Back to School Shopping Complete!! (August Budget Challenge Update)

IMG_20140814_111913I’m happy to say that we have completed our back-to-school shopping.  What a blast we had, too!
I am monitoring our spending very closely this month for the August Budget Challenge, and doing everything I can think of to save.
We took advantage of the Savers Club Member clearance day….50% off all summer clothing, and 50% off all silver tagged items.  Being a thrift store, Savers is already nice and cheap – to add an additional 50% discount makes me one happy lady!
Here’s how we did (these are the totals for ALL of our school/work shopping, not just this last trip):

  •  ALL of my purchases (thrift stores and yard sales) included 3 pairs of pants, 14 tops, 1 skirt, 1 belt, and 2 bras.  My entire total:  $42.19.

  • My husband in total purchased 6 shirts, 1 (new with tag) pair of pants, and 2 shoes.  His entire total:  $12.82.

  • IMG_20140815_145251Munchkin got 2 pairs of shorts, 4 pairs of pants, 9 tops, 4 pairs of shoes/boots, 1 bed sheet, 1 hair straightener, 4 bottles of lotion, a pack of underwear and socks, 2 pairs earrings, 3 bras, 2 dresses, 1 coat, a backpack, and school accessories (pencils, erasers, folders, notebooks, crayons, etc).   She also went shopping with her grandma and bought 1 pair of shoes, 2 shirts, a pack of underwear and 1 pair of pants.  Her entire total is:  $62.48.

  • IMG_20140815_144222Buddy Boy got 4 pairs of pants/shorts, 11 tops, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 backpack, 1 robe, 1 coat, 1 bed sheet, and 1 nightshirt.  He also went shopping with his grandma and bought 2 pairs pants, 2 shirts and a pack of underwear.  His total:  $45.92.

We also used some of this budgeted money to buy other things at the yard sales:  ribbon, Christmas decor, kitchen supplies, etc.  We spent another $35 on those.


We originally budgeted $300 to go towards our back to school shopping.  Our actual total ended up being $198.41.  Gasp:  We made it under budget!!  YAY! 

The $101 we did NOT spend that was budgeted is being divided between groceries for next month and our emergency fund.  September is usually the month that money is the most tight, as it is the 3rd and final month that we are living on just my husband’s income (I work at a school and don’t get paid in the summer).  It’ll be nice to have a head start on the grocery budget.


Are you done with your back-to-school shopping already?  Or do you wait until the last minute like me? ;)


How to Save Money: I’m Sure You’ve Seen These Tips!


Is it just me, or do you ever find a blog title:  Save $$ in these 10 simple steps!”, or “How we saved $20,000 in one year!”, or even “12 ways to save money that you never thought of!”

indexI always take the bait and head to the sites that make those claims.  A lot of the time, I leave disappointed, either because I already do all of the things suggested, or because the tips don’t apply.


I suppose that’s part of life, right?  All of our experiences are SO vastly different, it’s impossible to provide answers for everyone in every situation.  I suppose that’s why we bloggers share what works for US, whether it’s a common piece of advice or not….in the hopes that someone, not everyone, but SOMEONE will be able to take at least ONE thing away from the advice and be able to apply it.  And so with that in mind, I wanted to share some of my own personal tips.

These tips are some of the most common ones I see:

  • Take your own lunch to work. 
  • Use the library for your media.
  • Switch to Netflix.  Well, I don’t know, but if you’re using the library, I don’t think you even need Netflix.
  • Cancel your gym membership.  I’ve NEVER had a gym membership – this is one of those tips that don’t apply to me.
  • Get your nails/hair/massages done less often; trim your own hair.
  • Stop drinking bottled water.




