Author Archives: Meredith Rines

DIY Sharpie Mugs

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What do you do when you have a ridiculous early flight out and need a ride?  You bribe your sister and brother-in-law to take you to the airport.  Well technically I didn’t need to bribe them, but I still wanted to say thanks for getting up super early, driving us to the airport and still making it to work on time.  

Of course, I was trying to stick within our budget especially with our Florida vacation that we were flying out to.  I opted for a simple homemade gift.  I love homemade gifts.  I have made quite a few over the past few months.  Usually I save them for Christmas, but I’ve been known to break out my crafting skills when the occasion calls for it. 

Seriously – I have an addiction to homemade gifts.  

Here are just a few of the others I’ve made over the years.

DIY Front Door Wreath

DIY Ribbon Wreath

DIY Mother’s Day Picture Frame with handprints gift

DIY Father’s Day with Handprints gift

DIY Christmas Picture Ornaments

Let’s get back to this DIY project – making Sharpie mugs that are super easy. 

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All you need is a plain mug and a few sharpies.  The best sharpies are the oil-based Sharpies, but when you don’t have them then you make it work.  You can be as creative or be as basic as you want.  I wanted to keep the message simple – best aunt ever and best uncle ever.  

Once you have the design on your mug, just let it dry for a few hours.  I let mine dry overnight before baking.  After a few hours then you can bake it at 350 for 30 minutes.  

TIP: Put the mug in the cold oven before turning it on.  Once the oven hits 350 degrees then let it bake for 30 minutes.

These mugs should be hand washed (even if using the oil-based Sharpies) to help preserve your design.

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These mugs turned out so cute!  Totally makes up for the early flight, right?  That’s what I was thinking! What thank you gifts are your go-tos?

My Top Productivity Tips

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Mom’s let’s face it the house would fall apart without us managing it.  Right?  I love my husband and he does an amazing job when I work late or have to study or just need a break.  He can cook a great dinner, he does dishes and will even do laundry (although he’s usually too afraid since I’m super picky about my clothes).  He’s awesome.  …. But….

When it comes to knowing what we need to buy at the store, remembering the dogs’ heart worm medicine, pediatrician appointments, when to buy diapers, paying bills, and just overall management that falls to us.  Now, I’m not saying J couldn’t handle managing the house, just like you’re probably thinking your husband could do just find managing your house.  But it’s just easier if we do it.  We don’t have to explain where anything is or how we know when to pay which bill, we just do it.  

With working full-time, branding my own business, studying for the Certified Financial Planner exam, being a full-time Mom, wife and dog mom has taken some serious efficiency.  

And a few times I forget to grab the bottle of milk before heading to the daycare in the morning… oops!

Here are my top productivity tips to stay on top of every detail in your life while making it look effortless. 

Google Calendar

You need a place to organize all of those appointments, reminders and events.  My secret weapon to remembering the dogs’ heart worm pills, changing the water filter for our house, and scheduling appointments is by making an event in our Google Calendar.  You can setup your Google Calendar any way you want, I even created a whole post sharing how our family manages our calendar.  But keep it simple.  Have one calendar for you, one for your husband and one for the family.  Honestly, J probably doesn’t even use his own calendar, but it makes me feel better knowing he has one.  

The personal calendar is just for you.  What reminders do you have each week or month or even each quarter?  Go ahead and write those in and setup an automatic reminder.  In Google you can have an alert emailed to you at your specified time to remind you to do something – that’s how I remember all three dogs’ monthly medicine.  

The family calendar is for everything family or what you need your husband to know.  You can use it for out of town trips with the girls or work conferences, so your family knows you’ll be out of town.  Use it for family doctor appointments and events you need everyone to be aware of.  It’s great when your husband is trying to plan a weekend camping trip with the guys he can quickly look at his phone to see when there is a free weekend.  

No more having to re-plan or move something that’s been on the calendar for weeks. Your communication is now clear.

Google Drive

Google Drive can keep all of your important information.  You can keep your budget and check register in Drive, like my family does.  Which is great on the road because you always have access to your check register so you know exactly how much money you have in your bank account.  

The possibilities are endless with Google Drive.  Here’s how it helps my productivity:

House Projects – we keep a running list of projects we want to work on around the house.  That way if we have a free weekend or a day off work there’s no guessing of what needs to be done.  You can pull up the list and get to work.

Budgeting – I mentioned this above, but it’s my favorite reason to use Google Drive.

Blog Post Ideas – I have a folder where I keep a list of blog ideas that pop in my head.  There is nothing worse than laying in bed dreaming of the perfect new post and convincing yourself you’ll remember it in the morning … and then of course you don’t.  

