Home » Frugal Finance Management

Tag: Frugal Finance Management

How to Create a Frugal and Delicious Salad Dressing

If you’re someone, like me, who loves a good salad, then this article is for you. I detest the store bought salad dressings. Not only are they much too expensive for what you get, but I am not a fan of the ingredients. Plus, when you make your own salad dressing, you can give it any flavor you want. And for so much cheaper, and healthier, than any of the store bought stuff. So, if you want to make your own delicious salad dressing, frugally, then read on.

Olive Oil

When it comes to a good salad dressing base, olive oil is the way to go. Not only is it full of good healthy Omega 3 fats, but it’s extremely diverse. There are many different types of olive oil you can go with, so the price points will vary. I typically prefer to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Greek region when possible. Sometimes I’ll go with the Italian olive oil if I can’t find any of my usual Greek stuff.

Usually, I’m able to find a few different options at Trader Joe’s. More often than not, I will spend between $6.99 – $8.99 for a bottle. This bottle can typically last me close to a month. But, if you want to get really fancy, and your budget will allow it, you could check out one of the olive oil and vinegar stores. This option is a big splurge for us. But, every now and then we get a wild hair and decide to purchase some of the flavor infused olive oils.

Balsamic Vinegar

Once you have your olive oil sorted out, next comes the balsamic vinegar. I can tell you that I was not a fan of vinegar for the majority of my life. Until my spouse opened my eyes to the fact that not all vinegar’s are created equally. I had apparently only been exposed to more of the table vinegar, which is not nearly as flavorful as balsamic is.

Once he opened my eyes to the diverse, and robust, flavor profiles of balsamic vinegar, my world changed. Currently, we have 5 different balsamic vinegar choices to use in our salad dressings. We have:

  • Mission Fig
  • Neapolitan Herb
  • Plum
  • Oak Aged
  • Cherry Wood Aged

All of these have completely different flavors and work well with certain foods. My two favorites currently are the Mission Fig and the Cherry Wood Aged because I love the little bit of sweetness they have that the others don’t. Depending upon what I put in my salad is how I determine which option might work the best.

And just like with olive oil, balsamic vinegar prices can range widely. The 5 we have range between $4.99 – $12.99 per bottle. So, if you haven’t dipped your toe into the balsamic vinegar land yet, it might be best to start out with one of the cheaper options to see if you like it. I can tell you that the more expensive ones tend to be a bit more balanced and smooth though.

Spices

After you have the olive oil and vinegar worked out, the last thing to add are your spices. A lot of people only think about adding salt or pepper to their dressings. We don’t actually add either regularly. In fact, I never add salt of any kind to my salad dressings. Sometimes I will add some cracked black pepper. But, typically I like to add some spice blends that are already made because they change the flavor so much.

I get a lot of my spice blends from Trader Joe’s. They do a good job of creating some delicious, and interesting choices. Plus, all of their spices are pretty darn frugal. My favorites recently are:

  • 21 Salute
  • South African Smoke
  • Chili Lime Seasoning Blend
  • Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic
  • Ajika Georgian Seasoning Blend

Out of all of these, my two favorite go-to’s lately are the 21 Salute and the Ajika Georgian. The former is a bit more on the herby side, while the latter is more on the smokey side. And most of the time I can find these spices for somewhere between $2.99-$3.99.

How to put together your salad dressing

How you choose to put together your salad dressing is completely up to you. But we typically do it one of two ways. The first way we make it is our most common since it makes things easy to switch up daily.

All we do is pour some olive oil on the salad greens, followed by the balsamic vinegar of our choosing. Sprinkle the spice blend on top of that and use your hands to mix the whole thing around.

If you want to make a larger batch, then I suggest a 3:1 proportion of olive oil to balsamic. Then add your spices to taste. Put all of this in an old salad dressing container or empty bottle that will store well. Shake it up and pour over your salad. Since all of these items are shelf stable, you don’t need to refrigerate this dressing either.

Salad Dressing Summary

Overall, it’s exceptionally easy to make your own salad dressing that’s both delicious and frugal. Just mix all of your ingredients together and mix up with your salad greens. If I purchase my ingredients on the lower end of the price points, then I’m looking at somewhere around $15 for a good month of so of salad dressing. Maybe even longer if I stretch it out, since you don’t need as much of this type of dressing. A little goes a long way with the olive oil based dressings.

If you’ve tried making your own salad dressing before, what has been your favorite way to make it frugal, delicious and healthy?

How to Frugally Feed Your Dog, Yet Well

When it comes to being a pet owner, there are so many ways to feed your dog that it can make my head spin. The amount of misinformation floating around out there is mind blowing, to be honest. Plus there’s the amount of dog foods and treats that are exceptionally overpriced but really not great for your dog. It’s amazing to me how many choices there are today, and how little cohesion there is between experts as to what is actually good for your dog.

Luckily for me, I have an educational background in this specific area. So, when we got a puppy last winter, it was much easier for me to weed through the noise. And by doing so, I’ve been able to find the best options for puppy, and all other dogs and cats we help through our business. So, the following are my best tips to help you frugally feed your dog, yet well.

Dog snacks

Besides dog food, the first thing I think of when it comes to feeding dogs are snacks. Most people only think of treats. But treats should be just that; only a treat. With dog snacks, these are things I add in regularly throughout the day or week to supplement feeding time. Plus, a lot of these work really well for training dogs too.

