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15 Aug 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Friday: I’m taking the weekend off

It’s Frugal Friday over on my other blog today! I share a post on transitioning from two incomes to one. You’ll want to check it out.

Also, we’re headed to Wichita this afternoon for the Christian Family Entrepreneurship Seminar so I’ll be away from blogging until Monday. I’m short on time since I’ve spent most of my blogging time the last few days getting the blog re-design up, so I’m skipping our usual Super Savings Saturday round-up, thanks for your understanding! In addition, the typical Saturday evening CVS and Walgreens deal posts will wait until early next week.

Thanks so much for your patience with me the last few weeks as I’ve been pretty hit-and-miss with blogging. Life has been unbelievably crazy around here so I’ve had to put blogging on the back burner. Things should slow down quite a bit starting next week so I hope to be back with more regular posts and consistency in our weekly features. At least that’s the plan!

Have a wonderful weekend!

15 Aug 2008   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Frugal and green: Cutting down on waste

Inspired by Stephanie’s post on cutting down on waste,
I begin contemplating areas where we’ve cut down on waste in our home.
As I thought about these things, I realized just how much being frugal
can go hand-in-hand with being environmentally-friendly.

Here are a few of the ways we’ve cut down on waste in our home:

1) Utilizing PaperBackSwap and the library instead of buying books new.
Also, unless it was an exceptional book, I usually pass it on once I’m
finished with it so that someone else might enjoy it and our home can
stay pared down from unnecessary clutter.

2) Buying clothes at second-hand stores at least 50% of the time or more. We also readily accept offers of hand-me-downs from others. What we can’t use, we pass on to someone else.

3) Cooking from scratch as much as possible and thus eliminating much of the packaging from processed and boxed foods.

4) Thinking before I throw something out, "Is there another way I can use this?" If not, then I try to always ask myself if it can be recycled.

5) Reusing foil and plastic bags for as long as possible.
We also use Tupperware or pans/containers with lids instead of
disposable containers whenever we can. (I’ve gone for long stretches
without buying aluminum foil and have found I can almost live without
it. Almost.)

6) Eliminating paper towels and using cloth rags/towels instead.

7) Keeping it simple: Staying home more, not having an excess of clothing or household items, drinking water most of the time, and trying to only buy what we need.

8) Reusing magazines to make greeting cards.

9) Only requesting free samples for items we’ll use.

10) Using baking soda and Basic H for all household cleaning.

So
those were a few I came up with–what about you? I’d love to hear your
list and be inspired and challenged by how you are reducing waste and
being frugal at the same time!

Originally published March 2008.

14 Aug 2008   ·   92
Money Saving Mom

And we’ll add this to the list of frugal failures

As
you all know, I’m always in the market for new ideas to reduce our
outgo. So, I thought I came upon another one recently when I’d heard of
a number of people who only did their laundry in cold water.

Brilliant,
I thought. It’s much better than taking cold showers (yes, we did that
for quite some time when we were first married!) and, best of all, no
one will even notice.

Well, let me tell you, lots
of people will notice. You see, after a week of washing everything in
cold water only, I learned that cold water does not get pre-treated
toddler stains or six-month-old stains out of clothing.

Not in the least.

I
guess the people who do the cold water only thing must not have
children. Or at least they don’t have children as messy as mine.

At
any rate, despite lots of stain remover and hot water-washing, the
stains are still there on multiple articles of clothing, some which
were almost brand-new. Let’s just say that I think any money saved by
using only cold water would be quickly lost in all the clothing we’d
need to replace.

So much for a great idea.

Your turn: Have
you ever had a brilliant frugal idea which flopped on its face? And do
you have any great suggestions for reducing the costs of running
laundry besides using cold water?

Originally published January 2008.

14 Aug 2008   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

CVS is buying Longs Drug Stores

Cvs400

Those of you in California, Nevada, and Arizona have cause for rejoicing!

