Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

Evaluating the Cost of Home: Renting vs Buying

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

One of the largest expenses we have is our homes. Whether you’re renting or buying your home it can add up fast. While most financial experts recommend you spend 25% or less of your earnings on your home costs, location plays a huge factor in whether you can meet that guideline or not. This month we’ll be evaluating how to make the decision to rent or buy, and I’ll share some money saving tips that will help whether you rent or own your home.

Evaluating the Cost of Home Renting vs. Buying

When deciding if you should rent or buy it’s important to consider a number of factors:

1. Evaluate your Needs and Where you Are
Knowing what you need in a home or rental is the first step to your evaluation between renting vs buying. In addition to knowing what you need in a home, location plays a big factor. Look at the community you want to live in, but don’t be afraid to look outside your ideal area because the savings may be worth it.

Renting: If you’re renting it’s easier to look for something that fits you right now, but that may be a mistake. Consider what plans you have in the next several years because it is easier to stay put than it is to move you want to ensure you don’t go through the upheaval of moving multiple times especially if you have a family.

Money saving tip: Before you sign a lease find out if your rent is negotiable. For instance you may be able to make repairs or improvements for savings.

Buying: If you’re buying or own a home you will want to consider a little more long-term. For instance, if you’re planning to add children to your family or possibly care for an elderly relative you’ll want to be sure your home has enough room to grow into.

Money saving tip: Homeowners should evaluate their mortgage to see if refinancing will save them money.

2. Cost is King
Cost is a major factor in your decision to rent or buy. The costs of home ownership and rentals in your area will play a big role in your decision. In some communities and urban areas it never makes sense to buy because rent is low and home prices are high. In most areas though it can save you money in the long run to own your own home. As rental prices increase your mortgage payment will stay the same.

Renting: One of the major costs of renting a home is the deposit you have to put down. Generally this will be 2-3 times the monthly rent. In some urban areas they will require a larger deposit especially if you have poor credit. This could end up costing you several thousand dollars to tens of thousands in higher priced areas. In addition, you will have to factor in what other costs are covered (or not) by renting. Your rent could include utilities, WiFi, and water bills or might even include a building gym or services especially if you live in a metropolitan area.

Money saving tip: Consider all the costs you will have to pay when comparing rentals. If you find a rental that’s going for $1,000/month but you have to pay $300/month in costs for electric, water, and association dues that is more expensive than the $1,250/month rental that includes everything.

Buying: The major cost for buying is the down payment on your home. With the collapse of the housing market options have become more limited for people who don’t have a large down payment. However there are options to consider, so be sure to check with your local bank and mortgage broker. In addition you will have moving costs and repairs to consider if your home needs anything immediately.

Money saving tip: Shop around for pre-approval for a mortgage if you decide to buy. You can save tens of thousands of dollars by doing your homework on mortgage rates.

Prepare to Save

No matter if you’re buying or renting here are some steps you can take to get a better deal:

1. Improve your credit-
Use your free credit reports (1 per agency each year) to ensure everything on your report actually belongs to you and there are no false reports on your credit. I

Money saving tip: A credit dispute can take up several weeks to be fixed and can affect your mortgage interest rate and your ability to rent.

2. Research, research, research-
Knowing what typical rent and home prices are is the key to finding a good deal and simply not overspending on your home. You can use sites like Zillow, RedFin and local realtor sites to get an idea of pricing.

Money saving tip: Set up email alerts or app alerts so you don’t miss when new properties become available.

3. Set Expectations-
Know that there will never be the ‘perfect’ home. In most cases we have to choose the best options out of what is available and what we can afford. In some cases this means trading square footage for location or choosing an older home because the neighborhood schools are worth sacrificing granite countertops.

Choose the things that are the most important to you now and think ahead for the next several years. Will this house or rental suit your needs as your kids get older? Or are your kids older and you’ll be able to live with less space in a few years?

4. Real Estate is not an Investment (for Most of Us)-
While there are exceptions (like people who make it their business to buy and sell real estate) for most of us our homes are simply a place to live. While it’s important to pay attention to the costs it’s unlikely the housing market will climb the way it did pre-housing boom in most areas.

Since most families don’t stay in their homes and locations the way they did in past generations it’s not as common to pay off your home mortgage. Even if your mortgage is paid off and you own your home outright you will still have the costs of repairs and upkeep. When/if you do eventually sell a paid-off home you’re going to use that money to buy again.

5. Repairs are Costly-
If you’re renting, having a landlord means you will have someone to lean on when things need to be repaired and won’t have to cover the cost yourself. While you may not incur the cost directly it will be passed on in the form of your rent.

If you buy a home all the cost and work of repairs will be on you. While you can DIY some things larger repairs can be get expensive. An inspection before you buy will help identify some needed fixes when buying a home, but you may encounter things you didn’t expect.

No matter what you choose or how you save money on your home it can be challenging but worth it both financially and for your happiness. Examining costs and weighing your options may not seem especially exciting but by saving on the place you call home you can slash your budget significantly.

Of course there is one thing you can’t put a price on and that’s the feeling you get when you’re truly home.

For more in our series of money savvy tips read:

 

Pin It

Budgeting 101: 5 Easy Steps to a Budget that Works

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

I am so excited to introduce you to Kelly Whalen from The Centsible Life. Not only is Kelly a fantastic resource on frugal living, but she is also a dear blogging friend! Kelly has promised to walk us all through the basics of budgeting from start to finish so that you will be able to have a stronger grasp on managing your family’s personal finance. No matter when you join us, you can go back through our archives and read all of Kelly’s words of wisdom on money management. I am so thrilled she is joining us! 
Budgeting 101

Creating a budget will allow you to take charge of your money and save more than ever before. You may also find that you are able to spend on the things that matter to you whether that’s travel, home improvements, or charity when you have a budget in place.

In today’s post I’ll show you 5 easy steps to create and keep track of a budget that will really work for you and your family.

1. Where is your money now?

The 1st step to creating a budget is to sort out what accounts you have and where. For some folks this list will be small, but you may find between savings, checking, retirement, college savings, and credit cards you have more than a handful of accounts to track.

