Make Extra Money For The Holidays- No Matter Your Skills!

The holidays are coming, and if you are like me you may be starting to panic just a little bit. I start out each year with this big plan to save money each month and pick up little sales items throughout the year. Then November comes and I’m like, oops! If you can relate (surely I am not the only procrastinator around here!), here are some ways that you can make some extra money for those “last minute” presents.

Amazing ideas to make extra cash for the holidays!

For The Crafty Mommas…..

Oh, this is soooo the time that you start organizing and honing your craft! Plenty of people want to buy unique decorations, jewelry, or other crafts around the holidays (me!). Not only do people enjoy purchasing festive decorations for their own homes, but many like to gift one-of-a-kind items as well.

If you think you may be crafty, but are running dry on ideas check out my Pinterest board for Christmas decor. The majority of them are homemade because that is all that my budget allows for this year. All of them are super cute, but only a few of mine (hopefully, anyway) will not be Pinterest fails. A lot of people will pay to have homemade décor and gifts that are not, well, fails.

Places to sell your crafts include, but are not limited to:

  • Flea markets
  • Farmers markets
  • Facebook groups
  • Ebay
  • Etsy

Make extra money by creating homemade crafts!

For The Creative Mommas

If you enjoy writing, try freelancing or blogging. Now, let me go ahead and warn that typically it takes time to make money from writing and/or blogging. I have heard some of those wonderful stories where people start writing and their career takes off. But for most people, this is not the norm.

See if your local publications will accept submissions from freelancers, or search online for publications that pay for submissions. My first submission was accepted in less than a week! But then I froze up and have only pitched two other articles since (in two years).

As for blogging, you will need to think of how you want to monetize your blog. Do you have a service that you want to offer, such as web design or stock images? Or are you wanting to help people by sharing a part of yourself? Would you be interested in utilizing affiliate marketing to make money? You have to consider if you want to self host (which I would recommend if you want to make money. I use Bluehost.), or if you are planning on using a free platform. Like I said before, blogging can take a long time before you see any money but I had to mention it just in case you could be one of those rock stars straight out of the gate. Plus, you can always start now in order to be prepared for next year!

Make extra money with freelance writing.

 

Another interesting way to make some extra money is to take old beat up furniture, give it new life, and then sell it for more than you have invested. Think Flea Market Flip on HGTV. You can either go out and buy used furniture from flea markets or garage sales, or you can look at furniture that you have that you may not want/need anymore.

For The Not Crafty, Not Creative, But Still In Need of Extra Money Mommas….

Think outside of the box. There are plenty of ways for you to make extra money for the holidays even if you don’t fit into the categories above.

  • Are you good at wrapping presents? People like me would gladly pay for someone to wrap gifts for me. Not only do I get aggravated trying to even get the stupid tape to stick to the stupid present instead of my stupid fingers, but it looks like my toddler did the work instead of an adult woman. I mean seriously, it’s bad.
  • Babysit for people while they Christmas shop. Sometimes it can be nearly impossible to find time to shop without your kids- especially if you are a busy momma with a large family. Figure out how much money you would be willing to pay for some quiet shopping time ( and maybe a latte all by yourself, if we are going to dream) and charge that price. Just check out your local laws regarding day care services- some states have strict guidelines. There are different places to advertise, as well. I belong to several supportive mom groups on Facebook that allow for advertising posts on certain days. Many of my local stores have bulletin boards for people to advertise on, as well. And, don’t forget your friends! Word of mouth is always a great idea!
  • If you enjoy working with kids, tutor. I know, right now you are wondering what tutoring has to do with the holidays. Well, a lot of school districts have the end of the semester right before winter break. High school students, especially, may need extra help to get their grades up in order to get credit.

Extra money is always helpful for the holidays. Have you ever thought of gift wrapping for others?

Why You Should Make Extra Money (Even If You Don’t Need It)

Now that Halloween is over, and the skulls and gravestone displays are being replaced by jolly fat men and designer trees, it is a good time to begin thinking of ways to make some cash for the holidays. Even if you don’t necessarily need extra money, wouldn’t it be nice if you could have some in your wallet after the holidays?

Think about what you could do with a surplus budget after the holidays!

  • You can actually do something for yourself! I know, sometimes that seems impossible for us mommas. Or maybe it is the last thing that you would even think of doing. My husband just recently reminded me that I have not purchased any new clothing for myself lately. I am so guilty of saying that I am going shopping for me and then get sucked into a good sale at one of my favorite children’s stores. If you don’t need anything new, try a new experience! Never been to a spa? Go! Wanted to try skydiving but never had a sitter? Splurge! Yes, there is a pretty big leap from getting a facial to leaping out of a plane. But think outside of the box!
  • Do something for you and your significant other. Hire a sitter and go dancing! Or try that new comedy club that you heard great things about! Perhaps you haven’t slept without a kiddo in between you in forever. Find a sitter and take a nap!
  • Throw it on some debt. Make an extra car payment. Pay off a credit card. You never know when you are going to be thanking yourself for being so resourceful. Check out my post on how to create a budget.
  • Save it! We don’t have a crystal ball, so we don’t know what is in store for us in the future. Having a cushion can really save you some sanity if something unfortunate was to happen.