Just in case, I’ll share a few other things that we in my household do, although it is by no means an exhaustive list, and hey, maybe there will be something that is new for YOU.  Maybe none of them will be new, and you’ll be disappointed.   I’ll apologize in advance if that’s the case:

  1. Create a price book.  The idea is that you’ll have better knowledge by doing this, and you’ll be able to KNOW when a good deal is to be found.  I started doing this again recently as I’ve begun changing my diet.  It’s been quite helpful!  See how to make one HERE,  Or use this FREE printable.
  2. Buy our milk in bulk when on sale, and freeze.  Those little indentations on the sides of the gallons?  They are there in case of expansion.  So don’t be afraid to freeze your milk.  My husband doesn’t trust that there is enough space in the bottles, so he takes a drink out of each gallon before freezing it, lol.
  3. Have breakfast for dinner once a week.  Eggs and potatoes.  Cheap.  I found a 5 dozen package of eggs on sale for $3.99 last week.  That’s 7 cents per egg!  Make your own hashbrowns (out of REAL potatoes, not a frozen mix) and holy cow, you’ve hardly spent a thing for your dinner.
  4. Use “fillers” with our meats.  When making meatloaf or tacos, I always add a little something extra, just to stretch it.  You can add rice, oats, or even pureed beans.  Don’t go crazy if your family will hate it, but hey, every little bit helps, right?
  5. Bike or walk to work.  I know, for some people this is a “yeah, right” kinda thing.  I don’t live far from my work, so I walk.  It’s my daily exercise most days as well, so I don’t feel too guilty about the extra time I’m using “commuting”.
  6. Make our own homemade cleaners.  Homemade laundry detergent is actually kind of fun to make.  If it’s too much hassle, just use vinegar and water more for cleaning things.  Or baking soda.  If you’re feeling adventurous, try this all-purpose cleaner recipe, or this mattress stain remover.
  7. We keep the thermostat, like they suggest, at 78 degrees or higher in the summer.  I’m usually able to let it get to 80 before the kids start complaining.  We use a swamp cooler, which is less costly than central air, although admittedly, less effective.  In the winter, I keep the heat off while we’re at work/school, and then at 64 degrees when we’re home.  At night we lower it to 60 or so.  This isn’t something that I enjoy doing, but whenever I get our heating bill, I am suddenly re-motivated.  We wear sweaters and socks. :)
  8. Buy in the bulk sections.  If you have a Winco or health food stores near you, take advantage of the items in the bulk sections.  It’s awesome to be able to buy 2 oz of onion powder for $0.38 instead of having to buy a full package of the stuff for $1-$4.
  9. Buy thrift.  This is one we do a LOT of, not only because it’s cheaper, but because I feel like it’s helpful to the environment.  We actually just finished our back to school shopping today at Savers because they were having a 50% off sale!  It was so much fun and the kids are stoked.
  10. Drop the landline.  My husband works for a cell-phone provider, and so he gets a 50% discount on his cell phone(s).  Since we have cell phones, we dropped the landline that we weren’t using a whole lot anyway.
  11. Find and USE resources.  Does your mom have a peach tree?  Dang, then get over there and pick some peaches!  Got a neighbor who can’t keep up with her zucchini and is begging people to take it?  Well then, help her out and make yourself some zucchini bread!  Don’t be afraid to accept help when it’s offered, and don’t be unwilling to GIVE help when you are able either.    We are our own best resources.
  12. Learn a new skill.  My sewing machine sucks.  It knots every time I use it, blast.  So…I’ve been doing a lot of “hand” sewing.  My black slacks that have a hole in the thigh?  I’ve done a nice little (crappy) job of sewing them up.  They’ll last a little longer now. :) Maybe you can learn to bake bread.  Or to garden more efficiently.  There are thousands of online resources to help us learn more.
  13. Buy dry beans instead of canned.  Cook them in the slow cooker:   throw in a cup or two of dry beans, and then add 3 times the amount of water (1 cup beans + 3 cups water; 2 cups beans + 6 cups water).  Cook it on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours.  Season as you like.
  14. Participate in the occasional “pantry eating” challenge.  Pick a month and try to eat food from your pantry the entire month.  If you don’t have much food there, feel free to do it for a week.  Try to only buy fresh foods during that time.  Or set up a spending challenge:  No going out to eat for XX number of days.  Whatever you like; it helps keep things more fun.
  15. Save those coins!  We have our little coin jar and always, ALWAYS immediately after going shopping (because we generally shop with cash) we drop the change into the jar.  Every few months I’ll roll those coins up to see where we’re at.  Great for saving for a trip or to cash in if you’re low on money, or even to save for Christmas stocking stuffers.
  16. Pick up odd jobs.  This year was the first that Munchkin had the opportunity to make some real money.  She had 3 pet-sitting jobs, 2 for neighbors, and 1 that she shared with her brother for her grandma.  That girl made $90 this summer!  Doing odd jobs can be fun, simply because they’re not the norm.  My mom was looking for someone she could pay to mow her lawn this summer, and we volunteered to do it for her (for free, but she insisted on paying us.)  I just finished being part of an online study that will pay me $75 for 1 total hour of participation.  Those jobs may be far and few between, but take them when you can get ‘em!
  17. Update the auto & homeowners insurance policies.  This was something I never thought to do until this summer, because the home insurance comes out of our mortgage so it’s not on our minds, and well, I figured since we’d never had an accident, we already had the best auto rate.  Not so.  Last month I called and looked into things, and we were able to shave $40/month off our auto and $200/year off our homeowners.  Every few years, get yourself a quote.  You may just end up pleasantly surprised.


