When you can't pay your bills..

No matter how frugal you try to be, there may come a time when you simply can't make ends meet. What do you do when you're faced with termination of a utility because you can't pay the bill? It's happened to me a few times throughout my life and it wasn't in my lack of planning or because I was spending frivelously. The fact was plain and simple, I didn't have enough money. So what can you do?

Prevention is key when it comes to termination notices. You know when you're behind on a bill so it couldn't hurt to call, explain your situation and ask for payment arrangements. A lot of companies are willing to work with you but you need to contact them before their service people are at your door to disconnect.

You might be able to pay the bill off by raising some quick cash. Some great ways to get cash quickly is to sell things you're not using on eBay or Craigslist. If you have enough time, you could have a yard sale. Another idea is to take some things to the pawn shop. Pawn shops take all sorts of items from video game consoles to jewelry so that might be a good way to get some cash and you'll be able to buy your items back later.

If you have no luck with payment arrangements or selling things, perhaps you could borrow a bit from a relative or friend. Now, I know this isn't what you want to do, but in order to keep your gas, electric or water going, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Make sure you have a clear agreement of when the money will be paid back and stick to it. If you pay them back as promised, if the time ever comes in the future (Lord forbid) that you need a loan again, they'll be more likely to help you out.

As a last resort you can always look into getting help from social service agencies. I know the Salvation Army will help people out with their utility bills if they fall short. You can contact your local Department of Health and Human resources to see if they have an emergency assistance program that you may qualify for. There are income guidelines to meet of course but it can't hurt to try.

Frugal Baby Tips

I was looking up how to make homemade baby wipes and found the most amazing frugal baby site that I wanted to pass along. There are fabulous tips including natural bug spray and info on homemade baby toys. If you have a baby or know someone who does, you won't want to miss Frugal Baby Tips!

I've done my shopping for the week and managed to save $100 more than usual. There are a few things that I still need to pick up from Walmart because Save a Lot didn't have them. I'll use coupons though and I'll surely spend less than normal. The problem with Walmart shopping is in my area it's always crowded, I'll have to take the kids with me and I always spend more than I should!

I'm also planning to stop by AC Moore craft store and use the 40% off coupon I printed out from SmartSource. Not sure what I'll be buying yet but I just love to browse that place.

I did my CVS shopping earlier in the week. I bought some bottled water, cereal bars and Coke and got back $16 in ECB. I might go back today for some more water and deodorant which will give me $4 more in ECB that I'll use for the new sale starting tomorrow! I'm really getting into this.

That's all I have for now. I need to do some laundry then I'm off to the storea! Wish me luck, it's Saturday so I know it's a jungle out there!

Flea Market Shopping 101

With money being tight, a flea market can be an excellent place to search for items you need. If you've never been to a flea market, you don't know what you're missing. There are so many treasures to be found! Don't let the rows and rows of tables intimidate you! You'll surely find some great deals but it does require a little effort and planning before you head out the door in search of treasure. Read on for some tips on how to shop at a flea market.

1) Do your homework. Find the right flea market depending on what you're looking for. Are you wanting to spruce up your living room on the cheap? Looking for kids clothes? Trying to find collectibles to resell? Sometimes different flea markets offer different items. Some have collectibles and antiques others offer newer items, clothing, electronics and whatnot, and then there are the ones that have a combination. Do an online search of "flea market and your state", ask friends and family and check local newspapers for flea market listings. There are also a lot of groups on Facebook for local yard sales and flea markets in your area. If you don't know how to get to a location, be sure to print out driving directions online.

2) Dress properly and be prepared for any kind of weather. Wear comfortable clothes. Jeans or shorts and a t-shirt will do nicely but make sure you have pockets for your cash. Comfortable shoes are a must as you'll be on your feet for long periods of time. If there's a chance of rain bring a raincoat with hood and if it's cooler bring a jacket. Leave the purse and umbrella behind because flea marketing is a hands on sport. Sunblock is very important as well so make sure you apply it and keep some in the car. Having a pair of sunglasses isn't a bad idea either.

3) Eat before going because flea market food is usually expensive, greasy and may give you the runs (sorry, it's true). Porta-potties aren't so great at flea markets either and some flea markets have no restrooms at all. You might want to pack a lunch because some flea markets have no concessions. Pack your cooler with sandwiches and drinks then leave it in your car. Consider a canteen style drinking container that attaches to your jeans or belt so your hands will be free to dig for treasures.

4) Arrive early if you're worried you'll miss out on the good stuff. It is common sense that being first in line will give you first pick at items. Don't discount arriving later in the day though. Many times you'll get a better deal toward the end of the day. A lot of sellers would rather let something go for cheap than pack it back up and lug it away.

5) Cash is king. Carry plenty of cash in all denominations. Most vendors won't accept personal checks or credit cards. Get a receipt when you buy a high ticket item to help you keep track of money spent.

6) Be careful who you take with you. You'll want as little distraction while you're bargain hunting as possible so if you do take someone, make sure they'll leave you alone and let you "snoop".

7) Learn to haggle. Don't be afraid to offer less for an item. Most flea market vendors expect it and usually mark items up just a bit for that reason. If something is already priced fairly, don't ask for too much off because it's insulting to the seller. Consider buying more than one item from a vendor and they will be more likely give you a discount. Don't feel bad about walking away if they won't deal with you. It's all part of playing the game.

