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All the best resources to help you create a budget, stick to a budget and help you to reach your financial goals.

festive and frugal Christmas
Frugal Living

How to Have a Festive and Frugal Christmas This Year

While the holidays are a time for enjoying our families and reflecting on what we are grateful for, they are also one of the most financially stressing times of the year.

Most of us have suffered from the debt hangover after the holidays. You know, that awful feeling we have once the credit card statement shows up in January and we realize we went overboard AGAIN this year.

So how do you make Christmas enjoyable and affordable?

Here are some of my favorite tips for having a festive and frugal Christmas!

How to Have a Festive and Frugal Christmas | Money saving tips for a budget friendly Christmas

Festive and Frugal Christmas Fun

Free Pictures of the Kids With Santa

Taking your kids to the mall for pictures with Santa is a holiday tradition for many families. But it is also one that is so expensive!

But don’t worry, friend. You don’t have to pay to get a cute photo of the kids with Santa.

There are so many free options these days for getting those special pictures. Churches, local festivals or even businesses offer free pictures with Santa.

Each year, we take the kids to Bass Pro Shop and have their picture taken with Santa. You get one free photo that has a Bass Pro logo on it. They will also allow you to take pictures with your own camera (quickly of course because there often is a line). While you wait for you picture with Santa, there are lots of activities and crafts for the kids to enjoy.

If you don’t have a Bass Pro shop near you, check your local news or local family resource to find out where you can take free pictures with Santa in your area.

Christmas Light Displays

Looking for a festive activity that doesn’t cost any money? Go look at Christmas lights!

Whether it’s just scoping out your neighborhood, or going to see a professional Christmas light display, this is a free and fun activity the whole family will enjoy.

Every year, we pack the kiddos into the car, play Christmas music and bring hot cocoa and cookies with us while we look at lights!

Borrow Christmas Books and Movies from the Library

Stock up on Christmas children’s books and Christmas movies from the library instead of buying books or renting movies.

We like to get 12 books and read one book each day for the 12 days of Christmas. But word to the wise, don’t wait for the last minute because lots of people love borrowing these materials!

How to have a Festive and Frugal Christmas

Festive and Frugal Christmas Gifts on a Budget

Make a Plan

It’s important to have a good plan in place for buying Christmas presents. This will prevent waiting for the last minute and buying anything. Not only is Christmas shopping without a plan stressful (I should know I’m totally guilty of this) it will often lead you into an overspending trap.

Before you go to the store (or start shopping online) come up with a budget.

First, look at your finances and see how much you can reasonably spend on Christmas.

Next, write a list of all the people you need to buy for.

Finally, start divvying up how much you will spend on each person. Once you know how much you can spend on each person, you’ll be able to shop smarter and stay on budget.

Use Reward Programs

My favorite app for earning cash back on purchases is Ibotta. They are partnered with so many awesome retailers including Target, Walmart, Khols, Macy’s, Sears and more!

Sign Up Now With My Referral Link and Get a $10 Bonus!

Shop the Dollar Tree for Stocking Stuffers

The Dollar Tree is my absolute favorite place to shop for stocking stuffers.

There is literally something for everyone! From candles and picture frames to puzzles and books for the kids there are so many great budget friendly stocking stuffers.

Send E-cards Instead of Mailing Christmas Cards

Save money on printing fancy Christmas cards and postage by sending your family’s Christmas card by email!

You can use pre-made e-cards from americangreetings.com or hallmarkecards.com.

You can even add you own pictures for free to some of the cards!

Shop Consignment Stores or Facebook Marketplace For Good Quality Used Toys

If you have young children, this is by far my #1 recommendation. If the toys are in good condition, they won’t know that they are used nor will they care!

You can often find good quality toys for a third of the price! That’s my kind of deal.

Get Organized this Free Christmas with the 2018 Christmas Planner! Shopping lists, To do lists, Calendar and more! Get It Now!

Festive and Frugal Christmas Decorations

Make Your Own

I LOVE Christmas decorations. I love them so much, I decorate the house for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving #sorrynotsorry.

But decorations can get expensive fast!

Instead of spending money on new decorations for the tree you can make your own. You can create a popcorn garland or have the kids use construction paper to cut out stars and angels.

Not only will these make your home more festive but you will create memories and keepsakes!

Shop the Dollar Tree

For those things you can’t make, there is often a great selection of decorations at the Dollar Tree. Last year I was able to score new stockings, candy canes and even a wreath! All for $1.

