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14 Jun 2008   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: We Survived the Two-Week Grocery Experiment!

We made it to Saturday! Aside from a few trips to CVS, I did not darken the door of any supermarket for two weeks.

Two. whole. weeks.

It felt like an eternity. Well, almost! At any rate, we made it through two weeks of no-shopping and we learned a lot along the way:

1) It is hard to let good deals pass by, especially when I have the time to snag them, the right coupons, and the store is only a few blocks away. 

2) A half gallon of milk does not last two weeks. Um, yeah, I should have known that one; don’t ask me what I was thinking.

3) Even if it was painful to miss a few deals, it is rather nice to not have to even think about menu-planning or shopping-list-making for two whole weeks.

4) Finally, yes, it saved me time. Yes, it saved us money (well, in that we were able to buy more with $80 than we can with $40. Do not ask me how that works, though, because I’m still scratching my head over it!). And last of all, we made it through two weeks without running out of food (ahem, except the milk bit!) and we even had quite a bit to spare.

The consensus? I think I’m going to try doing my grocery shopping every two weeks. However, instead of only going once every two weeks and spending all $80, my current plan is to do a bigger stock-up shop (say $65 worth) every two weeks and then use the leftover money ($15 or so) to make a quick run to a store to buy milk and the rock-bottom deals the week I’m technically not shopping.

This plan seems like it would give me the best of both worlds as I would still save time and have more wiggle room for stocking up every other week, but I’d also not have to miss out on exceptional deals the week I take off nor would we have to worry about going without if we run out of something like milk. That said, while it seems like a good plan, I have to try it out for awhile to really know it’s effectiveness.

I’m curious to know: Does anyone else shop like this–a big trip one week, a small trip the next? Do you think it could work?

We just got back from a two-hour shopping trip to multiple stores and got some wonderful deals but I need to head for bed so I’ll try and share those tomorrow or Monday.

————————

How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and
bargains you were able to snag this week on your blog (with pictures,
if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below.

13 Jun 2008   ·   69
Money Saving Mom

How financially fit are you?

Janet sent me this fun quiz.

With Americans focused too much on their credit scores
it seems that they haven’t a clue about their overall financial
wellness. How
financially fit are you? How
does your score compare to other test-takers? Have some fun with this quiz. It just might be the wake-up call we all need to get financially
fit.

I found the quiz very interesting to take and was surprised to score 98% on it. I am guessing that not owning a home was one of the biggest marks against us being at 100%–though in the current life situation and housing market we’re in, we feel like saving up to pay 100% down is a much better plan, even if most people think we’re nuts to be doing something so radical.

My husband and I have worked very hard over the past few years to be in good financial shape, but
taking this quiz reminded me just how much driving old cars, packing sack lunches, shopping at thrift stores, living in a basement apartment, eating off the dollar menu, and all the other “counter-cultural” things we’ve done over the past five years of our marriage have paid off. Lord-willing, in another few years we’ll own our own home outright and score 100% on the quiz!

If you take the quiz, tell us how you scored. And please don’t feel badly if you have a low score. If I were to have done this quiz three years ago when we were barely making ends meet, I’m sure my score results would have looked much differently. So, as long as you are working hard to be in a better position financially, take heart, it will pay off!

12 Jun 2008   ·   340
Money Saving Mom

What’s your best Frugal Father’s Day idea?

Father’s Day is this Sunday and while I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing for my dad and my husband, I’m sure there are many others who are still looking for some great ideas.

My dad is very easy to please. He doesn’t like gifts, he likes handmade cards and letters so that’s what he normally gets and that’s what he’s getting again this year. It’s always so good to sit down and write out my thoughts of gratitude and appreciation to him for all he has done for me.

My husband is also easy to please. Up until this year, he always received a card and a special home-cooked dinner. This year, since we have more wiggle room in the budget, I’m actually buying him something. But it’s not anything fancy or extravagant. Instead, he’s getting dress clothes, thanks to Sears. And I know he’ll be happy as a lark since, unlike most men, he likes to shop and buy clothes!

What are you doing to bless and show appreciation for the special father(s) in your life? Tell us about it in the comments section in the next 24 hours and you’ll also be entered to win one of two $20 gift cards from Boston Market.
Bostonmarketgiftcards
Our family loves Boston Market; it’s like enjoying delicious home-cooking without the work and effort! I especially enjoy their rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes–Yum!

To enter to win one of these two $20 gift cards:

::Leave a comment telling us your best frugal idea for celebrating Father’s Day and blessing a special guy in your life.