The simplest way to do this is to make a list. Include what you owe, what you’ve saved, and all your assets (savings, cars, your home, etc.). You can find a printable debt tracker at my site.

In addition to knowing where your money is you can easily tally up your debts and your assets to find your net worth too.

What is Net Worth? Assets (money, investments, value of your property) – Debts = Net Worth

Below you’ll see an example of how to calculate your net worth:

$25,000 (emergency savings) + $75,000 (retirement accounts-401k and Roth IRAs) + $125,000 (value of home) + $25,000 (value of cars)= $250,000 in assets

$5,000 (credit card debt) + $10,000 (car loan) + $15,000 (student loans) + $75,000 (mortgage)= $100,000 in debt

$250,000- $100,000= $150,000 (Net Worth)

2. What are you spending?

Now that you know what money you’ve accumulated it’s time to look at where you are spending your money. Gather up the last three months of bank and credit card statements and let’s dig in.

To start, you’ll want to use a handful of categories. If you’re using a pen and paper you can choose the categories that make sense for you. If you are using a website, app, or program like Mint or Quicken you can use their preset categories.

Some examples of categories are:

  • Savings, Retirement, and Investments
  • Charity
  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Childcare
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance (Car, Health, Life, Home, Renter’s, etc.)
  • Loans and Debts
  • Maintenance (Car & Home)
  • Entertainment (including outings and services like Netflix or cable)
  • Clothing and Personal Care
  • Food and Dining Out
  • Travel
  • Hobbies or Allowances (for kid or adult allowances)
  • Holiday
  • Misc.

With 3 months of data on hand you can see some slight fluctuations like spending increasing at the holidays or dining out costs going up when work is busy.

Now that you have that data, take a deep breathe. That’s what you did spend, and your future spending and saving habits are going to change with our next step.

3. What are your goals?

Most often we’d jump into what to cut, and we might even judge ourselves a bit when we see how much we really spend on manicures or on our kids’ clothes. Instead let’s turn that around and focus on the positive. What are your personal goals? What are your goals as a family? As a couple?

It’s time to sit down and think about what you want your money to do for you. After all, we work hard for every dollar so it should work hard for us, too!

I find this process works best if you lay out not only your own goals but the goals of your spouse or partner and family as well. For instance, your #1 personal goal may be to save for an anniversary trip with your spouse, but that goal could effect a family goal to get a family pet, or your partner’s goal to have an emergency fund that would last you a full year.

Start by writing out every goal you have. Do you have a ‘life list’ or ‘bucket list’? Include some money that will go towards those goals. Next you’ll want to order your goals. Now some will be tie for a spot on your list, and that’s ok. The idea is we want to bring the most important things to the forefront.

I recently shared this concept with a reader who sent back this list after she and her family prioritized their goals.

  1. Emergency Saving: Emergency Fund for 1 Year’s Expenses
  2. Reduce Food Spending: Learn to cook more meals, find ways to slash budget 25% by end of year.
  3. Family Trip: Save for a family trip to the Grand Canyon.
  4. Pay off ALL Student Loans: Get rid of our student loan debt by 2015.
  5. Fully Fund College Savings: Make sure both girls have enough in their accounts to fully fund their tuition.

While there were many other things the family wanted to do with their money these goals were their top 5. Once they have completed the goals they have outlined they can bump up more items from their list or reassess their goals.

Bonus Tip: Make a vision board to create a visual reminder of your goals (such as a photo of the Grand Canyon) and create a spreadsheet to track your progress.

4. Stop spending on ‘stuff’ you don’t care about.

Now that you know where your money is, where your money has been going, and where you want it to go it’s time to start making that happen. Now is the time to get really serious about where you want your money to go. Look at each and every category and assess if it’s worth the money it’s pulling away from your goals. In some cases we have no choice (yes, you need to pay your mortgage) but you can often reduce or eliminate some of your expenses.

For instance, cable TV is a great example of an unnecessary expense. Your cable bill may be close to $50/month or more if you have speciality channels. Consider cutting the cable. You can watch less TV and utilizing free or low-cost services to watch some TV and movies.

I call this process an expense audit. Each expense will be considered. Can you reduce it? Eliminate it? Choose a lower cost provider?

5. Make a budget.

Only after steps 1-4 are you able to make your budget. Using the same categories you used to assess your spending create a budget based on what you have been spending. While it’s tempting to say you’ll slash your grocery budget from $1,000 to $500 it’s not very realistic. Start with where you are, and as your spending decreases or your dump expenses that you’ve opted to do without you can adjust your budget.

The key to remember is once you’ve made a budget that it is NOT set in stone. It will guide you when it comes to your spending habits, but your budget should shift as you reduce expenses and focus on reaching your goals.

Bonus Tip: Remember that your financial goals are personal. Keep yourself on track by reminding yourself of your goals, and not looking at what the Joneses are spending.

Let’s look at a sample budget to help you get the idea.

Anna’s Family Budget
(Based on $3,000/month income after taxes, 401ks, health care premiums)

  • $250 – Savings (Retirement goes directly to her 401k)
  • $125 – Charity
  • $850 – Rent/Mortgage
  • $150 – Childcare (after-school)
  • $125 – Healthcare (this is an average spent per month on co-pays and medication)
  • $100 – Insurance (Car, Health (premiums come out of paycheck), Life, Home (included in mortgage))
  • $200 – Loans and Debts (Student Loans)
  • $200 – Maintenance & Gas (Car & Home)–goes into savings fund for repairs
  • $100 – Entertainment (including outings and services like Netflix or cable)
  • $100 – Clothing and Personal Care (clothing for 4, haircuts, makeup)
  • $400 – Food and Dining Out
  • $100 – Travel (savings or day trips)
  • $200 – Hobbies or Allowances (for kid or adult allowances)– $50/per adult, $50/child for activities
  • $50 – Holiday/Birthdays (goes into holiday savings account)
  • $50 – Misc.