According to this article, CVS is buying Longs Drug Stores and the transition from Longs to CVS will take place over the next few years, most of the stores being re-converted in 2009.

Great stuff and I’m happy to see our beloved CVS doing so well!

Now if they’d just get the memo and build some stores where my parents live since we’re hoping to move back there soon… It’s pretty bad when you determine whether you can move to an area based upon whether or not there are CVS stores close by!

14 Aug 2008   ·   38

Homemade Bread for Beginners

There is something about the smell of freshly-made bread wafting through the house which is so warm, comforting, and inviting!

I have made fond memories of baking bread with my mom and siblings growing up. We didn’t have a Bosch, so Mom had all of us participate in the kneading instead. She’d divvy up the big mound of bread dough into five separate smaller mounds of dough and then she would set the timer for ten minutes and we’d all roll up our sleeves and get to work. Our efforts paid off when later the bread came out of the oven and we all got to slice off a piece while it was still warm and slather it with honey and butter. Delicious!

With only two arms and two little ones right now, my bread-baking isn’t quite so ambitious. Instead of mixing it all up myself in the big silver bowl like my mom, I put all the ingredients in my bread machine. And instead of five loaves, I make one loaf. But, it’s still homemade bread and it’s still delicious. Best of all, it’s much better for you than store bought bread, it’s fresh, and it’s frugal!

Here’s our current favorite recipe, adapted from Tammy’s Recipes. I usually make it at least two or three times per week. It’s so good, our little family can eat a whole loaf in a day!

If you don’t have a bread machine, Tammy’s original recipe is here with directions for doing it by hand.

Oh and because I am often asked about my grain mill, my dad bought me this mill for Christmas. I really like it and have found the bread is so much better-tasting with freshly-milled flour. We buy our grain from Whole
Foods right now for $0.59/lb. That’s slightly more than I was paying for whole wheat flour at the store, but considering that it is organic and that freshly-milled flour is much fresher and higher in nutrition, it’s worth a bit of a higher cost to us.

13 Aug 2008   ·   77
Money Saving Mom

Ask the readers: Tips for frugal moving?

Movingkitsskit

I lost my job in June and am in the process of moving from Florida to Houston in order to be closer to my boyfriend. I am desperately looking for cheap ways to
get my belongings and car from Florida to Houston. I have been getting
moving service price quotes and it’s looking around $2000 for
everything. Any tips on moving cheaply? Anything I should know to help mitigate costs with moving companies? -Amanda

My advice: If you have more time than money, do everything yourself.

I’ve moved three times in the last five years and haven’t paid a moving service for anything. I always accept all offers of help from friends and family and then just work very hard for the three weeks or so leading up to the move and the few weeks after the move.

One of the great things of boxing up everything yourself is that, as you’re going through things, you’re likely to find a lot of stuff you don’t need. So you can sell it on Craigslist or in a garage sale before you leave and make a little extra money. You can then use that extra money to rent a truck (I’ve always found the best rates for moving van rentals online.) and pay any additional expenses incurred through moving.

Another tip: If you are really short on time and unable to scrounge up free boxes to pack up everything in, try buying them off of eBay. They are loads cheaper there than buying them from a moving company.

What about the rest of you all? What are your best tips for moving on a dime? Do you think a moving service is worth the cost?

Graphic from BoxBundles.com

13 Aug 2008   ·   65
Money Saving Mom

The Tightwad Gazette: 10 Painless Ways to Save $100 This Year

I’ve really enjoyed reading the first few chapters of The Tightwad Gazette. Believe it or not, I’ve not read any
of the three volumes before. It’s rather fun to hear from another
frugal zealot and I have a feeling I’ll be gleaning a lot from this.
More than anything, I’m being inspired all over again as to why I am
frugal in the first place.

One of my favorite parts of the book so far was Amy’s list of 10 Painless Ways to Save $100 This Year:

1) Purchase 10 articles of clothing at thrift shops and yard sales this year instead of paying department store prices.