My favorite go-to dog snacks (always organic as long as I can find them) are:

  • Baby carrots – high in Vitamin C, Antioxidants, Fiber and Potassium
  • Sugar snap peas – high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Antioxidants and Fiber
  • Green beans – high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Silicone and Fiber
  • Beets (all colors) – high in Vitamin C, Vitamin B9, Iron, Fiber and Potassium
  • Salad greens – high in Magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Fiber, Folate, Calcium and Beta Carotene
  • Nuts (usually peanuts or chestnuts, but sometime also walnuts, pecans, cashews and/or pistachios) – with all nuts, they shouldn’t be given too many of them but can be an addition to other snacks. I usually only give nuts maybe once a week or so, and even then only 1 or 2. Nuts are high in protein and can have a lot of other health benefits. But they can also cause issues if there is mold cross-contamination or if your dog has any gastrointestinal issues or are prone to swallowing things whole.

food additions

When it comes to dog food, that is probably a completely different article. However, since dog food can be so expensive, I’ve found ways to stretch it further. By adding some good, healthy food additions to my dog’s food, I am able to save a lot of money. Plus, I’m able to give her some added diversity in her diet. By creating diversity in my dog’s diet, I am assisting her gut microbiome health. And this directly impacts her overall immunity and wellness.

I not only add some of these food additions to our dog’s diet, but also for some of the dogs we watch. This is especially true of the older dogs or dogs who already have some health issues.

  • Organic beef broth – fantastic for dogs with arthritis or any other joint issues
  • Brown rice – high in Fiber and Magnesium, plus it stretches the food out much further
  • Organic low-sodium vegetable broth – perfect for introducing more vegetables into your dog’s diet and stretching their food further
  • Coconut oil – great for skin, coat, eyes, teeth, digestive tract, immune system, breath, etc
  • Green sauce (we make it out of organic beef broth and parsley, but sometimes add in some rosemary also if we have any fresh growing in our garden) – this helps tremendously with dogs that have UTI’s digestive issues and/or arthritis.

Our puppy gets a tablespoon of coconut oil added to one of her meals a day. She has had this since the day we brought her home. We have also added some beef broth into her meal a few times a week for added diversity.

dog treats

Dog treats should be treated just like dessert for us humans. And most dog owner’s have a tendency to give way too many treats. When doing this, you can cause a lot of harmful side effects for your fur baby, on top of the most common, obesity. Therefore, if you want to give treats, that’s awesome, but limit them to just treats.

We only give treats very sporadically so that they aren’t an expected part of any routine. We did use them more when we were housebreaking our puppy, but that is generally to be expected. Outside of that, I only give them sparingly. And I make sure they are high quality treats and not full of junk.

That being said, I am not a huge fan of most dog treats on the market. But a few of my favorites are:

While these may seem a bit pricey online, I’ve actually been able to find them for dirt cheap at Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Homegoods. So I would suggest roaming the pet aisle there regularly to see what treats you can find to feed your dog.

frugally feed your dog summary

Ultimately, when it comes to feeding your dog, there are a lot of different ways you can save money. While we all love our dogs, we don’t have to break the bank to do it. So, just remember to add in some:

  • healthy snacks
  • good food additions to stretch your budget further
  • healthy dog treats

If you’re able to do even one of those, it should not only save you some money, but also create a happier dog. Now who doesn’t want that?

Why I Love Swagbucks to Make Money Taking Surveys

In a lot of cases, surveys may not sound like a lot of fun. They can be pretty time consuming and aren’t always relevant. But, I’ve found one consistently good survey site to earn money on that has a multitude of ways to earn money. This site is Swagbucks. And they haven’t steered me wrong yet. So, here are the many reasons why I love Swagbucks to make a little bit of side cash.

How Swagbucks works

When you first sign up for Swagbucks, it may seem a bit overwhelming. They will want you to fill out a lot of personal information right out of the gate. But all of this is necessary for them to send you your rewards. And of course for their own marketing purposes. They also want to make sure that they are catering the surveys and tasks to your personal life.

This is important because the more specific you are with the answers you provide, the better they are able to match surveys to you. And by doing this they, and you waste less time in the grand scheme of things. I know, for me, I prefer to only take surveys that are relevant to my life currently. So, while this step can be the most time consuming of the whole onboarding process, it’s the most important.

Once you finish the initial sign-up process, Swagbucks will grant you with some initial SB to add to your account. Everything you do on the site, or through the desktop extension can earn you more SB. Once you have SB in your account, you can begin looking at different cash out options to use your rewards.

how to earn swagbucks

Once you’ve signed up, there will be quite a few options on the home screen to begin earning more Swagbucks. My favorite option is to take surveys. And this is a really easy thing to do while I’m stuck in the carpool line or waiting for dinner to finish cooking. I’m all about multi-tasking!

Another really good way to earn Swagbucks is by using the extension when shopping online. This is similar to Honey, Rakuten and Capital One Shopping. All of these sites will pop up when I’m shopping online to let me know if there are rebates or coupon codes they can try to save me money. Well, Swagbucks is similar but instead I can earn Swagbucks for my purchases. I usually use this option once I’ve tried the coupon codes on the other extensions and none of them work. Because, either way, I’d like to earn something for my online shopping purchases.

Another really great way to earn SB is by using their Magic Receipts option. This let’s you upload your receipts from certain stores and earn SB for purchases of certain items. It’s similar to how Ibotta works, except that you don’t earn actual cash back, but SB instead. Of course, SB can be turned into cash, so it’s really all the same in the end. And the best way to hack this is to turn your receipts in through Swagbucks Magic Receipts, Ibotta and Receipt Hog. Now, you’re really saving a bundle on groceries!

