Monday, February 28, 2011

"Driving" Me Crazy

Gas prices have been through the roof lately, and though I don't have an SUV or truck, my van still doesn't get mpg anywhere near the Honda Civic I had to sell when we had kids. It was a two door and I did my best to try and squeeze that infant car seat in, but it wasn't even close, way too small.

Another way to save money, just stop driving. Alright, not realistic when you're cooped up with toddlers and need to get out in the real world. But you can consolidate your trips and try to stay home one additional day each week. If you live within a few miles of your activities this may not be a big money-saver for you and thus not worth it, but for us this means saving $5-$8 on each trip we eliminate. By cutting back on one day each week, that will save us $250-$400 in a year! Not to mention the cost when we get there, whether it's shopping, a fun trip or lunch. The mileage I'm not putting on my car will save me at least one oil change. This can all add up quickly to saving us over $1,000 in a year!

When my kids were babies I wouldn't have considered this, I needed to get out for my sanity. But now that we're able to play games and do some arts and crafts at home, we still have a great time and I don't feel like I'm stuck in an endless cycle like the movie Groundhog Day. Here are some ideas for mixing it up when you don't leave the house:

  • Do a video call on skype with relatives
  • Get outside even if it's raining/snowing or go for a walk
  • Make a scavenger hunt for your kids, give them a basket with their list-if they can't read glue pictures of the items on a piece of paper (a great one to do outside!)
  • Bake something and let your child do as much as he/she can safely
  • Build a fort, you know you loved this when you were a kid!
As always, no money-saving idea applies to everyone, but I just try to implement the ones I can and I really can't argue with the results!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Baby Coupon Giveaway!

Congratulations Gary! Send me an email with your address to and I will get those coupons in the mail to you tomorrow!

I have $50 in baby coupons for one lucky reader--includes Similac (3 $5 off and 3 $3 off), Pampers, Luvs, Johnson & Johnson, Aveeno, Desitin, Dreft and Aquaphor. Just comment below and tell me your favorite place to find coupons and you'll be entered! One entry per person, open for 48 hours. Drawing will close and be held at 8:00 pm EST on Tuesday March 1st, and coupons will be mailed out to the winner on Wednesday.

Friday, February 25, 2011

March Madness

The past few weeks I've been overcome with a desire to tackle my house and get the spring cleaning done, you would almost think I was pregnant and nesting! No pregnancy this time, just a dirty house. I spend so much time in damage-control mode just trying to keep up with my children's daily tornadoes and washing dishes and clothing, that everything else get neglected...indefinitely. I would love to spend two days getting it all done and over with, but I know my children do not have the attention span to make that happen. So this year I'm declaring the month of March to be my spring cleaning month. I'll do a little bit each day, and by the end my house will be sparkling! Ok maybe not, it's more likely that it will just look normal, but I'll take normal!

This weekend I'll be working on my list of spring cleaning chores, as I'm type A and a huge fan of lists. I'm breaking down large tasks into smaller pieces (ie: wash the curtains in each room listed separately instead of "wash all the curtains") so that it isn't as overwhelming, since I often have 15 minutes here and there to work, but rarely hours in one block.

Here's an article I found helpful when thinking about what needs to get done:

So that's my tip for the day- write it down, break it down and give yourself a time-frame. Please share some cleaning tips in the comments below! Mine will be this one stolen from my friend Emily's blog: the easiest way ever to clean a microwave is by taking a small bowl of water and adding a few lemon slices to it. Microwave at full power for 2 minutes and then let it sit in the microwave for 10 more minutes. It will wipe off so easily, virtually no work at all! If I don't have a lemon I add some lemon juice to the water and it works just as well. Here's Emily's great blog if you'd like to check it out:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Start A Neighborhood Tools Co-op!

We've never owned a pressure washer, so when my mother offered to loan us hers I wasn't really sure what to do with it. She was so excited about what a great job it did cleaning her deck and she told me many many times, but I thought it was a lot of enthusiasm for something that is an appliance. Then I used it, and I love it! Yes my mother was right, but shhh don't tell her. The second hand outdoor toys and playhouse that looked pretty clean when we got them turned back to their original color, as did our deck. If it's outside and it's not alive, I've pressure washed it!