::Tomorrow evening, I’ll randomly choose two winners and post them.

12 Jun 2008   ·   6
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading: Showing appreciation to stores and feeding a family of eleven on a budget

::Want to show appreciation to the stores you frequent for deals? Monica shares here and here about her experiences taking pies to the staff at Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid. What a great idea! Even if you don’t feel comfortable taking homemade baked goods (some people are very leery about accepting baked goods from individuals they do not know well), perhaps you could consider another way to show your appreciation?

As always, remember to express verbal appreciation and call customer service if you are especially impressed with an employee’s service. You never know how much this might mean to them as it seems most of the time businesses and employees only hear about what they are doing wrong, not gratitude for what they are doing right.

::Mary shares a very interesting post here complete with full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, pictures, and the price breakdowns for how she is frugally feeding her family of eleven this week. Inspiring and a must-read for anyone needing some motivation to lower your grocery budget!

11 Jun 2008   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: The Menu Edition

Whenever I post one of our weekly menus, I seem to get an onslaught of questions. Rather than try and answer all the questions left on this week’s menu post in the comments section of the post, I’m answering some of them here:

Do you ever have to mix up your menus? Like when you forget to take the
meat out of the freezer? Do you just substitute another meal that you
planned for later in the week? I guess what I am asking is: is this a
*plan* or a *guide* for your meals?

Do I ever mix up the menus? Um, actually, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a menu completely accurately. That would be boring, you know. Just as I rarely ever follow a recipe to a tee and cannot–for the life of me–stick on a strict schedule, I also love to mix things up when it comes to menus.

The menu serves as my guide, not a rigid, must-follow-exactly taskmaster. I know that I have a plan in place for the week and enough food to carry out this plan but if another idea strikes my fancy, I can always change course in the middle of the week and make substitutions where needed.

I know that this method would drive some people batty, but it works well for highly-distracted "creative" people like me.

Your menus sound really yummy and healthy- do your kids eat the same as
you and your husband? I don’t see very much meat at all- what else are
you counting as a protein besides eggs?

We pretty much all eat the same; I’m not into making four different kinds of dinners–too much work for a simple person like me! I cook to please my husband primarily so I’ve tried to encourage my girls to learn to "eat what’s set before them". They don’t always eat everything but I do have them try everything and most of the time, require them to eat at least a bite or two of those items they aren’t very fond of.

I know that our menu might look shockingly protein-bare to the average American who has been raised that protein is only found in meat and eggs. In actuality, there is protein in a wide variety of food groups–even in fruit, believe it or not!

Since meat is expensive and many of the types out there are not that healthy anyway (hormone-laden, MSG-laden, etc.), we’ve opted to derive our protein from a variety of sources including cheese and dairy products, eggs, legumes, and vegetables.

We have at least one meat-heavy meal per week: hamburgers, beef hot dogs, barbecue meatballs, etc. We normally have one or two meatless meals per week (often lasagna, spaghetti casserole, or a Mexican dish–we just omit the meat and no one notices!). The rest of our dinners have some meat in them but it’s usually not in large quantities.

When we were first married, we were living on so little (less than $1000/month many months!) that we couldn’t afford much meat at all. We bought a bag of chicken from Aldi for $6.99 and this had to last us for two weeks. We didn’t buy beef at all for two years unless I could get it on some incredible mark-down price. We were willing to make these sacrifices because we wanted to stay out of debt through law school.

Now that our income has increased, we’ve been able to afford more meat, but we still have limited it as this helps keep our grocery bill lower. However, we are planning to purchase a freezer and a fourth of a cow from a local farm whenever our tax stimulus check decides to mosey it’s way to our mailbox. Since we’ll have a freezer full of hormone-free, organic beef, I’m guessing meat might make its way into more of our meals. We’ll see!

I am curious, how do you afford to eat dinner out once per week on your budget??

Our eating out budget is separate from our grocery budget. I know this really throws some people off, but it’s just the way we roll.

We like to go out to eat and since we’re currently living on almost less than half of our income, it’s a splurge we’ve decided to allow ourselves.

That said, when we go out to eat, we do it the frugal way: we use coupons, we go to inexpensive restaurants, we hit the free birthday dinners and other free restaurant deals, we order water, we split entrees, and so forth.

For some, going out to eat is a $40 or more affair. For us, we can often get in and out for less than $20 (or less than $10 if it’s fast food).

