Insanely Cheap & Easy Teacher Gift For End Of Year

Insanely Cheap & Easy Teacher Gift For End Of Year

Quick post today for a super easy and insanely cheap teacher gift for the end of the year–that teachers will actually like!

As the end of the school year approaches, you want to tell your child’s school or daycare teacher “thank you” in a cute yet inexpensive way. Well here’s a perfect idea that costs less than $2! This really helps if you have a handful of teachers, aides, etc. that you’d like to buy gifts for. Here’s the deal:

Step 1. Buy Burt’s Bees Chapstick

Burt’s bees chapstick is awesome and right now it’s super inexpensive. Like, the lowest on record! Get it from Amazon for just $2.88 for a 2-pack.

That’s only $1.44 a piece, which is insanely cheap. It’s a great natural, moisturizing, and smooth chapstick that both male and female teachers would use. These are regularly priced at almost $4 each.

*The chapstick is an Add-on item, which means need to add it to an order of $25 or more. So by the chance that there’s something on your wishlist or in your shopping cart already that you’ve been waiting to buy…as long as it’s in your budgetnow’s the time to buy. Snag this deal before it’s gone.

Sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime to get free 2-day shipping. And sign up for Swagbucks to earn free gift cards to use on Amazon deals like these.

Step 2. Add a Tag or Thank You Note

Either use a cute printable or write your own card thanking the teacher for “Bee-ing” a great teacher or how your child was So lucky to “Bee” your student this year.

Add the chapstick and voila!

Here are a bunch of cute bee ideas and printables I found using the chapstick. Take your pic. 🙂

If you’d like to personalize the card, teachers love hearing special moments that stood out for your child this year. Those memories and expressions of gratitude mean the most to a teacher.

A quality tube of chapstick is just icing on the….lips.

Step 3. You’re Done

Cross that off your To Do List and have fun practicing gratitude with your kids and enjoying spring!

While you’re at it, add an extra set to your Amazon cart. I can’t be the only one that has chapstick in each vehicle, purse, the bathroom, my coat pocket…am I?

These can also come in handy for those Just “Bee”-cause gifts too. Snag this deal before it’s gone.

“Bee” smart with your money! Gift buying doesn’t have to be expensive. Check out this post for even more ways to save money on gift buying, insurance, food, tv and more.

Let your light shine,




Thanks for finding this chapstick deal SwagGrabber and MoneySavingMom.

How To Make A Monthly Budget

How To Make A Monthly Budget

So you’ve decided you want to get this money thing figured but you’re left wondering how to make a monthly budget and make it stick, right?

The word budget has gotten a bad rap because people often feel restricted from spending. But really, budgeting is just figuring out where your money goes and intentionally making changes until you’re happy with the results. 

Before we get into the steps to make a monthly budget, let’s clarify what budgeting is–and isn’t.

What Is A Budget?

In simple terms, a budget is a plan for your money that shows how much you have coming in and where it goes out.

I’ve used a budget to be intentional with my money for years. My husband and I have paid off sick amounts of student loans, lived off only one income at times, and cut our income by 60% so I could be a stay-at-home mom. We used budgeting to get through all of these times without adding more debt.

A saying by Dave Ramsey that sticks with me is: “If you don’t tell your money where to go, you’ll be left wondering where it went.”

So true, Mr. Ramsey, so true.

So let’s take charge of your money and make sure you’re happy with where it goes.

Step 1. Get A Budget Template

The first gift I created to give to the awesome people who read my book about blasting away debt was a budgeting template.

And by popular demand, now I’m sharing my monthly budget template with anyone who joins The Common Cents Club tribe!

I’ll give you the exact budget spreadsheet I have used for years to crush our financial goals. Just sign up below and start taking control of your money today!

If you’re ready to throw in the towel instead of using a spreadsheet, the only alternative I recommend for budgeting beginners is paper and pencil.

Step 2. Write Down Your Monthly Net Income

The second step to making a monthly budget is to identify how much money you earn each month, including income from full-time jobs, side hustles, and Social Security checks. Be sure to use the number you take home after taxes, Social Security, retirement contributions, etc. This amount your take-home is called your net income.

Step 3. Create Spending Categories

Next, write down the categories where you spend money. Later you’ll indicate how much you spend in each category per month.

Common budget categories include:

  • Housing (mortgage, rent, campus housing)
  • Utilities (electric, water, gas bills)
  • Homeowners or rental insurance
  • Property taxes
  • Housing maintenance and repairs
  • Gasoline
  • Food and Groceries
  • Cell phone and landline
  • Internet and TV
  • Monthly subscriptions
  • Healthcare (co-pays, prescriptions, insurance)
  • Debt (student loans, credit card bills, personal loans, and car payments)
  • Personal care (salons, products, cleaning and household supplies)
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Pet
  • Gifts
  • Savings
  • Entertainment (admission fees, tickets, vacations, fun money)

Step 4. List Your Fixed Expenses

Next to each category that has a fixed expense where the bill remains the same every month, write down the amount due. Common fixed expenses are housing, insurance, cell phone, cable, internet, and debt payments.

Step 5. List Your Variable Expenses

Next, total your other costs that vary each month. Things like food, gas, and entertainment often vary from month to month. Every dollar you spend should be accounted for in your budget. You can see how much you spend by looking at your bank statements, credit card statements, and receipts.

Step 6. Compare Net Income vs. Expenses

Add up your total monthly expenses and compare it to your net income.

If your expenses are greater than your income, then you are digging yourself a bigger pile of debt by living off borrowed money every day. The good news is you can find all the optional expenses and start cutting back immediately.

If your net income is greater than your expenses, congratulations!! You are officially weird. With your budget, you can intentionally use that extra income to pay off debt, build savings, and invest for the future.

Step 7. Adjust If Necessary

If you spend more than you earn and you want to stop creating a financial disaster, you need to make adjustments. In other words: You Need To Spend Less Money Or Earn More. (Or both!)

The beauty of a budget is once you know where all your money goes, you can easily make changes and see where you can cut back. The easiest way to do find ways to save money is to ask yourself this one question:

Does your budget match your values?

If you choose to spend $100 on tv every month, is that what’s valuable to you? Or would you rather have $1,200 this year to build an emergency fund, invest in your retirement, or finally be free from interest charges and suffocating debt? In my experience, all of these bring peace of mind. But only you can answer if your budget matches your values.

If you value being debt free but are doing nothing to get out of debt, then you need to stop sticking your head in the sand hoping it will get better on its own. It won’t. You are the only one who can choose to make your spending align with what you value and want in life.

And if you’re resistant to “giving up” spending now because budgeting seems restrictive, then you’re forgetting to focus on all that you’ll gain.

Step 8. Keep Tracking Your Expenses

Once you start budgeting, you’ll need to continue to track your expenses to stay on top of your spending. Create a routine where you regularly track how much you spend in each category.

The cool thing about using an Excel spreadsheet is the spreadsheet can do the math for you so you can quickly see the total you’ve spent in each category. This will help you stick to your budget so you don’t accidentally overspend.

Step 9. Review And Plan

At the end of each month, take a few minutes to review how you did that month. Note where you did great–and not-so-great. Adjust your plan for the upcoming month so you create a budget that you can stick to AND that helps you meet your bigger goals.

If you didn’t stick to it as well as you hoped, Don’t Give Up! Review these budgeting tips from the experts and simply try to do a little better next month. It’s bumpy at first but gets easier over time.

Make A Monthly Budget And Stick To It

If you’ve made it this far, it’s clear you’re ready for a change. You want to make better choices with your money and you can do it. Once you get through the discomfort of creating a plan for your money and tracking your spending, you’ll be a budgeting pro in no time.

After you take the time to create a monthly budget. Do your best to stick to it by exercising self-control, discipline, contentment, and focus on your values. It’s ok to ask for help when you need guidance or encouragement. And don’t be afraid to make budgeting fun!

After all, money is the tool that can give you the freedom to create your best life.

Cheers to More Financial Freedom,

How I Combined My Gifts To Do Work I Love as a Frugal Word Nerd

How I Combined My Gifts To Do Work I Love as a Frugal Word Nerd

I love the written word. I have a hard time writing and comprehending written word without editing it. I naturally want to improve how sentences are written. Brevity is not my strength. I am a word nerd.

If you’ve ever been called “The Grammar Police” or were appalled to find typos in professionally published books, you understand.

I am also a money nerd. I cannot wait to attend FinCon2018–“where money nerds unite”–for the first time. I am always looking for ways to work smarter with my money. To say I’m frugal is putting it lightly. I will invest in things that are important to my core values and make my life easier. But everything else? Give me the best deal and cashback too!

Since creating my own business online, I have been happier than ever in the work department because I am finally finding ways to combine these gifts.

Read my example of how I blend these two interests of mine over at a huge self-publishing website, The Book Designer, where I teach aspiring and successful authors how they can get amazing editing for less money.

“The Book Designer is the most authoritative source online for information on how to independently publish and promote books. It is the highest-traffic blog in the category, with an average traffic volume exceeding 5,000 visitors a day, over 131,000 visitors in the past 30 days, and with a Twitter count of over 40,000 followers. The blog is regularly named to top sites lists, including the Top 100 Sites for Writers by Writers Digest, who also named Joel as one of the 10 people to follow in the publishing industry.

Check it out and see if it sparks an idea for how you can combine your gifts to create work you love too. 

