How Much to Spend on Birthdays

how much to spend on birthdays, how much to spend on birthday gifts, birthday budget, budget for birthday gifts

Creating a budget for all the birthdays in your life can be hard.  There are so many questions – Do we need to buy them a gift?  Did they get us a gift?  How much should we spend?  Should we spend the same on everyone?  

It can get complicated, but I want to share with you a simple rule we live by that has helped us a lot!  We have classified everyone in our family and our close friends into groups. Each group has a specific budget to use.  If someone is in the group then that’s how much we spend on them.  

The reason we created this budget system for birthdays was to make sure everything was equal.  It was important to us to make sure we treated my family the same as we treated my husband’s family.  Now before I get into it, I do want to have a disclaimer:

This budget idea is a just a suggestion.  It may not work the exact same for your family as it does for ours – and that’s okay. You also need to have the wisdom to know it’s okay to spend more or less for a specific person.  For a big birthday then we might spend a bit more than usual.  If we find a really good deal then we spend less.  For instance a few years ago J and I (along with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law) spent more for J’s Dad.  We bought NASCAR tickets for him and at the same time we bought a ticket for J so he could go with him.  That was an exception to our budget rule.  We saved more money and gave ourselves permission to spend more, and it was awesome.  Now we don’t splurge on everyone, which is why we get to do it every once in awhile.  

Again, these are just guidelines for your budget.  You can spend less or you can spend more depending on the space you have in your budget.   

Spouse – $30 each
Children – $30 each
Parents – $25 each
Siblings – $20 each
Nieces and Nephews – $15 each
Friends – $15 each
Children’s Friends – $15 each
Others – $10 each

A great way to be prepared for birthdays is to treat them as a sinking fund.  Make a list of everyone you buy gifts for, how much you budget to spend and then add it up.  Take that total and divide by 12.  That’s how much you need to be putting back each month to afford birthday gifts.  

For example, let’s say you have 15 people you need to buy for through out the year.  This includes spouse, kids, parents, sisters, nephews and nieces, coworkers, friends, and birthday parties that your kids will go to.  You take the amount for each category, let’s say equals $350 for the year.  You would divide $350 by 12 months to get about $30.00.  You need to be saving $30.00 each month into a separate account or earmark it in your checking so you can buy gifts.

Here’s what our family’s birthday budget looks like:

our birthday budget, budget goals, budget for birthday, how to budget, how to birthday budget

We spend about $475 a year on birthday gifts. This means we save $39.60 each month to cover everyone’s birthday.  Now our family is kind of big.  J has 2 brothers and a sister while I have one sister.  They are all married (or in serious relationships) and some have kids.  We have also come to an agreement to skip buying larger gifts for each other.  We might spend $10 on one another so we can have a little more wiggle room in our birthday budget.

Again, I want to be fully honest here.  If I can find a great gift for less than my budget then I call that a win.  I don’t have to spend my budgeted amount.  I just try not to spend more than my budget. 

We even use these budget amounts for Christmas gifts, too.  I have a great way to help with our Christmas budget and I plan on doing it again this year.  It has really streamlined everything.

What to Pack In A Diaper Bag for Your Toddler

Affiliate Disclosure: please note that when you click links and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. 

toddler diaper bag, what to pack in diaper bag, what to pack in diaper bag for toddler, whats in a diaper bag for a toddler, diaper bag for toddler

Motherhood is one wild ride.  So many changes happen in the first year and then when we reached toddler status the changes just kept coming.  I’ve learned not to be so worried about the little things and to have more fun in the moment.  One of the biggest things I’ve changed is the super heavy diaper bag that was weighing me down.  It was such a relief the first time I carried this smaller packed bag out of the house.  I can’t tell you how happy I was when we had everything we needed, too.  Such a great feeling!

As our little boy gets older my diaper bag has changed from this stuffed tote for a newborn to a much lighter bag.  I’ve realized I don’t need to carry all that stuff anymore and it’s so nice.  Now don’t get me wrong as a new Mom I was very unsure about a lot of things (like a lot, a lot).  It was nice having everything that could be possibly needed when he was a newborn.  As I’ve become more confident with motherhood, I have been able to improvise on the fly.  I’ve also learned that as mothers, we don’t need all the stuff in the diaper bag we imagined.  It was a hard lesson to learn, but once I had the light bulb moment it brought a whole new perspective.