8) Don't buy something just because it's cheap. Make sure you actually have a use for an item before handing over the cash. It's a shame to waste money on something that will end up in the attic or on a shelf at Goodwill. Ask yourself "Who will use this or where will it go?" If you can't answer, don't purchase.

9) Know what you're looking for and research it. If you're buying antiques and collectibles, have some idea of the value and condition. Consider making yourself a cheat sheet as a quick reference about the items you seek. I like to carry a running list of things that I want and need so I can keep my eyes open for those items.

10) If you're shopping to resell,use your cell phone to check completed listings on eBay.

11) Take a tape measure if you'll be buying clothing or trying to find a piece of furniture to fit in a specific space. Speaking of furniture, make sure you have a way to transport any larger pieces you may find.

What are your flea market shopping tips? Do you have any awesome finds to share? Tell us! =)

Finding Time for it ALL

As I search around the blogosphere and read blogs of other frugal or work at home moms, I sometimes feel like I'm just not cutting it. What I'm saying is, I seriously lack time management skills and I can't understand how they find time to do it all in one day. I know we're all given the same 24 hours but how we use it makes so much difference in the amount we can accomplish. I have no problem admitting I am terrible at time management. I have poor organizational skills and it's making my quest for frugal living even harder. Cutting coupons, searching sites for the best deals, managing the CVS Extracare buck deals, making a shopping list, creating frugal meals from scratch, housework, taking care of the kids, earning an income at home... Some days I feel like I don't have time to go to the bathroom! It's even difficult for me to find time to blog and read other blogs. Sometimes I feel like I'm spreading myself way too thin but all these things need to be done!

I need to get myself on a schedule and maybe I need a life coach but I can't afford one so I'll have to be my own. I'm reading all the information I can find online about time management and organization. I try to prioritize but I feel like I'm buried under a huge mound of EVERYTHING and I don't know how to start digging my way out.

How do you manage your time and keep your sanity? Any advice is welcomed ( and much needed!)

Updated to add that I found www.beingfrugal.net and the tips are awesome. LOVE IT! =)

Frugal Beauty Tips

If you've been reading my blog you know about my dental problems. Now I know you're thinking, what the heck does that have to do with frugal beauty tips? Well, I have been taking a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Aleve for pain and I wanted to make sure I flushed it out of my kidneys so I've been drinking tons of water. Guess what? My skin, which is usually plagued by adult acne, is clearer than it's been in a LONG time. I know it has to be the water. I do normally drink water but probably not enough. My skin looks so much better and I even think the fine lines that I had seem to be reduced. Amazing.

Since we're on the subject of frugal beauty tips, I have a few that I'd like to share with you. Everyone should take time to pamper themselves and make themselves look and feel gorgeous. How can we make taking care of ourselves a priority without unloading hundreds of dollars at the cosmetics counters? There are quite a few ways to save money on looking great.

Use witch hazel as astringent. It's very cheap and can be easily found. Just use it the same way you would any commercial astringent.

Vaseline - I LOVE Vaseline. I use it to soften the skin on my knees and elbows. I put it on my feet then cover them with cotton socks overnight to help with dry, cracked heels. Vaseline is also great to use as a lip gloss. And speaking of lips, add some sugar to your Vaseline covered lips and rub with your finger for a couple minutes. This will exfoliate your lips and keep them smooth and soft.

Get enough sleep - This is completely free and not only will you look better, but you'll feel better too. Sleep is the body's way to recharge so make sure you get at least 6-8 hours a night.

Unscented baby wipes - Baby wipes are great for removing makeup. REALLY. I use them all the time. Why buy prepackaged commercial brand makeup wipes when these work just as well for a fraction of the cost?

Wash your hair every other day - Unless your hair is extremely greasy, too frequent washings can strip hair of essential oils.

Stay soft with a homemade sugar scrub
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/8 cup vegetable oil
Before your shower, rub this all over especially elbows, knees and feet. You probably want to do this while standing in the shower otherwise you'll end up with a sticky mess.

Save money on cosmetics -

Ask for for free samples at department stores and shop drugstores. CVS has a lot of great deals on makeup and you can even earn extracare bucks!

Become a representative for a company like Avon or Mary Kay. Not only can you earn a little extra income, you can also save on your own purchases.

Do your own nails. It takes a little time and practice but it definitely pays off in the end. Search the internet for details on how to do your own manicure. In my area a manicure is between $25 and $40 so the savings can add up fast.

Buy products from a company with a good return policy. I'm not sure if they still do but Rite Aid used to offer a no questions return policy for makeup. I know Cover Girl will refund you if you're not satisfied. Do your homework before you buy.

Read reviews before making a purchase. If there's something specific you're looking for such as a great moisturizer or a new foundation, check out sites like ePinions and read beauty blogs for reviews on the latest cosmetics.

Buy cheaper makeup. A lot of the high price brands have you paying extra just for the name. When you compare ingredients, you'll see that many of the lower priced items are basically the same as the pricier ones. Aziza, Cover Girl, Bonnie Bell and Wet n Wild are a few brands that have some really good products that aren't expensive.

