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No Spending Month – 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

I have a 30 day dare with myself and my family not to have any extra expenses. This is our “no spending month” and I’d love for you to join me on this challenge. Read about my “why” and how I plan on implementing these no spending rules, without undue stress or resistance from my kids!

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

The Start of my No Spending Month

It was January 2nd and I needed to make a Target run for more whole wheat flour and canned tomatoes. I had no reason to walk through the Dollar Spot area but I did, you know, just to see what was there (I know you feel me on that, right?)

Into my cart went stickers ($1 – for the students I teach at the rec center), Valentines ($3 – for my preschooler) and a Day planner ($3 – for my husband, who’d mentioned wanting one). Then I remembered that the dish soap had run out so I grabbed a refill bottle ($3.99).

Almost eleven dollars spent. Sure, that’s not much but  in hindsight, it wasn’t anything I needed to buy. I already have stickers I could use for my students, I didn’t need to buy more but they were cute and “cheap”. Valentines Day is still a bit of time away and I actually could probably print them myself at home. The dish soap wasn’t really needed. I have multi-purpose soap concentrate that we bought in bulk that can be used as dish soap. And my husband said he didn’t really need the paper day planner after all, he’s going to use a free app on his phone.

If I took a more serious look at my budget I just know that there are more ways I could be cutting back; I know there are extra expenses I’m making that don’t really need to be made! I’ve decided to make January my “No Spending Month” and intend to go at least 30 days without extra expenses.

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

What are “Extra Expenses”?

Extra expenses mean different things to different people. Perhaps for you it’s skipping the coffee shop and making your morning brew at home. Maybe it’s brown bagging lunch to work or not buying any clothes for the month. Or eschewing entertainment costs for at-home family fun.

For us, eliminating extra expenses means-

  • Not eating out
  • No frivolous food purchases, including chips/crackers, dessert items and alcohol
  • Nothing that we don’t imperatively need or require to run our family or home.

What are your “No Extra Expenses” rules? Write them down to make them real and do your best to stick to it for at least 30 days.

Discuss it as a Family

Everyone will need to be on board to accomplish getting through 30 days without extra expenses. Talk about your plan with the kids so they’ll know what to expect. If they’re used to spending money out on the weekends or dinner in a restaurant a few times a week, they’ll need to see and hear why you’re making changes in the usual routine.

However saving money doesn’t have to be a downer and here’s a story to reiterate that. Once in a while I take my preschooler out to lunch, just the two of us as a special treat. Those “special treats” are usually only twice a month but with the average cost around $15 a visit, that’s $30 I could be saving! Today when I picked him up, he asked if we could go to lunch in a restaurant and I had to tell him no, that we aren’t doing extra spending this month.

However I want to make saving money a positive thing for thing, so I told him we could still do something special. When we got home, we made pizza together for lunch. It cost me about $1.50 in groceries (that I already had at home) and it was still a special treat for just the two of us!

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

Why are Your Doing it?

In essence, why are you making this change to eliminate extra expenses? Your reason might be different from your spouses, and even your children.

  • Do you feel like you’re overspending?
  • Do you have too much unnecessary stuff in the house?
  • Are you an impulse buyer and need to rein it in?
  • Do you want to save up extra money for something specific?

Consider the Cut-Back First

If your family is accustomed to movies, date nights, dinners and shopping every weekend and you’re planning a nix to all of it, a drastic change in the usual plans may be a shock to them! Perhaps consider a cut back for 30 days first before completely cutting things out. If you’re used to eating lunch out every day, cut back and only indulge in one or two lunches out and pack your lunch for the other days. If you always purchase concessions at the movies, still go see a film but have a snack at home first. When you’re ready to cut back further, skip movies in the theater and watch them only when they come out on DVD.

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

Fun Stuff Already in the Plans

What is you already have something planned during the 30 days? Use good judgement and don’t outright cancel your fun plans. If you’re going to a birthday party it would be okay to purchase a gift rather than showing up empty handed.

What About Entertainment?

We’ve slowly eliminated most costly entertainment over the years so it won’t be much of an affect for my kids during the 30 days of no extra expenses. We eat at home before we go somewhere or pack a lunch and snacks to take with us so we aren’t tempted to eat out when hunger strikes. We choose free things around town to do, usually something that gets us up and moving. We’ll take the soccer or basketball to the park or we’ll set out on foot to explore a trail. We can usually find a family movie on Netflix or we pull out one of our tried-and-true DVDs to watch in the evening.

What Will We Do With the Extra Money?

As usual, I’m “Saving Up for Disney”! Hoping to be able to take my kids to a conference at Walt Disney World this year and airfare is over-the-top expensive for all of us. $11 here and there really can add up! My goal is to save $200 a month for the next 4 months to get the airfare costs covered.

What will YOU do with the extra money you’ll save from this challenge? Share with me in the comments!

 

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? – Free Printable Checklist!

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost Me?

Planning a Disneyland vacation is more than just deciding between visiting Tomorrowland or Adventureland first. You need to find out how much a Disneyland vacation is going to cost! You need to figure out budget-wise if you’ll be able to afford the vacation of your dreams. If planned and budgeted right, I believe that most anyone can take a Disneyland vacation without going into crazy debt. There are a few factors, including planning ahead and estimating the cost before you make the reservations!

