How an Organized Pantry Can Save You Money

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orgaqnize your pantry | #organize #save money


A couple of weeks ago, I went to get something out of our pantry and ended up finding a couple of items which were expired.  That meant — throwing away food.  I knew better than to let it get that messy.  You see, when your pantry is organized it helps SAVE you money!  Follow my tips below to find out simple things you can do to not only organize your pantry (or even cupboards) so you aren’t throwing money into the trash!

Here’s what my pantry looked like before I got started.  With 3 kids home all summer long, you can see it took it’s toll.


We had boxes shoved in sideways, empty bags, empty cardboard and items just lying losely.  This made it difficult to find what we wanted for a snack or even to see what I had on hand for planning my weekly menu and shopping trip.    I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to take some time to just organize it.   It wasn’t difficult, but if you don’t know where to start, it can seem like a daunting task.

Start only when you have a few hours.  If you try to rush this job, it will not end up being done the way you want, which can create more stress.  Allow yourself a couple of hours (at least) so you can do it the right way, which will pay off in the end.

storage containers

Have the proper storage.  The best way I find we save money is when food (like chips and crackers) in containers that we can see through.  Not only does it help my kids find what they want, but it also prevents it from going stale.  There is nothing worse than wanting some crackers and taking a bite, to find that they have gone stale because they were not properly stored.  BLECH!

I spent around $50 and picked up a few new containers.  Granted, I did already have several on hand, so I didn’t have to spend too much.  I know that this investment will pay for itself as I won’t be throwing away food that has gone bad.  These containers will last years and years, and so it was an investment which was important to make.

Take EVERYTHING out of your panty/cupboard.  As you do so, check for items which are stale and/or even expired and throw them away.  You may even find items that you purchased and will not use, which you could donate to your local food pantry.

Scrub the pantry/cupboard.  Before you consider starting to put your items away, make sure it is has been thoroughly swept and cleaned.  I find that it is easy for boxes to fall over and crumbs to empty onto the floor.  I’ve even found drips and other stains on our shelving.  By starting clean, you are also keeping away pests (which costs you money to eliminate and can also result in having to throw food away).

Fill your containers with items which are in boxes.  In our home, we keep all chips, crackers and cereal in containers.  That helps it all stay fresh for so much longer – and makes it easier for my kids to see what we have so they can find what they want for a snack or breakfast quickly (well, relatively speaking at least).

Make a shopping list as you put items away.  You may had to throw away items while cleaning, which means you need to purchase more.  You might also find that you are running low on a staple (i.e. rice).  If you make a shopping list as you put items back, you will help make sure you’ve got those items you need.  There is nothing worse than having to run to the store for one ingredient when trying to make dinner!  I HATE doing that!!!  By taking a few minutes to do this simple step, you will save yourself time!

Place like items together.  When putting things away, keep your cereals together and your chips in one place, etc.  We even put all of our noodles together, as well as our canned items, cereals and even snacks.  This helps us quickly find what we need.  So, if I am making spaghetti for dinner, I know I can look in the “noodles section” and the “canned/jarred” section to find those items I need to make dinner.  This not only helps me, but helps my husband too!  Rather than me having to help him find something, he can (usually) find what he needs because it is organized!  Ahhhh…..simple things that make me smile!

When you are through, you will have accomplished several things all at once:

  1. You are saving time by being able to find the items you need, when you need them.
  2. You are saving money by not allowing items to go stale.
  3. You are saving time by knowing what you already have on hand and can stock up next time you go to the store.
  4. Your family can find the things they want to eat (well, in theory, at least).




There is nothing worse than spending hours to organize this part of your home, to have it trashed two weeks later.  Just like with everything else, you have to maintain it to ensure it doesn’t go back to being a disorganized mess.

What I find is best is to clean/organize each week when planning my menu and shopping trip.  I take a few minutes and organize items, sweep and wipe things down. When doing that, I have my shopping list on hand.  I jot down the items I find I need right then and there.  I can also check to see what I have on hand to fix the meals on our menu plan (or find what I have on hand in order to plan our menu).