Beauty Supply Stores - These places are a wonderland for anyone who wants to save money and look great. I could spend hours inside Sally's Beauty. I can buy anything from products to highlight my hair to makeup sponges for really great prices. There's even a SallyBeauty.com Clearance Center to help you save even more.

What are your frugal beauty tips and ideas?

Frugal, Fun Ideas for Bored Kids

With summer right around the corner, I'll have a house full of bored kids. I'm trying to come up with some interesting things we can do that are fun and frugal. Aside from sending a couple of them off to summer camp (not really cheap but they need the break) we don't have much planned this year. Here are my ideas so far..

Going on picnics - Even if it's just on our own patio, it should break up the monotony of things a bit.

Visit any local museums. There are a few that I know of that we've never been to. I'm pretty sure they're free too.

Free concerts - They hold concerts every week throughout the summer at area parks. I need to find a list and choose which ones they'll enjoy most.

Library - We'll visit the local library to rent movies and check out some great books. Our library even has a story time and special activities for kids.

Computers - There are lots of fun sites that are child friendly and geared toward kids.

Draw pictures or color in coloring books - Coloring has always been one of my favorite things to do. Fingerpainting is another fun thing we'll have to try.

Cook together - This will teach them skills they'll need in the future and also be fun. I'll be seeking some easy, kid friendly recipes that we can all make together.

Boardgames - This is an old standby but it can be lots of fun. We can also play charades, hangman or a card game like go fish.

Go to the mall- You don't have to spend money to have a good time at the mall. People watching is fun, and we can enjoy the air conditioning and hit the sales racks for bargains. One local mall has a pet store, and we won't miss out on that!

Read books to each other- It's really fun to start reading and then take turns making up your own endings. I love some of the things the kids come up with. They have great imaginations.

Treasure hunts - I give each child a dollar or two and head out to the thrift stores and yard sales to see what cool things they can find for their money.

Water battles - use old, rinsed out shampoo bottles or dish soap bottles, squirt guns and pails.

What activities do you do during the summer to occupy the kids?

No dental insurance - BIG mistake, HUGE!

I've never really given much thought to having a dental plan until this past week. Of course, I make sure the kids have their check-ups and routine dental care but I've put off having things done and now I'm paying for it (figuratively and literally).

Last week I started having some pains in my jaw. I dealt with it until the pain got so intense I could barely open my eyes. On Saturday, I had to go to the ER. I had a fever and was really scared of getting sepsis from an infection. They told me I had an abscess under my teeth, in the roots, and gave me a prescription for antibiotics and a painkiller, Tramadol (which doesn't work, by the way).

I won't be able to get this completely taken care of for about 10 days. I saw the dentist, they told me to keep taking the antibiotics and the infection should clear up. Today is the first time I've really felt any relief so obviously, the Amoxicillin has kicked in. Too bad it took about 98 hours. I can honestly say, the pain I was having rivaled labor and delivery.. and I've had seven kids so I know what I'm talking about.

Now, for the dental plan that I don't have... I know we need dental insurance. I'm looking into it. It seems pretty affordable for the most part. Any savings is welcome because dental visits can get pricey. Did you know for preventive care it only costs an average of $150 a year and that's without insurance? I just regret letting it get to the point where I need such extensive work.

If you have any suggestions for dental plans or ideas on how to save money on dental care, please feel free to share!

There's no such thing as "Cheap" Child Care

I've found out one of the most difficult tasks as a parent can be finding someone you trust to watch your children. Whether it's for a night out with your partner or a full-time sitter while you work, you have to be careful and thoroughly research the people you leave your children with. There's just no real way to be frugal or cheap when it comes to paying for child care. This is one time when money can't get in the way of quality. Cheap just won't cut it when your child's safety, emotional and educational needs are involved.

How can you assure your child will get quality care without going bankrupt?

You'll have to learn to scrimp in other areas to afford care for your child. Being frugal in all other areas could afford you to pay for childcare. It's a sacrifice of course, but well worth it.

See if a trusted family member can watch them. While you probably wouldn't want them to keep your child every day, a family member works out nicely for special occasions. Perhaps one of them would like additional income and if need be, watch them while you work. It would most likely be more affordable than hiring someone outside the family.

If you have a job that is flexible and allows you to stay home, then you can do most of your work while your child is sleeping. Maybe hire someone to come in one day a week to care for the kids so you can get a huge chunk done and meet deadlines.

Trade child care with a friend. Setting up a child care exchange system can work out well if you have kids around the same age. Take turns watching each others children and it won't cost you a dime.

Work opposite shifts than your partner so one of you will always be around to watch the kids. In tough times, this can be a great solution but be sure to find time to spend alone with your partner.

Universities will sometimes have a daycare affiliated with it. They usually offer open spots to faculty and students but if there are any left over, you may be able to have your child placed there. Typically, child development students are caring for the children and it's very affordable.

Don't be too proud to seek financial assistance for childcare if you qualify. The US Government has state listings for child care information available. It's definitely an option to explore if you've exhausted all others.

Remember, the care of your child is the best investment you'll ever make so you never want to opt for the cheapest care just because it's cheap. Ask family and friends for referrals, check with your church, search classifieds and online for local babysitter listings, do background checks and ask for references. You can never be too careful.

