New Year’s Resolution #8: Learn Something New

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#8 is a resolution that I thought would be closer to the top of the list: Learn something new!

There are lots of ways that you can learn and grow without breaking the bank!

      1. Borrow books from the library- most libraries have their card catalogs online, so you can check and see if your local library branch has the book(s) you are looking for before you step foot in the library.  AND- some libraries have the ability to hold the books for you until you can get down there (usually 24 hours).
      2. Can’t find the books in print near you? Check out Google Books.  There are tons of free books that you can read online.If you head over to Amazon you’ll find thousands of Free E-books on Amazon in all reader formats.
      3. Check out community learning opportunities. Grossmont Adult Education has tons of great classes, including some great Mommy and Me style pre-school classes for kids!
      4. Check YouTube for tutorials or seminars that are of interest to you.
      5. Harvard (yeah, *THAT HARVARD*) has free, no credit open courses here. Other Colleges including MIT, Yale and Stanford offer free online no credit classes for the public to take/sit in on.
      6. Check your local museums for free days for locals.  San Diego Locals- here is a list of free museum days in Balboa Park.
      7. Craftsy has a ton of free classes and patterns! Check out this post with just a few of my favorite classes!
      8. There are tons of free opportunities for kids to learn here. Most public libraries have story time or other free activities and workshops for kids. Check out Red Tricycle’s website for all kinds of free and cheap learning opportunities for your littles!
      9. Love documentaries? Love to read? If you haven’t tried Amazon Prime yet, there is an awesome promotion right now- sign up and get your first 30 days free. Prime gives you access to more than JUST free shipping. You can stream movies, documentaries, enjoy the free Kindle lending library, and more! Start Your Prime Video 30-Day Free Trial Now!

Tax Time Approaches! Time for Turbo Tax!

Our family has used TurboTax since my parents first bought a computer, so… it’s been more than a few years. I’ve been using it since I started my first job in 1997.

It’s super easy, guides you through each step of the way. With TurboTax you’ll get your biggest tax refund guaranteed, with 100% accurate calculations, free help, and step by step guidance so you are confident your taxes are done right. TurboTax is the #1 Rated, Best-Selling tax software brand year after year.

Now if you’ve never done your own taxes before, it can seem super daunting.  But the folks at TurboTax make it easy enough that my three year-old niece could probably figure it out!

Yahoo put together a list of some of the forms and misc. “stuff” you need to file your taxes. Here are just a few:

  1. W-2 statements (these show wages received from your employer(s))
  2. K-1 Schedules (these should have been received from any partnerships, S Corporations, estates, trusts, and so on, in which you have an ownership interest)
  3. 1099 Forms (1099-R (Retirement); 1099-INT (Interest); 1099-DIV (Dividends); 1099-B (Brokerage Sales); 1099-MISC (Rents, etc))
  4. 1098 Forms (1098-T (Education); 1098 – Mortgage Interest)
  5. Year End Annual Brokerage Statements
  6. A copy of your previous year’s tax return

You may not have all of these, as not everyone has the same financial/tax situation.

Regardless of how you decide to file: e-file, by hand (on paper), or having a paid professional do it, I implore you- FILE FILE FILE!!  You don’t want Uncle Sam knocking on your door, years from now with his hand out!

To get started with TurboTax for free, click on the image above! In a few weeks I’ll share one of my favorite stories about how Turbo Tax saved a friends bacon a few years ago!

New Year’s Resolution #7: Get Organized

Throughout December, I’m going to be posting about New Year’s Resolutions. Each post will have tips and tricks to help you navigate through your resolutions to become more successful at all of your frugal endeavors!

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#7 is a resolution that I thought would be closer to the top of the list: Get Organized.

For some people that means professionally, financially or personally.  I can’t help you with your professional life, but I can help you with some tips to getting your finances and personal life organized.

balancing-a-checkbook-paying-billsOrganize your Finances:

You really can’t start to save money unless you get your finances in order.  I cannot stress how helpful setting up a budget has been for our family.

There are a few companies that offer free budgeting tools: I like both Manila and Mint. Check both out and see which one suits your families needs.

Calendar_0Organize your Personal Life:

Use a calendar.  It doesn’t have to be a paper one.  I have a paper calendar on my desk.  I write all of our play dates and appointments, parties, and other functions outside of the house on it. That way I can see at a glance what’s going of for the week. If you’ve got a smart phone, you can utilize the calendar feature. iPhones can sync to the iCal on your desktop computer. If you opt for it, iCal will pop up reminders on his phone and the computer. He uses it for business and home.