As if this weren’t enough of a reason to give them a try, you can also earn SB by donating to charities, watching videos and playing some mobile games.

what can you use your swagbucks for?

Once you’ve earned enough SB, you can start redeeming them for a myriad of different things. The most popular thing to redeem them for (and what I have always done to date) are gift cards. They offer a ton of different gift card options, as well as monetary values to choose from. Some of the most popular choices are:

  • Amazon
  • Visa gift card
  • American Express gift card
  • Home Depot
  • Walmart
  • Bath & Body Works
  • Google Play
  • CVS
  • Sony PlayStation
  • Door Dash
  • Apple Store
  • Target
  • The list goes on!

On top of this, they regularly have “sales” on their gift cards. This means you can purchase them for less SB than you normally would. So, if you want to get even more side cash, it’s good to keep an eye on the gift cards that are on sale and try to redeem your SB towards one of those.

Gift cards are the primary way to redeem SB, but they do also offer PayPal cash. So this is another good option if you don’t want any of the gift cards they have to offer. Or if you just need money in your PayPal account for an upcoming purchase.

summary

Ultimately, there are so many great things about Swagbucks that it’s hard for me to say anything bad about them. While you may not make a ton of money performing the activities on their site, you can also save some money by using them on regular purchases. It seems like they get more and more robust with their offerings each year, so I’m interested to see what they roll out with next. No matter what, if you haven’t given them a try yet, you’ve really got nothing to lose.

Have you tried taking surveys on Swagbucks to earn some extra side cash? If so, how has your experience been?

4 Ways to Frugally Travel With Your Pet

Since most of us have not gotten our travel fix in the past year or so, it’s about time to hit the road again. And we aren’t any different in that we can’t wait to explore the world again. But, now that we have our own pet, we had to look into ways to reduce the costs. Therefore, here are the 4 best ways we’ve found to frugally travel with your pet.

1. DRIVING

One of our favorite options, and usually the cheapest when traveling, is driving. Of course, isn’t always an option, depending upon where you live and where you’re going. But, if it’s a viable option, it can save you a ton of money. Plus, you get the experience of seeing things on the road that you would otherwise miss.

We’ve really enjoyed our summer road trips because we run across so many things we didn’t even know existed. And if you are traveling with a pet, like we are, this can make the whole trip easier. It gives us a chance to travel as a whole family, but doesn’t add too much more cost to our travel budget. And since we’ll probably need to stop more often for potty breaks, we’ll have more of a chance to stretch our legs and check out our surroundings.

2. TRUSTED HOUSESITTERS

As soon as I found out about Trusted Housesitters, I fell in love with the idea. Trusted Housesitters pairs people needing a pet sitter while they’re away with others who want to watch their pets, and their homes, in exchange for free lodging. Since we are huge fans of both pets and free lodging, it’s hard to go wrong here.

Not all Trusted Housesitters options will allow you to bring your own pet with you. So, you’ll need to narrow down your options within the platform to only allow those that do.

If you know the dates you want to travel, then you can search anywhere around the world for options. But, if you’re choosing to save as much as possible when you travel with your pet, you should probably only consider options that are within driving distance. Pairing the two options together can really help you save a ton of money. This is because the driving and the lodging won’t cost you anything extra at all to bring your pet with you. Huge bonus!

3. AIRBNB

Airbnb is another great option when you want to frugally travel with your pet. While it will cost money, unlike Trusted Housesitters, the fee to bring your pet can be nominal. And, since Airbnb is offered in nearly every country, the possibilities of where you can travel are fairly limitless.

With Airbnb, the host will note if pets are allowed and which type. You can even filter your possible options by going to the Airbnb Pet-Friendly link directly.

If you aren’t sure where you want to go yet, all you have to do is enter the following information to pull up a ton of choices:

  • Check-in date
  • Check-out date
  • How many adults
  • How many children
  • How many pets

Once again, though, if you want to save the most money, it’s wiser to choose options that are within driving distance. Flying with a pet can get pretty pricey, depending upon the airline and the size of your pet.

4. pet friendly NO COST HOTELS

Most hotels charge an additional pet fee to have your pet stay with you. Mostly, this is because of the extra cost of cleaning up after your pet when you leave. And if your pet destroys anything in the room (due to scratching or chewing) the fees can really add up. Hotels aren’t generally big fans of this, so their added pet fees reflect their attitude towards pet destruction.

Luckily, a few hotels have become a lot more pet friendly because they want to attract a different audience. Therefore, these 4 hotels may be the best bet for you to frugally travel with your pet at no extra cost.

ALOFT HOTELS

Aloft hotels will let any pet under 40 pounds stay for free. Plus, they also offer complimentary bowls, blankets and toys upon request. Pretty awesome, right?

KIMPTON HOTELS

The Kimpton hotel chain don’t have pet fees for just your cats and dogs, but other pets as well. This hotel chain usually offer beds, bowls, blankets and treats. But some of them are even fancier and offer more pet amenities, including pet massages! Plus, each hotel has a Director of Pet Relations and a Pet Concierge that can help pet owners find anything they might need to make their stay even better. This is really cool!

MOTEL 6

If you’re looking at more of a motel option, then you may want to check out Motel 6. will let up to two service dogs or well behave pets stay for free. They will even let your children stay for free too, as long as they are well behaved!

