Category: living frugally

When You Aren’t June Cleaver

The following post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here. 

When girls become women and begin managing their own homes, they often have an ideal in mind. This ideal looks something like June Cleaver from the television program Leave it to Beaver. Ever calm, ever organized, and cooking in pearls and high heels. We picture a home that stays clean, nutritious meals that don’t leave the kitchen looking like a tornado passed through, and appliances that don’t break down.

Reality often looks a bit different.

We think that managing a home should be easy. We think we should automatically know what we’re doing.

However, like anything else in life, homemaking is a learned skill. 

I’ve been married for a little over two years now, and in that time I’ve come a long way. Even so, there are areas in which I could improve. (A bathroom cleaning schedule, anyone??)

That’s why this year, I’m investing in myself and my home by participating in the 2017 Homemaking Ministries Online Conference.

The theme is “Find Purpose in Your Home.” That speaks to me. At times, I have struggled with feeling as if my work did not matter. I wrote an entire series on what I’ve learned about why motherhood matters. Shining my sink tends to pale in comparison, unless I remember the people I’m serving. I’m looking forward to being rejuvenated and motivated by this year’s conference!

Sessions I’m Pumped to Attend!

Finding Purpose Through Creating a Haven – Hilary Bernstein – It might just be me, but when I feel like my home is out of control, it doesn’t feel like a peaceful haven any more. I’m interested in hearing how Hilary makes her home feel like a haven!

Training Children to Help at Home – Amy Roberts – Amy Roberts is just the sweetest person! I did an interview for her blog about homeschooling a few months ago. She has nine living children.so I’m sure she has plenty of experience with teaching children how to do things around the house. My 17 month old is at an age where he wants to help, but just isn’t quite able to pull off most tasks. He is quite cute when he takes clothes out of the dryer and hands them to me to fold though. This session should be helpful as I look towards teaching him how to do more things in the future.

Two Baby Steps (But Crucial Ones) Toward Healthier Living – Stacy Myers – I am a firm believer in incremental change, simply because it is more sustainable for most people. Making drastic changes overnight just results in burn out. Stacy is also hilarious! I’m sure her presentation will be engaging as well as informative.

A Heavenly Minded Home – Katie Bennett – Katie is a good example of the meek and quiet spirit that the Bible talks about in 1 Peter 3:1-4. I like how she always ties things back to what ultimately matters in life: serving Jesus wherever we are. I can’t wait to see how she applies this to homemaking!

How Writing the Word Can Strengthen Your Faith – Victoria Osborn – I have a Write the Word journal and honestly have not done much with it yet. I’m hoping this session will get me inspired! I can see how the physical act of writing out verses would help me to keep Scripture in my heart and mind.

Finding Purpose in Your Home – Keynote – Jami Balmet – The conference is over a span of five days. Each day, Jami is going to do a keynote session centered around the theme of Finding Purpose in Your Home.

Details on the Conference

The conference will be live from September 25-29, 2017. However, all of the sessions are recorded and will be available to watch later if you can’t attend live. Buying a conference ticket gives you lifetime access to all 27 sessions. I plan to watch as much as I can live, but realistically, I’ll need to go back and watch some sessions later. I have a toddler. 😉

The conference features 23 different speakers. You may recognize some of these names if you’ve been reading blogs for a while.

If you’re reading this after September 29, it’s not too late to buy a ticket! Since the entire conference is recorded, you can buy tickets even after it’s over and work through the sessions at your own pace.

Tickets can be purchased from the official conference website. 

Lessons on Finances, Lessons on Grace

The following post contains affiliate links. I also received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. For my full disclosure, click here. 

If I had to describe Erin Odom in one word, it would be gracious. I don’t do everything exactly the same way that she does, but I never feel demeaned by her writing. In the present climate of the internet, that can be a rare quality! When I discovered that Erin was writing a book, I knew I would enjoy reading it.

More Than Just Making It is part memoir and part practical tips for learning how to do more than just scrape by. Those who are struggling with their finances will be encouraged by the Odom family’s story of making it out of low income living. However, even those who are currently doing just fine financially will benefit from reading this book. Erin addresses common misconceptions about people who are low income and challenges the idea that “only bad or irresponsible people need assistance.”

As a result of reading this book, I learned several lessons about finances, and about living with grace.