Now my diaper bag has changed quite a bit.  No more are the days of leaning over and everything falling out.  I recorded a quick video to show you exactly what’s inside and what I recommend to keep in your diaper bag for your toddler.  Take a look at what I carry for our very active 16 month old.

The diaper backpack I have is no longer available on Amazon, but you can find a similar diaper bag here.

The thirty-one bag can be found here (I have an older version).

My purse can be found here (remember this was a gift from J using his reward points from work – not that there is anything wrong with investing in a nice purse, but with a small child and living on a budget it’s not always possible).

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Some of Our Favorites to Include

Diapers
Wipes
Change of clothes
Sippy Cup that doesn’t leak
Book (similar set to what we have)
Small Toy (I prefer quiet toys for when we’re out to eat or in public places)
Snacks (Goldfish, crackers, Cheerios)
Snack Holder

What do you pack in your diaper bag for your toddler?  Leave a comment below with the details.

 

Check out more posts about parenting a toddler, even help with being a new mom and overall the whole motherhood thing.

Avoid the Lunch Burnout

How To Avoid The Lunch Burnout

Now that we’ve survived our first No Eating Out Challenge, it’s time to shake things up a bit.  Every time we try to pack lunches we do so good for the first week or so and then we start slipping.  I know it’s because we’re getting bored with what we’re bringing.  The same thing (or variation of the same meal) every day can get old.  

We have been working hard to avoid the lunch burnout and have found a few recipes that we rotate.  I wanted to share these quick lunch ideas that you can take to eat cold OR heat up.

egg roll in a bowl

This egg roll in a bowl has been one of my favorites to make.  I typically will make a big recipe on Sunday and then measure it out to last all week.  I’ve eaten it warm and cold, and either way is tasty.  

This turkey club roll-up is a great low-carb idea.  I tend to add a little more avocado since I like it so much.

Justin even made this Big Mac salad and it was prefect.  All you have to do is brown the hamburger on Sunday or one evening during the week.  You can even pre-make the dressing and store in a container until you’re ready to eat.

fried chicken salad

One of the easiest meals to make is this fried chicken salad.  You can make it super simple by buying fried chicken from the store to use or even make your own.  Since switching to low-carb we’ve made these yummy chicken tenders that work perfectly.  

whole30, avocado lime salad dressing recipe

I’m also a huge lover of salad so I’ve been known to make this Avocado Lime dressing to top mine, too.  It’s easy to make and can keep in the fridge all week.

What are some of your favorite lunches to avoid the weekly burnout?  Leave a comment letting me know!

How To Balance Life When Your Have Kids and a Career

How To Balance Life, work life balance, mom balance, how to stay sane as a mom

I had been working on this post about how to balance life for a very long time.  I’ve had the idea scribbled in a notebook for months.  I’ve had a draft started, but not finished for weeks.  Yet here I am completely changing the whole premise of this topic.  

Let’s get real for a second – when you have kids there is no balance.  Sure you can feel like everything is rocking and rolling for a few days, maybe even a few weeks, but it will come crashing down at some point.  I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it does.

For instance, I started this post off (then deleted it) talking about how to find balance you need to be a planner.  You need to have a list of everything that needs to get done, be able to know when to delegate and when to say no, and you need help.  But that was before our little boy spent the better part of 3 hours nonstop crying last night.  No idea why.  He just did.

I’m tired.  I’m dragging and I sure know that today is going to be rough.

It’s 8 am and I’m already sipping on a Diet Mountain Dew (it’s my version of coffee).  This post was supposed to be finished last night so it could go live this morning, but that didn’t happen.  Because no matter how hard I try to plan, prepare and schedule my day – it doesn’t always play out like I hope.  So instead of finishing this post last night, I sat in complete darkness holding my crying boy in my arms until he fell asleep.

And there is no place I would have rather been.

Truth.

So maybe work life balance isn’t a fine balance act.  Maybe it’s having the ability to say no to some things so you can say yes to more important ones.

My son, my family and my well-being comes before anything else.  So on days like yesterday, I have to reschedule everything I had planned for the last 3 hours of my day, I have to go to bed later than I normally do and I have to wake up earlier than I thought was possible.