RED ROOF INN

Red Roof Inn is another lower cost option, like Motel 6. They will let up to one pet per guest room stay for free. The weight limit can vary between property types though. So, it can be either up to 40 pounds or up to 80 pounds, based on whether it’s a Red Collection property or any of the other Red Roof Inn property types.

TRAVEL WITH YOUR PET SUMMARY

Ultimately, there are so many awesome ways to frugally travel with your pets for low or no additional cost. Some of our favorites are:

  • Driving
  • Trusted Housesitters
  • Airbnb
  • Pet friendly no cost hotels

Overall, I always want to have the best experience with my family (pets included) for as little as I can get away with. So, combining driving with one of the other options is the best way to achieve that, in my book, at least.

What are some of the best ways you’ve found to frugally travel with your pet?

How to Save a Ton by Switching From Disposable Products

Even before everything with COVID-19 was happening, we were always looking for ways to save money around the house. Plus, we continually strive to be more “green” every year and help the environment. And what I’ve found is that there are a ton of ways to merry both saving money and going green together. The best way we have found to achieve both goals is by switching from disposable products whenever, and wherever we can.

Paper towels

When it comes to disposable products, we didn’t use a ton of them to begin with. But, I knew there will still places that we could work on. And paper towels just happened to be a big one for us. With 5 kids and boarding a ton of different dogs, there are always messes to clean up.

While it may not seem that paper towels cost a lot of money, what they do cost can actually really add up. If we go with a 10 year projection, it’s easier to see the real savings by switching from disposable products.

Our family goes through about 1 roll of paper towels per week. If we purchase a package of 8 rolls for $17, that package will last us approximately 8 weeks, or 2 months. Which means, that for a year’s supply of paper towels we will be spending about $110.50, before tax. So, over 10 years, we would spend $1105 on paper towels. That’s a heck of a lot on just this one disposable product!

However, we decided to toss out the paper towels and go with a reusable, washable version of paper towel instead. The product we chose is Lola Wowables 30 count roll for $19.99. They come in 4 different colors: yellow, teal, purple and coral. We chose teal because that color matches our kitchen best. The website offers free shipping on orders of $40 or more, so we chose to purchase 2 rolls to save us the shipping cost.

Overall Savings

Since these reusable paper towels are washable and biodegradable, they last for a really LONG time! In fact, based on the aforementioned usage, one roll should last us a total of 2 years. Which means that by buying the 2 rolls at once, we should have 4 years worth of paper towels on hand. And we paid a total of $40 plus tax for that!

So, over a 10 year period of time, we should only have to spend a total of $100 on these fabulously bright and absorbent reusable paper towels versus the $1105 we would have spent on disposable products. That’s a huge savings in just this one category alone!

water bottles

Our family strives to drink more than the recommended 64 ounces of water per day. Which means that we all end up needing water bottles because we aren’t always at home. And with a family of 7, that could really add up if we were buying bottled water all the time.

In order to just get the 64 ounces per day, each of us would have to drink 4 bottles of water per day. This is based on the standard 16.9 ounce prepackaged water bottle size you find in stores. Which means we would go through 28 bottles of water per day, on average. We can get a 24 pack of water bottles for around $3.50. But, one package wouldn’t even be enough for one day of water for us, since we have 7 people in our family.

Therefore, in order to get enough water bottles for a year, we would need to purchase 426 cases of water (24 bottles in each case). This would total up to $1491 plus tax just in water bottles for 1 year, or $14,910 over 10 years That is a TON of money!

But, by switching to reusable metal water bottles, we have saved a ridiculous amount of money just in the first year alone. We found these really awesome, larger and more versatile reusable metal water bottles instead. The Extremus Deluge SS Wide Mouth water bottle usually sells for $20.99 per bottle and comes in 6 different colors. We were actually able to get them for a discounted rate since Amazon had them on sale for $16.79 when we found them, so we have saved even more. And, they come with 2 different handles, a carabiner and a smaller lid that screws off only at the mouth hole, which we really liked.

Overall Savings

These water bottles should easily last for 10 years, barring any child accidents. So, with that in mind, we have spent a total of $146.93 plus tax for all 7 bottles. So, if they last the full 10 years, this means we will have save a total of $14,763.07. Now, that is a not only a HUGE savings, but it also has a giant impact on the environment. Reusable water bottles for the win!

switching from disposable products summary

Overall, there are a lot of ways you can choose to go about this. But, ultimately, the more open minded you can be about getting rid of disposable products, the more money you can potentially save. Our biggest savings come from the paper towels and water bottles category, personally. But that doesn’t mean you can’t save in every category. No matter what, the more disposable products you get rid of, the greener you are and the more you can save.

What are some of the disposable products you’ve tossed to ultimately save more money and go green?

Some of My Favorite Shopping Apps This Holiday Season

The holidays are upon us once again. And with only a few shopping days left, we have to make the most of it. But, with holiday shopping can sometimes come holiday debt. That is the last thing any of us want. Therefore, I have found some great shopping apps that can help you save more money. Plus, they can be used all year long for any shopping possible to save even more. This is what I call a shopping win!

 IBOTTA

Ibotta has been one of my favorite shopping apps for quite awhile now. With Ibotta, you can either shop in person or online. If you choose to shop online, you have to shop directly within the Ibotta app in order to get the rebate. If you shop in person, you have to upload an image of your receipt in the app to get the rebate.