Total: $3,000 Expenses

Now that we’ve covered the basics of budgeting, I want to know what you’d like to know more about in the future. Share with me in the comments!

Kelly

Pin It

Taking a Little Store-Bought Help in the Kitchen for the Holidays

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

If you have been reading the site long enough, I am sure you know that I am one of those people that prefers to make everything from scratch to cut down on our grocery budget. We have big eaters in our family though and often convenience foods leaving us feeling unsatisfied and ready for snacking within an hour. Since those foods don’t seem to fill us up, the nights that I don’t feel like cooking we usually end up opting for dining out which costs a lot, even for our little family of four!

I doubt I am alone in saying that my calendar is overflowing with an unbelievable amount of obligations right now. We have holiday concerts, appointments, work commitments, volunteer opportunities…  and it is only going to get worse as the holiday season gets closer.

See that little “No,” sign in the corner of my calendar?

This is supposed to be offering a memory trigger to myself that there is no need to say yes to everything.

Now view my calendar.

I think I must be having a disconnect these days.

Fortunately, Walmart reached out to me to see if we would like to sample some of their Marketside brand items that are sold over by their deli area in the store. These items are of gourmet quality, but offered at a lower price.  The line includes bagged salads, gourmet soups, fun dips for entertaining, take-and-bake pizzas, veggie steamers, artisan breads, and fresh gourmet pastas.

After sampling all of the items, you can be assured that they are delicious and every bit as fancy as dining out.  The soups and bread rivaled our Panera Bread and the veggies were crisp and delicious.  The fresh dips (which included vanilla bean fruit dips, fresh guacamole, and a variety of ranch dressings) would be perfect to keep on hand for all of those holiday potlucks and gatherings!

Of course, adding my own homemade spin to these great convenience items allowed us to pull together a delicious dinner every night last week on a week where our calendar was jam-packed with activities (see the calendar above). With the busy holiday season upon us, I wanted to share a few ways to take those store-bought ingredients to a new level as the calendar fills up.

Veggie steamers are an easy way to incorporate great veggies into your diet in a quick way.  Look for these stir fry medleys over in your local Walmart’s cooler and take these home for a quick & healthy dinner. I love dressing up veggie steamers with a little of my favorite sauce from our favorite Chicken Lo Mein recipe.

Quick Weeknight Stir Fry

1 bag of stir fry medley veggies
1 chicken breast diced (Optional. I use this roasting method once a week to keep chicken on hand)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup

Cook veggies as directed. In a separate mixing bow, add soy sauce, vinegar, and ketchup. Stir to combine. Add cooked veggies and serve immediately over baked brown rice.

*****************************

Fresh pasta is one of life’s little luxuries that I love to keep on hand for a quick weeknight dinner. Marketside offers so many fun varieties for the meat-eaters in the family as well as the vegetarians. These delicious pastas can transform your usual spaghetti night into a dinner that rivals your favorite Italian bistro. They also offer fresh pesto and sauces to decorate your pasta without any effort.  Here are a few ways to use their pasta on a busy weeknight!

Pesto Tortellini Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans petite diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound  tortellini of your choice (I love a chicken or sausage stuffed, but cheese is always a crowd pleaser!)
9 ounces spinach, chopped roughly
1/4 cup basil pesto

In a large pot, saute the garlic in the olive oil. After a minute or so, add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth to the pot. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and then add in your tortellini. Cook tortellini as directed on package. In the last minute of cooking time, mix in your roughly chopped spinach and stir in the 1/4 cup of basil pesto. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top. Side Note: When reheating, feel free to add some additional chicken broth to thin the soup, as the tortellini will absorb the liquid!

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

*****************************

Ravioli With Pesto Cream Sauce

1 pound ravioli or tortellini (I love a mushroom-stuffed variety)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (we used skim milk)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Romano cheese
1 cup prepared pesto

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and butter, and saute until garlic is soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Dissolve flour in milk, then stir in. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cheese, and stir until melted. Stir in pesto. Dish ravioli on plates and then drizzle the pesto cream sauce over it. Garnish with a little fresh basil or chopped parsley.

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

*****************************

Ravioli With Homemade Red Sauce

1# package of ravioli
3/4 cup chopped onion (we omitted because we don’t like onions)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes (do not drain)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent in another pot. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Gently break apart the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon.  Serve over a big plate of your favorite ravioli.

*****************************

Although this wasn’t included in my Marketside feast, I recently discovered the beauty and flavors of their rotisserie chickens for my weeknight chicken noodle soup. This soup is being made again this week for a fast & delicious soup that will leave people wondering how the heck you could pull it off on a busy school night.

Quick Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup

2-3 cups egg noodles (I like the Ream’s brand in the frozen foods section)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
2 stalks chopped celery
3 chopped carrots
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 rotisserie chicken

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook until tender. Drain, and rinse under cool running water. Meanwhile, in  a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the carrots and celery in two tablespoons of olive oil for five minutes to start your soup base or you can skip this step and proceed as directed, if you desire a crunchier vegetable.  Heat up broth and bring it to a simmer. Stir in celery and carrot. Gently add your rotisserie chicken and all of the drippings from the pan and put a lid on your pot.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water together until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pull out your chicken and set aside to dice.  Gradually add the cornstarch to soup, stirring constantly. Stir in noodles and diced rotisserie  chicken, and heat through. Toss in a handful of fresh chopped parsley and ladle into bowls.
*****************************
Of course when all else fails, there ain’t no shame in taking home a take-and-bake pizza and calling it a night! My favorite variety is the Primo Pizza with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, & black olives. Every mom deserves a night off from the kitchen once in awhile!
I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program.  Marketside provided me with meals last week in exchange for my honest feedback.  Participation in this program is voluntary. All opinions are my own. check out the other Walmart Moms had to say about Marketside. (prices may vary from store to store)
What store-bought items do you like to keep on hand for quick weeknight meals or for a night off in the kitchen? Please share!

A Week of Summer Fun On $20 or Less

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010


I have to admit that our family doesn’t go on a lot of vacations, but we do love to make a wise investment into a great summer staycation each year that the kids will remember (hopefully) for years to come. A summer staycation does not have to cost a lot of money.  In fact, it is fun to see how far we can make our money stretch and still provide beautiful summer memories for our children.