We don’t always go out to eat once per week, but I would say that we usually go out at least once a week–sometimes for dinner, sometimes for lunch or breakfast on the weekends, or sometimes for dessert if our eating out budget is almost maxed out for the month!

Where is the meat from your menu plan coming from? (BBQ Beef Pizza,
hamburgers, taco salad, etc.). Are you pulling that from previous
stock-ups? How much of your 2-week menu plan is leveraged from stock
vs. this 2-week trip?

When there is a good deal on meat, I usually try to buy enough to last for at least two weeks (provided I can wing it in our $40/week budget). Since not every kind of meat is on sale every week, this ensures more variety and it usually means that we have at least some beef and some chicken to work with each week.

You can see what we bought at the store for this two-week trip here. I already had 2 pounds of ground beef in the freezer, taco salad meat made up and frozen, plus some lunch meat on hand. In addition, I bought two packages of chicken and a package of beef hot dogs. At the rate we’re going, we’ll still have some of this left to use for next week since we’ve ended up with more leftovers this week than I was counting on (better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, right?). 

11 Jun 2008   ·   29
Money Saving Mom

Reader tips: Deals and rebates

AMC theaters are offering $1 movies for children on Wednesdays this Summer. Click here for more details. (Thanks, Jenetta!)

Sign up for the Home Depot Garden club here and receive bi-weekly coupons and offers from Home Depot.

Click here to get a $5/$25 coupon at True Value Hardware stores. (Thanks, Jenetta!)

For those of you who normally search through Google or Ask.com, you can now search both through SwagBucks and earn points for searching. These points can be redeemed for a variety of different prizes including gift cards and larger-ticket items.
 

Shari emailed in:

I couldn’t find the rebate
tear offs for the Listerine Smart Rinse (free after ECBs at CVS this month) so I called Johnson and Johnson at their
customer service number (1-888-222-0182) and asked them to mail me a rebate
form. The said they could do better than that–they asked for my name
and address and said I’d have my rebate check for $3.89 in 7-10 days!!
Thought I’d pass this along.

Here’s a great idea from Beth in Columbus, OH:

I wanted to let you know about something my husband and I do with
rebate money: Once we receive a rebate check, big or small, we put
it into an account for our two-year-old son. When the account hits a
certain amount, we send that money to his college fund. 

Because I’ve already paid for the purchases, I’m not really missing the
money. Even if it’s a big purchase, by the time the rebate arrives,
I’ve forgotten all about it and managed to budget without the money
from the rebate.

Another family we know puts the $ amount of their coupon savings from
the grocery store into a similar account.  For example, I used $18.50
of manufacturer’s coupons last week to "save" us money so therefore we
would add $18.50 to my son’s account. 

For those of you who send in for rebates regularly, what do you do with your rebate money? Put it in a special account? Use it for groceries? Fund your CVS purchases? Comment and tell us about it!

10 Jun 2008   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Financial Shape in 2008: Monthly checkup

It’s already the second week of June and I’m behind on getting our monthly checkup posted. How did you do in May? Here’s our update:

Short Term Financial Goals for 2008

1) Have our fully-funded emergency fund in place (6 months’ worth of living expenses) by the end of April. As of March 11, 2008–DONE!
2) Switch health insurance plans and open an HSA. We
were approved for our new health insurance plans in April and have also
set up our HSA. Done!

3) Start up an IRA and invest at least 5-10% of Jesse’s income in this. Started in March. (We plan to increase this to 12-15% of Jesse’s income as soon as we purchase our home.)
4) Open up a mutual fund for each of our children and invest $50 per child per month in it. Started in March.

5) Save up and invest $30,000 this year towards paying cash (100% down) for a house in 3-5 years. Now
that Goals 1-4 are finished, we’re working super hard on Goal #5!

May brought a few unexpected expenses with health needs and vehicle issues, so we only put $2000 in our house savings, not $3000 like I’d hoped. However, considering the setbacks, I’m grateful we were able to put even $2000 into it.

It’s been two months since we first opened our house savings mutual fund and we now have saved $4500 towards our house. Yay! Our
short-term goal is to save $15,000 in our house savings by August 31,
2008. This is a rather ambitious goal, but we’re working hard towards
achieving it and are excited to see if we might actually make it! Who knows?

We spent some time in May putting some additional online income-earning ideas into place which we are hopeful will, Lord-willing, allow us to meet or exceed our goal of having $30,000 in our house savings by the end of the year.