But to me balance isn’t doing it all and being perfect, it’s choosing what’s perfect for me.

I may not get it all done in the time frame I dreamed of and that’s okay.

You may not either and you have to be willing to accept it.  There are a few things you can do to help you not feel pressure to do things you HAVE to do when things you WANT to do come up.

  1. Plan your day.  I use Google calendar to plan out my family’s life.  Everything task, appointment, and reminder are scheduled in my calendar.
  2. Keep a running to-do list.  I am someone who will obsess over something until it’s done.  I have found that when I write a task or an idea down, then I can turn my brain off and focus on what I was supposed to be doing.
  3. Be okay with change.  Days don’t always go as planned and you have to be willing to accept it.  Let’s face it as Moms no two days are the same.  And if you think they can be, then just spend time with a toddler because they will correct your thought process in less than an hour.
  4. Build in buffers.  For me that means going to be later or getting up earlier (preferably not within a 12 hour period, but that’s mom life).  I also try to keep my lunch hour free to do other work.  I work full time so when my lunch break comes I usually run home to write posts, record videos or edit them.  This gives me some flexibility when my evenings or mornings don’t go as I hope. 
  5. Know your priorities.  Sometimes we get wrapped up in the hustle of life.  We get frustrated when we have to stop mid-thought to dig a toy out from under the couch just for your little one to do it all over again.  At those moments, just stop and remind yourself every day they are learning something new and one day they will be able to reach for a toy under the couch themselves and that day will be hard.  You may not realize it at the time, but it will be.  When our little one could finally hold his own bottle, I was happy until the day came that I wanted to rock him to sleep for nap time and he didn’t need me to any longer.  He could hold his own bottle and lay down on his own.

I may not be perfect with work life balance, but I don’t think anyone can be perfect when they’re a mom.  No matter if you’re a mom who works away from home, works from home or in between.  Any woman who mothers a child, runs a household and is making a difference will never have a perfect balance act.  And at the end of the day when you watch your little one sleep you realize that it’s okay because they are more perfect than you could ever imagine.

Changing My Wealth Mindset

wealth mindset, changing mindset, being wealthy, making money, mindset on wealth, money tips, budget help

What is your wealth mindset?

For so many the first thing that pops in their head is money.  And I was one of those people.  Being wealthy used to mean 

Wealth is so much more than the money you spend on stuff.  The stuff that fills your house and the toys in your garage doesn’t mean you’re wealthy.  I had this realization not that long ago when I was looking around my family room watching our little boy play.  He was so happy and in that moment life was perfect.  Those moments are so amazing and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  

I know that’s a cliche example of being wealthy, but it’s the truth.  I also started thinking how wealth isn’t what the commercial standard of wealth is.  Being wealthy is a personal thing – what’s important to you and you alone.  Of course I started relating everything to our finances and family budgeting.  

I think of our family’s financial goals as a path.  We want to measure our wealth on how we’re doing reaching our goals.  I talk so much about goals and financial journeys, but how do you know when you’ve made it?  I guess when you actually reach your goals, but then those goals are replaced with bigger ones.  That’s life.  So now being wealthy is the good progress we’re making towards those goals.  

Wealth is having the ability to bounce back from an emergency without sacrifice.  Wealth is seeing my child play in a yard with our dogs chasing after him.  It’s the ability to not have to worry about debt or not having enough in our bank account to do the things we want.  Wealth is reaching our financial goals and then setting new ones.  

We’re already wealthy even though we haven’t reached our bigger goals.  We’re wealthy because we’ve made so much progress to get towards those goals.  My wealth mindset has shifted to not be so concerned with the amount in our bank accounts and more focused on the bigger picture.  It’s a great feeling!

20 Ways To Make $100 Fast

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Are you looking for quick ways to make a buck?  Well you’re in luck!  I have put together a great list of 20 ways to make $100 fast.  

Now most of these on the list are things I have personally done and can share with you my opinion.  But before you take on any job or sell anything, please do your research.  Make sure it’s from a reputable company or from someone you personally know.  There are too many times people are taken advantage of and you should protect yourself.