This keeps my pantry organized AND helps me plan my shopping trip.   When I get home from the store, I immediately open all bagged items, such as chips, and place them into the containers.  I do this so that it is easier to grab when we need a snack — plus — my family can see it too!  I even do this with my snack crackers.  Everything goes right into containers and the boxes are broken down and placed into our recycling bin.

Little things, like an organized pantry, really can save  you money (and time).

Coupon Stacking Explained — And Which Stores Still Allow It!

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What is Coupon Stacking and Which Stores Allow This | #coupons


One thing we talk about quite a bit when putting together deals is coupon stacking.  If you aren’t familiar with this term, let met explain it for you:

Coupon Stacking is using both a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on a single item 

So now that you have the basic understanding of what a coupon stack is, how can you tell if your coupon is a store coupon or a manufacturer’s coupon?  That can be tricky.  Here are some tips which can help.


Most coupons you find will be manufacturer’s coupons.  They are distributed by the manufacturer’s themselves and usually found in your Sunday newspaper or printed from sites like  When you redeem your coupon at the store, that retailer is reimbursed the face value of the coupon PLUS a small handling fee.

Here common manufacturer’s characteristics:

  • Says “Manufacturer’s Coupon” on the coupon (usually at the top).
  • Includes a redemption address in the fine print on the coupon.  This is where the retailer will submit the coupon so that they can be reimbursed.
  • It may say things such as “Redeemable at” or “Available At” on them, but they are still manufacturer’s coupons and should be accepted anywhere.  However, keep in mind that some stores will not accept any coupon with another stores logo on it, even in this instance.

manufacturers coupon |

This coupon shows the manufacturer’s wording at the top. It is usually easily located
near the coupon expiration date, or along the side of the coupon.

redeemable at coupon |

This coupon shows the Walmart store logo and says “Redeemable at Walmart”
on it, however, it is a manufacturer’s coupon and can be redeemed anywhere.


This coupon clearly lists the address where the retailer can
send the coupon in order to be reimubrsed.





Store or Retailer coupons are issued by the store themselves.  They are basically a store sale, just issued in coupon format.  These are completely funded by the store — no manufacturer reimbursement is listed on the coupon.  These are very common at national retailers such as CVS, Walgreens and Target.

These can be found in the weekly ad or even on racks directly inside of the store.  You may also be able to print them from the store’s website (such as Target). Your store may also load them as a digital coupon directly onto your rewards card (Hen House does this automatically each week).  You might even be able to log into your store rewards account and select the coupons you want to use (such as the HyVee Fuel Rewards program).

You can usually identify a store coupon by the following:

  • Includes the store’s logo.
  • Does not include any redemption information on the coupon (the store will not be reimbursed for the coupon, so this information is not needed).
  • Usually says “Store Coupon” — where store is the store name — i.e. Target Coupon.


target store coupon 1

This is a Target store coupon as it clearly states “Target Coupon” at the top.

redemption 2

Coupon includes the store logo.  It also does not include any address redemption details.




Now that you know how to identify the coupons, you are ready to try your hand at stacking!  While most computer systems are smart enough to correctly credit your purchase in the right order, that may not always be the case.  It is usually best to always hand over the store coupons before you hand over your manufacturer’s coupons.  This usually creates less hassle and having to hear those annoying beeps.

Here is an example of what a coupon stack looks like:

So now that you know how you can stack coupons, let’s share the stores where you can stack! 



CVS.  CVS a TRIPLE stack.  You can use a CVS store coupon + a manufacturer’s coupon + Extra Care Bucks (earned on prior transactions).

Dollar General.  You can use both a Dollar General store coupon + a manufacturer’s coupon.

Kohls.  You can use a value off coupon with a percentage off coupon.  You can not combine 2 percentage off coupons.  You can also use Kohl’s cash with any other additional coupon (but the Kohls cash comes off before any discount is calculated).

Michaels.  You can use multiple coupons, as long as the barcodes are all different.

