Archive for May, 2006

Works-For-Me Wendesday: Using the Coffee Maker With Ease

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Good morning and welcome to this installment of Works-For-Me Wednesday. Once again, thanks to Shannon for her lovely idea and please visit her blog to view all the other great participants. Please swing by and visit last week’s installment where I shared how you can make that old awful spice rack usable again!

Today I am going to talk a little bit about my single cup coffee maker. My husband purchased this gadget for me as a gift because I make horrible coffee. Not just horrible coffee, but HORRIBLE coffee. Make-you-grow-hair-on-your-chest-and-chew-the-coffee-for-days coffee. With this in mind, he decided to get me a coffee maker that is great for the novice at brewing coffee. Unfortunately, you can only fit short coffee mugs under this brewing machine and what I really want to do is pour this coffee directly into a thermos cup so I can take my coffee to go. I also had trouble stirring the ingredients once I poured the coffee into the thermos cup because it was too tall and my stirrer wasn’t tall enough. This became a huge mess every morning and I ended up with more coffee on my counter (from the pouring and the stirring) then I ended up with in my cup.

I came up with the idea of pouring my coffee directly into a glass measuring cup. I pop the measuring cup in and have it brewed directly into that. Then I pour in my milk and sugar (the measuring cup helps to keep accurate measurements of how much milk I like in my coffee), stir it up, and easily pour it into the thermos mug. This idea could also be applied with regular coffee makers if you are brewing just one or two cups.

I also cover the measuring cup with plastic wrap and let it chill overnight for iced coffees in the morning. Squirt a little chocolate syrup, add some milk, add a little sugar and you have a delicious drink for those hot summer mornings.

If you are interested in more coffee talk, you can visit Coffee Geek & Single Serve Coffee for great forums on sharing on how to make that perfect cup.

Our Sisterwoman Circle

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

I don’t know if you have had a chance to visit our circle of girlfriends yet, on, but I just wanted to extend the invitation today. If you aren’t familiar with, it is the first online community to celebrate and nurture women’s real-life “SisterCircles,” while also fostering connections to new girlfriends from around the world. It allows women to easily share experiences, emotions, and advice, and to exchange information such as videos, photos, and social calendars. gives girlfriends an easy way to stay in touch despite increasingly hectic lives. I hope you can get a chance to stop by today because it is a great way to interact, ask questions from other moms, and just give us an opportunity to connect with one other. Thanks to for choosing us as one of their Sister Sites!

Visit the Traveling Shows

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

The Carnival of Debt Reduction (#37) is being hosted by Kirby on Finance. Our Thirteen Easy Ways to Save Money was featured in this carnival. The Debt Defier will be hosting next week’s carnival. Thanks to Kirby on Finance for doing such a great job, particularly over a holiday weekend!

The Carnival of Personal Finance (#50) is being hosted by My Open Wallet. Our Simplifying Gift Giving made the cut for this carnival. Thanks to My Open Wallet for doing such a great job hosting. There are tons of great reads in this one and it is all color-coded for your viewing pleasure. Mapgirl’s Fiscal Challenge will be hosting this carnival next week.

Finally, my favorite one of all, The Festival of Frugality (#25) is being hosted by Mighty Bargain Hunter. Our Making the Spice Rack Usable was the selection featured in this festival. Value Investing, & A Few Cigar Butts will be hosting the festival next week.

All of the traveling shows were great (as were the lovely hosts). These were my three picks for good reads this week:

Lesser Known Debit Card Fees is a great read. I don’t have a debit card, but if I did, I would be reading this article. It was something that I certainly wasn’t aware of!

How about a College Tuition Estimator Calculator? All I have to say is, I hope my kids can play ball and/or are smart because momma doesn’t have that kind of money!

Frugal Fundraising for School is probably my most favorite. I hate being the cheap mom at school, but I am not buying forty dollar tins of candy so that the school can make five dollars. This article shares some great fundraising options that don’t break the bank!

Monday WAHM Spotlight: Mom Execs

Monday, May 29th, 2006

We would like to congratulate Liz Latham on being chosen as our Monday WAHM for We wish her much success in her business and with her family.
If you are interested in being featured, we will be selecting a mom for each Monday of my blog. You can read more and apply. Email confirmations are sent to each mom if they are chosen.
Please remember to do your own research on these companies. If there are obvious red flags on BBB, I do not post them. Check my scam article to find out more about the potential dangers of work-at-home businesses.

