20 Ways to Save More Money: Re-Cap

20-ways-to-save-more-money-300x213

I’m gradually working on finishing up the “20 Ways to Save More Money” series but in the meantime, I wanted to do a re-cap of everything that’s been posted so far. I’ll keep adding to this list as more are posted.

#1 – Create Short and Long Term Goals

#2 – Make a Budget

#3 – Make a List of Highest Priced and Most Used Items

#4 – Create a Low Inventory List and Maintain It

#5 – Create a Sensible Stockpile

$6 – Learn How to Make a Weekly Meal Plan

#7 – Keep an Organized Kitchen

#8 – Waste Less

#9 – Become a Smarter Shopper

#10 -Plan Events in Advance

#11- Turn Your Clutter Into Money

I’m hoping that through one of these you’ll be able to save a bit more money!

Money-Saving and Money-Earning Programs

money

For awhile now, I’ve wanted to compile a post for the “newbies” to Coupon Geek to round-up some of the money-saving and money-earning programs that you can sign-up for. I mention them quite often as free codes or offers pop-up for them but I’ve wanted a place to direct everyone to in case they missed any. Well, this is that post. I’ll add more to them as time goes on but here are a few to start with:

Money-Saving Programs

1) SavingStar – They have a weekly healthy offer every Tuesday for 20% off some produce/healthy item, etc. On Fridays, they offer a freebie. The program is free to join. You simply add offers (like an eCoupon) to your account when one interests you. Some stores you can just scan your store loyalty card while others you’ll need to take a photo of your receipt and upload it via the SavingStar App. You can cashout at $5 for either a bank deposit, PayPal credit or Amazon Gift Card. The freebies in themselves can easily add up to the $5 threshold over time. They also offer a lot of other savings weekly on various products that you probably already buy.

2) Checkout51 – Every Thursday, new offers are added into your account. They have been great at having offers for things like produce, yogurt, bread, milk, etc. You simply buy the items you see in your offer queue and then submit a picture of your receipt from that store. It’s free to join. You can cashout at $20. Since they have great offers each week on basic items, it doesn’t take long to add up.

3) Ibotta – Each week, new offer possibilities are loaded. You will have to do a small task to earn the chance to grab the offer; things such as reading a fact about a product, watching a very short video clip, posting to Facebook, taking a poll, etc. Once you buy the items, you scan the bar code and then take a photo of your receipt. You can cashout for a PayPal credit or for gift cards, such as Starbucks, Regal Cinemas, iTunes, etc. I’ve been grabbing the gift card options and saving them as holiday gifts.

Money-Earning Programs

1) Swagbucks - You can do your searches through them and earn “Swagbucks” which you can later turn in for gift cards or other prizes. Ex: $5 Amazon Gift Card for 450 points. There are other ways to earn the points through polls, finding free codes, etc.

2) Kellogg’s Family Rewards – You earn points for buying Kellogg’s products and/or for finding free codes. They’ve been frequently offering 100 Point codes lately and it doesn’t take long to add-up. You can turn the points in for money-saving coupons and other prizes.

3) Pampers Gifts to Grow – You earn points for buying Pampers products and for finding free codes. It seems like there’s a weekly free code lately and even if you don’t buy their products, these can add up over time. I’ve traded mine in for Target and Starbucks gift cards in the past.

4) Disney Movie Rewards – You earn points for buying Disney DVDs and such and for finding free codes. They often have times such as summer and Christmas where they’ll have a daily free code for several weeks. You can turn your points in for Disney products, gift cards, etc. I’ve cashed mine in for DVDS, Starbucks Gift Card, Disney Gift Card, Free Movie Outings, etc. in the past.

5) Recyclebank – You earn points by recycling and learning about how to be more “green.” You can save up your points for free gift cards, coupon savings, etc. I’ve cashed mine in for Old Navy and Target gift cards in the past along with several money-saving coupons!

