**This giveaway is now closed. A big thank you goes out to all of you who entered. I wish I could give you all a free eBook, but I have to choose just one. That person is… Jen who said, “In trying to slow down, I need look no further than my young children. They are happy with the simplest things…a tree with the ornaments they have made, as opposed to stressing over the perfectly decorated tree; not trying to impress people and really remembering the reason for the season.” (Jen, check your email.) If you weren’t the winner you can still get a copy of the eBook for only $0.99 today.**
One of my favorite blogs (and daily reads) is Money Saving Mom. Crystal Paine, the brainchild of MSM, always shares great tips and advice about how to save money and living better on less. When I found out about the opportunity to review her latest eBook, I was super excited.
Crystal’s advice always comes across in a practical, straightforward and motivating way that makes you think why didn’t I think of that? Plus, her common-sense strategies are really easy to implement in daily life. Crystal has done it again with this new eBook, Celebrating & Savoring a Simple Christmas, which shares detailed ways to prepare for and enjoy every minute of this holiday season.
Covering topics like setting a budget, decorating, gift giving, this eBook is filled to the brim with ideas for slowing down and enjoying the holidays. She shows you easy ways to stay organized and de-stressed in what is easily one of the most nerve-wracking seasons of the year. Don’t you want to just slow down and enjoy the holidays? Then this book is for you!
Right now, you can buy the book at the super low price of $0.99. At just under a dollar, it will definitely be money well spent.
But, wait, there’s more! Crystal has generously offered one Doggone Thrifty reader a FREE copy of the eBook.
To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment telling us how you chose to slow down and celebrate the holidays. Note: This giveaway is a quick one and will end at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow, November 14, 2012.
This week, I wanted to talk all about holidays. Thanksgiving is next Thursday and… well, we all know how quickly the holidays are upon us after that. So, today, let’s talk all about holiday budgets and how to create them.
First, make a list of categories for your family’s holiday spending. Usual categories are things like gifts, gift wraps, holiday cards and postage, holiday family photo, holiday meals, baking, decorating, and travel expenses. Determine every area that you normally spend and try not to leave anything out.
Next, determine a bottom line. How much do you feel comfortable spending overall? Once you have that number figured out, you can go ahead and split it up between your categories. Obviously some categories will get more than others (like gifts as opposed to postage stamps). But, you need to keep your bottom line in mind and try not to go over that amount. If you come up short, look for low-cost or no-cost ways to make up the difference without breaking the bank. Short on money for gifts? Why not hand make a few items for friends and family to get the most bang out of your buck. We’ll talk about stretching your holiday budget tomorrow!
Lastly, stick to it! This is most likely the hardest part of creating a holiday budget. It’s so easy to tell yourself It’s the holidays, I have to get it or This gift is so perfect for so-and-so, it doesn’t matter that it blows my budget and end up spending far more than you’ve allotted. Remind yourself why you made this budget and why it’s important to stick to it. Track everything you spend in each of the categories. Use a cash envelope system if you feel comfortable that way. Or, keep track of your expenditures on Mint.com or in your own personal system.
And have fun – that’s what the holidays are all about!
I talk a lot about living the simple life on this blog – paring down to essentials, and the like. I like to keep things simple, avoiding the hustle and bustle of modern life. But, it’s funny, you realize very quickly that you don’t know a thing about living the simple life when your electricity goes out for days. Suddenly, you’re facing the dark with candles and lanterns like those in the pioneer days. It’s times like these when you are forced to really slow down. You get a instantaneous lesson in how programmed you are to something you’ve come to depend on entirely too much.
If you haven’t heard, New Jersey (the Jersey Shore especially) was walloped by Hurricane Sandy this past Sunday and Monday. We were without power from 7 p.m. on Monday until just yesterday morning. Most of New Jersey still doesn’t have power and doesn’t expect to for another four or five days at the least. Unfortunately, loss of power is nothing compared to what some have faced. Houses have swept away, blocks destroyed by fires and the shore towns have just been devastated by flooding.
