Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Why You Will Save More in 2017 Than Before!

January 1st is less than a week away!  Can you believe it?  Has your bank account recovered from the holidays yet?

Some of you panicked when you read the title of this post.  You thought, "I'm so far into debt from Christmas, there's no way I'm going to be able to save any money next year!  I'll still be paying off my credit card at the end of the year!"  You can't think like that.  I love the beginning of the year because it gives us all the chance to start over.   You can effectively push an imaginary "reset" button on any area of your life that you wish.

So, why not make 2017 THE YEAR for your finances?

You didn't think I would suggest that without including a plan, right?

I do, in fact have a plan.  Actually, it's more of a challenge.  I'm going to take it, and I hope you will consider taking it too.

Let me give you some details:

2017 Savings Challenge!

  • 8 week savings challenge kicks off on January 2nd.  
  • Exclusive to this blog (meaning, you will only be able to access the posts and content here, although I will have links from my social media pages)
  • 1-2 blog posts per week with a weekly challenge "task" for you to complete.  Part of the task will be sharing your progress in the comments section.
  • Embarrassment-free!  I promise you will not be shamed in any way, shape, or form (shaming comments will be deleted!)  We're here to encourage and uplift each other, and therefore save a boatload of money in the process.
  • Spenders and savers are welcome.  If you have a plan and a community of like-minded individuals, you are so much more likely to succeed with your money goals.
  • This challenge is completely FREE!  I will be using material from my book 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save, so you are more than welcome to purchase that as your own resource, if you wish.
How do you join the 2017 Savings Challenge?  I'm so glad you asked!  It's easy. 1. Sign up for email updates from this blog (right-hand side of the page).  You will be sent a confirmation email and will receive a notification each time I post a new challenge.  2. Comment below saying, "I'm in!".  You can also introduce yourself in the comments section and leave any questions you might have about the challenge.  And that's it!  Pretty simple, right?

I promise, you WILL have fun, and eight weeks from now, your wallet will be fatter.  Are you ready to jump on this band wagon?  Let's go!

Happy Saving!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Use Your Resourcefulness This Christmas

I know I'm not the only one who feels the pinch in my budget during the holidays.  Ouch!  It's not much fun.  Now, I'm not talking about the act of picking out and giving gifts; I really enjoy that part. It's the deflated bank account I seem to have after buying all those gifts.

If you've read previous posts or my book 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save, you know that I don't use my credit card for Christmas.  I strive to pay cash or use my debit card, that way, I make it into January guilt-free.

This year has been extra interesting because I am not earning a steady paycheck as I once was when I was a teacher.  I say "interesting" not as a bad thing, because I've really gotten into shopping the sales, using coupons, and becoming very resourceful.  My husband works hard for our money, and I want to make sure to honor him by spending as wisely as I can.

In fact, one of my favorite gifts this year hardly cost me anything.  They are the presents for my music students.  I have five students and they will each get to enjoy this gift.  Here's some pics:

Here's the breakdown of these gifts:

1. A couple of years ago (after Christmas), I found these beautiful cupcake liners with matching embellishments.  I purchased them for at least half off, so no more than $3 because the holiday was over.  Then I put them with my other seasonal items in boxes so I'd have them this year.  Cost this year: $0.

2.  Cake mixes have been so cheap lately!  I guess it's just because it's the holidays and that's when baking supplies are at rock-bottom prices.  I stacked a coupon with an in-store offer and ended up with 3 of my favorite name-brand cake mixes for about .75 cents a piece.  I decided I would doctor a box of devil's food cake mix with a recipe from The Cake Mix Doctor (if you've never tried her stuff, do it today!).  Cost of my cupcake mix: .75 cents

3. I had most of the ingredients on hand for these chocolate cherry cupcakes with fudge frosting.  Still, I needed two more ingredients to finish off the recipe.  I bought canned cherry pie filling (store brand) and chocolate chips (name brand).  Both were on sale and I paid about $2.15 for each.  Cost for ingredients: $4.30

4. My students will appreciate the cupcakes the most, but their parents will appreciate this part the most.  I designed and printed out gift-certificates for a free music lesson in the future (not pictured).  I found my graphics online and they are commission-free, so I used those in a document and just added my text.  I printed them out and attached them to bags of leftover cookies I have from a party I hosted a few days ago.  Cost for certificates: $0

There you have it!  Some of my favorite gifts ever and I made five of them for a little over a dollar a piece.