Do the Research

With the internet at your fingertips, it’s easy to do pre-vacation research to get a rough idea on costs. I’ve included the list of things that you’ll need to consider when travel planning and you can jot down the estimates as you do your research. Pin and print the free checklist of items for you to price out and research (keep reading for the link).

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

What’s Your Travel Style?

We all have a travel style. Is yours more on the frugal side (cheapest hotel, packing in all meals & snacks) or do you prefer to splurge on vacation (4-star hotel, special dining packages and tours). Or perhaps it’s a little of both (splurge on Character dining but pack in all snacks or cheapest hotel and extra Park day tickets). Check out this article on various ways you can Pinch Pennies or Break the Bank on your Disneyland vacation.

Paying Upfront or Using Credit?

If you plan on paying for your vacation in cash, take a close look at your budget and estimate where you can cut back in small ways to save. Once you know roughly how much you’ll be spending on the trip you can plot out the date of your vacation and figure out how much you’ll need to save each month to meet your goal. Figure out about how long it would take you to save your amount. Or work backwards and start with an approximate trip date and then figure out how much you’ll need to save each month to meet your goal.

Did you know that Disney offers a Disney Vacation Account program? This earmarks vacation money that you deposit into this special account and gives you a bonus amount towards your trip.

If you plan on using your credit card, certainly consider using a card that offers rewards. The Disney Visa is a good option or Southwest, if you’re needing airline miles. Just pay close attention to interest rates and work that amount into your budget if you aren’t going to pay off the debt right away.

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Vehicle has a full tank of gas and we’re on our way!

Travel Expenses

How are you going to get there? For us, Disneyland is just a 90-minute drive away, so gasoline is really our only expense. If you’re coming from farther away, the travel expenses are often the most costly part of your vacation. If you’re flying in, check out this article about flying to Disneyland from fellow blogger Leslie from Trips with Tykes. If a long drive is part of your travel plans, check out this post with Kid-Friendly Road Trip Tips for Driving to Disney.

Travel Expenses to Consider:

  • Shuttle cost to get your family to the airport
  • Airfare
  • Airline Baggage fees
  • Transportation to the hotel
  • Rental car
  • Gasoline
  • Overnight hotel stay if you are driving long distance, plus the cost of meals and kid’s entertainment for the drive

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Hotel

The great debate, will you stay on-site or off-site? Lots of consider here, including amenities, luxury or budget, proximity to the Parks and overall cost. I have reviews on all three Disneyland on-site hotels as well as a post from Traveling Mom with my 18 Valuable Reasons to Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel. For us, we love the close proximity, Magic Morning Hours and the amazing Disney pools.

On the flip-side, because the Disneyland Resort is in the center of the city, it’s very easy to find a reasonably priced and well-appointed hotel within walking distance of the Parks. We recently enjoyed our stay off-site at the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel, which offers a free shuttle transport to the Parks.

If you choose a hotel that is not within walking distance, check out this article with brief coverage about transportation at the Disneyland Resort.

Hotel Options to Consider:

  • Cost per night
  • Location – Is it within walking distance or will you need to drive to the Parks each day?
  • Is complimentary breakfast available?
  • Parking or “resort” fees
  • Sales tax
  • Is there transportation available to the parks? Is it complimentary or is there a fee?

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Park Tickets

When pricing out tickets, know that the cost per day is lower the longer your stay. Park Savers offers discounted tickets that you can purchase ahead of your trip to save time (affiliate link). If you purchase 5-day Park Hopper passes from Park Savers, the cost is for a 4-day pass so you receive the fifth day for free!

Ticket Options to Consider:

  • Number of days
  • Number of tickets (kids 2 and under are free)
  • Would it be cheaper to purchase an Annual Pass?
  • Parking fees at the parks
  • Park Hopper or not?

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Meals & Dining

Placing Advance Dining Reservations at Disneyland is generally unnecessary so you can usually eat on a whim throughout the day. Though platters are pricey, they are also usually large so consider sharing meals (see this post about which meals are the best to share). Naturally the special dining packages and Character dining locations are going to be on the costly end but you also receive a fun plus with your meal. You can also bring in snacks with you if you prefer and that will help with costs. You can also request free ice water at any quick service restaurant to avoid having to buy drinks.

There are many establishments (from sit-down dining to fast food) in the walk able area just outside the Park gates if you want to leave for food. Think about how many meals you’ll be eating in the Park, if you’ll be leaving the Park to eat, if you’re going to do full-service or quick service and if you’ll be buying beverages throughout the day.

Dining Options to Consider:

  • Breakfast (eat at hotel or in the Park?)
  • Number of meals eaten in the Park
  • Number of meals purchased outside the Park
  • Snacks purchased in the Park
  • Snacks pre-bought and brought into the Park
  • Character dining meals
  • Beverages
  • Dining packages

Special Events

Throughout the year, Disneyland offers special events and tours as an “add-on” to your Park ticket. This might include Mickey’s Halloween Party (which includes an abbreviated day Park admission). There are also dozens of special tours, some that are offered year-round and others seasonally. Check the Disneyland website to verify cost and availability of these tours as they are required to be reserved ahead of your trip.

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Pandora charms are my favorite souvenir

Souvenirs

Naturally, you’ll want something special to take home as a memento of your magical vacation. Work the cost of souvenirs into your budget to help resist overspending. Consider purchasing Disney gift cards up front for family members so that only a specified amount is spent per person on souvenirs. You’ll also need to decide if you want to pre-purchase the Disney PhotoPass or snap photos on your own camera.