Really, the possibilities for free and cheap summer fun are endless. There are free story hours at libraries and bookstores, crafts and activity days at local parks, church programs and sport camps, VBS, inexpensive movie programs at the theaters, reading programs, ice cream treats, and so much more. Each year it seems we are trying to top the summer bucket list from last year.

Today I wanted to showcase some of our favorite things to do and share with you ideas for making those summer memories fit snugly in your family budget.

Happy Hour Out (Cost $.50-$2 per child)- Our favorite thing to do this year has been taking advantage of those Happy Hour drink specials that so many restaurants are now offering. Sonic, for example, offers a Happy Hour between 2-5 PM where your family can enjoy half price drinks. Steak & Shake is another restaurant in our town that offers a deliciously cool and refreshing milkshake for half price between 2-4 PM.  Don’t be ashamed to inquire at your local restaurants if they offer any type of summer drink special that your family can take advantage of and allow your kids to enjoy a fun summer treat that your budget can live with. At Sonic, two small slushes for my children and one large Diet Cherry Limeade for me is a total mere cost of $2.18. Fabulous!

Happy Hour Time At Home (Cost $1  in supplies or less)- If you don’t feel like venturing out and want to enjoy a little slushie fun or milkshake fun at home, it is easy to do with your blender and a few items that might be lurking in your pantry already! My kids love to indulge in our homemade slushies and homemade frosty shakes that your whole family will flip for!  The cost for creating these is minimal, but make sure you make enough for everyone in the family. This is a happy hour that you definitely do not want to miss!

Have a Park Day (Cost- FREE) - Going to the local park to spend the afternoon is nothing new, but it could be something new if you decide to explore another local park. Pack a picnic lunch, snacks, drinks, and your sunblock and enjoy a day of completely free fun. Go on a park adventure and visit a park that you have never visited before or venture outside of your own town into a neighboring town to explore a new-to-you town treasure. We love to load up the scooters, a ball, and a Frisbee to create even more opportunities for fun in the sun. This year we have made it a family priority to explore new parks that we haven’t tried before.

Have a Roast-Your-Own Dinner Night (Cost $5-7 in Food Supplies)-  One thing that we look forward to all summer long is the opportunity to roast some foods on our little campfire. Stock up on hot dogs and supplies to make s’mores and you can have a fun little night together that doesn’t cost a lot. I also love to keep the fire going after the kids hit the sack and make it into a fun little date night for me and my hubby.

Visit a Museum (Cost- FREE)- Free days abound at the local museums although I will admit that you do sometimes have to brave those crowds to take advantage of them. We always try to check the websites for local museums and find out when their free days are offered. If free days are not offered, call your local library and see if they offer museum passes that you can check out. Many local libraries offer passes that can get you and your family in for free!  Make it a family trip and take vacation days on those days so you can take advantage of those free admissions. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch that you can enjoy on the museum grounds or in transit to your destination.

If there is a special museum you have always wanted to visit, but they do not offer a free day, be sure to take part in the National Free Museum Day sponsored by the Smithsonian. Tickets can be printed starting July 1st!  This just might be the perfect time to take a road trip to experience a free museum that will cost only the cost in gas.

Take a Visit to a Local Farm (Cost $0-$5 per child)- This year we got the opportunity to visit an alpaca farm that was just thirty minutes from our home. The kids had the best time learning about the animals and getting the opportunity to feed, touch, and even take a few of them for a walk. If you want to  find an alpaca farm near you, visit I Love Alpacas to find a new place to visit in your town!

For other farm animals, see if there are any local farms in your area that you could visit and give your children the chance to have an experience like this. It is one that will long remember and gives them an opportunity to learn about where their food comes from!

Go Berry Picking (Cost $5 or more, depending on amount purchased)- One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to go berry picking. We usually buy around $5 in berries and then come home and create something in our kitchen together. With a variety of fruits for picking, the possibilities are endless for places and things to pick during the summer. Visit Pick Your Own to find places to visit and to take advantage of the foods that are in season.

Last year we went blueberry picking and then came home and created new things in the kitchen that the kids had never tried before. We dined on homemade waffles with blueberry syrup and even created a fancy blueberry syrup for our iced tea for a fun summer drink. We paid $5 in berries and we were able to make a whole day and evening of fun from just that $5 spent.

Sprinkler Fun (Cost- FREE)- Running through the sprinklers is a fun and free relief from the brutal summer heat. A good old-fashioned sprinkler or inexpensive sprinkler toy can keep kids entertained for days on end. More recently we have discovered that our town offers a lot of fun at the parks with the addition of splash pads and fun new sprinkler parks. The cost to visit these is free and can be a great way to keep cool in the summer. If your backyard sprinkler is starting to lose its luster, Google your town and the keywords “splash pad” or “sprinkler park” to see if you can find a fun new place to keep cool!

What are your favorite budget-friendly summer activities in your town? I would love to hear your ideas for inexpensive summer fun!

New Article: Great Board Game Recommendations

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Our family loves to play board games and we love sharing great game ideas with our friends. We hope you like our new piece on Great Board Game Recommendations for some added fun to that board game collection. There is nothing like a great set of board games to keep you busy on those rainy days. Make sure to check your local thrift shops for some fun board game bargains!

Feel free to leave a comment and share your own recommendation for anything that might not have made our list!

Smart Strategies for Saving Time & Money When Flying

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Over the years, I have been doing a lot more travel than I ever dreamed I would be doing. When you travel frequently, you quickly learn that you need a lot less than you think you do, proper planning will save you hours of frustration, and each trip is a lesson on how to do it better.

I wanted to share with you a few tips to help you save time and money on your next flight. These are my tried and true strategies that I employ each time I fly and I hope they will help you on your next trip.

Check in Online- The biggest timesaver for me has always been taking the time to check in for my flights online twenty-four hours before my flight.  You can save so much time and can also avoid having to wait as long at the airport if you have checked in for your flight early. What would normally take an hour can now take twenty to thirty minutes just by using my computer at home.

