoa in your house, than this is a fantastic appliance to give or get. I put the steamer on the top to work for our family’s veggies and the bottom is where I make our brown rice. Once you have one of these little gadgets, you will realize just how much easier your dinner hour is and wonder how you ever lived your life without it. ($16.99)

Edie Bauer Polartec Power Stretch Gloves- I have gone through and lost a ton of pairs of gloves over the years, but I always am careful with this pair because they are my warmest and most comfortable pair. If you are looking for the perfect gloves to receive or to share, than these are the ones that I would recommend. My best friend had a pair and then she told me about them and I ran out and got a pair for myself. If you have a hard time keeping track of your gloves like me, you will love the little links on the side that click them together.  ($19.99)

Fleece Leggings (in charcoal and brown)- If there is one item that is my go-to item in the winter, it is my fleece leggings. If you have ever worn cheap leggings, you know how cold your legs can get without a warm layer. These are thin, but lined with fleece so it basically feels like you are running around in your pajama pants. I wear these with my sweaters, with my dresses, and with longer tunic tops. I am giving these to all of the ladies in my life this year and can’t recommend these enough. Once you wear these, you will never go back to cheap leggings again!

Flourish Boutique happens to be a site sponsor and  offers online shopping so if you don’t live around here, you can still partake in all of the amazing deals and steals that the store offers on their website. MomAdvice customers receive a 25% discount code. Just enter WEB25 when you checkout! ($16 BEFORE coupon code)

One Line a Day Journal- If you are anything like me, it is difficult to journal with such a busy life and schedule. I am absolutely in love with my One Line a Day journal because you have enough room to write a couple of quick sentences and at one glance you can see your sentence each day in a five year span on a single page. It’s fun to see how many sentences get repeated or what you did exactly one year ago in one spot. ($11.53)

Owl Mug- I bought this gift for myself on a girlfriend shopping trip, and it is one of my favorite things in my cupboards. You know when a mug is just the perfect size? Well, this mug is big and has enough room in it for loads of coffee and milk/creamer topping. I use this mug daily and would love to get a couple more in other colors, but even in a simple white it is a surefire day brightener ($10)

Warm Regards Tights- Now that we are moving down my list, you can see my love for all things fleece and warm. I bought two pairs of the Warm Regards Tights when I was visiting our local Francesca’s, on impulse,  because they were on sale 2 for $12. When I slipped them on, I realized they were lined in fleece and the best invention ever in the world for chilly church mornings. These tights make wearing a dress more of a daily event for me in the winter because I am toasty warm in these and my boots. ($12)

Spotify Premium Membership- I am a huge music lover and Spotify is where I listen to all of my favorite music and create my playlists for great music to listen to throughout the day. Unfortunately, I have the free membership so I have to listen to annoying ads throughout the day. Ever have an elegant dinner with your family and have a tampon ad blasting in the background? It’s a mood killer! I am hoping that Santa will be good to me this year and bring me a premium membership so I can take my playlists with me in the car and can take advantage of some ad-free listening. This would be a great gift to give to any music lover in your life ($9.99 per month)

Microwaveable Rice Pillow- You might laugh, but my rice pillow is my most favorite handmade gift that my mother-in-law made me for me a few years ago. These pillows are filled with rice and can be zapped in the microwave or popped in the freezer for a cold or hot pack for all sorts of body aches and discomforts. In the winter, I zap mine three or four times a day and put it on my feet while I work or knit. When I’m sick, it is the first thing I reach for to warm me up. There are a variety of Etsy sellers that you can buy this from although anything in a houndstooth pattern takes this thoughtful gift to another level ($22.95)

Celestial Seasonings Holiday Teas- My new favorite treat to myself is a cup of tea in the afternoon and I have fallen in love with these Celestial Seasonings Holiday Teas. It is just like drinking the holidays in a mug and my latest favorites are the Gingerbread Spice and Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride. These teas would make a great stocking stuffer or would be a fun addition to your grocery cart to take home when tackling all of those endless holiday errands ($2.99)

Picky Palate Cookbook- If you are going to add any cookbook to your Christmas wish list, can I recommend the Picky Palate Cookbook? This cookbook is filled with tried and true recipes that any picky eater would love. The cookbook offers beautiful photos and real family recipes that any home cook would love to create. Usually when I flip through cookbooks, I see one or two dishes that I might like to create. In this cookbook, there is not a single recipe I wouldn’t want to try making for my family. Jenny’s personality really pulls through in this book with her sweet spirit and references to her sweet family. I am lucky enough to call her my friend, but if she wasn’t, it still would be a cookbook that I would recommend buying for this holiday season! ($13.79)

The Good Life for Less- You knew that this would have to be on the list, right? I am so proud of this book and really feel like it would make a fantastic gift for anyone looking to live a beautiful life on a budget.  The book is filled with great recipes to share around the table, how to celebrate all of life’s big and small occasions, and how to do it all within a budget.

The book will be out on bookstore shelves on January 2nd (a slight shift in dates due to our reprinting), but is now available for pre-order.  Here are some options for great places to order it! I also encourage you to hit your local bookstore to pick it up! 

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Walmart

Powell’s

Indiebound

What are you hoping Santa will bring you this Christmas? Any gift suggestions you would like to share?

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