There are many ways to be resourceful this holiday season and beyond.  You just have to think outside of the box!

What are some of your favorite ways to be resourceful during this season?  I'd love to hear about in the comments below.

Merry Christmas,


Sunday, October 16, 2016

How Saving Money has Enhanced My Life

Hello my fellow savers (and spenders too; we all have those times)!

It's been a while since I posted on this blog.  I'm sorry about that.  I don't have a good excuse for you other than to say that life has been incredibly busy, in a great way.

I enjoyed a great summer, spending time with my son who just turned three!  Wow, where is the time going?  We worked really hard on potty training, and although he still has his moments, I can say that we've definitely saved money on diapers since he's transitioned to using the potty.  Well, most of the time!
Here's my sweet boy at his 3rd birthday party in September!

I wanted to write a post on how building our family's emergency fund has enhanced my life.  And it has done so in a major way.

After much deliberation, my husband and I decided that I would not return to work as a teacher this school year.  That has been a decision years in the making, but we didn't feel that we were financially in a place to do that until now.  After releasing my savings book (check it out here), we were able to eliminate our household debt by paying off my car and student loan.  Then we started piling up any extra cash and were able to quickly establish our full 3-6 month emergency fund.  And that enabled us to make the decision for me to be a SAHM for this season!

It's been an emotional rollercoaster for me.  I've had days, especially in the beginning, where I was so sad to give up a job that I like a lot.  I mean, who wouldn't want to teach music to sweet little cherubs every day? Except when they're not so sweet!  But overall, I am really enjoying my life and time at home with my boy.  We've bonded more than ever before, and I know that's due to the extra time we get to spend together.  I don't believe I'll always be a SAHM, but in this season, I wouldn't wish for anything else.

Being able to quit my job and not worry so much about finances is only one huge benefit of our saving money.  Another perk is that I've been able to work on and fund some of my dreams.  Currently, I have two projects in the works, a novel releasing soon and a vocal warm-up program for singers, that I'll be using some of my stashed-away savings to fund the creation of.  Unfortunately, product creation takes money for all of the preliminary work that goes into it, but I made a plan to set aside some extra $$ so I could work on these.  Without that cash, both projects would still only be dreams on paper.  With it, they're coming together before my eyes!

Another benefit of our savings is being able to plan and take our version of a vacation.  I say our version because we use vacation time to visit my family who lives about 15 hours away.  Most of the time, our trips are for extended weekends, but this time, we've planned a trip that spans 8 days!  While we're visiting with family, Jamie and I get to travel 3 hours south for a business conference and have our own date weekend.  I can hardly wait!
Posing with my book.  Can you tell I'm proud?

I wrote today to give you an update on what's happening in my world and also to let you know that none of it would probably be happening were it not for the journey I went on with saving money and the book that came out of it.  8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save is that book and I would love to see it make a positive impact on your money too!  Check it out here.

What are some of the things you've been able to do with your savings?  Leave a comment below!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Free Ebook!

Hi guys!  Sorry it's been a little while since my last post.  It's been crazy around here, especially being a teacher at the end of the school year.  But the very good news is that summer is on the way!

I am excited for the blog posts to come during this summer.  I am hereby declaring summer of '16 to be the Summer of Savings.  You are going to love my next post, all about lean and green cleaners.  But before we get to that, I just had to write a quick post to let you know about some exciting news for my book 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save.  For the next three days only (May 23-25), you can download the eBook from Amazon absolutely free.  I promise, there is no gimmick and no catch, except that this offer only applies to the eBook and is only good for 3 days.

I would like to ask you a favor though: if you enjoy the book (or even if you don't), I'd love for you to leave an honest review on Amazon under the product page when you're finished.  That would make me very happy, indeed.

To download your free copy of 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save, click here.  You will be redirected to Amazon's site.  The ebook goes back to full price of $3.99 on Thursday.

Thank you for your support. As always, happy saving!

Monday, May 9, 2016

5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Motivate Yourself off the Couch and Into the Gym (Guest Post)

Today's blog post is from a guest blogger.  If you've never read any of Megan Smither's stuff, you're in for a real treat.  She is a beautiful young woman, creative and sweet to the core.  She makes her living as a flight attendant and travels the world, visiting places many of us would only dream about.  Her writing style is so unique and fun, but it will make you think even as you laugh out loud.