While you are checking in online, print out all of the documents you might need for your trip and store them in a folder together. I keep all trip itineraries, meeting information, agendas, and check-in information for the returning flight together.  Pull this together with your freshly printed boarding passes and put this in your carry-on luggage or purse for easy access.

Keep Your Bags Light- Most airlines now charge for you to check in your luggage, not to mention the hassle of waiting at baggage claims for your luggage to arrive when you are anxious to start your trip.  The largest allowed size for carry-on bags is 22×14×19 inches, but you can maximize your packing by in a quality soft-sided carry-on bag, which will be roomier than a more rigid bag.  Just by packing light, you are able to shave approximately $50 on a round-trip flight!

If you are traveling as a family, divide the luggage up between each family member and consider investing in one small roller bag for each child that they will be able to maneuver themselves.  Child size luggage can be found at discount stores like Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s. Even with this investment, you can still easily save $25 on the way back because you won’t need to check a bag. The bonus is that they can use that bag for years to come, making it easy to recoup your travel investment.

The best part about keeping your bags light though is that you can use this as an excuse to not buy so many travel souvenirs on your trip. Consider that light bag as not only a savings for not checking in, but the ultimate excuse to not indulge in those pricey gift shops.

If, in the end, you are unable to reduce your luggage to be carry-on compliant, paying for your checked bags online can sometimes save you a few dollars each way!

Pack Smart- It seems that it is always the people that do not take the time to pack wisely that become the most flustered or are asked to step aside by security. The most important thing to note is that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules require that passengers only carry liquids in three ounce containers in no more than one, clear, quart-sized bag.

Visit freebie sites like Freebies4Mom.com, DealSeekingMom.com, or MommySnacks.net and stockpile sample size toiletries and detergent for your trips that will comply with these federal guidelines. If you travel frequently, reusable travel containers can also be a fantastic investment that can be refilled with the items you already have from home. Make sure to store this bag right on top for easy access, as it will need to be removed from your bags when going through airport security.

Underneath this bag of toiletries, tightly roll your clothing to prevent wrinkling and to maximize the space within your carry-on luggage. Choose clothing that can easily be mixed and matched and make sure to prepare for what weather conditions may be awaiting you. There is nothing worse than being at an amusement park with your family during a torrential downpour and paying $15 for an umbrella or heading to a state with warmer weather and paying $35 for a junky tourist sweatshirt because you are freezing.

Last, make sure that any electronics that will need to be inspected rest on top next to your toiletries until you get through security.  The ones that will not need to be run through separately will be easier to scan if they are right on top and those that require a separate scanning will be easy to access for this procedure.  Remember that everything can be rearranged in the bag, once you get through security, to protect your electronics from harm during travel.

Thrifty Snacking- The days of meals and snacks on flights are long gone so it is important to have a thrifty snacking strategy to avoid spending $50 at the airport while waiting for flights. Pack food items that will travel well both ways to reduce your spending. Items like protein bars (avoid anything with melting chocolate), trail mixes, apples, and oranges are all great items to tuck away in your bag for a snack while you are waiting. If your flight is leaving during the lunch hour, spend a little time packing lunches that can be eaten in flight or while waiting at the airport. This little effort of planning can easily save you $7 per person.

While you are unable to bring any liquids through security, there is one easy strategy you can take to save on those $5 waters at the airport. Tuck an empty reusable water bottle in your bag and fill it at a drinking fountain when you get through security.

Frugal Entertainment- It is easy to keep everyone entertained on the flights, but it also requires a little strategy, particularly if you are bringing children. Consider packing one set of things to do on the way there and one small set of things to do on the way back to keep your children happy. Library books, magnetic travel games, coloring books, a deck of cards, puzzle books, and even your child’s portable gaming system are great ways to keep them entertained.

It is important to keep in mind that electronics do have to be turned off at the beginning and ending of each flight, so don’t just rely on that Nintendo DS, DVD player, or that iPod to hold their interest. They will be glad that you packed a coloring book or reading material when the time comes to switch them off. As an added savings, don’t forget to bring their headphones for these electronics, as the airline will happily charge you for each set you might have forgotten.

I hope that these tips will help you on your next flight and don’t forget to tuck those items away to save time for the next trip. There is nothing like having a bag of toiletries that are already packed, a special set of items that are already preset in your bags to keep the kids entertained, or  the travel pillow already packed in your bag to save you time for your next trip.

If you want more great tips on travel, be sure to visit our Organized Travel article before heading out for your next vacation!

What are some ways that you save time and money when you are flying? I would love to hear your success stories or lessons learned!

Eating Healthy at Aldi Supermarket? Yes, You Can!

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Eating healthy is a hot topic in America right now and of great concern for so many parents. With the growing epidemic of diabetes and obesity that our children now are facing, what is a parent to do?

The common thread that I see  with families is that they want to eat healthy, but they just don’t feel like they can afford to. It often feels like the fast food choices and convenience foods are a better deal than the fresh produce and good-for-us foods that are available in the supermarket.

There is also a common misconception that shopping at lower priced grocery stores means that you eat food that is bad for you. In fact, I refused to shop at Aldi because of what I remembered about the store from when I was a child. All I remembered was a sea of junk food and soda.  What a surprise to later discover in my life that healthy foods abound at the store and that I am still able to maintain a healthy diet on a budget. In reality, I just needed to maintain an open mind and learn to navigate the store better!

The truth is, you can eat unhealthy in any supermarket in the nation. All stores contain processed convenience foods that don’t do your body justice and that can be potential spending traps in your grocery budget.  Navigating the outskirts of the store and venturing into fresh produce, low-fat dairy, and the frozen sections for out-of-season veggies, fruits, & fish, and delicious whole grains are what will keep your grocery budget and diet on track.

