Are You Ready for Christmas?

“Once again we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.” Dave Berry

Christmas comes ever year on December 25. It also happens to be Hubs’ birthday! So, have YOU started prepping for Christmas yet? By now you’re probably looking at your calendar, shaking your head, and thinking I’ve lost my mind. Yes, it’s September but if you’re going to have a Christmas season without a retail hangover with the post-Christmas credit card bill headache, now is the time to start getting ready. You’ll notice I said, “prepping”, not “shopping”. Here’s what I mean…

Who will you be shopping for? How much do you intend to spend on each person? If you haven’t already started, now is the time to start putting a few bucks aside so that the Christmas crunch isn’t quite so crunchy on your wallet. Once you know who you need to shop for and how much you will spend, you can budget for it and put the money aside. Also, the A-number one rule of prepping for Christmas is to WRITE IT DOWN!! Make yourself a list and stick to it, just like any other shopping list.

One of the things from years gone by that is making a comeback is¬†layaway. This makes me very happy since you can use this feature to purchase your gifts and pay over time without going into massive amounts of interest-laden debt. The policies of the stores offering layaway vary so check with them before shopping. I used to use layaway for my Christmas shopping when I was in high school and I’m really glad to see some retailers are seeing the value of offering it to their customers.

If you need a little extra cash to pay for your Christmas gifts, now would be a great time to apply for that part-time job you’ve been thinking about. There’s plenty of work available if you’re looking make a little bit of holiday cash. Most retailers offer an employee discount so you can make a bit of shopping cash and buy your gifts at a discount. Win/win!! ūüôā Elena Peters with Making Midlife Matter has some good suggestions for finding (or making your own!) side hustle. Click here for details…

I hope I’ve given you some good ideas for planning your Christmas shopping without the dread of the bills that inevitably come in January. Do you have any money saving or prepping tips that I haven’t covered here? Please share in the comments!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Some Favorite Money Saving Apps

‚ÄúThe art is not in making money, but in keeping it.‚ÄĚ Proverb

I’m all about using technology to save a little money, and there are more than a few app developers out there more than willing to assist in my quest. The following is a list of some of my favorite money saving apps. They are available for download in the Apple Store and Google Play, and some are also available for download directly to your computer.

Flipp¬†is probably my number one favorite app for saving money, especially since I cancelled my local paper subscription. Flipp is customizable based on where you live and provides up-to-date copies of all the sales flyers from your favorite stores. It’s easy to access them even from your phone while you’re out shopping to make sure you’re getting the best price. While I’ve never tried this, you may even be able to use the information in the Flipp app to get a store that price matches to match a competitor’s price on an item. If you have done this, please share how it went!

If your local library is supported, Overdrive is an awesome app to use to borrow books. Ebooks, audiobooks and videos are available for loan. A multitude of devices are supported and it’s a great way to satisfy the bookworm in you and not break the bank.

Are you a magazine junkie? If you are, Flipster is the app for you!!! This app is also supported by local libraries and has digital copies of national magazines available to temporarily download and read from your tablet. I use this one a lot, as I have been cancelling magazine subscriptions to save a little bit of money. It also helps to save a few trees!

I was not familiar with Roomer before I started researching this post so I’m not sure how well it works, but I thought I’d include it since it sounds intriguing to me. Roomer promises amazing last-minute deals on hotel rooms. One of the features that is especially appealing to me is that you can sell your reservation to someone if your plans change. If you have used Roomer successfully, please share your experience in the comments.

While I realize there are mixed views on the need and validity of credit scores, it’s still a good idea to keep track of yours especially if you are job hunting or purchasing insurance, since many insurers use your credit score to set your insurance premiums. Credit Karma¬†offers free credit score monitoring as well as insights to how you can improve your score. They also promise that they store your data securely and will not sell your information to third parties.

With as much as I LOVE to shop there, I really need to learn how to effectively use Cartwheel by Target. Penny Pinchin’ Mom¬†has written a FABULOUS post on how to use Cartwheel. Glad I found it, and now that I’ve shared it with you, let me know if you’ve used it and had good experience with it.

According to Wikipedia, Ibotta is a Denver, Colorado based mobile technology company that enables users with its smartphone app to earn cash back on in-store and mobile purchases with receipt and/or purchase verification. As I write this, I’m in the middle of setting up an account with Ibotta and will let you know if I have any success with it.

So, these are some of my favorite apps to use to save money-what are some of yours? Leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Snowball vs Avalanche – Getting out of Debt

“Just find what works for you, what style suits you best, and just be confident enough to rock it.” Odell Beckham, Jr.