  • If you want to use a calendar online, Google’s Calendar feature is great, especially if you use Gmail.  It can add appointments, reminders and birthdays from your email into your calendar and it will remind you of them!
  • If you don’t use Gmail or Google, Facebook has a great calendar under the events tab from your FB feed.  It shows you upcoming events and birthday and it’s easy to plan or add an event with the “+Create Event” button.
  • If you are looking for Coupon Organizational methods, I’ve written about how I organize my coupons here.
  • I am always getting packages! I signed up for a USPS.com and now I get a text when a package ships and when it arrives! It’s a great way to keep track of packages that you are expecting.

Review: Obol- Never eat soggy cereal again!

logoA few weeks ago, Obol sent me two bowls to try out. They are great for keeping your milk and cereal separate right until you are ready to eat. No more soggy, mushy cereal!

IMG_2384But beyond cereal, it’s great for yogurt and cereal (or yogurt and granola, shown here), yogurt and fruit, even desserts like ice cream and cookie topping!

Lil’ Man loved it for yogurt and berries- his berries “rode the slide” into the yogurt. It definitely made breakfast more fun. He asks to eat out of the “slide bowls” all the time!

I like using Obols for stir fry and rice!

Obols are easy to clean and dishwasher safe too!

Obols come in two sizes, so there is one for everyone on your gift list.

Right now you can save 10% at obol.co Signup for instant discount code.

Thanks to Obol and USFG for sending me the complimentary Obols to facilitate my review! All opinions are my own and I was not financial compensated in any way.

#obolco

How to organize and store coupons

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A lot of you will start 2016 with the goal of saving money by couponing. Here are a few ways that you can organize your coupons to help you achieve your goals.

There are several methods to store your coupons when they are in your home before you go to shop, and there are several more methods for storage when you are out shopping.

Here are just a few examples of organizational methods:

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Inserts filed whole by date

Whole insert: Leave the inserts whole, and file them by date.  You may wish to put each insert  in a tabbed folder and write the date along with the type insert such as SS (Smart Source), P&G (Proctor & Gamble), or RP (Red Plum). Example: 6/6/10 SS I recommend this method for those of you starting out, or if you don’t have a lot of time dedicated to couponing.

Clipped by dated: Filed in a similar fashion as above, but all coupons from each weeks inserts are clipped, put into an envelope, dated, and filed either in an accordion folder or filing/bank box. This can be a time saver when you need to pull coupons from a specific date.  You may choose to have all coupons from the same date filed together, or you may wish to file each insert (Red Plum, Smart Source, Proctor & Gamble) separately. Example: Clipped 6/6/10 All or  Clipped 6/6/10 SS

The next two storage methods are usually done when coupons are stored inside baseball card inserts in a large three ring binder.

Clipped by category: Coupons are clipped and then filed by category.

Clipped Alphabetically: Simply file the coupons alphabetically, either by product name, product type, or manufacturer.

 

Storage Methods

There are several methods for storage of coupons.

If you file whole inserts, you may wish to file inserts in an accordion folder or filing/bank box by date. This is the method that I use, and that I have used for over 10 years. As I have less time to dedicate to couponing, it keeps me organized and able to save the most money (and time!).

If you clip your coupons here are just a few examples of storage methods:

Coupon wallets are commercially available at office supply stores or mass merchandisers.  Coupon wallets  are small, reinforced accordion file with tabs. They can fit inside most purses. Organize the coupons by category or alphabetically.

Use a 3-Ring Coupon Binder with plastic page protector inserts (like these), and use tabbed dividers for the category dividers. In the front, you can put a pad of paper inside for your shopping list, a zipper pouch for pens, pencils, scissors and a calculator.  3-ring binders that zip shut are great too!

Individual envelopes- I do not recommend this method to anyone just starting out. Start with envelopes (I use #10 envelopes) and write the name of each category on the front in large, easy to read letters.  File coupons by category in the corresponding envelopes, Once you have all the coupons sorted and filed, store the envelopes in a plastic tub, shoe box, whatever is easiest for you. This is by far the most time consuming method for storing coupons.

When you clip coupons and file them you can go one step further and arrange them by expiration date, amount of coupon, or alphabetically. It’s up to you.  If you have multiples of the same coupon, consider paper clipping them together.

What is overage? (or how I score groceries for free)

DSCN7877Overage is a wonderful thing. If you read deal blogs or watch Extreme Couponing on TV, you’ve heard the term, but maybe you aren’t familiar with the meaning.