Here is my deep and dark secret as a frugal gal. I love to stay under budget on my grocery shopping, but I am a horrible coupon cutter. For me, coupon cutting equals spending more money  and I usually end up buying things I don’t really need or eat. Call it lack of discipline or call it pure laziness, but I will take bagging my own groceries over coupon cutting any day of the week.  I am still frugal and thoughtful with planning, list-making, and making affordable meals, but I am just not a fan of coupon cutting for groceries. Between the store being much smaller than the superstore (which equals less opportunity to stray away from my list) and the fact that I don’t have a to clip a single coupon, I remain loyal to Aldi!

I hit Aldi last week and thought I would share with you the prices on some of those foods that I buy and the prices here. Dairy, sales, produce, and prices can vary between stores, but it showcases how well you can eat while keeping your budget low.

1 Gallon Skim Milk- $2.19
Low-Fat Vanilla Yogurt (32 ounces)- $1.59
Celery- $1.39
Carrots (32 oz)- $.99
Lemons (4 ct)- $1.49
Navel Oranges (large bag)- $1.39
Russet Potatoes (10 pounds)- $1.99
Bananas (per pound)- $.37
Bagged Flat Leaf Spinach (9 ounces)- $1.69
Mushrooms- $.99
Broccoli- $1.49
Grape Tomatoes- $1.89
Brown Rice (2 pounds)- $1.29
12 Whole Grain Bread Loaves- $1.69
Wild Caught Salmon (Frozen- 1 pound)- $3.99
Tilapia (Frozen- 1.5 pounds)- $3.99
Boneless Chicken Breasts (Frozen- 3 pounds)- $6.29
E-Z Peel Shrimp (Frozen/Medium 300 Count)- $3.99
Hand Selected Jarred Fruit- $1.99
Frozen Green Beans- $1.49
Frozen Blueberries- $2.69

This is just a handful of the items that I purchased, but showcases the healthy options that are available and the affordable prices that can be found.

Whatever store you choose, here are some important tips for staying under on your grocery budget!

Good Research Goes Far

Keeping track of prices is the best way to insure that you get the best deals on the items you buy regularly. I know that this seems like a time consuming process, but it is definitely worth your time if you are trying to stay on budget. Start tracking the prices on the items that you buy regularly and keep this information in a little price book that you can take with you to the supermarket.

Don’t forget to include prices from your wholesale club. For Sam’s Club, for example, you can look online and check the pricing on the items that you buy regularly on their site as well. Armed with this information, you will be able to see if those bigger boxes really pack a better punch or if they actually are costing your family more money and more space.

When you see the prices dip, stock up and up and up on the items you use regularly. If you are a coupon cutter, couple this with your coupons and you will have some killer deals to help to keep your pantry stocked when the deals are leaner. As a side note though, Aldi does not accept coupons so their current prices are their “bottom line” pricing.

Crush the Condiments

Condiments can be a huge drain to the grocery budget and don’t add any real benefits to your diet. Skip the condiment aisle altogether and learn how to make some simple dressings, homemade meat marinades, barbeque sauce, croutons, and even your own special ice cream sauce for a fraction of the cost. A quick search on the internet should yield some great results for making all of these yummy additions for pennies versus dollars. Not only will you be helping your grocery budget, but you will also have control over the quality of the ingredients and the amount of sugar and salt you put in them. It is a win-win situation!

Hold the Meat

Plan one or two days each week to skip the meat or at least focus a little less on meat in your entrees. We try to plan one night where we do breakfast for dinner and have waffles or pancakes instead of our usual meat and potatoes type of meal. If your family is not open to going meatless one night, try finding dishes that take the focus off of the meat. Pasta dishes or casseroles might have meat in them, but one pound of meat will stretch a lot further than one pound would as a main dish. Stretching or eliminating meat can have a truly positive effect on your grocery budget and you might be surprised that with a little creativity, you won’t miss it at all!

Grow Your Veggies

Gardening season is just around the corner and in some parts of the country, it has begun! I am a novice gardener and began gardening last summer. I had low expectations for what I would be able to grow, but my garden did surprisingly well for a black thumb like myself.

Growing your own herbs and vegetables will save you a ton of money at the supermarket. If you are just beginning gardening, like me, start with a small garden or even just a container garden before making a large investment. Check out books from the library and spend your winter researching ways that you can improve your garden each year. Involve your children in the whole process, as it can be an invaluable teaching tool for them, and make your gardening a family event. It is amazing how much you can the save and learn from just a few plants.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Research proves that we lean towards buying the brands and products that we have grown up with. It is also known that we tend to gravitate towards stores that are the easiest or most familiar for us because we think it saves us time. Are we really saving any money though when we just pick the most convenient or buy the brand that we have always bought? Probably not! With the grocery prices going up, now is a great time to begin exploring other stores in your neighborhood and trying generic or cheaper brands on the products that you buy. You just might find a new favorite store or brand- you only need to be open to trying it.

***************

Don’t forget that if you need a little Aldi inspiration you can get inspired through our site. Here are a few of my favorite spots on the site to help with your planning and shopping at the store:

Aldi Supermarket 101

The Aldi Queen Blog

Aldi Menu Planner

35 Ways to Reduce That Grocery Budget

How do you eat healthy and stay under budget on your groceries? Please share your tips, techniques, and strategies for eating the best you can on your budget!

How You Can Help the Unemployed Today

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
Photo Credit: David Reece

It is no secret that our family endured almost a year of unemployment and a mountain of credit card debt that came along with it. I often look back on that time in our lives and wonder how we ever did it. How did we make that situation work? How did our marriage survive it? How did we manage to keep our home and our car?

There are so many families right now that are truly suffering… in much worse ways than we have ever had to endure. This time of difficulty is supposed to turn around in our economy and in many ways it has for many. I know though that many others are still enduring hardship and struggling to overcome these difficulties.

With that being said, I wanted to share with you some ways you can make a difference in the life of someone who is undergoing financial struggle and unemployment. You can make an incredible difference in the life of someone who is struggling and, in most cases, it won’t even cost you a dime!

Lend an Ear- The most important thing you can do for someone who is having a hard time financially is to just sit and let them talk. Let them share with you the anger that they have over their situation, let them cry tears of grief over the struggles they are enduring, and celebrate with them when those times turn around.