Rite Aid.  You can stack do a triple stack here as well.  You can use a manufacturer’s coupon + a Rite Aid store coupon + a Rite Aid video values coupon.

Target.  Target allows a triple stack!  You can combine a manufacturer’s coupon + a Target store coupon + a Target Cartwheel offer.

Walgreens.  Walgreens will allow you to stack one of their store coupons, called an Instant Value Coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon.    You can also combine Register Rewards (earned on prior purchases), but the total coupons can not exceed the number of purchased products (read more here).



Hen House.  You can use a digital coupon or store coupon + a manufacturer’s coupon.

HyVee.  You can stack a HyVee store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon.

Price Chopper (Kansas City metro area).  You can use a store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon.

Publix.  When shopping here, you can stack your Publix store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons.

Safeway.  You can use a Safeway store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon.

Whole Foods.  They will allow you to use a store coupon + a manufacturer’s coupon.

Three Reasons Why Coupons Have Limited Prints

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Why coupons have limited prints |

I am sure it happens to you.  You print your coupon and go back and try to get another one and it says LIMIT REACHED.  Why are you limited to the number of coupons you can print?  There are actually reasons why you can’t print as many as you’d like.  In fact, here are THREE reasons why:




When a manufacturer wants to release a printable coupon, they have to pay for the prints (just as they do in the weekly newspaper ads).  For this reason, they have to establish a budget.  That budget will allow for “x” number of prints across all sources.   That in turn sets the number of allowable prints allowed by consumers.  As we all print, the number counts down and when the last coupon is printed, the coupon disappears from the list.



The manufacturers want to make sure that the coupons can reach as many consumers as possible.  Since the budget will allow only a select number of coupons to be printed across all sources, they want to ensure that everyone has a chance to get one.  For this reason, they put a limit of 2 prints per computer or IP address.  This is actually built into the agreements between the coupon source and the manufacturer, to ensure that one person will not be able to print an excessive number of coupons.



Many times, a coupon will run out of prints only to return again.  Sometimes, these returning coupons fall under the same original agreement — they have simply increased the budget to allow for additional prints for consumers. Since it is still part of the original agreement, the same limits apply per consumer.  For that reason, you may not be able to print it again.  There is no way for anyone to know when it has been reset (meaning everyone can print again as it is a new printing contract) or if it is the same coupon returning for a second chance printing.

So there you have it!  Three reasons coupon prints are limited for all of us.  Hope it answers some of the questions you might have!!!

How To Cut Your Budget — When There Is Nothing Left To Cut Out

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How to Cut your Budget When there is Nothing Left to Cut |

One of the most common questions and even comments left on my site is “What more can I do to cut our budget – we’ve already done all we can!!”  I know this feeling all too well.  I remember when my husband and I were struggling after I quit my job to stay home with our first born.  It was tough and we all know you can’t get blood from a turnip!

Before you look at what you can do to save on your budget, you need to make sure you have one.  I’ve got some very helpful tips, including free forms, to help you do just that.  Read more about How To Create A Budget.

Here are things we ended up doing which helped us when we had problems with our own budget:

1.  Find ways to bring in more money each month.  Of course, you can’t give yourself a raise at your job, but there are other things you can do to bring in more money.  We ended up selling items, I found a part-time, work from home job with my prior employer and eventually, started this site.   You sometimes need to look inside and where your passion lies and you might find the perfect way to increase your income.

I’ve actually got an entire post dedicated to this topic — Ten Ways to Make Money from Home.  While many of them may not work for you, there might be an idea which turns on that light bulb and sends you off on a path you’ve never have thought of otherwise.

2.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  Sit back for a minute and look at where you were before you knew about budgeting and stretching your dollar vs. where you are now.  Be proud of what you’ve done and the changes you’ve made.  Sometimes, just knowing that you’ve made positive financial changes.  Just celebrate the small victories.

3.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  This is a tough one.  You may see others who claim that they found a way to shave their budget by hundreds of dollars every month.  While we would all love to be able to do that, it may not be realistic for you.  You may have additional expenses others do not have.  Your income is different than them.  You have your own financial goals.  When you stop comparing yourself to others, the need to keep up and compete will stop and you can feel better about your own budget.