Meal Planning – we keep a few meal planning recipes in our Google Drive that way when we sit down to create our newest Meal Plan for the next two weeks, we know which meals are winners and worked well for us.

Addresses – I keep an updated address book in our Google Drive for when we need to mail invitations or thank yous to family and friends. 

To-Do List

This one is more of a paper and pen idea, instead of on the computer.  But it really helps to have a giant to-do list you keep with you.  That way when something new pops into your head, you can jot it down and then stay focused on your project at  hand.  I’ve written a post on how I stay on top of it all by having a notebook with me at all times.  It works great!

Wait To Check Emails

The first thing I do in the morning is NOT check my phone.  It’s so easy to get sucked into checking emails, responding, and then heading to Facebook to scroll through everyone else’s lives.  One of the best things you can do in the morning is not check your phone first thing.  Spend some time waking up (without a screen), take a shower, drink coffee and just enjoy the morning silence.  Because we all know the quiet moment each morning doesn’t last very long when you have little ones running around.  Wait until you get the kids off to school or even when you’re at the office, which is what I do.  I always think clearer when I’m more awake and can process things faster.  Keep your productivity up by not getting pulled into the endless email pool – just wait and get ready for the day so you can be on your A game.

Here are my top productivity tips for you.  Simple, right?  But somehow we all need to be reminded of them from time-to-time.  Just keep your day focused by using your energy where you want it most.  For me that’s family, work, and my online business.  I don’t worry myself with too much of the other stuff that doesn’t mean as much.  By setting reminders, having your information at your fingertips and setting boundaries you can be productive with your time and more efficient in your day.

DIY Grandparents’ Day Gift {Personalized Oven Mitts}

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Do you know what is not easy?  Getting a toddler to hold still long enough to put paint on their hands and then take that painted hand to press on an oven mitt.  It’s just not easy!  Don’t get me wrong he loved the part of smearing his hand in the paint, but then he wanted to play with it and not cooperate.  I’m pretty sure I got more paint on me then on the oven mitt or even the plate filled with paint.  

We wanted to create a sweet Mother’s Day gift for my Mom and my Mother-in-law this year.  We were getting ready to leave on our Florida vacation the next day so I wanted something that we could easily create and something that would be easily packed in our already filled car.  

I had been scouring Pinterest for a few ideas and I just love the ones using our little guys hand and feet prints, but I have to admit it was so much easier to get a perfect stamp of his hand or foot when he was just a newborn.  Now at a year old, it’s like wrestling a really strong monkey who makes noises at you and somehow overpowers you.  

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To find these oven mitts I went to the local Big Lots to see what they had.  I had planned to go to Wal-Mart, but Big Lots is so close to our house and I like keeping things simple!  I paid $6.00 for each set, so it was a little over $12.00 with tax.  Next, I dug in my craft bin (which is actually a old tool box) for some green paint and some fabric paint to finish them up.  

These DIY oven mitts were so simple and so easy (minus the toddler making messes).  I made them for Mother’s Day, but you could even make them for Grandparents’ Day or even as a sweet Christmas gift. I just love making homemade gifts – nothing says I love you like taking some time out of your busy schedule to make something.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not super crafty and I am not a perfectionist, which means a lot of my gifts don’t turn out the cutest.  Once our little guy is a bit older I can pawn off the workmanship on him so there will be a good reason as to why the paint is smeared or the something is misspelled.  

Here’s some of my other easy and budget friendly DIY projects:

DIY Sharpie Mugs

DIY Front Door Vine Wreath

DIY Ribbon Wreath

DIY Christmas Photo Ornaments

DIY Father’s Day Gift with Handprints

DIY Mother’s Day or Birthday Gift with Pictures and Handprints

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Funny story – this past Christmas I made a super sweet wall hanging for my Mother In Law.  I took our little guy’s footprints around this nice poem I had typed.  I then framed everything together in this beautiful frame.  After we gave the gift, they were passing it around reading the poem and looking at it.  Someone in the family noticed the poem was about Grandchild’s Hand and the hope for the future…. But I had stamped our son’s FOOTPRINTS on the paper.  What?!?! I don’t even know what I was thinking!  

I remember trying to get his handprint while J held him and he just kept fighting me.  Each attempt was worse than the one before.  The print was smeared or I didn’t get a whole print.  So after what felt like a thousand attempts, I just did his feet.  But it never occurred to me I needed to change the poem!  UGH!

Oh well.  Now I just had to change the poem (which I still haven’t done yet) and the gift will be just fine.  

Keto Recipe – Parmesan Peas

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What is the Ketogenic Diet?