Skip the Lights

To save on your electricity bill, skip the lights on the outside of the house and on the tree.

Instead, you can put ribbons, garland and tinsel on the tree. To decorate the outside without lights, you can wrap columns and trees with ribbon and put a wreath on the door.

Christmas Tree

For real trees, buy a pre-cut tree and buy it closer to Christmas. If you wait until the second week of December, you may even be able to haggle the price down at the Christmas tree lot!

If you prefer a fake tree, you can buy a pre-owned tree or use store coupons to get great deals. Hobby Lobby and Michael’s often have coupons for 40-50% off one item. You can get a great tree AND a great deal!

You can also buy a table top tree at your local drugstore for under $20.

How to have a festive and frugal Christmas

The Bottom Line

My last piece of advice is if you are really struggling financially, talk to your friends and family and be honest. Simply ask if you can skip the gift exchange/holiday vacation/etc. this year. Trying to keep up with everyone will just suck the joy out of your holidays and breed resentment towards your family and friends.

It may not be easy to have these conversations, but it the long run it will be well worth.

You don’t have to spend so much money over the holidays to be festive. Making some small and simple changes to your traditions can ensure that you are able to still have a wonderful Christmas without the debt hangover in January.

 

What are some of your frugal tips for the holidays? How do you save and still stay festive?

Get Organized this Free Christmas with the 2018 Christmas Planner! Shopping lists, To do lists, Calendar and more! Get It Now!

 

How to have a festive and frugal christmas #budget #moneysavingtips #christmasonabudget
best debt free books #debtfree #personalfinance
Debt Free

Must Read Getting Debt Free Books for Your Debt Free Journey

When my husband and I first decided I would leave my job to become a full time stay at home mom, we had to take a good hard look at our finances.

I knew we would have to make some adjustments but I thought we were doing pretty darn good. We were able to make minimum payments on everything and we weren’t coming up short at the end of the month.

During nap time, I started looking online for ways we could cut down our expenses to give ourselves a little more wiggle room. I found an awesome and super active getting debt free board on babycenter (I think this makes me old).

That board was awesome and everyone shared their money saving tips and financial struggles. I learned so many useful tips for managing our expenses better at home and some really awesome tools I still use today, like meal planning.

This is also where I was first introduced to Dave Ramsey and the whole concept of becoming debt free.

It turns out that I had gotten a lot of bad financial advice over the course of my lifetime. And most of that bad advice came from marketers and companies that were selling their “great deals”.

I also never even considered that having car payments or financing furniture was even debt. No, seriously.

It was like a light switch went off and I realized I needed to relearn how to manage our personal finances.

4 Personal Finance Books Every Adults Needs To Read #debtfree #budget #finances

So, I headed down to the local library and started reading all the personal finance books I could get my hands on.

Friends, I was shocked.

So much of my thinking, and the financial advice I had gotten, were the exact things that were keeping us in debt. I started to hate the fact that we owed other people so much of our paycheck and it was enough to make me seriously commit to becoming debt free.

Armed with the new knowledge from these books, along with an excel spreadsheet and my new financial BFFs over on the debt free board on babycenter, we were able to tackle our debt and create a financial foundation and strategies that we still practice.

Here is a list of the books I read back then, along with some newer ones. When it comes to our personal finances, I’m still learning and growing but I’m confident in the direction we are moving now.  

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

This is the first book I read and it opened my eyes to so many things. In this book, Dave outlines 7 baby steps to becoming completely debt free. This plan outlines exactly what each step entails and provides some serious truth bombs that force you to take a good hard look at yourself and your spending habits. While I took a lot of advice from Dave’s book, I didn’t prescribe to every single thing he suggested. It still worked.

The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason

This is an oldie but a goodie. This book was originally published in the 1920s but so many of the financial lessons in this book hold up today. This is a series of biblical style stories that introduce and explain the concepts of thrift, financial planning and personal wealth. A favorite lesson from this book was that we will all continue to struggle financially no matter what our income is if we continue to spend on our wants rather than simply fulfilling our needs.

I will admit it is a bit hard to read because of the style it’s written in, but the lessons are solid.
The Richest Man in Babylon

Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide To Financial Freedom by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox

If you are serious about becoming debt free, this book will motivate, inspire, and give you the push you need in order to reach your financial goal. Lynette Khalfani-Cox shares the exact strategies she used to pay off $100,000 in debt in 3 years. She provides a step-by-step 30 day plan to encourage better personal finance practices. She covers the best ways to pay off debt, how to eliminate student loans, and how to negotiate with credit card companies (among other tips).

Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom 3rd Edition

Maxed Out: Hard Times in the Age of Easy Credit by James Scurlock

I like to think of this one as a personal finance thriller. James Scurlock travels across the country to talk to real people struggling with debt in order to expose our flawed financial system. It’s a real eye opener (and a bit of a sucker punch) about the myth that credit is a good thing.

Maxed Out

 

On the Road to Becoming Debt Free

Friends, no matter where you are in your debt free journey, it’s always important to continue learning from others and to try new and better strategies to reach your financial goals.

I also have a few other resources that you might find helpful:

Download My Debt Repayment Chart Here to track your success!

31 Simple Ways To Save Money Each Month

5 Simple Steps To Creating Financial Goals

3 Simple Steps To Reach Your Financial Goals

How To Earn Money with Ibotta

 

If you found this article useful, I would love if you could share it with others.

Pin It, Tweet it, Share it on Facebook!

Who knows? Maybe you’ll help someone find the tools they need to help them move closer to their goal of becoming debt free!

Best Books for your debt free journey | Debt Free | Personal Finance | money

Must read books for your debt free journey | Personal Finance | Debt Free | Money

31 simple tips to save money every month
Frugal Living

31 Simple Ways to Save Money Each Month

Are you looking for simple ways to save money every month? Do you need to find a few extra dollars (or a few hundred) each month to reduce your spending?

Then you have come to the right place, friend. Because I have a list a realistic ways to save money each month.

When we were on our debt free journey, I looked for any and all ways to save money. Some of the ways people were sharing were kind of extreme and while I was committed to reducing our spending to pay off debt, I had to draw the line somewhere.

All these strategies I list below are actual things we did to save money.

And they worked.

We were able to pay off $40,000 in debt on one income in less than two years. Read more about the steps we took to becoming debt free.

Saving money is not just about curbing your spending but it’s also about mindset.

The biggest hurdle for so many folks is not the actual act of cutting back their spending but the comparison game. They want to look like the girls on Instagram, or drive the fancy car like the neighbor down the street. So they overextend themselves financially. 

Related: Save Money With an Eat Down the Pantry Challenge

To this, I say to just stay in your lane. Stay focused on your end goal and put some blinders on if you need to. And if there are people in your life that are judging you because of what you have, you need to re-evaluate those relationships.

Some of these may seem really simple but trust me when I say they all add up.

31 Simple Ways to Save Money. These are realistic ways anybody can save money to reach their financial goals #moneysavingtips #frugal #budget

31 Simple Ways to Save Money Each Month

1. Meal Planning

Planning out your meals can help you reduce food waste (ie money waste) and reduce how much you eat out. Check out this “meal planning for beginners guide” to learn how to get started with meal planning.

2. Cutting Cable

Cable was the very last thing we cut. We downgraded our package from the get go, but it was still so frustrating to have our billed increased every year for no good reason.

Full disclosure: I was the one holding on because I just couldn’t imagine life without E! TV and Bravo. But after we finally cut our cable and switched to Netflix and an antenna for local channels, I couldn’t believe how little I missed it!

3. Use the Library for Entertainment

Instead of buying new books on amazon or renting DVDs, go to your local library and borrow them. They usually have the newest items available.

They also have lots of great programs for kids and adults. You could take a knitting class, or even a yoga class at your local library all for free!

4. No-Spend Challenges

For a lot of us, the weekends are when we are most likely to spend money, either by eating out, going to the movies, going bowling or any other activity.

Once a month plan for a no spend weekend. Choose free activities, eat all your meals and home and enjoy that extra cash in your pocket. read these tips to rock a no spend challenge.

5. Combine Car Trips 

We sometimes take for granted that we can drive everywhere anytime we want. Gas is expensive and limiting your driving can help reduce your monthly spending on gas.

Instead of running out whenever you need to, try combining trips. This will help you save on gas, and it’s good for the environment too.

6. Review Your Car Insurance, Homeowners Insurance Policies

If you haven’t reviewed your car and home insurance policies lately, call up your insurance agent and see if their are ways you can reduce how much you are paying on these each month.

You might be surprised at how much you can save, while still maintaining a good level of coverage.

money saving tips

7. Groom Your Pets at Home 

Instead of taking Fido to get his nail trimmed, go to the pet store and get yourself a nail trimmer and other grooming supplies. It might be a bit of money upfront, but it will save you in the long run.