4.  Look at your needs vs. wants.  This is a tough one.  There are probably things you have in your life which are wants rather than needs (and vice versa).  Do you have both a land line and cell phone?  If so, do you need both or do you want both?  Why not drop the land line?

Take a look at your entertainment.  Do you need cable?  Why not try to use another way to knock down your cable bill (or eliminate it completely).  Do you need to eat dinner out once a week – or do you want to dine out?

When we were getting out of debt, we did not eat in a restaurant for more than a year.  I kid you not.  It was tough, but we survived.  The reason was that we determined that it was a want to dine out and not a need.  Instead, we took the money we would have spent having a dinner out and used it towards our debt instead.

5.  Seek assistance.  This may be the time when you need to reach out to get help.  There are times when you just can’t make it on your own and there are programs and services which are here to help.  You can check with your local government to find ways to get help with utility bills, apply for food stamps, locate a food pantry and even get assistance for child care.

Just because you ask for help does not mean you are not financially responsible.  We all have times when we need a hand and these organizations are here to help.  Once you get back on your feet, then that will be your chance to pay it forward to help someone else.



Keep Up to Date With Penny Pinchin’ Mom’s Deals

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Keeping Up withWith the constant changes in algorithms on social media, it can be difficult to keep up to date with your favorite pages.  That can mean you might miss out on a great deal or money saving tip!!!   In order to help make sure you NEVER miss anything, there are some easy ways to stay up to date with all of your favorite pages!!




If you still want to stay on Facebook, there are some things you can do to ensure you don’t miss out on a deal.

Set up Notifications.  You can add your favorite pages to your notifcations button.   This is the globe image at the top of your page.  When you have this turned on, you will see an update whenever your favorite pages make a post.  You click on here and receive a drop down letting you see the pages at a glance and can click through to the post to learn more.


Turning this feature on is very simple to do.  Head to Penny Pinchin’ Mom on Facebook and under the header, find the LIKED button.  Once you click on here, you will it says Get Notifications.  Make sure that you have a checkmark next to this button so that you keep up with all of the posts.

Screenshot 2013-11-20 09.54.19

Join the Facebook Group and add it to your Favorites.  We actually have a group set up where the posts will go on Facebook.  You can join for free HERE.  Once you join, you can then add that group to your favorites so that you see it in your sidebar each and every time you log in!

To add it to your favorites, simply click the pencil next to the group name, when you see it under your Groups.  Click to Add to Favorites and you will see it move up under your favorites, directly under your profile picture!




Create an Interest List and Add to your Favorites.  You can add all of your favorite pages to an interest list and then make that list accessible in your favorites.  This keeps all of your favorite pages in one place, so you can catch up with them all at once!


Click on the wheel button from the Facebook page and then select Add to Interest Lists.  Then, click on New List.


On this screen, you will see that the site comes up and is already selected for you.  Just click on the blue NEXT button at the bottom of the page.

Here, type in the name for the list.  You could call it just Penny Pinchin’ Mom, or Money Saving Sites (whatever you would like).  You can then decide if you want anyone to see this or not.  If it is public, anyone can subscribe to the list, so if you want to get the word out about this great list you’ve created, you could select this option.


You can add additional pages to your list and every page you follow will be in one location.  Once you do this, you want to add this to your favorites so that you can find it quickly.   Just find the List under Interests in your sidebar and click the pencil next to the list.  Check Add to Favorites and you are done!


Now, this group will also be at the very top of your profile so you can find it quickly!



There are several great boards set up on Pinterest to help you narrow down the types of deals or savings tips you might need!  We’ve got ALL of our best tips in our Money Saving Tips Board.  If you want to get out of debt, you’ll love all of the articles (which will be added each week this year) in the Getting Out of Debt Board.  Of course, it would be simpler to just follow my Pinterest page so you get all of the pins we share from my site as well as others I’d recommend!  Visit the Penny Pinchin’ Mom Pinterest page so you can follow it!