Thank you to Liz and her WAHM business, Mom Execs, for taking the time to apply and be a part of my Monday feature! Liz is also advertises on our homepage and is a wonderful contributer to our forum.

Name: Liz Latham

City/State: LaPorte, Indiana

Name of Company: Mom Execs

Website Name:;=show

Two or Three Sentences About Your Company:

Melaleuca, Inc. is a wellness company. We have products for our home and our bodies that are non-toxic and chemical free. We do not sell the products or host home parties.

Two Tips for Moms Trying to Work-At-Home (these tips can be how you stay organized, how to be successful, how to get started- anything that you feel would help someone just starting out):

1. I would like to advise WAHM’s to stay organized by scheduling everything, right down to the day you clean the toilets.
2. Morning and evening routines are great time savers too, this will give you more time to work your business and spend time with your family.

Frugal Graduation Gifts

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

I discussed a few ways that we save money on gift-giving in my last blog entry and now I would like to share a few ideas that I use, in particular, for graduation gifts.

Here are just a few of my favorite gifts for the graduates in my life:

Food Kit:

My food kit is all put together inside of a dish tub.

Within the dish tub, I provide a set of four place settings (plastic forks, knifes, spoons, bowls, & plates) and a sponge & dish soap for doing their dishes.

I also put in Ramen Noodles, Cup of Noodles, and any other food that I can find that can easily be prepared in their room.

Just tie a bow on the outside and know that this is a gift that they will actually use.

Laundry Kit:

This is one of my favorite gifts for a graduate.

Just assemble everything in a laundry basket and tie a bow on the handles of the basket.

Inside stick a roll of quarters, a mesh laundry bag, detergent, fabric softener sheets, a Downy Ball and you can put together a tutorial for them on how to treat stains and easy directions on how to do their laundry.

Step-by-step instructions, for the newbie to doing laundry, (as many graduates are!) can be found here and ten tips for the perfect wash can also be given to them too.

If you are even more ambitious than that, you can put these things in a binder for the graduate and include your own tips and recipes for getting stains out.

Coupon Queen:

One of my favorite things to ever get in the mail, when I was in college, was a care package…from ANYONE!

Giving the graduate coupons for care packages can be a very frugal gift and one that they can enjoy throughout their first year in college.

Coupons can be assembled with a self-addressed stamped envelope.

I like to provide a menu of choices and let them write on the coupon what they would specifically like.

I include simple family favorites that can easily be packaged and enjoyed by them.

Cookies can be shipped to them in empty Pringles containers or in Christmas tins.

Bar cookies are very good choices for your menu options because they hold up well in the shipping process.


Other Ideas

Gifts for a graduate who is not planning on attending college or who will be attending a community college can be a challenge.

Many of the gifts, traditionally given to a graduate, are made for those who are going away to school.

For these graduates an organizer or a journal can be a wonderful and thoughtful gift option.

Address books, so that the graduate can record where all of their friends are going, are also nice for them.

The important thing, in my opinion, is to offer a gift that they can actually use.

I can’t tell you how many books I got for my graduation- the infamous Dr. Suess book, Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and coffee table books.

These are nice, but are usually read once and put away.

I rarely reread them and they ended up collecting dust on my shelf.

I am disappointed when gifts I give are not used because, to me, it is like money going down the drain.

Don’t be afraid to ask your graduate what they are in need of so that your gift is actually used!

If you are the mother of a graduate, I wish you congratulations on making it this far with your child.

You should be so proud of both of you!


Feel free to include ideas of your own for graduates and drop them in our comments box below!




Don’t miss these other great ideas from



DIY Graduation Party Ideas



Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care Package





DIY Money Book Page Posies




Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards




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8 Simple Tips To Help Your Child Read

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Take away the skill of reading and not only books become a mysterious and foreign world, but reading train timetables, ordering from a menu, understanding bank statements, and any number of straightforward daily activities become virtually impossible.

If your child is struggling to read, the effects of their problem can reach into adulthood, be humiliating, and extremely limiting.

The world of a non reader is a mixed up place where only those who know the ‘secret code’ can decipher the strange symbols around them and fully participate.

A sad, lonely, and stressful place indeed.

The time to catch your child’s reading problems and support them in their quest to become a confident and capable life long reader is Primary School. Preferably before they reach Grade 3.