Extra money during the holidays can be used on a little treat for yourself, too!

Are there any ways that you like to make extra money? Give us some ideas in the comments!

7 Ways To Save Money On Halloween Costumes For Kids

Halloween is coming soon and if you are not careful, the scariest part of the creepiest holiday could be the cost of all of the costumes! The sticker shock of some costumes can make any parent faint in fear. But, have no fear! I am here to save the holiday. I have collected seven ways to save money on Halloween costumes for kids, and the best part is most can be applied to saving your budget on adult costumes too!Save your budget and your sanity this Halloween by learning 7 ways to save money on costumes!

7 Ways to Save Money on Halloween Costumes for Kids

Save your Halloween costumes to use as hand-me-downs.

All of my girls have wanted to be a witch at least once. All of them have shared the same basic costume, but with little tweaks to emphasize their unique personalities. My oldest daughter was the cutest mean witch- with blood red lips and a gigantic wart on her nose. We used a pick and a ton of that glitter hairspray to make her curly hair stand on end and she was DARLING! My middle daughter was a star witch. We added some sparkly tulle adorably decorated with shiny stars. We made a broom out of tulle similar to this one and somehow stumbled upon a clearance witch’s hat that resembled her skirt so much you would have no idea we didn’t purchase the skirt and hat as a set! This year, my youngest daughter is going to be a Hello Kitty witch. It is an actual costume that I purchased (at a discount shop), but will be recycling the same broom as soon as I convince my hubby to find it in the attic. Another costume that has made the way down the ranks is the ninja.

Hand-me-downs are a great way to save money on costumes for children.
Hand-me-downs are a great way to save money on costumes for children.
Don’t “discount” discount shops!

Seriously. The aforementioned Hello Kitty Witch costume is still brand new in the package. It comes with the dress and the hat, and cost SEVEN dollars. What?!!!! I bought it at this store that is set up in an old warehouse. The closeout shop is only open during specific hours and reminds me of the love child of a outlet store and a flea market. I actually was hesitant to enter this place because I am not always fond of outlet stores. While I will never, ever claim to be the most organized person, I do prefer for the stores I shop in to be organized. I typically find that some of the outlet malls or stores are difficult for me to navigate, and thus a waste of time. However, if you are trying to get a big bang for a little buck, discount shops are the way to shop for Halloween costumes!

Buy used Halloween costumes.

I know that some people really see this as a faux paux. I’m not one of those people! In order to save money, I’ll scour Craig’s List for costumes and/or props. I also belong to many of those “mom” groups on Facebook. You know the ones- supportive, swap, or sell groups. Just like the discount stores, some of these Facebook groups can be difficult to navigate and/or trust. Sometimes people do not represent their “product” correctly, or can do other actions (such as raise a price) that are not agreeable. If you do not feel safe, DO NOT DO IT! I typically meet in a public place, without my kids, and escorted by my husband. If you prefer more secure methods of purchasing used costumes, consignment shops are a great option. I have also scored some super cute Halloween costumes at garage sales for a steal!

Consignment shops are great places to find great deals on Halloween costumes for kids!
Consignment shops are great places to find great deals on Halloween costumes for kids!
Shop for clearance Halloween costumes.

This does not necessarily mean shopping the year before, but that can definitely be a good way to save some serious cash. I will take the kids shopping when the Halloween outfits (and decorations) prices are slashed. This usually means that the aisles are pretty picked over, and most likely a monster of a mess (See what I did there? Monster? That’s funny!), but sometimes you can find some serious steals. I will let them pick out a tentative outfit for the following year if the price is right and the size seems plausible. If their tastes change between now and the following Halloween (yes, it can happen), then I can sell the costume that I bought for 90% off for more than I purchased it on Craig’s List or one of those Facebook mom sites. Win-win!

Be creative and make your own!

Oh, don’t check out just yet! I am not suggesting you tackle sewing, painting, and bedazzling (Still a thing, right?) in order to create the BEST. COSTUME. EVER. But, use your imagination and bargaining skills a little bit. One of my girls wants to be an angel this year. I already had the wings and halo from about six years ago, but could not reuse the dress. Hellllllo discount store. I bought her the “perfect” (her words, not mine) white dress at Burlington Coat Factory for less than 13 bucks. D.O.N.E. Sprinkle her with some glitter and she is ready to go. However, I have to dress up at work this year- with my team. All of our costumes are going to revolve around a theme. Do you think that we are going to spend a bunch of money? No!!!! We got on Pinterest and had a great time trying to figure out what we were going to make for cheap (as in less than $5, cheap). You can even layer different items of clothing for a quick no-sew fix. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to all things Halloween.

You don't have to be a professional to create your own costume!
Use different materials to alter clothing you already own.
Swap costumes with another budget conscious momma.

I have done this a couple of times and it was awesome! I lent a Star Wars costume to a friend that had a son that was dying to be Darth Vader. The following year she lent us a Ninja Turtles costume. As long as it is someone you know will take care of your stuff (and return it), then this is a great money saving option!

Sell your old costumes to offset the price of new ones.