Alright, now that my little disclaimer is out of the way let’s dive in.  Here are my 20 ways to make $100 fast:

Sell old phones, laptops and tablets

You can find different online companies, like gazelle.com that offer to buy old electronics (I have never used gazelle before, so please do your research).  You can also sell old phones, computers and such online through craigslist and Facebook swap shops.  A lot of times people are looking for parts and are willing to pay for an older phone.  

Sell old clothes

This is one of my favorite ways to make extra money!  All you have to do is clean out your closet, your husband’s closet and your kids’ closets.  You can sell on Facebook Swap Shops or create an Ebay account to sell.  I have sold older coats that I no longer wear on Ebay before and it’s super easy.  Plus Ebay will give you a few credits each month so you can list quite a few items at no cost.  Now you will pay a processing fee for selling, but it was minimal in my experience.  

Have a Yard Sale

I’ll admit I have a love/hate relationship with Yard Sales.  Here’s why – you can put so much work into them and then end having a dud.  Plus during the summer when it’s so hot, the last thing I want to do is sit outside most of the day.  However, with that being said I still love yard sales.  It forces us to clean out closets, get rid of items we no longer use and then we try to make some money off of them.  You can even come together with another family or with your neighborhood to hose a giant yard sale.  When you offer a multi-family yard sale then you typically end up with more buyers, which means increased number of eyes looking at your items.  If you’re looking for some great tips on how to host a successful yard sale then check out this post from Money Crashers.  

Sell Items You Don’t Use

This goes right along with selling old clothes and having a yard sale.  If you aren’t using something and haven’t used it in a long time then get rid of it.  You could easily make some cash and make more room in your house.  For instance, our old bassinet we had just sitting in our little guy’s room.  We hadn’t used it in months (I’m pretty sure we stopped using it before he was even three months old) and our little guy was over a year old.  We decided it was finally time to sell it.  We made back over half of what we paid for it, which was awesome.  Now we cleared a corner in his nursery for the growing pile of toys.

Volunteer for Overtime

If you work in a service industry type field then you may be able to volunteer for a few hours.  I know in the tax and accounting field a lot of overtime is earned during tax season, which is a great way to make some extra cash.  So just keep you eyes and ears open to see if any extra help is needed.  You can score some brownie points with the boss and make some money too!

Take Part in Your Company’s Customer Referral Program

A lot of workplaces offer a referral program – either refer a new client or a new employee.  This is a great way for you to earn money on the side, just by promoting what you do for a living. 

Offer Baby Sitting

I know a lot of parents are afraid of leaving their children with people they don’t know.  So offer babysitting to people you trust and who trust you.  You can put up flyers around your church or work to offer babysitting a few times each month.  You could make some serious cash!

Start Pet Sitting

Not that I want to compare a child to a pet, but people will do some crazy things to keep their pets comfortable.  Offer to some friends who are planning a vacation to take care of their dogs while they’re away.  More than likely it will be a lot more cost effective then a kennel for your friends and you could earn some money while doing it.

Sell Your Photography Skills

Are you an avid photographer?  Well you could be making money.  If you’re willing to upload your pictures to a site like shutterstock then you could turn your hobby into a side job.  Online photography sites typically offer a way for you to sell good, quality images without much of a startup cost.  

Apply for extra work 

There are so many websites and job boards online that are looking for someone to edit images, grammar check posts, and even ghost write a few posts.  By joining a place like Upwork, you can put together an online resume and then bid on different jobs.  I actually use to write on Upwork quite a bit.  I would put together articles for other finance sites and even created a handout for a gym owner in Australia once.  

Clean Houses

Put together flyers to put around town, at your church or online to offer some cleaning skills.  Cleaning houses could turn into a regular side job that makes some pretty consistent money for you.

Detail Cars

How many people do you know that actually enjoy cleaning their car?  And it’s so hard to find a decent person who can detail a car without overcharging.  Put together a weekend job where you detail cars.  The startup cost is minimal and you can earn some serious money for the time you put 

Create on Fiverr

Can you quickly proofread a short document or have a simple way to create an image?  Well then you could be making some money over at Fiverr.  It’s a cool site that you can sell your services or products for $5.00.  Now you can offer an upcharge for any special add-ons, which is great.  I have personally used Fiverr on several different occassions and always end up with great service.  