8. Adjust the Thermostat

Did you know that adjusting your thermostat by 3 degrees can save you 10% on your monthly bills?

Throw on a sweater if you’re chilly, or snuggle up with your honey for some extra warmth.

9. Don’t automatically replace things when they break

When something breaks, don’t automatically replace it. Try and fix it and if you can’t, ask yourself if you really need it.

10. Babysitting exchange 

Start a babysitting exchange with your friends. Instead of paying for a babysitter, ask your friends if they can watch your kids one evening and in exchange you watch theirs for one evening.  

11. Drink Water

Replace juice and soda with water. And when you do, don’t buy bottled water, drink the water straight from the tap.

For what it costs to buy a case of water you can purchase a water bottle that you can refill forever.

drink more water | money saving tips | 31 simple ways to save money each month

12. Pack your lunch 

Instead of buying lunch at work everyday, pack your own lunch. Even if you only spend $5 a day for lunch (which is hard) that’s $100 a month i savings.

13. Use a cash only system

If you find yourself having trouble keeping track of your spending because you are swiping too much, move to a cash only system.

Allocate a certain amount of money for each of your expenses (grocery shopping, gas, etc). When the envelope is empty, you can’t spend any more. It’s as simple as that.

14. Get the basics from the dollar store 

The dollar store is a great place to buy some basic items that can be costly at other stores.

The dollar store is my go to for bandaids, kids toothbrushes, envelopes, and storage containers.

15. Buy second hand 

There are some things you never need to buy new. Cars are the most expensive second hand items you should always buy, but there are many other items you can buy second hand that are just as good.

Kitchen appliances, cell phones, kids toys like bikes and even furniture are big ticket items you can save a bundle on by buying second hand.

16. Barter with your neighbors 

Trade services and items with your neighbors. If your neighbor is an awesome cake decorator, as her to decorate your child’s birthday cake instead of buying one. In return, you can watch her kids, or wash her car.

17. Grow a garden 

Growing a vegetable garden is a great way to save money on your grocery budget.

Even if it’s just an herb garden, you will more than cover the cost of planting your garden and save money over time.

31 simple ways to save money every month | money saving tips | budget

18. Wearing glasses instead of contacts

Contacts are expensive. Period. You can save $100’s of dollars a year by wearing your glasses instead of contacts.

Maybe it’s not cute or even the most comfortable but the savings will pay off.

19. Make your own cleaning products 

All you need is vinegar, peroxide, and baking soda and you can make a whole variety of cleaning products.

Not only will this save you money, it’s better for your health to use cleaning products without chemicals.

20. Use plastic bags as liners for small trash cans 

Instead of buying trash liners for your small trash cans, reuse your plastic shopping bags. You can also use those shopping bags to pick up after your pet on their walks or line your cats litter box.

21. Buy reusable snack and lunch containers

There is a small cost up front, but you will save in the long run when you don’t use plastic baggies for sandwiches and snacks.

22. Unplug electronics when not in use.

When your electronics are plugged in and you are not using them they are still using power. The name for this is “vampire power” or “ghost electricity”. Vampire power can add up to almost $150 in expenses a year, which is about $12 a month. So when your done with the coffee maker or toaster, unplug it and start saving.

23. Stay away from stores that tempt you 

If there is a store where you always overspend (ahem…. target) don’t go there. Find another store that has the items you need without the temptation.

24. Ditch paper napkins and paper towels 

You can buy cloth napkins at the dollar store and use cut up old t-shirts as paper towels. This is not only good for your wallet but also for the environment.

25. Workout at home 

Ditch the gym membership or even the subscription workout package. Instead, exercise or you can find any type of workout you like for free on youtube. Check out this list of free at home workout videos.

31 ways to save money every month | money saving tips | budget

26. Buy generic 

Most store brands are just as good, or even better, than the brand name items. Most stores also have organic generic brands which are significantly cheaper than the organic brand name products.

27. Make a list before you go to the store

Before you make a trip to the store write down what you need. Having a list in your hand will help to keep you on track and reduce those impulse buys.

28. Buy frozen vegetables

Frozen vegetables are an inexpensive option for getting your veggies in. Using frozen vegetables also helps to reduce the amount of food waste you waste because they won’t go bad at the bottom of your produce drawer.