Remember those places that I suggested you search for used costumes? Those are also great places to unload your unwanted costumes! My warnings from before are also applicable here- only do what makes you feel safe. Like I said earlier, I will buy clearance outfits and sell them the following year. I also have bought costumes at a garage sale and sold them for more money.

Hopefully these tips made Halloween a little less frightening, at least to your budget! Do you have any other tips that I didn’t think of? If so, leave them in the comments!

Related: Check out Create Your Family Budget in 14 Easy Steps.

Halloween is not the only time a budget can be scary!

Couponing 101: The Crazy Shopping Cart Explains Why Couponing Isn’t Crazy!

Here at Momma Making Moves we concentrate on saving money, time, and sanity. However, I will be the first to say that in order to accomplish this, we need to continue to learn and try new things. With that being said, I have to make a confession…

Couponing can be more than a little bit scary to me.

There! I said it! While I advocate doing what is necessary to save money, especially for us big families, I have just recently jumped on the couponing bandwagon. And I am going to share one more little secret…

I may not know much about couponing, but I know how to find good bloggers who do!

Tiffany at The Crazy Shopping Cart not only explains everything you need to know about couponing, but offers great resources to help you be successful. Annnnnd, she agreed to guest post on Momma Making Moves to explain couponing 101 to us. Here is her advice!

 

Couponing 101: learn how to save money with couponing!

Couponing 101: The Crazy Shopping Cart Explains Why Couponing Isn’t Crazy

When you hear the word “couponing,” what do you think of?

For me, I remember my mother sitting every Sunday evening at the kitchen table, intently pouring over the weekly ads and clipping the newspaper coupons.  She spent hours each week preparing and executing each shopping trip, only to save a few dollars.  (Although, a couple of dollars was quite a lot of money back in…..well, let’s just say that when I was kid, it was quite a few years ago!)

This image is what came to my mind two years ago when, at a church activity focused on emergency preparedness, a woman in our church raised her hand and stated she used couponing to help build an emergency supply of food to have on hand in her home.  I started to tune her out until she said, “I haven’t paid more than $.50 for a box of Cheerios in years, and I always get my toothpaste and shampoo for free.”

Couponing is a great way to save money on household essentials!
Couponing is a great way to save money on household essentials!
Couponing With the Internet

After that meeting, several of us surrounded her and begged her to teach us her ways.  I braced myself for hours of work, repeating that it would be worth it.  Imagine my surprise when our first meeting with her took less than 30 minutes, and I ended up saving over 50% on my groceries that week!

What makes the difference between my mother’s way of couponing and my own?  Two words: the Internet!

Now, instead of having to find each deal on your own when the Sunday paper comes out, someone else has most likely already had an early edition of the ad and upcoming coupons, done a matchup, and posted it on the internet to share!  What used to take hours of work to clip and catalogue coupons, read ads, and prepare shopping lists is now already completed several days before the sales actually begin!

In fact, there are now so many different websites, blogs, Instagram accounts, etc. that focus on couponing, it’s a bit overwhelming!  When I first began couponing, I felt adrift in a sea of acronyms and phrases that were more like a foreign language than English.  Thankfully, my friend from church walked me through it all until I was confident enough to go on my own.  And now, two years later, I even blog about it!

Couponing 101

Couponing can be very simple, if you follow the steps and go slow.  Here are some steps to help you along the way:

  1. Get coupons.  You can purchase the Sunday paper each week, or there are even some websites where you can order pre-clipped coupons mailed to your door!
  2. Start learning coupon terms, slang, and rules.  It’s extremely important to recognize that there are rules to couponing.
  3. Pick a grocery store that you already shop at and feel comfortable with.  Chances are, there is a website or Facebook group that is dedicated to that store!  They will provide you with lists of deals each week, matching up coupons with sales to help you get the best deal.
  4. Choose just one or two deals that you want to try out.  Perhaps something that you would normally purchase anyway (like diapers or cereal), collect the necessary coupons, and go try it out!
  5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help!  If you get to the store and feel lost, just slow down.  I found it helpful at checkout to tell the cashier something like, “Hi!  I have some coupons to use today.  I’m new to couponing and haven’t really done this before.  Please let me know if I’ve messed anything up.”  They’ll be very happy to help you out!

    Couponing can be less daunting if you shop at a store you know.
    Couponing can be less daunting if you shop at a store you know.
Continuing With Couponing

After the first few trips, as you start to get the hang of one or two deals, you can then start doing more.  Please, please go at a pace that you feel comfortable with.  It’s so easy with today’s technology to see posts on couponing Facebook groups of amazing hauls that cost almost nothing and feel like you are so far away from that.  I used to feel that way, too!  In fact, I still make mistakes sometimes!  Just last week, I messed up my coupon count and ended up losing out on $10 of savings.  It was pretty disappointing, but since it was something I normally needed anyways (diapers), I reminded myself that any savings on something I would already buy is better than the full-price I would have otherwise paid!

If you’re still feeling nervous or overwhelmed about couponing, you’re in good company!  I can’t count the number of times I received emails or Facebook messages from people who just feel lost with couponing.  To help them (and you!) get a firmer understanding, I’ve put together a free ebook:  it’s called “The Beginner’s Guide to Couponing,” and it walks you through all of the different steps I mentioned above.  You’ll learn all about where to get coupons, how to organize them, what the coupon rules are, coupon lingo, and so much more!