I started making a mental list of all the tools and outdoor equipment we still "need" since moving in our new home. I say "need" because while a gas-powered leaf blower is certainly not a necessity, it sure makes life easier than using a rake when you live on three acres! But these items add up to thousands of dollars quickly, and even purchasing one or two a year means it will take us close to another decade to acquire it all, not to mention replacing products as they break. We no longer live in an actual neighborhood, but we do have neighbors who have loaned us tillers and saws--and that has saved us from having to purchase now.

Why not start a tools and garden/lawn equipment co-op in your neighborhood? Ask around and see how many people on your street would be interested in sharing supplies, then make a list of what everyone has. If there are any items still missing each person can buy one, spreading the cost out. Make sure to clearly label all of your equipment with your name (and possibly address) so everyone knows where to return items, and make a policy of how long an item is loaned for so that it's available for the next person in a timely manner. What I really like about this idea is that it is naturally a community-builder, neighbors will get to know one another and also the needs of the families around them. You cannot go wrong by investing in your community, and I'm willing to bet that everyone will gain more than the money saved from purchasing tools.

*If you start one, please share about it in the comments or send an email!

Monday, February 21, 2011

So What Do You Do?

Oh how I dread the question, "so what do you do?" Of course when people ask this, they are not referring to your hobbies, volunteer work or the religion you practice. What you do and who you are in our society is usually defined by how you make money, and Americans for the most part don't like to hear that you're not making money.

I'm a straight shooter, so when I first became a stay at home mom, I answered this question confidently with "I'm a stay at home mom"-seems like the obvious answer. Apparently this sentence translates to "I have an IQ of 25", and people assume I must not have anything interesting to say and the conversation dies out before it even gets started. The defensiveness I felt led me to explain "I was a math teacher but I'm taking a few years off right now". Then I would be upset that I even felt defensive about it, and unless the person I was speaking with was another stay at home mom, I usually left the conversation feeling frustrated.

Then I started thinking, a doctor who is not practicing is still a doctor. A lawyer who is not working is still a lawyer. So I must still be a teacher. Now when I get the dreaded question, I've been saying "I'm a math teacher" and if the questioner asks where I teach, I politely explain that I've taken a few years off to be at home with my children. This answer tends to get a more positive response, as well as controls my urge to whip out a calculus problem to prove my brain is still fully intact and I didn't magically lose that college degree when my son was born.

Another stay at home mom, Sandra, quoted in the book The Stay At Home Survival Guide by Melissa Stanton put it like this: "I always give it to them straight and say I'm a homemaker. I tend not to say I'm a lawyer or a cellist unless it comes up. I watch their reactions. It's no loss to me to not spend time with a person who's so stupid as to actually think that because someone cares for the most important asset society has, she has nothing to offer the conversation." Yes a little more blunt than necessary, but true.

On the flip side, I know plenty of employed mothers who feel the need to defend why they are working, especially in the vicinity of stay at home moms, and so I try to go out of my way to show my support and encouragement for them as well. While staying at home with my kids does not make me any less intelligent, working outside of the home does not make another mom any less of a mother for her kids and her family.

Interestingly, I've noticed it's almost always women judging other women based on career choices. I guess we'll know gender equality is finally here when a woman can make any choice she desires for her life without criticism and judgement-especially from other women...

Book Giveaway!

Thanks everyone for sharing your great ideas! Tonight's winner is Kris! Please send me your full name and address at and I'll get the book in the mail to you right away.

I hope you had some time to discuss your money-saving goals over the weekend! Ours is to double the amount in our savings account by June 1st. Share your goal below in the comments and be entered to win a copy of Penny Saving Household Helper: 500 Little Ways to Save Big by Rebecca DiLiberto.

One entry per person, if you comment as anonymous be sure to write your first name somewhere in your comment and check back to see if you won. Giveaway closes tomorrow at 8:00 PM EST.

Friday, February 18, 2011

You Can't Score If You Don't Have A Goal...