Oh, did I mention, she's my sister.

If you're needing some motivation to get back into exercise, look no further.  By the way, her tips are all cheap and easy.

Check out the rest of her stuff at: www.inflightandfabulous.com

5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Motivate Yourself off the Couch and Into the Gym

I was in Phoenix, Arizona this past week lounging in the pool with some of my friends, and we starting talking about health and fitness. As you all know, “Winter is Not Coming,” for all you Game of Thrones fans out there😉 In fact, summer is practically here, and it has everyone in a panic, remembering all of those winter nights… and days… cuddled up on the couch with a large pizza and a box of chocolates (we have to keep ourselves warm somehow people!!). As we were talking, I realized that the biggest problem is not the gym itself, but getting there. So I want to focus this month on health and fitness, and I think that the best place to start is motivation, because in my opinion, staying motivated is the hardest hurdle we have to face in order to get healthy and stay that way. Prepare to be motivated people! By the end of this article, I expect you to have your tennies (tennis shoes) on and your butt out the door.
  1. The Calendar Method: Such a clever name… I know. I came up with it myself ;p For those of you who don’t know me, I started my adult career as a teacher. I did some teaching in primary schools and some in pre-school. The one thing that I found to always motivate my students was stickers. I would give them a sticker on a chart for good behavior and then throughout the year they could visually track their progress. Stickers are magical y’all. I’m telling you! This year, gradually getting used to my busy lifestyle as a flight attendant, I found myself working out less and less. I knew that I had to come up with some way to track the days I worked out, so I came up with the calendar method.   
To read the full post, click here.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Buying Secondhand

This is part two of my series called "Savings Superstars".  To read the first installment, To Coupon or Not, click here.  Please leave a comment below and I will respond in a timely manner!

I do not like to pay full price for books.  Ever.  And yet, I am a voracious reader and love to consume new materials whenever I get my hands on them.

Hence lies the struggle: I want to read but at what price?  I'll tell you.  Usually pennies on the dollar.  Here's my secret: I score many of my books secondhand from thrift stores.  If they are paperback, they typically cost anywhere from .50 cents to $1.  If they are hardcover, maybe a little more, like $1-$2.  I can't tell you how many "like new" books I've found at the thrift store that I've been hoping to read.  Some of them are still stocked on the shelves at Barnes and Noble for full price.  I walk out of the thrift store with my finds silently laughing to myself for my good fortune.  Let someone else pay full price.  Not this gal!

I always try to keep a mental list of the books I'm on the lookout for in the back of my head.  That way when I run into it, I can just pick it up.  If I have waited for a long time and can't find a title I'm searching for, I sometimes buy it used for .01 cent on Amazon and just pay shipping.  But most of the time, the title turns up locally and I save having to pay shipping at all.

There was a time in my life (before kids) that I got to attend a lot of classy functions that required nice dresses.  I went through a phase where I actually bought a few secondhand formal dresses on eBay, and generally had good luck with them too.  But, alas, I don't get to many formal functions these days.  So, I guess I will continue allocating my secondhand dollars to my list of reads.

Do you buy secondhand?  If so, what?  Be sure to comment below and let me know!

To learn how to turn your secondhand purchases into real, cash savings, check out my book 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save.  It includes an entire chapter on buying used items!

Happy Saving!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

To Coupon or Not

This is Part 1 of my 3 part series called "Savings Superstars".  I am excited to hear feedback from this series and get some great ideas on how you save money in your life.  Please feel free to leave a comment below and get the conversation started!  I will respond to each comment as soon as I can.

Do you coupon?  Why or why not?

In my book, 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save, I don't talk a lot about using coupons because, well, it's a book on creative saving and coupons are sorta not creative to me.  They've been around for a while and most people who claim to be any good at saving money have already mastered the art of using coupons.

I say most because I don't consider myself to be one of them.  I do believe in using coupons, but they don't control my grocery list like those people on TLC's "Extreme Couponing" show.  Those people seem to peruse their local stores' circulars and then match store and manufacturer coupons and generate a list of items to buy or get for free.

Here's what I don't like about that system:  so many of the food products are processed foods that I wouldn't really be buying for my family anyway, much less need multiples.  We buy a lot of produce every week, as well as milk, cheese, yogurt, and nuts.  Every once in a while, I'll come across coupons for those types of items, but not every week.