Money-Saving Coupons

Getting in the habit of daily checking coupon sites is a GREAT way to save a lot of money. You can also help support the Coupon Geek site by printing those coupons through my links. Just bookmark this page and click through them whenever you want to see what’s new:

1) Coupons.com
2) Smart Source
3) RedPlum

And thank you for helping to support this site!

20 Ways to Save More Money #11: Turn Clutter Into Money

20-ways-to-save-more-money

If you are just tuning in to the series this is what you’ve missed as far as tasks:

#1 –  Create Short and Long Term Goals
#2 –  Make a Budget
#3 –  Make a List of Highest Priced and Most Used Items
#4 –  Create a Low Inventory List and Maintain It
#5 –  Create a Sensible Stockpile
$6 –  Learn How to Make a Weekly Meal Plan
#7 –  Keep an Organized Kitchen
#8 –  Waste Less
#9 –  Become a Smarter Shopper
#10 -Plan Events in Advance

Halfway through this series now. I’m hoping you’ll check out the other 10 if you missed them!

Over time, our homes can collect a lot of clutter if we let them. Between birthdays, holiday gifts, hot clearance finds, souvenirs, etc. it doesn’t take long for things to start piling up. While these things can bring us a joy at the time of receiving it, they can also bring us an overwhelming sense of stress when your house begins to run out of space. We might be tempted just to toss them into a donation bin just to be rid of it but I encourage you all to take a bit of time to see if you can’t make some money from them. You might find that rather than digging into your savings for new things you need, that you can save some money by making money off of things you already have in your own home.

Here are some things to consider:

1) Garage Sale – I know, I groan too just thinking about it. But garage sales can actually be bearable when the misery is shared. lol. My family and I did a combined garage sale this summer. We had a great time chatting and hanging out together and I ended up making $100 just off a few things I would have originally donated.

2) Books – Books, especially children’s books, are great sells at garage sales. You can also see if your area has a used book store that will give you cash for your books. I piled up a bunch we had and made $50 over the course of the year. The ones that do the best are the kids’ chapter books. You can also sell books on eBay (or at a “sell it for me eBay store) and make money that way, too. This is a great one to consider if you have a series of books you are getting rid of.

3) CDs and Movies – We have a store chain by us called Disc Replay. They give you cash for used CDs, DVDs, BluRays, etc. Over the course of a few years, we’ve probably made $250 there. We got tired of storing old CDs and had a lot of TV DVD series to turn in. I found some over the holidays for $10 that I ended up getting $8 back for and it gave us weeks of entertainment.

4) Gently Used Clothing – Check your local area as you might find a store that will give you either cash or store credit for ‘gently used’ clothing items. Most places are looking for clothes free of stains and excessive wear. If you happen to have name brands, those will usually get you the most money back. See what they offer first as you might be able to make more money in a garage sale as kids’ clothing tends to do well in those.

It often doesn’t take long to drop these items off at these types of shops. My best advice is this: keep a container in your garage or somewhere in your house. When you are cleaning and come across something that you no longer need, toss it in the container. When it gets full, try to find a place where you can take it to get some value out of those items. If you are planning on selling them in a garage sale, take a second to put a price tag on the item before you put it in there. That way when your garage sale comes around, you’ll be all ready to go!

Over the course of a few years, we’ve managed to acquire about $500 from “clutter.” We often save it and use it for something like spending money on a family vacation or a family outing. This way, we remember the fun that can be had when we take time to make money from our things.

HOW CAN THIS HELP ME SAVE MONEY?

If you are in need of something new, see if you can find something old that will bring you the cash for it! This will help you from having to take money out of your budget for it. Over time, you’ll find yourself saving money by making the most of what you already have.

Stay tuned for the final installments of this series!

20 Ways to Save More Money #10: Plan Events in Advance

20-ways-to-save-more-money

If you are just tuning in to the series this is what you’ve missed as far as tasks:

#1 – Create Short and Long Term Goals
#2 – Make a Budget
#3 – Make a List of Highest Priced and Most Used Items
#4 – Create a Low Inventory List and Maintain It
#5 – Create a Sensible Stockpile
$6 – Learn How to Make a Weekly Meal Plan
#7 – Keep an Organized Kitchen
#8 – Waste Less
#9 – Become a Smarter Shopper

While there are some events in our life that pop-up unexpectedly, most of the special events that we attend we know about at least 3 months in advance. I hear of so many people that say they had to run out and get a gift or an outfit a day or two before something and they end up paying heavily for it at the registers.

