Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Does Your Safety Net Look Worn Out?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

I have always tried to keep money in an emergency fund for the unexpected because, frankly, the unexpected seems to happen a lot in our family. About five years ago, we faced an unexpected time of unemployment for my husband’s job. Without that emergency fund strongly in place, I truly believe that we could have ended up in bankruptcy. Trying to be dedicated savers, we had put all of our money into a savings account to prepare for those rainy days.

Well, that rainy day came in our house. And it rained. And it poured. And it thundered. And it… well, you get the picture. He went almost a year without finding a job and I tried to help with the finances by working full-time until he found something. Even though we were drawing an unemployment check and I was doing my part working full-time, we were just covering my husband’s pay and we were missing our additional income. We had a new baby, a new mortgage, and a huge amount of student debt.

What we had to be thankful for was a fat savings account that would ride us through the storm. We had saved up around $15,000, after purchasing our home, for those rainy days that were ahead. During that time of unemployment, we managed to eat through all of that saved money and then accumulated more debt on top of that.

Now we are better money-managers, but we are working with only one income. I feel very privileged to be home with my children, but I miss being able to jump right in with my own income in these emergency situations. That safety net just isn’t what it used to be. In fact, my net looks a little threadbare and it often scares me. I have found because I have faced uncertain times in my financial past, that it is rare for me to feel true certainty when it comes to my finances. What I mean to say is that I can’t seem to put my finger on a magical number that would be right for my emergency fund so that I could feel at peace with an unemployment situation happening again. Gosh, $15,000 seemed like a magical number at the time and yet…it wasn’t magical enough.

Now with each paycheck I am trying to sock money away into an emergency fund for our family. The big question is…what is more important- building up your emergency fund OR paying down your debt?

An emergency fund trumps debt, at least it does in my family. We are steadily paying down our debt, but we are also putting our nickels and dimes away in our emergency fund too. If given a choice between putting money towards my credit card or putting my money towards my emergency fund…I would lean towards saving. The reason is, if something unexpected should happen, I would need that money from my emergency fund a whole lot more than looking at my extra $25 payment that got absorbed into my credit card.

I am wondering what the scenario is in your homes. Do you have any emergency fund? Is your emergency fund in a savings account or do you keep your money elsewhere? What is your magical number/equation you use for deciding how much to put in your accounts?

Worth Its Weight in Gold

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Last week I went to a local market to stock up on meat for the month. I have been really disappointed in the quality of the meat at our supermarkets in town so I decided to go to another town to stock up on meat there based on some great recommendations from my mom’s group. I ended up getting some really excellent deals for my money and the meat was a much better quality too.

I brought home ten pounds of chicken, ten pounds of ground beef, and two whole chickens. I broke out my FoodSaver, purchased from the thrift store, and one of my favorite kitchen tools…my postal scale.

I got my postal scale off of eBay and I use it often for shipping purposes. It has saved me a lot of time and hassle at the post office, but it also has been such a useful tool for me to weigh ingredients when cooking in bulk.

I divide my meat into one pound portions because that is the amount we typically use in a meal and it also thaws a lot quicker when it is in these smaller portions. Each one pound portion was vacuum-sealed and labeled for the freezer.

The whole chickens were rubbed with my Sticky Chicken dry rub and are all ready to go for a yummy meal one night. The chicken breasts were cleaned and trimmed, and then cubed for the various dishes I will be using them for.

With the grocery prices rising, this is one easy way that I can save my family money during the month.

Sound Off: Do you buy your meat in bulk or do you have store that you usually find good meat sales at? What would be a good price on meat in your area?

A Special Prayer Request

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Update: Austin’s surgery went really well and he is now in recovery. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts. Please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers, as he has a long recovery ahead of him.

I don’t often ask for a prayer request on here, but we have so many amazing readers that I would love to tap into that today. My nephew will be going in for a very serious surgery tomorrow morning. He has a rare condition called, Congenital Nevus that covers one of his legs.

They are attempting to get skin to use for a grafting and the past few surgeries have failed. They will be expanding his tissue in a different place this time, in hopes that this tissue will be stronger and give them more to work with. The more skin that they can get, the more of the nevus they will be able to remove.

Please pray for their family this week and ask God to help heal him. He is only six years old and it breaks my heart that they have to go through all of this. They are a young family and need all the prayers and support that we can offer them.

It’s Official! I’m OLD!