Something quick but important to think about and discuss with your spouse this weekend: what are your financial goals? It's easy to think in terms of general goals like saving for retirement and college. The drawback is that when your goals are broad, you don't know what you're aiming for and don't pay as much attention to the timeline.
Do you need to pay off a credit card? Build an emergency savings account? Open a college savings account for your children? Lower your grocery bill? Contribute more to your 401k?

My tip for you this weekend is to discuss your goals in more detail, and choose one goal by Sunday night. Write it down, make it as specific as possible and don't forget to include a deadline, then post it somewhere you'll both see it daily.

**Monday morning I will be asking what your goal is, and those who post an answer will be entered to win a surprise giveaway!**

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Couponing Step #4-Rite Aid!

It's time to start talking about how to save money on your toiletries and medicines, and the secret is to shop at drug stores! Really, unless you have a medical condition and need a special brand, you should never pay for toothpaste again! Before I knew this, I only went in a drug store if it was an "emergency" since overall their prices are higher than Walmart or a grocery store, but if you go regularly you can buy almost everything for rock-bottom prices or even free. Rite Aid is my favorite one, so I will start there. You can use the same system of matching coupons with sales, and if you use southernsavers Jenny also lists possible scenarios at the bottom to get you started. She tells you exactly what to buy and which coupons to use, very helpful when you're first learning.

First you will need to get Rite Aid's frequent shopper card and scan it every time you go. You accumulate points based on how much you spend, and once you have 500 points you will get 10% off everything in the store that is not already on sale. By December I had accumulated enough points (1,000) to move to the 20% off discount, where I will remain. So now I purchase all of our diapers at Rite Aid (with two kids in diapers, we go through a lot!). A large box is normally $20, so with my discount I pay $16, then after coupons I usually pay around $13-14/box.

Next, you will want to go to Rite Aid's website, , and register for their online rebates. Scroll down the page until you see "Single Check Rebates" in the middle and click on it. They have done all the work for you, and so when you see rebates for items you will never have to mail a single receipt, just login and enter your receipt information. I do this as soon as we get home and it takes me about 45 seconds. I just login, click on the picture of a receipt (instead of the other picture for an online order) and enter my store #, register #, transaction # and date--all information at the top of my receipt. At the end of the month I click on "mail my check" and it's as easy as that! Rite Aid frequently has great rebates on medicine and contact solution-many of them for the full price, and if you have a coupon then you actually get a "profit" to use toward another item. My highest month ever was last October when I received a rebate check from Rite Aid for $107!

If you would like to print Rite Aid store coupons at home you will need to create a login for that as well. It is in the middle of Rite Aid's page, and it's called "Rite Aid Video Values". Basically, you watch a short "video" (aka: commercial) of a product and then you can print a coupon for it. Most commercials are 15-45 seconds and you have to enter the verification code at the end in order to get credit for it. The nice thing about this is that you can combine them with manufacturer coupons to save twice as much on one item! Also, there is usually a coupon for $5 off any $25 purchase if you watch a 2 minute video. The first time I used one of those coupons, I had a total of $21 in my cart--then I realized if I spent $4 more that my coupon would bring my total down to $20. I couldn't believe that adding two bags of oreos to my purchase actually brought my total down! Talk about excitement ;-)

Last, you need to learn about and save your +UP rewards. Some sale items also have +UP rewards that will print on the bottom of your receipt, it is money you can use towards your next purchase--even a purchase made a few minutes later. I know some people will have several transactions so that they can keep using their previous +UP rewards, but to save time and confusion I just carry mine over each week. Just be careful not to lose them, because they cannot reissue them! I have had mine expire (they are good for 2-4 weeks) but the store was still nice enough to honor them-I think that was an exception though, so try not to let them expire.

So here is what a typical Rite Aid trip looks like for me:

1. Get on and make my Rite Aid list. Print.
2. Find my coupons and write the number of items for each.
3. Go shop, check-out in one transaction.
4. Give them my rewards card, then items, then coupons, then UP+ rewards.
5. Enter receipt online as soon as I get home.
6. File +UP rewards in my coupon folder.