A lot of the rebates go across multiple stores, which makes shopping even easier. However, I usually look up the store I am planning to shop at first to see what Ibotta rebates are being currently offered first. Then, if I find items that I am thinking about buying, I will see which other stores they might be offered at within Ibotta. Once you find items you plan to purchase, then click the plus sign to add them to your list before you can earn the rebate.

Once you go through all of the steps, your rebate will show up in your Ibotta account fairly quickly. Sometimes I have seen mine as quickly as 5 minutes later. But more often than not, I see the rebate the next day. Some stores are now automatically connected to your shopping rewards number with that store. And in those cases, the rebates will be automatically added to your account within 24 hours. I like this even more because I don’t have to scan anything. Just remember to use your store shopping rewards information when you check out in store so that you can get the Ibotta rewards.

Cash Out Ibotta Rewards

But that’s not the only way to earn money with Ibotta. They have regular rewards categories and group participation bonuses to help you earn more faster. Click under the “Earn More” tab to find other ways to add more money to your account. Some of the ways to earn more include:

  • refer a friend
  • working with your team to hit the monthly bonus amount
  • purchasing a specific featured product
  • purchasing a specific group of products

Once your Ibotta account reaches $20, you can cash it out. PayPal is the primary way to redeem your Ibotta rewards, but they also offer some gift card options too. In fact, I just recently cashed out my Ibotta rewards balance for an Amazon gift card. And then I used that gift card to buy Christmas presents for the family. Now that’s a win!

RAKUTEN EBATES

Another one of my favorite apps/extensions is Rakuten. I have this on both my computer as an extension and on my phone as an app. If you put it on your computer, then it runs in the background anytime you are shopping on a website. It will pop up and tell you if there are any current rebate offers for that seller. Which, during the holiday season, are much higher than normal, so take advantage!

If there is a current rebate with Rakuten, then just click on the “Activate % Cash Back” button at the top right-hand side of your screen. Once you’ve completed that, you are on your way to getting cash back rebates.

If you choose to use the app on your phone, you have to launch your shopping trip directly from the app, just like Ibotta. Once you purchase something that qualifies for a rebate, you’ll get an email with the store and the amount you will receive. That amount will be deposited into your Rakuten account within a couple of days, usually.

Their cash out method is slightly different than Ibotta, though. They send a “Big Fat Check” every quarter for whatever you happen to have in your account. It can be sent as a physical check or you can connect your bank account for them to direct deposit it to. I prefer the latter method, personally.

Honey

Honey is another app/extension that I have been using for years now. This one is very similar to both Ibotta and Rakuten. Except that it helps to find coupon codes online and then apply them to your checkout order to save you money.

Any time you shop online, Honey will pop up on merchant pages that they work with to tell you how many coupon codes they have. When you are ready to check out, just click on the pop up and it will run through all of the coupon codes to see which one gets you the biggest discount, if any. Then it will automatically apply it. This can potentially save a lot of time scouring the internet for coupon codes. And I know it has helped me save a lot of money that I otherwise might not have.

On top of saving you money on your purchases, you could also qualify to earn Honey Gold. The gold points accumulate in your account until you reach a minimum of 1,000 coins and then you can cash them out for gift card rewards. It just doesn’t get any sweeter!

COUPONCABIN

CouponCabin is another hybrid app, like Honey. They not only have coupons for thousands of different websites, but they also offer rebates up to 10% off on some sites. Take, for example, right now they have a $100 bonus on any order over $100 purchased from Kohl’s. That can really help you ring in the savings this holiday season!

Plus, you get a $2 bonus cash back reward just for signing up. And if you add the app to your phone and shop within a certain amount of time, you get another $5 bonus. The payout methods are a little more diverse than some of the other options. With CouponCabin, you can cash out your balance to:

  • Amazon gift card (they give you an extra 10% back for using this method)
  • Check
  • Chase payments
  • Charitable donation
  • Direct deposit
  • PayPal

This gives you a lot more leeway with what you can do with your rewards.

BEST Holiday Shopping APPS SUMMARY

Ultimately, there isn’t much time left to get your holiday shopping done. But, by adding some, or all of these shopping apps to your arsenal, you are bound to save more money. Plus, you can even earn money for future purchases. Which is what I call a huge holiday win-win!

What are some of your favorite shopping apps?

How to Change Your Debt Mindset

When it comes to being in debt, we all have a lot of preconceived notions surrounding the situation. After all, nobody wants to be in debt. But, in today’s society, it is very common to start out adulthood in debt right out of the gate. And even if you get to a point where you are able to get out of debt, it can be so easy to slip right back into it. So, if you are currently in debt, there are some great ways to change your debt mindset to help you finally get out of debt. And hopefully stay out of debt, while you are at it.

How you got into debt in the first place

The first step to changing your debt mindset, is to take a very hard look at how you got there. After all, if you don’t know how you got there to begin with, you can easily fall right back into debt.

So, begin really taking a deep dive into your financial past. This includes not only how you have been spending money, but how those money habits and beliefs formed in the first place. Ultimately, our perception of money begins at very early ages and grows from there. So, if your parents didn’t have a great relationship with money, or they didn’t talk to you about it, then it stands to reason you developed a similar mindset.

Beginning with your money story and/or beliefs that have currently shaped your perception of money is what can really help you get to the crux of the issue. Once you have figured out where you came from, and why you believe what you believe, then you can begin to change.

Change takes time, for all of us. But, if you don’t want to repeat the same harmful patterns, change must occur.