Offer Tutoring

If you are profecient in a subject at the local high school or college then you can turn it into a weekend gig.  Offer tutoring to local students on the weekends or one evening a week.

Ghost Writer on a Blog

If you have some writing skills then you can easily turn that into a gig.  A lot of sites that publish articles multiples times a day are always looking for ghost writers.

Offer your Editing Skills

Along with becoming a ghost writer, you can offer your editing skills as an on-going job to websites and bloggers.

Become a Social Media Manager

If you know you’re way around the major social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest then you can easily offer yourself to bloggers and smaller companies.  They are always looking for a strong social media presence, but may not have the budget to hire some in-house full-time.  So offer your services on a small hourly or flat rate fee.

Donate Plasma

If you don’t mind donating blood then you can try your hand at plasma.  There are quite a few places that will actually pay you to donate.  

Give Up Cable

I know this one might be a bit harder to do because you probably have a show (or two) that you love, plus you may be a sports fanactic like my husband.  But if you’re willing to go with out your cable then that could potentially save you MORE than a $100 a month.  There are other services available to help with cutting the cord.  You can get the Amazon Fire Stick (affiliate link), you can try Hulu and Netflix to make sure that you still have some entertainment for the little ones.  We love our Fire Stick and have discovered a ton of great shows – for us and for our little guy for free.

Stop Eating Out for a few weeks

If you find yourself eating out way too often then try taking my No Eating Out Challenge.  You will be surprised by how much you save just by eating at home and taking your lunch with you for a week.

Which ones are you going to try to make $100 fast?  I know we love selling old items online and through yard sales as a quick way to get rid of junk while making money.  

How To Set Your Grocery Budget

How To Set The Perfect Grocery Budget, how to set your budget, grocery budget help

Do you know how much your monthly grocery budget should be?  I have received so many questions from you and I thought it was time to answer.  Setting the right budget each month is a cornerstone in reaching your financial goals.  You need a money plan, a realistic one at that.  

On the expenses that are only paid once a month, it’s a lot easier to not overspend.  It’s the things like running to a store or going out to eat that can really mess up our plan.  That’s where we tend to spend more than we realize.  Even if you’re tracking your spending (which you totally should), mistakes can still happen.  You need to have a plan set in stone (or at least flexible stone) so that you can make sure you’re on the right path.  

In the video below, we’re diving in just how much you should be spending each month for your groceries.  Learn how to set your grocery budget – the right way! 

 

If you’re looking for help on what all to include in your grocery budget, check out this video.  I’ll help you figure out a good plan of what to include, and not include each month.  Remember you’re family is not just like mine, so you need to be open and flexible to creating a money plan that works best for you.  If you set your grocery budget and it doesn’t work then make the right adjustments.  

How much do you spend each month on groceries for your family?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Need More Help?

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.

 

No Eating Out Challenge – How To Save Over $2,000 a Year

no eating out challenge, eat at home more, meal planning, spending freeze, how to do a spending freeze

I don’t know about you, but I like to eat out.  There is just something about someone else cooking dinner for my family and doing the dishes that’s hard to resist. But lately we have found ourselves splurging a little too often on our dinners.  We haven’t gone crazy overboard on our spending, because I have been tracking pretty consistently.  But we could be saving more money just by eating at home and I know that.

Do you need a break from eating out?  I know we do!  Over this past week I came to the realization we needed a break from the easy option.  So I created a simple a challenge… I call it the…

No Eating Out Challenge

It’s similar to the idea of a spending freeze, but it only applies to eating out.  Basically it is going to force us to sit at home around the kitchen table a bit more for the next 7 days.  We can reconnect and just spend more time together – the three of us.  I encourage you to join in on the (fun) challenge with us.  We plan on starting Monday morning, but you can start anytime you want.  

The Rules:

No eating out for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
No quick pick-ups at the gas station, including drinks.
No easy runs to the grocery store to by an already (or almost) prepared meal.
Eat at home every night this week.
Take lunch with us to work or school every day this week.

The Goal:

Save money.  Reconnect as a family.  Start utilizing the meal plan that is created each week so food is not wasted. 

Are you in?  If so, leave a comment letting me know when you planning on starting.  Let’s encourage each other during this no eating out challenge!