How To Find More Information

You can find Tiffany’s ebook (and so, so much more about couponing) at The Crazy Shopping Cart. I plan on utilizing her ebook when my hubby and I sit down to do our meal planning tomorrow. If you want ideas on how you can save money on meals for your family, go snag her ebook and then check out my series on meal planning here.

Tiffany is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals!  She and her husband, who is an engineer, work together on The Crazy Shopping Cart.  They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi, and saving money.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Part 3

Welcome to the final post of Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families. If you have not read part 1 or part 2, please start there. No one likes to start school already owing homework! This part will focus on meal planning on a budget. So get ready meal planning mommies….we are going to have you saving money and time by meal planning today!

meal planning. saving money, large families, big families, saving time
Meal planning for busy moms with large families- made easy!
Where we left off…..

Your job was to have a family meeting and decide some of your family favorites. No meals were to be left out, including snacks. Snacks are important because, even if they are small, they can be total budget busters! We also decided collectively that glitter was not to be included, much to the chagrin of my youngest girl.

Where do I start meal planning?

Well, technically, you already started. By creating a list of your family’s meals, you have a visual of what you like. Now we are going to fill in any empty slots.

Are there any recipes that you would like to introduce? If your family likes breaded chicken, can you top it with some tomato sauce and mozzarella, and throw it over pasta? Or if your family really loves lasagna but you think it is too time consuming, can you try a skillet version? (I think that I may be in the mood for some Italian!)

Making a list of your family’s favorite meals was the beginning. Now, look through your fridge, cupboards, and pantry.

What meals do you already have most of the ingredients for? What family staples are you missing? Are there any meals that you can make without grocery shopping?

Why is this a good idea? you ask. Well, let me count the ways….

  1. It saves you money. Obviously a win!
  2. It saves you time. If you already have the ingredients you don’t have to spend the time going to the store. Also a win!
  3. It saves your sanity. Duh! Not spending money and avoiding the grocery store. Hat-trick for the win!
  4. If you already have the ingredients handy, it is most likely because all those people in your house eat them!
Meal planning must- make a list of family favorites to see what ingredients you already have on hand. This will save you time and money!
Making a list of family favorite dinners will save you time and money.
I’m started! What’s next in meal planning?

Now, look at those family favorites. (If you struggled with creating a list, check out my Pinterest board for large families here .) What ingredients are you missing? Are they feasible for your budget? What do you have room for? What are your goals (planning for a couple of days, a week, a couple of weeks, a month)?

Yeah, I know I promised baby steps. And easy. Now it may seem like I am asking you for a whole resume. I’m really not.

YOU. CAN. DO. THIS!

But let’s take this one step at a time.

What ingredients are you missing for your favorite meals?

Now, when I first started I noticed I had a lot of potatoes, pasta, and rice. Yes, I have a carb problem. I like potatoes (except sweet potatoes) any which way you can make them. Pasta- well, my Italian roots are strong. And rice, rice can be enhanced by so many things!

I also had some chicken thighs in my freezer because anytime my local grocery store has buy one get one, we cook one and put one up (if you don’t like thighs I will give you some amaaaaazing and easy recipes), a couple packages of Italian sausage, and various frozen veggies (if we can’t buy fresh we buy frozen-in bulk of course).

Dinner

I had most of the ingredients for three of our favorite meals- chicken tacos (only missing sour cream), chicken and noodles, and spaghetti and sausage. But one thing that you definitely want to consider is which foods were going to spoil first. We needed to probably incorporate the potatoes into some meals before the end of the week. So I switched spaghetti to Italian sausage, potatoes, and peppers (a twist on my amazing sausage recipe).

Lunch

Dinner for three nights was essentially covered. Now onto lunch. I like to start with dinner because I often take leftovers with me for my lunch. Our kids prefer peanut butter and strawberry jelly (needed more bread), chips, juice, some type of fruit (we buy whatever is on sale and had a whole bag of apples), and fruit snacks. I planned on leftovers and my hubby decided he was craving tuna sandwiches. Not too shabby!

Breakfast

Breakfast gets interesting. Three out of five kids eat breakfast at school. My husband enjoys eggs (needed) and some type of breakfast meat (sausage patties were on sale that week). The younger kids rotate between cereal and eggs. I, however, am not a big breakfast person so I change up what I eat and try to incorporate protein. That week I had refried beans in the pantry so I decided on bean and cheese burritos (needed cheese).

Snacks

Snacks! Can’t forget them. Looking at my list I decided on cheese and crackers and apple slices dipped in peanut butter. Easy, peasy.

Other

We can’t forget other things that may be essential to your week. This can include drinks (we always need milk), condiments (somehow we also always need ketchup and olive oil), or treats. No one said meal planning on a budget required you to take away the sweets!

Meal planning for busy mommies must- plan for all meals, including snacks.
Make sure to plan all of your meals- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!
Summing up my meal planning.

Let’s check if I checked all of the questions.

What ingredients are you missing? Listed. Check!

Are they feasible for your budget? This time absolutely was. Check!