Have you heard of it before?  I hadn’t until about March when one of my favorite podcasters started talking about all of these health findings.  She was talking with doctors and experts on the affect our diet was having on our bodies, our brains and our overall health.  Something clicked because I needed to know more.  I had to know more and I was willing to give it a try.

I was tired of being tired.  It was exhausting feeling sick all of the time.  I know some of it was working full time, trying to build my brand and having a toddler to take care of, but it just felt more than that.  I looked around and was so unhappy about my body, my diet and my activity level.  I knew I needed to change.  Once I heard about the keto diet, I decided I needed to research it.

Because, though I love Chalene Johnson and trust what she says and her experts, I needed more.  I needed my own research.  Maybe it’s the financial specialist inside of me, but researching something just makes me feel better before starting.  So here are some interesting bits about the ketogenic diet:

disclaimer:  I am not a doctor so this is just from my research and my opinions.  Before starting any diet, you should talk to your doctor.

Keto is short for ketosis.  Normally, your body burns carbs and sugars (known as glucose) for energy; however, in a ketogenic state your body burns fat (ketones) for energy.  The ketogenic diet eliminates glucose from the body and causes it to burn its own fat.  A benefit can be rapid weight loss, even when consuming enough calories during the day.  

I’m not going to lie the rapid weight loss part caught my attention first.  Because when you’re overweight and tired of being heavy then that will always stand out.  Now once I heard that benefit I kept reading and researching to discover more.

Let’s talk more benefits of the ketogenic diet.

It can help prevent cancer cells and may even kill cancer cells.

It typically does not raise cholesterol and may actually reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors, especially in those who are obese.

It has been used to treat and even help reverse cognitive impairments, including Alzheimer’s symptoms.

It can be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetics wishing to reverse their condition.  When I went to the doctor in early March I was prescribed metformin which is a diabetic medicine.  It was a huge eye-opener for me.  That’s what started me on this crusade to change my health without medicines.

I had tried so many different diets over the years, they would work at the time, but one slip and it was a downward spiral for me.  One of the programs that worked the best for me was Weight Watchers.  I joined in college and lost quite a bit of weight in just over a year.  I am a huge fan of Weight Watchers and love what their program offers. I even worked as a leader for a few years in college after I lost close to 60 pounds. But now things are a bit different in our house. We’re really working on paying down debt, cutting our spending and sticking with our budget. So an extra monthly expense (even if for health) wasn’t an option.

That’s why I’m so glad I found the keto diet.  Because I just made simple changes at home and saw results.  Not just weight loss (though I did lose about 15 pounds in the first 4 weeks, which I met with my doctor to make sure all was okay), but my headaches were gone and I could focus so much easier while at work.  It was this weird mental clarity that hit me and I liked it.  Work became easier, having a million things to juggle because simple and I was sleeping so good at night!  

Let’s be honest, it can be scary when you tell someone you eat low carb, high fat foods.  I strive to be about 5-10% carbs, 70% fats, and 20-25% protein on most days. Some days are better than others. When I want ice cream or a cupcake at a party then that’s what I’m going to have, it’s no more of this all or nothing mentality.  I now know what works for my body and what foods make me feel no so good. 

I’ve gotten pretty creative with our dinners and lunches, too.  I love simple recipes and especially since it’s Summer I love having J grill most of our food.  Now for side dishes you can keep it simple.  I created this three-ingredient keto friendly recipe in under 5 minutes.  

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These Parmesan peas were amazing.  You can use fresh or frozen peas, which ever you have on hand.  You can even use fresh or bagged Parmesan cheese, too.  

Parmesan Peas (Keto Friendly Recipe)
A delicious easy to prepare keto recipe.
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Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
4 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
4 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 2-4 cups of frozen or fresh peas
  2. 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
  3. 1 T. grass-fed butter (or any butter will work)
Instructions
  1. Boil a pot of water on the stove. Once boiling add the peas.
  2. Fresh peas cook for 3 minutes. Frozen peas cook for 1 minute.
  3. Drain the water.
  4. Place cooked peas back into the pot, add butter and cheese.
  5. Stir until butter and cheese is melted.
merelynne http://merelynne.com/
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Dear Son (What I Want You To Know)

dear son, what i want you to know

Dear Son,

Dad and I are trying are best, but we don’t know everything.

I want to give you the world, but it’s fine line of learning to be independent and just taking care of you.

I love how big you are getting, but I miss my snuggly newborn some days.

I love that you sleep (most nights) through the night, but it doesn’t mean I don’t check on you at least 20 times a night.

Every day you learn something new and amaze me with your energy.