But these extra expenses can be avoided if one plans ahead. Since sales cycles usually flip every 3 months, this is what I recommend for how far you should plan in advance.

One of the things I recommend for staying organized is to invest in a good quality calendar that has plenty of room to write down everything that is going on. Typical calendars do not give you enough space and you have a better chance of missing something with them. I highly recommend a calendar like that sold by FlyLady that has nice big squares to fit in your monthly fun. While there are plenty of Apps out there for your phones and gadgets, having a calendar somewhere is a great tool as the entire family can see what is going on in a quick glance and they can add in events whenever they find out about them.

Whatever calendar you choose, take a look at what’s ahead for the next 3 months. You might see things like back-to-school time, beginning of new sporting events, birthdays, Halloween, etc. You then need to make a list of things that you want to start shopping for deals for those events. Things such as back-to-school supplies, back-to-school clothes, birthday gifts, Halloween costumes, sporting gear, etc. Always have a 3-month updated list in your purse/wallet so you know what to look for.

Most people wait until the week before Halloween for a costume and end up spending $20- $30 on one. If your kids already know what they want to be for Halloween, start looking at places like gently used kids’ clothing stores, eBay, garage sales, etc. for the costume or things that you can buy to make it yourself. Most kids only wear a costume once so they’ll be almost like new anyway. The same logic applies to formal events, too. Kids will often outgrow a suit or dress, etc. before they wear it more than once so look for used for these things if you can!

While I don’t recommend buying shoes for sports too far in advance you can look for the rest of the gear. If they are playing soccer, look for the shin guards or correct size soccer ball they’ll need. Just little things like these can add up to a lot when you have to buy them without finding a sale on them.

I like to keep a birthday gift or two on hand at home just in case we get invited to a party unexpectedly from the kids’ classmates. I often get asked what I recommend for younger boys as a gift and I have to say the Stick Storm Game has worked very well as a gift for us in the past. If you wanted to spend more, pair a gift card to a fast food place or ice cream shop with it. You can also keep generic birthday cards on hand to save you from spending $3 the week of the party. Dollar stores sell these or you can watch for a “Buy 3 Cards, Get Something Free” type of deal on cards and keep them in a spot where you won’t forget.

When you are buying gifts, be sure to check out the store’s return policy. Some are only 30 days, while others are 90 days. Always get a gift receipt just in case. You don’t want to buy too far in advance where you’ll lose money if you have to return something past the allowable return window.

When you plan out your 3-month event list, don’t forget to include things that need special attire such as Christmas programs for school, holiday parties, etc. At my kids’ school, they often have days where they have to wear special colors, like red or yellow, so I always make sure I pick up a shirt in their size in those colors when I see them on discount so I have them for later in the school year.

While these things may not seem like they add up to much, think about how many events you attend in one year. Think about all the times you’ve had to run to Target or Toys R Us to pick up a last minute birthday present for a classmates party or niece/nephew. Think about how many times you are standing in front of a dressing room mirror stressing because you have a special event (that you’ve known about for months!) and you can’t find anything within your price limit that you like. Don’t do this to yourself! You already have enough stress in your life to add more to it by the events that are supposed to be adding fun memories.

RECAP

1) Invest in a larger calendar and hang it where the entire family can see it and add their special events to them.

2) Always have a paper in your purse/wallet with the next 3 months of events so you can shop for any items that you need for them; gifts, clothes, etc. Don’t forget to include the greeting card, wrapping paper or gift bags you may need, too. Dollar stores are great for those!

3) Check for “gently used” items for things like Halloween costumes or formal-wear. These are usually not worn more than once and basically look new without the big price tag.

4) Try to keep a birthday gift and card on hand just in case you get invited unexpectedly to a party.