What’s your why?

In order for that change to not only occur, but be a permanent change, you have to have a strong why. What this means is that you need to have a very good reason why you want this change to occur. Living in the same damaging cycle over and over again can be very exhausting. It can wear you down and cause all sorts of mental breakdowns. Some of the most common include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Insecurity
  • Anger

In order to break these cycles, a strong why is necessary. Having a strong why is not only important to break harmful financial cycles, but it can be seen a lot when people want to change their health for the better. Many people say they want to live stronger, healthier and skinnier, but when it comes down to actually doing the work, they fall short. This is because they haven’t determined their why yet.

So, determine your why to begin really reshaping how you think about money and finances. Some great reasons “why” people might want to change their debt mindset are:

  • Don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck anymore
  • Want to be able to travel
  • Dreams of retiring early
  • Want to change careers
  • Aspirations of a better living situation
  • Want to be able to go through day to day life without the constant stress of money

Even if none of the aforementioned speak to you, it’s important to find your driving factor in order to create the change. So, what is your why?

communicate openly

At this point, you have already determined how you got in the debt mess in the first place and your why to get out of it permanently. Which is awesome! However, this new mindset needs to be communicated openly with everyone in your world.

Whenever we change something foundational about ourselves or our lives, it has a tendency to throw those around us for a loop. A good example of this is when somebody who has smoked most of their life, suddenly decides to quit. This is already an extremely hard habit to break. But, if you don’t have the support of those around you, it can become exceptionally easy to fall back into old habits. Especially if anyone around you still continues to smoke.

The same can be said when people are trying to lose weight, work out more or just trying to change their eating lifestyle. Misery loves company and most people don’t want you to change because it’s familiar the way it is.

Therefore, you need to be comfortable and confident enough to communicate exactly what you are changing about your life and why you need their support to make it happen. If the ones you love can’t support you on this healthier financial journey, then that might be a bigger issue all in itself.

debt mindset summary

Overall, changing your money story and your debt mindset can be a difficult road to travel. In order to really be effective with changing your mindset and your money story, you have to start at the beginning. Dig deep into how you got where you are and why you believe what you believe about money and finances.

Then move onto your why. Why do you want to change your perception of money? What is the bigger picture you are trying to accomplish so that you can live a happier and more well balanced life?

And last, but not least, then you must communicate this information to your loved ones. Explain why you want to change your perception of money to get out of debt and what you want to gain out of it. Ask them to help you stay on track and motivate you.

Take this deep dive and begin the journey to make these changes. If you do, and are willing to put in the work, the rewards can be outstanding.

Have you ever considered changing your debt mindset to change your financial life? If so, how did you do it and what were the results?

How More Virtual Learning is Changing our Back to School Shopping

I don’t know about your school system, but ours is changing drastically this upcoming year. In fact, we still aren’t sure just how drastically yet. But we know there will be a lot more, or maybe all, virtual learning this year. And with this comes a shift in how we are approaching back to school shopping. We have narrowed down a few essential items for our kids to help them adjust, and hopefully thrive, in this new environment.

Computers

Whether we like it or not, the most expensive thing on the back to school list this year will be a computer. After all, kids can’t really engage in virtual learning if they don’t have a device to use.

The way I have always preferred to purchase items in this category is by buying refurbished. In fact, with the exception of one, all of our tablets and laptops are refurbished. And, we haven’t had any issues with any of them. In fact, the laptop I am writing this on was a refurbished purchase back in 2013 when I was entering Grad school. And it still runs like a champ!

I just prefer refurbished because they are so much cheaper than buying brand new tablets or laptops. And, if you purchase them from a reputable source, you really can’t go wrong. Plus, you can save tons of money!

And this especially holds true when our children are involved. They just don’t take care of the devices the way that we do. And with that being said, here are some of my favorite places to purchase refurbished computers and tablets:

No matter which device you go with, make sure to get a protective cover. This will help to keep them functional for much longer.

Wireless Headphones for Virtual learning

Wireless headphones are something that we realized rather quickly last year we were in dire need of. We just didn’t realize how much, until all of the kids started doing school work from home. It’s simply much too difficult for multiple people to be on calls or meetings when you don’t have wireless headphones.

We purchased a few different pairs of wireless headsets in the past few months. And they each have their pros and cons.

The Target dollar spot wireless headphones work great for our youngest child. She is a little harder on things, so we wanted to try the cheaper version first. They work great for connectivity and sound. But they are more cheaply made than the other two, so they may not last as long.

The iJoy wireless headphones were the next set of headphones purchased. This was for the youngest boy and was a step up from the cheaper headphones. The sound quality is a little bit better and you can tell that they aren’t as flimsy.

The iClever wireless headphones were purchased for the oldest girl. She is more responsible and wanted something with more bells and whistles. They have great sound quality, connect easily to all of her devices and even have light up LED lights. She loves them!

No matter which direction you go with the wireless headphones, there is a budget friendly option for all of us. And you don’t need all of the bells and whistles to get the job done. You just need something to make everyone’s life a bit easier when it comes to virtual learning.

Somewhere to sit

Once you have the tech taken care of, you have to tackle where your child is going to be doing their school work. And this is where good seating comes into play. If you don’t already have a separate place for them to do their school work already, then you’ll need to help create a space for them.

One of my favorite finds at a kids consignment sale is a smaller old school desk that fits our youngest child. She was so thrilled with it when we brought it home, and it cost next to nothing! So, if you don’t have something for your child yet, checking out a kids consignment sale may be a great way to go. If, there are any happening in your area, of course.