What do you have room for? Everything on my list AND more! But instead of wasting part of my budget on things I had room for but did not need, I reserved that part of my budget for the next grocery trip (next time I was going to need some meat). Check!

What are your goals (planning for a couple of days, a week, a couple of weeks, a month)? I was planning for three days. I have found meal planning for three or four days at a time works best for my family, so- check! (If you plan on doing it once a week, choose a predetermined date to plan for the following week.)

And voila! We are meal planning on budget like pros. If you have any questions leave them here in the comments. Also, leave some of your suggestions. Have a favorite meal? Definitely leave that! I am always looking for new recipes.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy! (Part 2)

Welcome back! If you haven’t read Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy (Part 1), please start there first. To recap very quickly, we acknowledged that sometimes we moms are a LITTLE bit busy (enter sarcastic voice here), and that sometimes the term “meal planning” gets a bad rep.

meal planning, large families, big families, part 2, saving money, saving time, Momma Making Moves
Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families Part 2

But we also agreed that we don’t know what works until we try. Then, I explained why I tried (and how I failed at) meal planning. I did, however, find a way to successfully begin meal planning for my family- saving me money, time, and more than a little bit of sanity. I explained all this and all you had to do was commit to trying something new.

Well, yesterday I did all the work. Today, you get to do some work.

What is meal planning?

Simply speaking, meal planning is deciding what you are going to eat. See! Not scary at all! We do this every day for every meal. Only, with meal planning you are not waiting until you are hungry. You are thinking about it at a predetermined date (more about this later), and considering every meal- not just what you are craving for that moment.

It does NOT have to be super specific, though. This was where I made my first mistake. Obviously some details are necessary- “Dinner” written on a scrap piece of paper does not constitute meal planning. However, “chicken breast, mashed potatoes, veggie” on a piece of paper pinned to the fridge would suffice if you have various veggies available at home and a cupboard full of spices.

I am one of those people that may come home after work and not want Italian chicken. Or, perhaps I have heartburn (no, no more babies!) and the thought of Cajun chicken makes me want to die. As long as I have other spices and staples in my pantry, it will be okay! I feel like I need to say this because these exact situations helped me be discouraged with my meal planning at first. I don’t want this to happen to you.

However, if you need that type of structure- do what is right for you! Meal planning can be as rigid or flexible as your family needs it to be. I don’t care if you need to measure out how much of protein each person is getting to the ounce! Do what works for you!

Keeping a stocked spice cabinet enables you to change your menu to suit your mood.
If you have a stocked spice cabinet you can always vary your meal plans to suit your mood.
What is my next step?

If you have a significant other, discuss with them how long you plan on meal planning for. This is actually really important, and if no one else tells you that there is NO correct answer, I will! This was seriously crucial to my family’s success.

While everyone told me that I need to plan for at least a week, we struggled. We do have a deep freezer in the garage, but we only have one fridge. Sometimes, one fridge cannot hold all of our necessary items (such as milk) for the week. It made me feel slightly discouraged. Then I talked to a friend. After listening to my vent, she asked me why I wasn’t satisfied that we were at least planning for a couple of days.

Were we still not saving time? Most importantly, were we not still saving money? The answer was yes to both questions. I kinda felt a little bit foolish.

The research that I was reading did not take in to account the size of my family. I think that this may be a trending situation for larger families. We may have a lot of mouths, but that does not mean that we have a lot of space. (Spoiler alert- we shop for staples once a week, and necessities as needed- usually twice a week.)

 

Okay….now what?

Have a family meeting. This decision is not going to just affect you. In order for meal planning to actually be effective for your family, your family needs to be involved. We started the initial conversation without the kiddos, and then brought them in. Our first question was, “What are your favorite dinners?” and the conversation went a little like this-

Kid 1, teenage boy- “Meat. And shrimp. And seafood.”

Kid 2, preteen girl- “Everything that he did not say.”

Kid 3, 5 yo girl- “Tacos and spaghetti. Can I have both for my birthday?”

Kid 4- 4 yo girl- “Glitter. No wait, red glitter!”

Kid 5- 2 yo boy- “No!”

Okay, it is not verbatim, but it is pretty damn close. The last three kids are actually verbatim, hence the reason why my daughter is not allowed anywhere near glitter without my supervision.

But you get my point. If you do not take into account what your family actually likes to eat, you are shooting down the possibility of successfully meal planning before you even get started.

Don’t stop at dinner, though. In order to effectively avoid the grocery store for any amount of time you need to consider alllll of your meals. This includes snacks for every member of your family.

Including snacks in your meal plan ensures you are able to stay on track.
Not including snacks in your meal plans can throw the whole plan off.
What is my homework for now?

Okay, maybe that wasn’t your next question. But it does not excuse you from your homework. Make a running list of all your family’s favorite meals- breakfast, lunch dinner, AND snacks. Don’t worry about ingredients or planning. This is baby steps people! If you need some ideas check out my Pinterest board on meals for large families.