  • Souvenier budget
  • Disney PhotoPass

Free Printable Research Checklist

Pin and print this FREE PRINTABLE CHECKLIST to help you plan your magical vacation!

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

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8 Budget-Friendly Ways to Make it Through the Holidays

8 Budget Friendly Ways to make it through the Holidays -Helpful Tips!

With autumn here and winter fast approaching, we move into the festive “holiday season”! For some though, this time of year is also wallet-draining, stress-inducing and all-around nerve-wracking!

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are some tips to make it though the holidays with your budget (and nerves) still intact.


Budget friendly ideas to make it through the holidays

HAVE A PLAN

Before the holidays even begin, sit down and outline your thoughts and expectations for each upcoming event. Let your thoughts run free and jot them down; having a calender with you may help. It’s not set in stone but it’s at least a rough outline of what the next few months may hold.

Questions you might ask yourself:

  • What parties will you be attending?
  • What parties will you be hosting?
  • Are you making or buying costumes and/or gifts for the family this year?
  • Are you going to be traveling?
  • What school events are coming up that will require money?
  • Are there special outfits that you’ll need to buy for upcoming events/pictures?
  • What are your New Year’s Eve plans?

Budget friendly ideas to make it through the holidays

DEVELOP A HOLIDAY BUDGET

Break down the holidays and roughly plan out how much you’ll be spending on each event. After all, the extra holiday expenses have to come from somewhere…and you should not be running up your credit cards or spending money you don’t have!

  • How much will you be spending on Halloween costumes and candy?
  • Is your biggest Thanksgiving expense in preparing the big meal or in travel costs?
  • In regards to Christmas or Hanukkah gifts, come up with an amount that you plan to spend on each person. Keep track and stick with it!

Spend where it most makes sense to you and your family and shift around your budget as needed. It’s easy to get carried away with the holiday spirit and overspend. This is one time of the year where you may need to put a hold on your credit card use to resist overspending and use cash only instead.


Budget friendly ideas to make it through the holidays

MAKE YOUR LISTS

About six months before Christmas, I start taking notes for gift ideas. I keep a spreadsheet of past gifts and take note of what was a “success” and what was a “flop”. I use that history to make my gift list for the year. I write down what I have for ideas (private Pinterest boards are good for this too) and then mark what I’ve actually purchased. This is also where I note the price so I’m keeping within my budget.

  • If you are hosting a party or a big dinner, make a list of the foods you’ll be preparing including all the ingredients. Work those costs into your holiday budget.
  • Make a gift list for each family and friend you plan on purchasing for. Keep that list updated as you buy so you avoid overspending.

Keep track of what you are buying. It’s very easy to overbuy if you are shopping early and stashing the gifts away. My mom was notorious for finding a gift she’d misplaced and giving it to us in March!


Budget friendly ideas to make it through the holidays

TRIM YOUR LISTS

Now’s the time to review your list and pare it down. Even if you feel like you’re already being frugal, see where you can cut back.  Do you feel that you overbuy when it comes to your kids or are the things you buy even getting used or played with? Gifts should be thoughtful and not just “filler” under the tree.

  • Can’t afford to hand out candy this year? Do like we do and take the kids out trick-or-treating throughout the neighborhoods so you aren’t home to answer your door.
  • For the big Thanksgiving meal don’t take it upon yourself to provide the entire spread. Contact your guests at least a few weeks in advance to request they bring a dish large enough to share.
  • Think before you purchase Christmas gifts. Is that stocking stuffer going to end up at the bottom of the toy box by December 26th? Are the things on your list meaningful and purposeful for the recipient? If not, take them off the list.
  • Instead of buying a gift for every single person in the office bring in a special treat on December 1st to kick off the Christmas season instead.

Budget friendly ideas to make it through the holidays

STOCK UP & USE COUPONS

In November you’ll start to see the fronts of the grocery stores stocked with “holiday essentials” like pumpkin pie filling, canned cranberries, stuffing mix, etc. And the mailers will come pouring in with coupons for those exact same items as well. Now’s your chance to stock up and save! If you know you’ll be using these items before the end of the year then by all means, buy them at the best price you can.

This is also the perfect time to pick up a few extra items to donate to your local food pantry or soup kitchen.


PICK AND CHOOSE

The invitations are rolling in and it’s not uncommon to have every single weekend from Thanksgiving to Christmas booked with holiday events.  Choose your favorite events and respectfully decline the others. You certainly don’t have to feel obligated to attend them all, especially if there is an expense tied to each event.

Budget friendly ideas to make it through the holidays

TAKE THE FOCUS OFF “STUFF”

If your holidays are more stress-inducing than joyous and you can’t for the life of you even remember what you bought your kids for Christmas last year, it might be time to get back to the basics of the holidays and take the focus off the stuff.

Meditate on what each holiday means to you and your family and make that “thing” your seasonal motto. Creating traditions and memories are the heart of a holiday!

  • I know a family that doesn’t celebrate Halloween but instead uses that day to take their family on a local hike through their mountains. It’s their family tradition and something they all look forward to each October 31st.
  • If it’s most important to you that your family be together on Thanksgiving Day then it really won’t matter if your table settings coordinate.
  • Capture the meaning of the season and ask your family what their favorite part of the Christmas season is. I asked my kids what their favorite part of the holidays is and the answers were surprising. My daughter said, “Going to church” and my son said “All the good food”. Neither of them said “presents”. For me, I love lighting a fire and curling up in a blanket to talk with my family. Only the Christmas tree is lit and there is a magical feeling in the air. To me, that is the epitome of the holidays. Find your holiday “sweet spot” and make sure to hit it each year!