How do you afford childcare? What sacrifices do you make?

Frugal Spring Decor

Trees are turning green, flowers are blooming and things are starting to feel really fresh and new. You need a lift with some Spring spruce ups in your decor? Don't let a tight budget stop you from decorating this season. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a fresh, new look in your home for Spring.

Start by searching your closets, cabinets, attic and basement for items that you have stored away. Maybe you have some white, gauzy curtains, fresh floral linens and pillows or maybe
some pretty vases.
Make centerpieces for your table and coffee table from silk flowers or fresh flowers. If you don't have a garden go for a walk and find some wild flowers or ask a neighbor if you can cut some from their garden. Also, a lot of farmers markets have flower stands with discount bouquets toward the end of the day.

Make a fun, spring wreath for your front door for less than $5! This can be a fun and easy craft for yourself or to have the kids join in on.

Shop the after Easter sales. There are still some bargains to be had. All those colorful baskets, containers and what nots don't always have a strict Easter theme. Check out the dollar stores and places like Big Lots to see what's on sale.

Paint some plain, old flower pots in fun spring colors.

Clip pictures of flowers from Gardening books and place inside of cheap frames from the thrift store.

Go for anything that says Spring to you. It's amazing how simple and inexpensive changes in your environment can really lift your spirits!

Photo -Krzysztof Korolonek | Dreamstime.com

Frugal wedding gift ideas that aren't "cheap"

With the summer months coming up, I know there will be a lot of weddings because, 'tis the season. This got me thinking about budget friendly wedding gifts. I wouldn't want to give something just because it's cheap, would you? Sometimes with a little thought and creativity, you can create an inexpensive gift that will be adored and may even become an heirloom. I've come up with a few resourceful ideas that not only would I feel comfortable giving but I know I'd love to receive.

Create a photo album or scrapbook with pictures of them from infancy up to their wedding. Ask family members to help supply pictures!

Make a "his and hers" journal with pages for each to enter thoughts about the wedding, honeymoon and early married life. This will be fun for them to look back on in later years and share with their family.

Make a great gift basket for two with gourmet coffee and personalized mugs.

Place their wedding invitation in a nice frame with matting.

Create a DVD with video footage of them through their relationship. You can also make a slideshow of photos set to music!

Buy a laundry basket or some other storage container and fill it with cleaning supplies, personal care items and other things perfect for a newly married couple just starting out.

Make a cookbook with recipes from their family and friends. Be sure to add plenty of blank pages so they can include their own favorites.

Photo from Dreamstime.com

Money's everywhere, find some for yourself =)

In my quest for extra money, I decided to write the following. I know this seems like a strange way to come up with a few extra dollars but when every penny counts, it couldn't hurt. Besides, it can be done throughout your day and not take any extra time!

How often have you dropped change in a public place and didn't bother to pick it all up? How many times have you found coins or even cash while walking from your car to the store? It does happen on occasion and we could find a lot more free money just lying around if we were actually looking for it. Some places are better than others when trying to find money, it's just a matter of taking a closer look.

The Sidewalk - When you're walking from place to place, keep an eye open for change, especially near parking meters and self pay parking machines.

The Laundromat - People are using coins all day at the laundromat and at some point, some are dropped and never picked up. Be sure to check around the washers and dryers and also near the snack and change machines.

Vending Machines - You don't have to reach inside every coin return slot. People drop coins around vending machines all the time.

Stores - It's logical that people are going to drop money near registers. I do it all the time. Run your foot along the outside edge of the end caps and the edge of the shelves going down the lane. Sometimes the money is there, but not in plain sight.

Parking Lots - When walking from your car to the store and back, take a little time to check the ground. I've found money in parking lots numerous times, especially where the lot meets the sidewalk entrance of the store and around the cart return areas.

The entire eHow article is here

Convincing family to be frugal isn't always easy..

The other day, I touched on the subject of saving money for groceries and mentioned my soda guzzling hubby. Well, that got me to thinking about obstacles in our way of living frugally and how to deal with them. Friends, family and coworkers alike may try to sabotage our efforts to live on less. Even if they don't realize they're doing it, they can make us feel belittled with their comments as well as their actions. I know it really frustrates me that my husband has this soda addiction but that only makes me determined to look for other areas to save.

So, how can you deal with a not so frugal party pooper? Everyone in the household needs to be on board if you want to be successful at keeping costs down. Whether it's a struggle with hubby over buying soda, brand name clothes shopping for teens or eating at home instead of restaurants, you need to convince them to be on your side.

With kids, I've found the best way to get them to spend less is to have them earn their own money. If they get an allowance, make sure they know once it's gone, that's it. If your teen has to have certain brands of clothes, turn the shopping over to them but let them know they have a certain limit and if they want anything else, they need to figure out how to get it for themselves. Of course, introduce them to thrift stores and consignment shops. My daughter knows she can get about 10 pair of brand name jeans at the thrift for the price of one pair at Abercrombie. They'll either learn to shop smart or have a very limited wardrobe.