29. Order your groceries online 

If the grocery store is your money saving arch nemesis, try ordering your groceries online. Most stores have this option now and you can either have them delivered or simply pick them up. Shopping online will reduce the impulse buys and you can keep track of your total easily as you add items to your cart.

30. Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap 

Liquid soap is expensive and it gets used up so quickly (not to mention it’s full of funky ingredients if it’s not organic). Instead, try and use bar soap. It’s cheaper and lasts much longer.

31. Ditch bad habits 

Cut down or completely eliminate those money sucking bad habits. This includes cigarettes, wine, pumpkin spice lattes, candy bars and chips from the gas stations or whatever you spend too much money on that you don’t need.  

Additional Resources to Help You Reduce Your Spending:

The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover is an easy to read and life changing book. This was the book that completely changed my outlook on our finances and motivated us to become debt free.

Join Budget Friendly Facebook Groups

When you need some extra support or some great money saving tips and budget advice, Facebook groups are a great place to go. I recommend The Busy Budgeter Facebook Group. It’s an active group with lots of great ideas. 

Use the Free Ibotta App

Learn how you can earn money just by scanning your receipts. Read everything you need to know about Ibotta

Looking to save money on your monthly bills? Check out these super simple money saving hacks! #moneysavingtips #moneysavingtipsformoms #savemoneyideas
meal planning for beginners | How to start meal planning
Meal Planning, Money

Meal Planning For Beginners

Do you find yourself eating out more than you would like? Spending a fortune at the grocery store and you still have to run to the store mid week? Do you buy too many groceries and end up throwing out food?

We used to spend $400 a month eating out on top of $500 a month grocery shopping for 2 people.  When I became a stay at home mom, we had to reduce our spending and this was one category I was determined to tackle. (You can read all about how we transitioned to a one income family here).

Now we spend $500 a month for a family of four and only eat out on special occasions. When we do eat out, we use our fun money to treat ourselves.

 Download the Meal Planning Guide for Beginners to get started!

Meal Planning As A Money Saving Tool

Meal planning is a great tool for families and individuals that want to reduce their overall grocery budget and limit the amount of money they spend on eating out.

But coming up with a meal plan is not the end all and be all to fixing this area of your budget. It takes commitment and determination to stick to your meal plan.

In the beginning, I found sticking to my meal plan extremely challenging and I always ended up buying items at the grocery store “just in case”. I also ended up throwing out a lot of food because I didn’t use it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there were times when I slipped into take out mode because I couldn’t be bothered to cook, even when we had a fridge full of food.

But I was determined to reduce our grocery budget.

Over time, I developed certain techniques and tricks that kept me on track that turned meal planning into a successful budget tool for our family. The tips I’m sharing with you will set you on the road to meal planning success and help you stay on track with your meal plan.

Related: How To Earn Money With Ibotta

If you are new to meal planning, or coming back to it after mediocre results, just know that it will be a learning process. Just like any new skill, it takes practice and patience.

But don’t worry! Not only will the tips below help you to create a simple meal plan, but they will set you up for meal planning success. You will cut your spending at the grocery store and on eating out!

The Secret to Meal Planning Plus Free Printable

How To Create Your Meal Plan

Start by downloading the Meal Planning Guide for Beginners. It includes everything you need to get started with meal planning.

1. List the Meals You Know How to Make

Make a list of all the meals you know how to cook or the meals you know your family will eat.

When you first start meal planning it’s good to stick with what you know. This is not to say that you shouldn’t try new recipes. If you are not a great cook, don’t worry! Your meal plan does not have to include meals that are super complicated with fancy side dishes. A meal can be as simple as grilled cheese sandwiches with soup.

Next to the meal, write down all the ingredients you need for that meal. Include any seasoning etc. If it helps you to write out the whole recipe you can also do that. I have an ingredient list written on mine just for reference. This makes it easier when I make my shopping list. 

I have a list of about 10-15 recipes that everyone in the family will eat. I rotate them, and some of these meals we have every week.

When you get started just remember the most important part of creating your go to meal list is to stick with what you know.

2. Look at your calendar

What do you have going on this week? Does your kid have a double header baseball game and you won’t be home until late? Are you going to a BBQ on the weekend?

Take this into account and mark these events on your meal plan calendar.  This way, you won’t plan to make a complicated meal on a busy weeknight. 

3. Fill in breakfast/lunch with simple ideas

Again, try not to over complicate things. Keep breakfast and lunch simple with quick or ready made options. Some simple breakfasts could be bagels, oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt.