Lesson #1: Buying a house might not make your dreams come true. Houses are not inherently bad things, but they are huge investments that should be considered carefully before making the plunge. We have the idea as a culture that renting is “throwing away money,” but it’s far better than being saddled with a mortgage that you can’t afford and a house you can’t sell. Ultimately, buying a house at the wrong time created a lot of heartache for the author’s family.

In retrospect, we should have rented longer and saved for a larger down payment, which would have prevented us from eventually being stuck with an underwater mortgage and a home we couldn’t sell during one of the worst economic crises of our nation’s history. – Erin Odom

Dave Ramsey has a great article about the right time to buy a house, which you can read here.

Lesson #2: We become more gracious when we are aware.

When describing a financial planning class that she took with her husband, Erin wrote, “And he was annoyed that the rest of the class looked at $50,000 a year as a ‘lower’ income while we were making it on less than half of that.”

Now, I live in the same state as the author and I was aware that we are poorly ranked in teacher pay, but I honestly didn’t know that it was quite THAT bad!

More Than Just Making It also discusses the issue of making assumptions about people. Many people don’t know that foster children get WIC benefits, even if the foster family they are currently staying with does not get WIC for themselves. Foster kids have been through a lot and need the help. However, this can lead to situations like the following…

You see a family with normal groceries in their cart. They have some cheese, peanut butter, and milk. But they also have a DVD. The woman pays for the food with WIC, and then buys the DVD out of pocket.

Those people! you think to yourself. Abusing the system! Welfare queens! Sucking up our tax dollars! Ugh!

But in reality…you can’t know everything about this family from one brief encounter in the checkout line. If the woman was a foster parent, she may have wanted to get the child a treat. There is really nothing wrong with that. You just. can’t. know.

Lesson #3: Money alone doesn’t solve all of life’s problems. 

Money can buy many things, and we certainly do need it, but money can’t buy contentment. Without contentment, no amount of money will ever seem like enough.

more than just making it

More Than Just Making It encourages the reader to see the little things as “kisses from Jesus,” which is another way of saying blessings. Perhaps you found a really great deal on something your family desperately needed. Maybe someone brought you some dinner. These small things breathe encouragement into a weary soul. My fellow launch team members and I are using the hashtag #kissesfromJesus to share stories of those little gifts from God. Feel free to join us!

Lesson #4: You can spend time or you can spend money. Which is better depends on your situation. 

Using coupons or cooking from scratch does save money. They cost time and effort. In the author’s situation, she was staying home with young children and had time to do things like cook from scratch, meal plan, and hunt for bargains at thrift stores. I wrote a post about things I cook from scratch and things that I still buy. Sometimes it’s worth it, and sometimes it’s not.

Buying used is another good way to save money. I love consignment sales. The key is to keep a list of what you need and your children’s sizes. You don’t want to buy something that you don’t need just because it’s a good deal. You can always save 100% by refusing to buy things that you don’t need. 😉 Hunting through consignment sales or thrift stores takes longer than shopping in a regular store, but if you have more time than money it’s worth it.

Lesson #5: Budgets need to be detailed. Very, very detailed.

Erin lists her family’s budget categories, which are detailed with incredible precision. It made me think about my own budget and tweaks that I’d like to make. Ideally, you should have a zero-sum budget in which every dollar is accounted for. There are several apps available that can help you track your finances more closely. We use Mint for our family.

Lesson #6: There is a way out if you are struggling with finances. 

It might require a career change, making radical cuts to your budget, or having both spouses work for some period of time. The book goes into various income generating options and the pros and cons of each one. The author and her husband worked various side jobs for a while before they landed on the solution that was right for their family. Today, they have made it out of poverty and are even able to send their kids to Christian school.

More Than Just Making It will be released on September 5, 2017. If you’re reading this before then, check out the preorder bonuses at morethanjustmakingit.com. There are over $220 worth of bonuses – just for preordering!

More Than Just Making It will be available at Amazon, Target, Christian Book Distributors, Barnes & Noble, and Books a Million. 