You make my soul, my heart and my brain smile. I love you more than any words can describe.

I want what is best for you, but I understand that I have to let you fall sometimes.

When I get upset or stressed, please know it will pass.

The nights you need a little extra time being rocked to sleep are my favorite.

I now understand how my mom felt when she tried to shower, put on her makeup or pee with an audience.

You’re curiosity amazes me.

You are loved more than you will ever realize.

I want you to know it’s okay to be yourself and not care what anyone thinks of you.

You can do anything you dream of. I will support whatever your choices are.

You’re lack of fear inspires me to let go of my own inhibitions. 

Know that your dad and I will always stand behind you. You have our full support – always.

How to Budget Your Money and Save – Which Budget Strategy You Should Follow

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Friends!  Welcome today is going to be such a good post.  I have been so excited to share this revelation with you for awhile, but I wanted to make sure it was perfect because it’s a lot.  It’s going to be a lot to take in and I wanted to make sure I could answer all of your questions.  Today I want to share with you how to budget your money and save with three different budgeting techniques you can use to…

Get out of debt

Stop fighting with your spouse

Afford anything you want

Pretty bold statements, but you need a foundation and this is going to help you build it.  I promise.  

If you want quick and to the point then check out the video below, but I would recommend watching the video and then coming back to read this post.  I’m going to go into so much detail and I don’t want you to miss it.

There are three budgeting techniques that I’ve used, that I’ve recommended and that I’ve taught families to follow.  Every family is so different and you need to find what is going to work for you.  So by learning all three of these budgeting strategies you can now make an informed decision on which one you should be following.

Now before I get started I want to make an assumption – if you can set a bill to auto pay then you already have done it.  Most bills like utilities, car payments, credit card payments, insurance, cell phone, etc. can be made automatically each month.  You setup a recurring payment and forget about it.  So I highly recommend getting those auto drafts setup first before continuing.

I’ll wait…

Got it?  Good.  Let’s keep going.  The first technique is the…

Cash Budget

It is just as it sounds.  You spend cash and only cash.  Each week or every two weeks you go to the bank withdraw cash for groceries, gas for your cars, eating out and miscellaneous.  You spend what you have.  Nothing more.  

If you run out of cash in your grocery budget then you have two options: 1) put the item back and make do or 2) borrow from one of your other funds.  

Now if you choose to borrow from your other funds then you need to make sure you aren’t going to run out of gas on the side of the road one morning.  You’re going to have to think ahead and plan so that it’s okay if you take money from another category.

Who should following the cash budget?

Anyone struggling with overspending.  Leave your credit card and debit card at home (unless traveling).  You only take your wallet with you to spend cash.  I purchased this wallet from a shop on Etsy a few years back and it is great.  I talk about getting started with cash budget, so feel free to read it.

The Envelope Budget System

The next budget strategy can be combined with cash or with using your debit cards.  You keep a running total of what you spent in each category.  You can do this on a piece of paper you carry, a check register or an envelope.  I prefer the envelope because if I am using a combination of cash and debit card then I can carry my cash with me.  I also recommend holding onto your receipts in the envelopes, too.  

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Here’s how it works:

If you have a family of four then you should be spending roughly $400 a month on groceries (that’s $100 per person per month – no matter if you have a newborn or teenager).  If there are 4 weeks in the month then that would be $100 per week on groceries (please note you will have to adjust your weekly budget for those longer months).  You divide your envelope into four sections, one for each week.  You start with $100 at the top of each section and each purchase gets deducted.  You can see more detail in the video above.  

Again if you overspend on your groceries then you will have to borrow from another category.  You will list that loan or transfer on your envelope.  So for instance you have $40 left in your grocery budget this week.  What you need will cost about $45.  So you decide to borrow from your eating out budget this week.  You write down $40 on grocery envelope so your new balance is $0 then you go over to your eating out envelope and subtract $5 from your total.  Simple.

Who is the envelope budget system for?

Those of you that have mastered your impulse shopping and can now be trusted to use a debit card or credit card again.  If you are savvy with your money and are no longer worried about overspending then you can utilize your credit card to earn reward points.  

Bonus Tip: Use your reward points on Christmas shopping!

The final budget technique is the flexible debit card spending.

This system is for those of you that dislike carrying cash around.  The ones that are tired of going to the bank, but have self-control over your spending.  I’ve detailed what this looks like in another video and a previous post.  But here’s the basics:

You have multiple checking accounts – one for groceries, one for gas, one for eating out.  Each payday you transfer money into those separate accounts.  You use the category specific card when your grocery shopping or dining out.  You have to be mindful of the balance because you do not want to overdraft or hear those awful words “Sorry, your card was declined.”