That’s how you let your light shine in the world. No one has the gifts that you do. And when you start using them every day to help others, the money will naturally follow.

And for all you who dream of publishing a book someday, use these tips when it’s time to hire an editor. You can hire a pro word nerd without going broke.

Cheers to your success and using your common cents!

How To Create An Intentional Easter Basket (Not Just Filled With Junk)

How To Create An Intentional Easter Basket (Not Just Filled With Junk)

Even though there are aisles and aisles of candy and trinkets in the stores, you can be intentional with your Easter gifts. You can create Easter baskets that involve learning, are practical, create memories, are fun and inexpensive too. I’ll share how I was intentional with our Easter baskets this year.

P.S.  My toddler is spending time with her grandparents, so I could actually get my Easter baskets ready a week early and without hiding in the basement. 😉 Thank you, Grandparents!

We spent more than usual this year because we hardly bought the kids a thing at Christmas. They got plenty of gifts from grandparents and cousins, and they didn’t need anything else at the time. Now they are into new things and grown out of things, so an Easter basket is a fun way to hide and give those things.

Here’s what’s inside our basket this year:

Shutterfly Placemats — By far the most expensive gift but it has way more use than just a placemat because of the design I chose. You see, we’ve been talking a lot about letters, sounds, and words with my toddler, so this will help incorporate even more language development and recognition at meal times. These were “free” at Shutterfly, but then shipping was $15.

Packer Hat — It’s embroidered, good quality, cute, clearanced, and something we needed to buy anyway. My son has a huge dome. He’s already outgrown 3 knit hats this one winter! We live in Wisconsin…so we will use this a lot this year and next. $5 at Walmart.

Easter Stampers — We’ll see how the quality is but my daughter has fun stamping and we won’t need to get the ink pads out with these. One of the only things that’s actually “Easter” themed. $1 at the Dollar Tree.

Crayola Bathtub Fingerpaint Soap — I’ve been wanting to try bathtub colors for my daughter who likes to color and play in the bath, so I finally bought one at the Dollar Tree for $1.

Knit Gloves — Again, because it’s Wisconsin and it’s STILL cold. These will be great for cool spring days and next fall. These were perfect for my kids as one is in my daughter’s favorite color (a more girly design) and the other is solid navy, which can be for my son. These were a 2-pack for $.50 at Walmart.

Jumbo Glue Stick — Now that my toddler cuts paper, we will incorporate gluing pieces together next. She asked for glue a couple weeks ago when we saw it in a book, and I realized somehow we have no glue in our house except super glue… 🤷‍♀️ So she’ll get a jumbo purple one that was $1 at the Dollar Tree.

Flower Stick — We do “Calendar Time” every day where we talk about the day of the week, month, and date. Then we check the weather and write words and draw pictures about that too. This will be a fun thing for my daughter to check to help tell if it’s windy or not each day. $1 at the Dollar Tree.

Kite — Another thing we’ve never done with our toddler and would like to this spring/summer. It’ll help us spend time together, be outside, talk about the weather, and practice her motor skills. $1 at the Dollar Tree.

Easter Basket — Just one. The kids can share. $1 at the Dollar Tree.

P.S. The Easter Baskets at Walmart are not only much more expensive, they’re HUGE! So you have to put more stuff inside. Beware of this tactic to get you to spend more… Stick with a small one if you don’t want to spend a ton of money filling it. Or get a LOT of filler paper.

The Easter Story Book — For more reading time and to incorporate Jesus’ resurrection. $4.99 at Amazon (not pictured yet, apparently didn’t have 2-day shipping. Glad I ordered it early; it will be here later this week.)

Plastic Easter Eggs with Stickers Inside — For our own Easter Egg Hunt, I cut my own stickers and put them inside the eggs. Voila! FREE, reused old ones (that I got at the Dollar Tree last year).

Total: $31.50

Looking for more Easter basket ideas that you can get delivered to your door in just two days? Here are the best Easter gift ideas on Amazon for young kids.

Even though you will find aisles full of candy and trinkets at the store, you can be intentional with your Easter gifts. You can create Easter baskets that are practical, create memories, increase learning, are fun, and inexpensive too. Hope this gave you a new idea or two!

I would love to hear your Easter traditions and what’s in your Easter baskets. Share in the comments and have a fun holiday celebrating and creating memories together.

Let your light shine,

10 No Candy Easter Basket Ideas For Less Than $10

10 No Candy Easter Basket Ideas For Less Than $10

It’s almost Easter and you are probably looking for inexpensive no candy Easter basket ideas for your kids or grandkids.

Easter is fun. Dying eggs. Easter egg hunts. Going to church and celebrating Christ’s resurrection. It’s an exciting day to celebrate.

But it’s not a time you want to go overboard and spend a ton of money filling those baskets with candy. Instead, let’s look for gifts you can put in your kids’ Easter baskets that are fun, not candy, and less than $10.10 No Candy Easter Basket Ideas Under $10

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

10 No Candy Easter Basket Ideas For Less Than $10

Why no candy? I wish I could say it was all in the name of being healthy. But we actually avoid candy in our house because our daughter is severely allergic to peanuts and some tree nuts.

So whether you’re looking for healthier gift ideas or something to go with the candy in your kids’ basket, below are the best Easter gifts on Amazon for less than ten bucks.

BONUS: If you have Amazon Prime, you can get free shipping on almost all of the gift ideas below. If you aren’t a Prime member and haven’t taken advantage of Your Free 30-Day Trial of Amazon Prime yet, check that out first! Then enjoy these great Easter deals.

1. Eggs Filled With Mini Pull-Back Cars

pull back cars easter eggs no candy easter basket ideas

Looking for Easter eggs that are already filled with great gifts? Look no further than these 12 colorful eggs pre-filled with Mini Pull Back Cars

The cars are adorable and they zoom fast too. Your kids will enjoy hunting for each egg just to see which cool vehicle is in the next one. These look perfect for girls or boys, and unlike many of the pre-filled egg trinkets, these will actually get played with long after Easter is over.

Plus, they’ll save you precious time because you don’t have to figure out what to put inside all of your eggs.

2.  Easter Books

peppa pig easter book no candy easter basket ideas

Almost every gift-giving time in my house involves a book. Birthdays, Christmas, and Easter too. We’ve regularly read to our babies since they were itty bitty, and now they both love books. In fact, our diaper bag is not filled with toys. It’s filled with books!

Reading with your children has so many benefits. You’ll help build your children’s vocabulary and knowledge, spark creativity, boost their empathy and concentration, and strengthen your bond by spending special time together.

So even though we have plenty of books at home, it’s one gift I don’t mind buying more of. Plus, you can find gently used Easter books at thrift stores or online Facebook buy & sell groups for about $1 per book.

Or for just a few dollars, you can find new Easter books like Peppa Pig’s Easter Egg Hunt or read how the Paw Patrol Pups Save the Bunnies.

easter story book no candy easter basket ideas

Last year we bought our daughter the Dora Easter book, which focuses more on Easter egg hunts and parties. This year we bought the board book version of The Easter Story so my (destructive) son can enjoy the story with us too–without ripping the pages.

To save a few bucks, you can purchase a used book in very good condition on Amazon, and your kids will never know the difference. 😉


3. Deluxe Slime Start Kit With Glitter Glue

slime starter kit no candy easter basket ideas

School Glue + 12 Glitter Glue Pens = Happy Kids.

You and your kids can make stretchy, jiggly, and sparkly slime with the Deluxe Slime Starter Kit With 12 Glitter Glue Pens. With over 3,300 reviews and a 4.3 rating, this would be my go-to starter kit for making slime.

If your kids are really into making and playing with different batches of ooey-gooey slime, you may want to look into the gallon of School Glue to save the most money.

4. Tomy Hide & Squeak Eggs

Put a little fun and educational twist on your Easter egg hunt this year by hiding these squeaky fun eggs.

Both of my little ones like these squeaky eggs by Tomy. The bottom of each egg has a different shape, and the faces on each eggshell match one of the colorful chicks inside.

Your preschooler or toddler will enjoy hiding and finding the eggs then matching the colors and shapes, while your babies will enjoy taking them apart and hammering them to make them squeak.

5. Easter Stampers

easter stampers no candy easter basket ideas

This is a limited deal, so I hope you act fast. This kit includes 50 Easter Stampers with cute Easter designs that are pre-inked.

No need for ink pads.

AND they fit inside plastic Easter eggs!

These would be perfect if your kids like doing crafts, making cards, or if you’re looking for no candy Easter basket ideas for egg hunts or classroom parties.

6. Jumbo Clay Dough Easter Eggs with 3D Dinosaur Molds

fun dough eggs with dinosaur toys no candy easter basket ideas

These bright colored Easter Eggs with Clay Dough and 3D Dinosaur Molds inside would be fun for creative and imaginative play.

Each egg includes 3 colors of clay dough and 2 dinosaur molds so you and the kids can create mini dinosaurs that look real.

If you have a kiddo who loves dinosaurs, they’ll be ecstatic to find these in their Easter basket this year.

7. Melissa & Doug Slice & Sort Wooden Eggs

melissa and doug wooden eggs no candy easter basket ideas

The Melissa & Doug Slice & Sort Eggs are perfect if you prefer wooden eggs over plastic eggs and want an Easter basket gift idea that encourages hand-eye coordination, motor skills, color recognition, and imaginative play.