Google+ may seem like a ghost town, but it really isn’t.  In fact, this is the #2 social media site, ahead of Twitter.  The great thing about Google+ is that you can create your own circles to keep certain pages grouped together to check them quickly (as you would using a list or favorites on Facebook).  Even better than that, G+ doesn’t censor the content, you will always see everything on all of the page you are following!

You’ll want to head to the Penny Pinchin’ Mom Google+ page and make sure you +1 it by clicking that image on the main page.



Once you have done that, you will want to create your circles.  This is easy to do.  From your Home button, scroll down and click on the People button.

Screenshot 2013-11-20 10.22.41

Then, click on Your Circles in the menu bar


Next, click the + in the circle.  In here, type in the name of the circle.


It could be something like you would use on Facebook, like Money Saving Sites.  Click on the Add a Person Button and start typing Penny Pinchin Mom and you will see that it comes up.  Just click to add it to the list and then click on Create Circle Button to finish.  You’ve just created a circle!



Your circles are all visible from your home page, but you can decide WHICH ones have a shortcut on your menu.  Drag your circles to reorder them to put those you will use the most at the top of the list.  You just literally click drag and drop!  The first circles in your order will be the first ones you see in your menu.  Here is how mine looks:

circle2Main Menu


circle1Circles Order

So now, when I am on G+, I just click Money Saving Websites from the main menu and the posts are there!

I can tell you that we put all of our posts on Google+ just like other social media, so this is a great alternative to Facebook!



We are also on Twitter!  This is can be a simple way to keep up with your sites as well.  There are different platforms out there which you can use to create custom streams and lists to personalize it for yourself.  I personally love using Tweet Deck!  You can create custom streams for your favorite hashtags, sites and more!  You’ll find me on Twitter under @PennyPinchinMom.

You can create a List easily on Twitter just like you do the other sites. Just click the Lists button from your profile page and then Create a List.  Add the profiles you want to follow and then you’ll have one easy list at your fingertips!









There is also one final way to stay up to date.  You can sign up for the FREE daily email newsletter. We actually have options which allow you to taylor the newsletter to receive just what you want!  You can get all updates, just coupons or even only Target store deals!  Head HERE and sign up — make sure that you confirm your subscription!

Beginner Coupon Tip: Use 2 Envelopes To Keep Track of Your Coupons

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Coupon Tip To Use Envelopes When Shopping |


If you are new to using coupons, one thing that can be difficult to do is to remember to use your coupons!  You might go through the hard work of finding the coupons you want to redeem and then you forget to hand them over when shopping.  You can use this same tip, which my husband uses (a.k.a. The Penny Pinchin’ Dad).  Here is how he shops with coupons:

  1. Make your shopping list.  Make notations of which items have coupons you want to redeem.  (You can download a free shopping list right here).
  2. Get out two envelopes.  One one of them write:  “COUPONS TO USE.”  On the other one you will write:  “GIVE TO CASHIER.”
  3. Place all of the coupons you want to use into the coupons to use envelope.
  4. As you shop your list and place items into your cart, find the matching coupon and move it into the give to cashier envelope.
  5. When you get to checkout, just hand the cashier envelope over and you’ll make sure to redeem all of your coupons!

You can find more Beginning Couponing Tips right here, on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

College Budgeting For Parents: What To Know BEFORE You Pay The Bursar

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Paying for College |


When you’re preparing your college-bound child, you tend to worry about grades, test scores and admission essays. Once they’ve decided on where they’ll take classes, your attention shifts to tuition payments, schedules and how well your child will get along with their roommates. There’s a lot of preparation – mentally, emotionally and financially­ – as your student begins his or her newest adventure.


Don’t forget to focus on your own obligations as well. Proactive consideration of your established budget is smart planning for you and your student. Financial stability is one of the leading factors of happiness in adulthood, so teaching your child to budget in their college years is a life lesson with serious real-world impact.