5) Plan in advance for sporting events and buy any gear that you can ahead of time. Wait on shoes if it’s months away as kids can surprise you and outgrow them before they can even wear them!

How Can This Save Me Money?

1) When you tally up all the events you go to in one year, even saving $10 on each one can add up to some serious savings! Even doing things as simple as $.99 cards and $1 gift bags instead of $8 on the same items can add up!

2) You won’t be rushing out last minute to spend full-price on gifts and/or clothes. Not to mention, you’ll be saving yourself a little stress from already having them ready!

3) By giving yourself time to think about clothes you want to wear to an event you’ll be able to pick out something you truly like and will want to wear more than once rather than having it just hanging in your closet.

Planning ahead is always a good tool when it comes to saving money. Just make sure that you aren’t always agreeing to go to every event you are invited to, as well. You are allowed to say, “No!” if it’s not within your budget.

Stay tuned to more in this series soon!

30 Days – 30 Minutes of Movement

get-moving!

It didn’t take me too long as a parent to realize that you have to be careful what you tell kids you are going to do as they never seem to forget. “Tomorrow we are going to the park”….tomorrow comes and you get busy and they are all, “Um, I thought we were going to the park?!”

So I decided that the best way for me to get in daily fitness is to get them to encourage me by doing it together.

We came up with a plan. For 1 month, we’ll get in 30 minutes of “movement” a day and by movement, I mean some sort of fitness/exercise. And my promise to them? That along with all the benefits they’ll gain by staying healthy, I’ll also take them someplace to reward them for their efforts – one of those jumpy house places. What kid doesn’t love those, right?!

calendar

I printed off a blank July calendar and for each day that they get in their 30 minutes of movement, they get a gold star sticker. (Does that take you all back to elementary school or what?!) I picked up a pack with hundreds of those gold stars at the dollar store. Talk about a simple and inexpensive rewards chart! We also jot down what movement we got in that day.

The other day we walked along some trails for an hour so they each put 2 gold star stickers on their charts for that day. Great way to start us off!

I just wanted to share this with all of you in case you wanted to have a month of movement challenge yourself. You don’t need to wait until the first of any specific month. Just start and go 30 days from that point. The important thing is, that you start!

Here are a few Apps and products that I like that might help:

map-my-walk

Map My Walk – I love this one! You can sign-up for Free. I downloaded the App to my phone. Whenever my kids and I start walking, I just click a button and it keeps track of our route, how far we went and how long it took us. The kids love checking out our stats when we are done.

myfitnesspal

My Fitness Pal – This is a good one for keeping a food journal and exercise log. I just started getting into the habit of logging my meals as I usually have my phone nearby and it only takes a few minutes. It’s so educational to see how calories can add up even when you think you are eating healthy. What I like about this one is your friends can join and you can cheer each other on to help reach your goals.

fit-bit-flex

Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband – I have heard really good things about this. It does have a higher price tag but if in the end it helps you stay healthier, it might just be worth it!

thermos-funtainer

Thermos FUNtainer Bottle – These are so great for helping keep the kids (or even yourself!) hydrated. They sell these at places like Target, too. What I like about the newer generation ones is that they have a handle on them.

hopscotch

This is a great way to spend time with the kids and stay healthy. Here are a few ideas for “movement:”

~Game of Tag (Freeze Tag, Flashlight Tag)
~Jump Roping
~Soccer, Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Hockey, Tennis, Football, etc.
~Running – Train for a Kid’s Miler Race
~Dancing
~Gymnastics/Tumbling
~Kid’s Yoga
~Backyard Obstacle Course
~Hopscotch
~Animal Fun (Crab Walk, Bunny Hob, Frog Leaps)
~Riding Bikes/Scooters
~Red Light, Green Light
~Hula Hoops
~Frisbee
~Game of Catch
~Tug of War
~Rope, Rock or Tree Climbing
~Walking
~Video Games like Wii Fit, Zumba, Just Dance etc. (For rainy days!)
~Hiking – Turn it into a Nature Scavenger Hunt!
~Playing at the Park
~Canoeing, Paddleboats, etc.
~Rollerblading, Rollerskating, Skateboarding
~Cheerleading
~Karate/Martial Arts Moves
~Jumping Jacks, Toe Touches, Stair Climbs, etc.
~Yardwork – pulling weeds, mowing the lawn (if older)
~House-cleaning: Scrubbing floors, walls, vacuuming

There are so many ways to get movement without it costing you a lot of money. Summer is an especially great time to start this as the weather is nicer and you can get outside a lot more.