Another thing we don't do is plan our weekly meals around what's on sale or what items have coupons available.  We are a family that eats the majority of our meals at home.  We may have 3 meals that are either take-out or at a restaurant.  The rest of them we plan in advance and add the ingredients to our weekly grocery list.  And we buy the items we need whether or not they're on sale.  And whether or not we have coupons for them.

So, I consider myself an occasional coupon user.  Like this week, for instance, we needed laundry detergent.  We have a favorite brand, so I went online and printed off a $2.00 coupon.  Totally worth it because the detergent is going to be over $10 anyway.  Now, I know, some of you reading this are cringing because you would argue that I should be using that coupon on a much smaller size so my savings would be greater, but I would rather just buy the larger version and not have to restock for two months.  I guess this makes me a lazy coupon user.

I want to know how you use coupons in your life.  Are you like me and use them sporadically when you stumble upon them?  Maybe you don't use them at all because you don't have the time to search for them.  Could you rival one of the people on "Extreme Couponing" because you're a master at getting items dirt cheap and even free?  Where do you fall on this spectrum?

Also, I'd love to hear from those of you who use coupons to plan your meals.  Are you able to find good value coupons on fresh produce and dairy on a weekly basis?  I'd also like to know what some of your favorite, low cost meals are that you make for your family.

With this blog post, I'm definitely hoping to get a conversation started, so here's what I'm asking you to do: please leave your comment below and I will respond.

To Coupon or Not...that is the question.  And, GO!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring Sale (Don't Miss It!)

My Spring Break has officially begun!

I don't know about you, but spring makes me happy.  I love looking at trees that have been barren all winter and watch them slowly erupt in buds of new life.  I love how the grass that has been brown starts turning that beautiful, vibrant green.

This year, I'm determined to do some deep spring cleaning.  Do you have any special plans for springtime?

I wanted to let you know about a very special sale that is taking place during my spring break.  For the dates of March 20-26th, the eBook version of 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save is going to be just $1.99!!  For less than a cost of a Big Mac, you can purchase this awesome resource that will save you money.  To access the Amazon product page, click here.

I am certain that just by reading the first few chapters, you will save at least 4 times the cost of this resource.  And that's if you purchased it at full retail price of $9.99!

Here is a description of 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save:

"Are you ready to start living your dreams?  Wouldn't it be nice to have the money to fund them?  What if you're not a natural saver or your income is limited?

8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save will walk you through fun, innovative tips to inspire new savings habits that you will want to use the rest of your life. Written by a resourceful and innovative mom, wife, and teacher, Kristin King has researched, tested, and lived each one of the tips she shares with you.

Here's what this book will do for you:

- Enhance your ability to think creatively when it comes to saving money
- Provide you with the tools you need to fund your dreams, even if you have a low income
- Empower you to save, even if you've been a "spender" all your life
- Help you increase your savings, whether a little or lot, through fun and unusual tips
- Facilitate and establish habits of a lifetime saver by taking the tips and making them work for you and your family
- Give you three surefire action tips at the end of each chapter to get you on the fast track to great savings

If you're ready to get serious about your financial future, 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save (plus three bonus chapters with additional tips) will jumpstart your savings habits so you can fully fund your wildest dreams!"

Remember, this sale only lasts Sunday-Saturday, March 20-26th, so make sure you download your copy soon!

I can't wait to hear how this book helps you become an expert and creative saver!

Again, here's the link to the Amazon product page.

Happy reading and happy saving, dear friends!

Monday, February 29, 2016

8 Ways to Live Like a Rich Person TODAY

Have you ever wished that for even a day, for 24 hours, you could live like a rich person?

I know I'm not the only one!

Well just in case, you'd like to try to live one day in the shoes of the rich, here are 8 ways to live like a rich person TODAY.

1.  Declare today a "worry-free" day when it comes to your money.  Many of us have days when we look at the bills and don't know how they are going to get paid.  We certainly don't have any wiggle-room in our budgets.  But rich people don't worry about where the money will come from to cover their bills.  Since we are living like rich people, I hereby declare that just for today, we have a free pass to not worry about money.  Tomorrow if we need it, we can brainstorm as many ways as possible to creatively earn and save money.  But for today, there are no worries!  We have more than enough.  One of the questions I ask myself when I'm having a "worry" day is, "Will I go bankrupt today or tomorrow?"  If the answer is "no", as it always is for me, I count my blessings and stop worrying about money.  It's just not worth it!