Your school will be monitoring your child’s progress and implementing a detailed plan to improve their reading skills and strategies. But, if you’re worried that the school is not, then an appointment with the teacher is a must to thoroughly explore your concerns and issues.

Do not put this off!

After Grade 3 it is more difficult for children to bridge the gap, learn new patterns of reading behavior, and develop appropriate reading strategies. Encouraging them while they’re young is vital, and there are some things you can do at home to complement and support your school’s efforts. Here are 8 simple ways to help your child if reading is a struggle for them:

  1. Make your reading time a regular activity at a specific time each day. Children love structure and will look forward to the closeness and bonding this time brings.
    For some children this may be the only intimate one-on-one time they get to spend with a parent on a regular basis. Making reading together a special time for just the two of you only takes 10 or 15 minutes a day, and the rewards are tremendous.
  2. Vary how you structure your reading time together. Don’t always expect your child to read to you. Read to them sometimes. Take turns reading. Read out loud together! Make sure it’s a stress free and enjoyable time together.
  3. Use the 3 P’s. Pause, prompt, praise.
    Pause when your child comes to a word they don’t know. Don’t jump in straight away by telling them the word or getting them to sound it out. Let them think.
    Prompt your child if they haven’t answered after about 10 – 20 seconds. Say ‘Make your mouth say the first sound’, or ‘ What word would make sense there?’, or ‘Can you tell me what would sound right there?’. Only sound out the word if it can be effectively sounded out.
    If your child doesn’t get the word after a couple of prompts or an attempt at sounding out, tell them the word straight away. You want to avoid feelings of failure, plus make sure they get on with the book while they can still remember what the story is about.
    Praise your child for their efforts. Say something like ‘Well done, you made it look and sound right’, or ‘Well done, you used the first sound to help you figure out the rest of the word’. If they didn’t get the word, simply praise them for trying their best… ‘That was a great try – well done‘. Be as specific as possible.
  4. Not every single word has to be right. Refrain from picking on every last error unless you want to make your child feel inadequate and fearful of making too many mistakes. This will contribute to their negative attitude towards reading and make their progress even slower.
    If your child is gaining the overall meaning from the story or text, then they are achieving the major goal of reading – to decipher words and receive a message.
  5. Talk, talk, talk…… Ask your child to retell their favourite part of the book in their own words. Talk about what they would do if they were a person from the book. Talk about the way the characters in the book felt and why they felt like that. Talk about interesting words from the book and what they mean. This will help increase your child’s level of comprehension.
  6. Be seen to be a reader. It’s surprising how many kids never see their own parents reading a book. A newspaper yes – but not a book! Kids are the greatest mimics in the world, and they especially love to copy their mum or dad.
    Sit down and read your own separate books at the same time. Share parts of your books with one another by reading them out loud and telling why you chose that part. Make it obvious that reading is something you personally value and think is worthwhile.
  7. Don’t cover up the pictures! Never. Ever. Using pictures is one of the ways children gather information to support their use of sound, letter, and word skills. Pictures support the meaning of a story and provide a context to help children solve unknown words.
    Picture story books have pictures for a reason. Many times the text doesn’t make sense without the pictures, and asking your child to read it without looking at the pictures will often feel like trickery to them.
  8. Last but definitely not least – make reading fun! The last thing it needs to be is a chore. You can‘t blame any child for being unwilling if something is hard AND a bore.

Find books about topics your child is interested in. Read craft books and make things. Get out a cookbook and follow a recipe. Get out the words to favourite songs and follow along. Create a treasure hunt with lots of clues to read – anything that makes reading something to look forward to.

Make your reading time together regular, interesting, stress free, and fun. Your child will benefit, and so might you!
Happy reading!

Simplifying Gift Giving

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

It is that time of year again- weddings, babies, & graduation gifts all seem to happen during the summer. The summer is a time of stress for our family because it seems like everyone in our family has a summer birthday. With all of these obligations, we find ourselves buying presents left & right. It is hard to stay within a budget and be creative with gift-giving when we have four gifts to get in one month. Yes, I know that gifts are optional, but skipping out on gift-giving with my mother & father would be a little frugal (even for me) and I do want to show my appreciation even in my own small ways.

One of my solutions to gift-giving is to keep a shelf in our basement for gifts. If I run across something at the Dollar Tree or find something that has been clearanced out at Target, I just keep it on the shelf for those unexpected gifts or to beef up a less expensive gift that I have bought.

