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    How to Save on Christmas Gifts Year Round

    June 21st, 2017

    Christmas doesn't have to be expensive! Here's how you can save on Christmas gifts year round to have a less stressful holiday.

    Christmas is coming. No, really. No matter what time of year it is, Christmas is always lurking around the corner, waiting for us to spend all of our money. Does this excite you, or make you anxious thinking about how expensive it might get? You can actually save money on Christmas gifts year round, through careful planning! Here are some tips, for in-season and off-season, to buy Christmas gifts without breaking the bank.

    Christmas doesn't have to be expensive! Here's how you can save on Christmas gifts year round to have a less stressful holiday.

    Make homemade/DIY gifts

    You don’t have to be a crafty person to make Christmas gifts! A lot of ideas on Pinterest only require you to fill jars and tie a pretty ribbon around them. I’m not at all creative like some people I know, but I can put together a couple things to create a cute, inexpensive gift. Here are some easy ideas to get you started:

    Begin buying gifts before the holiday season

    You don’t have to wait until Christmas time to start buying gifts! Start checking your local stores around the end of summer; most places will be marking down older toys to get ready for the new ones they’ll promote for the holidays. The Meijer in my area had a whole aisle for clearance toys last year, and I actually bought a few things to save for birthdays and Christmas!

    Also, places like Bath and Body Works have sales at different times of the year. Buy all of the lotions and body sprays now, while the prices are super low and the holiday crowds are non-existent! Save some for yourself, too, while you’re at it.

    Start saving money now

    If you prefer waiting until the holidays to start your shopping, you can begin saving now to ensure you’ll have enough money. Some ways to do this include putting money away in a savings account (like we do); buying a gift card every month and putting them away to use for shopping later; and earning free Amazon gift cards to save for Christmas through sites like Swagbucks. I like doing a lot of my shopping online, especially with Amazon Prime’s 2-day shipping! It saves me from the holiday crowds and I don’t have to drag Allison out in the cold.

    Limit your gifts for each child

    Maybe you want to have more of a frugal Christmas (and I don’t blame you!). If you have more than one child, buying a ton of gifts can be hard on the budget. Consider buying only a few things for each child. I like these categories I’ve seen on Pinterest:

    • Something they want
    • Something they need
    • Something to wear
    • Something to read

    You’ve got all the basics covered, and if you have family around, your children may be receiving other gifts anyway.

    Don’t buy gifts for everyone

    I have a problem with wanting to get something for everybody I come across. Teachers, neighbors, everyone in my MOPS group… that’s an easy way to go broke! You don’t have to buy for everyone; if anything, buy a box of Christmas cards and write a nice greeting.

    One way John and I settle this is by making a list of who to buy for. We have our set budget, and we write down who we’re buying for and how much we’re spending on each person. If there’s any money left, we can then use it to buy things like extra gifts, clearance Christmas decorations, or save it for the next year.

    Christmas doesn’t need to be expensive, and you certainly don’t need to wait until the busy holiday season to start your shopping! Start early and save some money so you can enjoy a relaxing Christmas with your family!

    Be sure to check out the other posts in my ABCs of Frugal Living series!

    Christmas doesn't have to be expensive! Here's how you can save on Christmas gifts year round to have a less stressful holiday.

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    $75 Weekly Shopping and Menu 6-19-17

    June 19th, 2017

    Meal plan, grocery list, and coupon deals for 6-19-17. Want to know what a family of 3 eats for $75 a week? Check back every Monday!

    Prepare to be shocked: I only shopped at 2 stores this week.

    I actually planned to go to Sam’s Club too, to pick up some chocolate chips and gallon-sized freezer bags. But I kid you not, we got a flyer in the mail the day we were gonna go; and lo and behold, freezer bags are going on sale this Wednesday. This is why our grocery budget this week is a lot lower; I’m saving some of it for Sam’s Club.

    Also, word of warning: I’m going to look like an addict in next week’s shopping trip. I looked at the Meijer preview ad, and there’s a 10 for $10 sale going on. Chocolate chips, the 16-oz coffee creamer, and frozen vegetables are on that list. I hope you don’t judge me for how much I buy. My homemade coffee creamer is pretty good, but I’m also okay with store-bought!

    I’m also now including Allison’s lunch in the menu below. She won’t eat dinner leftovers (Heck, she won’t even eat it the first time), so I just buy her healthy stuff I know she’ll eat. I’m also starting to make a lot of baked goods with hidden veggies in them because I’m desperate to get some nutrition in her! We still encourage her to try fruits and vegetables in their natural form, but I figured a little sneaking wouldn’t hurt. Here’s what I bought on my shopping trip this week:


    Meal plan, grocery list, and coupon deals for 6-19-17. Want to know what a family of 3 eats for $75 a week? Check back every Monday!

    Meijer

    Buttermilk: $1.39
    Coleslaw mix: $1.69
    Dietz and Watson sriracha deli chicken, 1 pound: $7.48

    Total: $8.56 after a $2.00 reward I received last week


    Meal plan, grocery list, and coupon deals for 6-19-17. Want to know what a family of 3 eats for $75 a week? Check back every Monday!