———————————–
How did you do in May? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2008, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in April and the areas
you hope to improve in May. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don’t have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel free to leave your update in a comment. Let’s all keep each other accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

10 Jun 2008   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

Print coupons and support this site

I’ve been receiving a lot of emails recently from people asking what they can do to support this site. I’m blown away by your kindness to even consider something like that!

First off, if you find MoneySavingMom.com to be a helpful site, the best way you can show your support is to continue to read here. Subscribing to the feed or visiting the site regularly are two of the best ways to show your support. In addition, as many of you are already doing, tell your friends–both online and offline–about the site.

Secondly, another easy way to support this site is to print coupons through the links on this site. One of the exciting new developments over the last few weeks is that we now have our very own Money Saving Mom® printable coupon site, courtesy of Coupons.com. I’m still working on integrating it into this site, but for now, you can access it here or through the printable Money Saving Mom® Printable Coupon Site link on the sidebar. You are also more than welcome to add this link to your sidebars if you also have a listing of printable coupon sites.

Every time you print a coupon through these links, I receive a small fee. While this costs you nothing (besides the printer ink!) and hopefully the coupon will save you more than you spend on something you already need, its a simple way you can help support this site without spending any extra money out of pocket to do so!

Best of all, since this printable coupon site is new, even if you’ve already printed off these coupons from Coupons.com, you can print them again off my printable coupon site. You can also use the Coupons.com  widget on the sidebar to print coupons and you won’t even have to open another page to do so. Just click on "see all coupons", check the ones you want to print, and print them!

Thank you for being here, for reading here, for spreading the word, for passing along good deals, and for making my dreams of being a wife and mom first while still bringing in an income during naptime a reality. God is so good and I am so blessed!

9 Jun 2008   ·   28
Money Saving Mom

The Two-Week Grocery Experiment: Menu

After determining to try a two-week shopping trip, planning a rough menu based upon the store sales and what I already had on hand, and then taking a few hours to make the big (or so it seemed to me!) $76 shopping trip, I then sat down and made out a detailed two-week menu. I decided to plan a little more than we usually would eat each week, just to be sure we had plenty since this whole two-week shopping thing is completely new territory for me.

Here’s the menu:

BREAKFASTS (I try to shoot for a combination of two servings of whole-grains, one serving of protein, and one to two servings of fruit for all of our breakfast menus.)

Cereal, fruit
Strawberry/banana/pineapple/flaxseed smoothie, toast
Blueberry cream muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
Bagels, yogurt, fruit
Banana bread, yogurt, fruit
Blueberry/pineapple/flaxseed smoothies, toast
English muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
Orange/carrot/pineapple juice (made in our juicer), toast, yogurt
Cereal, fruit
Whole-wheat waffles, yogurt, fruit
Banana bread, yogurt, fruit
French toast, scrambled eggs, fruit
Oatmeal in the crockpot, fruit
Strawberry/banana/flaxseed smoothie, whole wheat waffles

LUNCHES (I try to have a combination of a serving of protein, one to two servings of whole grain/complex carbohydrates, and two servings of veggies/fruit for our lunch menus.)

Chicken fingers, apple slices, peas, whole-wheat toast
Vegetable stirfry over brown rice with flaxseeds
Split peas, brown rice, fruit
PB&J, oranges, broccoli
Leftovers
Turkey/cheese sandwiches, mixed vegetables
Quesadillas, carrots
Salad, homemade bread
Split peas, brown rice, fruit salad
Leftovers
PB&J, apples, carrots
Turkey/cheese sandwiches, mixed veggies
Burritos, carrots, apples
Chicken fingers, bananas, mixed veggies, whole-wheat toast

DINNERS (Dinners are similar to lunches in that I try to have a combination of one to two servings of protein, one to two servings of whole grains/complex carbohydrates, and at least two servings of fruit/veggies.)

Build-your-own burritos, wild rice mix, southwest corn, fruit salad
French toast, scrambled eggs, strawberry/pineapple/banana smoothies
Taco salad, homemade bread, fruit
Beef hot dogs, corn on the cob, pasta salad, fruit
Homemade BBQ beef pizza, fruit, veggies
Hamburgers, wild rice mix, green beans, corn on the cob 
Dinner out
Homemade mac and cheese with veggies, peas, fruit salad
Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese sauce, homemade bread, fruit
Homemade BBQ beef pizza, fruit, veggies
Haystacks (build-your-own Mexican platter: Mexican beans, lettuce, tomato, corn chips, cheese, sour cream, salsa), corn
Spaghetti casserole, Italian cheese bread, green beans, grapefruit,
Chicken broccoli rice casserole, homemade bread, fruit,
Dinner out

SNACKS (We usually have at least two snacks per day–the fact that I’m still nursing Kaitlynn means I’m often hungry and three meals per day just doesn’t cut it for me! I try to serve at least one healthy snack a day and then one snack is usually something less healthy like Chex Mix or cookies.)