Who is the flexible debit card spending for?

Those of you that have mastered your budget.  Those that can really keep up on how much money you have in your accounts and how much money you have left to spend.  I created this system a few months ago after waiting for what seemed forever at the local bank.  I was tired of waiting in line, tired of sorting cash for the next few weeks and my bank does not have any account fees.

You can combine the flexible debit card spending method with the envelope method.  You have separate accounts, but keep track of your spending on the envelope.  It can work beautifully! 

There you have it – the three budgeting techniques to help you pay down debt and afford anything you want.  When you put these practices in place you can start seeing where your money is going.  You can start working hard to pay down debt because you’re now sticking with a budget you set for yourself.  Now you can start saving for anything you want – on any income.  All you have to do is find a budget system that will work for your family and stick with it.  I like call new strategies the pilot program and follow them for at least 4-6 weeks.  That way you can find out what works and solve any kinks that come up.  

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If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

31 While 31 {My Birthday Goals}

birthday goals, things to do for my birthday

Around my birthday each year I create a new list of birthday goals.  

I’m super creative and I use my age to determine the number of tasks on my to-do list (I know, I know… I’m a genius!).  I’ve been doing this list for years now and I am not always successful at accomplishing each of my goals, but it gives me something to strive for.  Something to work towards in the new year and I feel that with age comes wisdom.  Wisdom to say no to things I no longer want to do or want to spend my time on and the wisdom to take more chances.  Yes, wisdom to take chances.  It may sound backwards, but it’s true.  With age comes the ability to stop caring what other people thing and be my true, authentic self.  If you like me, great!  If you don’t then that’s okay, too.  

Here are my birthday goals, the 31 things that I want to accomplish during my 31st year.

  1. have more fun
  2. take more risks
  3. finally step out of the hustle mindset
  4. take more picture
  5. don’t be afraid to live in the moment 
  6. work out more
  7. be outside more
  8. enjoy the lake
  9. take trips with my little family
  10. cuddle with my little boy
  11. bake more
  12. cook dinner at home
  13. start taking my lunch to work with me
  14. don’t be afraid to be on video
  15. reach out to other bloggers to partner with them
  16. finish my budget program
  17. continue to pay down debt
  18. start saving for our son’s college
  19. finish landscaping the yard
  20. become more patient with others
  21. slow down
  22. donate my time to a good cause
  23. create an editorial calendar for posts and emails to my VIPs
  24. earn my CFP® designation
  25. start my accounting degree
  26. finish our little guy’s baby book for his first year (I haven’t even started this one yet… oops!)
  27. start contributing to other budgeting sites more
  28. travel more
  29. put my family first
  30. be there for my friends
  31. teach my son to be the best man possible

There you have it!  My list of 31 things to do while I’m 31.  As I’ve gotten older and (ahem!) wiser, I’ve started scaling back my goals and making them more holistic and approachable.  No more specific tasks to try to achieve.  I want to work on who I am as a person and grow to become the person God wants me to be.  So I will stop and listen more instead of pushing.

If you want to see how my birthday goals have changed then check out my lists from 27, 28, 29 and 30!

Recapping My 30th

 

Can you believe another birthday is around the corner?  I feel like I just celebrated my 30th weeks ago and yet here I am, turning another year older.  I don’t mind aging, which I think comes from being pretty confident in myself and knowing God has a plan designed just for me.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not too crazy about the wrinkles I’ve been noticing around my eyes for the past few months or the fact I can’t stay up passed 9:30 without feeling like I’m hungover the next morning.  But I can accept all of that because I know everything else is good.  This past year has been pretty amazing.  Being a Mom sure has a lot to do with it.  Waking up every morning to my little boy singing from his crib and three dogs who can’t wait to start the day is pretty special.

 

This past year has been full of some great moments.  Our son took his first steps, I’ve advanced in my career, I continue to peck away at this little blog of mine trying to grow it and help you with your budgeting and financial needs, and I created my very first budget template to share with you and guide you on creating a sustainable budget.  It’s been good.

thankful for

fall bucket list, things to do in the fall

 

Since turning 30 we’ve been able to do so much as a family.  So I had way too much fun going through pictures for this post.  It was so neat to see how much our little guy has changed in just a year and to remember the crazy first-time Mom that I was.  Always making sure we had everything we could possible imagine when we left the house.  Now I’m lucky if I even remember a diaper most days.  I have come full circle that’s for sure!  This past year has brought a lot of changes to our family and to me.  I’ve mellowed out and have learned to rely on my inner strength.  It’s been a  good year.  Here are a few of my favorite memories from this past year:

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Florida vacation, travling with a toddler, flying with a toddler, how to travel with a baby

Beautiful beach vacation with J’s family when our little guy was just a few months old.  At this point our little guy had been to the beach twice before he was 3 months old.  We went again more recently on a beach vacation just the three of us, which was so much fun.  We played in the sand, toured the Daytona Speedway and just spent time together.  