Let them talk about what they feel like talking about and try not to push them to tell more than they feel comfortable with. It is a very brave thing to do to open up and tell someone that you are struggling and it takes time and trust for them to want to share this private information with you.

Photo Credit: Jim Sisko


Offer To Babysit
- The #1 cause for divorce is money problems. When a spouse is unemployed, particularly the male in the family, it is such a difficult time in a marriage because so much of one’s pride and self-esteem comes from being able to contribute financially to the family.

The best thing you can do to keep that marriage growing strong is offer to support them by babysitting for them. Give the family the time they need to have a date night or just to have time to quietly do some job searching.

If you have the finances to offer a gift card for a night out, that is a wonderful and thoughtful touch. Think of fun budget-friendly things they could do like going bowling, or a gift card to Barnes & Noble for books or coffee, or a gift certificate to the movie theater.

Better yet, supply a gift that they could use for several nights in like a new board game, an electronic game, a Netflix membership, or ingredients for a fun meal that they could make at home. These are simple gifts that could supply many nights of fun for them during a difficult patch in their marriage.

Meals on Wheels- One of my favorite things to do for people during these times is to just drop off a dinner to them or to bring a meal when I come over to spend time with them. Try to make a big batch of food that could get them through one or two nights when money is tight.

If you lack the cooking gene, head over to the supermarket and pick up a take-and-bake pizza, popcorn, and some break-and-bake cookies. These are likely fun food that have been removed from the grocery budget and will be just as much appreciated as a home cooked meal.

Photo Credit: David Kosaco

Hire the Unemployed- Check around at your own place of unemployment, contact your friends through social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, and tap into as many people in your network as you can to find a job for your loved one. Do your part to get their resume out there!

If you aren’t able to find them a job, consider hiring them for some odds and ends jobs around your house. When one of our family members lost their job, we offered to hire him to remove wallpaper and paint our bathroom. It was a job in our house that we were not looking forward to doing and he was looking for a way to make some extra money. We both felt really good about the project and, in the end, it was the money that helped put the Christmas gifts under their tree. In my opinion, that is a total win-win situation!

Be an Anonymous Giver- Pride gets in the way of sometimes getting the help that someone might need. No one wants to say, “I don’t have money for groceries this month. Can you give me some?”

I have some very prideful people in my life who would never tell me when they were struggling. I have learned that anonymous gifts are sometimes the best kinds of gifts to give in these situations. Mail them a gift card or leave pantry ingredients on their doorstep.

Little Things are Sometimes the Best Things- There are so many little ways that you can help those that are struggling that can add up in big ways. Clean out your pantry and bring over the extra food to someone who is struggling, pick up a movie for them, stock them up on diapers for the baby, buy them detergent or paper products that can typically drain the grocery budget, offer to babysit while they run resumes, pass on your old magazines or books for a sweet little pick-me-up, weed through your children’s clothes and share those hand-me-downs, send them a card that you are thinking of them, pray for them daily, and cheer them up when you talk on the phone.

Even though I don’t like to focus on the negative, here is a little advice on things not to do-

  • Don’t harass them every day to ask if they have found a job yet. Know that you are likely going to be one of the first people that would be contacted and let them talk about their successes when they occur.
  • Don’t criticize their unemployed spouse. As I have said before, marriage is hard when a spouse is unemployed and it is important that you do your best not to contribute to the negativity. Allow them to vent, but don’t fuel the fire.
  • Do your best not to chastise them if they are angry or hurt over what is happening in their lives. Many well-meaning people try to correct anger instead of letting them work through it. Simply saying, “I know this must be tough!” will go a lot further in these situations then correcting their feelings.

As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, you will never know what it will mean to that person to be a steady rock for them to lean on. Try to think beyond yourself and do one nice thing for someone who is unemployed today. It will mean more than you will ever know!

Are you struggling with unemployment or have you struggled with it in the past? What is one thing you could recommend that others can do to help? What is the best thing someone has done for you or someone you love?

9 Unique Ideas for Frugal Date Nights

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I never knew how creative I would have to be in order to squeeze in a little alone time with my spouse. We don’t get to escape as often as I would like and it is hard to find people you really love and trust enough to watch those that are most precious to you. Not only that, but teenagers sure seem to be a lot busier than they used to be! I am so thankful for the grandparents who offer to take our kiddos time and time again so we can get that time away.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some creative ideas for dating that will cost you little/no money and won’t even require paying a babysitter. These are the ideas that have worked for us through these years and I hope you can share some ways that you have found to creatively date your spouse when you are low on cash and sitters.


Book Club Night- My husband and I have started, what I jokingly refer to as, our “magical book club” together. I have been dying for him to read the Twilight series and he has been dying for me to read the Harry Potter series. We made a deal to exchange books and talk about them each night. Obviously, this is not intellectual material we are talking about, but I have to say that I am so enjoying every moment of this exchange.

You could also read the same series together or tackle a literary classic together. Better yet, reread those amazing books from your childhood. Have a book club night together instead of a night parked in front of the television.

Once we have finished the books though, we plan to have a screening night of the movies together too. I am wondering if I am pushing the envelope too much if I make my Edward cupcakes?

Engage in Conversation Starters- I think I know just about everything there is to know about my husband, especially since we have been together since we were teenagers. Conversation starter questions though can sometimes lead to some beautiful surprises of happy memories that we had never heard before. Look at these unique conversation starters, these sweet conversation starters, or this list of fun questions to get the ball rolling. My husband & I sometimes just ask each other questions in Facebook quizzes. Anything that gets you talking together is a great investment of your time!

Late Night Dinners- When our kids were really little, our time alone really felt few and far between. We would sometimes shift our dinner hour until after the kids went to bed to enjoy a romantic and quiet dinner together. I would put table linens on the table, break out the beautiful dishes and stemware, and make a fancy dinner that the grocery budget would not be able to normally accommodate. After all, you are still staying in so there is still a great savings in that!