Look At Your Own Accounts

Take an honest look at what you can afford to pay for and how much monetary help you can provide. If you have other children in the house, or if you foresee the need to assist your own parents as they age, you should strongly consider and account for these forthcoming expenses. How does your retirement look? This should take precedence over paying for your child’s college costs. Students will have a much easier time getting financial assistance for tuition and living costs than you will if you find yourself short on funds at retirement.


Be Transparent about Support

Once you’ve decided what you want to do financially for your student, tell them! Too often, parents don’t communicate with their children about finances. While this is often not intentional, it can be harmful to the their ability to maintain their own finances. What and how much you’ll be supporting them as they begin their college careers is an excellent opportunity to begin this conversation.


Manage Expectations

If you’re willing and able to financially assist your student, it’s extremely important to have a discussion with your child about how, when and what you’re offering to cover. Too often, parents send money or set up a stipend hoping their child will be naturally prone to manage their expenses. Caught up in the novelty of their newfound independence, a student might try to justify purchasing an $80 team jersey instead of allotting their funds for unforeseen expenses like gas money or fees for extracurricular clubs or groups.


Clarify what you will pay for long before school begins. This way, your student can begin making their own, independent choices about saving or spending their money. The summer before freshman year is a great time to begin putting together a budget. Establish a budget with your student and remember they’ve likely never done this before. CommunityAmerica offers a budgeting program called Finance Works, but there are other programs out there like You Need A Budget or Mint that make creating a budget simple. These digital programs also allow you to monitor your funds, and your student’s, easily.


Look Beyond the Obvious

Many parents automatically look at tuition payments as the best way to support, but if the student can get solid financial assistance on tuition, consider other ways to help. Bill or insurance support, covering grocery costs or other living expenses are areas to consider.

If you’re unable to help out with college costs, there are still things you can do to promote financial success for your student. Make time to help them fill out FAFSA paperwork, scholarship applications or other student aid forms. If your child is working part time as they finish high school, you may consider ‘matching’ their paychecks or tips. It’s a gesture that can encourage them to work harder while promoting financial diligence.


As your student chooses classes and activities, they’ll need to learn how to budget their time. Next week, we’ll discuss how you can help them budget their money as well. For more advice on navigating financials or saving for higher ed, click here for friendly advice from the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Savin’ Mavens. This post was written by Maven Jason Armstrong, a branch manager at CommunityAmerica.

How to Free Up Cash to Save for Retirement

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free Up cash to save for retirement |


I recently took a hard look at my retirement savings, and let’s just say I was disappointed at what I saw. While I’m not woefully behind, I do have some catching up to do.

If you haven’t thought about your retirement recently, it would behoove you to take a look at your savings and plan. Retirement is one of those things you have to prepare for – failing to do so can take the shine off your Golden Years. If you’ve fallen behind, or you’re currently not setting money away, here are some ideas to get you on track.

1. Review Your Mortgage Terms
Thirty year refinance rates are currently around 4%, while 15-year rates are hovering around 3%. If you’re paying a significantly higher interest rate, a refinance might be prudent. Just make sure you contact a qualified mortgage refinance professional before committing to a new loan.

2. Take Advantage of Employer Retirement Savings Programs
Does your employer offer a 401k retirement savings program? And more importantly, does it match funds? If so, start investing up to the company limit. This is money provided to you free of charge from your employer, which usually beats the gains you could accumulate by investing elsewhere.

3. Commit to a Budget
If your goal is to ramp up retirement savings, you must set (and stick to) a personal budget. Create one online at the BudgetPulse website, or develop a spreadsheet of your own. After listing your income and expenses, see what you pay for each monthly bill, and look for ways to cut costs. For instance, getting a home audit done by your energy provider can lower your energy expenses, and there are almost always teaser deals available for new cable TV, Internet, or smartphone plans.

4. Rethink Your Spending Habits
What would you prefer – a new smartphone and the latest upgrade on your tablet, or the peace of mind that comes with a fully stocked retirement account? Hopefully, it’s the latter. Forget about keeping up with the Joneses, and focus on your future. Your best bet is to forgo short-term luxuries in order to achieve long-term goals.