Do YOU have any frugal tips that you don’t see posted everywhere?  Share them in the comments, because friends, I NEED new ideas! :D




Back To School Coupons

Thanks to my friends at Escalante for putting together this fantastic list of coupons that are available – back to school style!


He asked his Mom, a Kindergarten teacher (30+ years!), and a few neighbors for copies of their supply lists and tried to put together some coupons that should be helpful for the beginning of the school year. These should pair well with plenty of on-sale items this month.

Hope these are helpful for you!
School Supply List Coupons
Breakfast Coupons
Packed Lunch & After-School Snack Coupons
Quick & Easy Dinner Coupons
Mom Survival Coupons

Have a great Monday!


Menu Monday and Weekly Goals

Hello, hello!


BoxcarChildren_400x400v2This last week was a good one.  I am officially allowed to workout again, as long as I don’t push too hard!  Yay!  I can feel an improvement and boost in energy, and I can tell my treatment plan is working.  I also had the chance to review a cute kids’ movie and am hosting a giveaway for a copy of the DVD.  Yes, a good week!


Holy cow, it’s the last week of summer break.  Time to get organized for back to school and back to work!  I’m sad for the break to end, but I feel partially content as well, knowing that it’ll be good for the kids, especially Buddy Boy, to be back on a more specific schedule again.  I’m hoping to get a lot done this week, but I also want to have some FUN too!  Hopefully I can find a good balance that’ll keep the kids and me happy.


Here’s the menu plan for the week:


Taco-Bowls__Monday – Baked Potato Bar

Tuesday – Del Taco (we’re running from hair appointments to back to school nights, so we’ll take advantage of Taco Tuesday!)

WednesdayRoasted Chicken and Potatoes

Thursday – Breakfast (waffles, fruit salad, etc)

Friday – Leftover Night

SaturdayHomemade Taco Bowls

Sunday – Family Dinner at my Mom’s



Goals for the Week:

  • Take car load of stuff to local thrift store.
  • Do a freezer cooking session.
  • Buy stuff for and put together gift baskets for some awesome volunteers at Resolution Horse.
  • Take Munchkin to get her hair done.
  • Take kids to Back to School Night.
  • Back to school shopping trip with Aunt Linda.
  • 2 Horseback riding sessions; 1 gymnastics class.
  • Harvest and juice grapes.


Have a great week!  We’re linked up at OrgJunkie. :)






Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions Book Review

Answering Your Kids Toughest Questions by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson


The Honest, Loving Answers Children Need to Hear

9780764211874What should you say when your five-year-old asks about his dying grandma? Or when your seven-year-old wonders if the devil is real? Or when the sixth graders in your Sunday school class are talking about a tragedy they heard about on the news? When it comes to the dark and tragic aspects of our world, it can be hard to know what to say and how much.