Another solution to help with buying gifts is to regift things. For example, my son, who is three, had a big birthday party and we asked for anything & everything dinosaur related. We ended up with a couple duplicates and are saving them for the birthday parties he attends. Obviously, you want to be aware of who gave you the gift. My solution is a post-it note stuck somewhere on the gift with the person’s name who gave it to us. This really helps relieve the anxiety of regifting to the wrong person.

I also hoard bags, tissue paper, ribbons, boxes- basically anything that I can salvage for another person’s gift. This cuts down on the cost of wrapping your gift and allows you to spend the extra two dollars on the gift itself.

I am not a big card person and really only send out cards to thank people, anniversaries, and when someone in our family is ill. In gifts though, I take the cheap route and skip the card. I like to purchase the scrapbooking squares and sheets of paper, stamp it with a cute little stamp, use my funky edged scissor-thingies, (can you tell I am NOT a scrapbooker?) punch a hole in one side and then ribbon it through to tie the gift up. I make all of my gift tags for Christmas and it adds a personal touch without a card (which most people end up throwing away anyway!).

Finally, don’t think of yourself as cheap, but think of yourself as creative when it comes to gifts. Some of my most impressive gifts were ones that were inexpensively made, but had my personal touch on them. I am not crafty, I do not sew, and I can only draw stick figures (if that!) so you do not need to have skills like these to make a gift special.

The gifts that I remember are the ones that were made with love and personalized for me. Try and remember that gift-giving on a budget does not reflect that you don’t care about someone just as much as the next person, but it means that you are a smart cookie and aren’t going to be paying for those gifts for years to come.

Friday Freebie: Free Money

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Last week I shared a simple way you can earn free Starbucks Coffee through MyPoints. This week I want to share another great way you can earn a little extra while doing your regular online shopping.

Just last week I ran across Ebates. I have absolutely no idea how I have not run across this site before. This has got to be one of the best deals out there for reward shopping that I have seen yet.

With Ebates they will pay you cash back whenever you shop online (up to 25%). They have tons of stores that I already shop at, including Barnes & Noble, the Gap, and Target. They actually have over 800 places you can shop, so there should be something for everyone in this rewards program.

They also list tons of great coupons, free shipping deals, and sales from these stores so you can stay on top of ways to save even more. You can check them out on or sign up for their weekly newsletter to have them alert you to any new deals.

The best part is they have a sign-up bonus that’ll pay you $5 for joining (this is pending after you make one online purchase). After you sign up and buy something, they’ll put the $5 in your account and include it in your next “Big Fat Check”.

They send out their “Big Fat Check,” every three months as long as you have earned over $5.01. You can receive this money in the form of a check or it can be moved right into your PayPal account. They also offer an opportunity for you to donate your “Big Fat Check” to charity where you can give back to deserving organizations.

The main thing that I really appreciate about this site is that they also have a download that can help alert you when you are shopping. They call him the Moe Money Maker and it just basically has a pop-up that lets you know if you are on a site that could reward you. It will pop up at the bottom of the screen and it gives you the opportunity to link through Ebates to help make sure you get every reward opportunity you can.

I love MyPoints, but the thing that always bums me out with them is that half the time I am shopping and just completely forget to even check there. They also add new stores and deals and I don’t take advantage of them because I am not aware of them.

Take advantage of the free money and the great savings when doing your online shopping. This is not an excuse to shop..I repeat, this is NOT an excuse to shop…But if you need to shop for something- it is there!

Please stop by our poll and share your favorite summertime activity with the kids!

Thursday Thirteen: Easy Ways to Save Your Family Money

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Welcome to the Thursday Thirteen! Here are just thirteen ideas for ways you can be saving your family money!

1. Compare, compare, compare. Don’t ever believe that you have the best rate on anything. Even your junk mail can really pay off if you read it thoroughly. I received a letter from an auto insurance company that I actually called on and saved us fifty bucks a month by switching my insurance. You can compare rates easily and effectively using Lower My Bills. It is worth your time and you can compare everything from cell phone rates, to internet rates, insurance, credit card rates, & mortgage rates all in one place. Best of all- it is free!