The Easiest Way to Save on Groceries

This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here. 

grocery budget

As homemakers, we’re always looking for ways to save on groceries. When it comes to grocery shopping, I’ve concluded that you’re generally making a choice. Either you can spend more money and less stress, or you can spend more stress and less money. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Aldi is a store that people either love or hate, but shopping at Aldi is the best way to reduce your grocery budget if you don’t have time to learn how to coupon or to cook everything from scratch.

Aldi does have its quirks, but they’re manageable.

  • You need to bring your own bags, but you can purchase some at the store if you forget.
  • You need to bring a quarter to get a cart. The quarter releases the cart from the other carts. When you re-attach the cart at the end of your shopping trip, the quarter pops back out. The idea is that the quarter motivates people to return their carts. In turn, Aldi doesn’t have to pay people to retrieve carts from the parking lot. That equals lower prices.
  • Generally, there is only one checkout line going at a time. However, Aldi cashiers move at the speed of light. The product packaging is designed for quick and easy scanning.

PROS:

Aldi has great prices. I keep a price comparison worksheet on my computer. Aldi beats Walmart on the vast majority of items. There are some exceptions, like coconut oil, which I buy at Walmart, but Aldi is overwhelmingly the winner on most items.

The newer stores are clean and inviting. I had a brand new Aldi five minutes away from my apartment when we first got married. It was glorious. As an Aldi customer since age 7, I have to admit that the previous incarnation of their store design wasn’t visually appealing.

Aldi offers more reasonably priced organic and gluten free options. Of course, conventional items are always going to be less expensive than organic, but as far as organic goes, Aldi gives you the most bang for your buck.

It’s easy to get in and out quickly. Aldi doesn’t offer 5 brands of anything. You have regular mac and cheese and organic mac and cheese. Most items are only available in Aldi’s store brand. Because of this, the stores are smaller than other grocery stores. The experience is a stark contrast to the chaos of Walmart.

CONS:

Aldi doesn’t have everything. We typically end up having to stop by Walmart to fill in whatever Aldi doesn’t stock. Usually that’s about 3-5 more specialty items. Our Walmart is close by though, so it’s not too inconvenient.

Older stores that have not been remodeled are less visually appealing. Aldi is able to offer lower prices because they cut the frills elsewhere. Think of Walmart vs. Target. Most people would say that Target offers a more pleasant shopping atmosphere, but their prices reflect that nicer experience. If you’re going to Walmart, you have to put up with the less nice atmosphere.

Aldi has been stepping up their game with this, and the new stores look much more modern. Our local store is getting remodeled, so hopefully it’ll be improving too!

Produce and meat can be hit or miss. We have lived in two cities since we got married nearly two years ago. The Aldi in the first city was brand new. The quality of produce at that one was better than at our Aldi here. I can still find some decent produce here, but it takes more rummaging. The prices make the hassle worth it to me.

For my family, the pros outweigh the cons. After shopping at Aldi for 15 years, the quirks are second nature. I love how they’ve been implementing more healthy products over the last couple of years. It’s great to see that it’s possible to eat more healthy foods without shopping at expensive specialty stores!

If you are interested in saving money on your grocery budget, meal planning can really help! Click the button below to get a 28 day meal plan, complete with shopping lists and a price breakdown.

Is the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Really Worth It?

This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here.

ultimate homemaking bundle

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is a collection of 106 ebooks and ecourses on creativity, faith, finances, home decor, cooking and meal planning, intentional living, marriage, motherhood, organizing and systems, recipes, self-care, and work-life balance.

Laura, you might be thinking, I am already overwhelmed just looking at that sentence.

I understand the feeling, and I was once a bundle skeptic myself. The key here is to not even attempt to use everything. Personally, I have no interest in some of the resources. Even so, it only takes using 3 or 4 ebooks or ecourses to start saving money.

Even better, there are 9 resources in the bundle that cost more than the bundle itself, so if you only used ONE of those, you would be saving money!

Today I’m going to walk you through what I’m really excited about in this bundle.

A Mom’s Guide to Better Photos: A Beginning Photography Class for Moms With Any Type of Camera (Normally $99.00)

I’m not a professional photographer, nor do I aspire to become one. I do have a cute (in my 100% biased opinion) little boy, and I do like taking pictures of him. Meg’s course is designed for people like me. Even if all you have is a smartphone, your photography skills will improve with this course. I’m really enjoying it!