Mother/daughter team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson will carefully walk you through difficult conversations, one topic at a time. Speaking from personal experience, informed by child development research, these two moms offer practical insights and age-appropriate guidance.

Talking about tough topics may not be as hard as you think, and, more important, you’ll see how these conversations can lead to meaningful discussions of God’s unchanging goodness.


My Thoughts:

This is a really well-written, well thought out book.  The authors focus on Christ in giving advice for how we should talk to our kids.  There are some tough subjects covered:  divorce, sexual sins, and natural disasters, to name a few.  Each topic gets it’s own chapter, and is broken down into age-groups, which is nice.

I can’t claim to agree 100% with all of their suggestions, but I do feel that this book provides a great baseline, and that it is a great tool to get conversations rolling…particularly those that are hard to face.  Sometimes our kids ask questions that are just plain hard to answer – and this book really helps to give ideas.  It’s a book you’ll want to keep on hand to refer back to time and again.

I’m giving Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson 4 stars.  I really like it.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Bethany House Publishing.  All opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a copy of the book in exchange for this review and post.

August Budget Challenge – Grocery Update #2

I normally am not happy when I see that the month is nearly halfway over, because it means time is going too quickly, but today, I’m grateful.  This is because we only have half a month left to survive on not much money, ha ha!  We overspent this week again, although not as badly as the week previous.

Our grocery budget for the month is $220.  This includes non-food items as well, such as personal care, diapers, kitty food and liter, etc.

We did a couple of shopping trips to get the best prices on items:

Trip #1 – Smiths:

  • 4 boxes Chex cereal (back to school stock up item) – $1.99 each w/coupon, total $7.96
  • 1 can Kroger tomato sauce -  clearance for $0.19
  • 1 pkg cream cheese – $1.00
  • 8 Greek yogurts – clearance for $0.25 each, total $2
  • 1 cupcake (not pictured – treat for the kids for behaving) – clearance for $0.49
  • 6 pumpkin muffins (to freeze for snacks) – clearance for $1.99
  • 1 pkg Friskies cat food – $4.00
  • 1 loaf white bread – clearance for $0.59
  • 2 pkgs Hormel pepperoni – clearance for $1.49 each, total $2.98
  • 2 pkgs quart freezer bags – $1 each, total $2
  • 1 pkg brown rice – $1

Shopping total w/tax:  $25.21


Trip #2:

  • 2 lb bag carrots – $1.09
  • 3.33 lbs Kiku apples – $0.79/lb, total $3.03
  • 6 limes – $1
  • 2 red bell peppers – $0.79/each, total $1.58
  • 10.57 lbs bananas (freeze for smoothies) – $0.39/lb, total $4.12
  • 1 bunch parsley – $0.79
  • 1 pack pencils – $1.19
  • 2 pkg canning lids – $1.86/each, total $3.72
  • 3 2-liters cherry coke (for the hubby) – $5

Total w/tax:  $22.35

I was feeling okay about this week, and then my husband decided to surprise me and take another shopping trip:

Trip 3:

  • 6 gallons milk – $2.65 each, total $15.87
  • 1 large pkg cat liter – $11.99

Total w/tax:  $29.16


Total for the week:  $76.72


That leaves us with $50 for the rest of the month.  Can we do it?  I don’t know.  We’ll see!

The bad news:  We’re way over budget so far this month.  I was not planning for that 3rd trip.

The good news:  I don’t think we need to stock up on anything else for the month.  We’ve got tons of cereal, snacks, frozen meat, and now milk available.





Free Kindle Books (And Other Freebies)


Do you love freebies as much as I do?  How about reading?  If so, you’re in for the best of both worlds.  All items are free as of the date of publication…I will update this list weekly, so check back each week.

Please note:  Some links may be affiliate links, although most are NOT.  This is designed to help us keep our site up and running.  See our full disclosure policy for more information.


Backyard Farming - this is one I just had to take advantage of!

51BkvbQYJFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Productivity Habit Building


614i8nd5s7L._AA160_Vertical Gardening


51HPpEFNJXL._AA160_Natural Cleaning Solutions Made Easy


51BrNPbV+jL._AA160_DSLR Photography:  For Beginners


51afUezzDmL._AA160_The Positive Thinking Secret


51RA7QVyDSL._AA160_Clean and Organized


51A98uTKnrL._AA160_Essential Oils for Weight Loss

Children’s Kindle Books:

51cFzxVlKyL._SP160,160,0,T_I Wish I Were a Lion


51D5CDVjumL._AA160_Animal Life Funny & Weird


51wLD5BrFFL._AA160_George Washington:  Just the Facts!


41UI7zZmogL._AA160_Just Like Me


61LSW1saRqL._AA160_Terry Treetop and the Lost Egg


51e583mFGnL._AA160_Lily Lemon Blossom



51t6u4PImiL._AA160_5 Secrets to Get Out of Debt


41ukdM7XoxL._AA160_Sources of Wealth


51zG47cResL._AA160_How to Set Goals and Make It Happen







Hydroxycut Gummies


1391803076_2Nivea Lotion Sample


JELLO-Strawberry-FF2b9c7a49-9eda-48ea-a83b-29ac213ce366100% off coupon for 3-oz JELL-O


loreal-300x300L’Oreal Triple Resist (take a survey for the sample)





$10 Great Dates Book Review

$10 Great Dates by Peter & Heather Larson and David & Claudia Arp


9780764211355Tired of the usual dinner-and-a-movie dates? Looking for new ways to connect with your spouse?

Energize your marriage by getting out of your normal routine with the help of these 52 creative date ideas. From outdoor dates to out-on-the-town dates, you and your spouse will have no trouble finding the perfect date that fits your mood–all on a $10 budget!

See for yourself how new experiences can help you bond together and nurture your relationship. Which of these will be the first of your Great Dates?

· Time Travel Great Date
· Moonlight/Sunrise Great Date
· Bucket List Great Date
· Surprise Me! Great Date

Each date includes easy preparation suggestions, tips for the date, talking points to enhance your conversations, and a Great Date takeaway. What are you waiting for?

My Thoughts:

This is a fun book, one I’ll refer to many times in the future.  There are a lot of different affordable date night ideas, ideas that look enjoyable and fun.  I’ll definitely be using as a reference!  You can use these tips for family night activities as well, if you are so inclined.

One idea I love is the $5 gift idea:  You each get $5 and 30 minutes to find a gift for your loved one in that price range (including tax).  You could make this silly by trying to find the funniest gift, or you could turn it more sentimental by searching for a meaningful gift.  Other ideas include volunteering and serving, incorporating holidays into your dates, and doing family history.

I really like the layout of the book as well.  Each date idea is numbered, and includes 2-3 pages or so of details.  Date ideas are categorized as well, and so it really makes for easy reference.

I’d recommend this book to anyone that is married.  I really, truly would.  Heck, anyone with kids can find a lot of fantastic ideas as well.  Like I said, I’m planning to do some family activities with what is shared here.  I’m giving $10 Great Dates 5 stars.  I love it!

Many thanks to Bethany House for providing this book to me.  The opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a copy of the book in exchange for this review and post.



Debt Payoff Plan: Part 1

Well, my friends, I’m not excited to be posting today.  It’s time I face a demon.  Today I’m going to be sharing with you the entire story of our newly acquired debt.  And the numbers.


The numbers.


I get sick just thinking about it.


So…you may remember me complaining about the $5,100 of medical bills I’ve accumulated.  That’s part of it, a big part of it, but it’s not the whole picture.  Let me give you a timeline of what’s been going on:

  • In March, April and May we had car problems.  Same car, new problems.  Each month.  In all, we spent $1,700 on fixing up this car.  First tire problems, then brakes, and then the door, and then the locks.  Holy cow!
  • At the end of May, I decided I had to do something about my fatigue and overall sickness, and I decided the solution was to work out!  I (stupidly) spent $80 buying in-home workout tools, dvds, etc.  I thought it a worthy investment at the time
  • In June I discovered why I was so sick, and exercise wasn’t the solution, lol.  June and July were the months I racked up my pretty little $5,100 of (out of pocket) medical bills.  A worthy cause for debt, but still debt.
  • In July our air conditioning went out.  Fortunately, we use a swamp cooler, so the cost to fix it wasn’t much, but by this time our emergency fund was depleted.  We added another $75 to the card.