Watch my latest Facebook Live video where I talk all about the savings from taking this challenge.

How To Stay Motivated

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Today, I want to share with you how to stay motivated when it comes to budgeting and paying down your debt.  Let’s be honest for a second, talking about money all the time with your spouse or thinking about it can be draining.  Very draining.  Eventually you just want to throw your spreadsheets down and say screw it!  We’ve all be there.  But you have to hang on. 

Just for a bit longer.

You totally understand the importance of tracking your spending so you can finally start making a dent in your debt.  You get it when you hear how important it is to have an emergency fund built up so you don’t have to be completely shaken when a financial setback happens.  You are a rock star.  And it’s okay that sometimes you loose a little bit of focus, but you have to stay motivated with your eyes on the prize.

It’s going to be so worth it.

To jump ahead check out my video with my TOP THREE motivation tips when it comes to budgeting.

However, when those moments strike and you find yourself so completely unmotivated, you need to remember these few tips:

Know your strengths and your weaknesses.

More than likely one of you is probably more of a saver while the other one is more of a spender.  So during times you find yourself struggling or pulling the reigns back a bit too tight then take a step back.  Allow your partner to take over for a bit so you can recharge.  I know in our house I am more of the saver while J is more of the spender (not crazy, out of control spending).  So when I find myself obsessing over the budget and draining all the fun our of our lives, J is perfectly able to step in.  He lightens the mood and gets us back on track with enjoying life while paying down debt.

Talk with your partner.

When you find yourself some uninspired and just want to give up then talk it out.  You may be surprised with how your spouse feels and it can change your whole outlook.  Just have an honest conversation about what’s going, your thoughts and concerns then you can have a real conversation about what to do as a team.

Set small, easily reach goals.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated when you’re staring at a huge goal that seems way too far in the future.  So break it down.  Create small goals that can be reached in a week, a month or even 3 months from now.  You will feel like you’re making headway and that can be a huge motivator.  For instance, you’re trying to save for a down payment on your first home.  You’re goal is to put 20% down, which means you need about $30,000 in the bank.  Set smaller goals and then reward yourself.  Create a goal sheet where there is an increment of $5,000 all the way up.  Each time you hit a new $5,000 goal then you can color it in.  Now you can visualize yourself actually reaching your big goal and those $5,000 increments seems so much more attainable. 

Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate.

Sometimes goals change.  What you wanted a year ago may not be a good fit today.  You can’t be afraid to allow yourself to make changes to your goals – no matter their size.  It’s okay to remove something from your wish list and replace it with something new.  Let’s say you dreamed of owning a loft in the city by the time you were 35.  Now here you are at 30 years old and find yourself married with a toddler.  Well your new goal may be a small house with a yard so you can have room to play.  That’s okay.  Goals are fluid and constantly shifting.

Know it’s okay to make mistakes.

Most mistakes won’t be the end of the world, so allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes.  Each mistake is just a learning opportunity.  If you make misplace a $100 bill by accident don’t beat yourself up.  I know it can be really frustrating and depressing to lose money, but it’s not the end of the world.  Just take a deep breath and count the blessings that you do have in those situations.  It will put it into a better perspective for you.

Stay strong.

Know that it will all be worth it.  You have to have will power to reach your final goals.  You can just give up when things get tough because you will never make any progress.  So remember it’s worth fighting for.

Remember the end goal.

When things get really tough and you find yourself just wanting to pull the sheets over your head then it’s time to remember why.  Why are you working so hard.  What goal are you striving to achieve.  Is is so you can pay for your children’s college costs without them having to take out any loans?  Well why?  Why are you working to do that?  It might be because you graduated with some serious debt and know how much of a head start your kids will get if they are debt free.  Or maybe you want to pay off your credit card debt so you can finally start taking the extra $500 a month and use it to buy your dream home.  

Just remember what the end goal is and you will keep focused.

20 Easy Ways to Save Money

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Are you looking for some easy ways to save money?  