I finally bit the bullet and hired someone local to take family pictures and birthday pictures for our little guy.  If you’re in Southeast Missouri and looking to get some pictures taken, take a look at Josh DeFord Photography

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I can’t wait to see where 31 takes me!  It’s going to be an adventure.    

Birthday Freebies

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Last year for my birthday I put together a giant list of freebies you can get on your birthday.  Who doesn’t love free stuff?  I had a list of free food, discounts, and reward points.  I thought it was time to update my list and make it a bit more complete this year.  Nothing says birthday like free gifts! 

Here’s my best tip for handling your reward programs and freebies.  

If you don’t want a ton of junk emails through out the year then go ahead and create a separate email account specifically for freebies.  I have a separate email that I check once a week or so that I use for store rewards programs.  That way your regular inbox isn’t overcrowded with emails and you can keep everything in the same spot.  

Alright, now onto the list of free stuff!  

Food Birthday Freebies

Applebees – Free dessert.
Arby’s – Free 12oz. milkshake with any purchase.
Auntie Anne’s Pretzels – Free pretzel (that’s what I received last birthday.)  They also send monthly coupons all year long if you sign up for their newsletter.
Baskin Robbins – Free 2.5 oz scoop of ice cream on your birthday plus other promotions when you join the Baskin Robbins Birthday Club.
Bob Evans – Free dessert and/or free kid’s meal.
Boston Market – Free kid’s meal coupon for kids under 12.
Buffalo Wild Wings – You either get a free dessert straight up or with a $5 purchase, depending on your location.
Burger King – Free kid’s meal to all kids club members.
Chevy’s – Free dessert.
Chick-fil-A – Free meal, good for two months!
Country Buffet – Join the Mega Bar Meal club and get a free meal on your birthday AND a free meal just for signing up!
Country Kitchen – As long as you have valid ID, you get a free dinner entree up to $8 in value.
Cracker Barrel – Come in on your birthday and you will get a free dessert.
Culver’s – Free sundae.
Dairy Queen – Free BOGO ice cream coupon via e-mail.
Denny’s – Free original Grand Slam breakfast, but only on your birthday!
Dunkin Donuts – Free Coffee!
Dutch Bros. Coffee – Stop in on your birthday and get a free coffee as your birthday freebie.
Einstein Bros Bagels – Free bagel and shmear
Famous Dave’s Barbeque – Free birthday surprise and free kids lil’ wilbur meal.
Fazoli’s – Join their eFamily and get a coupon for a free dessert.
Firehouse Subs – Sign up and get an email for a free sub.
Great American Cookies – Free cookie!
Hard Rock Cafe – Free dessert.
Hometown Buffet – Join the Mega Bar Meal club and get a free meal on your birthday AND a free meal just for signing up!
Hooters – 10 free hot wings.
Houlihan’s – Free coupon for an entree during your next visit up to a week after your birthday.
HuHot Mongolian Grill – Free dessert and free kid’s smores
IHOP – Come on into IHOP and get a free meal (a sundae at some locations) on your birthday. (May not be available in all areas.)
Jack in the Box – They have a printable coupon for a free dessert valid only on your birthday.
Krispy Kreme – Free half dozen glazed donuts and a coffee mug with either coffee or soda in it! You might want to sign up ahead of time (only at participating locations).
Logan’s Roadhouse – Join their Nut Club and get a coupon for a free slice of cheesecake.
Lone Star Steakhouse –Free Appetizer!
Maggie Moo’s –Free Birthday Surprise!
Marble Slab Creamery – Kids can join the Marble Slab Kids Club and get a free ice cream cone on their birthday up to age 12.
McAlister’s Deli – Free birthday surprise.
Mimis Cafe – Free entree with purchase.
Moe’s Southwest Grill –Free Entree! and Free Kid’s Birthday Meal!
Noodles & Company – Free meal coupon for your birthday when you signup for their newsletter.
Old Chicago Free Pizza!
Old Country Buffet – Join the Mega Bar Meal club and get a free meal on your birthday AND a free meal just for signing up!
Old Spaghetti Factory – Free Kid’s Birthday Meal!
Old Spaghetti Warehouse – Join the Warehouse Club and get a coupon for a free meal on your birthday.
Olive Garden – Free birthday surprise.
Orange Julius – Free birthday drink.
Outback – Get a free dessert.
P.F. Chang’s – Free cake or cheesecake via their e-mail list.
Papa Murphy’s – Sign up for their e-club and get a coupon for a free cookie dough on your birthday.
Qdoba Mexican Grill – Free burrito on your birthday, as well as free chips n’ salsa just for joining up.
Quizno’s – Join their mailing list and get a free cookie on your birthday. You’ll also get a coupon for a free Sammie when you sign up.
Red Lobster – Join the Overboard Club and they will email you a surprise for your birthday.
Red Robin – Free Gourmet Burger if you pick up a Red Royalty Card at your local restaurant and then register it online. You also get a dessert when you say it’s your birthday in the restaurant!
Starbucks – If you have a gift card to their store, register it and receive a free coffee on your birthday. If you shop there often, it might be worth buying a gift card just to get the free coffee!
Steak ‘n Shake – Free steak burger with cheese and fries.
Texas Roadhouse – They send a coupon for one free appetizer or sidekick of ribs.
Waffle House – Join their Regulars Club and get a special coupon.
Wendy’s – Free kids meal for the little ones and a free frosty for us adults.
Zio’s Italian – Come in and get a free dessert on your birthday.