Budget friendly ideas to make it through the holidays

DIY (OR BUY HANDCRAFTED)

Is there something on the list that you could make yourself? Or at the very least that you could purchase from someone else who made it by hand? Consider supporting small businesses (like those on Etsy), rather than padding pockets of big box stores.

Ideas for handcrafted items –

  • Make or buy handcrafted Halloween costumes or accessories.
  • Consider sewing up your own table runner and coordinating cloth napkins for a special Thanksgiving table setting.
  • Make or buy handmade coordinating pajama pants for the kids to wear on Christmas morning. Hair bows are perfect to stuff in a stocking. Unique handcrafted jewelry is plentiful on Etsy. Appliqued tees are so cute for the kids to wear for holiday parties. Bake your favorite brownies or give a jar of your favorite salad dressing…I promise you, everyone loves a handmade gift!

holiday3

GET CREATIVE

Budget extremely tight? Reverting to going the creative route instead of store-bought can be more meaningful all around.

  • No money for Halloween costumes? Simply put an outfit together with items you already own. One of my favorite Halloween costumes was as a gypsy with a long patchwork skirt and layers of my grandmother’s costume jewelry.
  • Bring the outside in for Thanksgiving by decorating with leaves and pine cones instead of store-bought decor.
  • Consider a thoughtful Christmas card with a “coupon” for your services. Perhaps you have a friend who loves your homemade tamales; You could offer an afternoon of cooking classes where you teach her how to make them! Kids in particular love the coupon book idea so this would be a great stocking stuffer for them! Give coupons for a family movie night in the living room, one night of their choosing to stay up 30 minutes later than bedtime, a “spa” day complete with at-home pedicures or even just an extra storybook on a night of their choosing.
  • Skip the grand ballroom on New Year’s Eve and get comfy in your pajamas at home. We love to have an appetizer-only dinner and snack on all the homemade treats that our friends gave us at Christmas. We stay up late and play Scrabble. For little ones you could ring in the New Year of a different time zone and send them off to bed.

With a little preparation, all wallet-hardship and stress-inducing thoughts should be minimized. Here’s to having Happy Holidays!

What ideas do you have for preparing for the holidays? Share them in the comments.

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Budgeting Steps to Savings -Buying the Best You Can Afford…Without Going Broke

Cheap stuff is cheap for a reason.

For me, I’d much rather buy a higher quality item than something made cheaply. I use the word “cheap” as something that is inexpensive and also of lesser quality. I know there are many out there who would prefer to buy the same cheap items each year so they can have something “new”. They buy a brand new coat each winter, new bedding for everyone in the family, and new backpacks for back-to-school. But I like to have the quality item up-front and not waste money, time and energy replacing it every year. Not to mention the waste of throwing out a broken item that can’t be repaired because it wasn’t made well in the first place.

How to buy the best that you can afford...without going broke!

In the long run, it’s more savvy (and more economical) to put your money into something that will last you longer than just the year and will need to be replaced. Yes, high-quality items usually do come with a higher price tag as well. Naturally when better materials are being used the price is going to be higher. But high-end items do go on sale. Pay attention to trends and know when to buy. Get on the mailing list of your favorite stores that sell high-quality products and shop smart – Take advantage of sales, use coupons and the store credit card if they offer one to get the best price.

Heed this…just because something is expensive does not mean that it’s high-quality! Do your research on what brands are actually high-quality. Read reviews online. Go to the store and physically examine them.  Is the plastic on that toy too flimsy to hold up to multiple play sessions? Are the seams on that sweater sewn sturdily and finished off or will they unravel upon the first wearing? Are the online reviews on that dishwasher bad enough to make you consider handwashing instead?

Know your product before plunking down your hard-earned money. This is all about buying the best of what you can afford. It is not about living outside your means or going into debt. If you can’t afford the item that you really want to get, consider waiting and saving up for it and not just settling for the cheap alternative. You can afford the best if you are willing to wait for it.


Divide to conquer

Divide the cost of the item by how many times you expect to use it. My littlest son alternates between two pairs of shoes. Rather than purchase him 10 pairs of cheap shoes that wear out quickly or are made so poorly that they hurt his feet, I choose to buy him only two pairs of high-quality shoes. Yes, these shoes (I buy Pedipeds) may cost $35-50 each but I know that I’m getting my money’s worth because he wears them every other day. After six months my son has probably outgrown his shoes but they are so nicely made that I’ve been able to hand them down to another child because they are still in great condition!

Pediped shoes


Construction

My friend and I were just discussing the paper-thin tees that are now sold in every store; The fabric is so bad these shirts develop holes after just a few wearings! Cheap construction also often means loose seams and poor shaping. These are clothes that are so cheaply made they are literally falling apart as you wear them!  Did you know that clothing is often starched to hold the shape on the store hangers? Once the piece is washed at home, the collars go wonky and the seams pucker.

Buy well-made and high-quality classics that will last more than just a year. Take a look at your closet and see what pieces you wear the most each season and replace the cheap items with a higher quality item one at a time as you can afford it. Think about classic pieces that don’t go out of style like black slacks, coat, boots, denim skirt, wrap dress in a solid color, cardigan sweaters, etc.