In this set, you’ll get 6 wooden eggs with 6 different colored yolks inside and a wooden knife. Your kids can practice slicing each egg in half then mix them up, practice color matching or play a fun memory game.

These are also perfect for pretend kitchen play and they come with a wooden tray. These eggs will also fit in a real egg carton too, which is how we store the eggs in our play kitchen.

8. Kid’s Froggy Rain Coat

froggy raincoat no candy easter basket ideas


For less than $10, you can get an adorable Froggy Rain Coat or this TopRen Kids Rain Coat for this upcoming spring.

Rain? Puddles? Mud? These raincoats are not only so cute your kids will love wearing them, they’ll help you do fewer loads of laundry too!

9. Reusable Easter Stickers

Kids love stickers. My toddler loves putting stickers just about anywhere. My baby is fascinated by them too.

And you know what’s even cooler than regular stickers?

Reusable stickers!

This cute pack includes 400 Reusable Easter and Spring Stickers that would be a fun addition to any Easter basket.

As a natural saver, I used to cringe when I’d watch my daughter pile sticker after sticker on the exact same spot of a page in her coloring book. But with packs like these, not only are there 400 stickers, they are reusable too!

More fun for the kids, and less cringing for money-saving moms.

10. Cute Umbrella For Rainy Days

umbrella no candy easter basket ideas

Easter means spring showers are just around the corner. What better than a cute and practical gift like this adorable RainStoppers Umbrella with ruffles or this sports umbrella to keep your little ones dry this spring?

Plus, have you ever let your kids taken an umbrella to a splash pad in the summer? Let me tell you, kids love it! Thanks to another mom for sharing that valuable tip with me. #MomHack #You’reWelcome


11. Melissa & Doug Monster Truck Craft Kit

melissa and doug monster truck kit no candy easter basket ideas

Oh, Melissa & Doug. Your wooden toys truly are wonderful.

I couldn’t leave this one out because I know there are many monster truck lovers out there and it’s just five bucks.

It’s an Add-on item, however, which means it only ships for free if you have an order of $25 or more. That’s why it didn’t make the list of the top 10 above, but still got a mention in the bonus section.

The Decorate Your Own Wooden Monster Truck Kit is easy to assemble and includes everything you need to help your little one create his or her very own monster truck: paints, paint brush, and stickers. Your little one can be creative painting and decorating it first then vroom it all around the house.

12. Silly Rabbit, Easter Is For Jesus Baseball Tee

easter is for jesus shirt no candy easter basket ideas

If you want another way to keep the meaning of Easter focused on Jesus, this 3/4 Baseball Tee is adorable. There actually is a t-shirt with the same saying for under $10 that shipping too. Both shirts are unisex, come in sizes 2T-5/6, and say “Silly Rabbit Easter is for Jesus.”

While this baseball tee is only $6.95, the shipping puts this one slightly over $10. So this one lands in the bonus section as well.

But if you can budget for a couple dollars more and want a cute shirt that sends an important message whenever your child wears it, this the shirt for you.

Buy Your No Candy Easter Basket Gifts Today

If you don’t want to fill your kid’s Easter basket with a bunch of candy or you don’t want to spend a lot of money to on Easter basket stuffers, you can choose from these 10 gift ideas for under $10 each.
10 No Candy Easter Basket Ideas

Each of these gift ideas has raving reviews on Amazon. Plus, if you’re an Amazon Prime member or you want to start your completely Free 30-Day Trial of Prime, you can get all of these items delivered to your doorstep in just two days–for free.

Shopping for kids’ gifts is nearly impossible for a stay-at-home mom like me because the kids are with me almost all the time. Enter Amazon Prime to save the day…again.

So I hope this helps you find fun yet inexpensive gifts that your kids will love long after Easter.

What will be in your kids’ Easter basket this year?

Happy shopping and saving!

Let your light shine,

More Ways To Save Money:

Need to save this list for later? Save it to Pinterest!    [apsp_save_button]

10 FREE Money Apps That Saved Me Over $1,500

10 FREE Money Apps That Saved Me Over $1,500

Recently, I found this app that informed me that I could get a $10 pack of razors FOR FREE. It got me thinking…what other deals have I been missing out on? What are the best free money apps in 2018?

Today I’m going to get straight to the point to let you know about easy ways you can save money or earn a few bucks with apps on your phone. And they are all completely free!

Check out the list of apps and see which ones you’re missing that can help you put more cash in your pocket.

Best Apps for Saving Money and Making Money

I reviewed the apps on my phone and share 10 of my favorite apps for saving money and making money below.

I also added how much money each app has helped me save. Some I know the exact dollar amount because the app tracks it, while others I made a modest estimate.

I was shocked to see these apps have already helped me save nearly $1,000!

1. BookScouter

BookScouter – Get money for those old books! After both undergrad and graduate school, I ended up with several boxes of textbooks that 5 years into my career, I realized were doing nothing but collecting dust.

I had moved them at least three times between our first two apartments and our first house, and I finally got sick of lugging those heavy books around. Of course, being the expert money finder that I am, I did a quick Google search about selling used textbooks.

Enter BookScouter! All you do is take a picture or enter the ISBN number from your book and it will show you how much different vendors are willing to pay for your book. You can scan books of any genre, but the ones that were worth the most money in my personal collection were college textbooks. Bonus: it helps you get rid of clutter!

My Earnings With BookScouter: $350

Website | iTunes | Android


Ebates – If you know me at all, you know I’m like a broken record about EBATES. I cannot.get.enough. It’s just so easy that it’s actually foolish NOT to use it.

Watch my video on my Resources page, and I’ll show you (with bloopers and all) how easy it is to sign up and start using EBATES. You’ll get 1-40% cash back (in the form of a check or PayPal deposit) on almost every one of your online purchases PLUS you get a $10 bonus if you use my link.

Add EBATES to your money saving apps and I promise you’ll thank me later. 🙂

My Earnings With EBATES: $200

Website | iTunes | Android

3. Kohls

Kohls – If you’re a Kohl’s shopper, you are well aware that there are always deals at Kohl’s. Sometimes, there are too many deals to keep track of. So your Kohl’s app can be an easy place for you to store all of your % off codes, your Yes2You Rewards, your Kohl’s Cash, and any other special deals they have going on, like $10 off $50 women’s clothing purchase.

If you struggle to keep all your Kohl’s coupons and codes straight, add the Kohl’s app to your phone to make sure you’re always getting the best deal. Plus, you get 50 Yes2You reward points when you download the app for the first time.

My Savings With Kohl’s: $150 (a modest estimate)

Website | iTunes | Android

4. Mint

Mint – This is my favorite online tool or app for budgeting, saving money, and tracking financial goals. It’s so awesome, I wasn’t surprised to learn Mint was created by the same team that created Turbo Tax and Quicken.

It’s a powerful app that links with your savings, checking, and retirement accounts and automatically categorizes your transactions for you.

You can set goals like paying off student loans or credit cards, as well as saving for things like vacations or retirement, and it pulls all your information together and lets you know how you’re doing. Mint will highlight problem areas and help you keep on track with your savings goals.

My Savings With Mint: $100 (a modest estimate)

Website | iTunes | Android

5. Pampers

Pampers – Pampers diapers have been a favorite for both of my babies. But my goodness are they expensive! So if you’re a Pampers diapers family at least scan the sticker code that’s on each pack of diapers or Easy Ups. You earn points that can be redeemed for practical or fun rewards..

I’ve used my points to get a free Shutterfly calendar and photobook, a $10 off Pampers coupon, reusable pouches for baby food, and more. They also have books, Melissa & Doug toys, or a trike if you really stack up points. If you are a Pampers family, download the Pampers app to start earning money back on all those diapers.

My Earnings With Pampers: $75

Website | iTunes | Android

6. GasBuddy

GasBuddy – It grinds my gears when I fill up my gigantic minivan with gas only to drive by another gas station that has gas for 20¢ cheaper. #TrueStory

But now with GasBuddy, I’m assured I’m getting the best deal.

This app is incredibly accurate at finding the cheapest gas prices near your location. If you want to go the extra mile, you can report prices to the app to earn points toward gas cards (not something I’ve dabbled in). To easily find the best gas prices around and save money on gas, check with GasBuddy before your next fill-up.

My Savings With GasBuddy: $50 (a modest estimate)

Website | iTunes | Android

7. Ibotta

Ibotta – Ibotta has savings for just everything, from paper towel to wine.You simply browse to deals on stuff you plan to buy, go shopping, then snap a picture of your receipt.

The app automatically matches things you bought with the deals, and you earn money back! It’s real cash that can be deposited to your PayPal, Venmo, or redeemed for gift cards. Plus, you can combine these savings with store sales, printed coupons, and other apps.

I haven’t used Ibotta long and have already earned $30. My first rebate was $3.00 off my husband’s beer, and my latest purchases were $3.00 off a pack of toilet paper that was on sale for $3.98 and $3.00 off my current nighttime diapers for my little one. It’s good for purchases from a whole bunch of stores like Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Costco, Kroger, Sam’s Club, CVS, Publix, and even online stores. Check out this post to learn the best Ibotta hacks and tips.

BONUS, when you sign up for a new Ibotta account, you get a FREE $10 welcome bonus!

My Earnings With Ibotta: $40

Website | iTunes | Android

8. Shutterfly

Shutterfly – I have to thank my sister for introducing me to the Shutterfly app. At least every month, I use it for an easy way to upload pictures from my phone, so I can delete them without worrying. I know they’re stored in my Shutterfly account in the cloud, then I can free up space on my phone for capturing new memories, downloading new audiobooks and podcasts, etc.