5. Sell Your Goods
Do you have a drawer full of old electronics, or a closet filled with toys your kids don’t use anymore? Create a seller account on eBay or Amazon and start making money. Describe your items accurately, include photos, and price your items to sell.  Ship fast in secure packaging to cut down the possibility of returns.

6. Don’t Buy a New Car
If you’re about to pay off your current vehicle, don’t immediately take out a loan for a new car. Make do with what you have, and each month you drive your paid-for car, you can put the savings into your retirement account.

Once you have more to invest, make sure you’re investing it wisely. Study up on your retirement account’s expense ratio, which is basically the fees taken out for fund management. Opt for indexed funds and exchange traded funds, which usually have lower expense ratios than actively managed funds. Then once per year, review your investments and make adjustments based on your risk tolerance, age, and investment performance. Saving for retirement is great, but your work doesn’t end there – devote care and attention to your portfolio as you move forward.

How are you planning and saving for retirement?

How To Save Money on Kids’ Birthday Parties

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kids parties

We are about 2 months away from celebrating not one – but TWO birthdays!  Both of our girls were born in September (as was their dad), which makes for one expensive month!   Not only that, but the girls’ birthdays are just 4 days apart from one another!
We try to give our kids a great party, but not spend too much.  I know how quickly spending can get out of control for kids’ parties.  While some think bigger is better, I personally think that could not be further from the truth.



Balloons/Streamers/Signs.  They can be lots of fun and great to look at, but what is the purpose?  Honestly, most kids will never even notice and you can quickly save yourself $10, $15 or even more!  We have colored table cloths for our party  – just to make clean up easier.  No fancy decorations here this year!

Party Ware. This is an area where your costs can add up quickly. There is really not any reason to have the fancy plates or cups. After all, no one really notices them. They gobble up the cake, swallow the punch and immediately throw it into the trash. Why not just stick with plain white? Or, if you want something more fun, pick up colored items rather than themed plates and napkins.

Party Favors/Hats.  I have been dealing with goodie bags for years.  My kids bring them home, I pull out one piece of candy or a pencil (if I am lucky), they look at and play with the things inside for about 30 seconds and it all goes into the trash.  I have wondered why is it that parents feel that you must give out goodie bags?  Isn’t the party for the child and not the guests?

I know that many people still want to give them out.  If you do decide to have goodie bags, just keep a few things in mind.  Pick up inexpensive items such as stickers, lollipops, sunglasses or things that are inexpensive.  If you can, try to avoid the “2 second toys”….the ones that mom will pick up for 2 seconds before she throws them in the trash.

Invitations. The main point of the invitation is to let your guests know the Five “Ws”: Who, What, Where, When & Why. You can get a simple, more plain invitation for about a third to one-half of the cost of fancy invitations. You’ll save even more if you bypass the customized, printed invitations. However, if you really want something personalized, check out Vistaprint – they always have great deals on printed items.

Cake. While professionally decorated cakes are fun, why not try your hand at doing your own? Use some fun icings, candles and candy decorations and your child will probably not even know that he or she is missing out. There are lots of great photos and ideas out there to help you decorate your own.

Dinner/Lunch.  I have been to many parties where there are snacks and then cake.  My kids do not eat the snacks.  They really only want the cake.  Why not opt out of serving it?  If you plan your party for the right time of day, there is not any need to feed the kids anything other than some cake and/or ice cream.  In the kids would rather fill up on that than snacks anyhow!



So, now you know what you can do to save money when throwing a party. But, what if you aren’t throwing a party – but attending instead. Can you save money? You bet – here’s how:

R.S.V.P.  You might be thinking how does this save me money?  Quite frankly, it doesn’t.  This saves the host/hostess money.

It seems that so many people have forgotten what this means. It is a French phrase: Répondez s’il vous plaît. Not sure of the translation? It simply means – Respond if you please.