Younger children want every toy they see on commercials, don't they? The thrifts come in handy for this as well. My 5 year old knows he can buy one cheap toy at the department store or fill a whole bag with toys for $2 at the thrift. He is already learning to stretch his dollar and he rarely asks for anything when we're out shopping because he knows where the bargains are!

Now, for the toughest of all, the adults. Sometimes they're so stuck in their ways they can't imagine change even if it means saving money. I do understand having preferences but I don't understand being inflexible. Talk to them, show them on paper how much you can save by making a few changes and simple sacrifices. Don't nag them. Nagging gets you nowhere. Sit them down and show them all the advantages of your plans to save. Ask them what they're willing to cut back on and go from there. Think of it as playing a game of Let's Make a Deal. If you realize you're not getting anywhere with them, drop the subject until a later time. Again, I have to say, don't nag =)

Who are they really hurting? The Duggar Crew

You've heard of the Duggars, right? The family with 17 (or is it 18?) children that have a TV show on TLC. Well, all over the internet today I've been reading a bitch fest about how they're ruining the earth with their crappy diapers in landfills and how they have their older children raising the younger children, etc. Okay, I do understand they are the extreme but they're not asking anyone for a dime. They don't use tax payers money to support their children. Hell, they don't even use the public school system. Do your kids go to public school? Ahhhh, you're using taxpayers money to fund your child's education!

I have seven children myself and let me say that I wish my kids were half as cooperative and well adjusted as theirs seem to be. I realize you only see a portion of their lives on television so we're probably not getting the whole story but these kids are great. Michelle has such a good hold on them parenting wise. It just amazes me. The older children help out, sure, but what's wrong with that? They're learning skills that will only help them later in life should they choose to have a family of their own. I could just imagine what would happen if I had my kids in charge all the time.. I don't think it would go so smoothly. I don't know what they do or how they do it, but by God, I admire them for it. Just look at how calm Michelle looks most of the time and she looks so young. I'm 35 and most days I look like some worn out, dried up hag bag. So what if she wants to keep having kids? She's good at it and she's popping out "quality" kids!

These people are pretty darned self sufficient if I must say. Look at their house. They built that! Sure they had some help along the way but there's nothing wrong with that. They know how to take care of themselves, the children included. They know how to take care of each other. In my opinion, the world needs more self sufficient people and parents who aren't afraid to teach those skills to their kids. I'm doing my best and feel like I'm falling short when it comes to giving my kids responsibility. Who do you think will be better off, the child who is catered to all their life or a Duggar kid who has chores, responsibilities and knows their role in the family. They're raising productive, kind, resourceful children with great values and I think that makes up for any "waste" they might cause.

I read somewhere about them taking away from others because of food shortages.. Um, what food shortages? Sure, sure I know what you're going to say but have you looked at what YOUR family throws out on a day to day basis? Look at all the food wasted by the restaurant industry, not to mention the grocery chains.

Now Jim Bob and Michelle are going to be grandparents. Yep, that's right.. their eldest son, Joshua and his wife are expecting their first child. The more the merrier I say.

It's Time for a Little Change...

In the past I've saved change in a jar or container of some sort and cashed it in when it was full, or when I needed a few extra dollars to make ends meet. I've decided to start doing that faithfully to see how much I can save. I'll of course, add this to my emergency fund savings. I recall filling a jar and it was over $80 when finally cashed in.. that's a nice little chunk of change right there.

I'm going to take this one step further and save all of my one dollar bills as well. I got this idea from "The Dollar Bill Challenge". I really have no idea how much I could save but we'll see. With our budget as tight as it is right now, I'm not sure if I'll put all the savings from the dollar bills toward the emergency fund or see if I have enough to pay a bill and then save whatever is left. We'll see how it goes.

This will only be effective if I cut back on using the debit card. What I'm planning to do is use the debit card when I make my main household purchases such as toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste and such but get cash back with the transaction. I can't stand the thought of wasting a few of my hard earned dollars on ATM machine fees. As of right now, there's no charge for getting cash back so that's the best option for me.

Saving For a Rainy (er) Day

We've all heard how important it is to set up an emergency fund. Some say we should have enough saved to get us through three months with no income, others say six. I'm going to say that in this day and age, I'd like to have closer to 9-12 months saved just for my own peace of mind. Right now, I have a whopping $16 in my emergency fund. I'd be lucky if that bought diapers for a week. I didn't mean for my fund to be so low but things came up and it didn't take long for the small amount I had saved to dwindle. So here I am back at square one.

I think it's important to set small, weekly savings goals and take baby steps toward building up savings. I know if I really try, I could save around $10 a week easily. In a year that would be $520. What I need to do is to figure out how to save beyond that. Perhaps even adding extra income and adding that toward my emergency fund. Below I'm going to share my ideas on ways to boost my emergency fund. I'll be sharing my progress with you over the months to come.

First of all, I need to look where we're really spending extra and could scale back. I've mentioned in previous blogs my slight aversion to coupon use. Well, I'm going to bite the bullet and relearn coupon usage. Way back in my early days of parenthood (when dinosaurs ruled the earth =)) it wasn't uncommon for me to walk into a store with a fist full of coupons and walk out with a cart full of stuff for up to 80% off. I got out of the habit of using coupons when I decided it was no longer worth my time and time equals money, right? Well, right now I have a heck of a lot more time than money so coupons, here I come.