Simple lunches might include sandwiches, homemade lunchables, or leftovers.

4. Fill in dinners based on what you have going on

Look at your master list of meals from step 1 and start adding it to your meal planning calendar taking into consideration what is happening that day. For that double header game day you might keep it simple with grilled cheese, or make a double batch of chilli the night before.

Related: 25 Easy Meals for Busy Nights

5. Make your shopping list

Take a look in your pantry and freezer and list what you have and what you need. Make this a very thorough list with EVERYTHING you need for your meal plan. By making this list as complete as possible, you are more likely to stick to only the items on your list and limit the “oh I should get one of these just in case, and one of these and….”

 

I want you to really focus on these first 5 steps and master them. Find what works and what doesn’t. If you make mistakes, don’t give up on meal planning! Everyone makes mistakes in the beginning. Remember, there is always a new week  and you can and will get better with practice.

 

Tips To Stay On Track

Here are a few of my favorite meal planning tips beginners tips that will help you stay on track.

Hang the Menu on the Refrigerator

Having the menu up on your refrigerator will help you to stay on track and also let your family know exactly what they will be having each day. This will also serve as a reminder of your goal. Give yourself a check mark or smiley face for each meal you stick to on your meal plan as a way to keep motivated!

Get Your Children Involved 

You can incorporate your children in the meal planning process by showing them (or telling them if they can’t read yet) your master meal plan list. Let them pick one or two of their favorites. You might ask “Do you want homemade pizzas or tacos?” Getting your family involved in the meal planning process will help them to understand and appreciate the change.

Take your Grocery List AND Meal Plan to the Grocery Store with you 

You’ve put all that work into creating a meal plan and grocery list,  so why not take it with you! Having these two on hand will help to keep you focused at the grocery store and limit impulse buys.

I usually take a picture of my grocery list and my meal plan with my phone so when I go to the grocery store I can remind myself of exactly what I have planned out for the week. If you are good at remembering paper lists, by all means bring the paper list. For me, I forget the list at home, in the car, or lose it completely more often than I would like to admit. Taking a picture of my list has saved me countless times!

Related: Cheap Meals Your Family Will Love

Meal Planning Pro Tips

Once you have mastered the 5 basic steps you can start incorporating some of these other techniques to help take your meal planning to the next level.

Plan Several Dinners with the Same Side Dish

If I plan to have rice twice a week, the first meal I make with rice I make a double batch. Anytime I can reduce work for myself, I am in. Or, I will make a big batch of a side dish, like pasta salad, and we will have that as our side dish for lunch and dinner for 3 days. You won’t have to worry about throwing out leftovers, because your meal plan incorporates your big batches. 

Plan around Sales

You can check what is on sale at your local grocery store and plan your meals around the sales. Chicken might be on sale, so plan to make several meals with chicken. If your budget allows, stock up for the next week, too. You need to learn how I earn cash back on groceries

Sunday Prep 

Do the bulk of your cooking one day a week. This might include pre-chopping veggies, putting together some crockpot dump recipes, or simply pre-making a whole bunch of food. This might include grilling 2 days worth of chicken or making a huge batch of macaroni and cheese for the week.

Themed Days

You can have themed days for your meal plan. Examples include: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, New Recipe Friday etc. I know many people who find having themed days a time saver that takes a lot of guess work out of meal planning.

Try eMeals

If you want to have greater variety in your meal plan and experiment with great recipes eMeals is the place to go. Each week you’ll get a recipe based on the menu plan you select (Family, Paleo, Vegan etc). Along with the recipe you will get a grocery list. You can also order your groceries from Walmart via the app and use their grocery pickup service.

Try eMeals Free for 14 Days

Meal Planning is a great budget tool you can use to reduce your spending at the grocery store and reduce your spending on eating out.

Don’t forget to Download the Meal Planning Guide for Beginners to get started!

 

meal planning for beginners | meal planning as a budget toolmeal planning for beginners

meal planning for beginners | meal planning as a budget tool

how to earn money with ibotta | grocery shopping
Frugal Living

How to Earn Money With Ibotta

Are you looking for easy ways to save money, with as little effort as possible? Are you done with couponing (or never got started) but still want to reduce your spending and earn cash back rewards?

I am always looking for simple ways to save money. I never got into couponing because it seemed like a tremendous amount of effort to purchase items or brands that were not my first choice.

Enter Ibotta. I was looking for money saving tips on Pinterest and it seemed like everywhere I turned, someone was raving about Ibotta.