Now in case you are thinking "I don't want some terrible store brand products", don't worry I don't either. I'm buying the same brands or better than I was before! It all depends on what you prefer and what you'd like to spend. I can get Pantene for free, but I'd rather spend $1-$2 and get John Freida. It's not the lowest price, but it's still less than I was paying before, so we're still saving money. If it's a product I'm never going to use, it doesn't matter how good the deal is, I won't buy it.

*One more thing. Rite Aid has been doing an extra +UP rewards promo for the last few months, $20 +UP when you spend $100 on participating items. In each month, I didn't make an effort at all to purchase the special items, yet each time I easily got to the $100 by making my regular purchases. Since the value you get credit for is before rebates and coupons, I probably spent around $10 instead of $100, and then got the $20 credit! I have no idea if they are going to continue this program each month, but I sure hope so!

I have found that Rite Aid cashiers are the most helpful when I have questions, and they are usually very friendly. I now know their names, all about their children and spend 15-20 minutes chatting each time. One day I left some extra diaper coupons in front of the Huggies and the next time I went in the cashier said she found and used them and thanked me. Now I always bring my extra coupons for the Rite Aid girls and they let me know which items are on clearance but not marked yet. So please be patient and kind, most people don't go to Rite Aid and get a cart full of items and hand them a stack of coupons.

Now go get your deals, and don't forget to leave me a comment of how much you saved or post a photo on my facebook page!!/pages/I-Wish-I-Could-Afford-to-Stay-At-Home-With-My-Kids/126908260707764

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Groupon and the Copycats

Several people have mentioned recently that they have caught my Groupon addiction. I cannot emphasize enough how much I LOVE this website! It's user-friendly, almost always features popular/high-quality companies and the prices cannot be beat! In addition, Groupon has a phenomenal policy: "If you ever feel like Groupon let you down, give us a call and we'll return your purchase – simple as that." I've never needed to ask for a refund, but it's nice to know I could. I bought everything in this picture with a groupon to delivered to my door for $5!

So here is how it works: find the city nearest you and enter your email address. It will automatically go to your home city each day, but there are lots of deals in other cities that are available for anyone to redeem online, and major retailers like Bath and Body Works, The Body Shop, and Barnes & Noble have sold gift certificates redeemable online. You will find everything from store gift certificates and spa services to sports game tickets and museum memberships at extremely low prices for one day only (or all weekend). When you purchase your groupon, you usually cannot use it for 2 days (it will say before you buy it) and many of them are good for six months to a year. When you're ready to use it, just print out your certificate or copy and paste the code if it's an online deal.

If you're already a regular passenger on the Groupon train, you need to check out the copycat sites, though to be fair some have been around longer than Groupon but are not as widely known. It's all the same concept, and each one will give you a different amount for signing up, anywhere from $0-10. Some will randomly put credits in your account, so be sure to check back, and others will send out codes for free credit. You can also purchase these as gifts, and treat someone to a dinner, theater tickets or massage!

Below are the links for all the sites I have registered with and recommend. Please share in the comments, what has been your favorite Groupon purchase?





Living Social:






Monday, February 14, 2011

Money-Making Ideas

If you're looking for some ideas about how to add a little to your family's income or make some extra spending cash, here's what I've been thinking about lately:

1. Become a seller for your friends. If you like selling items on eBay, craigslist, etc. then offer to sell your friends items for them in exchange for a commission on the sales price, maybe 25-30%. You won't have any start up costs or overhead, but you will need a place to store the items you're selling. You also need to be a very organized person to keep track of who gave you which items and how much they sold for (not something I would enjoy). I know I can drop my kids' stuff off at the local consignment store and get 50% of the sales price, but that's just enough that I'd rather sell it myself. On the other hand, I do not enjoy taking pictures/posting/selling items so I tend to put it off indefinitely. If you're thinking of trying this, I'll drop a carload off with you this week!

2. Be a coupon clipper for working parents. When I was working full-time I just didn't have the time to shop sales and clip coupons, so I almost always paid the highest prices for our groceries and toiletries. You could make a business out of buying the newspapers, and preparing the lists and coupons each week for a group of employed mothers. If you can save them $50-$100 per week, it is a service easily worth $20/week. Again you will need to be very organized, but as long as you do something you enjoy it won't feel like work.