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Retail Birthday Freebies

Ace Hardware – signup and receive $5 off on your birthday.
CVS – If you have an Extra Care Card, register it online and get $3 ECB on your birthday.
Disney – sign up for Disney Rewards and get a credit for a free DVD.
DSW Shoes – $5.00 On Your Birthday.
Famous Footwear – Free Birthday Surprise.
Hallmark – 20% off coupon for one item and a free card.
Helzberg Diamonds
 – Sign up for free email updates and receive a coupon for free pearl earrings for your birthday.
Journeys Kidz – 15% off gift card for your child’s birthday.
Kmart – Children get $5.00 Birthday Bucks, a birthday crown, happy birthday certificate, and birthday Fun Pack with surprise goodies!
Missouri Lottery – Free-play ticket.
Old Navy – Get a coupon on your birthday.
Proctor & Gamble – A batch of BOGO coupons for various products.
Sephora – Sign up as a Beauty Insider and get a free gift from Sephora on your birthday.
Swagbucks – 50 free Swagbucks
The Children’s Place – Register for their Birthday Club and receive 15% off on yours and your child’s birthday + coupons during your birthday week.
Toys R Us – Sign up ahead of time and once your child’s birthday rolls around, they’ll get a personalized letter in the mail. Plus, bring your child into any Toys R Us and they’ll get a hat & balloon before having their birthday announced over the loudspeaker. You’ll also get a $3 gift card in mail.

Ulta Beauty – Free Birthday Surprise!
Walmart PictureMe Studio – Free Birthday Portrait Collage!
World Market – Free Birthday Gift!

Bonus Tip – Sign up early

Now if you know you’re going to be going to a specific restaurant or store on or around your birthday, then try to join the rewards program before going.  I recommend joining about 2-3 weeks before your birthday.  That way your information has time to be processed in their system and you can get an email with your coupon.  Most stores have caught on to people signing up just for the instant coupon, so now they wait a day or two to send an email with the discount.  If you sign up early then you can ensure time to receive the goods.

My Favorite Money Saving Hacks

Friends!  Summer is here and it’s time we save as much money as possible on the every day items so we can do fun stuff with our kids.  I don’t know about you, but I love it when I can save a few dollars here and a few dollars there on the small things (and the big things!) then turn around and do some fun activity with our little guy.  

There are so many free summer activities you can be doing during the week and on the weekends with your little ones.  In a perfect world every fun trip, activity or event would be free… BUT that’s our dream world, am I right?  Sometimes, though it’s worth it to splurge a little on a fun-filled weekend.  I can show you how splurging won’t really hurt and how you can plan for it even better.  These money saving hacks can really add up.  They don’t take too much time to do and you should probably be doing them during the non-summer months, too. 

I created a quick video that shows my favorite money saving hacks and how I use them to save money for our family.  You can keep reading, too.

Update Your Budget Weekly

You should be checking your budget on a regular basis and if you’re looking on ways to save money then bump your look up to weekly.  You should be sitting down with your spouse weekly to look at your budget, see where your money is going and where you should stop spending.  My husband and I do this on Sunday afternoons while we meal plan.  Sit down to look at the week ahead and create a plan.  Not just a plan of what events you have or places you need to be, but a plan of how you’re going to spend your money.  You and your spouse need to be on the same page, especially if one of you is the saver and the other one is the spender.  Your budget doesn’t have to be complicated, all you need an agreement of how this next week is going to go.  