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I turn thirty today! Isn’t thirty the new twenty? Or the new ten? I keep hearing those rumors so I am hoping that they are true. Does it help that I feel much younger than I am? Or that I still get carded?

How do I know that I am getting older? Well, I was mortified when I saw someone in our family wearing fishnet stockings at a holiday get together. I actually felt sorry for her… until I discovered that fishnets could be something that was not only fashionable, but was encouraged by fashion experts this year. And yet, I thought these were just for street walkers. I am starting to show my age!

How do I know I am still young? I still indulge in stupid teenage shows like “The Hills” & “Gossip Girls.” I stay up too late playing the Wii and hanging out with my husband. Last but not least, I still feel like I am playing dress-up & house over here even though we have been doing this for years now.

In honor of my special day, I offer you a vintage post from my archives. This is one of our more infamous posts that brings searches in by the hundreds. Here is my link to all of those great birthday freebies that you can score.

Be sure to bookmark this for your special day. After all, Friday shouldn’t be the only day you get free stuff on our blog!

Don’t Cut Up Your Princess Express Credit Card!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I ran across this from Life, In a Nutshell! This is classic and a great laugh (and lesson too!)

Day Trip to Chicago & WSBT-TV Segment

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Yesterday I had to make a day trip over to Chicago to…..(drum roll please!) shoot some promotions for KENMORE! Yup, I am being added to their team of experts to talk about cleaning & organizing for their Make It Simple team! I will be sure to post links to the promotions and my monthly articles with the team, sharing my advice on cleaning & caring for your appliances.

This was truly a dream come true job and I will be working with Kenmore for the next six months (and hopefully longer, if all goes well!) I wish I could have had my camera yesterday to take pictures of that day, but I didn’t want to be a complete dork! It went really well, but I didn’t get home until close to midnight. To say I am tired today would be putting it mildly. I had to stop at Starbucks this morning and cash in on one of my Christmas gift certificates. This is the first time I have ever asked for a triple shot of espresso in my cup. That was a mistake…I fear I never will go back to regular caffeine again!

I still can’t believe that this opportunity landed in my lap and I was a little choked up when I got home last night. All of the fuss over hair and wardrobe and feeling like a star for a day…it was just a dream come true. I can’t wait to tell my kids someday how cool I felt that day!

My segment on, “Making Your Own Bread” also aired on WSBT yesterday. I shared some tips for saving money on making your bread at home. I share the functions to look for on a machine and tips for saving on making your own bread. This goes along with my post on how to use your bread machine and how to store your ingredients.

Sound Off: Do you make your own bread? How do you streamline the bread-making process?

Ask the Frugal Momma: How Do I Work From Home?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Well, thankfully our phone & internet has been restored. I discovered I have quite a dependency on it and spending an entire evening over at a supermarket in the yucky weather was not ideal.

Since the CBS Early Show aired our segment, I have been really bogged down with emails and, ironically, many of them are scammers trying to scam me out of some more of my money. Right now we are not interested in any work-at-home opportunities for ourselves personally, but thank you so much for thinking of us.

For those who are legitimately trying to find work at home opportunities, please know that my sympathies are with each of you. It is really hard to find work-at-home employment and it is particularly difficult to carve your own niche into the work-at-home world.

Direct sales jobs abound and can be very fruitful for people who are really dedicated and who work hard. Sitting on a couch watching the money roll in will probably not be happening in your near future, but hard work can help you achieve your work-at-home goals.

Things that can be helpful when starting out-

1. Look at the cost investment- Always make sure that you understand how much it is going to cost to get started. Some companies, like Avon, only have a very small amount that you need to pay to start your business upfront. Other companies can require you to spend $500 or more to get started. Be sure you understand how hard you are going to have to work to recoup your investment and be very careful! If you want to dabble in working at home or are unsure if you are disciplined enough to do something like this, please don’t throw in a huge investment to make that discovery. It breaks my heart when people tell me they are having a difficult time financially and then they decide to work at home with a $2K start-up fee and then weeks later say they made the wrong choice.

2. Know your strengths- If you are very shy and have a hard time talking to people, direct sales jobs can be difficult to do. I tried direct sales and discovered that I just wasn’t good at it. I don’t want to “bother” people so it was hard for me to do a job where I had to call and ask if people wanted to place orders, emailing them about parties, asking them if they wanted to buy stuff, handing out catalogs, etc… It wasn’t for me! BUT, you might have a way with words and have just the right personality for this kind of job.