2. Entertainment Books can be a great way to save your family money on everything from trips to dinner to putt-putt golf. This handy little book has a lot of great two for one meals for the family. Maybe you are like me and you don’t eat out a lot? Well, these coupons are still great for all of those celebration dinners (birthdays, wedding anniversary, Valentines Day, etc..). Pick a place out of that book and save yourself enough cash that you can swing going to a movie into your budget. It only takes one coupon for this little baby to pay for itself.

3. Here is a novel idea…stay home. Yup, that will save your family a whole bunch of money. If you are not running around using up gas and shopping your little heart out, you will save yourself some easy cash.

4. Take advantage of free things in your neck of the woods. Summertime is full of fun outdoor concerts, park activities, and outdoor festivals. There are so many fun things to do in the summer that are free or cheap. Fill your time with activities like these rather than a trip to the mall!

5. ‘Tis the season for garage sale shopping! I have already got my start on shopping this past weekend and scored some serious deals. Be sure to start jotting down things that you would like to find so when you arrive at the sales, you will know just what to look for. Oh, and pack lots of snacks for the road so you aren’t suckered into two dollar sodas that the garage sale hostess is trying to get you to buy on a hot summer day. A small cooler can keep snacks in your car and limit your spending on trivial things at the sale.

6. Use your library! Use the library for the obvious (books, duh!), but also use it for the lesser known things that you can get from it. Want to pick up a few movies? How about the library? Want to learn a new skill? How about the library? Need some new art for your walls, but don’t want to make the investment? How about the library? Want to try out toys for your children, but not sure if you want to spend the money? Did you check the library? Our library has all sorts of valuable resources that we can take advantage of and it is all free! Don’t forget to take advantage of all of those summer book reading programs- your kids can score some great freebies for reading this summer!

7. Score some free reading material. You can read more here on some great ways to get free magazines. And when you are done with your free magazines, trade with your girlfriend, and when you are done with those, trade again. The free reads just keep on rolling and you don’t have stacks of magazines collecting dust in the corners of your room.

8. I am actually going to write a full article on this, but I will give you a sneak peek- how about doing a little organizing around your house? If you are organized you avoid buying repeat items, use the things you have, and it will save you some time in the process.

9. Learn how to make stuff. If there is something that you enjoy, whether it be something you eat or something that you use, find out how you can make it yourself. Just do an internet search and Google what you are looking for. Things that you don’t think you can make can be found because someone else was out there trying to figure the same exact thing out.

10. So you want to know how to save some money? Well, how about saving some money. Just put it into an ING Account and earn 4.15% interest on your savings. Create this fund and name what you want it to go towards- Christmas, Dream Car, or Safety Net is just a few ideas for your account name.

11. Ebay the stuff that you aren’t using around your house. Ebay is simple and relatively pain-free. I have just started selling things on Ebay and I get a rush when I am taking stuff out of our home and getting money for the items we don’t use. In the same regard, if you are looking for something- check Ebay before going to a retail store. There are tons of brand spankin’ new items that you can find for a really low price. Just be careful to not get too caught up in the bidding or you could end up spending more than what you bargained for.

12. Visit sites that help to inspire you to save your money. Hillbilly Housewife, Dollar Stretcher, and MomAdvice (just to name a few!)

13. Last, but not least…recognize that free does not always mean free. For example, if your family offers to take you out to dinner and both of your kids are screaming their heads off and throwing fits during dinner and you are frantically trying to entertain them and miss out on even eating your food…yeah, well, that dinner was NOT free. You will just have to trust me on this one!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Making Your Spice Rack Usable

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Welcome to this edition of the Works-For-Me-Wednesday spot. Be sure to check out last week’s ideas where I show you how to reinvent your closet space.

When my husband and I first got married, we purchased a very handy little spice rack. It was pre-loaded with all of the spices and all we had to do was dump them into the labeled jars and they were ready to use. Last year I realized though that all of the spices just sat there unused. I decided to dump them out and then thought to myself, “Why would I reload this spice rack with the same spices that I never used?” Instead, I decided to whip out my trusty label maker and redo the labels with things *I* would actually use. Things like that Pasta Magic Blend, Garlic Salt, Italian Seasoning Mix, Cinnamon, & Confectioners Sugar (for dusting on my French Toast), and Garlic Powder….Spices that were not available to me with my previous labels.

This option was cheaper than purchasing a new spice rack and now I have the spices handy that I actually do use!

That is this week’s installment of Works-For-Me-Wednesday. Be sure to visit Shannon’s Blog for a whole slew of lovely ladies who are participating each week!