I’m hoping you and your family (and friends!) will challenge yourself to get in some extra movement even if it’s just a few days a week!

20 Ways to Save More Money #9: Become a Smarter Shopper

20-ways-to-save-more-money

If you are just tuning in to the series this is what you’ve missed as far as tasks:

#1 – Create Short and Long Term Goals
#2 – Make a Budget
#3 – Make a List of Highest Priced and Most Used Items
#4 – Create a Low Inventory List and Maintain It
#5 – Create a Sensible Stockpile
$6 – Learn How to Make a Weekly Meal Plan
#7 – Keep an Organized Kitchen
#8 – Waste Less

As I mentioned in #8, we are moving on from tasks (like in #1 – #7) to moving on to changing our lifestyle to save money. With just a little time spent on changing our current habits, we’ll find that we can start to see some savings long-term.

While we can find ways to save money through hot deals and coupons, it’s just as important that we focus on the type of shopper that we are, as well. Are you one to buy something without thinking about whether you truly need it or if you have the money in your budget for it? Are you one to just pull into a grocery store without any kind of shopping list and fill your cart up with food and then come home to find out you spent $150 on things that you can’t even turn into a meal? We are going to work on these things!

I want to start with shopping lists. In order to create the best shopping list, you should take a look at what you have on your Low Inventory List, your Weekly Menu Plan and also take a peek at the “Loss Leaders” and hot deals that each store is offering.

A “loss leader” is something that a store will drastically discount just to get you into their store. Their hope is that while they may not make money on those items that you’ll buy several more things while you are there. But your goal is to pick up those loss leaders without falling into their marketing ploy. You’ll see things like a “3-day sale” where a grocery store will have something like grapes for $.99lb. Another store may have carrots for $.50 a bag as one of their discounts. While you can greatly lose money if you jump from store to store picking up every loss leader, (think of time and gas money spent) you can pick and choose which ones will bring you the most savings.

So after looking at your low inventory list, weekly menu plan, sales and deals, let’s say you come up with a grocery list that looks like this: hamburger, milk, grapes, lettuce, Cheerios, whole wheat flour, yogurt, bread, soup, chips and lunchmeat. Some people may use that as their exact list but let’s take it one step further. Take one extra minute and organize it by store aisle. I also want you to get into the habit of shopping in the middle aisles FIRST. And here’s why.

Typically the longer you shop, the less likely you are to make smart shopping decisions. If you have items that you need in the middle aisles, buy them first. Those aisles tend to be the highest marked up in price and the unhealthiest. Get in and get out as fast as you can! Once you are done, shop around the edges of the store. So here’s what your list would look like: Cheerios, Soup, Bread, Whole Wheat Flour, Chips, Milk, Yogurt, Lunchmeat, Hamburger, Grapes and Lettuce.

If you take a minute and organize your list by store aisle, it will also reduce the number of times you have to walk up and down the aisles. Less time in the store is extra savings as you won’t be tempted to buy more things. Once you get more familiar with the layout of your store, the better you’ll be at this. Some stores even offer an aisle-by-aisle map of where all the food is located. Ask them for one!

The next thing we are going to tackle is impulse buys. Impulse buys are what take us from a smart $100 a week budget to $200 very quickly! The chance for adding impulse items increases if we are tired or hungry. So here’s a few rules of shopping to always follow:

1) Never shop if you don’t have time. You’ll never go in and just grab milk. You’ll add so many things in your cart. Find an alternative meal/drink until you can shop with plenty of time.