Am
I the only person who automatically zeros in on the clearance racks
even if I have a gift card or someone else is paying? I think I can
count on one hand (if that!) the times I’ve paid full price for any
article of clothing. I usually head straight for the 50-75% off racks
and those are often priced much more than I can bring myself to pay.

I
am so frugal that I go on thrift store clearance days or dollar days.
Unless I really, really love the item, $1 is about my top price to pay
for any item in a thrift store.

Garage sales are my favorite of all – especially when it’s the kind where everything is marked under $1!

2) Hang four loads of laundry per week instead of using the dryer.

Am
I also the only frugal person who doesn’t hang their clothes? I know I
should, I really do. I just keep coming up with excuses for not getting
the right equipment to do it. It’s on my list of changes to implement
this year.

3) Once a month make a pizza from scratch instead of having one delivered.

Better yet, teach your family to like homemade pizza
more than restaurant pizza and than you’ll pretty much never have to
order out. We order pizza about once a year around here and I always
decide it’s really not worth bothering. My
homemade pizza is so much better!

4) Write a good letter instead of making a monthly long distance phone call.

Hmm,
does email count? That’s even cheaper than a letter, though not as
personal. Most folks, like us, have free long distance on our cell
phones, though, so this one is a bit out-dated.

5) Reduce your soda consumption by four cans per week.

My
suggestion? Learn to drink water and like it. It’s better for your
health anyway. Don’t get me started on my soapbox on soda addictions,
though…

6) Bake one batch of bread per week.

When it’s this
easy to make, I have no excuse. Except the excuse that we’ve not gotten
completely accustomed to homemade bread for sandwiches. Any other time,
though, we much prefer homemade.

7) Save $50 each on two children’s birthday parties by making homemade decorations, cake, wrapping paper, and one present.

Or be a minimalist like me and skip the decorations, give the gift of time or a special outing, and bake a simple cake.

8) Reduce your smoking by three cigarettes per day (or give up smoking altogether and save even more).

No
offense to anyone, but this is about the biggest money-pit ever. And
that’s not even talking about what it does to your health.

9)
Reduce your whole milk consumption by two gallons per week,
substituting dry milk in cooking, homemade cocoa mix, and in
half-and-half for drinking.

We’ve
just decided to cut out milk in most instances except on cereal and in cooking (I
sometimes water that down, too.) so we go through about a half gallon
per week. I’ve heard that dry milk costs have gone up so it’s not
really much cheaper anymore to substitute. Can anyone confirm or deny
that?

(Note: We eat a combination of yogurt, cheese, nuts, beans, and green leafy vegetables in place of drinking lots of milk. We prefer this, and from the research I’ve done, our bodies actually assimilate these forms of calcium better than the calcium in milk. I know some disagree on this, but let’s just agree to disagree, okay?)

10) Pack four inexpensive school lunches per week.

We
don’t have to bother with school lunches right now, but my husband does
almost always take his lunch to work. We’ve figured up that this saves
us at least $1,000 a year!

Inspired by Amy’s list, I wrote my own list of Five Painless Ways We Saved $100 last year. Read it here and see other people’s lists too. What would your list say?

The most encouraging thing to remember is that a penny saved, is more than a penny earned. Why? Well, check out this
excellent and simplistic explanation. Quite the motivation for focusing
on reducing your outgo first and foremost before seeking to increase
your income!

We can make millions of dollars, but if we don’t
know how to wisely steward it, we’ll be no better off than someone who
makes below minimum wage. In fact, we might even be worse off than them.

Another great quote from The Tightwad Gazette:

"The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket book."
-Frank McKinney Hubbard

 What are some painless things you do in your home that save you $100 or more each year? Tell us in the comments, I’d love to hear!

Originally published January 2008.