Instead of thinking abut what we didn’t have (hot water, a stove top or oven to cook, television, internet), we focused on what we did have. We were safe. We had a house over our heads and we didn’t have any damage. We took it as an opportunity to slow down, read stories by candle light, play games, and talk to each other (instead of letting the TV or radio do it for us). Once the storm was over, we took walks – the three of us, me, my son and my husband, hand in hand. We read long stories, all cuddled up together in a giant blanket. We gathered closely around a cluster of candles for dinner – revealing in the intimacy and the one-on-one time with each other.
We were lucky. We were also taught an important lesson in simplicity. For as much as I tout the simple life, I realized I don’t know as much about it as I thought I did. I learned to appreciate the time we had with each other. We learned to make the best of a situation. Instead of wallowing, we made good, lifelong memories, despite the chaos around us – hopefully some that my son will remember for a long time. We learned to embrace true simplicity at its core. We also learned that there are a lot of things we’re willing to go without in today’s world – i.e. the biggest house, the most expensive car, designer clothes, etc. – but electricity is not one of them.
(Please ignore the peanut butter on my son’s jacket. Hurricanes make him hungry!)
As Hurricane Sandy (a.k.a. “Frankenstorm”) moves steadily towards the Jersey Shore, we’ve all been preparing for the worst. The store shelves are bare,there are lines around the block for gas, and people are hoarding batteries like gold. Generators, at $500 a pop, are selling out like hot cakes. But the frugalist in me swears you don’t have to cost you upwards of a grand to prepare for the storm. Mostly everything you need is right in your home already and the few supplies you need to ensure you make it through the storm comfortably won’t cost you that much. Here are a few tips:
Don’t buy bottled water! I’ve been meaning to write a post on bottled water for a while now about how I HATE bottled water. It’s such a waste of money and it’s bad for the environment (all that plastic agh!!). Just buy a Brita (or any other brand) filter and use the water you already pay for in your house. Anyway, while everyone in our area was flooding the stores to buy bottles of water, we were filling jugs of tap water. I’ve heard recommendations of putting gallons of water in the freezer and the fridge, so we did both. We just used jugs that we just had lying around and saved a lot of money that would have been wasted.
Fill up sand bags at the beach. If you’re preparing for a hurricane, chances you’re probably close enough to the beach to take a drive there (when it’s still very, very safe!) to fill up bags with sand. Don’t buy sand or pre-made sandbags unless there’s no way you can get to the beach. Sand bags are a good investment though – they’ll help keep your house dry and minimize the damage water can cause.
Stock up on essentials. It’s imperative to stock up on medication. When a storm is coming, there’s no telling how long you’ll be stuck inside. Therefore, you need to stock up on your medications. You also need to stock up on food. Think about things that don’t need much preparation (if you’re like me who has everything in their house running on electric, if the power goes out you have no way to cook). We stocked up on peanut butter and jelly. And, of course, bread. Also, be sure you have a first aid kit. If you have a baby, buy enough diapers to get you through a good long time.
Do laundry now. The best time to do laundry is before the power goes out (obviously). You don’t want to be stuck without clean underwear when the electricity kicks the bucket. Do your laundry before the storm hits to ensure your family has enough clean clothes.
Tape your windows. Masking tape is inexpensive. A shattered window is costly. Take the time to tape an “X” across your window to keep it from shattering. It may save you a bundle in the long run.
Charge your cell phone. You won’t be able to use your home phone if the power goes out, so charge up your mobile device. Charge it now so you’ll be able to check on family members and friends throughout the storm.
And stay safe!
Whether you’re working towards reducing your debt, stockpiling your savings for retirement or just trying to make ends meet, when you embark on the journey of frugality, you’re embarking on a new lifestyle that often goes against the grain of what everyone else does.
Instead of thinking about all that you’re missing out on, take the time to enjoy the journey. Have a look at these benefits of frugality:
- By embracing frugality, you’re also embracing a simpler life. When you’re not keeping up with the Jones, you have less gadgets to buy, less designer-name clothing to keep up with, less never-before-heard-of ingredients to track down.
- On a similar note, living the frugal life lends itself to an attitude of contentment. Living a frugal lifestyle means you’ll make the most of what you have and you’ll appreciate it more. This makes for a far more content life, rather than a life obsessing about acquiring more and more things.
- You’ll also learn what’s “good enough”. Is good enough the latest new thing? Probably not. Good enough is probably sitting on a shelf in your home right now. When we stop focusing on getting the best of everything, we realize that good enough is perfectly fine.