2.  Go on a mini-vacation, right in your own town.  So what if you don't have the funds to go on some exotic vacation to the Caribbean.  Start appreciating the beauty your own town or city has to offer.  On a sheet of paper, write down all the places in your town you'd love to visit.  They can be places you've been to before or places you've yet to see.  Put together your perfect day of visiting all of these places or as many of them as you can.  Be sure to include some freebies like the park, the lake or beach.  I know you've got loads of ideas going through your head right now.  Get them out of your head and onto the paper.  Now, commence your staycation!  You're about to find out just how much fun staying around town can be!  If you need some ideas to jumpstart your staycation, just visit sites like Groupon or LivingSocial and plug in your town/ area.

3.  Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses; you are the Joneses!  We've all heard it again and again that we must avoid the comparison trap.  There is always someone who will be better off than you.  But it's just as true that there will always be someone who is worse off than you too.  In order to get your mind off the comparison trap, here's a little challenge for you:  find someone who is struggling financially and bless them in some small way.  It could be as simple as getting them a $10 gift card to a restaurant or grocery store or as easy as cooking up two suppers and delivering one to their family in addition to having one for yours.  Why do I recommend this?  It's a proven fact that rich people are generous in their giving to others.  Also, once you do this, I guarantee, you are going to feel like a million bucks!  What can you do to make a small difference today?  Because it's not going to be small in the eyes of the person who receives it!

4.  Don't spend any more than you make that day!  Rich people got this way by living on less than they earn.  I know it sounds too simple, almost too good to be true.  But think about it:  what if every month you had a little money left over and this went on for years.  Maybe you invest some of it and it starts making money.  Pretty soon, that little leftover money turns into a big fortune.  So, the challenge with this tip is to practice what it feels like to live on less than you earn.  Whatever you earn on this day (you might have to do some estimates, averages) is what you can spend on this day.  Bonus points if you can spend less than you bring home on this day.

5.  Drive your paid-off car (even if it's a clunker) with pride.  One of the most consistent findings of rich people is that many of them drive average, pre-owned vehicles and live in middle-class neighborhoods.  Now that may not be true for all of them, but for many millionaires, this is their reality.  And it's not because they couldn't have more if they wanted to.  They choose to live this way. If you have a car sitting in your driveway or garage that is paid for, count your blessings!  No matter what it looks like or how old it is, if it gets you here and there, it is a good car.  So what if people make fun of you.  More than likely "those people" are the same ones who go home and write a giant check for their car loan every month.  It's ok to not have a car payment because you made a different choice.  Go ahead, flaunt that clunker!

6.  Appreciate the true "riches" in your life.  You know where I'm going with this one, don't you?  Hopefully you've learned by now that the best riches in life aren't things.  Think of it this way...what if you had all the things (gadgets, cars, electronics, etc.) you desired in the world, but you were the only person in the world?  People make life rich.  Yeah, even those crazy people in your life that you call family.  And the scary part is, none of us know when we will live our last day.  So, if you have anyone meaningful in your life, and I'm willing to bet you do, spend time today appreciating them and all they do to make your life truly rich.

7.  Make your dream dinner...at home.  This one pairs nicely with number 2, going on a mini vacation in your town.  After you have a wonderful day vacationing around town, come home and have a decadent dinner of your dreams.  Maybe that's steak and potatoes, along with a salad and some bread.  Or maybe it's pizza.  If you're anything like me, dinner includes a chocolate dessert!  Whatever floats your boat will be a whole lot more affordable and probably delicious if you make it at home.  Spend time in your kitchen with your true riches that we talked about in number 6 and you're sure to have a satisfying finish to your rich-living day.

8.  Get what you want and want what you get.  To say that you are truly rich, regardless of your bank account is to be content with your life.  That doesn't mean you're going to settle and always be at this current level for the rest of your days, but it does mean that you accept your life as it is right now and you find ways to see the beauty in it every day.

Lao Tzu said, "Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."

After reading this post and hopefully spending a day living like a rich person, I have one question to ask.  Are you rich?

You decide.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tools to Help You Save

What if saving money could be infinitely easier with the use of a few tools?  I believe it can be, and there are certainly tools out there that won't cost you an arm and a leg, but will actually help you save in the long run!