13 Aug 2008   ·   14
Money Saving Mom

Blogging for Profit – Part 7

I want to finish out this series on Blogging for Profit by talking about another way to monetize your blog– through selling ads yourself.

Once
you’ve built up a steady readership, one of the best ways to really see
an increase in income, is to sell advertising on your blog directly to
companies by-passing a middle-man. I’ve done this quite a bit in the
past and have been amazed at how much money people will readily pay to
have a good spot on your blog. It takes a little time and effort to
make the sale and to keep up with advertisers, but you won’t have to
give any commission to a company such as Blogads so your profit margin
will be much higher.

How do you go about garnering advertisers for your blog?

1) First off, you need a steady readership of at least 500-1000 visitors a day.
You might be able to sell ads directly when you are smaller than that,
but you’ll have much better success at going after advertisers when you
have larger numbers to show them. So, before you start chasing down
advertisements, first work on building up your readership.

You might
find, as I did, that you never need to look far to find advertisers
eager to jump on board with you. In fact, once you’ve built up a blog
"following", companies will usually be "courting" you right and left to
get recognized on your blog.

2) When you have developed a solid readership closing in on 1000 visitors a day or more, start looking for opportunities to network with other potential advertisers. If
a company contacts you about doing a review on your blog, build a
relationship. If it’s something you’re interested in reviewing,
consider doing the review, but don’t let it stop there. Offer them a
discounted advertising rate, give them the option of doing a giveaway
on your blog, encourage them to offer a special price or discount to
your readers only. Once you start working with them and they see how
effective targeting your readership can be, you may very well find you
have an advertiser for life.

3) If you a lot of companies aren’t contacting you about possible reviews or asking for your advertising rates, consider becoming proactive. Figure
out some great pricing and find some companies which would complement
your blog’s focus very well and go offer some incredible introductory
pricing to them.

I recommend you just send an email to their marketing
director. Keep it short, professional, and tell them how advertising on
your blog can benefit them. Give them an offer they can’t resist. Offer
to review their products and do a giveaway on on your blog. Go the
extra mile; they’ll take notice.

Send out 20 or 50 such emails
like this and you’ll probably see a nice trickle of response to start
coming back. Once you’ve sold some some advertising on your blog, put a little
link up underneath your ads with something to the effect of "Interested in promoting your product to thousands of moms? Contact me for a discounted pricing package." Sometimes companies wouldn’t think to consider advertising with you if you didn’t spark the idea first to them yourself.

4) Remember that your loyalties lie with your readership first. When you develop a blog readership, you are really developing trust in a brand and that brand is you.
Never forget this. When I allow an ad on my blog, it is somewhat my
stamp of approval on the company or product. Therefore, I often turn
down ads if I do not feel I can give my whole-hearted endorsement of
them or if I feel like they in anyway contradict with my blog’s purpose
or message.

Integrity and honesty are much more important than
making a quick buck. Always let that be your guiding principle when you
are working to monetize your blog.

There’s a lot more I could
say on this subject and on the subject of blogging and making money
through blogging in general, however, I think I’ll close here and open
up the floor for questions.

As
we’ve gone through this series, what questions have you had? Are there
things you’d like for me expound upon or explain more in detail? Here’s
your opportunity to ask! In a few days, if there are enough questions, I’ll
do a Q&A post on blogging. You can leave your questions in the
comment section of this post or email them to me.

Related: Amy has a great post here on blogging and gaining readership.

12 Aug 2008   ·   102
Money Saving Mom

Poll: Who does the finances in your home?

My husband and I are considering making a radical switch and having me take over the finances and bill-paying for awhile. Jesse has always done the lion’s share of this because he’s the nerd, he’s good at it, and he likes it.

However, we’re both thinking it might be good experience for me to try my hand at it. He also wants me to know how to do it in case something were to happen to him (he’s always thinking of everything to make sure I’m well taken care of!).