    Meal plan, grocery list, and coupon deals for 6-19-17. Want to know what a family of 3 eats for $75 a week? Check back every Monday!

    Aldi

    Raisins: $2.89
    Zucchini: $1.49
    Bananas: $1.36
    Pineapple chunks: $.89
    Greek yogurt container: $.69
    Roma tomatoes: $1.59
    Cocoa powder: $2.19
    2 yogurt containers: $.33 each
    Baby wipes: $1.29
    BBQ sauce: $.99
    Spinach: $1.49
    Pickles: $1.69
    Multi-colored bell peppers: $2.99
    Frozen turkey meatballs: $4.39
    Milk: $1.39
    Tomato paste: $.39
    Tortillas: $1.49
    Coffee creamer: $2.19
    Evaporated milk: $.69
    Cottage cheese: $1.99
    4 containers strawberries: $.99 each
    Blueberries: $1.99
    Grapes: $1.98
    Crackers: $1.29
    Crushed tomatoes: $.79
    Rolled oats: $2.39

    Total: $45.23
    Weekly Total: $53.79


    Menu

    Lunch is always leftovers. Items marked with an asterisk (*) were purchased in previous weeks.

    Dinner
    Dinner out for Father’s Day
    Deli wraps (Chicken, shredded cheese*, coleslaw mix, tomatoes, tortilla), fruit
    Pineapple BBQ Meatballs, rice*, bell peppers
    Slow cooker mac and cheese* (pasta in cupboard), frozen peas*
    Pancakes
    Leftovers x2 maybe, or rice and beans

    Breakfast
    Leftover french toast from last week
    Sausage patties*, bagels/English muffins* from freezer
    Oatmeal
    Carrot and zucchini waffles for Allison

    Allison’s Lunch
    Black bean brownies, string cheese*, blueberries, crackers with peanut butter*

    What’s on your menu this week? Share below in the comments!

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    Essential Items for Fun Toddler Meals

    June 16th, 2017

    Do you have a picky toddler? Check out these tools to create fun toddler meals and encourage your little one to try new foods!

    Do you have the dreaded “picky toddler”? I feel for you, mom. Allison’s about to make me pull out my hair, as she’s decided she will no longer eat vegetables OR fruits of any kind, except raisins. And she’ll be happy eating only cheese, Goldfish, and bread all day long, which is where we are at this moment. Now, I do hide the occasional carrots in her pancakes and zucchini in her muffins; but that can only go so far. I’d like to keep encouraging her to try new foods, so I have to make things exciting. Luckily, there are so many new gadgets to help create fun toddler meals! Here’s what I use to pique her interest.

    Do you have a picky toddler? Check out these tools to create fun toddler meals and encourage your little one to try new foods!

    Silicone muffin liners

    These things are really cute! They come in different shapes, and you can bake muffins in them to give them a cute heart or star shape. You can also use them to hold your toddler’s little lunch items, like cheese cubes, crackers, pepperoni… sometimes the colors alone are enough to encourage your little one to try a bite.

    Do you have a picky toddler? Check out these tools to create fun toddler meals and encourage your little one to try new foods!

    Food picks

    I love these little food picks! You can find them in many shapes and sizes- long, short, double-pronged… Just stick them wherever you think they would look cute. These are probably meant for older children, so you’ll have to take precautions and let your toddler know that these are NOT for eating! But they’ll make any lunch a lot more fun.

    Do you have a picky toddler? Check out these tools to create fun toddler meals and encourage your little one to try new foods!

    Cookie cutters

    My favorite tools are the cookie cutters. I actually feel weird saying “cookie” cutters, because I never actually use these for cookies! I have two different kinds- big and small- and each one has a different purpose.

    The smaller ones are perfect for cutting cheese, fruit, and deli meat. My favorite ones are the heart and butterfly; I also bought Fall-themed ones because I used the apple cutter for Allison’s third birthday party. As a bonus, it also came with a pumpkin shape, which I plan to take full advantage of this year!

    Do you have a picky toddler? Check out these tools to create fun toddler meals and encourage your little one to try new foods!

    I like the bigger ones for cutting sandwiches. Like a typical toddler, Allison doesn’t like the crust, so I have to use Tetris skills to get the most sandwiches out of the bread to avoid too much waste. Luckily, if there are a few mis-shapen ones, she doesn’t seem to notice! Her favorite is the whale, but I also have a seashell and a fish, as well as Christmas-themed ones.

    Do you have a picky toddler? Check out these tools to create fun toddler meals and encourage your little one to try new foods!

    Now, I’m not saying that making your toddler’s meal more fun means that she’ll automatically eat it. Unfortunate, but true. Sometimes if I play it up and make up awesome stories and names for her food, Allison will dig right in. But other times she’ll look at the cute food picks, pull them out, and proceed to eat just her crackers. Drives me bonkers, but what can you do? Toddlers are fickle creatures, but hopefully if you remain persistent and creative, they’re bound to try new things eventually!

    What other tools do you use to create fun toddler meals? Leave a comment and give us ideas!