- Frugality also teaches you a lot about yourself and the world. Frugal people often do a lot for themselves like growing vegetables in a garden or sewing a pair of pants. These skills were once considered necessary to survive, but have now been phased out in recent years. By learning these skills, you’ll be more equipped to survive on your own. Nothing spells accomplishment like learning new skills that are essential to survival.
- By being frugal now, you will be in a much better place in the future. Like Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else later.”
- Being frugal often equates to being healthier. Since becoming more frugal myself, I’ve eaten healthier and exercised more. I’ve stopped eating out and started making more from scratch recipes. In addition, you’ll do more for yourself (like cutting the grass or paint a room) leading to more exercise.
- Frugality often calls for you to slow down, where you can get down to the roots of life and what really matters – friends, family and happiness.
So take a moment to enjoy the journey and be thankful that you’ve chosen the frugal path.
Dear Readers: Somehow, I missed an entire week of posting. I’m sorry and I hope you haven’t all given up on me. It’s been a busy, busy, busy couple of weeks and posting has taken a hit. However, this week will be jam-packed with posts, I promise! I have a lt of ideas that have been brewing, so I hope you’ll stay tuned!
Getting out of debt can be a long, frustrating process. Knowing the first steps you should take if you’re serious about getting out of debt can make the difference between success and failure.
Step 1: Understand why you got into debt in the first place. In order to start digging yourself out of debt, you need to understand why you went into debt in the first place. You can then see the best way to remedy the situation? Was it excessive spending? Then you need to work on why you spend excessively. Maybe you overspend due to a lack of self control or as a way to boost your self-esteem. Working out those inner issues must be done before you seriously start tackling your debt so you don’t just end going back into debt shortly thereafter. Was your debt situation the result of a unexpected financial crisis, like losing your job or a large medical bill? In that case, you need to work on building up a stockpile of funds so it doesn’t happen again. Which is, in fact, the next step in debt reduction.
Step 2: Start an emergency fund. Before you start putting any of your money towards debt, start stockpiling savings instead. That way, you have something to fall back on if things go awry. You won’t have to go back into debt. Strive for $1,000 in your emergency fund at first.
Step 3: Set up a plan and get to work. There isn’t just one way to get out of debt. Start researching the different methods to find out which method works best for you and your family. Some families prefer a cash envelope system of budgeting. This just doesn’t work at all for others. See what works for you and what doesn’t. A great resource is the personal finance blogging community. There, you’ll find a wealth of information Once you’ve decided, get to work. There’s no point in wasting time, so get cracking.
Do you agree with these first steps? Do you think there are any other first steps you should tak to help you tackle debt reduction?
Last week, I posted one of my favorite posts from way back when this blog was just starting out. Here’s another oldie-but-a-goodie:
Last week, I talked about the cleaning powers of vinegar. Today, I’m going to talk about baking soda. Baking soda is also a non-toxic cleaning agent that you can even eat (though I wouldn’t recommend it straight from the box). It’s also pretty doggone cheap.
1. To keep away garbage odors, just sprinkle the bottom of the pail, and then sprinkle again after you put the new bag in.
2. To keep carpet smelling fresh, sprinkle on the carpet, let stand for about 30 minutes, and then vacuum.
3. To remove stains from most hard surfaces, use a baking soda paste (about 3 parts baking soda to one part water). Apply, let stand for a few minutes, and scrub clean.
4. To keep clothing smelling fresh, add a tablespoon baking soda into the wash.
5. For burnt-on messes on the bottom of pots and pans, sprinkle with baking soda, and add hot water. Let soak overnight and then scrub clean.
There are about a million other uses. It’s so handy that I always have to keep a box in the house.
Do you have any tips or ideas for using baking soda around the house? Are you like me and always keep a box in the house?
Being overweight and in debt are remarkably similar. Both situations are easier to get into rather than out of. And neither is healthy. Luckily, the same mechanisms work to extricate yourself out of debt as to lose weight – all you need to do is to count your dollars like you would calories.
Take in less than you burn. The first thing fitness buffs will tell you when you ask them how to lose weight is to take in less calories than you burn. There’s even a formula to figure out how many calories the average person extends during the course of the day (BMR) and through common forms of exercise. The same goes for budgeting, but it’s much simpler – spend less than you earn. You already know how much you earn (no fancy formulas needed), so you know your budgeting limit.