I don’t share this to try and get sympathy, or to make excuses for our new mountain of debt.  I think it’s a great example of how many people fall into the trap.  Trying to do the right thing, living paycheck to paycheck, and then something unexpected comes up, and like us, they don’t have enough (if any at all) in an emergency savings fund, and suddenly their financial world is turned upside-down.  For others, it’s a gradual, sneaky thing….something you don’t really see coming, because it’s slow growing.

Either way, it’s a trap we all need to GET OUT OF.  And that’s what I intend to do.


The first step, though, is to be honest, right?  To be informed of the situation, in all it’s glory.  Here goes:

Our total debt amount as of today, August 15, is:  $8,445.86 (this does not include our mortgage.  It is all other debt).  Blech!

Our emergency savings was depleted, and we are wanting to build it back up asap.  Right now we have $102 in our savings.  Eek!

credit-card-309613_640Using every resource we can, we’ll be first building up the emergency fund to $500, and then attacking that blasted debt.  We are a family of 4, living on $32,000/year ($2,667/month).  We have a monthly mortgage payment of $1,040.  That’s the main gist, anyway.  I know that it’ll be slow going, simply because we don’t have a lot of money left at the end of the month, but I’ll be implementing and sharing things that we’ll be doing to save money, and even make a little extra here and there.


Wanna join me?  Let’s erase our debt once and for all!!







The Boxcar Children DVD: Review and Giveaway

BoxcarChildren_400x400v2About the Film

Four orphaned and homeless siblings happen upon an abandoned boxcar, which with a little creativity and hard work, they gradually furnish with all the comforts of home. Fearful that they will be sent to live with the reputedly cruel grandfather they have never met, the children keep their new home a secret – until a serious illness forces them to reveal themselves in order to save young Violet.

About the Cast

Featuring an all-star cast of voice actors, including Academy Award Nominee Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now), J.K. Simmons (Spiderman), Zach Gordon (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Joey King (Fargo), Mackenzie Foy (Twilight series), and Jadon Sand (LEGO: The Movie), this is the very first full-length, animated feature adaptation of Gertrude Chandler Warner’s best-selling classic!

My kids weren’t as excited to watch this film as I had hoped they would be, so it sat on our entertainment center for a week.  Last night, I decided I was gonna just watch it myself!  As I’d assumed, my kids heard the television on and came in to see what I was watching.

We all LOVED it!  It’s an adorable, sweet film.  Throughout the entire movie, Munchkin (11) kept saying, “Wow, they are so nice!”, or “they are so creative!”, or “what a great idea!”  as she watched.  She started out thinking the movie would be too young for her, but she really liked it.  Buddy Boy (7) kept calling the characters the Box Elder children, lol, and he’s already asked me twice today if he can watch it again.

Buddy Boy has a REALLY hard time with movies.  I’ve played church-made, gentle films (like this one) and he’s had nightmares over them.  I was definitely hesitant about playing this before bed, but I needn’t have worried.  Although there is conflict in the story, it’s not “scary” or high intensity, and so he did great with it.  In fact, I woke up to him telling me his version of the “Box Elder” Children story. :)

At times I personally was moved as well.  It’s definitely a children’s story, but I enjoyed watching these kids’ ingenuity come out, and I came away thinking that I can do a better job at being self-reliant.  Who would have thought I’d come away motivated to do better myself?  It was a pleasant surprise.

Another surprising benefit I’ve seen since watching the movie:  My kids are making extra effort to be nice to each other, like the siblings in the film.  Munchkin told me, “this makes me want to be a better big sister!”  How awesome is that??  This movie gets the FULL 5 stars from me.  We all love it!


Okay, so now you need to know how to get your own copy, right?  Here’s your first option.  You can Preorder at Walmart  .  Option 2:  You can win it here!  Pretty sweet, right? 

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.