Today I'm going to talk about two of my favorites.  The first one is something my son and I recently discovered while shopping at one of my favorite discount stores.

He and I were shopping on Monday, and of course, we had to visit the toy section.  My son is very patient while I look at housewares and shoes, but only if I allow him to browse and choose one small item from the toy section.  On this day, he had chosen his item and we were getting ready to leave the toy section when I stumbled upon this cool bank:

What I was instantly attracted to was the visual aspect of seeing how much we've deposited into the bank.  I have always been a visually motivated gal, so this bank is too cool!  It has a sensor that recognizes what type of coin is being dropped through the slot and adds it to the balance every time I use it.  The winning factor for me is that I got to take it home for $5.99.  As you can see, I already have more deposited into the bank than I paid for it!

Of course, I'll still have to wrap the coins when it's time to turn them into bills, but I think the motivation of seeing this number go up on the bank will help me use it often!

The second tool I love to use, pretty much on a daily basis, is my envelope system from Dave Ramsey.  I'm quite fond of my teal wallet-like envelope holder which came with the Financial Peace University Home Study Kit.  If you've never been to Dave Ramsey's site, I encourage you to check it out immediately (www.daveramsey.com).  His site will blow you away with the sheer volume of money resources available to you.  His online store has FPU and other books for purchase. You don't have to purchase the entire study kit.  You can actually purchase an envelope holder by itself.  There's an entire section in his store dedicated to the envelope system!

My husband and I each get a set amount of "mad money" each week.  Basically this is our money to blow on whatever we'd like.  I think Jamie usually spends his on work lunches with his buddies and I usually spend mine on coffee.  However, what I love about my mad money is that if I have any leftover from the previous week, I just add it to my new amount and it grows really fast that way.  I keep my mad money in my envelope holder.  And every time I pull it out to pay, people always ask me what it is or comment on how cool it is.  It's a great tool to get people thinking about using cold, hard cash again.

These are two tools that are consistently helping me save more money.  Now it's your turn.  In the comments below or on my Facebook post, tell me about your favorite tools that help you save money.  Happy Saving, Friend!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Savings Challenge (And a Call to Action)

2016 is in full swing already!  I don't know about you, but I feel like January just flew by, and before we know it, February will be half over as well.

Now that life has settled from the holidays, I find comfort in the daily grind.  I have a pretty well-worn routine Monday through Friday, but I try to relax a little more on the weekends.  Life is sweet.

And yet, something is really bothering me and I need to get it off my chest.  Here goes...

I just read an article titled, "The U. S. May Be Even More Broke than You Think" written by Chris Matthews and it made my stomach turn.  Matthews states, "Critics of government spending often say that U.S. Government owes more than the total value of the gross domestic product, nearly 103%..."  Basically, our country is in debt, past our head, if you didn't notice.  It appears we are drowning in it.

For someone like me, in my 30's, that means I have to take matters into my own hands to ensure that my financial future is secure.  In 30 years, I will be surprised, shocked even, if Social Security even exists anymore (financial guru Dave Ramsey calls it "Social Insecurity", a name that seems quite fitting to me).  So that is not something I can count on to help me out in my future.

Not only that, but I don't want to place a heavy burden on my son (and any other future children) to have to take care to me and provide money for my monthly bills when I am no longer bringing in an income.

So, it seems my only option is to do things a little differently than our American government.  In fact, I need to do things a lot differently!  Pretty much the complete opposite.

1. My family and I need to live beneath our means.

2. Even though we are currently out of debt besides our home, we need to take measures to stay that way.

3. We need to continue saving for the future.

Which brings me to the real message of this post.  The beginning of 2016 seems like the perfect time to introduce the Savings Challenge.  I'm taking it this year and I hope you will too.  It's very simple, but it will help me and my family to meet our financial goals described above.  It will help you to save for whatever dreams you have for your own family or allow you to pay off debt faster.

Here is the 2016 Savings Challenge: Decide on and commit to trying out three different ways to save money this year.  Notice I didn't say new ways, because you might have a current way of saving money that really works for you.  That's great!  Keep up the good work!  I'm just asking you to add two more ways of saving money to your arsenal of personal finance knowledge.