Fruit (apples/bananas)
Raw veggies (carrot sticks)
Cheese slices
Popcorn
Chex Mix
Animal crackers
PB&J
Cereal
Blueberry muffins
Homemade bread
Banana bread
Cookies

See more menus for this week here.

7 Jun 2008   ·   17
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: My CVS trips

I stayed out of the grocery stores all week this week as part of my Two-Week Grocery Experiment, but I certainly didn’t completely avoid CVS.

In fact, I did four transactions split up into two trips–one on our way home from an outing last night and one at the CVS down the street.

Here’s what we got:

101_0110

And our total out of pocket was: $1.48! Yay!

Best of all, I started the week out with about $15 in ECBs and ended the week with around $21. I was thrilled to be able to do so well even if I did somehow miscalculate and buy too many of the Pampers wipes. Oh well, at least it was something we’ll use!

——————-

How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and bargains you were able to snag this week on your blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below.

6 Jun 2008   ·   3
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Saving money on groceries in Canada?

Jessica emailed and asked:

I live in eastern Canada and I love reading your site, but I find a lot of it is based on American stores…so I’m just wondering if you know of other sites that may include Canadian ideas for stores here?

I know we have at least a handful of Canadian readers here so I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions for Jessica. Are there any websites out there on grocery savings for Canadians? What are your best tips for saving money on groceries in Canada?

6 Jun 2008   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tips: Chick-Fil-A, All You, Silver Jewelry Club, Solar Panel Rental

Chick-Fil-A: Free Food When You Buy Gas! – From Beth in Columbus, Ohio:

The Chick-Fil-A near us is running a great deal because of the high gas prices. Between now and June 30th, if you
take in a gas station receipt between $30-$50, you get a FREE sandwich
(they will stamp it so it can’t be used twice). Even better, if you
take in a gas receipt for more than $50, you will get an entire FREE
MEAL (fries, sandwich, drink). I’m not sure whether this is a nationwide deal or only something for our area, but it’s worth checking into.

Note from Crystal: What a brilliant marketing idea! I’d love to see more stores doing things like this.

All You: Coupons Inside Waiting Room Copies – From Debbie:

I was at the doctor’s office today and noticed a waiting room copy of All You in the magazine rack. Inside was a set of tear off $0.50 off coupons for All You magazine. If anyone is at the doctor’s office this month they should check to see if they happen to have a waiting room copy of All You.

Note from Crystal: Getting such a great coupon-filled magazine with a coupon? I love it! Thanks, Debbie!

Silver Jewelry Club: Silver for the Price of Shipping – From Lauren:

I thought I would let you know about a website I saw in a magazine. Silver Jewelry Club offers sterling silver jewelry for the price of shipping.
They have 4 items that change out every 15 minutes. This is their way
of promoting their jewelry in hopes that you will look at their other
jewelry. I thought it was a pretty good deal!

Solar Panel Rental – From Reader Crystal:

I came across this and thought others might be interested. You
rent solar panels for your home based on what your electric bill is. It
could even be less than your electric bill.

There’s a contract which
sets the monthly cost to never increase (and energy costs is certainly
increasing. Here in Florida our largest engery company is requesting
yet another rate increase). They take care of installation and
everything.

The only down side is that you’ll be responsible for any
repairs to your roof after the contract is up. That’s okay with us, as
we’re planning on replacing our roof in a couple of years anyways.

5 Jun 2008   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tips: Aldi, EcoBunga!, All You, more!

Aldi Now Stocking Organic Milk – From Saralyn:

Has anyone else noticed that Aldi is
now carrying organic milk? I saw it yesterday. It’s $2.99 a half
gallon. That’s still more expensive than a whole gallon of regular milk
at their store but less than the price of organic at other stores.
According to their website they’re stocking other organic items in their Australia stores.  Maybe we’ll be next.  Organic Aldi; who knew?

EcoBunga!: A Directory of Eco-Friendly Deals – From Karen:

Given your audience of thrifty moms, I thought you might like to learn about “Ecobunga!” (http://www.ecobunga.com), a brand new directory that lists hundreds of eco-friendly giveaways and deals – everything from sweepstakes for hybrid cars to coupons for organic foods.