Well you’re in luck!  I am putting together my best list of ideas, tips and methods that will help you save money fast.  I don’t know about you, but Summer is usually a bit harder for me to save money.  Maybe it’s because there are a lot of fun things you can do with your family during the warm months or maybe you have school-aged children that you’re desperate to entertain for a few hours (I know I will be there soon!).  I had a realization the other night, if I made sure my budget was on track for the big stuff – groceries and eating out then that would give us a little more wiggle room for the fun fund.  So I put together a list of 20 really easy and simple ways to save money.  

No matter if you follow all 20 of these tips or just a few, you will find yourself saving money and being able to do more with your kids.  

Cash Back Rewards

If you use a credit card then make sure it’s one that offers cash back rewards.  We typically use a credit card for gas or really large purchases (our debit card has a $300 max per day).  Now we can build some cash back to use on vacation, Christmas shopping or just because type fun.

Ebates

I am preached before about how much I love Ebates.  I do so much shopping online – clothes, toys, diapers, wipes, dog food and more that by using Ebates I can get cashback.  It’s simple.  I start at Ebates.com and then click on the store I want to head to.  Then I shop normally and Ebates takes care of all the rest.  Then I get an email saying I earned money from my recent trip.  Afterwards you can get a check in the mail for the amount credited back to you or you can link your Paypal account.  If you don’t have an Ebates account yet, use my referral code to get signed up!

Money Saving Apps

Again, I have shared about how much I love apps on my smartphone that give me money back.  I have to admit though, I mainly use Ibotta these days thanks to the way I shop now.  I still use the Walmart Savings Catcher App, but ever since Walmart got rid of their price matching I don’t shop there nearly as much.  If you live in a bigger city or have more grocery store options then some of the other savings apps I talked about in this post can really help you.  

Stick to Your Grocery List

This one sounds so simple, but how m any times do you find yourself putting items in your cart that aren’t on your list.  My guess is probably at least 3-5 times each shopping trip.  That can really add up.  You need to be strong and have a plan when you step into the grocery store.  Let’s think about how much extra money you’re spending by not sticking to your list.  Say you buy on average 5 items that aren’t on your list and they have an average price of $7 each.  If you shop twice a month and are consistently adding 5 items to your basket then you’re spending about $900 extra each year.  Seriously! That’s a mortgage payment or a huge dent on your credit card bill.

Check Deals at the Store

I am not a huge fan of shopping at multiple stores in one week just to buy my groceries.  I don’t really like spending too much time at the store and for me, it’s not convenient.  Especially with a 15 month old – at some point he’s so over getting in and out of the car.  However, I am a fan of deals.  If there is a deal that it’s just too good to pass up then I buy it.  And I might even buy extra to freeze or put up for later.  You have to know what works for you and your family.  If it’s easy for you to shop at multiple stores then do it!  You can save money by doing that way.  However, if you’re like me and just find grocery stores to be super annoying then just keep an eye out for the killer deals to buy.

Loyalty Cards

Most stores have loyalty cards or rewards cards they offer.  The cards are typically free and give you some sort of point for each dollar you spend.  I have one for a few grocery stores I shop at and even one for my gas station I frequent.  Once we spend so much then we get free sodas and food, which is awesome when you’re craving a fountain diet mountain dew after a long weekend.  

Pay Less for Gas for Your Car

Speaking about gas, have you heard of Gas Buddy.  It’s a free app you can download then search your area for cheap gas prices.  We use it a lot when we’re traveling to make sure we’re getting the best deals on gas.

Take Your Lunch To Work

If you typically eat out during the week then try bringing your lunch a few days.  The savings can really add up.  For instance, you eat out 5 days a week and spend about $8 for food.  That’s $40 a week and if you do that all year long you’re spending over $2,000 a year on lunch.  Let’s face it though, $8 is being conservative.  Most lunch places cost on average $10-$15 per person if you include a drink, tax and tip.  By taking your lunch to work just three days a week then you could be saving over $1,200 a year in eating out costs.  

Eat Leftovers One Night A Week

In our home we tend to eat leftovers at least once a week, sometimes twice.  This way no food goes to waste and we can clean out our fridge.  If you have small children around then you might do this more often, because once you find a food your kid likes you keep feeding it to them night after night.  We made some chicken and rice the other night, our little guy loved it so for three nights we ate it because we knew he would eat it.  Yep!  It’s also a huge money saver because you don’t have to spend more at the grocery store and one night a week your meal plan is already done for you.