I should have titled this post, “Debt is a 4 Letter Word” because it IS. This little monster has caused more than it’s share of stress and sleepless nights, and kept many of us from reaching our life goals. The first step to getting out of debt is recognizing that whatever you’re doing isn’t working and something has to change. Yeah, that old definition of insanity, right? So, how do you tackle your debt? You use the method that WORKS FOR YOU!!

While there are probably as many methods of dealing with debt as there are starfish in the ocean, I’m going to focus on 2 of the most well-known–the Debt Snowball and the Debt Avalanche. Both methods focus on paying off smallest to largest, but the way the debt is listed is where they differ.

With the Debt Snowball, your debts are listed by amount, smallest to largest. You pay the minimum payment due on all but the smallest debt, and throw all your extra cash at that smallest debt. Once that debt is crossed off your list, you do the same with the next debt on the list, and so on until all the debt is paid. More information on the Debt Snowball is available here.

With the Debt Avalanche, you list your debts by which has the highest interest rate, regardless of amount. All your extra cash is put towards the debt with the highest interest rate, while paying the minimum payments on the rest. Once the highest interest rate debt is paid, you move on to the next one on your list, and continue until all of the debt is paid. More information on the Debt Avalanche can be found here.

So, which is better? It depends…according to research,¬†the Snowball has the psychological advantage of allowing you to cross items off your list a little faster since you’re starting with the smallest amount first. Conversely, the Avalanche will save you the most money since you’re starting with the debt with the highest interest rate. This method really takes a good bit of discipline, since it will cost you more money in the long run if you miss a planned payment.

I ask again-which is better? I can’t answer that, since I’m not you. The one that works for you, the one you stick to, is the better of the 2 methods. If you’re not going to stick to your plan, it doesn’t matter which plan you choose. I’m a firm believer in “there’s no ONE right way” when it comes to getting out of debt. If you create a plan and work it with intention, you WILL get out of debt. It takes a lot of planning, budgeting, and discipline (ESPECIALLY discipline!), but it CAN be done. How do I know this? Because I’ve done it. It took a TON of discipline, along with some sacrifice, but it was all worth it.

Have you paid off a good bit of debt? Leave a comment and share how you did it! Thanks!!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Sources:

Dave Ramsey

Nerd Wallet

Investopedia

Eat at Home-Copy Cat Restaurant Meals

“People copy people they look up to, and good products inspire copycats.” Innocent Mwatsikesimbe

One of the most inspiring books I’ve ever heard about is a book called, “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon. The premise of the book is to take ideas from things you enjoy and turn them into your own creation. One of the key rules of “Stealing Like an Artist” is to give full and proper credit to the source of your inspiration. With that, I give to you one of my absolute favorite things to “steal”-restaurant recipes.

If you remember my post about my¬†Top 5 Money Saving Tips¬†from a few weeks back, number 5 was, “Eat at Home”. There’s LOTS of money to be saved by simply staying out of restaurants. That said, sometimes you just crave your favorite restaurant meal. Sticking to a budget and eating at home does not mean you need to totally sacrifice your favorite meals out-you just need to figure out a way to duplicate them at home.

The absolute master of the cloned restaurant recipe is a man by the name of Todd Wilbur. He has written several books on duplicating restaurant recipes, and I’m the proud owner of several of them. To be honest, some of the things he duplicates are just for the sake of it, and in my not-so-humble-opinion, it’s just easier to buy the real deal (Oreo cookies!) than it is to make your own. BUT, if you’re wanting the 9 Layer Dip from TGI Friday’s, Todd’s recipe is the absolute BEST! I’ve made this dip as my contribution to several potluck dinners I’ve been invited to, and it’s rare that I ever bring any leftovers home.

The internet offers a myriad of choices when it comes to duplicating restaurant recipes, as well. Enter the words, “Copycat [insert dish name here] recipe” into your favorite search engine and see what happens! One of the few items I’ll actually eat from Taco Bell is their Cantina Bowl. It’s probably the healthiest item on their menu. Rice, black beans, corn, and avocado in a bowl topped with grilled chicken! I’ll admit I haven’t tried this recipe yet but I still think it’s worth sharing,

So now I challenge you-what are some of your favorite restaurant meals? Do a search in your favorite search engine and find a copycat recipe to fix at home. If you’re feeling adventurous, try fixing it at home. If I feel adventurous, maybe I’ll give some of your faves a try. Either way, please share your results in the comments.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Sources:

Top Secret Recipes

SheKnows.com

Beauty Products on a Budget

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…” 1980s Pantene commercial

I have it on VERY good authority the markup on beauty products is, well, how should I put this and still keep this post “G” rated? Let’s just say the markup is astronomical! So how do we look as good as we can and not spend a fortune in the process? Know your vendors and plot a money-saving strategy!