By looking at your budget weekly you can make adjustments before it’s too late.  Cook dinner at home instead of grabbing fast food.  Just think for your family of 4 it probably cost $20 or more for a drive-thru dinner and if you’re doing that two times a week, every week you’re wasting over $2,000 dollars a year.  

Check For Deals

If you do want to splurge or just can’t seem to find the time to cook dinner one night then check for deals.  I like to keep any coupons we receive in the mail (normally called junk mail) in my car.  Then if we’re running errands or (let’s be honest here) just too over cooking then you can use a coupon.  Now you can keep your coupons in a binder, an accordion file or in your console.  Whatever works for you.  Just make sure you keep them in your car so when you’re out there is no excuse to pull out the coupons and pick a place that you can save some money.  So instead of spending $20 for your family, you’re now spending $15.  That $5 savings adds up to over $500 a year.

I also love paying attention to events or grand openings happening at our favorite places.  In our little town we have a pretty fun water park.  A few times a year they will host a business after hours or an open house.  Just by attending, eating free food and mingling with friends you can score some free day passes.  So simple!

I know our public library hosts free days and events all of the time during the summer.  Just subscribe to local places around your town to be the first to know of free concerts, events and passes!

Money Saving Apps

Now these money saving apps don’t necessarily save you money, but you can earn money while you are grocery shopping.  You can let the money you earn in these apps accumulate then use them for vacations, special outings, or even help with your Christmas budget.  

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Ibotta is great because they help you earn money with items you already purchasing.  All you have to do is register for an Ibotta account (my referral link) then get started.  I recommend checking Ibotta before finishing your grocery list so you know and can compare prices of items you already buying.  But you have to be careful and make sure you look at the price.  Just because the name brand item has a $0.50 rebate available it doesn’t mean it is going to be cheaper than the store-brand item.  So make sure you’re aware of prices and take a few minutes to do the calculations.  

Walmart Savings Catcher App is great if you do most of your shopping at Walmart; however, since Walmart stopped price matching I have found I spend less and less money there.  But it’s Walmart and it’s soooo easy to just go to one store, get everything you need and be done.  So I can’t say I do zero shopping there these days because then I would be telling a lie.  I have found their app doesn’t count everything that is on sale in my area (because I have checked the sale ads for items I bought a few times and when my savings come in it doesn’t add up), but it’s still better than nothing.

Ebates is another tool I use when I do online shopping. You can register for an ebates (my referral link) online then just start on their page before going to the store’s site.  You simply earn money for doing your day-to-day or special occasion shopping

Sell What You Don’t Use

Look at your house and think about items you no longer use.  I’m sure you could go through your hall closet, the garage, your clothes closet and even the kitchen to find stuff you aren’t using.  Old toys that you’re kids have outgrown are great to sell!  

I use Facebook Swap Shops for selling a lot of things that are still in good condition that we don’t use.  You can utilize Facebook, Craigslist, letgo and other apps for finding buyers.  Just make sure you meet in a well-lit and crowded area.  I like to have people meet me at my work so I don’t have to get back out in the evening and I can control where we’re meeting so I know it’s in a good area.

Buy Used

This goes along with selling what you don’t need anymore.  Take a look at those swap shops, craigslist ads, and so on for any seasonal kids’ clothes and new toys.  You can find great deals on clothes.  Your kid is going to outgrow those brand new summer shorts that cost $20 just as fast as he will used shorts that are in great condition that cost $5.  

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I like to buy seasonal clothes like shorts for our little man using Facebook swap shops.  I bought these four pairs of shorts for $3 last summer.  He wore these shorts all summer long! You couldn’t go into a store to buy four pairs of shorts like these for only $3 a piece let alone $3 for all of them! If your town has FB Swap Shops you can setup an alert around your certain criteria.  All you have to do is enter “boys 12 month clothes” or any variation then click save.  Each time someone posts a listing that meets your search, you will get a FB alert.  I even do this for Winter clothes for our little guy. You could probably find some good pieces for you and your husband, too.  Just keep an eye out for new listings.  I prefer the ones that come from a smoke free and pet free home, but since we have three dogs the pet part isn’t a deal breaker.  I of course wash all clothes before wearing them, just to be on the safe side.

Do A Spending Freeze

The final option, which is the quickest way to save some serious money is to do a spending freeze.  You can do one for a  five days, a week or even an entire month.  I’ve explained how to do a spending freeze before, but you basically pick a time frame to spend no money.  No grocery shopping, no eating out, no sitters, nothing.  

There you have it, my favorite money saving hacks.  Leave a comment below letting me know your favorite money saving tips!