Don’t be afraid to move your dinner somewhere else in the house. Sometimes I would set up a folding table and chairs and dress it up in a different area of the home or put a fancy spread out on the coffee table with a fun movie. In those long days of newborn feedings and diaper changes, this little change in location was really something to look forward to.


Game Time- My husband & I are both very competitive so we love to play games together after the kids head to bed. For outdoor games, we love a good badminton match and for indoor games we love a good board game challenge or a fun game of Wii bowling. Challenge each other to a match and feel free to indulge in childish behavior to escape the reality of adulthood.

Dollar Store Extravaganza- This is something that I have planned for the two of us as a fun date night idea. Just make a small budget of $10 or less and challenge each other to a contest to see who you can come up with the most creative gift from the dollar store for each other. You can really put a lot of creativity into this and it will be a fun exchange to do after the kids go to bed. See if your husband really knows what your favorite candy in the world is and he can see if you know how to pick a great book for him or what type of puzzle book would be a fun one.


Enjoy Some Time By the Fire- After the kids go to bed, we love to start a little fire in our fire pit and sit by it together. We are finding it is a great way to unwind and have some time to discuss the day together. Make some s’mores and snuggle up under a blanket together. If you have a fireplace, you can do the same thing with some cocoa in your warm house on a wintry night.

Plan an Anniversary Getaway- I decided awhile ago to begin putting money into a separate savings account for our ten year anniversary. At the time, we were really penny-pinching, but $25 a month didn’t seem like a ton of money so it has been automatically transferred every month for our anniversary getaway.

I swear that we talk about this (at least) once a month. Even though there is just $1,000 saved, we have come up with a zillion places we could go to and have been number-crunching to see how much we will have from making this tiny investment each month.

Sitting around and just planning a vacation can be so much fun together. It is such a fun way to spend your time, imagining the places you will go and talking about how quickly we are approaching our big anniversary.

Make it more fun by challenging each other to plan the best anniversary getaway package. You could each research and put together your own vacations and then sit down together and see who came up with the best ideas for the least amount of money. File it away for future reference when you actually do to get to go on that getaway.

Exchange Babysitting With a Friend- I am really lucky because if I really want to go out with my spouse, I can call up my sister and ask if we can do a babysitting exc
hange. If you have a good friend that you can exchange babysitting with and trade nights out, then you get great care for your kids without having to shell out any money.

While you are enjoying some time alone, you can still enjoy the frugal things in life. Some of my favorite date nights are hitting a movie at the second-run theater, packing up a picnic dinner and taking it somewhere with a view, lounging around Barnes & Noble looking for home improvement inspiration, or even enjoying an evening at home without the kids.

If your spouse can take off work, use a vacation day and try and plan your date during the day. You can take advantage of cheaper matinee rates and even affordable meals out at restaurants because of the earlier hour.

Start a New TV Series- Now that I have given you lots of ideas that don’t involve the television, I think I can bring up an idea that does. I love to pick up a new television series together, particularly in the summer months when nothing good is really on television. You can rent these using a movie membership or check on Hulu or the network websites to watch a series. Try looking for an older series that you have never seen before and watching it for the first time. On our list of never seen television- Lost, 24, and House. We also love to watch rerun sitcoms and relive all those funny moments all over again and watch Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, & That 70′s Show just for laughs.

I don’t mean to brag, but this man of mine is awesome! He works a full-time job AND manages to run all of the programming on this website too. I am willing to set aside as many fun & free nights as I can to hang out with him. Even when times were very lean, we have found creative ways to spend time together. I know we both benefit from it and so do our children!

What is your favorite budget-friendly date night activity? Please share your creative and unique ideas for keeping the romance alive!

Notebook Experiments: Can We Survive a Money-Free Weekend?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

I am bringing back this little post today as I am heading out of town. Between packing and throwing our birthday bash, I am tapped out for the week!

Money-free weekends are one of my favorite ways to get our budget back on track and I hope it will inspire you to take a weekend off from spending. Take a peek at our No Spend Challenge or visit Rachel, at Small Notebook, and join her in her family’s challenge to not spend. There is so much inspiration there and it is always fun to have a virtual friend to take a challenge with you!


Experiment: Can our family survive a money-free weekend?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 07.24.08

Materials Needed: Please see The Simple Dollar for the full instructions on ideas for completing this task. Since it is a money-free weekend, you can bet that all those materials need to be free and laying around your house.

Results: I will admit it, we have the most trouble with our spending on the weekends. All of the leisurely free time just makes me think of all the things that I could be buying. It really doesn’t help that we live off the main drag for shopping either!

For this experiment though, we made a commitment to have a money-free weekend. I had withdrawn our grocery money earlier in the week though for our grocery shopping, but that is where our spending ended.

What did we do on our no spend weekend? Well, we played board games in the evenings and caught up on our favorite shows. I spent some time working on knitting some washcloths for my grandma’s birthday. I cleaned out my closet and took a load of stuff over to Goodwill to make a donation. But our favorite no spend idea that we did… well, maybe our kid’s clothing choices might help you guess!


No, we didn’t get to see a free game, but my husband’s work throws an amazing tailgate and we thought this would be the perfect way to celebrate not spending that weekend.

And you know what is free at those events. Yup, tons of free food! My kids gorged themselves on a plethora of sugary treats and salty snacks. We all ate until we were in food comas and then swung by to see the local radio station all set up and distributing stickers and football necklaces for a special little treat for the kids. We threw our name in a raffle and chatted for a bit at their table. We watched all of the craziness that ensues for Notre Dame games and just drank in all the fresh air and sunshine.

“How convenient,” I exclaimed to my husband, as we walked over to our car! “We just so happened to have parked right next to the Starbuck’s. Momma could go for some delicious coffee.” My husband just grinned at me and kindly replied, “Oh wait! Didn’t you say we were having a NO SPEND weekend? Awww, too bad!”

I think one of us took this no spend thing a little too seriously!

Conclusion: I really loved having a money-free weekend and I plan to do this more regularly in our house. Thanks to Trent, at The Simple Dollar, for encouraging families to save instead of spend!
********************

I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster’s blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can’t wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!