3. Cook meals for families with two employed parents. Whenever you cook a meal for your family, double or triple the recipe and either freeze or deliver it. You can keep your costs down by purchasing in bulk, the families will eat healthier and spend less time rushing around after work and before dinner, and it will make you money-while still being less expensive for others than ordering out would be. Or you could spend an entire day making freezer meals and decide on a price/meal. I think places like Let's Eat that do this charge around $25/meal.

4. Host a parents night out at your house once a month. If you have a good amount of space and can be sure to contain many children at once, you can offer to babysit for several families so the parents can get a date night.

5. If you enjoy sewing you have so many options. From cute burp cloths and hair bows to baby blankets and breastfeeding covers, there are many things that are in high demand right now and would make nice baby gifts. Besides, so many of the store-bought options are either hideous or much too expensive.

Don't be afraid to take a risk! As you probably already know, it was a stay at home mom that created Baby Einstein in her own basement with a video camera, her daughter and a few of their toys. I've really enjoyed this brainstorming session, and as I think of more ideas I will add them to this post, so be sure to check back! I would love to hear your ideas if you'd like to share them in the comments. All it takes is a little creativity and initiative...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Follow-Up to "Put 'Em to Work" Post (Our New Eureka Optima)

Last week our vacuum cleaner died and my handy husband could not revive it, so off to Lowe's we went today to get a new one. While Chris and I were debating the merits of Bissel versus Eureka, Cole had discovered a smaller-sized vacuum (a Eureka Optima) and was busy cleaning the isle, which we thought was very cute. Then it occurred to us, why not get the smaller vacuum? It's shorter and half the weight of a full-sized vacuum, has an extension handle, will take up less space in the closet and for half the price! The kids were very excited (as you can see in the pictures below), and I was happy with how much easier it was to use on the stairs. I was expecting the suction to not be as good, but it was actually better than our previous vacuum, which was on it's last leg but still doing a decent job. Two happy kids who like vacuuming, and one happy mama!

*A side note, if your husband ever offers to hire a cleaning service, take him up on it! My husband made the suggestion after we had our second baby, moved to another state and bought a house all in one week. I didn't do it, but I should have-don't make my mistake, admit you need help and accept it graciously.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Put 'Em to Work

If you recently became a stay at home mom, you're likely surprised that it's not as easy as you expected to knock out that to do list with little ones running around and needing something almost constantly. Wish you could afford a helper? Well your kids are free help, and are more than likely happy to do it! Our kids are only one and two, yet both help load the dishwasher, cook, do the laundry, get the mail, wipe the tables and sweep/vacuum/mop the floors. Do they do a great job? No, and I redo most of it while we're working. Does it take ten times longer? Yes. Do they have fun? You bet! Not only does this create an environment that encourages teamwork, but we get much more done than I would if I were doing it myself and then cleaning up the messes they made while I was working. It also gives my children a sense of accomplishment and importance as members of our family (and community when we get them involved in working/volunteering for a non-profit or church).

Besides, how can I expect my children to want to do chores when they are older if they spent their childhood being entertained all day and seeing mom do all the work? Or not even seeing the work get done because it was after bedtime? One of the best pieces of advice I received when we were expecting our first baby was this: start the way you mean to go, changing the rules of the game later will only frustrate both sides. How many times have I thought, if I had just invested the time in the beginning we wouldn't even have this struggle right now?

The hard part is that for most of us, myself included, this idea goes against our perception of what "childhood" is. After all, they only get to be a kid for a short time right? Yes, and it goes both ways. I believe we should teach our kids how to help with the housework so they'll be more likely to help (and like it) later, but we should also teach them that kids aren't the only ones who can have fun, and the fun shouldn't end with childhood. So let your kids see you enjoying your own "playtime"-whether it's through hobbies, joining an adult sports team or just goofing around. Is all work and no play (or all play and no work) good for anyone?