Keep in mind that the entire Ultimate Homemaking Bundle costs $29.97. When you purchase it, you get this course, which is a $99 value, AND 105 other products!

Foundational 5+ Workout Course (Normally $19.95)

I was so excited to find this as a part of the bundle! While I lost my baby weight pretty quickly, having a 9 lb. baby took a toll on my stomach muscles. The Foundational 5+ course is designed to help women who have had children to strengthen their core. It’s great for women who have diastasis recti, which is a common condition where the muscles separate during pregnancy and do not go back together completely afterwards. I have a small diastasis myself, and it’s something that I’d like to work on healing. The workouts are short and efficient for busy moms!

FREE Meal Plans and Shopping Lists

One of the bonuses that you receive along with your bundle is a free one year membership to MollyGreen.com, which is a $29 value. I had never heard of MollyGreen.com until a few days ago, but I found a fun surprise as I was looking around the membership site.

When you go to the member home page after logging in, scroll down and click on “Build a Menu.” You can sign up to get a free meal plan with recipes and a shopping list delivered straight to your email. You will automatically be sent one every week for SEVEN weeks.

Since this is intended to just be a sample, you don’t have as many options as you do with a full paid Build a Menu membership, but it gives you a good idea if a meal planning service is right for you. You could even save the meal plans and shopping lists and use them later when you’re having a crazy week. The sample meal plans are in the “Dine on a Dime” category, though a paid Build a Menu membership offers options for people who eat Trim Healthy Mama, gluten free, paleo, allergy friendly, and more.

I’m so excited to use my free meal plans! As I’ve written before, I love meal planning, and this will make it that much easier. This would normally cost around $7.00

You might not be interested in all of the products in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. That’s totally okay. To be 100% honest, I’m not either.

But even if I only ever use these three things that I’ve mentioned, products that I absolutely LOVE: the bundle will have been worth it.

Adding up the photography class, the workout class, and the free meal plans, it would normally cost approximately $125.95.

The bundle is $29.97, and I also have access to 103 other awesome resources. That’s a $95.98 savings…even if I never touch any of the other products.

You might be thinking that there has to be a catch to this. How can this possibly be that great of a deal?

The key is that this bundle is only available for six days, from April 26 – May 1, 2017. After that, it will be gone forever. Each year’s bundle has totally different products. Click on the button below to view the full list of what’s included!

How to Give Thoughtful Gifts on a Budget

gifts on a budget

Being frugal does not mean being stingy. God has called us to be good stewards, but He has also called us to be generous.

I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  – Acts 20:35

Sometimes it can be a fine line between being frugal and just being cheap. I strive to stay in the former category. Thus, I’ve learned how to give thoughtful gifts on a budget. These are gifts that the recipient can actually enjoy and use, but that can also be purchased for reasonable prices.

 

The best way to give nice gifts while also being frugal is by shopping for gifts throughout the year.

I learned this from my mom when I was young. She always had a stash of Bath & Body Works lotions, Chapstick, toys, candles, and a variety of other gift items. We mainly used the gift stash for teacher gifts, but the concept can be expanded to gifts for family members and friends as well.

Last Christmas, I started shopping for presents in early September. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was already finished! When I accompanied some friends as they shopped about a week before Christmas, I was thankful to have mostly avoided the craziness that is retail during the month of December.

I highly recommend signing up for emails from Money Saving Mom. She is a coupon and frugal living blogger. The thing that I like best about her email list is that you can choose to receive coupon match-ups only for your favorite stores.

In addition to standard coupon match-ups for grocery stores, the Money Saving Mom emails often contain deals for free photo books, inexpensive clothing, toys, and much more. By watching these emails for several months before Christmas, you can save a great deal of cash. When I got married, I had several relatives request printed wedding pictures for Christmas. I could afford to get photo books made for 4 relatives, as well as a nice photo book to keep for myself.

Another way to give thoughtful and frugal gifts is by giving something handmade.

Not everyone is a DIY person, so this tip is less universal. I’ve been knitting for 10 years, so I’ve been known to make Christmas gifts during years when my budget was tight. When one of my brothers was in 6th grade, I found some camo print yarn and knitted him a hat. I thought the camo print made it look more masculine. He loved it and still wears it several years later. I’ve also knitted baby items and kitchen linens.