Two of my favorite sources for salon quality beauty products are ULTA¬†and QVC. Let’s review them one at a time…

ULTA has both in-store and online shopping. They are my absolute go-to for salon quality hair care products. The best deal to be had is their Jumbo Liter event, when liter sized bottles of salon quality shampoos & conditioners are available at crazy low prices, up to 50% off regular prices.¬† A little goes a very long way with these shampoos and conditioners, so a liter bottle will last you a very long time. They even sometimes throw in a reusable pump with the bottle for free or very low-cost. If you can’t get it for free, it’s worth a couple bucks to buy the pump make the shampoo & conditioner easier to dispense in the shower. Trust me on this one! The “buy one get one” or “buy two get one” free deals on salon quality styling products are also a great bargain. Keep an eye on your supply and stock up when a sale comes-your wallet will thank you.

Mom Deals¬†has put together this fabulous ULTA sale calendar for reference. It’s also worth your while to sign up for the ULTA¬†rewards program. I’ve never been a Diamond member, but the basic membership offers a good discount and you’ll also get a member’s only head’s up on their best sales. A word of caution-don’t spend just to “up” your membership level unless it’s for things you are going to use, anyhow. It’s very easy to get caught in the “but I’m getting rewards-it’s OK to spend the money” trap. Self control, people!

QVC is a home shopping channel which, to be honest, can get you into a little bit of trouble if you can’t control yourself with infomercial-style programming. I’ll totally admit to getting sucked in more than once in my pre-OWMM life but since I cut the cable I no longer have easy access to watch the network. It doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shopping there entirely, though-if you know exactly what you want and know when they will offer a good deal, QVC is a great resource. Subscribe to their email list and you’ll be the first to know when the object of your desire will be offered at a great price. My go-to foundation is made by IT Cosmetics. I just LOVE their CC Cream. The only place I’ve ever seen the large size offered is on QVC, and it goes on special twice a year. A large tube of this stuff will easily last 6 months and you can get it for just a few dollars more than it costs for the smaller tube IF you wait for the sale.

Not everything in my cosmetics bag is salon quality, though-one of the absolute best sources for make-up is your local drug store or even your grocery store. My go-to mascara is Maybelline Great Lash, which has won multiple awards as the best drugstore mascara from Allure¬†magazine. It’s available in multiple shades, as well as washable and waterproof formulas. Your local newspaper will have coupons available for Maybelline Great Lash, which makes it a total OWMM Best Buy. L’Oreal Infallible Never Fail eyeliner is my go-to eyeliner. It’s easy to apply and washes off with soap & water. It’s also available at a great price with coupons in your local paper.

My final stop for beauty products on a budget is, wait for it…Sam’s Club! Back in the day when I had a spa membership, the esthetician doing my facials complimented my skin and told me I should keep doing what I was doing to cleanse and moisturize. I use Olay Facial cloths in the shower ever morning-they’re great for cleaning and exfoliating and the price at Sam’s for buying them in bulk can’t be beat. For moisturizer, I’m not married to a brand but I won’t buy off-brand, either. I will shop price and get whatever is the least expensive. I don’t have overly sensitive skin so I can do this and get away with it. The package size of these products at Sam’s is usually double what you can get in a regular store and the price is only slightly higher.

None of the links I’ve included in this post are affiliate links-they’re informational only. I use and love these products and just wanted to share. If you have any resources for good, quality beauty products at a great price, please share in the comments and let us all in on your great beauty secrets.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Low Cost Pet Vaccinations

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

These are my 3 furbabies-Bear is the all white blue-eyed Husky. He’s Sonny’s dog-12 years old and thinks he’s still a puppy. Such a sweet boy! Emily is the brown Husky/German Shepherd mix. She’s 8 years old and she’s the sweetest baby ever. Then there’s Lucy-my 4 year old Bull Terrier. Suffice it to say she lives up to her breed name! She’s a real spitfire!! I never thought I’d have as many dogs as we do people in our house but here we are! As you can imagine, the vet bills can get pretty expensive if we rely on our vet to give them all their vaccinations. The Hubs and I recently spent a Sunday afternoon standing in line at our local animal control office for a vaccine clinic. It was quite an adventure…

The day of the clinic started VERY early, since I had a half marathon scheduled for that morning. Hubs was at the finish line passing out water to the runners (and slow poke walkers like me!) and it was a welcome sight to see him there! Since I was close to the last finisher Hubs was finished with his volunteer work shortly after I finished. My usual routine after a race is to have some lunch, take a shower, and take a WELL DESERVED NAP (well deserved in my mind, anyhow!). Well, Hubs caught wind of the upcoming shot clinic and he said I could sleep for an hour and then we had to get to animal control. Yeah, OK, whatEVER!!