Take care

If you owned a high-quality handbag, would you even think of setting it down on the floor in a public place or would you make sure it was kept clean and off the ground? What about a brand new BMW? You probably wouldn’t be eating drive-through fast food tacos inside your fancy car! Make a point of taking proper care of what you have and eliminate the necessity of having to replace it. If you buy something high-quality, even if it gets dirty or needs fixing, the parts and fabric are going to be able to hold up to repair and cleaning so much better than inferior items.

Clean items regularly and do proper maintenance. Resole boots instead of purchasing new. Have winter items dry cleaned before storing away for the next season. Keep your jewelry and watches in the original boxes or in a divided jewelry organizer so they don’t get tangled or broken. Take care of your stuff and it will be there for you when you need it.

Armitron watch


Buy Less often

Assess your need before you buy. Having new things is fun but not always necessary. I’ve addressed this before in my post Learning to Live Without.  If you don’t need anything specific then simply avoid the stores (and ultimately, any binge buying). If you have two pairs of winter pajamas and rotate them when you launder, why would you need to buy another pair? And who really needs 30 pairs of white socks when you can probably get away with less than ten pairs if you do your laundry at least once a week. Keep it simple, pare things down and only buy when the need is great.


Spend more for every day use items

I knew someone who used to redecorate her bathroom twice a year: a new shower curtain, new rug, new towels, etc. Was it because she just wanted to freshen things up? No, it was because the items that she’d purchased six months earlier were already falling apart! The cheap plastic shower curtain was torn from the hooks, the edge of the rug lost its seam after one wash and the thin towels were faded and developing holes. If the cost of that “cheap” bathroom redo is $75 every year and the cost of higher quality bathroom accessories would be around $150, wouldn’t it make sense in the long run to buy higher quality items that will last at least 5 years instead of only six months? Look for items that will hold up to frequent cleaning (like a fabric shower curtain instead of plastic) or glass pieces instead of plastic.

Organized bathroom


It’s a guarantee

I’ve mentioned this before in my post Tips for Making Returns but it’s always better to purchase a higher priced item if you know it has a full replacement guarantee. Also check the warranty before you buy and this may sway you to a particular item knowing that it could be replaced if it breaks within a certain time frame.


Keep it around for a while

Think about the items that you plan to have for the next 10-20 years (your car, furniture, bedding, mattress and some large appliances). These should be considered investment items.

In the case of appliances, this is one area that I find that buying a high-quality item is going to pay off for you in the long-run. We burned out the motors of three cheap blenders in three years. We finally wised-up, did our research and bought a Ninja. Yes, it was $150 but we use it nearly every day and have never had an issue. Same goes for the vacuum. I bought my Kirby 15 years ago and have never even had to get it serviced while other family members have gone through several cheap vacuums along the same timeline.

For furniture, try to shop vintage or antique. These items were made to a higher quality standard back-in-the-day and feature real wood instead of laminate and dovetailed drawers instead of staples. Ask what the return policies are before you purchase large ticket items in case it doesn’t work out as you’d intended.

Handcrafted patio furniture


To last a lifetime

There are items that are intended to last a lifetime and you’ll probably only have to buy it one time ever. Would you replace your wedding ring after a year of wearing it because you simply wanted something new? No, because it’s a classic piece, something you bought intending to keep forever and not something to get bored with and replace on a whim. Same should go for many of your daily use kitchen items, including your silverware, dishes, stemware, knives and cookware. Apply this to your occasional use items like luggage as well.

Choose classic designs that won’t look dated in a few years. Look for brand names with high quality and don’t be afraid to spend more in this area since you’ll hopefully own them forever. It’s not boring to keep the same items especially if you purchase classic pieces in the first place. I don’t think I could ever tire of my beautiful Lenox Chirp design dinnerware! These items will become sentimental to you so choose something you really love and enjoy using every day.

Summer Pasta Salad recipe {www.savingupfordisney}

Do you have an example of something that you will only buy high-quality? Please share in the comments below!

Please read my other Steps to Savings articles to get your budget on the right track!

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Budgeting Tip – Don’t Want It? It’s Defective? Tips for Making Returns

Tips for making returns to the store {Saving Up for Disney}

If you got it home and changed your mind, don’t keep it or give it away…take it back to the store and get a refund! It’s broken or defective, even months after you bought it? Again, take it back and either get a replacement or a refund!

My husband has earned the title “King of Returns” for a reason. He knows the policies of the store before he buys so he knows his consumer rights to return or exchange if the item is broken, defective or just simply doesn’t work out.


Don’t want it, Don’t need it

  • Tried on a blouse at Kohl’s but wanted to see how it looked with a particular pair of pants at home. Bought the blouse, it didn’t work out so back to the store it went.
  • Ordered a pair of shoes online from 6pm.com but they were the wrong size. Used their return label to get the right size.
  • Tried a new color lipstick at Target. Oh boy, wrong color for me! Returned it for a full refund, no issues.
  • Purchased clothes from Lands’ End online (free shipping) and whatever didn’t fit, I was able to return directly to my local Sears store.

What do you have in your home that you bought and had second thoughts about once you got it home. You should have taken it back but you kept it instead? From now on, when you bring something home, retain all the packaging and tags for one week. If that blender just doesn’t mix as well as you’d expected, clean all the parts, box it back up and return it to the store. The more timely the return, the more likely the store will accept it back without issue.