If you know how to do calligraphy, writing out a meaningful quote and putting it in an inexpensive frame can be a lovely gift.

Whether you choose to go for store bought items that were on sale or for handmade gifts,  remember the words of Jesus:

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

23 Classic Books for Less Than a Dollar Each!

This post contains affiliate links. This means that I may make a small commission if you make a purchase through one of these links, at no additional cost to yourself. For further details, click here.

Did you know that you can get classic books very inexpensively from the comfort of your own home?

Ever since I first learned to read, I’ve loved books. Ever since, I first understood the concept of money, I’ve appreciated a good deal. I never thought I’d see the day when I liked ebooks, but the day did come. At first, it was primarily out of necessity, but now my Kindle Paperwhite is one of my favorite possessions.

I love my Kindle because of all the great deals I can get on Kindle books. While classic books are virtually always available inexpensively, even more recent releases will go on sale for less than $5 periodically. I search for my favorite authors’ names in the Kindle store every few weeks to see if any of their books have gone on sale. I go through a lot of books, so keeping costs down is a necessity.

You do not need to own a Kindle device to read Kindle books. My husband will read a couple pages on the Kindle app on his phone if he gets stuck waiting somewhere. Click here to find out how to read Kindle books on iOS, PC, or Android.

I have alphabetized this list by the author’s last name. At the time of this writing, all of the books below are priced at $0.99. Amazon reserves the right to change prices at any time, so always be sure to double check the price before placing your order.

23 Classic Books

  1. Aesop’s Fables – $0.99
  2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – $0.99
  3. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott – $0.99
  4. Jane Austen: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  5. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – $0.99
  6. The Bronte Sisters: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  7. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – $0.99
  8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – $0.99
  9. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – $0.99
  10. The Complete Novels by Charles Dickens – $0.99
  11. The Complete Works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky – $0.99
  12. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle – $0.99
  13. Alexandre Dumas: The Complete Works – $0.99
  14. Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Complete and Illustrated – $0.99
  15. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – $0.99
  16. Victor Hugo: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  17. Rudyard Kipling: The Complete Novels and Stories – $0.99
  18. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – $0.99
  19. Plato: The Complete Works – $0.99
  20. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – $0.99
  21. Leo Tolstoy: The Complete Novels and Novellas – $0.99
  22. Mark Twain: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  23. 12 Novels by H.G. Wells – $0.99

I hope you enjoy this list! Do you have a favorite classic book? Let me know in the comments!

Real Life Couponing – 2/18

2016-02-18 15.27.21 HDR

I had a great couponing experience at Walmart this week. Since I’m about two months out from having my first baby, I’m starting to stock up on health products, frozen foods, and easy to prepare foods.

Walmart

Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Yogurt, Original Price: $1.00 each

Final Price: $0.67 each

How I did it: I used a printable coupon for $1.00 off when you bought 3 of the individual yogurts.

Great Value 0% Milk, Original Price: $1.99

Final Price: $1.49

How I did it: Checkout 51 offered a rebate for $0.50 when you bought a gallon of milk. This could be for any brand of milk!

Boost 100 Calorie 4 pack, Original Price: $5.98

Final Price: $2.98

How I did it: I used a newspaper coupon for $3.00 off any Boost drink. Boost is probably not Trim Healthy Mama approved, but my doctor wants me to drink it and I’m complying. 😉

Birds Eye Steamfresh Flavor Full frozen vegetables, Original Price: $1.84

Final Price: $0.34

How I did it: I used a simple $1.50 off coupon from the newspaper, bringing the cost down to 34 cents! This was a fantastic and very easy deal.

Hall’s Cough Drops, Original Price: $1.54 each

Final Price: $0.54 each

How I did it: I used a newspaper coupon for $1.00 off 2 bags of Hall’s cough drops. Additionally, I submitted my receipt to Checkout 51 for an additional $1.00 rebate. This made the cough drops only 54 cents per pack!

Kotex Pads, Original Price: $2.86

Final Price: $0.86

How I did it: Again, this was a great deal that came only from a newspaper coupon. Less than a dollar for a package of pads

Dreamfields Pasta, Original Price: $1.78 each

Final Price: $1.28 each

How I did it: This was a newspaper coupon for a $1.00 off two boxes of Dreamfields Pasta.

That’s it for this week!