Related: 31 Simple Ways to Save Money Every Month

Reluctantly, I downloaded Ibotta and now I’m kicking myself for not listening to the collective voice that was shouting how awesome this app is! Ibotta has more rebate offers than Coupons.com or anyone else.

How to earn money with Ibotta | money saving tips | grocery shopping | budget

Basically, Ibotta is a FREE app available on both Android and Apple devices that allows you to earn rewards for shopping you are already doing at stores you already love (Target, Walmart, CVS, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Kroger, and Costco just to name a few). They even have cash back rewards on produce and store brands. I’ll get back to all the possibilities later.

What you need to know now is that it’s free, super easy, and the rewards are real. Sign Up Now With My Referral Link and Get a $10 Bonus!

For example, this week I did my normal grocery shopping. I earned $3.25 on some basic items (like $.25 on Bananas).  If I earn this weekly, I will be able to earn $169 this year. And that’s just my grocery shopping!

I also went to Walmart for some toiletries and other items I needed for the house. I earned $7.75! Most of my rewards came from laundry detergent($2.00 for Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent) and Cover Girl mascara ($3.00!).

 

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Ibotta | Earn Rewards | Make Money

 

Getting Started with Ibotta

  1. Download the app and register a new account. You can use your email or sign up with Facebook. You can also sign up at www.ibotta.com
  2. Customize and choose your favorite stores. (You can look up the full list of retailers here.)
  3. Select the store you want to shop at. Scroll through the offers. When you find one you want, select the pink plus sign to “add”  the offer to your “My Offers” list.
  4. Go Shopping (and save your receipt).
  5. Select Redeem in the App. Scan your receipt, choose the offers you are redeeming and watch your totals add up!
  6. Once you hit $20 (which won’t take long, especially if you use my $10 link) you get paid via PayPal or Gift Card.
  7. Buy yourself a new pair of shoes with your extra cash, momma!

Surprising Items You Can Redeem Rewards For

These are a few of the most surprising items you can save on and earn cash rewards for.

  • Produce
  • Meat and Dairy
  • Alcohol – I mean really. It’s a good day when I get to have wine and be rewarded for it.
  • Clothing (UnderArmor, Hollister, Maurice’s, Gap, Belk and Dicks are just a few)
  • Dollar Stores (both Dollar Tree and Dollar General)
  • 10% off Hotels.com

How to Maximize Your Savings and Earn Cash Rewards

Connect Your Loyalty Card 

With Ibotta’s Preffered Partner Program, you can connect your loyalty card with Ibotta and skip the whole scanning your receipt process. Learn more about connecting your loyalty card here.

Join a team

By joining a team, you can earn even more rewards. Your team will be given a specific task or an earnings goal. When your team reaches the monthly goal everyone on the team will receive a cash bonus! Join my team when you sign up here!

Stack Your Rebates

Sometimes there will be rebates for name brand items and then an “any item” rebate as well. In addition, if the store has coupons or are running other specials you can save even more!

Look Up Items While You Shop

Forgot to check for rebates before you left home? Ibotta’s got you covered. You can use the barcode scanning tool to check any item and the app will tell you whether a rebate is available.

Check Out the Best Days to Purchase Certain Items at Walmart

In case you missed it, certain items are cheaper on certain days at Walmart. By purchasing specific items on certain days and combining this with Ibotta rewards, you are guaranteed the lowest price possible. Check out this cheat sheet!

Walmart Best Days to Buy | Ibotta | #earnrewards #ibotta

 

Honestly, I could go on. The one con of the app is that you will be prompted to watch a short video, answer a quick question, or view some other ad before you can redeem the reward. I don’t actually find this an inconvenience at all, especially considering my savings.

If you are looking for an easy way to save money and get cash back for shopping you are already doing than Ibotta is for you.

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Tell me what you think of the app! How much did you earn?

 

how to earn money with ibotta | money saving tips | grocery shopping
nerf birthday party | sleepover party | birthday party for boys
Kids & Parenting

Nerf War/ Sleepover Party on a Budget

This past weekend, we threw our son a sleepover party. He’s been asking for a sleepover party for a couple of years now, but I still felt like he was too young. This year, I finally gave in. So for his 8th birthday we invited his best buds over for video games, pizza, a nerf war and a sleepover.