Don’t forget to ask any questions in the comment section and go to Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families Made Easy Part 3.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy! (Part 1)

How many times have you heard, “Ugh! Chicken again?” Or, how many times have you received a text from your other half asking you what you had planned for dinner, even if it was their turn to handle it? (Don’t worry, we’ll save that convo for a whole other post!) Well, let me tell you that there really is a way to have these annoying interactions happen less frequently- and you have heard of it before! Meal planning!

Meal planning for busy moms with big families made easy!
It really can be easy to plan meals for big families!
Why should you try meal planning?

I know, right now you may be rolling your eyes at me. Believe me, I get it. Meal planning for busy moms is hard enough. Throw into the mix that we have multiple mouths to feed, all with their own little quirks and opinions, and the phrase “meal planning” almost seems like a fantasy. At one point, the only way that I was meal planning was remembering which pizza place we ordered from last. It was expensive, unhealthy, and honestly time consuming in it’s own right.

Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

So instead of throwing your hands up in the air and saying you are too busy for meal planning, take a breath and think about it this way- if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work! At least you tried! But, in all honesty, I am sure that I can help you (and that you can help me). And to make it easy, we are going to do this in baby steps! Tonight, the only thing that you need to commit to is telling yourself that you are going to try something new.

Why did I try (and fail at) meal planning?

Truthfully, I did not plan on meal planning. It was kind of a circumstance of necessity. When budgeting for our meals, we figured out that buying most of our grocery list was cheaper when bought in bulk. At first, I promised myself that I was going to take what was needed for the meal I had planned for that evening out, and bag the rest of it up. I pictured myself creating this terrific organization method of frozen bags and we would just be the happiest family ever!

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Number one- I am kind of busy. I didn’t like taking my precious time separating the meat and veggies into various piles. Number two- I forgot to buy bags. Then once I finally remembered to buy bags, I didn’t label my bags (nor did I organize them) and all of my bags became a frozen mountain of meat in the back of my freezer.

Not effective at all.

But, our grocery fund really could be stretched much farther if we JUST FIGURED IT OUT. So I committed to trying again.

It is easy to stretch your grocery fund with meal planning!
It is easy to stretch your grocery fund with meal planning!
What FINALLY worked for us?

We gave up. No, seriously. We gave up trying to do it the only way that I knew how and decided to try what would work for our family. Our family does not mind eating chicken three nights in a row, or various hamburger recipes through the week. So, after that simple of a solution, we had our own meal planning start.

And when you read part 2 of this mini series you will find your start too! Check back in a couple of days to take your next step. If you are needing a meal to feed your big family tonight, check out my AWESOME sausage recipe! Or check out my Pinterest board for recipes for big families.

Create Your Family Budget In 14 Easy Steps

I am constantly talking about ways to stay on track with a family budget, so is it hard to believe that up until recently we didn’t actually have a set budget? We really just created an actual budget. We kind of just cruised on this notion that as long as our bank account stayed out of the red, we were on budget. But there are many flaws to this system including the glaring problem- what happens in case of some unplanned, unforeseen circumstance?budgeting, family budget, create, saving money

Our story.

Well, we found ourselves facing this exact question when our only “reliable” vehicle decided it did not want to be a moving, working vehicle anymore. In the middle of a 12 lane intersection. During rush hour. On the day that I had a very important meeting at work.

Good times. Not!

Unfortunately we had to make a difficult decision and purchase another vehicle. This was an aha! moment for me. While our income may object, we definitely needed to start finding more ways to save money. We needed to start being more accountable for our finances. We needed to start some serious adulting and it was going to be hard.

I will say this, however. Setting a budget for our family was definitely a difficult task, at first. Once we actually started implemented our family budget, I felt better. We were more conscious about what we needed and what we wanted and were very quickly able to assess if we were being smart with our money or a little frivolous.

My husband and I thought we were money conscious before, but really we were just aware of the bottom line at the end of the month. There really is a difference.

Here are some ideas on creating your own family budget.

  1. Make sure you have the time dedicated to make your budget. This is not a conversation that your family should have five minutes before soccer practice. Serious thought needs to go into this, and some emotions may run high. Also, be prepared for this to extend to more than one meeting. If something is truly important, it deserves to have undivided attention which can be extremely difficult with a large family.