The Shutterfly app also can be a money saver too. They have unlimited free 4×6 or 4×4 and they often run deals that are “app exclusive.”

So far I’ve used the app to score a free Christmas ornament (minus shipping) and I’ll use the app to order 4×6 prints for my projects that I never seem to get around to. The ornament deal saved me $25 since it was a gift I was going to purchase anyway, but the picture uploading feature has been Priceless!

My Savings With Shutterfly: $25

Website | iTunes | Android

9. Shop Fetch

Shop Fetch – This is the app my local supermarket uses. Since I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi, I don’t use this app a ton. However, once in a while, my local grocery store advertises their sale items that are awesome deals when combined with Fetch coupons.

To use Fetch, you scan the barcodes of all the items you buy before you check out. I typically scan each item before I put it in my cart. The app adds up your points as you shop.

When you’re ready, click ‘checkout’ and show the cashier the barcode on your phone. This speeds up the checkout process big time. When you earn enough points, the app lets you know that you can use your points to get items for free on your current shopping trip. The Shop Fetch app helps you score extra good deals plus get groceries for free.

My Savings With Shop Fetch: $20

Website | iTunes | Android

10. Krazy Coupon Lady

The Krazy Coupon Lady – When did the Krazy Coupon Lady get her own app? She finds the best deals for you every week. And she even finds those deals where you can get things for free or even make money on a purchase, usually by stacking store deals, printable coupons, and app rebates.

Weekly roundups by store (like CostcoWalmart, Target, and Walgreens) are my favorite. She does all the hard work of extreme couponing for you. Pretty sure I should never need to pay more than 42¢ for soap again. And razors? Diapers? Toilet paper? There are always deals for those.

I just found Krazy Coupon Lady before my latest Walmart trip and found $10 worth of deals I didn’t see on my other apps, so this one is sure to save me even more money in the future. Check out the Krazy Coupon Lady app before your next shopping trip to get the absolute best deals, freebies, and money-makers.

My Savings With The Krazy Coupon Lady: $10

Website | iTunes | Android

BONUS! More Free Apps For Saving Money

Here are even more recommended apps for saving money, finding coupons and deals, and earning money that are next on my list to check out and put to work for me:

  • Groupon for finding discounts on local activities, restaurants, lodging and more
  • RetailMeNot for coupons and deals for stores and restaurants
  • VarageSale for selling your things or buying things secondhand for a lot cheaper than new
  • Uber Driver for your driving side hustle
  • Checkout 51 for even more cash back on your groceries
  • Walmart Savings Catcher to get money back if something you bought is sold at a lower price somewhere else
  • Digit for saving money, without even thinking about it

Work Smarter, Not Harder

These apps have genuinely helped me keep $1,000 cash in my pocket without hardly trying, so I know they can work to help you save money too.

If you want to make sure you’re getting the best deal and not overspending, using these free money apps can help you build up your savings and get some pretty sweet freebies in no time.

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Trying to save more money?

What are your favorite apps for saving money?

Let your light shine and use your common ¢ents,

How To Get Books For Free So You Stop Wasting Money

How To Get Books For Free So You Stop Wasting Money

If you like books and getting things for free, then you’ll love learning how to get books for free today!

Reading for pleasure and personal growth are both important to me, but finding the time to sit down and read is not exactly easy at this stage of my life.

I didn’t give up reading though. I just switched over to listening to audiobooks, so I can listen while driving, doing housework, or taking the dog and kids for a walk.

When I first heard I could get two audiobooks for free, I admit I was a bit skeptical.

Really, for free? You need my credit card number, right?

Or let me guess, I can get only certain titles, like The Grapes of Wrath and books I’ve never heard of before, gee, thanks…

get free booksBut I looked into it anyway, and I was shocked!

You can get ANY audiobook, even bestsellers and hot new releases.

Fiction? Yep. Nonfiction? You bet. Kids books….? Yes!

If you like saving money and like books, this is a no-brainer. So take advantage of this deal, then share it with the freebie and book lovers in your life.

Tell Me Already, How Can I Get My Two Free Audiobooks?

Audible! It’s an Amazon company that has the largest selection of audiobooks. If you sign up for Audible’s Free 30-day Trial, You’ll Get Any Two Audiobooks Free. It’s legitimately free, and you can get any two audiobooks you want.

Then simply cancel your trial if you don’t want to continue with the paid membership (which is about $15 per month), and you get to keep your two free books forever. You can cancel as soon as you get your books if you want, so you don’t even have to set a reminder to do it later.

The hardest part is honestly deciding which two books to pick!

I know I can’t be the only one with a “Must Read Books” list that’s 1.5 miles long…

I signed up for Audible, and I’ll show you just how easy it is to get started listening to your books.

(You’ll even get to see which book from my long list I picked first.)

Step 1. Start Your Trial

Click to start your free Audible trial.

(This is an affiliate link, which means I get a small commission if you sign up using my link. It does not cost you anything. Obviously, on the Common Cents Club, I only share the best deals that will help you save money or make money.)

You might be prompted to sign in to your Amazon account or create one if you don’t have one yet. I think mine is permanently signed in…#AmazonPrimeLover

After you create your account, you’ll automatically receive two free credits. Each credit will get you one free book.

Step 2. Pick Your Free Book

Browse Amazon’s gigantic section (or go straight to the book you know you want) and select the Audiobook format. Then click the yellow “Buy with Audible Credit” button.

Step 3. Get Your Device Ready For Listening

You can listen to your free Audible books on a laptop or desktop computer by streaming through the Audible website:

Or you can listen on your phone or tablet using the Audible app:



Or you can simply tell Alexa to play your book.

You can switch between the devices too; it knows exactly where you left off no matter which device you used last.

I started listening to my book on my laptop, then I downloaded the app to listen on my phone. It picked up exactly where I left off and has worked seamlessly as I’ve switched back and forth between devices.

The rest of the pictures in this post are steps for listening with your laptop or desktop computer because that’s what I did first.

Step 4. Find Your Book In Your Audible Library

Step 5. Start Listening To Your Free Book

Click ‘PLAY’ to start “reading” your book. Easy peasy! And enjoy!

Which Free Book Did I Pick First?

Yes, out of alllll the books available, I picked a personal finance book. I’m a money nerd to the core.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi is a six-week personal finance program geared toward 20- to 35-year olds. He has a bold and blunt method of teaching about all areas of finance. It’s already taught me plenty of things I didn’t know about credit and credit cards. It has useful tips for making smart money moves automatic, and he even gives scripts you can use to lower interest rates, get fees waived, or get more rewards. He focuses on big wins versus being frugal, claiming these are the things that will save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime. While I know being frugal during your entire adult life also saves thousands, I still appreciate his perspective. Of course, I love that he says getting rid of your debt fast is the best financial decision you will make. Well said, Ramit, well said. I agree so much that I wrote an entire book about that one point.

If you’re curious to learn more from Ramit, check out his blog at and his book on Amazon. 

Work Smarter, Not Harder

I’m a huge fan of reading, both for learning and enjoyment. And even if you have the time to relax and read a book, buying them can add up over time. So anytime I can get my hands on a book for free, especially if I don’t have to wait six months for the one library copy that has a ten-person waitlist, is working smarter, not harder.

Enjoy getting your audiobooks for free. Don’t forget to cancel the subscription before your 30-day trial is over. And if you’re a nonfiction reader and find a book you love, email me and let me know. I’ll probably add it to my never-ending must-read list. 🙂

Let your light shine (and pass this deal on),


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Check out this list to learn 100+ more easy ways to save money
And all the money-saving things I wish I knew in college.

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The Christmas Gift Your Kids Will Cherish All Year & It’s FREE

The Christmas Gift Your Kids Will Cherish All Year & It’s FREE

The One Gift Your Kids Will Cherish ALL YEAR Long–And You Will Too!

You know how it is. You have stuff on top of stuff. Every closet is overflowing.

More clothes than your kids need.

The toys from last year that quickly lost their luster…and now create clutter.

But it’s almost Christmas time, and society says it’s time to surround the sparkly tree with piles of presents.

Your kids may even have a Christmas Wish List already, and the grandparents are eager to shower the kids with things to brighten their day.

I get it. I love Christmas! I am no Grinch. I am excited to pick out a tree, decorate it while listening to Christmas music, and enjoy family traditions with my little ones.

But I  know there are more important lessons to teach my kids than more stuff = more happiness.

And I definitely don’t think Christmas should destroy your budget. There’s no need to use credit cards to finance Christmas gifts. Your financial health (getting or continuing to be debt free and investing for your future) is FAR, FAR more important than more gifts for your kids.

So if you want to avoid a Christmas spending hangover and don’t want tons of new clutter to trip over, then maybe it’s time for a different type of gift to give your kids this year.

The gift I’m excited about will last all year and will foster 5 AMAZING customs for your family:

  1. It is a weekly reminder that the gift of your undivided attention and time is priceless.
  2. It is ok to keep it simple. Not everything in life has to be over-the-top, extravagant, or Pinterest-worthy.
  3. Teach gratitude. Part of your job is to teach your kids to be content and grateful for what they already have.
  4. You will teach your kids the wonderful qualities of patience, self-control, and delayed gratification.
  5. Last, but definitely not least, is the lesson (and reminder for you) that stuff does not equal happiness.