In fact, just this week our featured deals include coupons for Organic Valley dairy products, savings on ZenSoy beverages, a sweepstakes for a Prius, and a cool contest from Whirlpool for moms with green business ideas (the winner gets $7000 in cash – not too shabby!).

My business partner Jen and I were inspired to create Ecobunga! when we learned that the 2007 GfK Roper Green Gauge Study cited cost as the top reason shoppers were reluctant to go green.  Well, we figured if price is holding folks up, let’s find them a deal!

All You: Subscription Deal – From Joanne:

You can get a two-year subscription to All You magazine at www.QSP.com. That’s the best deal I’ve seen out there for this magazine filled with such great coupons!

Alphabetical Listing of Current Coupons – From Kristin:

I found this on slickdeals and it has been very helpful to me. It’s an alphabetical list of all non expired insert coupons and which insert to find them in.   

Dollar General: New Rebate Program – From Lori:

Are you aware that Dollar General has now begun a rebate
program like Walgreens’s?  I noticed their flier in the Sunday paper
included rebates for products like Aquafresh, Bic shavers, Lysol,
Nabisco snacks, General Mills cereals, Kleenex, and lots of others.
None of the items are free after rebate, but I thought it might be an
option for people who don’t have a Walgreens or CVS nearby.

4 Jun 2008   ·   69
Money Saving Mom

Less is More: Lessons from our little basement apartment

100_0479

A lot of you know that my husband and I spent the first three and half years of our marriage with him in law school and us living on a part-time income. We never went hungry and we always had a roof over our head and clothes to wear, but it was a very lean time.

During those years, we lived in a little basement apartment that only had four windows on one side. I could plug the vacuum cleaner into one outlet and vacuum the entire apartment without ever switching outlets.

We only had one old vehicle almost the entire law school tenure and Jesse usually used it for transportation from work and school. We knew hardly anyone in town we lived in–in spite of many efforts to try and make friends–and there were really not any safe places I could walk to from our apartment.

It would have been easy to have been swallowed up in despair and I won’t pretend there weren’t moments when I felt sorry for myself or wished we could be living in a little better circumstances. However, I decided, with God’s help, to try and make the most of what might seem like a less-than-ideal situation.

Maybe we didn’t have money to go out, but I challenged myself to think up creative ways we could still have fun without spending money. We’d check out a movie from the
library and have homemade pizza. In the Winter, we’d brew some coffee, pop some popcorn, and play a board game. Sometimes, we’d go to the park with a picnic or we’d browse the book selection at Barnes and Noble.

We didn’t have money to spend on decorating our home, but I still found ways to make it homey and inviting. For starters, I tried to always keep it clean and
clutter-free–even if it wasn’t very pretty, at least it could smell nice and look clean! We tried to have music playing in the background and that always spruced up a rather bare home, too.

We couldn’t afford fancy foods or restaurant meals, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well. I had fun trying new recipes, searching out good deals, and stretching our grocery budget as far as possible. I discovered AllRecipes.com and enjoyed using their ingredient search feature to come up with new recipes to use what I already had on hand.

Instead of going out and buying things, I’d go to the library and check out a stack of books. Sometimes we’d check out CD’s too, so we’d have new music to play in our home throughout the week.

It was also in this little basement apartment that I first began blogging and tinkering around with online entrepreneurial things. Had it not been for the free time and lack of friends, I would have never even considered pursuing blogging or had the time to learn about basic web design, online marketing, or producing an ebook or ecourse. Little did I dream that in a few years, those same skills would allow me to help supplement our family’s income by doing something I very much enjoy while keeping my priorities as a wife and mother first and foremost.

And guess what? It was holed up in this little basement apartment with sometimes only $20 to spare for groceries for the week that I was searching grocery deals online and came upon this store called CVS that everyone in a now-defunct savings forum was raving about. I could never have imagined what that simple search would uncover for me that day, nor how many thousands of other individuals I’d have the opportunity to introduce to CVS as well!

Yes, living in that little basement apartment in an unfamiliar town barely squeaking by financially would never have been something I would have chosen for myself, but I’ll always be grateful God allowed me those three and half years of learning to be content, learning to love simplicity, and learning to make the most of what I had.  And I hope I never forget those lessons.

A cheerful attitude can go a long way in less-than-ideal situations; you can either complain about the thorns or you can savor the roses which bloom in the
midst of those thorns. Choose to bloom where you’re planted–even if it seems like it’s among thorns!