Because I’m curious, I thought it’d be fun to do a poll for couples. So, take a minute to vote below:

This should be interesting!

11 Aug 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Your testimonials and shopping trip pictures needed

I’m in the process of putting together a promotional DVD for some upcoming events and am needing your help.

1) If you have saved money by visiting MoneySavingMom.com, would you be willing to write a concise testimonial (2 paragraphs or less) detailing how MoneySavingMom.com has helped you cut your grocery budget or changed your mindset on money in general? If so, please email me with your testimonial by Wednesday, August 13, 2008 (that’s two days, folks–sorry for the time crunch, I’m under a deadline!). Send your email to moneysavingmom @ gmail.com (remove spaces). If possible, please send along a picture of yourself/your family. Also, include your name and state.

2) If you have a picture of a really successful shopping trip you had as a result of a hot savings tip on MoneySavingMom.com, would you email me it to me along with the information on how much you saved? If so, please email me with your testimonial by Wednesday, August 13, 2008 (that’s two days,
folks–sorry for the time crunch, I’m under a deadline!). Send your
email to moneysavingmom @ gmail.com (remove spaces). If possible,
please send along a picture of yourself/your family. Also, include your
name and state.

All pictures and testimonials may be used in promotional materials for MoneySavingMom.com so by emailing them to me, you are giving me permission to use them as such.

Thank you so very much!

11 Aug 2008   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Blogging for Profit – Part 6

For those of you who are just joining us, we’re talking about how you can make money through blogging. I encourage you to go here to read all of the previous installments in this series.

There are many different ways to offer advertising on your blog. We’ve talked about affiliate marketing, today we’re going to cover a well-known and widely-used money-making method, namely, Google Adsense.

Google Adsense is an advertising program which is easy-to-use, easy-to-sign-up-for, and easy-to-implement. Advertisers bid on search terms and how much they want to spend per day on advertising. You choose how you want your ads to look and you add code to your blog where you want the Google ads to show up. Once the code is added in, Google takes care of serving up relevant ads based upon the content of your blog and what advertisers have bid on.

To earn money with this program, your visitors just have to click on ads. Every time someone clicks on an ad, you earn a little money — usually somewhere between $0.05 and $1. It varies depending upon what the advertisers have bid. Obviously, the more traffic you have and the easier you make it for people to see and click on your ads, the more money you will earn.

When you have earned over $100, Google will cut you a check at the end of the month. At first, it can be slow going, but as you build up your traffic, the checks will start rolling in much more rapidly. I’ve been amazed at the potential in earnings just from this simple thing!

As with most advertising programs, while there are some great features, there are also some downsides. I think the biggest downside to Google Adsense is that you cannot control which ads are shown on your blog.

Google automatically pulls up relevant ads based upon your blog’s content. For many blogs, this is not a problem, but if you care about what ads are showing on your sidebar, you may sometimes find the ads Google believes to be relevant to be very non-relevant or even offensive to your audience.

For instance, my previous blog was an overtly conservative Christian blog. When I tested Google Adsense on there, many of the ads which were served up from Google were anti-Christian and ones I would not want to run. However, on this blog, since I mostly talk about saving money, I’ve not had a problem so far with any offensive ads pulling up–most have been quite relevant and helpful.

You can choose to block websites you don’t want advertising on your site, but this requires a lot of policing and a lot of work–something which probably isn’t worth your time. So, depending upon your blog’s content, Google Adsense could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Another downside is that you only get paid when you earn $100. If you have a very small blog, it could take you a year or more to actually get a check–and that could be rather disheartening! I recommend you test run Google Adsense on your blog for a few weeks and see how it goes. You might find you really like it and are earning well from it or you might find you don’t like the ads being shown and it is not really learning much for you.

I also encourage you to try having your AdSense ad blocks in various places on your blog. You can have up to three ad blocks per page, so experiment and learn what works best. I’ve found it very interesting that ad placement can make such a difference in earnings. Keep testing until you determine what works best for your blog and blog audience.