Overage is money that you receive back, either as cash in hand or money off the rest of your order when you have a coupon whose face value is higher than the price of the items.

Most grocery, drug and mass merchandisers do not allow overage. They will adjust the value of the coupon to make the items free. Walmart, however, does allow for overage. This means I shop at the largest Wal-Mart closest to us, because it has a huge grocery section.  I usually go once a month.

For those in the military or who have base privileges, the commissary also allows overage.

The secret to getting the overage is to purchase the least expensive item allowed by the coupon. Often times, this means the smallest item allowed. If there are no size restrictions, this means you might be able to use a coupon on a travel or trial size! Check all of the fine print on your coupons.

For example, I received 2 coupons for $10.00 off any Butterball item (I won them in a contest online) and this is how I used them:
2 Butterball Turkey Burgers $6.98/each

  • -2 $10.00 any Butterball Turkey product coupon
  • = $6.04 Overage

Generally, I use overage to purchase items I did not have coupons for (usually fresh fruits and vegetables).

If you are looking for some recent coupons that might provide you with some overage at Walmart, Paul over at I Heart The Mart has an awesome list of items at Walmart for $1 or less. 

What have you scored recently for free or received overage on?

Coupon Basics: Categories for your coupon storage system

I’ll be posting a series of articles on couponing basics and how to get your coupons organized so that you actually USE THEM and save money (ya know, instead of just collecting dust and eventually getting recycled).

So let’s get started by talking about organizing your take to store coupons. I use a small accordion file like this:Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.19.01 AM

I tend to organize my coupons based on how my favorite grocery store is laid out.

Here is a sample layout of a grocery store:Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.27.39 AM

I have given examples for each category:

Fruit and Vegetables- includes Bagged Salad, pre-cut fruit and vegetables, dried fruit, refrigerated soy products

Sauces / Dressings / Condiments- includes Mayo, mustard, BBQ sauce, salsa, salad dressing

Canned Goods & Soups- includes Canned beans, canned raviolis, canned tuna or chicken, canned or powdered soup and Ramen.

Pasta / Rice / Boxed Meals- includes Spaghetti, noodles, Hamburger Helper, Asian or Italian style boxes meal kits (such as Tai Pei or Romano’s)

Cereal / Breakfast Foods/Juice- includes Oatmeal, cream of wheat, juice boxes, bottled juice, Instant Breakfast

Flour / Baking / Oil/ Mixes/ Spices- includes cake/brownie mix, Bisquisk, graham cracker pie crusts, Jello and pudding, spray release, flour, white and brown sugar, Splenda

Beverages- includes soda, energy drinks, sparkling water, diet drinks, powdered beverage mixes (Kool-aid and Crystal Light), chocolate milk mix (liquid or powdered)

Meat- includes fresh or frozen beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, fish, sausages/brats, pre-packaged cold cuts, breakfast sausage (link or patty), bacon, ham

Frozen Food- includes frozen veggies and fruit, pizza, diet foods (such as Lean Cuisine), individual and family sized entrees, ice cream, popsicles, frozen meat free  alternatives, ice

Dairy- includes milk, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, coffee creamer, butter, margarine/spread, pudding/jello cups, tubes or packages of cookie dough, canned dough

Cookies/ Crackers/ Snacks- includes pre-packed portions (such as 100 calorie snack packs), cookies, crackers, popcorn, chips, pretzels, nuts, trail mix

Baby- Includes formula, diapers, wipes, baby care products, baby food and toddler food and snacks

Bakery/Bread- includes bread, tortillas, pita, sandwich thins, English muffins/crumpets, bagels, rolls, donuts, croissants, French bread, freshly made cookies, cakes and other desserts

Deli- includes deli Meat, cheese, hummus, fresh guacamole, fresh salsa, bagel chips, packaged specialty cheeses (Goat and blue cheese), hot and cold deli salads and foods (such as fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, take and bake pizzas, salad bar, olive bar, freshly made sandwiches)

Personal Care / Medicine- Includes over the counter medications, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, tooth paste, tooth brushes, hand soap, loofahs/bath poufs, bubble bath, lotion, shaving cream, razors, feminine products

Paper Goods / Containers- Tin foil, plastic wrap, disposable food containers, toilet paper, paper towels, paper napkins, plastic silverware, paper plates

Cleaning / Other Household Supplies- dishwashing liquid, dishwasher detergent, home cleaning products (pine-sol, ammonia, bleach), laundry detergent, mops, sponges, brooms and dustpans, candles, scented home sprays, air fresheners.