Next, I'm going to get my husband to switch from brand name soda to store brand. This may or may not work but it would make an extreme difference. Right now, he's drinking over $1,000 a year worth of Mountain Dew. If I can tackle this feat, I'm guessing we could save around $50 per month.

Getting my two year old potty trained would be such a blessing financially. Right now, I have two in diapers and the cost, as a lot of you know, is outrageous. For sanitary reasons, I won't go the cloth route. I know so many people use cloth and are very successful but I'm a former cloth diaper user and I sucked at it. That was back when I only had 3 kids, I can't imagine the mess I'd make now. I lack the organization it takes to keep the diapers properly washed, etc so we won't even go there. It's an ugly, gross memory that I'd rather forget ;)

Since the weather is getting nice in my area, I'm going to have a yard sale and perhaps also set up at a local flea market once a month or so. We always have things lying around that we don't use so why not make a little extra cash from them? I may sell higher end items on eBay because I've learned from past experience, a global marketplace can be the way to go when selling pricier items. I can reach far more people than a yard sale or flea market would and make more money even after I deduct the fees.

I'm planning to get in touch with my creative side again and start selling on Etsy. I used to be an avid crafter and I did pretty well in a few shows. I'm sure I can come up with something to generate a few extra dollars. I'll be brainstorming over the next several weeks until I come up with a few good ideas. It has to be something original and something of quality. I'll keep you updated and welcome any suggestions.

I'm an expeditor for a company called ChaCha. It's a text search company that finds information for it's users and sends it back to their cell phones. When traffic is good, I can make around $20 in a few hours. It's great to do in the evenings after the kids have settled down for the night.

I started writing for eHow last month and I'm hoping in time, it will boost our savings even by a minimal amount. So far I only 17 articles and have made a little over a dollar but I'll keep adding articles and see what happens. I'm wanting to add around 30 articles a month, more if possible.

You may be saying, "Why not get a part-time job?" but I don't think that's feasible for me right now. I'd have to pay for a babysitter, use gasoline to get to and from work, purchase work clothing.. the expenses would cut so far into the extra income it wouldn't be of much benefit. I've been down that road before and it wasn't pretty. Perhaps when all the kids are in school I'll give it another go.

So there you have it, a few things I'm planning to do to make baby steps towards saving. If you have any other ideas or suggestions, please, please feel free to share!

What's For Dinner? Saving money on food

So, it's time for dinner and you have nothing planned? Normally, I'd be tempted to drag the family out to a restaurant or call for pizza delivery. Since I'm trying to be frugal and stick to somewhat of a budget, I've decided I need some help in the food department. I've always lived in a large family so I'm pretty good at making a dollar stretch but I have to admit, I'm sorta lazy. You won't find me making a month of meals and freezing them for later. I also have issues with coupons (which I'm trying to get over). I know you can save a lot by using coupons but again, I'm lazy. So, how does a lazy person like me save money on their food budget? Here are my ideas.

Pizza night is a great treat for families but ordering in can be a major budget buster. In a real pinch for time, frozen pizza is still cheaper but if possible, make homemade.

Learn to cook. You need to stay away from as much prepackaged foods as possible to really save money. Cook most of your meals at home. This does take some planning but it's not that difficult to pull off. Invest in a great cookbook of easy, frugal recipes or just search "frugal recipes" online. You'll be amazed at what you can find. The Thrifty Fun site has some great,frugal recipes that aren't too complicated for me.

Buy rice and beans - the typical "poor" people food. It adds bulk to any meal and fills you up faster.

Drink mostly water. Water's cheap, it's simple and you'll be amazed at the savings. My husband is a huge soda drinker. He probably goes through at least 4 24 ounce bottles a day. Do you realize he's spending over $1,000 a year on soda. He won't give it up. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen him drink water. The soda drinking is killing our budget and probably killing him in the process.. Some people won't change. If I don't buy it, he'll go out and get it himself. I've seen him leave after midnight for a soda run. Any suggestions for dealing with this are much appreciated =)

Go shopping alone. If possible, leave the kids and the significant other behind. You'll find it's much easier to stick to your list and you don't have the input of others influencing your purchases.

Speaking of lists, write one! After you find some easy, frugal recipes to try out, write down a few meals that you plan to make and on another paper, write the ingredients you'll need. Make your shopping list and when you get to the store, don't stray from what's on the list. Buy only what you need. Pass up the snack foods. If it's not on the list, don't buy it.

Check the sales ads. I know you've heard this one before but really, it's a little disappointing to buy something when you're rushed only to get home and later realize you could have saved yourself a few dollars by shopping around. Get a notebook and keep track of what you need and who has what on sale. If the stores are fairly close together, you don't have to worry about wasting gas. It does take a little more time but you have to decide if it's worth it for your family.

Don't be scared of generics or store brands. This used to be a problem area for me. Growing up, I lived with my grandparents and I usually wasn't included in the grocery shopping. I fondly recall my grandmother returning with bags and bags filled with colorful boxes of name brand foods. My grandfather worked as a truck driver and made a really good income so grandmother didn't usually buy "off" brands. I have to admit I was spoiled and well, I was a brand snob when it came to food. I still have to buy "real" Miracle Whip salad dressing and I can't stand any American cheese besides Kraft but I've come a long way with other items.