    Emotions may run high when creating a family budget.
    Emotions may run high when creating a family budget.
  2. Consider who is included in the planning session. This definitely varies family to family. While the majority of our conversation consisted of just my husband and I, we did take input from the children. My husband and I explained to the kiddos what we were doing and how important it was. Then we also were clear about the fact that some things were going to change, and not all of the changes were going to be desirable. We felt that our decision to include them was important for two reasons. First, it reinforced that we value their opinions and input. They may be little but they mean a whole lot, and we try to remind them of this consistently. Also, it helped the children understand the importance of what we were doing. We are not that family that tries to act like money is not a contributing factor in many decisions we make, but we also understand that they may not comprehend money restraints due to their ages and maturity levels. This meeting helped our children have a little window into our reasoning when we deny that awesome, amazing, EXPENSIVE camp that they are dying to attend this summer.
  3. Make a goal (or goals). It does not have to be a publicized goal. Your best friend or your mom does not need to know what your goal is or why you set it, but you need to know what you are trying to accomplish. Perhaps you want to pay off debt, or save for a fantastic vacation. Maybe you want to cushion that emergency fund or prepare for retirement. Maybe you just want to see where your money is going. Maybe you have two short-term goals (should take less than a year to accomplish) and one long-term goal. Your prerogatives are your own. Write down possible goals to determine which goals are the best for your family.
    "<yoastmark
  4. Make the goals achievable. Please don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. I have soooo done that in the past. It makes you feel depressed and unsuccessful, causing you to slip and not make progress toward real goals. Think of what is truly important for your family and decide how that goal is possible. The word budget often seems like a negative thing, but actually it doesn’t have to be. Use your budget as a tool to reach your goals. It outlines where you need to be right now in order to get to your desired location- similar to a map.
  5. Have documentation in front of you. Have your bills and pay stubs so that you can actually see where the money is coming from and where it is going. We may think we know the money trail, but it may be a drastic difference once you are looking at reality. My hubby and I thought we were doing really well with our money. Then we printed our bank statement and started noticing how we were nickel and diming our way through our money. Once we highlighted the necessary expenses, we ended up staring googly-eyed at the other numbers. We definitely did not have the self-control we thought we had. Having the physical documentation in front of us was definitely an eye opener."<yoastmark
  6. Determine how your family defines expenses and income. This will definitely vary family to family. Some families share everything, including expenses and income, equally. Other families keep budgeting separate. I have friends that have such unique ways of planning family expenses I cannot begin to explain or understand them. There is not a blanket acceptable way and you should not worry about approval from outside sources. But if you are deciding to keep things separate, this needs to be addressed during your sitdown meeting.
  7. Calculate your net income. Your net income can sometimes be called your take home pay. Net income is listed on your paycheck but if you have various forms of income you may need to make some calculations. Your take home pay includes any money that you bring in- child support, alimony, side jobs, etc. should also be included. Items such as taxes, 401k and Social Security deductions, should not be included.
  8. Determine your NEEDS. These are the items and bills necessary for your day to day life- housing, food, medical expenses, etc. Is coffee a need? Probably not, but don’t despair. There is a much happier step down below.
  9. First, focus on the expenses that occur every month. Recurring debt should include your rent/mortgage, car payments, insurance, credit cards, etc. This is why you should have all of your statements and bills in front of you- so you don’t forget anything (such as one of your car payments, like we did the first we sat down to plan. Ooops!).

    Budgeting, housing, make a budget, save money
    Housing costs, such as rent or mortgage, should be included in your recurring debt.
  10. Now add in your flexible expenses. Items that possibly change monthly are groceries, gas, kids activities, family entertainment, etc. We always say that we are going to stick to a certain number figure for groceries, but rarely do we stick with it. If you need to cut back on spending, these are the expenses you may be able to trim.
  11. Identify some of the things that may not be a need, but are important nonetheless. Insert coffee here. And chocolate. And possibly wine.(Told you that you would be happy again later.) This is going to be different for everyone and can be of varying degrees. Perhaps you feel like a coffee from a chain makes you feel and perform better in the morning. Maybe you think that it is necessary for you to take time out for yourself and have a pedicure or a girls night out. Mommas need taken care of too and that’s okay. This is what will help you actually STICK to the budget. Family fun can be on budget if you plan carefully enough. Check out my post about Disney on Ice here.
  12. Match the numbers to your budget goals. If your goal is to double your savings in six months, are you on track to do so with your current spending habits? Or do you need to alter some of your spending patterns?Take the coffee, for example. I pretty much need it on Mondays (most humans who come in contact with me can confirm to this). I prefer to actually go to Dunkin on Mondays because no matter how hard I try, I cannot replicate it perfectly. However, for the other days of my week I brew my own coffee at home. I buy the huge bag of coffee because it is cheaper in bulk, then add my Dunkin creamer and Hershey syrup for my iced mocha. If you go to get your nails done once a month check to see if they ever sell gift cards at a discount during special promotions.
  13. Review and reevaluate often. Check back in one month and see how you did. Did you cut back if you needed to? Did you spend less than the month before? Or did you just make smarter decisions with your money? Decide if your budget goals are still appropriate. Maybe, now that you are more aware of where your hard-earned money is going, you want to save more. How can you adjust your budget to work for your family? If you feel like you are stuck don’t be afraid to ask for help. Family, friends, or even professionals can offer you insight that you may be overlooking.

    budgeting, review, save money
    Revisit your budget often to check for progress.
  14. Do not be too hard on yourself. Obviously you should be firm with your goals and attempt to work toward them. However, remember you are human. You can (and will) make mistakes. Just, as with everything else in life, learn from those mistakes and use them to guide future spending.

Do you have any secrets that helped you make and keep your family budget? Is there anything that you feel you need help cutting back on? Leave them in the comment section below.

11 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies

11 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies
11 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies

Even if saving money on school supplies captures your interest, right now you are probably wondering why in the world I am mentioning school supplies in the middle of June. Fair enough, but hear me out. There really is a method to my madness- most of the time.

As with most things, saving money on school supplies takes planning. I really, really do wish that the only requirement for saving money while shopping for my large family was to wake up and want to keep money in my bank account. But, alas, big savings does require some time so there is no time like the present to start! Here are 11 ways to start saving now.