My sister in law said it well, one thing we know for sure is that our kids will need to work one day (in a job and in their home), so what better gift can we give than teaching them how to enjoy it?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Few Lessons Learned

Since you are likely driving with your kids more often when you become a stay at home parent, it helps to be prepared for sticky situations. A month ago I was out and about with the kids and our car broke down, leaving us stuck and "out and about" for longer than anticipated. That motivated me to finally put together a car emergency kit, in order to make any future mishaps more tolerable with young children. Well wouldn't you know it, just this week we got two flat tires while running some errands. I'm embarrassed to admit how it happened, my daughter cried out, I turned to look at her and ran into the curb in the Walmart parking lot. Irony of all ironies the whole reason I was there was to get an extra key made for our car because a few months back I accidentally locked the keys inside with the kids, luckily that one was in our driveway. Oh well, this stuff happens to all of us...right? But I did find the emergency kit somewhat helpful since I could break out some juice boxes and snacks for the kids while we waited for the tow truck. So here is what I put in our emergency kit:

*An extra change of clothes for each person (I've needed this several times already!)
*Snacks and juice boxes
*First aid kit with children's medicine (you never know when a fever or teething will start)
*Tissues and wipes
*Jumper cables and a battery charger/tire inflater
*Phone numbers written out (in case my phone gets wet/dies/lost)
*AAA's phone number (1-800-222-4357)

So the second tip I have for you is how to maximize your AAA usage. I'm a huge fan of AAA, they have great customer service and you can get discounts at many other businesses if you show your membership card. However, many people don't know that unlike car insurance, health insurance and life insurance you don't actually have to purchase it in advance to use it when your car breaks down. About ten years ago my car died and I called and ordered AAA over the phone, a tow truck was there within an hour and I enjoyed all of the benefits of the membership for the next year--at the same price I would have paid just to tow my car without the membership. I haven't had the membership since, until today when the car needed to be towed. I'm not kidding, the tow truck was there within 10 minutes of hanging up with AAA and the cost was only around $100 for the membership. Yes I paid an extra $40 fee for utilizing their service the same day I ordered a membership, but I saved $600 from not paying for a membership for the last ten years, definitely worth it! This is one service you don't want to pay for until you need it, save the money and just keep their number in your new emergency kit!

Monday, February 7, 2011

$50 Mary Kay Gift Certificate Giveaway!!!

Congratulations to comment #10, Sarah!!! Thanks everyone for entering and be sure to check out Kate's page at  all the benefits of ordering fabulous products without needing to host/attend a party. Shop from home and make sure you email her with your order instead of putting it through online in order to get the awesome deals she's doing just for the readers of this blog. If you don't know what those are, go back and check out my post from January called "Multi-Dimensional Beauty".

It's the big Mary Kay giveaway from Kate that we've all been waiting for! This giveaway closes tonight at 8:00 so hop on it!

To enter just "comment" on this post, you can write anything-"I'm entering" is fine. Please write at least your first name, otherwise I cannot say "anonymous #8 won".
You are not signing up for anything (besides the giveaway), I don't collect or distribute emails. If you don't enter any contact information, just be sure to check back to see if you won. The winner will have 24 hours to claim the prize and then we draw again. This drawing is open to anyone, you just can't be my husband ;-)  I will use a random number generator ( to pick a winner at 8:00 EST on Feb. 9th. One entry per person, good luck and thank you Kate!

Don't forget to check out Kate's website, you can order from anywhere and military families get free shipping :-)

When I get 200 facebook fans, there will be an educational toy giveaway from Kristie with Discovery Toys! Here's my facebook link if you haven't checked it out yet, please share it with your friends!!/pages/I-Wish-I-Could-Afford-to-Stay-At-Home-With-My-Kids/126908260707764

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Couponing Step #3: Where Do I Shop?

