Save Money on Online Purchases with Smarty!

If you are an online shopper (and at this point, who isn’t?), you know that searching online for coupon codes for each and every website can be daunting.

And did you know that Amazon isn’t always the best price? But do you really have the time (or energy) to comparison shop online? No.

That’s where Smarty comes in! It’s a Chrome Extension that combs the internet for coupon codes, discounts, and even comparison shops for you!

And it works on hundreds of websites including Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Macy’s!

As a bonus: When you install the browser and refer your friends, you can earn cash back! So it’s a win-win! Everyone saves, and you get a little cash back to pad your wallet.

 

A Practical Guide to Setting A Budget (Part Two)

In our last post, I talked about the basics of starting a budget (you can read it here).

We ended with… What happens if you spend more money than you bring home? Don’t feel bad, It happens more than you would think. Living in a credit-based world, it’s easy to swipe, swipe, swipe your card and have it seem like it’s not real money.

How do you stop spending willy nilly and start saving money?

First of all, I went through our family budget line by line looking for ways to cut down on costs. This will take a little work, but it’s worth the savings. Here are a few ways that you may be able to save.

  • Cell Phones- I called and negotiated a new contract, and they were able to give us a small discount ($15/month).
  • Auto/Home Insurance- Called our insurance carrier (it’s the same for both). We went through both policies, and were able to adjust our annual mileage to lower mileage, and adjust a few things with our homeowner’s insurance to save some money too. (About $50/year)
  • Gas & Electric (power company)-Because of the big kids’ diagnosis, we were able to qualify for a discount. SDG&E (Our utility provider) offers several discounts. You can learn more about our experience and how we saved money here.  We also take part in OhmConnect, and that saves us money and gives us cashback. You can learn more about OhmConnect here. We save about a thousand dollars a year between the programs SDG&E offers and using Ohmconnect.
  • Internet- We ended up changing internet providers to save money. I know that not everyone has this ability, but it’s worth a call to see if you can get a better deal. We don’t have cable or a home phone, so there are no bundling deals that can save our family money. ($5/month)
  • Cable- We don’t have it, but if you are thinking of cutting the cable, it’s not all static and bunny ears like in the old days. Between Apple TV (ours is really old and it works great), Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and over the air TV, we aren’t suffering. (No savings for us, but maybe some for you?)

Secondly, I take cash out for Groceries ($100/week), gas ($60/week), and fun money (funds for the kids and I to do something fun during the week- usually a snack or treat at the zoo, admission to a museum, or renting a Redbox movie. $40/week). When the money’s gone, it’s gone. For our budget/spending- this has been the game-changer. Due to quarantine/lockdown the only fun we could have was ordering take out or expensive trips to the craft supply store/Amazon to keep us entertained. Now that we have parameters for spending money, I am taking a harder look at groceries and meal planning and low-cost to no-cost ways to have fun with the kiddos.

In addition to that, I didn’t set up Apple Pay on my phone. I don’t have a credit card attached to the app store on my phone. I don’t have any credit cards set up on my Amazon Account, or my Target App, or any of the purchasing apps on my phone. If I want to buy something I have to either go to a store or sit down at my computer and enter my credit card/debit card information. Taking that extra step to purchase stuff really helps me think about what I am buying and how much I am spending.

And I’m always looking for ways to make a little extra money. Side Hustles are a real way to make money. You can invest as little or as much time as you want.

You can still have fun and live on a budget. Don’t feel like having takeout? Spend some of your fun money on a couple steaks and have a BBQ at home one week. Rent a movie on Amazon Prime, and add some dollar movie candy to your grocery list (or hit up Dollar Tree). Close the curtains/ blinds and throw some pillows and blankets on the living room floor. We call that “Movie theatre night” and the kids love it.

Living during a global pandemic you have to think outside of the box.

My next (and last) post about setting a practical budget will be ready tomorrow and it’s going to be a little more serious. What to do/where to turn when you need help with the basics: Food, Shelter, and Comfort. And what you should cut out if you are struggling. For those who are struggling right now, this is written with you in my mind and heart.

Costco Membership Deal!

Costco is one of my favorite places to stock up on essentials. If you haven’t been in a while, it’s time to mask up and head over!

Right now there is a great deal for new memberships! Purchase a Costco Membership Activation Certificate to join as a new member and receive a  Costco Shop Card.

  • Gold Star Members receive a $10 Costco Shop Card.
  • Gold Star Executive Members receive a $20 Costco Shop Card.

It’s as easy and 1,2,3!

  1. Purchase your Costco Membership Activation Certificate here.
  2. Receive your Costco Membership Activation Certificate by email.
  3. Bring your Costco Membership Activation Certificate to any U.S. or Puerto Rico Costco location to join as a new member.

Here are my top five Costco Bargains:

  1. Rotisserie Chicken
  2. Butter
  3. PBFit
  4. Kodiak Cake Flapjack Mix
  5. Krusteaz Pancake Mix
  6. (Bonus) Their Gas Stations frequently are .20-.30/galloncheaper than the “discount” stations.

11/16/2020 Weekly Meal Plan

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpgI wrote up the meal plan for this week last night and posted it on Instagram, but I was too pooped to sit down last night and write this post.

This weekend was busy (like all weekends):

  • Playmobil adventures
  • Lego Building
  • Barbie shenanigans
  • Drawing
  • Writing Practice
  • Shopping for new clothes because a little girl grew overnight

The past few weeks I’ve been cooking larger batches of recipes, and we’ve been relying a lot on them. This week will be a “refill” week for that. A big batch of meaty red sauce, a few batches of soup made directly to go in the freezer, and I’ll be making some mire poix bags up as well. I’ll be posting on Instagram for sure.

If you have kids between 2-18, check with your local school to see if they are offering free lunches and/or breakfasts. You can also check the USDA Website– but it might be a little out of date.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day.

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids.  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular. recently the Big Kid has been on a protein shake kick in the AM.

Lunches will be whatever the kids want for the time being. The big kid has lunch at school, so it’s whatever he chooses from the lunch box in the cupboard, plus some fruit and juice or milk. Since the little girl is in the morning cohort at school, she has lunch at home. Buttered noodles, yogurt, apple slices, and a popsicle are her go-to lunch.

Usually, I do a crockpot meal on Mondays, but now that we are home all the time, we’ve been having an odd combination of fully home-cooked, scratch meals, and frozen entrees and veggies. I have been posting our meal plans on Instagram too- As well as pics of stuff we are doing to keep busy.

  • Sunday:  Leftovers/Fend for yo’ self
  • Monday:  Shakshuka, Salad, and Salad
  • Tuesday: Pasta with Meat Sauce, Salad, Garlic Bread
  • Wednesday: Veggie Nuggets, Fish Sticks, Veggie Fries, and Salad
  • Thursday: Breakfast (Most likely Pancakes, Eggs, and Fruit)
  • Friday:  Pizza Night!
  • Saturday: Leftover Shenanigans

Please stay safe you guys! The sooner we flatten the curve, the sooner life can go back to normal- whatever that means.

Talk Back: What are you cooking for dinner this week?