If you or your children are invited to a party, you should have the courtesy to call and let the host/hostess know whether you will be attending or not.   This is not option.  It is respectful – plain and simple.  Think of it like this – if someone invites 20 people and purchases food, etc and plans on that many and only 4 show up – look at the wasted money. On the flip side, if you plan on 20 and 25 show up, you don’t have enough to feed your guests.

In addition, many parties are held in locations where the family pays per child. If you do not show up or, if you even show up without letting them know, can cost the family more than expected (Oh – and whatever you do – don’t bring siblings to parties when they are not invited – unless YOU are paying for them to participate).

By taking the time to call the host or hostess, you can essentially save them money so that they can do proper planning/spending. I know as a mom I GREATLY appreciate this more than my guests know.

Gifts. You don’t have to spend a lot to give a child a great gift. Books, coloring books, crayons, puzzles, games – these are all gifts that seem to have gone to the wayside, but can be found at a really great price. Try to buy gifts when they are on clearance off season and stock a gift closet. That way, when it is time for a gift, you have one handy.

Gift Wrap/Cards/Bows. Why not stop by the dollar store and pick up a roll of paper and card ? They always are just ripped apart in minutes and no child really cares how the package looks – they just love opening packages. After all, it is the gift that matters and not the packaging. You can even find plain colored paper and bows after Christmas and stock up to cover your party needs throughout the year.

One final thing that I want to share is what we are doing with our kids.  Every two or three years they get a BIG party — otherwise, it is low key.  Sure, we invite friends, but we keep the costs low and then can save so we can do something extra special for those years with the big “to-do”.   We might pick up a balloon or two during the off years, but most things are kept simple and inexpensive.  My kids learned this very young.  We still celebrate.  They still invite friends over.  However, we don’t blow the budget for 2 hours of fun.

Now that our oldest is ten, we’ve migrated from a big party to just taking a couple of friends out to dinner and then taking them somewhere to play games.  It will not only cost us less, kids are so busy that trying to find the time to have a party when many can attend is much more difficult.  This way, she can have a couple of friends with her to celebrate (which will actually cost mom and dad much less money)!

Finally, I don’t compare myself to other parents and what they do (or do not do).  Everyone has their own budget and own ideas.  It is not for me to judge what they have done or not done at their child’s party.   As long as my children have fun and more importantly the birthday boy or girl has fun, then that is all that matters.

Whether throwing or attending a party, there are ways to save.  The most important thing is to celebrate how much that person means to you.  Do you have any great party money saving tips?  If so, please share!

Five Easy Tips to Save Money on Back to School Shopping!

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Save Money Back to School |

Earlier this morning, I was a guest on Kansas City Live, a local talk show.  I shared five easy tips to help you save money on your Back to School Shopping — for clothes and supplies!  I wanted to pass along these tips with all of you who may not have seen the segment!

1 – Shop at home first.  Take a look at the clothes you have – including hand me downs from older kids.  Make a list of the things you need.

You can also look at your supplies.  Perhaps you have a pencil box from last year that you can clean up and use again.  The same goes for scissors and other items.

2 –  Shop the sales.  You’ll find deals on items at various times.  For instance, if you know you need glue sticks and they are on sale this week, go ahead and pick them up if you will be at the store anyhow.  By combining each week’s sales, you can take advantage of all of the deals.
3 – Consignment stores.  If you need clothes, these are a GREAT way to not only find deals, but also make money.  You can sell the items your kids can’t wear anymore.  Turn around and shop with that money and get those items you need for your kids.
4 – Use those coupons!  Target has great store coupons and there are also other coupons coming out all of the time, which you can use towards those supplies for your kids.  For instance, there was recently a coupon to save $1.50 off of 3 up & up school supply items this week at Target – which can make for FREE items.

Also use those coupons on clothes.  Look for free shipping offers and discounts on clothes and uniforms.  You can use apps, such as Coupon Sherpa to find those coveted coupons!

5 – Know your budget!  The average family will spend more than $650 this year on supplies and clothes.  That doesn’t mean you have to.  Look at your budget and determine how much you have to spend and make sure you stick to that.  The best recommendation I have to stick to your budget is to shop with cash – because you can never overspend!