Once you have accumulated your coupons and organized them, it's time to figure out which stores are going to maximize your savings. First, make a list of the grocery stores in your area. Next, you'll need to find the answers to these questions for each one. I called several of mine and asked customer service. You might be surprised, after shopping at the store with the lowest prices in our area, I found out that our "premium" grocery store has a better coupon program and actually saves us more! If you have the time and really want to save as much as possible, it's best to shop two grocery stores each week and get the best deals in each place. I did this for a while (and saved a TON!) but with two toddlers, a huband who frequently travels for work and living in a rural area it's just not feasible anymore, so we pick the best store and stick with it. Occasionally if there is a really good deal at the other store I will make an extra trip, but that only happens once every few months.


1. Do they accept coupons? Is there a limit?

2. Do they accept a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon for the same item? Do they have store coupons available in the store or on their website? Do they accept online coupons printed at home? (Most do)

3. Do they ever double/triple coupons? Up to what value? (Ours doubles up to $0.50, so a $0.50 coupon is actually worth more than a $0.75 coupon).

4. Do they accept competitor coupons? Who is considered a competitor? (Drug stores usually are not)

5. Do they ever have unadvertised sales? (Our stores frequently do a 3-day sale at the end of the week with fantastic prices!)

6. Do they price-match? (I've never done this, but know other moms who have had success bringing in the flier for another store and getting the same price to minimize shopping trips)

7. Do they have a gas-discount program? (We have one store where you can accumulate points on a card to redeem once a month for a per gallon discount at the gas station).

Compare your answers and decide where you'd like to start. Remember those websites I mentioned that match coupons and sales? See if you can find one for the store(s) you're looking for. If not, you can always scan the weekly ad and compare to the coupons you have.

The first time is going to be awkward and maybe a little confusing, so try to do it without the kids if you can. Not that I recommend cashier profiling, but the younger guys are the best ones to get-they go pretty fast, are usually friendly and don't get flustered as easily by a stack of coupons.

Now go see how much you can save, and let me know (in the comments) how you do!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another Starbucks Giveaway!

*Congratulations to our winner, Ashley! I can't believe it, the lucky number tonight was 1! (How ironic that the first person made a comment about #1 never getting picked) I don't know why it's so surprising, it has the same probability as the other numbers but it never seems to come up. Yay for coffee :-)

A giveaway for a $5 giftcard to Starbucks! To enter just "comment" on this post, you can write anything-"I'm entering" is fine. This drawing is open to ANYONE, you just can't be my husband ;-)  I will use a random number generator to pick a winner 24 hours from now, 8:00 EST on Feb, 4th, one entry per person, good luck!

When I get to 100 facebook fans there will be a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate to Mary Kay! Here's the link if you haven't checked it out yet:!/pages/I-Wish-I-Could-Afford-to-Stay-At-Home-With-My-Kids/126908260707764

It's a Mentality

It's time to change the way you think about your money and your spending. When your income drastically decreases, it can be easy to start thinking "we can't afford that", but this attitude will just make you feel deprived and resentful. Instead, it's helpful to change your thinking to "how can I afford this?".  If there is something you really want, but it's not in the budget, just get creative about how to pay for it. There are so many ways to do this: have a yard sale, sell items on eBay or craigslist, wait for coupons/sales, do a few online surveys and get paid for them, add it to your birthday/Christmas wish list, make a trade with someone, start saving your loose change or reallocate your spending from somewhere else. I'm sure you can think of many more ways (please share in the comments!).

The point is, instead of living with less you just need to figure out to live on less, and it's all in our attitude!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned

This is a painful one, but it's definitely worth your time. If you can't increase your income, then see if you can lower your monthly bills. It might seem obvious, but so many people don't go to the trouble to comparison shop or consolidate loans, and end up costing themselves hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year.

Car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, credit card interest rates, student loan rates, cable, phone and internet bills are all costs that you can save a bundle on if you shop around. When we moved to our new home and I started calling around for our home insurance, I was shocked to find that our car insurance company gave us such a huge discount for going with them that it was around 1/3 of the other quotes we received. Our new state (SC) also has much higher car insurance payments than our previous states (GA and CO), so this month we decided to call around and see if we could get a better deal. We also called our current insurance company and asked if there was anything they could do about it--in about 10 minutes they took $500/yr off of our charges and are reimbursing us for previous costs.