By giving this gift, you will help your kids to be happier with what they have, to embrace family time spent together, and that you can have lots of fun without the latest toy/gadget/video game.

Here is one gift you can give all your children that they (and you!) will cherish all year long.

The One Gift Your Kids Need This Year: Time in a Jar

The idea is to create a jar with 52 different activities you can do together, one per week, during a special designated time.

Your time together is priceless, and of course, you spend time with your kids, but this gift is for a special time that your family has to look forward to every single week.

You and your kids will know that even if life seems like chaos most of the week, you will have this one time to shut everything else out and just be together soon.

This time together could be doing a simple 10-minute activity or it could be heading out for a day-long adventure, but the priority is your giving your undivided time and attention to doing these activities together.

This is time without phones, tablets, computers, or video games.

Just time together.

I promise this is a gift you will never regret giving.

The memories you will create after one year will be cherished by you and your kids for years to come.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1. Pick a Day

Based on your family’s typical schedule, decide which day of the week will work best for your family.

By giving this gift, you are committing to your child to spend time together every week doing something new or fun.

Decide as a family whether Friday nights, Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons, or Tuesday evenings will work for your family, and declare the day as such.

Yes, once in a while something will come up. But do everything you can to keep this time as your cherished time to create memories together.

Step 2. Family or Individual Child

Decide with your spouse if your jar will be intended for everyone in the family or if it will be for a specific child.

You might create this time for an older child, or maybe even a “forgotten middle child.”

Or maybe these will be activities for Mom + Daughter, Mom + Son, Dad + Daughter, or Dad + Son.

Do what will work best for your family.

Step 3. Name Your Day

Give this day or jar a special name.

Need some ideas?

  • The Mystery Gift Jar because it’s unknown which activity you will do this week.
  • Super Smith Saturdays because the Smith family decided to set Saturday mornings aside for this special time.
  • Treasures for Trevor because this is special weekly time for your son, Trevor.
  • Makin’ Memories Jar because this time together will surely create great memories.
  • Sundays with Sam for your time designated with Sam.
  • Or simple, The Time Jar, as a reminder that this is your gift of your time to your kids.

Just come up with something fun and give your jar gift a name.

Step 4. Get Your Jar

Next, you’ll need to get your jar. You can use a mason jar, a plastic cup, or some other container or basket you already have to make it a totally free gift.

Label the jar with your special name and decorate it a bit if you’d like.

You can make your own designs or find a cool printable online.

Or use one of those plastic mason jars with a chalkboard label, which I’ve seen at the dollar tree for a buck.

Step 4. Choose Your Activities

Then create a list of 52 different activities you can do together.

You’ll want to base the activities on your child’s age and interests, but don’t be afraid to add something new for your family to try as well.

If you put 52 activities in your jar, you will have at least one special activity to do together all year long!

No more “go find something to do” or “go play with your toys or we’re throwing them away” or popping in another movie while you mindlessly browse your phone.

Here Are 26 Activity Ideas To Get You Started:

  1. Create an obstacle course.
  2. Have a spa day and do each other’s hair and nails.
  3. Set up a scavenger hunt outside based on the season, colors, or numbers.
  4. Bake cookies or bread and take them to your neighbors.
  5. Make your own kinetic sand.
  6. Explore Google Maps to find your home, the home of family, other favorite or intriguing places.
  7. Build a snowman, a family of snowmen, or a character out of snow. I still remember a Yoshi my step-dad built and spray-painted as a child.
  8. Turn out all the lights and play hide and go seek with flashlights in the dark.
  9. Build an epic fort. Couch cushions. Sheets. Pillows. Blankets. Rearranged furniture. The whole nine yards.
  10. Go for a walk in a new area and play “I spy.”
  11. Host a movie marathon. Invite a friend, grandparents, cousins, or neighbors. Create tickets for them to see the show. Make the room dark like a theatre. Collect lots of blankets and pillows. Make popcorn and enjoy the shows.
  12. Teach your child to hula hoop (and brush off your own hula hooping skills!)
  13. Create a playlist of music and have a dance party. Have a mix of freestyle dancing and those funny ones like The Hokey Pokey, The Chicken Dance, The Macarena, and the Cupid Shuffle.
  14. Re-enact a book. I could see Goldilocks and the Three Bears and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt being ones my daughter would love.
  15. Write, decorate, and mail thank you letters or cards.
  16. Learn origami and make cool paper creations. Try to make everyone’s favorite animal or hobby.
  17. Plant a tree, an herb, veggies, or flowers. Talk about what plants need to grow and how they need to be taken care of each week.
  18. Rearrange your child’s bedroom.
  19. Have a snowball fight. This can be done outside if there’s snow, or you can crumple up lots of paper/newspaper/ads, or even use cotton balls.
  20. Make homemade playdough or slime together.
  21. Build a fire and make s’mores. Mmmm.
  22. Get out the box of Halloween costumes or dress up clothes (or your own clothes) and have a fashion show, photoshoot, or create your own play.
  23. Write a story or poem together.
  24. Make a cup of hot cocoa from scratch and savor it together.
  25. Learn the sign language alphabet.
  26. Find a free Yoga video online and do it together. My daughter and I like the Frozen Cosmic Kids Yoga.

Step 5. Create The Activities

To make this gift truly FREE to make, you can simply use paper and a pen and write the activities on slips of paper. You could also type them on your computer in a fun font and print them before cutting them.

Or if you want to spruce it up a bit, you can write activities on popsicle sticks or fold each piece of paper into a fun design (52 Paper Airplanes? That sounds fun! You’ll need more than a jar to hold all those though…). Feel free to be creative if you enjoy that, but don’t feel like you have to.

The real importance of this gift is the intentional time you agree to spend together and the anticipation of not knowing what you will do during your special time this week.

Step 6. Add The Activities To Your Jar

Then take all your slips of paper, popsicle sticks, or whatever you used for your activities and add them to your jar.

Wrap it up with a ribbon or bow, and that’s it!

You’ve created a FREE (or very cheap) gift for your kids that will teach them gratefulness, will focus on simplicity and joy through spending time together, and it will not clutter your house either!

Work Smarter, Not Harder

I hope your Time in a Jar is a gift you will give your child that will keep on giving all year long.

This gift will also help you stick to a wise budget and prevent you from getting caught up overspending this Christmas season.

This message is also to reassure you it is okay to keep it simple and focus on creating treasured time together with your littles.

Remember, your kids learn from what you model for them: If you get excited about these simple yet fun activities you do together, they’ll sense that. If you model that you need more stuff, or the latest gadget in order to bring “happiness,” they soak that up too.

I hope this jar helps you give your child what he or she really needs, helps you stick to a budget and keep your money on the bigger picture goals, and that it helps you model contentment, delayed gratification, gratefulness, finding joy in simple things, and that you love and value your time together.

No matter how you do it, I hope you create many cherished memories this holiday season–and throughout the entire year.

I’d love to hear if you give a gift like this and what special activities you added for your little ones, so add them in the comments below.

Whatever you do today, let your light shine and use your common cents.

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You may also want to check out How To Be A Money Saver: 100 Ways To Save Money This Month

25 Life-Changing Things I Wish I Knew Before College

25 Life-Changing Things I Wish I Knew Before College

Ever look back at a period of time in your life and think if only I knew then what I know now…I’d have done a lot of things different?

We’ve all been there.

Today, I’m talking about college.

College involves a lot of decisions that impact the rest of your life.

So read on for the things my closest friends from The Common Cents Club and I wish we’d known before we went to college.

25 Things I Wish I Knew Before College:

things I wish I knew before college

I’ve been doing this adult thing for a while now. “Adulting” has brought marriage, mortgage payments, and student loans. Two careers. Two homes. Two kids. And a dog.

When I look back at the college decisions I made, there is a list of things I wish I’d known before I went to college.

Because my brain is usually fixed on money matters, many of the items on this list focus on college choices and the big impact those things have on your adult finances and what lifestyle you’re able to create for yourself.

I’m keeping this list for things I plan to teach my kids before they go to college, and I hope you share this with those you care about before they go to or graduate from college. It could change their whole adult life.

Things To Know About Student Loans & College Tuition

These are the things to know about student loans and tuition.

1. Student loans are not “good debt.” 

I’m in the camp that believes there is not “good” debt. All debt comes with risk and stress, usually for decades. Starting your adult life leaving college with a massive pile of student loans –without a guaranteed job & paycheck– is setting yourself up for a difficult uphill battle financially.

2. College debt is not a necessary evil that everyone has to have. 

Even if your parents can’t foot the bill for your college tuition, as mine couldn’t, it doesn’t mean financial aid is your only option. Savings, grants, scholarships, assistantships, and even employee programs are some of the options out there.

3. The effect of compound interest. 

Somehow this one didn’t sink in until I was on track to graduate with $50,000 of student loan debt. When I realized $50,000 of student loans was going to cost $100,000 to repay on the standard repayment plan, I finally understood the effect of compound interest. (You can read more about my journey to repay this debt and how you can save thousands on your student loans in my book Pay Your Student Loans Fast.) I also wish I’d used compound interest in my favor and put my savings bonds (gifted from my awesome grandparents) in something that could have earned a lot more interest over time. We’ve started an Educational Savings Account invested in mutual funds for our children.