However, if that isn’t an option, there are a couple other cheaper options than buying a new desk. Both  bean bag chairs and bungee chairs can be easily purchased new for under $50. And, what’s even better about both of these options is that they can be folded up for easier storage. .

If you have more than one child, and want to get a combination of all 3, then that can create a more diverse learning environment also. Plus, you can use the bean bag chair and bungee chairs too!

Lounge Wear

We aren’t really in the market for the newest styles in back to school clothes this year. But that doesn’t mean we should toss the whole category out. In fact, since so many of us are working from home now, our clothing styles have changed. So, we need to adjust our back to school shopping ideologies as well. This means an addition of more lounge wear this year.

Lounge wear can mean different things to different people. But, it really just means clothes you are really comfortable lounging around in. And with the increase in virtual learning, that is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Some of our kids favorite lounge wear options include:

No matter which type of lounge wear your child prefers, them being comfortable is the most important part. And you need to help remind them that they need to get dressed before they begin school. Even if they aren’t going to a physical school this year. Because just the act of changing into clothes for the day helps get their brain ready to learn and out of sleep mode.

BAck to school Virtual Learning Summary

No matter how you look at it, this year school is going to be different. And we, as parents, need to do all that we can to help our kids adjust to this new learning environment. This includes in the back to school shopping category also. Because that is a normal part of preparing for a new school year.

Since we don’t know how long this situation will last, it’s in our best interest to help our children adjust as much as possible. So, do what you can to make the virtual learning environment as effective, and comfortable, for them as possible.

Does your back to school shopping look any different this summer with more virtual learning happening this year?

Why a UTMA Account is an Awesome Way to Help Kids Save

When it comes to helping kids save money, there are just so many different options. Of course, you could go with the traditional savings account. However, those generally don’t keep up with the rate of inflation, so they will actually be losing money. There are also money market accounts and CD’s, which can be some other better options. And if your child has any earned wages, then you can open up a custodial Roth IRA for them. Roth IRA’s can earn the highest market returns of an average 8%. But, if they don’t have any earned income, you can’t use those types of accounts. This is where a UTMA account comes into play instead.

What is a utma account?

A UTMA account is a Uniform Transfers to Minors Act account. This is a custodial account that is for taxable investing. Which is slightly different than a Roth IRA account, in that anything your child withdraws from the account in the future will be taxed.

We opened all of UTMA accounts at Fidelity, since they are one of the few that have custodial accounts. Initially, we planned to open all of the Roth IRA’s and UTMA’s with Betterment, since that is where our Roth IRA’s are. But, we found out that they don’t support custodial accounts yet, so that wasn’t an option.

Since I had an old 401k with Fidelity, it just made the most sense to stick with them. Plus, their customer service is amazingly helpful. So, if you decide to open either a Roth IRA or a UTMA for your child, you can call them and they will walk you through the whole process.

HOw can it be funded?

UTMA accounts can be funded through any account you care to connect to it. They don’t have the restrictions that Roth IRA’s do when it comes to the funding or where it comes from. What this means is that you can attach any account with EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) capability to each UTMA. Most banks won’t open anything other than a savings account for younger children, which don’t have EFT functionality, though. So, if you have younger children, you will probably have to fund their UTMA accounts with your own checking account.

Initially, we found out that some of the kids had savings bonds purchased for them when they were first born. Instead of just letting them sit there earning very little interest, we decided to cash them out and put the money into their UTMA accounts instead.

However, you can put money into these accounts at any time for any reason. So it wouldn’t just have to be from old savings bonds.

We also found that some grandparents like to give money for birthdays and holidays. Or they send us a check to get their gifts and we don’t spend all of it. So we have started putting that “extra” money into their UTMA accounts also. This way it will really help the kids in the future because they don’t even realize the money is there. And, they aren’t just getting more toys for us to break our toes on. Bonus for us!

With that being said, here are some ways you can think about funding your children’s UTMA accounts:

  • Old savings bonds
  • Extra birthday money
  • Allowance money
  • Side hustle money (kid’s lemonade stand, yard work, etc.)
  • Money for good grades
  • Gifts (just because)

teaching about investing

One of my favorite things about these accounts, besides how easy they are to fund, is that it helps us teach them about investing. Even the youngest one, at the ripe old age of 8, has found this to be a lot of fun.

Once you put money into the UTMA account, it just sits there in a money market earning basically nothing until you choose your investments. The kids can invest in mutual funds, individual stocks or ETF’s.

Teaching them the difference between the three is just the beginning of the lesson. Once they grasp the different types of accounts, then I let them find companies they are interested in. I had to explain what publicly traded meant a few times, but once they got that concept, they were on a roll.

After they wrote down a list of everything they were interested in, then came the extra fun part for me. I like for the child to see how certain assets are performing before they decide whether to pull the trigger or not. There are many different places to look up ticker symbols to find out how they are performing.

Marketwatch is a good one to start with because it is very in depth. But, if you can’t remember where to go, you can always just type in the ticker symbol in the Google search box and the first thing it usually pulls up is how the stock is performing.

I like to make sure the kids see how an asset has been performing for the past 6 months, 1 year and 5 years. A lot of times this has changed their mind about purchasing a certain fund because they don’t like how it has been performing.

