Friday, November 23, 2007

Don't Spoil the Kids!

Last Christmas was crazy. My kids got so many presents, a week after Christmas there were still things in their original boxes unopened. This year I wanted to make sure that didn't happen. I mean, I could have saved close to $100 on each child on the toys they didn't bother to open until they got bored with the others. This year I created a three tiered list for each child.

I took a regular piece of paper and folded it in half. On each half I wrote one name. Under each name I made three sections. In the top section I wrote down items they were likely to get from Santa ;) Under that I wrote gifts they were getting from us. And finally items that would make good stocking stuffers. I limited each section to 3 or 4 items. I probably should have cut it down even more than that. I know they will get items from both sets of grandparents and my ex husband usually sends my oldest a ton of stuff she doesn't need. At first parts of the list were empty. However I still knew about how much I could spend on those items.

Some people may be able to do this without a list, but I am horrible with it. Last Christmas as we were getting things wrapped and set out, I actually saved a couple of toys for my oldest's birthday which was only 3 months away because I knew we had gone overboard. I may still end up doing that again!! That is always another option if you have bought too much.

Tips on a Debt Free Christmas

I have to start this out by saying I have stuck to my word. I will not have ANY debt incurred from this shopping season. I have been using cash for everything. Now some of this may not work for you if you did not plan ahead a little but hopefully some of these tips will help you out.

1. Don't pay full price for anything. The internet is so wonderful. Last week I pulled a coupon off of because I wanted to buy something for my husband. The coupon promised $10 off for any purchase over $50. I was a little skeptical that it would work... all those exceptions and all, but it did work so I saved $10 just by looking online before I went shopping. This got me thinking.... how many other stores offer coupons online? MOST OF THEM!!! I got a 40% off coupon for Hobby Lobby- I was planning to shop there also, and I went on and signed up for their newsletter (knowing I could stop it at any time) and was rewarded with a 10% off coupon for that store as well. I am not suggesting you go to every store you can think of online, but if you know where you are going to be check it out online first and just see what they have to offer.

2. Load up at No, I don't mean buy everything there. I mean load up your shopping cart with what you want to buy for everyone. If you can find items you want, or similar items put them all in the shopping cart and then check the total. Is it in your budget? If not, see what items you can switch out. I did this and it was so great. I knew exactly how much I was going to end up spending. Then I shopped around. For items that did not qualify for free supersaver shipping I checked at my local Walmart (you can use site to store shipping there and get free shipping- plus it ships to the store so you can make sure the kiddies aren't around when you pick it up) This is one way I got some of the best deals. Link to Amazon Black Friday Deals

3. Don't forget tax. I love Amazon because they don't charge tax except from certain shippers. Our tax rate here at home is quite high. We actually went shopping in a nearby state because their tax rate is half of what it is here... plus they have a Toys R Us. We bought a $90 item there that would have cost us between 3-4 dollars more here just in taxes. (and that is just one example obviously we bought more or it wouldn't have been worth the gas) So sometimes we get the biggest break either online or "next door" because of the tax rate in our state.

4. Keep those receipts and don't be afraid to return. Christmas/holiday shopping should be about giving. And, we all know if you are giving what you don't have to give you are hurting your own family or yourself in the long run. I think most people understand when you are trying to get your finances in order they may not get a great gift that year. If you overspend do not be afraid to return things you have purchased. If you are embarrassed you can always make a comment to the cashier like "my mom just bought herself one of these on sale, so I'll have to find her something else".... etc. It doesn't matter just don't go crazy on the spending.

5. Have a good Christmas yourself. Last year I returned over $200 of my own gifts and bought myself things that I wanted. (Granted I had gotten two Nintendo DS's, only needed one of those) Don't let something you won't use sit in the closet. I always give gifts with the stipulation that if the recipient doesn't like it that they please please return it and get something they want... cuz that is what I am going to do...

Okay so maybe that last one isn't a budget tip but it will make you happier!! Especially when you have spent so much of your own hard earned money.

Points to remember- find deals on what you already plan to purchase- shop around- stick to the budget even if it means making returns.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Looking for Reader Input!!!

I have a question that is important to me, but I don't have the answer to it. Where can you safely keep passwords and other information that you may not use often or may forget easily? I try to keep the same user name and password for as much as I can. However some sites don't allow you to use what you normally use. I have also come across sites that make you change your password WAY too frequently. My university was guilty of this. You had to change it monthly and you could NEVER reuse an old one. It really sucked. So, what do you do? I have several online banking accounts. What would happen if something happened to me and this money was forgotten about? I had thought about keeping the info with my life insurance policies that my husband knows the location of, but I keep that in a pick up file box in case we ever need to evacuate for some reason (I can just pick it up and have all of our birth certificates etc) However, I am worried that it could be stolen and with it all of my bank info. We do not have a safe deposit box. Computers crash, so where else could I keep this information. If you have any other ideas I would love to hear them.

Saving money on Dinner

How many times do you forget to pick up enough food for the week at the grocery store and end up ordering out or stopping by a fast food joint for dinner? If you are me? All the time.

Lack of planning can be a huge budget drain in any category, but with groceries it is especially a big deal.

I have found a great site that helps you plan and can help you save money in the long run. It is called Created by Leanne Ely with some prodding from the famous FlyLady, Saving Dinner is a site where you can purchase a weekly emailed menu mailer. There are a ton of choices. You can get low carb (best one in my opinion), heart healthy, the regular menu, crock pot menu, vegetarian menu, it goes on and on. Best of all, on the site you can download samples of any category for free. With that alone you could get a month's worth of free menus. It is well worth the price. For a year it is under $20 and you can try it for only a few months for less than $10.

Now, I don't always use the mailer recipies. See with this deal you get a log in that will take you to all of the menus you have purchased... even when your subscription runs out!!! Totally cool!

Also, she has several freezer meal kits you can buy. THey com with downloadable pages to keep up with what you have eaten, prepare the meals, tips on freezing etc. Plus they all get frozen as "pancakes" which means lots of freezer space left over, and less thawing time. These come with a month full of meals.

All of the meals have grocery lists that come with them. You can mark off items you already have, scratch through those for menus you don't want to try (each item has a number after it that tells what menu it goes with), and then just run off to the store and have a week or month worth of meals!

I do not get any money from this site and I am not affiliated with it at all except that I am a happy customer of several years.... now if I could just make myself do it as often as I used to!!!

The main reason I think it is so great is because you have the planning done for you which saves you time, the recipes are easy to make, and you don't buy extra junk you don't need.

Problems you may find at first- Your bill may be higher at first as you buy some staple items for your kitchen (ie vinagers, cooking wine, spices, etc) But you often get choices on those too so you can choose the less expensive option if necessary. Like I said, sample menus are available online so what have you got to lose?