4. You can decline some of the financial aid offered.

I didn’t have any money saved for college, and I was told to take as much as they would offer. Sometimes this meant I’d get a check for a few hundred dollars because I was borrowed more than I needed for tuition, room, and board. I pocketed this money for living expenses but should have used savings or worked for those living expenses instead. I wish I’d figured out the minimum amount I needed just to cover my classes, and declined every extra penny so I didn’t later have to pay it back plus interest.

5. You should make payments toward your tuition even if you can’t pay it in full. Every little bit helps. 

My parents taught me to save young. I saved and bought my own car, paid for many of my vehicle expenses, cell phone, and clothing in high school. But saving for college was never on my radar. As I referenced above, I just assumed and let financial aid cover the bill and figured I’d figure out paying for college later (you know, after I had an amazing job that paid a ton of money because I had a college degree…). I wish I’d paid even small amounts toward my tuition throughout my college years. Every little bit that you don’t have to borrow and repay later seriously adds up and makes a difference.

6. Some colleges offer tuition assistance or discounts for employees.

I found on campus jobs in both undergraduate and graduate school. I did not know some colleges help pay tuition or reduce the fees for their employees. Working through college is wise, but researching to find colleges or employers that offer assistance for tuition is even wiser.

7. Think outside the box for Scholarships

I had no idea how much scholarships and grants can help reduce the burden of paying for college. It’s huge! I barely knew there were scholarship opportunities in my own high school, much less opportunities outside of my school. In fact, there are lots of unique places to apply for scholarships. This was another thing I didn’t realize until I already had a pile of student loans. I found and was given a scholarship from the local newspaper two years in a row. It’s also important to know the requirements of any scholarships you are offered, such as which universities, majors, GPA, or documentation requirements they have.

8. The Return on Investment (ROI) of your degree. 

Find out what the average salary earns before choosing a degree. If the average pay is $30,000 per year and the degree is going to cost you $45,000, that is not a good return on your investment. Find a lot cheaper school or choose a career path that pays a lot more to make your college investment worth it.

9. School choice will impact far more than your college years. 

You don’t need to go to an Ivy League school or pay for out-of-state tuition to get a great education and foundation for your future career. Some jobs require a certain degree, but they don’t require a degree from a certain school. You have an important choice here. Don’t justify an extra $60,000 in debt for the “experience” of a more expensive school. Graduating with $15,000 in student loans creates a much smaller burden and opportunity for a drastically different lifestyle than graduating with $75,000 in college debt. Be wise about which university you choose to attend.

10. Switching your major can cause serious damage to your finances. 

Switching your major is common. After all, not many of us know exactly what we want to do with our life at age 18. But it’s important to know switching your major can do serious damage to your finances for the rest of your life. Most of the time, switching your major leads to years more of schooling. More years of college means more tuition and often times, more debt. This is especially true if you switch more than once. So before you switch your major, consider the financial impact.

11. Understand breakdown of where your money is coming from.

 Know where all your money is coming from each semester. How much is scholarships or grants? How much is student loans? What is the interest rate on the loans? When does the interest start accruing? What needs to be repaid and when?

12. There are legit options besides the 4-year degree.

I used to think a bachelor’s degree from a 4-year university was the only “real” option. Now I know that is far from the truth. There are associate degrees and apprenticeships that can lead to incredibly fulfilling and well-paying careers. There are even examples of successful entrepreneurs without any degree. These options result in a lot less debt and stress about finances. I’m not saying a 4-year degree is bad, so don’t get me wrong. I am saying it’s not the only option.

13. A 2-year degree can cost you years and thousands of dollars.

Even if you decide to go the faster and less expensive route of earning a 2-year degree, it can still take more years and money than anticipated if you do not do your research and create a detailed plan. Some schools are prone to waiting lists or frequent policy changes that can get in the way of your graduation plans. To avoid this, research schools and ask students a few years older than you about their experience with the program you’re interested in. Choose a school that doesn’t make it a huge obstacle to graduate within your desired timeline or price range.

Things To Know About College Lifestyle

And here are the things to know about money and college lifestyle choices.

14. Amazon Prime has a FREE 6-MONTH membership for college students.

I’m a big fan of Amazon Prime. Regular old adults can try it free for 30 days, but lucky college students can get a free trial for six months! After a trial, your membership will upgrade to Amazon Prime for 50% off. Of course, if you don’t want to pay for the membership, all college students can try it free for six months then cancel. You’re free to cancel anytime.

You’ll get:

  • free 2-day shipping on thousands of products
  • tons of free TV shows, movies, and music
  • exclusive college deals
  • and more!

Start your FREE six-month trial of Amazon Prime today.

15. How to budget! 

This one gets an exclamation point. Seriously, probably the greatest skill for being in a good place with your money is knowing how to budget. Know how much you earn. Know how much you spend. Know how much you save. That is the only way to save money for anything or get rid of pesky debt.

You can use the budgeting template I use in The Free Resource Library:

16. Not to buy books from the campus bookstore. 

You can save a ton of money if you can find used textbooks instead of buying them from the campus bookstore. Here are some places to check for cheaper textbooks:

Also, consider borrowing from a friend or upperclassman who already took the course or renting instead of buying. This is especially true if it’s for a general ed. class you don’t think you’ll ever use the books for again after the class is over.

*UPDATE* I just found an AWESOME site that has online textbooks for FREE!

It’s called Open Textbook Network, and over 500 universities across the country are participating, including schools in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Tennessee, Ohio, California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, and more! See if your college is participating. And before you or your child buys another college textbook, check and see if the book is in this online library.

17. That I could study, have a social life, and work at the same time.

I actually earned better grades during the semesters I was working during college. This is probably because I knew I had dedicated hours for work, and I wanted to set aside certain hours for play, so I couldn’t procrastinate as much with my school work. I also wish I knew about the massive number of opportunities to work from home on your own time, like online tutoring for VIPKID, freelance writing and proofreading, starting a blog, or working as a Pinterest virtual assistant. Whether you work for yourself from home or work for someone else, it is totally doable to work, play, and do well in school at the same time. Plus, work = more money for play time (or for books, rent, and tuition…).

18. Not use credit cards for everything.

Do not get in the habit of using your credit cards for everything. Pay off your balance in full every month. If you can’t pay off your balance, you’re spending money you don’t have AND you’re losing even more money because of interest charges and maybe even late fees too. This is a recipe for complete disaster. After learning how to budget (refer back to #1 of this section), this is the next most important habit to learn in my opinion.

19. Find restaurants and businesses offer student discounts and use them.

There are 100+ stores and restaurants that offer discounts to college students. You can even get discounts on insurance, technology, and travel. So if you’re going to eat out, go shopping, or travel you better check if there are any college discounts first. Here are two great lists I found about brands and stores that give student discounts.

20. Take advantage of the free gym membership on campus.

This might be your only opportunity to have a free gym membership. And it’s available at a time when “The Freshman 15” is knocking at your door. Use it! Start or keep good habits of being active. Take care of your body. And don’t you dare pay for a gym membership if you have access to a free workout center on campus.

21. Get any on-the-job experience you can.

One of the best ways to know if it’s the right job for you is to gain real experience in your field of interest. Do internships, volunteer, or work as soon as possible. It’s devastating personally and financially to dig yourself into a huge pile of student loan debt only to find out upon graduation that you can’t stand the work you got a degree in. Gaining real work experience early can also help you avoid switching your major three times or having to go back to school again later in life. Plus, when you’re applying for your dream job, those who are hiring love to see related work experience, so internship, work, or volunteer experience will help you get hired too.

22. Ask for help.

Ask your parents, advisors, professors, mentors, boss, or those in the financial aid office or career services until you understand your loans, scholarships, options, and opportunities. That is exactly what those people are there for. They want to help. And the only way for you to learn is to ask. Learn as much as you can so you don’t have such a long list of things you wish you knew sooner…

23. Ask about the professors.

When you’re signing up for your classes, it’s worth a little time investment to find professors who make class worthwhile. Sometimes you only have one option and that just is what it is. But sometimes there are a bunch of professors who teach the same class. Finding professors who are enthusiastic about their topic and find engaging ways to teach you something are worth it. Don’t just sign up for the professor whose class is easy to get an A in. You’re paying big bucks for your college education. Get everything you can out of it.

24. You don’t need to know your exact dream career as a freshman, but you do need a plan.

It’s ok if you don’t know “exactly what you want to be when you grow up” as a college freshman. Many change their minds. But you do need a plan. Know your areas of interest and have a plan for how you’re going to figure out what the right path is for you. Maybe you can take general classes your first year and volunteer in the areas you’re interested in to see which is a good fit. But taking random generals for three years while you “figure it out” is not a good plan. It can be a waste of time and money.

25. If you aren’t ready to make a plan, don’t be afraid to take time off and wait.

It’s ok to wait to attend college until you have a plan. Maybe you want to work for a year and learn more about your options. Research salaries. Learn how many places are hiring for the positions you’re interested in. Maybe you want to work a few years while saving like crazy to pay for tuition with real money instead of debt. Going to college right after high school just because that’s what “everybody” does isn’t a great plan. You need a more clear plan or you’ll accidentally graduate with $120,000 in student loans and still unsure what you want to do with your degree. A well-researched plan will help you get the most out of your college years, and improve your chances of snagging a job you enjoy that supports a lifestyle you love.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Follow the 25 things on this list to get the best return on your investment of a college education. These things can change your life and help you avoid looking back at your college decisions with a bunch of debt and regret.