I woke up from the nap, cranky as the day is long, and told Hubs I was ready to go. One of the animal dynamics in our house is that Lucy cannot be in the same room with the other 2 unless she’s in her crate. Sadly, our “children” do not get along very well and the fights have been messy, so we’ve found it easier to just keep them separated. Anyhow, it was time to take Bear & Emily to the shot clinic so we piled into the Jeep and drove to animal control. It was a HOT day and the line for the clinic was already well outside the door by the time we got there. In my sleep deprived cranky state I looked at the line, rolled my eyes, and briefly considered going back home. Nope-the dogs needed their shots so we got in line. It actually moved a lot quicker than I thought and in about 30 minutes I was filling out the paperwork and taking Bear & Emily to the vet who was volunteering his time to administer the vaccines. Each dog needed 3 vaccines and they cost $10 per vaccine. I would have easily paid double or triple that amount if I had taken them to their regular vet so, cranky as I was, it was time well spent.

Once we were done and got the 2 older furkids home, I looked at the clock and decided we still had time to load Lucy into the car and get her shots, too. We JUST barely made it back to animal control in time-Lucy was the last dog seen that day. The folks at animal control decided to move the line into the building so second time around it was MUCH cooler. Hubs stayed outside with Lucy since she doesn’t get along well with other dogs (not just ours!). I wondered how they would handle her since we made it clear she needed to be away from the other dogs. They closed her into the room by herself and were the same with her as they were with my other 2. I was so grateful, since I’m never sure how people are going to react to her when we warn them about her reactions to other dogs. Lucy got her shots and we were done.

I’m still amazed at how much money we saved by taking them to this shot clinic instead of to our regular vet. Looking back on my payment records, last year when we took them all to the vet for their shots the cost was close to $350 per dog. This year we paid $90 TOTAL for all 3 dogs. If you’re a pet owner, it would be well worth your while to find a low cost pet vaccine clinic in your area. Many animal shelters and pet charities offer these services at a greatly reduced cost, and some will even do a full exam including heartworm testing. Check to make sure the vaccines are being administered by a licensed veterinarian-in my state it’s the law but it might be different where you live. Doing a little homework to find an inexpensive alternative for your pet’s vaccines is time well spent!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Sources:

Planned Pethood of Georgia

The Rainy Day is Coming-are you ready?

“If saving money is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” William Shatner

Do you have an emergency fund? According to a¬†report¬†from the Federal Reserve, 40% of adults could not come up with $400 in cash if they needed it in an emergency. They could whip out a credit card to cover it, but then when the bill comes they don’t have the cash to cover that, either. The economy has picked up since the recession and employment is off the charts up, so why can’t more people cover this seemingly small expense if they needed to? It’s all a matter of priorities.

Amazon Prime Day was held recently. Many of the social media groups I belong to (mostly crafting groups) had questions, pictures, and such from people asking, what did you buy? What kind of bargains did you get? How many times has the UPS/USPS guy been to YOUR house today? I’m left wondering how many of these same people would go into an absolute PANIC if suddenly their water heater started leaking, or if one of their home appliances suddenly quit working, or if their car broke down. What then? I’m happy to say I didn’t buy a single thing during Amazon Prime Day. I’ll admit to being tempted by a couple of things, but I just couldn’t see the point of spending money on something just because it was¬†ON SALE. The one item I had my eye on was not discounted, so it’s still sitting on my Wish List waiting for a sale or a good discount code.¬†There once was a time where I would’ve shopped with abandon and¬†probably¬†TOTALLY regretted it later. I’m glad that time has passed.

Two of my financial “mentors”,¬†Dave Ramsey¬†and¬†Clark Howard, both emphasize the importance of saving an emergency fund for situations such as a job loss or some other sudden occurrence that involves an unplanned expense. Paying down debt is also a priority both of them stress in their writing and their media appearances. The less debt you carry, the more cash you’ll have on hand to cover any emergency that might crop up. Saving money is not easy, especially if you don’t make a lot, but as I said earlier, it’s a matter of priorities. It CAN be done. The links above offer some strategies for saving an emergency fund. For your financial well being, don’t put it off!

I hope I haven’t been too harsh, but I can’t stress enough the importance of having a rainy day fund. If you have one, feel secure that you’re covered in case of a sudden expense. If you don’t, it’s time to get busy!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…