Have any of you had experience with Google Adsense? If so, what do you think of it?

Related: Pro-Blogger has a thorough post up on why you should use AdSense on your blog. It’s well worth your time.

11 Aug 2008   ·   104
Money Saving Mom

It will be a long time before I’ll be able to eat another hamburger

Remember that I said we were going to use our economic stimulus check to buy a 1/4 of a cow from a local farm that specializes in hormone-free grass-fed beef? I was so excited to tell you about the great deal we got on this and how we found a freezer to store it in for a steal off of Craigslist.

However, that was not to be.

Oh, we bought the meat alright–all $614 worth of it. And we bought the freezer, too. We were thrilled with the whole experience and were looking forward to lots of great hamburgers and roasts and steaks over the next number of months.

We didn’t get a chance to eat any before we went on vacation, but I couldn’t wait to get back and get cooking. I had visions of all these various dishes I could make and all the great grilling we could do. Since we’ve cut back on our meat consumption for years in an effort to keep our grocery budget low, this high-quality meat was going to be a real treat.

We arrived home from our week-long excursion to Arkansas refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to get back to real-life. As we were unpacking our bags, I went to throw something into the recycle bin in the garage.

I noticed a somewhat-strange smell when I opened the garage door and went to investigate.

You guessed what it was… our whole entire freezer full of meat was off and completely thawed! Not only that but it was room temperature and wreaked of spoiling meat!

Apparently, it rained while we were gone and the electric outlet our freezer was plugged into was shut off as a safety mechanism. (We didn’t know that our garage outlet did this or we sure as ever wouldn’t have hooked our freezer full of meat up to it!)

Gratefully, since we had just purchased the freezer, it wasn’t also full of other things, too. Had it been a few weeks later, I very likely could have had it full to the brim with food in addition to the meat. It was still quite a big disappointment, though, not to mention being disgusting.

I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say it will be a very long time before I’ll be able to eat another hamburger again. So much for our bright idea of buying meat in bulk.

Note: It looks like we’re going to be able to recoup about $140 from our renter’s insurance, but since our deductible is $500, that’s all the recourse we’ve been able to drum up. Oh well, at least it was our economic stimulus check and not money we’d worked hard to set aside for this purchase.

8 Aug 2008   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Blogging for Profit – Part 5

There are a variety of methods to making money blogging and I’d advise you to try a number of them and figure out which works best for your market and audience.

Do try a number of methods and do constantly be looking for new ideas, but don’t try everything at once. Slowly experiment with a few at a time to see what your best results come from and always be tweaking things as you go along.

One of the easiest way to make money blogging is through affiliate programs. Affiliate programs are when you sign up to promote a product, get a special affiliate code or link to use when promoting that product, and then use that code to promote it. When someone clicks on a link or graphic on your blog with your special code on it and they place an order, you get a percentage of the sales.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of affiliate programs out there to choose from. Start with things you already have, love, and use. Add affiliate links in your sidebar to helpful books you’ve read which are along the lines of what you blog about. Consider an occasional product or book review. If you are going to link to a product or resource in a blog post, check first to see if the manufacturer’s of that product have an affiliate program so you can earn a little kickback for the free advertising you are giving them.

One thing to take note of though is that most affiliate programs have a pay-out level you need to reach before you actually get paid. For instance, many programs require you to $10 in affiliate sales before you’ll receive a check or Paypal payment. Having a payout level saves the affiliate program manager from spending lots of time sending out $0.50 checks. It also serves as an incentive for you, the affiliate, to produce more sales. This creates a win-win situation. To read more about affiliate programs and how to earn money with them, I check out The Affiliate Master’s Course which you can download here for free!