Here are the 3 ways I've committed to saving this year:

1. I'm doing the 52 week money saving challenge.  Each week, I put the dollar amount away that matches the week of the year.  By the end of this year, I'll have saved $1378 just by doing this.  To see the break down of how this challenge works, click this link which will take you to another blog.

2.  I'm going to continue the piggy bank plan.  I have already been doing this with my son because it's a wonderful way to teach him to save money, even at the young age of 2.  I have an entire chapter dedicated to this method of saving in my book 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save.  You can purchase it here.

3. I'm going to try out the percentage savings plan.  On this plan, I start by taking out 1% of my income and have it auto-deposited into my savings account.  After about 6 months, I'll change that percentage to 2% and keep going until I reach 10%.  This is another method that I detail in my book 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save.

None of these are very complex, but they do require a commitment to start.  What are some ways that might work for you to begin to save?  Or perhaps you save money already, but you want to challenge yourself to have the best year of saving yet.  If you're short on ideas, I would love for you to check out my book 8 (Really Creative) Ways to Save.  Writing this book truly changed my life because I practiced each of the tips to help get our family out of debt.  The book is chock-full of savings tips that will actually get you excited to save.  I hope you'll check it out!

If you're up to join me for the Savings Challenge, please leave a comment below or comment on my Facebook post.

I believe together we can make this the best year of saving money yet, no government assistance required!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Magic of Homemade Gifts

This is part 3 of 3 of my series called Serious Holiday Savings.

Ok, yeah, I realize it's January, but I couldn't exactly write this post before Christmas because it details some of the items I actually gave out to friends and family.  And the beauty of it is, someone close to you is bound to have a birthday before December of this year.  Why not consider gifting them with something homemade or hand-crafted?

Why am I calling homemade gifts magic?  Simply because I believe homemade gifts convey deep meaning that the person who made it cares an awful lot.  They took the time and effort to create something just for you.  I also think crafting gifts is a lost art.  It's so much more convenient to run to Target, pick up a gift and throw it in a bag with some tissue paper.  Making a gift requires planning ahead of time.

Here are three of the handmade gifts that my family gave out this past Christmas:

1. Handprint ornaments:  I saw this idea on Pinterest, one of my favorite websites for inspiration, and decided to try it with Landon, my 2-year old son.  I made sure to choose a day that was nice enough where we could work outside (we can do that in Florida in December, do be jealous!) so I didn't have to worry about getting glitter everywhere.  And of course, it still got everywhere outside, but I wasn't freaking out about having to clean up minuscule glitter particles.  My husband applied glue to Landon's hand and I pressed it to an ornament, then followed it up with a sprinkling of glitter.

They didn't turn out as neat-looking as the (perfect) Pinterest picture, but I didn't care.  It was a fun family activity that my son sure enjoyed, and you would have thought we gave his grandparents the world when we presented them with two personalized ornaments.  I also included Landon's name, his age, and the year on the back of the ornament.

Here's the best thing: I found the glass ball ornaments at Goodwill for less than a buck.  There were six of them and I bought them before I knew what I was going to do with them.  They turned into some great handmade gifts and fun memories.

2. Homemade granite cleaner:  I discovered the value of creating homemade cleaners a couple of years ago when I downloaded a eBook about making them.  I've made several of the recipes (The book is called Homemade Green Cleaners by Claire Bowman, link here), but hands down, my favorite has been the granite cleaner.  It makes my counters so very shiny, only has 4 ingredients, and it smells yummy but never overpowering.  My mom-in-law and sister-in-law both have stone countertops so I decided to whip up two sprays for them.  Up until that point, I had been using lavender essential oil in my spray because it's my favorite scent, but since it was the holiday season, I decided to change things up a bit and swap out lavender for peppermint.  In about 5 minutes, I created 3 batches of peppermint granite cleaner (one for myself) and put them in spray bottles I got from the dollar store.  Then I printed colorful tags for the ones I was gifting and had two great gifts that are useful to boot.

3. Santa ornament: I bought a little ornament kit from Michael's when they were running a half off sale, making this ornament under a buck.  I showed Landon how and where to put the sticks and let him place them and then glued them myself.  Instead of attaching the string to make an ornament, I taped the foundation stick to a gift card and gave it to my husband as a gift from my son.

I plan on making and gifting many more handmade gifts this year, and not just for Christmas.  Do you like to make gifts?  Can you think of anyone who would love to receive one from you?  I hope this post inspires you to get busy making magic with homemade gifts!