Back to school lists
Get the back to school supply lists as soon as possible.
  1. Get your school supply lists as early as possible. This gives you more time to find supplies throughout the summer. For example, one of my local office stores is closing. They are having closeout deals and I have been stalking the clearance shelves for items on my list. If I didn’t know what I was looking for ahead of time I would waste money (see #8). I mean, come on, CLEARANCE during a CLOSEOUT! Is there any other way to spell win-win? But, since I know what I am looking for, I have only purchased things I know I will need.
  2. Check your closets. You may actually already have some of the supplies but completely forgotten! Even before I had multiple school supply lists, I was collecting school supplies because a) I loooove school and office supplies and b) I have issues with passing up great deals. If I find a pair of scissors for 10 cents I am buying a dollar’s worth. (FYI- stores usually have a limit on how many items you can buy at rock bottom prices so make sure you know your limits before you go too crazy. I may or may not be speaking from experience.) Also, don’t discredit your child’s school supplies from previous years. I  took a baby wipe to my daughter’s scissors from last year and she still was excited to go to school with scissors that were her favorite color. She had no idea they were from the previous year. We also only had to replace a few of the uniform shirts which was a nice way to save money.
  3. Find out if your school sells school supply kits. This, of course, varies from school to school (or even grade to grade) but can be an awesome deal if it is available. For one of my daughters I already purchased her kit. I probably could have purchased the items in the kit for a couple of dollars less but the convenience was worth it for me (see #11). Also, I know that she will have all of the same supplies as the rest of the kids in her class so that will hopefully help ease the transition into kindergarten. My oldest daughter had a kit available but the price was way out of my comfort zone. My oldest son didn’t even have one offered so we already knew we were going to be out with the crowds shopping anyway.

    Beware of dollar store deals.
    Beware of dollar store deals.
  4. Beware of dollar stores. As a mom, I love dollar deals. In fact, they can convince me I need something I don’t. Then, the next thing I know  I am sheepishly smiling at the cashier as she rings up $20 worth of merchandise I probably (absolutely) could have passed on. This actually is not the only pitfall of those lovely, enticing dollar stores. During the back-to-school sales, the prices at the dollar stores often get beat. That’s right, their “deals” are no longer deals. That dollar composition notebook is most likely at least half of that dollar in a different store. Same rule applies to pencils, pens, even notebooks and binders. Basically rule of thumb is check the price of the competitors before you decide where you are going to shop. This leads us into…
  5. Do not stay loyal to one store. Most big box stores are trying to compete to get your business. Let them work for your money, especially if the stores are in close vacinity of each other. We have a Target and a Walmart that are literally within walking distance to each other so I do not feel like it is too time consuming to go to both. If the stores are too far apart from each other, however, it may cause more in gas than it is worth.
  6. Check to see if your state has a tax free time to shop. Some states actually remove the sales tax from supplies that are used for school. Dates and rules vary so make sure that you understand them before you start shopping. While taxes may not seem like a lot, it can really add up!

    Try searching online for school supplies.
    Try searching on the Internet to save money on school supplies.
  7. Try unconventional places to find what you need. Think of places like Craigslist or Facebook groups. (Please just be careful and think smart before meeting anyone you do not know.) I belong to a local supportive moms group on Facebook  (see my post here about why) and saw several moms swapping supplies throughout the year. I also see teachers that are getting rid of extra supplies when doing their end of the school year cleanups.
  8. Do not buy unnecessary things. As a lover of school supplies, it is sooooo difficult for me not to stray from our supply list. Surely we can find a use for that 4pack of pretty paperclips that cost quadruple the price of 60 paperclips. And has anyone else noticed that Lisa Frank stuff is back? I don’t know if it ever really “left” but I definitely remember turning on the waterworks while begging my parents to buy me each of her folders. Now the only thing that is standing in my way is this pesky budget.
  9. Think about what you might need for next year. I know, I know, this sounds like the complete opposite of what I just said. But there actually is a difference. You may not know exactly what you will need next year, but you can scoop up probable items while they are on sale for a dime. If you are going to have a child in elementary school, most likely glue will be on the list next year.  Items such as those can be great buys. You can even look on the supply list for the grade above your child to get hints.
  10. Sell and replace. One year I bought a cute backpack for my daughter on clearance and saved it for the next year. I proudly placed it in a safe place and patted myself on the back for such a great deal. Somehow over the next year she grew to despise pink. Since the backpack still had the tags on it, and was being sold for four times as much as I paid for it, I listed it online and sold it for twice as much as what I paid for it. I combined that cash with Amazon credits from my Ibotta and ordered her the “best backpack ever” from Amazon. I didn’t even have to leave the house to win Mom of the Year. This also applies to any extra expenditures that maybe you couldn’t help (too much Lisa Frank perhaps).
  11. I know this is a money saving post, but let’s just include our sanity and time as well. If it is easier for you to buy a kit from your child’s school, or make one stop at a pricier store, determine if this convenience is worth your money. Time is money too, and sometimes it may be worth that larger price tag in the long run.

    Saving money on school supplies .
    Remember time is money.

I’m sure there are more ways to save money on school supplies than just listed here. What are some of your tricks?