There are thousands of affiliate programs out there to sign up for. You can start with a place like Commission Junction which has hundreds of affiliate programs for all sorts of markets to choose from. Since all of the programs are through one main site, you don’t have to wait to be paid for each individual program; instead, you’ll be paid when you reach payout collectively.

Another of my favorites is to be an affiliate for Clickbank products. We sell our ebooks through Clickbank so if you have purchased any of them and would like to tell your friends about them, you can earn 66% by doing so! Clickbank has a payout level of $10, and requires you to have a few sales from two different types of payment options in the beginning to start getting paid (this is to reduce fraudulent orders). Read more about their payment rules here.

After you receive your initial payment, they send you a check faithfully every two weeks if you reach the payout level. I’ve used Clickbank for a few years as both an affiliate and selling my products through them and have received thousands of dollars worth of checks from them and been more than pleased with their program.

My best advice for making the most through them is to pick a few ebooks or downloadables that you really like and promote each of them at least once per month. Also, consider putting together your own ebook to promote through them (we’ll talk more about this later) and your earnings will really skyrocket.

A few other affiliate programs I have received checks from include: Logical Media, CashCrate, Cash4Books, Vision Forum, Refund Cents, and Ebates (earn $5 whenever anyone signs up under you–works well for blogs with larger readerships).

There are literally thousands of other affiliate programs. My best advice is to think of some of your favorite products which you’d like to promote on your blog and check their websites to see if they have an affiliate program. If they do have an affiliate program, when you recommend them on your blog, use an affiliate link and if anyone orders on your recommendation, you’ll receive a percentage of the order (usually somewhere between 5-20%).

Let me be quick to say that I think one of the best ways to actually see a good profit earned from affiliate links is to not overdo. A few strategically placed affiliate links (in posts every now and then) and a few on your sidebar (which you can rotate around and change every once in a while to keep things fresh) are much more effective than just throwing up 150 affiliate links all over the place on your blog page. Too many ads just clutter the page and could cause you to
lose readers.

In addition, use discernment and discretion when promoting an affiliate link. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable promoting something without an affiliate link, you likely shouldn’t promote something with an affiliate link. Developing a trust and loyalty from your readers is much more important than making a quick buck.

Those are just a few of my thoughts on affiliate programs. I’d love to hear from those of you who have used them in the past or currently use them. Which programs have worked well for you? Which ones have not worked? Tell us about it in the comments section.

8 Aug 2008   ·   57
Money Saving Mom

Frugal breakfast recipe: Baked oatmeal

One way we save a lot of money is to make things from scratch.
Not only is it less expensive, but it also is better for you and tastes
yummy, too!

Baked oatmeal one of our very favorite breakfast
recipes. It makes a big pan so we refrigerate the leftovers and use it
for the following few days’ breakfasts! Just reheat in the microwave or
oven. We often just spoon out in individual bowls and reheat in the
microwave. Be sure to top with butter, brown sugar, and milk. Delicious!

Baked Oatmeal               

1 cup oil (can substitute butter or applesauce)
1 ½ cups sugar (can reduce)
4 eggs
6 cups oats
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups milk

Combine
all ingredients in order listed. Pour into greased 9×13-inch pan. Bake
at 375° for 30-40 minutes until lightly browned. Can refrigerate
overnight before baking. Serve topped with butter, brown sugar, and
milk.

Yields: Approximately 8-10 servings

What are some of your favorite frugal breakfast ideas?

7 Aug 2008   ·   28
Money Saving Mom

Blogging for Profit – Part 4

Yesterday, I talked about making your blog more visitor-friendly. Today, I want to talk a bit about boosting your blog traffic. If you
want to make more than a few dollars a month blogging, increasing your
blog’s traffic and readership is the best way to do so.
 

1) Read Blog by Hugh Hewitt.
This is my number one recommendation to all bloggers, especially
beginning bloggers. Check your library if you’d rather not buy it.