If you aren’t sure what your strengths are, ask your friends and family. “You know me best. Do you think I would be good at a _____.” They should be able to help you in making your decision too!

3. Go to the library- The library is a wealth of FREE information for someone who is looking into working from home. It is an easy way to explore different career paths without making an investment. Check out books on how to start a simple website, how to sell items on Ebay, or find information on great work-at-home careers.

4. Network- Network with anyone and everyone that you can. Join community groups or take advantage of the great communities that you are already part of to begin the networking process. Bater your services with other work-at-home moms, share resources for great deals, and just vent to one another about your work-at-home difficulties.

5. Get a Cheap Website- I asked my husband about this one and he said, “You are trying to put me out of business!” As a freelance web designer, he is going out on a limb to share this information so leave us some comment love!

He suggested Microsoft Office which is FREE! They also have package deals with more features for $19.95 and up. If you are just experimenting and trying to get started, this would be a nice option to explore.

6. Make Money- The bottom line is that there are legitimate opportunities out there, but they are usually names of companies that you know and recognize. The only other option is to go out on your own and start your own little adventure. If you don’t have the resources or knowledge to do something new like this, check into community courses on starting a small business or starting a website. Even some libraries offer basic courses in computer skills to get you started.

I personally started this website and made below the poverty level for almost two years. Some months we were extremely excited when we brought in even $80 after I worked for 20-25 hours a week on the website. I do not have a company of people to help me and it has made the money growth a lot slower for me…BUT….I am staying home with my children and I am my own boss. It isn’t a ton of money, but it is a modest income that helps when you are just trying to make ends meet. I guess what I am trying to convey is that it is important to be realistic. Growth takes time and devotion. If you aren’t devoted to your business/craft/adventure then you probably will end up giving up on it before you can see the numbers begin to turn in your favor.

7. Get Advertisers- I also wanted to address the question about advertisements. There are tons of places you can go through for making money through advertisements. You can do sites like:

Google AdWords
Pay Per Post
BlogHer Ads

I am sure there are many other programs, but these are some of the basic ones that are easy for new sites/blogs to use. You can also become affiliated with companies and make money from referral programs. For example, you can sign up with a company like Commission Junction and make money if you refer people to sites/services.

As you develop more of an audience, you will find that new avenues of revenue opportunities are available. Sites that develop a strong audience can begin going out on their own and creating their own advertising. I did this in the beginning and I was able to pocket all of the money from the advertising, but I had a hard time keeping up with the accounts. I used PayPal for making payments to me, but I had to send out the reminder letters, pull the accounts when they were expired, send invoices, and we might have had to even design the advertisements. It was a lot of work! You have to be more disciplined to keep up with something like this on your own, but you also can keep all of the money you earn!

Other avenues that could open up are advertising networks that are only available to the bigger sites. One network we joined required a monthly minimum of 250K page views each month. That was the minimum. You can imagine how long it took us to get to that point, but we got a bigger piece of the pie.

When you start looking into this territory you need to start exploring how your money is generated and what income you can expect. Do you get money just if people view the advertisements or is your money made only through people clicking on the advertisements? How big are the advertisements? How many will you have to place on the site? Do you get to help pick what appears on your site? Will the advertisements fit with your audience? Will ADULT CONTENT be shown? (This is particularly important if you are trying to run a family-friendly site)

I hope that my answers do not scare anyone off, but I did want to share as much as I could on this topic since I got some really heartbreaking emails. I am so sorry to the families who have lost money because they have been scammed. There is nothing wors
e than being scammed especially when you are in a vulnerable financial state.

Please let me know if you have more questions by leaving me a comment! The comments keep me motivated and also help me understand what more I can share with you all.

Feeling Like a Proud Momma…

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Here are my proudest moments on my blog for 2007! If you are a new reader, this can give you a little insight into what I truly love to share about- saving our family money!

I just want to thank everyone who has provided encouragement to me in the past year. Your comments, emails, and feedback on our site and our community help me to run things more smoothly. I have made some of the best friendships of my life and learned so much from our community of bloggers.

I have so many plans up my sleeve for 2008! We are making some investments into creating an even better community here and I have been spending the past few weeks outlining my hopes and dreams for our little corner of the internet. I hope you will enjoy some of the improvements that we will make and will continue to share and teach me things! Thank you all for making this year so successful for us!