Miscellaneous- You can use this section for restaurant coupons, specific store coupons, rebates.

Review: Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker!

Last night, Lil’ Man and I got to attend the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker . It was his first time at the ballet, and my first time in a few (mumble mumble) years.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the Nutcracker, here is a good synopsis.

The music and costumes were great, and Henry loved that there were kids dancing on stage too. The Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker is touring all over the US and Canada right now. To find your closest show and save on the Moscow Ballet’s celebrated Great Russian Nutcracker 2015 North American Tour click here. USE PROMO CODE: JOY

This is a great show for kids (and adults). The story is easy to follow, and the music is very lively. It is a great first ballet experience for anyone!

Review: Lovely Candy Co. Tasty holiday treats!

The Lovely Candy Company sent me a box of their super yummy treats recently, and oh my goodness are they tasty!

The favorites were The Fudgee Rolls and the Sea Salt caramels. They were so decadent and rich, without having too many calories or fat. The cherry licorice were a follow up favorite. Lil’ Man devoured them!

What I really liked is that Lovely candies are all natural, certified gluten free, tested non-GMO, certified kosher and contain no high fructose corn syrup or artificial ingredients. So while they are a sometimes treat, I can feel better knowing they are a better choice than other candies out there!

We still have a few bags to try, but I’m sure they will be super tasty. We don’t eat a lot of candy, so it takes us a while to get through treats! These would be a great addition to any holiday gift basket or stocking!

Lovely Candy Co and US Family Guide provided me with complimentary candies to facilitate the review. I was not financially compensated to write this post, all opinions are my own.

 

New Year’s Resolution #5 & #6 Exercise & Lose Weight

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Throughout December, I’m going to be posting about New Year’s Resolutions. Each post will have tips and tricks to help you navigate through your resolutions to become more successful at all of your frugal endeavors!
The Number 5 & 6 New Year’s Resolutions on most top ten lists are: Exercise and Lose weight.  I decided to tackle both of these at the same times since they can go hand in hand.

I am not a doctor or dietician.  I will share with you what works for my family, but YMMV, and remember to go to the doctor and get the OK before starting to exercise or diet. Seriously.

#5: Exercise without breaking the bank:  Starting in probably 2 weeks, even before January 1st, there will be ads in the paper, magazines, on the internet and of course commercials on TV advertising free 7-day trial passes for every gym on earth.  Take advantage.  If you haven’t worked at a gym in a long time, or are thinking about joining one, Check out a bunch of different gyms and see which one is a good fit for your goals.  BTW, when those free deals go live, you know I’ll be posting them.

If you aren’t a gym person, check out your local parks. Lots of parks in our local area have special walking loops and even fitness stations (Mast Park in Santee has both!). Other parks in San Diego with fitness/exercise stations include: Mission Bay Park,  Embarcadero Parks North & South, Tidelands Park near the base of the Coronado Bridge as you arrive in Coronado, Hilton Head Park in Rancho San Diego, Chollas Lake Park, and Morley Field (near Balboa Park). If your local park doesn’t have a fitness course, play on the jungle gym or go for a walk!

Luckily in So. Cal. we are blessed with pretty good weather, so outdoor exercise is almost always an option. On those extremely rare days where the weather sucks, try indoor mall walking.  I know, it makes me sound like an old lady, but when it’s cold or rainy, I strap the kiddo in the stroller and we walk a few laps over at Parkway Plaza. A few laps around the mall and I’ve gotten almost 4 miles under my belt! There is also a play area where the kiddo can let his energy out while mama recuperates.

Everything seems to go better with a partner in crime- enlist the help of a friend or family member.  Exercise with a buddy.  Go for a walk, look at holiday lights.  Keep each other accountable!

#6: Lose Weight without losing your shirt.  Losing weight doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  Here are some tips, tricks and deals you can use to save while you lose.

Sign up for free websites that can help you be accountable: Spark People is a great site that can help you track your calories and exercise. I also like Map My Run.  It helps you log activities and gives you a rough idea of how many calories you burn when you are active. And you can use it to log all kinds of physical activity, not just running! I also use Achievement– It syncs with your fitness device and you earn points for being active, logging water and food in your device. Points are redeemed for money via paypal.

If you are changing your eating habits, your doctor may recommend that you take vitamins.  And they can be expensive.  Keep your eyes open for sales at the drugstores in January and there will be coupons too!

There will be tons of sales and coupon available in January for healthy foods and supplements!

What are your frugal  tips and tricks for exercise and losing weight?  I’d love to hear from you!