We invited three of his friends, and one friend for my daughter so she would have someone to play with. Believe me when I say that this was enough! Any more kids and I think it would have been overwhelming for everyone. Plus, all the boys had a chance to interact and really enjoy their time together. There were lots of laughs all night long!

In addition to making sure the boys had lots of fun, my goal was to tire them out! I wanted to make sure everyone was ready to sleep at the end of the night. I had lots of activities planned and the kids had tons of fun. My son is already planning his sleepover for next year!

I was also super conscious of our budget. We have done parties at the typical birthday party places in the past, and while I loved the convenience of them they are so expensive! This year I wanted to have a party that my son would be so excited about but that wouldn’t break the budget.

Related: 3 Simple Steps to Reach Your Financial Goals.

For all the activities I had planned, I included the cost and some links so you know exactly which items I purchased. There’s too many choices out there ya’ll!

Birthday Party Activities

Nerf War

We made a super simple Nerf War course in our backyard using old amazon boxes. My original plan was to use wood pallets, but they were so hard to come by. Instead, we cut apart some of the Amazon boxes we had and spray painted them orange and blue.

Nerf War | Sleepover Party | Birthday Party #budgetbirthday

The Nerf War was a huge hit and the cardboard boxes actually worked out better than expected. For one, the kids could move them around into different configurations and build different bases. It was also much easier to clean up those cardboard boxes!

We also got some extra soft Nerf bullets and eye wear to keep everyone safe. Honestly, we could have done without the eye wear because the boys tossed them after one round.

Spray paint: $10
Soft Bullets $8.98 (Buy Them Here)
Eye Wear $15
Total Cost: $36.77

Water Balloon Fight

When everyone was hot and sweaty we had a water balloon fight. I bought These Bunch O Balloons and they were super easy to blow up! We had about 300 water balloons in 10 minutes. Not only were they super easy to fill up but I didn’t have to knot all 300 of them. They have a little rubber band that keeps the water in and your fingers happy!

Total Cost: $19.99

Birthday Party | Water Balloons | Nerf War #budgetbirthday

 

Laser Tag

When it got dark I sent the boys back outside for a game of laser tag. These laser guns came with 4 in pack and they are so much fun. Even my husband jumped in to play a round of laser tag. This was probably the most expensive item we purchased, but we made this item one of my sons birthday presents so it was kind of a win-win!

Total Cost: $59.99Laser Tag | Nerf War | Birthday Party #budgetbirthday 

Video games

We have a shield console which we use for all our media needs, but we only have 2 game controllers. I asked the moms to send everyone with ipads and they all had tons of fun sharing their ipads and taking turns on the video console.

Total Cost: Free!

Movie

When it was time to start winding down, I had everyone put on their pajamas and brush their teeth, then I got them settled for a movie. This was a great way to transition from running around like crazy to a calmer mood.

Total Cost: Free!

Sleepover Party Activity Total Budget: $116.75

Amazon had the best prices for the laser tag and bunch of balloons. They even beat WalMart.

Party Food

I don’t know about anybody else, but in my opinion, if the food stinks the party stinks. But that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated! I kept it really simple. This time around I also spent the money to have a cake made because I am the queen of Pinterest fails and I was just not about to put that kind of stress on myself.  I was also worried we wouldn’t have enough food and snacks, but everyone had plenty. I also left out the grapes and cheese and crackers and the kids snacked through the evening.

Cracker, Cheese, and lunchmeat tray $6
Grapes $4
Individual Bags of Doritos $4.99
Pizza $32.79
Cake $23

Total Food Cost: $70.78

Our grand total for the party was……. $187.53!

Honestly, the cost of the party could have been much less if we hadn’t splurged on the laser tag and the cake but those were the two biggest hits so I’m honestly glad that we did.

Sleepovers have a bad reputation but if you plan ahead, they can be enjoyable for you and the kids. I will definitely let my son have another sleepover birthday party!

Extra Sleepover Party Tips and Tricks

If you are looking for tips and tricks for throwing an awesome sleepover party check out these sites. They were super helpful when I was planning our party!

10 tips for hosting a successful sleepover

Boys Sleepover Ideas

The Sleepover Survival Guide

Check out these birthday party ideas for boys on a budget. Tips on setting up nerf wars, throwing s successful sleepover and lots of fun ideas the kids will love! These are all ideas we used for our son's 8th birthday party! #birthdaypartyideas

birthday party ideas for boys | nerf war | sleepover party | birthday party on a budget
birthday party ideas for boys | nerf war | sleepover party | birthday party on a budget