2) Never shop without a list. Most of you have smartphones. Use the notes field for your list or some fancy app that’s out there. That way you won’t leave it at home.

3) Have an idea of how much you are going to spend so when you checkout, you know if something might not have been priced correctly.

4) Never shop hungry. I like to keep granola bars or something similar in my car in case I feel a little hungry. It’s enough to get you through the trip.

5) Put all “impulse” items in one area of your shopping cart. Stop before you checkout and look at all of them and ask yourself, “Do I need this?”

6) Set a 10+ day rule where you need to make yourself think about any higher-priced purchases at any of the stores where you shop. Create a “wishlist” online and then check it later. You’ll be surprised at how many items you saved money on because you didn’t buy them.

7) Remember your long-term goal and that all impulse buys take away from it.

Now I mentioned having an idea of how much the things on your list may cost. Let’s look at our “fake list” again and see how it would look: Cheerios $2, Soup $1, Bread $1.50, Whole Wheat Flour $2.50, Chips $2.50, Milk $3, Yogurt $2, Lunchmeat $2.50, Hamburger $3, Grapes $2 and Lettuce $1 and the grand total = $23.

If your store total comes up to $35, you’ll know something is wrong. You should also ask yourself before you shop, do I have $23 in my budget for these things? If not, maybe you could give up the bag of chips and buy them another day. By putting a price estimation by your items, you won’t go into shock when the clerk tells you your total when you checkout! You may also find that one recipe needs too many higher-priced items. Switch them out for a simpler recipe that won’t cost you as much!

RECAP

1) Never shop without a list. Find items that you need from your Low Inventory List, your Weekly Menu Plan and from sales to pick items you’ll buy.

2) Re-write your shopping list so it’s organized by store aisle. Always shop middle aisles first so you won’t fall trap to them when you are more tired.

3) Add price estimations on the items you plan on buying so you can see how much you might spend. Ask yourself, “Do I have that amount of money in my budget or do I need to re-work my list?”

4) Avoid impulse buys by never shopping hungry, tired, with little time to shop or without an idea of what you need.

5) Make a time period that you have to wait for any impulse items over a higher amount and create a “wishlist” for them instead. After the time period is up, take a look at your list and ask yourself if you still need them.

How Does This Help Me Save Money?

1) By having a list, you’ll analyze any items not on it to see if you truly need those added items.

2) By having price estimations on your list, you’ll know how much you are spending on each trip and whether you can afford it.

3) By limiting impulse buys, you’ll keep on track for that long-term goal by not letting little $1 or $5 items add up to hundreds of dollars taken away from your budget.

4) By having an organized list by store aisle, your trips will go faster causing you buy less and save more money!

Changing our shopping habits can take time. You need to make sure you don’t let yourself get down if one week you forget to make a good shopping list or buy an impulse item you didn’t need. Just get back on track and keep trying to become a smarter shopper!

Stay tuned for more in this series soon!

Free Garden Planner Tool

garden-planner-tool

I was very late in getting my garden in this year. I was lucky enough, though, that I had several spinach, herb, tomato and pepper plants re-plant themselves from last season. You gotta love when nature takes care of itself!

I wanted to share with you all a Free Garden Planner Tool that I use each year. You can create a single garden bed or map out your own garden. I take a little different approach though. What I do is create each of my garden beds and then save the image and put them into a Word document so I can create my entire garden area like this:

garden-planner

I then can save the files in the same folder on my computer each year and copy/paste if I want to duplicate anything the next year in a different garden bed. I do this every year so I can have a “map” for the next year, as well. I can compare what worked and didn’t and know where things were planted in case something sprouts back up on its own (like this year!).

This is just one great way to keep a yearly garden journal.

square-foot

If you haven’t taken up gardening yet, it’s not too late to get a few things planted. I highly recommend the book All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space. I have been following it for several years now and have had very good harvests each year.

salad-bowl-transplants-300x230

If you don’t have the space, you can still do some herb/lettuce bowls on your deck/balcony and maybe even a patio tomato plant or two.

Gardening is a great way to save on produce during the year!