Eat At Home More

This kind of goes with eating leftovers, but you can really save some money by cutting your eating out budget.  Typically during the summer we cut our eating out budget by over half.  That way we spend more time at home either cooking in the kitchen or grilling outside.  Think about how much it costs your family to eat out, we’re not talking about a fast food place or even a nice sit down restaurant.  But something in between.  For our family of three that can easily cost around $35-$45 dollars per meal.  If you’re eating out twice a week then that can really sky rocket.  

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Have you seen those thermostats you can control with your smartphone?  I love them!  You can totally program them to save you money.  When you’re home, it knows and starts cooling (or heating) for you.  Then you can set it to kick off or not run as much when you’re not home.  It’s a total game changer when it comes to utility costs.  

Wash Laundry in Cold Water

Most washing machines and detergents these days work just as good in cold water as they do in hot.  So for us, we wash everything on cold.  It saves money because our hot water heater isn’t having to work overtime and the electricity it uses is cut proportionally.  I would recommend buying better laundry detergent (generic is fine still) to make sure you’re getting a good clean though.  I even put together these free dryer balls that have been a huger saver for our family.

Start Working Out

This one might seem a little off, but trust me on it.  People that work out and stay healthy are less likely to get sick.  When you get sick you (should) visit the doctor, which means you have a copay, prescriptions to fill and maybe time off work.  So by taking the time to work out, even if it’s just going for a nightly walk then you will be better off for it… and so will your wallet!

Start a Vegetable Garden

Growing your own vegetables is a great source of saving money.  Produce can be expensive at the grocery store, plus you never know exactly what pesticides they use on the product.  So by growing your own you can control what is being out on the food and you don’t have to pay the large store mark up prices.  

Buy Generic When Possible

If you pay attention to most generic brand items they are usually made with the same ingredients as name brand.  Sometimes name brand factories even make the generic items themselves!  Crazy, I know!  When our little guy was on formula our doctor mentioned how it has to go through so much testing that when it comes down to it most formulas are the same.  You need to find one that agrees with your little one’s stomach, but honestly there isn’t one that’s on the market that isn’t safe.  So I use that same philosophy with most of the items we purchase.  If I can find a generic brand for less then I am going to give it a try.

Shop Around

Did you get multiple quotes on your auto insurance, homeowners insurance or life insurance?  Maybe, but probably not.  You might have just went with the guy down the street or used the same guy your parents’ used forever (I was guilty of this one!).  You should take a few minutes to call around and compare prices.  You could be paying a lot more for the same type of coverage as what someone else offers.  Make sure though when you’re comparing quotes, you’re comparing the same coverage.  Check to make sure you’re asking about the same liability, medical and personal property coverage amounts.

Stay On Budget

I know this one seems easy, but we all know it’s not.  Sticking to your budget can be difficult, but it can be so helpful.  I created a budget spreadsheet that has helped my family and others know exactly what’s left in their categories so they stop overspending.  I highly, highly recommend using a budget spreadsheet or some technique of saying here’s how much I have to spend and here’s what I’ve already spent.  That way you know without a doubt what you have left before your next pay period.  It can help you from overspending, which can help you save money.

Keep Track of What You Spend

This goes along with keeping a budget, but doesn’t have to be too sophisticated.  It’s important to know where you’re money is going that way you don’t spend too much and you can make sure you have enough to cover the important areas – like rent, groceries and car payments.  I recently shared my favorite technique for tacking what you spend.  All it uses is an envelope and a pen – it’s simple and effective.  

Set Priorities

You need to know what’s important to you and your family.  This is where money dates come in really handy because you’re able to talk it out with your spouse.  Finding out what’s a priority will help keep you focused to reach your goals.  Your priorities can change too, so talking about them regularly and reevaluating them is key.

Find Free Activities To Do

No matter what time of year it is, you can always find free stuff to do with your family.  Check out my post for free summer activities and free fall activities.  In all honesty, you just need to keep your eyes open to advertising and special deals.  Most places have days where they don’t charge admittance, which is awesome.  Find a few places your family loves and follow them on Facebook.  Then you can check their page for any free days or special deals they have running.

What are some of your favorite ways to save money?  Leave a comment sharing your tip!  

Need More Help?

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.