I answer all of their questions to the best of my ability, but I don’t want to choose for them. This is a huge learning experience for them while they are young, so I don’t want to push them one way or another. After all, if they lose money on their choices right now, it won’t really hurt them financially in the future. So this a great time to get their feet wet.

utma account summary

Overall, opening up a UTMA account for your child is a great way to help save for their future. While these accounts are a bit different than Roth IRA accounts, they operate fairly similarly with rate of returns. These accounts have the potential to net your children some great interest on money they aren’t spending while they are young. Which means they have the opportunity to create a decent sized nest egg before they leave your nest.

Plus, you get to teach them about investing and the stock market. Which is a great lesson to learn while they are young. I know I wish my parents would have taught me more about it when I was younger, because I would have been a much savvier investor in my early twenties. But, you can’t change the past, only the future. And that is exactly what we are trying to do with our children by opening up UTMA accounts for them now.

Have you heard of a UTMA account or opened one up? If so, what has been your experience with them so far?

How to Make Teaching Young Children About Finances FUN!

When you have young children, teaching them about money is a big part of our job as parents. And this is especially important when they are young because they learn so much more quickly when they are younger. And, they are more apt to listen to us and follow our actions because they look up to us greatly at this age. Not as much once they hit the teenage years! To the earlier you can start, the better.

But it’s not always easy, or fun. Especially when they are really young because the concepts can be much too difficult for them to grasp. However, I have found some great ways to make teaching young children about finances fun. And not just for them!

grocery list

One of the easiest financial lessons I found to begin with was grocery shopping. When my children were around the age of 2, they began helping me make a grocery list. I found the best way to approach this was to have them go through the pantry and refrigerator while I wrote down a list. They would  ell me what they thought we needed and we would discuss it. Because sometimes what they thought we needed was ice cream and cookies!

Whenever we went to the store I would have them help me decide which items to buy. I started out simply by comparing the same item but different brands. That way it was easier for them to see the cost difference between the two products.

Example: If Brand A can of beans costs $.89 and Brand B can of beans costs $.99, which one is the better deal.

This math is usually simple enough for them to grasp when they are much younger. As they got a bit older, I would increase the complexity of the math needed. In that, I would then compare similar products that had different quantities also. This can be pretty confusing for them initially. But once they understand it, it’s a really fun game for them to find the best deal.

allowance budget

Every member of the family should be pitching in to help. So, chores and allowance are another great way to approach teaching young children about finances. However, with the allowance comes some strings. Besides not getting paid if they don’t do their age appropriate chores, they also have to create a budget for it.

One of the most common ways to create an allowance budget is to split it up into the following 3 categories:

  • Donations
  • Saving
  • Spending

Of course, you can discuss this with your children because they may have other categories in mind. But these 3 categories are usually the most simplistic to begin with.

Once you have the allowance budget categories defined, then it’s a good time to open the discussion with your child regarding how much should go in each category. Percentages are easier for us as adults, but may not be as easy for your young child to grasp.

Therefore, if may be best to start with a specific dollar amount in each category.

Here is a good example of both options for a simple $10 allowance since this number can be easier for them to understand from a percentage perspective.

  • $10 = $2 for Donations, $4 for Saving, $4 for Spending
  • $10 = 20% for Donations, 40% for Saving, 40% for Spending

Ultimately, how this is broken down is completely up to you and your child. The main point is that they begin to learn the basics of budgeting their income. So that it will be much easier for them as adults when they have to do it for themselves.

sell their old stuff

As most of us know, with children comes a lot of extra stuff. And as they grow, they outgrow that “stuff” fairly rapidly. Most of the time, the majority of it is also barely used. So, this is another great area to weave financial lessons in for your young child.

When it’s time to declutter the house, have your child go through their stuff to sell also.

The first thing to go through with them is which items they might be able to sell. And then you should have them help you figure out how much they think they can sell the items for.

A lot of times I prefer to sell my kids outgrown stuff online. But, having a yard sale is another great way to approach this lesson since your child will have to be physically present for it.

This lesson helps to teach them the value of their stuff and the value of a dollar. So, it’s really a two-fold lesson that is extremely important for them to grasp now.

Plus, it’s a great place to add on a third lesson while you are at it. Let them keep the money they make on their stuff and put it into a high yield savings account. That way they can watch it grow each month and you can help them learn about compound interest. Now, I call this a big win!

Birthday Budget

And last but not least, the birthday budget. I think my kids always think that money grows on trees. Which is extra funny because we actually have a money tree, but it doesn’t grow money!

With that being said, their birthday wish lists always start out much further outside the budget than they think. So, it’s a good time to bring them back down to earth and have them help with a more realistic birthday list.

First, let them know what the budget is for their birthday. The best way I have found to do this is to tell them that they need to find some gifts that are under $20 and they can find one or two that are closer to $40 – $50 also.

This way, the majority of the birthday gifts they want fall into most people’s budget. And the couple of larger gifts could be from us or a joint gift. But, I also let them know that they will never get everything on their list. That way I help to set up their expectations and keep a bit of the birthday surprise going.

Teaching young children about finances

Overall, there are a lot of great ways you can begin teaching young children about finances and it still be fun. My favorite ways include:

  • Having them help make the grocery list and compare food prices
  • Make an allowance budget
  • Selling their old stuff and putting the money into a high-yield savings account
  • Creating a reasonable birthday budget

If you can start with these easy lessons, then you are well on your way to increasing your child’s financial knowledge. And the earlier you can start, the better. So, have fun with it and get started today!

What are some of the best ways you have found to teach your young children about finances and still make it fun?