There's no way I can cover all my food budget tips in one post but I'll be sure to blog more soon. In the meantime, remember search for easy, frugal meals, write your list, shop alone, check the ads and try off brands!

Frugality isn't punishment, it's freedom

What is frugal? Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines frugal as "characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources". But exactly, what does that mean? Some people are naturally better at being thrifty than others. I'm not one of those who it comes completely natural to, so this is why I'm writing this blog. I've recognized the need to be more careful with my spending. I have a large family and I'm tired of barely making it every month. Some people are frugal out of habit, others learn to be more frugal because of their situation. There are many reasons to learn to live on less. Whether it's because you want to be a stay at home mom and need to live on one income, you've lost your job or simply because you want to start saving instead of spending - being frugal doesn't have to be painful. Join with me in my search to spend less and live better!

Living frugally isn't a form of self punishment. Yes, perhaps in the past you've been careless with spending but that doesn't mean you're taking a total "time-out" from spending because you've been bad. I think spending less, sticking to a budget and starting to save is more about freedom than punishment. Sure, it's going to require a good deal of will, determination and discipline but there isn't much in life that's worth doing that doesn't require effort and sometimes, sacrifice.

So, think about what being frugal means to you. To many, when they hear of someone being frugal they think of deprivation. Images of people living in rundown shacks, making their own clothes from old sheets and making ketchup soup with the packets they picked up from McDonald's come to mind. For some, that may be how they live but for most people, frugality means improving their quality of life through simplifying things. In today's world, everyone is so rushed and a lot of their purchases are on impulse. When something wears out or breaks, they're off to the local department store to purchase another. Sadly, there are many people who don't comparison shop, they just get what they need and are on their way.

Sure, being frugal may mean having to give up $4 dollar coffees and $600 handbags. Being frugal may mean we stop feeding a grand monthly to our gas hungry SUVs. Being frugal may also mean we look at the price on the box of garbage bags before we throw it in our cart. In the end, you'll realize being thrifty doesn't have to be extreme or painful. It's simply taking a step back and rethinking the way we spend our money, our time and our lives.

I went to Walmart and lived to tell about it

That's right! I survived a shopping trip at Walmart. You see, I've been getting these texts that say

"dont go to walmart tonight. gang initiation. they are gonna Shoot 3 women at a local walmart"

Checked it out on snopes.com and it seems to be a big hoax. A lot of people are talking about it.. even the news stations. I bet some exec at Kmart or Target started it trying to take away Wally Worlds business. ;) Anyway, I went and the worst thing that happened is I spent too much money on things I probably didn't really need. I doubt there's much gang activity in my neck of the woods anyway... but ya never know.

Life is insane but so am I

The past couple weeks have been crazy! Jason had his surgery on the 5th and all went well. He had more of a hernia than a hydrocele. Some fatty tissue from his abdomen had slipped down through the opening. Dr Vaughan took care of it and he's perfect now!

Hannah (2 year old) broke out into hives all over her body on the 8th so I spent a few hours in the ER trying to find out what was wrong with her. I hate that since her doctor's office is directly linked to the hospital her health plan won't allow her to be seen anywhere else but the ER. I guess we'll be changing doctors soon anyway so it really doesn't matter.

We got home from the hospital around 2 am and by 6 am, Joshua (1 year old) was throwing up. He caught a really fun stomach bug and proceeded to pass it along to everyone in the house. My past week has been nothing but puke and poo, I'm tellin' ya. That's one of the joys of having lots of children - chain illnesses. Just when one is getting better, another is sure to come down with the ailment. Fun, fun, fun!

The weather today was beautiful so we just had to get out of the house! Being cooped up for over a week with a bunch of sickos isn't fun for anyone involved and it was time to get some fresh air. We went to the park and let the kids walk around and feed the ducks and geese. Joshua is going through a duck phase and it's so much fun when he yells at them and quacks. He also does the "Eee, I, Eee, I, Ohhh" but according to him all the animals on Old McDonald's farm "quack, quack" here and there! Dogs quack, cows quack, chickens quack.. Eee I Eee I Ooohh! They're so much fun at that age!

Calling All Freaks!

Now don't get me wrong, I love a good suspense/horror movie but I'm slightly offended by this.


I live in West Virginia and I've had the pleasure of meeting some of these "holler" people. I have to admit, some are a little odd and there is a definite inbreeding problem in some areas but sheesh, do they have to be exploited?

You may think they're "freakish" but they're our neighbors so Hollywood, leave 'em alone.

SAT for my 5 year old son!

I had an SAT meeting the other day for my five year old son. No, he's not a genius preparing to take his college entrance exams early. SAT stands for Student Assistance Team. A group of school faculty and the parent meets to discuss a students possible retention.

My little guy is a "young" 5 year old kindergarten student who didn't have any preschool experience. While he's definitely shown improvement from the beginning of the year to the middle (More than doubled most of his scores, I'm so proud!) he's still not up to par with what they expect. He knows a lot of the information but apparently isn't mature enough to translate it into a written form.