Defective or damaged items

  • We had plants die within a week of buying them. My husband took them out of the ground and returned them to Home Depot for a full refund.
  • The hanging loop on my daughter’s backpack frayed and L.L. Bean replaced it for free (they no longer had the same style so we had to choose a new one, which was totally fine with her).
  • My new craft table from Costco had a sway in the middle and was off balance so my sewing machine was bouncing up and down when I ran it…back to the store went the table.
  • The knob on our Cuisinart Griddler melted after we’d had it for a year! I looked at the warranty info online and was told to return the item to any Cuisinart retailer for an exchange, which we easily did at Kohls.

If that t-shirt hem unravels the first time you wash it, take it back with the tags and let them know what happened. At the very least you’ll receive back a store credit and you won’t be stuck with something that didn’t hold up to the proper quality.


Know the Store’s Policy

Kohl’s return policy is legendary…return anything at any time for any reason. Home Depot, Target and CVS are easy as well. Read up on the store’s return policy (in particular before making large purchases) so you’ll know what your return window is and if there is a restocking fee.

My construction worker/electrician husband will only purchase tools from Home Depot or Sears because the return policies are so great that if a tool breaks or wears out, it can exchanged for a new one.


Keep receipts, sometimes.

Some stores will not accept returns at all without a receipt. Some will only give store credit without a receipt. Some stores limit their returns to within a certain timeline. If you are shopping at smaller shops or boutiques, keep your receipts. At bigger stores, they may have a record of your purchase so you may not need your receipt to return.


Handy Links:

Good Housekeeping –How to Shop Smart so You Can Return Almost Anything

Lifehacker – How to Return Nearly Anything Without a Receipt

10 Staycation Ideas for a Free Summer

Still squeezing out the last bit of summer?

I have a guest post on The Budget Diet with lots of fun kid-staycation ideas! Please stop over and check it out (click this link).

10 Staycation Ideas for a Free Summer

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Top Tips for Budgeting for Back to School

 

Dozens of money saving tips! Advice for Budgeting for Back to School

The stores have us in the mid-set that “back to school” means freshly sharpened pencils, crisp new clothes and brand new shoes. There must be a snazzy new backpack, bright new spiral bound notebooks and never-used crayons. All the kids in the ads look like there is no better place to be than at school, decked out head-in-toe in shiny new stuff!

Sure, new stuff might soften the landing a bit for kids who are reluctant and cranky about starting the new school year. But what if you don’t need anything new this year? What if the school stuff they were just using back in June is still fine and acceptable for September?

I think all kids love getting brand new stuff but it’s certainly not always necessary, especially if what they have is still in usable condition. Why waste money buying or replacing items that are truly good and usable just because it’s what you’ve “always done” or because the stores are having a sale!

Here are my top tips on how not to get sucked into the Back to School buying trap!

Top Tips for Budgeting for Back to School

Assess what you already have & what you truly need to replace

BACKPACKS & LUNCH BAGS

  • Inspect the current backpack. Are straps, zippers and hooks all in good working order? Sometimes all the backpack needs is a good washing! During the year, I have my kids completely clean out their backpacks every two weeks and we toss them into the laundry. Upkeep is important during the entire year to keep items in good working condition. If the backpack is truly broken or has an un-repairable rip or tear, then it’s time to toss and buy new.
  • Consider purchasing a quality backpack that will get your student through multiple years and has a guarantee. I bought my son’s backpack from L.L. Bean before he started 3rd grade and he’s starting 6th this year and his backpack still looks perfect! (And you have to know how rough boys are with their stuff!). My daughter also has a backpack from L.L. Bean and the hanging strap frayed towards the end of the year. I was able to exchange for a brand new one! Buy the best you can afford and don’t waste money buying something cheap that you’ll have to replace mid-year.
  • Lunch bags should be washed every week during the school year to keep them sanitary and in good condition. Treat stains right away to avoid them setting in. If the hook & loop closure, zipper or snaps are broken off and can’t be repaired or there is a funky smell that doesn’t dissipate with washing, it’s time to buy a new one. Consider making your own with cotton or oilcloth fabrics so you have a spare if one is left at school.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

  • Every page used up in the spiral notebook? Okay, time to buy a new one. Only half the pages used? Rip out the used pages and finish up with it before buying another.
  • Broken crayons or paper peeled off? Relegate them to the arts and crafts bin at home or toss them out. Gently used crayons that still work just fine? Keep ’em and there is no need to buy a new box. Same goes for pencils, pens, glue, glue sticks and erasers! If they are still in usable condition then just keep using them.
  • Folders with rips can be repaired and reinforced along the spine with a strip of colorful duct tape. Decorate the fronts with markers or washi tape.
  • Plastic pencil boxes often just need a cleaning (run it through the dishwasher after wiping it out). A good scrubbing with a Magic Eraser will bring it back to like-new condition. Colorful stickers decorating the top will make it “new to you”.