    Do you have a picky toddler? Check out these tools to create fun toddler meals and encourage your little one to try new foods!

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    How Walking Can Save You Money

    June 14th, 2017

    Can you save money walking? Here are 5 ways that walking can save money, earn money, and help you get healthier, one step at a time!

    Moms, it can be so hard to find time to take care of ourselves and get healthier. With early wake-up calls, kids that demand attention, a household that needs taken care of, and even work, it’s no wonder you’re so tired and don’t want to even think about working out! Luckily, becoming healthier doesn’t have to involve hour-long workouts or gym memberships. Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise! All you need is a pair of shoes (and maybe a stroller) and you’re ready to head out. And did you know walking can help you save money? Here are some ways you can save money walking and get healthier at the same time!

    Keeps you from visiting the doctor more often

    Taking up walking as a form of exercise can help aid in weight loss; which can lead to less health problems; which can lead to less doctor’s visits. In 2015, I went to the ER because I had been having constant heart palpitations for about 2 weeks. After learning that nothing was really wrong, I did research that said losing weight could help prevent them from happening again. I signed up for MyFitnessPal, bought a Fitbit, and walked/worked out/ate better until I reached my pre-baby weight 8 months later. I haven’t had an episode since!

    Saves you money through free gift cards and points

    I couldn’t believe this at first, but you can actually earn money by walking! Right now I use two resources that help me earn points towards gift cards and store cash, and all I have to do is walk. Check these out:

    Can you save money walking? Here are 5 ways that walking can save money, earn money, and help you get healthier, one step at a time!

    • Achievemint: Achievemint pays you for doing what you normally do in a day, without even thinking about it. You can sync multiple apps, like Fitbit and MyFitnessPal, and Achievemint will automatically pull data from them and give you points. For example, if you log your food in MyFitnessPal, you’ll earn like 6 points; if you walk 10,000 steps, you’ll earn around 30 points. You can earn up to 80 points a day through your exercise; and once you reach 10,000 points, you can redeem them for an Amazon gift card! Click here to create an account and get a bonus 250 points!

    Can you save money walking? Here are 5 ways that walking can save money, earn money, and help you get healthier, one step at a time!

    • Walgreens: When you sign up for a Walgreens account, you can link your Fitbit and MyFitnessPal to their Balance Rewards to start earning points. The more points you have, the more they’re worth; so 1,000 points equals $1.00, 5,000 points equals $5.00, but 40,000 points equals $50.00! You earn points much the same as in Achievement: Walking, healthy activities, weighing yourself, linking apps… plus you earn 10 points per dollar spent at Walgreens, so it can really add up. To be honest, I keep forgetting I have a Balance Rewards account. I just recently checked and I’m up to $35.00 in rewards! It’s amazing being able to earn money without even thinking about it.

    You’ll notice that the ways to earn money above involve a tracking device, like a Fitbit. If you don’t have one, you might be wondering if it’s worth it to spend all that money just to earn a little money. Well, the health motivation alone is worth it for me; but what if you could earn yourself a FREE Fitbit? I did it using Swagbucks and am now on track to getting another free one with my Amazon gift cards! You can read all about how I did it in this blog post.


    Keeps you from other activities that involve money

    Going out walking can keep yourself occupied so you don’t spend money! Now, this may not work if you go to Target or the mall to go walking. But if you find yourself getting bored, grab your stroller and go around the block once or twice. Personally, I can actually go to Target, take laps around the store, and leave without buying a thing. It’s a gift, I guess! But maybe, if you’re a compulsive online shopper, getting out walking will hopefully take your mind off that urge; and when you get back, you’ll be more energized to resist.

    Saves money on gas

    Depending on where you live, you can save money just by walking to wherever you need to go. We have a park that’s about a seven-minute walk from our house, so it’s easy for me to put Allison in her wagon and pull her there. John’s also been known to walk to Wal Mart or Meijer (a bit further away) when he needs his steps and needs to buy something. That may be a little extreme for you, especially with kids. But the little things can add up to big savings on gas by walking to different places around you.

    Saves money on gym memberships

    Do you have a gym membership? If so, what do you use it for? If all you do is use the treadmill, maybe you can opt to cancel the membership and walk/run outside instead. Of course, gyms have other benefits, like classes, weights and childcare; so by all means, keep it if you use the other features. But if you just want to get in a good cardio session, walking outside can save you the extra money every month.

    Now that you’re motivated to hit the pavement, don’t do it alone! Find friends to walk with you. I constantly see moms walking together with their strollers at my local park, and it’s a great way to catch up, get fresh air, and get your exercise in! Get some accountability, too. Join a healthy actions group on Facebook, like the one I’m in that was started by my friend Stephanie of Wife Mommy Me! Post your wins and struggles and find comfort in those dealing with the same issues. Finally, rejoice in the money you save by walking! Being frugal and healthy is an awesome combination and one that I hope you can keep going indefinitely. Do you use walking or exercise to help save money? Share your tips in the comments!

    Be sure to check out the other posts in my ABCs of Frugal Livings series!

    Can you save money walking? Here are 5 ways that walking can save money, earn money, and help you get healthier, one step at a time!

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