If you haven't consolidated your student loans, it's time to get on it. If you're paying an interest rate on your credit card know how much it is and see if you can get a lower rate. Will you get a discount by bundling your utilities? Set aside an afternoon (or maybe a day) to comparison shop, you may be dreading it but you won't regret it!

The wonderful thing about this is that these are reoccurring bills, so if you spend an hour working on your home insurance and save yourself $50/month, then you have really saved $600 over the next year-you can consider that a $600/hr paycheck!  When you clip coupons you only save the money once, but lowering your monthly bills is the same as increasing your income. Actually, it is even better since you are saving after tax money. In that example of saving $600/yr, we would actually have to make $800 (pre-tax) in order to pay it.

*A quick note here about our car insurance company, we have had Progressive for 6-7 years now and couldn't be happier with them. They have had the lowest rates we have found, I always get super fast service when I call (no automated system) and when we had a weather-related accident they handled it so well and gave us amazing service (and a pretty sweet rental for two weeks) and then didn't even raise our rate! Also, a few years ago we were on vacation in a rental car and got rear-ended at a stop light by a van full of coast guards. The police cited that it was their fault and the rental car company told us it had nothing to do with our insurance so we didn't need to call them, and the coast guard would have to pay for everything. Even though it didn't concern them at all, we still called Progressive to let them know what happened. They were so fantastic, they took over the whole thing for us making sure that the coast guard paid the rental company for all of the repairs, even when they tried to deny responsibility. Then they submitted our receipts for a new car seat and stroller (the stroller was in the trunk and was broken) and got us reimbursed for that as well. I really don't work for Progressive, I promise, I'm just hugely impressed with their company and highly recommend them!

So get organized, get ready to spend the day on the phone and just get it over with already. Give yourself a good motivator-maybe a massage for every $500/yr you save?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Healthy Addiction

I will admit it, I'm addicted to magazines. They are like treasures in the mail amidst a stack of bills, and if I get a break during nap time I love to sit down with my coffee and a magazine. I had several subscriptions when I was working full-time, but that was no longer a big enough "need" once we moved to one income. My kids' clothes and education are much more important, so I had no problem redirecting that expense and living magazine-free. Then I learned about free or discount subscriptions and now I'm hooked. Following is a list of magazines I have ordered in the last 12 months and the prices I have paid, I don't sign up for anything with a commitment since I know I will probably forget to cancel a membership or contract.

Martha Stewart Living- free
Martha Stewart Whole Living- free
Newsweek (54 issues)- free
Watch- free
Real Simple- $2
Cooking Light- free (signed up but haven't received the first issue yet)
Saltwater Fishing- free
Tennis- free
More- free
Outside- free
Readers Digest- $1.99
Bass Master- free
Auto Week- free
Women's Health- free
Bridal Guide- free
Fitness- free
Elle Decor- free
Women's Day- $2.99
"O" (Oprah)- free with groupon credit
Entrepreneur- $1.99 for 3 years
Parents- $1
Family Circle- free
Field & Stream- free
Sport Fishing- free

Total paid, $9.97!  So where are these amazing deals? Good question, they're all over the place. I've found them in facebook posts, blog posts and emails. They've only required me to enter my name and address (occasionally an email address), and one had a survey that took about three minutes to complete. I've seen many more than this, but the others weren't of any interest to us. If you're interested, I'll be posting any magazine deals/freebies I find on my facebook page--they're usually only "live" for 24 hours or less, so if you see something you like hop on it!

Also, Amazon is running a promotion for the month of February--if you spend $20 in magazine subscriptions you will get $10 credit to use on their website for your next purchase. No need to enter any codes or coupons, they will email it to you automatically. It was a good enough incentive for me to buy a National Geographic subscription (my kids will love it too!) for $15. The promo works for multiple purchases, so I will wait and see what else goes on sale this month.

Obviously you shouldn't sign up for a magazine subscription if you aren't going to read it, and don't forget to pass them onto a friend, cut them up for art projects with your kids or recycle them.

Facebook page:!/pages/I-Wish-I-Could-Afford-to-Stay-At-Home-With-My-Kids/126908260707764