CLOTHES AND SHOES

  • Pants with blown-out knees beyond repair or that are now high-water length should either be tossed into the rag bin or delegated to donation. Tees and sweaters with unfixable holes, unsightly stains or that are too short at the waist or sleeves face the same fate. Socks that are too small, have holes or that are heavily stained make good cleaning rags. Underpants that are too tight or have stretched out elastic should be thrown out.
  • Based on what is still in the closet and drawers, assess the need for additional items at that point. Kids probably don’t need more than 7 of each daily wear item (one for each day of the week), so 7 long sleeved tees, 7 short sleeved, 7 pairs of pants, etc. We definitely have more shirts than this…I don’t particularly like to see my kids wearing the same shirts every week so I give them a bit more variety on top. They do only each have one coat & one sweatshirt each. I rarely buy them brand new clothes at the store any more unless it’s something like a Christmas or birthday gift. When I buy new items, I shop either Gymboree (affiliate link) because they have high quality clothes that resist stains (and great sales throughout the year). I buy gently used clothing at the local thrift store or online at ThredUp (affiliate link).
  • Shoes with holes or completely worn out soles should be thrown out. Put decent but dirty shoes into the washing machine or the sink for a scrubbing. Finish by cleaning up the rubber with a Magic Eraser to bring them back to life. Replace frayed or stained shoe laces with bright new ones.
  • It’s tempting to buy cheap shoes when your kid’s feet are growing! I recommend buying high quality shoes that will last until your child outgrows them. I have personally had great luck with Pediped shoes. My stepdaughter wore her pair every school for a year. I was able to toss them into the wash every other week and only when they were getting tight did they develop a small hole in the sole. I definitely recommend paying a little more for one or two fantastic pairs of shoes (rather than 5 or 10 pairs of cheap and poorly made shoes that will need constant replacing).

Top Tips for Budgeting for Back to School

Discuss it with your kids 

If your kids are accustomed to getting brand new stuff every year but this year they don’t truly need anything, you’ll need to address this with them upfront. Kids are going to expect the regular back-to-school shopping extravaganza and if it’s not going to happen this could set them up for disappointment. You’re going to have some very disgruntled kids going back to school with “the same old stuff”.

  • Involve your kids in the assessing process. Discuss how the closet full of clothes still fit,  are in good shape & will be acceptable for them right now.
  • Allow kids to decorate last year’s pencil boxes or folders with fun washi tape, duct tape or stickers.
  • Attach a fun key chain or fob to the zipper pull to freshen up last year’s backpack or hoodie.
  • Compromising by purchasing one new (or “new to them”) outfit for the first day of school and to wear for school pictures.

Top Tips for Budgeting for Back to School

Divert the focus

Get back to the heart of what going back to school is all about and take the focus off the need for new stuff. Start a first day tradition! Take pictures of your new student. Cook a special first day breakfast or dinner. Greet them with balloons on the front door when they get home. Create a first day interview that you can save in your memory box. Serve a special dessert. Just make the day special for them! Here’s to new adventures…even while wearing last school year’s shoes!


In what ways do you pinch pennies for back to school? Share your ideas in the comments!

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Budget Round Up Challenges and Cheers – Month #1

budgetroundup

End of the month…Time to pull out the calculators and see how we did with savings and budgeting this month!

Challenges-

For me personally, this was a challenging month to save. My husband and I are traveling to Europe this month (read all about it here) and have had to make some out-of-the-norm purchases for the trip. Lots of little extras that we wouldn’t usually be buying as well as setting aside extra money for the 7 days that my husband is off work (he doesn’t have vacation pay). We’re also saving up money for souvenirs and restaurant eating. And pastries…I plan on eating lots of pastries!

Cheers- 

We’ve been budgeting for this trip to Europe for the last year so I’ve still been able to save for Disney alongside saving for Europe. It’s not as much as I’d like but I also don’t want to scrimp on my European trip either!


Savings:

Disney Visa savings points – $51.74 total -$9.10 earned last month.

Contest Winnings – $500 for groceries from this Pinterest contest (Sprouts gift cards). This definitely helped offset our budget and we didn’t have to shop for food anywhere else all month.

Made birthday presents for kid parties instead of buying them – savings of $30

Bought vacation clothes from ThredUp instead of new at the store – savings of around $50 versus buying new

Loss:

New shoes for the trip – $54

Driver’s License Renewal (for both of us in the same month!) – $66

New shorts for my trip (they didn’t have my size on ThredUp) – $24

Husband’s birthday present – $39

Ate out three times with the family last month (late nights at work & too hot in the house to cook!) – $65

BorrowLenses camera lens rental for my trip – $118

Husband needed new hardhat for work – $24

Target “whirlwind of stuff” for my trip (like NuSkin for blisters, trip journal and new sunglasses) -$75


 

  • Savings – $589.10
  • Loss- $465
  • Net Savings – $124.10

Disney Vacation Bank Total – $189.82


Okay, not as much as I would have liked, but better than nothing. Especially when I’m sharing my Disney Vacation Bank with my European Adventure Bank! Hoping to be back on track in another month.

How did you do on your savings and budget this month? I’d love to hear from you with your budgeting challenges and cheers!

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Budgeting Tips – 9 Easy Swaps…I Promise They Don’t Hurt!

Budgeting and saving doesn’t have to mean sacrificing. It might just mean making small changes or tweaks in what you’ve been accustomed to. Swapping should be easy and painless, it just takes creativity and preparation!

Budget Swaps that are easy and painless! {Saving up for Disney}


Secondhand Charm

Secondhand books and clothing are honestly just as good as new most of the time. Buy new only for gifts and buy used the rest of the time and you’ll save a ton, especially when it comes to kid’s clothes. My tip is always to buy the best that you can afford, so I’d much rather have a nicely made but gently used item than something new but cheap and poorly made.