If you already have student loans and want to get rid of them as fast as possible, check out my book Pay Your Student Loans Fast. With this book you’ll have the step-by-step, proven plan to get rid of your debt fast. Seriously, my husband and I were ordinary, rookie public school teachers, yet combined we paid off over $60,000 in 4.5 years. There is hope, my friend!

Share this list with anyone you know who is planning to go to college or is in college right now. You’ll help them truly make the best of their college years and start their adult years on the right foot financially.

They will thank you for your guidance…just maybe not right away.

Cheers to your financial freedom!

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Free college textbooks and other things I wish I knew before college

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100+ Best Frugal Living Tips

100+ Best Frugal Living Tips

You already know a few ways to save money, but you’re looking for the absolute best frugal living tips that will save you hundreds or thousands of dollars every month.

You want new, creative, yet easy ways to save money while still living well.

Well, I’ve compiled my most epic list of 100+ frugal living tips and money saving hacks that you can start using today.

If you want to jump to the best frugal living tips for a certain topic, just click a link below:

Frugal Living Ideas To Save Money On Groceries

Food is one of the best areas to implement the best frugal living tips because we all need to eat to survive. But the truth is, most of us could (drastically) save money on the food and drinks we buy.

Try these ideas to start being more frugal and slash your next grocery bill:

1. Make A Meal Plan.

meal planning on a budget

Create a plan with all your meals and snacks for one week and only buy the food you need for that plan. I usually plan weekly but have planned meals for an entire month too (and just bought fresh produce weekly). Either way works and by creating a plan you will cut back on your food bills and spend a lot less by not going out to eat.

P.S. I created FREE Meal Planning Templates for my frugal friends! Access them in my Free Resource Library or get the secret code by signing up below!



2. Use The Ibotta App.

My go-to app for saving money on groceries is the FREE ibotta app. Use it to easily get cash back on practically anything you buy from 300+ stores. Milk, bread, cookies, crackers, pasta, even kombucha. Just browse the app to find deals on things you need to buy. Scan your receipt and earn free money.

They even have $10 and $20 gift cards you can earn for trying things like Hulu and Amazon Prime. One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries is to use ibotta to get money back on things you already buy anyway.

 *BONUS* You Can Get $10 By Signing Up Today

3. Shop At Aldi Stores.

Shop at a store that offers lower prices every day, instead of stores with only a few good deals each week. Hello, Aldi!

Aldi is my favorite place to buy groceries! I save at least $100 per week on groceries by shopping at Aldi’s compared to my local supermarket. Need more convincing to start shopping at Aldi? Check this out.

4. Shop at

A new store I found online for ordering groceries and household goods is Brandless. While not everything is the best deal, I’ve been impressed with the options they have. And everything is $3 or less! Here’s my complete review of Brandless.

4. Eat The Food You Already Have.

More than likely, there’s already food in your cupboards, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Eat that food first to save on groceries this month. There’s no need to buy a cart full of groceries or go out to eat when your deep freezer and pantry are packed with food. Get creative and start putting random stuff together. It could be fun 😉

5. Create A Shopping List — And Stick To It.

After you plan your meals, create a list of all the food you need for those planned meals, then stick to it! I like to use the FREE app Wunderlist for my grocery lists. I even got my husband to help keep track of the groceries we need with this app! (It’s that good.)

Read about the apps I love best for saving money.

6. Use $5 Meal Plan to Get the Habit Started

If you’ve tried meal planning but found it hard to stick to, you should really try $5 Meal Plan. They not only have easy, delicious meal plan recipes for many different diet needs and preferences, but they also create your grocery list for you! That just might be the kicker you need to really make meal planning a habit.

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the shopping lists they created for me:

I signed up for their Risk-Free 14 Day Trial and was impressed by the meal selection. Even for my picky eaters and family’s diet restrictions, I found meals we could make and eat. If you like it and it helps your family stick to your grocery budget, it’s only $5 per month.

Start your 100% Risk-Free 14-Day Trial Today.

7. Stock Up On Deals.

When there is a great deal on a few essentials you know you will need later and have a very long shelf life (like noodles, dry beans, or TP), buy several to stock up instead of buying them later when they are full price. You can even stock up on things like blueberries when they’re in season (and cheaper) then freeze them to use in the winter months when they’re much more expensive in the store.

8. Buy Real, Yet Cheap, Food.

Think bananas, carrots, rolled oats, rice, beans, potatoes, and eggs. These are inexpensive foods that will actually fill you up but won’t jack up your grocery bill. This is a frugal living tip that will help your wallet and your waitline at the same time.

9. Buy The Generic Brand.

Replacing name-brand foods with the generic brand will noticeably cut your grocery bill. Many generic foods taste the same, while other foods taste slightly different, but you and your family can get used to the difference over time. Swapping brands is an easy way to save money without sacrificing.

In fact, many generic brands are even made by the same company; they literally just have different packaging! So don’t be afraid to give generic a try.

10. Get A Water Filter Instead Of Bottled Water.

One of the best frugal living tips is to invest in a water filter so you can drink your own tap water (which is safe for most people) because it will save you a TON of money if you’re used to buying bottled water.

I’ve personally used an inexpensive faucet filter like this one for years. It’s made my tap water safer to drink and it’s saved me hundreds of dollars because I never have to buy bottled water again.

11. Use EBATES When You Buy Food Online.

If you order any groceries online like I do, make sure you sign up for EBATES first to get cash back on all your online purchases. EBATES is my favorite because it is THE EASIEST money saving tool. Check out my full review of how EBATES works here.

New EBATES Members Get A $10 Welcome Gift! Start Today!

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Super Frugal Living – Save Money On Drinks Too

Most of us know we spend a lot of money on food, but do you know how much you spend on drinks? Between coffee, soda, protein shakes, juice, smoothies, teas, beer, wine, liquor, energy drinks, and so on, it’s probably a lot more than you think. Here are ways to live more frugally and spend less money on drinks.

1. Drink Lots of Water.

Unless your tap water is unsafe, skip bottled water. Use a water filter and refillable water bottle instead. When I leave the house, chances are I have my water bottle with me, so I don’t buy overpriced concession stand, fast food, or gas station drinks when I get thirsty.

If you haven’t started this habit yet, get a water bottle and bring it with you wherever you go. I’ve tried more water bottles than I care to admit, and this water bottle continues to be my favorite. It helps me drink lots of water, so I stay hydrated but don’t spend money on drinks.

2. Eliminate or Cut Back on Other Liquids.

By simply replacing some of your drinks with water, you could potentially save a LOT of money each month. Your body and your wallet will probably feel better once this one becomes a habit too. To ease into it, start by choosing one liquid to reduce, like soda. Then the next week, add another.

Or if you’re all in and ready for super frugal living, drink only water for a whole month. I bet you’ll save some money that way!

Psst! The FREE ibotta app has deals on beer, liquor, and wine too! So if you are going to buy them, at least use the app to save money.

3. Make Your Own Coffee at Home.

Look, I’m a coffee lover too, especially with a donut on the side, but the saver in me cringes at the cost of just one latte at coffee shops. And is one really enough?

Brewing your coffee at home is a simple living tip and a money saving tip because you don’t have the extra stops or waiting in line at a coffee shop. You can do it all in your own kitchen.

Even if you’re more of a latte or frappuccino drinker, Pinterest has plenty of yummy recipes you could use to create your own fancy coffee drink at home, like an Iced Vanilla Bean Latte, a Mocha Frappuccino or these 15 Easy Coffee Recipes.

4. Find The Best Coffee Deals

Even if you’re hooked on the convenience of a Keurig too (oops…), you can still brew your own coffee or tea for less than 50¢ per cup at home with great K Cup Deals on coffee and teas.

P.S. If you really, really, really love to splurge on coffee (as in this is ranked at the top of your budget for luxuries and you’re willing to cut back elsewhere instead), ask for gift cards to your favorite coffee shop for your birthday, Valentine’s day, Mother’s Day, Easter, or Christmas. Then you can splurge once in a while on a yummy coffee shop latte without sabotaging your budget every month to support a coffee habit.

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12 Frugal Tips To Save Money at Restaurants

In addition to spending less at the grocery store, you can also save money at restaurants and fast food joints if you’re intentional. Here are the best frugal living tips for eating out:

1. Kids Eat Free. There are tons of restaurants that will allow your kids to eat free or super cheap if you go on the right day of the week. This guide is a lifesaver for finding out which restaurants have deals on kids’ meals for each day of the week.

2. Make going out to eat a rare splurge. Instead of being the norm, create the habit that going out to eat is a special event in your household. Make cooking, trying new recipes, and even theme nights like Taco Tuesday and Slow Cooker Sunday something fun to do together.

The Absolute Best Frugal living Tips

3. Look online for coupons, Groupons, or discounted gift cards. When you know you’ll need to get food on the road, look ahead of time for any special deals to save a few bucks.

4. Use BOGO sandwich deals. Certain fast food places almost always have coupons for BOGO sandwich deals, so use those and get two sandwiches. Skip the fries, they really aren’t filling anyway, and the sandwich should be enough to hold you over.

5. Skip the appetizers, desserts, sides, and drinks. Just get the main dish and your bill could be half the size.

6. Get an appetizer as your meal. Some appetizers are big enough and cheaper than the main dishes. I’ve done this at restaurants that have large chicken quesadillas as an appetizer for just a few bucks, which can be enough for a meal at a fraction of the price.