I knew going at the beginning of the year he might have to repeat kindergarten. I was actually prepared to enroll him into preschool for this school year but his would be principal rejected the idea and said it would be best if he had two years of kindergarten. Also, we moved and his new school's preschool program was full.

My main concern is that he not feel like a "loser" because he's behind the rest of his class. I'm afraid that might result in self esteem issues that will hinder his education. I know that at this young age it's highly unlikely but it's still a possibility. I'll need to be sure to offer him extra encouragement and praise for his accomplishments. He really has come so far considering he has slight ADHD. He may not be a genius but he's one smart cookie (he likes to be called that, don't know why)!

Hernias and Hydroceles and Surgery - Oh my!

We had to take my 5 year old son to WVU Medical today to have a pre-op visit to fix his hydrocele. His left testicle is affected by fluid that drains down from his abdomen due to the inguinal tube that should have closed inutero or shortly after his birth. He isn't in any pain and it currently isn't causing any problems but it could in the future considering his intestine could slip through and cause a painful, dangerous hernia.

He's scheduled for surgery on March 5th and it will be performed by the same surgeon who did his surgery for pyloric stenosis when he was just 3 weeks old. I'm glad that he's previously had anesthesia with no adverse effects because that puts my mind at ease a bit. His dad has decided that he should be there and is taking off work to join my husband and I at the hospital on the day of his procedure. It's an outpatient surgery so he should be able to come home later that day. He'll be sore for a while, will have to be out of school for a few days and can't do anything strenuous for a couple weeks.

I'm sure I'm more nervous than he is. I know it's a fairly common procedure but just the same, he's my baby and it worries me. I trust the surgeon and I know he's one of the best. I'll be sure to update on his surgery and condition. Please, if you pray, say a little prayer that all goes well and keep us in your thoughts.

Disappointed in my fellow man

I went shopping today with my hubby and two youngest children. We saw my mother parked outside a local thrift shop and decided to stop and say hi. Inside the store, my husband sat our youngest inside a cart so I placed my purse inside the basket like I always do. I got distracted talking to my mother and chasing after my 2 year old daughter and when I looked up, hubby had taken my son out of the cart and was ready to leave. We were heading into the next store when I realized I didn't have my purse. At that point, I couldn't remember if I had left it inside the van or inside the thrift. My mom went to check the van and I went back into the thrift store. I checked where the carts were but the purse wasn't there. I saw an empty cart on the other side of the store and THERE was my purse. Phheewww! Was I relieved!

I went on over to the store next door where my hubby was waiting. As we got to the back of the store, I told him about how I thought he'd put the cart back with the others. He said he did. I then told him how I found the cart on the other side of the store. He insisted he put it back with the other carts so I thought I'd better check my wallet. Reaching into my purse I immediately noticed my wallet was upside down and hadn't been snapped. I knew something was up. My money was gone. My credit cards, cell phone and all were still there but all my cash was gone from the center of my wallet. In less than 5 minutes, someone came into the store, got the cart, saw that my purse was there, dug into my wallet and took my money, leaving my purse inside the cart. They even zipped my purse back up. How nice of them.

Now, I have to let you in on the ironic part. This person who stole my money made a huge mistake. They only took the ten dollars in ones I had in the center of my wallet. I had a 100 dollar bill rolled up inside the zippered compartment in back and it hadn't been touched. How sad for them that on the day they decided to steal something, they did a poor job of it. Not to mention, they were stealing money inside a Christian based thrift store. No wonder they did it in such a hurry, they probably 'felt' God watching them! I just tell myself they must have needed that money more than I do. I also believe in karma so I'm sure it will come back around to them. I'm just thankful they only got $10 and left my cell and cards alone.

Lead Law, Shmead Shmaw...

For the past several years I've supported my family mostly by selling children's clothing online. This past summer a bill was passed into law that is causing many people like me to have no choice but to close shop. The CPSIA has decided that our children are eating too much of their clothing and therefore have placed a lead law into effect which can land us with fines and even jail time.

I'm short on time so I'll save the specifics for another post. This is just a rant for now. I've read over this law and I can't honestly believe that anyone who voted and passed this through even read it. I think they heard "This is a law to protect our children from unsafe lead levels in toys, books, etc" and they thought if it's to protect children, how can it be bad? Well, what about the children whose parents are left without income because of the stiff penalties they face for operating their small businesses?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for protecting our children and as a mother, my heart goes out to any parent whose child has been hurt by lead poisoning. I simply don't think this law was well thought out and planned for. I've read that there's already a stay of enforcement for one year but in the meantime, what are we to do? I have inventory that I'm not able to sell because I can't afford to have each item tested. With the way our economy is, this is the last thing we need to worry about.

The thrift stores in my area have cleared out most of their children's clothing as well as toys and books. Think of the drop in sales they're going to face because of this. Also, with some people scraping to make ends meet, they rely on thrift stores and second hand clothing to keep their children clothed. What are they supposed to do? Let their children go naked? Oh and don't say they can get hand me downs from Freecycle or Craigslist. Nuh uh. This law makes it illegal to even GIVE the clothing away.

As I said earlier, I don't have time to really get indepth on the subject right now and the more I think about it, the more irritated I get so I'll save it for another time, maybe. I'm done ranting for now. I feel so much better, NOT!