Homemaking Highlights

Frugal Carpet Steaming
The Amazing Dishwasher
Happy Homemaking the Homemade Way
Creating a Kid Friendly Office
Making a Safe Haven for Baby
Organizing Your Laundry Room
Organizing Your Pantry & Cupboards
How I Finally Cleaned Out My Closet
Caring for Stainless Steel Appliances
Making Our Home More Inviting

Crafty Highlights

Bubbly Magnets
Cheap Dry Erase Boards
Painting Mugs
Frugality Births Creativity
Eat Your Heart Out, Martha (Or How to Make a Diaper Cake)
Feeling Like a Professional Florist
Elegant Photo Albums

Kitchen Highlights

Iron Chef Mom Challenge
Iced Peppermint Mochas
Storing Homemade Bread & Bread Ingredients
Best Birthday Cupcakes in the World
Best Homemade Nonstick Spray in the World (hmm…I really liked that phrase this year!)
Oatmeal Waffles with Honey Butter
Overcoming My Fears: Canning

Frugal/Money Highlights

My Month of Savings Series
Disposing of the Disposable Items
Overcoming My Fears: Gardening
Simplifying Gift Giving
Wrapping Gifts
Thrifty Graduation Gifts
Frugal Baby Gifts
Frugal Wedding Gift Ideas
Frugal Housewarming Gifts
Overcoming My Fears: Cutting Hair
Overcoming My Fears: Mowing
Where to Get Free Wi-Fi
Going Without Prescription Coverage: A Self Discovery
Ding Dong: Did Someone Order Groceries?
Reducing Plastic Bag Consumption

Mommy Highlights

Lessons Learned from a Day Trip to the Museum
Teaching My Kids to Say Thank You
A Homemade Kind of Birthday
Ornament Decorating Fun
Enjoying the Last Days of Summer
Happy Fall!

Professional Highlights:

Interview with THE Jessica Seinfeld
CBS Early Show
My Trip to San Francisco
My husband winning us a trip to Las Vegas
Serving on the Advisory Board for Divine Caroline
Being Interviewed for the New York Times
Appearing Weekly for our local CBS-affiliate (WSBT)
Writing weekly for Frugal Hacks
Writing Monthly for Michiana Family Magazine
Speaking periodically to local mom groups about how to save money
the Aldi Queen Blog

Launching The Mother loot Blog

Free Sweet Tea in January

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

A good Southern sweet tea is hard to come by out here in the Midwest and very few places in our area serve or offer it. The closest we can get is usually that nasty Lipton tea in the soda machines. Blech! Don’t you folks in the South feel so sorry for us? (*sniff, sniff*)

Our local McDonald’s though has now added sweet tea to their menu and every Tuesday, in the month of January, you can swing by to pick up a free sweet tea. No purchase necessary!

After that, a 32 ounce sweet tea will be just $.99, making that a super sweet bargain for this frugal momma! Here’s hoping it is an improvement that rivals their excellent coffee improvements they have made!

*Note: Check to see if your McDonald’s is offering the same campaign. I know all Michiana locations are offering it in our area.*

Santa Spotting

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

We went to a friend’s holiday open house and Santa happened to stop by to see the children. As we were too sick to make it over to see our amazing mall Santa (he truly is!), we decided this was a perfect opportunity to get the kid’s special visit in with Santa.

Pictured here is how polite our son is… some of the time anyway! He is raising his hand and saying, “Excuse me, Santa! Santa, excuse me! I need to speak with you”

Ethan quickly plops down in Santa’s lap and talks his ear off. A last minute change of plans occurrs where his original plan of getting a Monster Truck was now changed and he wanted a Hummer Truck that he could ride in (price tag of $300). He says Santa told him to write it all out and he would see what he could do. Unfortunately, Santa already shopped and Santa did not have $300 in the Santa fund to spend. What can I say? Our Santa is cheap.
Emily is watching Ethan talk with Santa and is really excited to see him. I mean, you can just see it in her face. I know that this is the year that we get that amazing shot of her with Santa. This will not be a repeat of last year. She is going to look so cute on Santa’s lap….Oh! We are getting excited now. I hand her over to Santa and all of a sudden…
Santa looks at me and says, “Oh no! There is something wrong with this one” (All pictures can be expanded for real-life detail and trauma we invoked on our child)

Better luck next year, I say! Merry Christmas, everyone!