Don’t starve yourself. The second thing fitness buffs will tell you is to not eat less than a certain number of calories per day – or else your body will go into starvation mode. If you starve yourself, you’re more likely to overeat later, counteracting the weight loss. It’s just the same for spending. Cut back, but don’t cut back too far, or else you’re likely to overspend at some point, undoing your savings goals.
Keep track of your calories. Sites like Sparkpeople.com and Myfitnesspal.com are very popular with dieters for a reason. They help you keep track of how many calories you’re taking in and help you stay accountable. I mean how else do you know you’re staying below your limit? Not surprisingly, sites that help you track your spending keep you on track in just the same way. Check out Mint.com or BudgetTracker.com.
Calorie counting isn’t the only way to go. You know how successful dieters do other things besides counting calories – like exercising, eating the right kinds of food and changing their lifestyle instead of just dieting for the short term? Yep, you guessed it, the same goes for budgeting. Cutting back on spending isn’t the only way to financial success. How about earning extra income (like exercising)? Or buying good, long-lasting products over cheap, inefficient ones (like eating the right kinds of foods)? Changing your lifestyle is also essential to long-term financial success. You need to develop a frugal mindset to make any long lasting changes.
Do you see any other similarities between dieting and budgeting? Isn’t it funny how similar they are?
I haven’t done a weekly goals post in forever, but I decided to get started again after the request of a friend. Why not? I need some inspiration to stay accountable and on task! Since I haven’t done this in so long, I can’t take a look at how I did last week, so let’s just start with this week’s goals:
Keep my blog a priority. Last week, I sort of fell off the bandwagon. This week, I’m keeping my blog a priority and posting every day!
Submit my blog to carnivals… finally. I’ve been putting this one off for way too long.
Finish reading Gone Girl. This book is really good, I just have zero time to read it.
Spend more time with J doing arts and crafts – like coloring or molding play dough
Go somewhere fun this weekend as a family
Try out a new recipe
Keep the clutter under control
This post is linked to Money Saving Mom
If there’s one thing we love at our house, it’s pizza. I’m pretty sure most families would agree. I mean, who doesn’t love pizza? Oh wait, my budget, that’s who. At our typical pizzeria, we pay around $15 or so for a pizza with one topping. Ouch! On a semi regular basis, it adds up quite quickly. Plus, pizza is far (really far) from a healthy meal. I had to find another alternative. Luckily, I decided to give homemade pizza a try. And (spoiler alert!) it was very well worth it. To which I say – sorry pizzeria, it was a nice run, but you’re not getting our business anymore!
Here’s how to make the switch:
Start with fresh dough. I bought pizza dough at the store for $1.99. I know, I could have made it myself for much cheaper, but I am notorious for making dough that tastes like cardboard. For this experiment, I wanted to try a dough that I knew was up for the task. Maybe in the future, I’ll give homemade dough a shot, but for now, I’m going the store-bought dough route.
Stock up on sauce, cheese and toppings. The beauty is that you can use any toppings you want. I picked artichoke and mushrooms for my first go-around.
Preheat the oven to 550°. Yep, that’s right - 550°. You know how pizzerias use brick ovens that reach 800°? Well, the key to replicating that pizzeria goodness, is to jack your oven up to the highest temp it will go. For me, that’s 550°, but if yours goes higher, give it a shot (just be sure to adjust the cooking time so your pizza doesn’t burn to a crisp).
Roll out the dough. I wish I could say I tossed it in the air a few times to create a perfectly circular shape, but I didn’t. I rolled it out with a rolling pin and stretched it into shape. If you can toss, by all means, toss! After your pizza resembles a circle, place it on a round pizza pan.
Spread out the pizza sauce. Again, this is something I could have made at home, but I opted for jarred. I will definitely be attempting to make my own in the near future and I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Top with cheese.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. You want it to be oozy and bubbly and just crisp enough.
So how about you? Do you make pizza at home? What are your favorite toppings?
Hello! Welcome to the home of practical parenting tips that save you money. I'm Rebecca, the creative mind behind this site.
I am also a professional writer... and I'd be happy to work with you on your next project.
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