2) Pick a topic.
The biggest impact Hewitt’s book had upon me was to pick a focus for my
blogs and to try and stay on track with those. When you come to this
blog, you have a good idea what you are going to get. I love blogging
and I love saving money, so meshing the two together into a blog called
MoneySavingMom was perfect for me.

When
you pick a focus for your blog, try to go with something that is broad
enough to encompass what you are passionate about and broad enough to
have a large enough market for it. Also, aim for something which you
think you could write about for years and never tire of. 

3) Write often.
One of the best ways to boost your blog traffic is just to blog. If you
are trying to increase your traffic and readership, I recommend you
spend the bulk of your time improving your blog and adding content to
your blog. Updating your blog at least three times per week helps you
establish a regular readership. When people know you almost always post
everyday or every other day, they are more likely to visit your blog
more frequently. 

4) Write well.
I don’t claim to be a "good writer" but I do try to at least follow
basic grammar rules, avoid repetition, and abstain from typographical
errors (though I do make those regularly if a post is typed somewhat in
haste!).

After you type up a post, read over it before posting it, and
then check it again after you’ve posted it to make sure it posted correctly
(sometimes fonts or layout will be haywire and your audience will
appreciate you for fixing this before they read it). 

How
do you learn to write well? Well, write. 🙂 That’s one of the best ways
to learn. The more you write and have people critique your writing, the
more your writing will improve. In addition, read well-written blogs
and books. Over time, by filling your mind with good writing and constantly
practicing your writing skills, your writing will invariably improve. 

Write
often, write well, and have an eye-pleasing blog and you’ll never have
a problem having some traffic–probably an ever-increasing amount of
traffic.

Not only will you find that writing often and writing well allows viral marketing begins to take effect
(someone finds your blog, likes it, links to it, and then their friend
clicks on the link thus finding your blog, likes it, and links to it
and on and on it goes), but you will also notice that you start getting
picked up in search engines.

Having search engines (i.e. Google) find your blog is one great way to easily drive more traffic to your blog.
In fact, this is where I get probably 30% of my blog visitors from–many of whom find my blogs initially through a search engine search. They like what they see and start regularly visiting my blog. The more
content you have with relevant search terms and the more often you
write, the more readily search engines will turn up your blog in search results.

5) Link frequently and liberally.
If you find another post which you liked or found interesting, link to
it! The blogger will love you for it and just might return the favor
sometime. In addition, link to and promote blogs you like. Not only is
this a great way to show appreciation to a blogger but it will often
land you on their blogroll as well.

Here are a few other ideas – some are things I’ve done, some I’ve heard work well: 

-Join blogging "leagues"–there are thousands of these and I’m sure a few would be a fit for you.

-Put a link to your blog in your email signature.

-Send the link to one of your best posts out to friends and family. Or, be pro-active and send it to some of the widely-read bloggers whom you think might be interested

-Submit posts to Carnivals–Again, there are thousands of these and I’ve heard that participating
really boosts your traffic and introduces your blog to many who have
probably not heard of you before.

-Comment on other blogs–well-written regular comments on blogs can often bring a nice stream of traffic your way. But please, pretty please, do not leave comments just to get people to your blog. Comments which sound like an infomercial for your blog or which serve no purpose other than to try and get people to click over to your blog are not something most bloggers or blog readers appreciate. Join in the discussion, share something helpful and thought-provoking, and you’ll likely find other people will wander over to check out your own blog as a result.

For a more exhaustive list of ideas, check out Super Blogging’s post on 75 Ways To Increase Your Site’s Traffic. 

How do you know where traffic is coming from? Install a Sitemeter or Statcounter on your blog.
It’s free and easy to do, and then you can have real-time visitor
information. I highly recommend you do this from the get-go as it is
not only exciting to watch your traffic count, it also gives you the
ability to figure out what is working and what is not working as you
can track where visitors are coming from.

 For those of you who blog, what are your best tips for boosting your blog traffic? Share them in the comments section.