I have sung the praises of ThredUp previously for their great variety and high quality of gently worn (or new!) clothing, handbags and shoes. When my kids ask, “Is this new?”, I tell them, “Yes, it’s new to you!”.

Consider pulling together a few girlfriends and host a swap. Bring jewelry that doesn’t get worn, shampoo or lotions that was only used once, or best-selling books that you’ve read and shelved. Trade or borrow and make those thing “new to you, too!”.


Know Where to Shop & What to Buy

Know your stores and where you get the best deals. Pay attention to prices and specifically your cost per ounce. Take notes if that helps you with your budgeting and shopping list.

I’m a Target lover but I know that if I buy my office and craft supplies or fresh fruit and dairy there, the price will be at a premium. However for some grocery items like canned soup or shampoo, it’s often cheaper for me to purchase at Target than at the grocery. And of course Costco is king for bulk so we only buy our peanut butter, bread, dairy and meats there. I know that Costco isn’t the best place for me to buy cereal though, because I can usually score a better deal at the grocery store with a coupon. And of course, there is always the dollar stores to consider especially for party and craft supplies.

Talking about bulk, consider items you purchase now in single uses that you could be purchasing in bulk and dividing up. Yogurt is number one for us. Instead of the 75 cents or more for one tiny yogurt, we buy a huge tub at Costco for around $5 and serve a scoop of it into a reusable container to take with us for breakfast on the go. Same with snacks for my kid’s lunches. The single serving chips and cookies are very pricey and often more than I want to give my child as “one serving” anyway, so I buy bulk and divide items up into individual baggies in advance.


Drink water

I love a nice glass of orange juice as much as the next gal, but juice is expensive and frankly, sugar-laden and unnecessary. At the very least, juice should be watered down 50/50. If you need flavor (and believe me, I am not much of a water drinker), squeeze in fresh lemon to make it more palatable. My favorite is to drop a few frozen raspberries into the glass and it will flavor your water tremendously, without the cost or calories.


Work in Leftovers

Eat your leftovers…or don’t prepare as much in the first place. If you always have leftovers and they sit in the fridge untouched until they spoil, you have several options.

  • When preparing something, plan what the following day’s meal will be so you can work any leftovers in.
  • Freeze leftovers for future use. I doctored up a jar of spaghetti sauce the other day with sauteed green pepper, onion and ground beef. I immediately divided up half into a freezer bag to save for another meal.
  • Don’t make so much! Make only enough for each person to have one dish to eliminate leftovers.
  • Have a leftover night (I call it “potpourri night”) where everyone has their choice of leftovers from dinners during the week and we round it out with a green salad and call it good!

Many foods are marked with a “sell-by” date that is mistaken for an expiration date. Read here to see lists of foods that are still good to eat after their “best by” date so you aren’t mistakenly tossing food that is still good.


Shop less often

If you are used to running to the store every day to “just pick up a few things” you are probably spending more than you need to. You should be doing the bulk of your buying only once a week (or every two weeks if possible) with perhaps just one side trip for fresh fruits and veggies.

In that vein, try planning meals one week out to make sure that you already will have all necessary ingredients on hand and eliminate those last moment trips to the store.


Eliminate Trash

Don’t throw it away if you can wash and reuse. This goes for paper products including plates, towels and napkins. I only use that stuff if I’m having a party and need mass quantities. For everyday use we use our dishes at breakfast, lunch and dinner, melamine plates if we are eating outside, dish towels instead of paper towels and cloth napkins instead of paper. Very easy to toss the place mats, towels and napkins into the hamper after dinner for washing and reusing and nothing has to be thrown in the trash.

If your kids are good about remembering to bring home their lunch bags, then of course a bag that can be washed frequently and used everyday is going to be more economical than paper bags. Same goes for reusable containers and sandwich bags rather than foil or plastic zip-top bags. Unfortunately I have one child who lost three lunch bags and the reusable containers inside last school year and at some point I had to cut my losses and start sending her with a paper sack and plastic bags. With the cost of the lunch bags down the drain, it was going to be more economical for me to use paper bags instead. Consider what is best for you and your family in cases like this.


Turn it Off

If you aren’t using it unplug it or turn it off…I’m looking at you blender, toaster, ceiling fan and nightlight! Get in the habit of turning off electronic devices when not in use to save batteries (I only buy rechargeable). This goes for water too…turn it off when you’re washing pots and pans. We even turn off the shower water when we’re scrubbing clean and then turn back on to rinse. Saves us from wasting gallons, which is very important in our drought area.


The DIY Alternative

Why buy if you can make at home? A quick search of Pinterest and you can find the DIY alternate for everything from bleach to Bisquick. The DIY alternate is almost always going to be cheaper, just as effective and infinitely more satisfying to use when you see the dollars you save!


And yes, finally..Make Your Coffee at Home!

This also goes for making your breakfast at home instead of driving through fast food for something expensive and unhealthy. A smoothie at home is going to be better for you and help you pocket the $3.50 or more you’d spend buying it out. Packing a salad-to-go instead of buying a premade one at the deli could save you $6.00. It’s all in just being prepared for the days ahead by making sure you have it already on hand so you aren’t scrambling out the door without a plan.


Helpful links:

Ready for Zero – Budgeting tips

Holy Craft – Things to Buy in the Dollar Store

Pinterest – DIY Alternatives

 

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