7. Drink water. It’s free. So are the refills. Ask for lemon to add some flavor.

8. Take advantage of Happy Hour. Many restaurants have deals as much as 50% off if you eat or drink during specified times. Similarly, many have special deals like $1 taco days. This could be another way to satisfy your restaurant cravings while sticking to your budget.

9. Go out for breakfast instead of dinner. Restaurant breakfasts are often half the price of their dinner entrees.

10. Compare prices for the meals. If you’re on a budget and trying to save money, this is not the time to get the filet mignon and lobster platter. Find something cheaper.

11. Take leftovers home and eat them for lunch tomorrow. If you do get a large meal (as most restaurant entrees are multiple servings), ask for a box and pack up half the meal to go. Then you have lunch already set for tomorrow. Yesss!

12. Take advantage of birthday freebies. Just by showing your drivers license or signing up online, you can enjoy a bunch of goodies for free on your birthday every year. Here are 31 birthday freebies you could sign up for.

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8 Ways Money Saving Tips For Your Vehicles

1. Get rid of your car payments. Look at your budget and see how much money you’d have every month if you didn’t have a car payment. Furthermore, all the interest on your car payments is money that you could better invest somewhere else–such as a retirement or college savings account, which grows in value, rather than vehicles, which lose their value.

Sometimes people don’t realize their dreams are completely within reach–if only they got rid of the gigantic car payments sitting in their driveway. What could you do without your car payments? This one frugal living tip could change your life.

To get rid of your car payment, you could sell your current vehicle and purchase an older one without the fancy extras and without financing.

P.S. Within just a few months of launching my book about getting out of debt, readers were already sharing that they used the strategies in my book to pay off their car loans! Without car payments, they have way more wiggle room in their budget. I am so proud of all my readers for doing something to drastically change their lives for the better by getting rid of debt.

2. Sell an extra vehicle. If you can get by with one less vehicle, sell one. Some families have one or two more vehicles in their driveway than they have drivers in the house. This could free up some cash, and maybe savings on registration and insurance too.

3. Sell your vehicle yourself instead of trading it into a dealer. If and when you sell your next vehicle, you will get the most bang for your buck if you thoroughly clean your car and sell it yourself. It’s more work, but it will save you money.

4. Wash your vehicle yourself. Automatic car washes don’t cost a ton, but throughout a year, washing your car yourself could add up to a decent amount of savings.

5. Look for coupons. Your local newspaper, mechanic websites, or even Groupon often have coupons for oil changes or other car maintenance. While you probably want to stick to your trusted mechanic for big car repairs, you could take your business to whoever offers the best deal for simple things like an oil change or tire rotation.

6. Combine errands in one trip. Rather than running into or across town every day for a different errand, combine them and let your car sit at home a day here and there to save a little on gas.

7. Walk, bike, run, or rollerblade. For one of the best frugal living tips that’s also good for your health, leave your vehicle at home and use a free form of transportation like walking or biking. It’s good exercise for your body and mind, and it saves gas & wear on your vehicle too.

8. Carpool. Whether it’s for your commute to work or a trip to your kids’ tournament this weekend, carpool when you can. My husband and I carpooled with co-workers for years. This frugal living tip cut our gas and oil change costs in half, allowing us to pay off debt then build an emergency fund much faster.

Plus, when we carpooled with others, there were a lot fewer temptations to stop for coffee in the morning or at the store on the way home…saving us even more money throughout the month.

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9 Ideas to Save Money on TV, Movies & Books at Home

All right, you knew this one had to make the list. TV and movies are total luxuries, yet they make a sizable dent in most people’s monthly budget. Each month it might not seem like a ton, but multiply that number by 12 and the amount you pay for TV in a year will shock you. Here are some of the best frugal living tips for saving money on TV, movies, & books:

1. Assess what you really “need” for TV. It’s rare any of us “need” TV, but it’s a luxury many of us enjoy. But assess what you really need to get some pleasurable downtime in front of the screen, and consider how important TV is compared to the other luxury categories in your budget (like restaurants, entertainment, clothing, and travel).

2. Compare your options. My guess is with all the options out there now, you can find a better rate than what you’re paying now. Check out Sling, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Video, Cable providers, Dish, Direct TV, and I’m sure there are more I’m missing. After assessing what you need, check out how much it’d cost for each of the options available in your area.

3. Call your current provider and ask for a deal. Tell them you’re going to cancel and switch (and mean it), and if they won’t match the price you can get elsewhere.

4. Get an old school antenna. Ah, the ultimate basic TV package. All ten channels I grew up with. I wasn’t deprived, so for the modest cost of an antenna, you could get the basics (like your local NFL games) and potentially save hundreds this month, and thousands over a year.

5. Use Amazon Prime Video. If you already have an Amazon Prime membership, use the TV and movie perks you already pay for. They’re adding new TV series, kids & family shows, documentaries, and movies all the time. You can add channels like HBO and Starz. Not sure this will do the trick? You can try it free for a month to test it out. Join Amazon Prime – Watch Thousands of Movies & TV Shows Anytime – Start Free Trial Now

6. Sign up for the Redbox mailing list. You’ll regularly get coupon codes for FREE movies or game rentals in your email.

7. Borrow movies from friends, family, neighbors, or the library. Chances are they have some good ones you haven’t seen yet. You can let them see your collection and do a swap.

8. Watch the movies you already have. Being content with what you already have is a huge part of simple frugal living. Instead of insisting on something new or different, watch what you already have and be thankful for that.

9. Get FREE audiobooks. Did you know that just by signing up for Audible’s FREE 30-day trial you can get two FREE audiobooks? I loved audiobooks to pass the time and learn on the go while commuting, and now as a busy mom with an ever-growing list of “must read books,” I love audiobooks even more. If you haven’t yet, Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks. (Here’s the step-by-step tutorial for getting your free audiobooks to show you just how easy and FREE it is!) Plus, you get to keep the books FOREVER. 🙂

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2 Money Saving Ideas For The Internet

1. Research the options in your area. See if you can get by with a lower package or if there are any deals or promotions you could get for switching to a new provider.

When you find a better deal, call your current provider and tell them other internet providers are offering you a better deal (give specifics). Tell them you’ve been a loyal customer for X years but you can’t pass up the savings this other company is offering you. Ask what they can do for you to beat or match that offer. You might be surprised what they will do to keep you as a customer.

2. Use free wi-fi. You might be able to get by without the monthly wi-fi expense completely. Using your cell phone data (if you have it) and local establishments with free wi-fi, like coffee shops and the library, you might be able to save a good chunk of money every month.

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10 Ways to Save Money on Cell Phones

Confession time…It took me about a decade to finally go to the dark side of owning a smartphone. I was laser-focused on getting out of debt and could now swallow the monthly increase. After years and years of paying $30 a month for my phone, it just seemed ridiculous to suddenly start paying that much for a phone!

Even after we got out of debt, it took me a year–and having our first child–to finally take the plunge. I had gotten so used to life without it, I knew smartphones were a luxury, not a necessity.

Whether you have a smartphone or not, here are some ways to reduce your phone bill:

1. Check out Republic Wireless. They have legitimate cell phone plans as low as $15 per month! Last I looked, they have expanded nationwide, but still didn’t have optimal service in my area. I sure wish they did! I’ve heard awesome things about this cell phone company and for just $15 per month, you could save a boatload! See if there’s coverage in your area.

2. Invest in a heavy-duty case. If your phone is worth a couple hundred dollars, protect your phone with a quality case like the OtterBox Defender Case so your screen does not shatter.

3. Buy a used phone. Some cell phone companies have used phones you can buy, or websites like Gazelle and Swappa have Certified pre-owned iPhones for a fraction of the price and free standard shipping on all orders.

4. Sell your old phone. Use Swappa or Gazelle to sell your old smartphones you have lying around. Having more money in the bank is better than having unused phones lying around.

5. Lower your data plan. Check out how data you are using to see if you can lower to a cheaper data package. When I first signed up for a data plan, the salesman tried convincing me that I should go with 10GB of data per month. Thankfully, I knew that sounded outrageous and I started with 3GB. I quickly saw how little data I really needed and have been using only 1GB per month for over two years now. So check out your usage yourself and see if you really need all the data you’re paying for.

6. Use free wi-fi whenever you can. If you have access to wi-fi, make sure your phone is connected to that instead of using your phone data. This is how I’m able to use such little data each month.

7. Inspect your bill. Call your phone provider and inquire about any fees or charges you aren’t sure what they are for. Make sure you actually use any services you are paying for. Sometimes add-on perks sound good at the beginning and only cost a few bucks a month, but years later you learn you’ve been paying $10 per month for something you never even used.

8. Shop around. See if another company is offering a better deal to new customers. I recently saw one phone company advertising the latest iPhone for free for new customers. **Here’s a specific post for comparing and optimizing your cell phone bill**

9. Pay for your phone in full. Rather than installment plans, if you can pay for your phone in full upfront, your monthly bill will be smaller and if anything happens to the phone, you actually own it (instead of just “borrowing” it until it’s paid in full from the cell phone company). If you can’t pay for a phone in full, you can’t afford it. Choose a cheaper one.

10. Resist needing the latest and greatest. Stick with an older version of the phone instead of upgrading. If you already have the newest phone, consider trading it in for an older one to make money fast.

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8 Simple Living Tips To Save Money On Entertainment

1. Look for events online or posted around town that are free. Enjoy free days or nights out with friends, a date, or family like concerts in the park, free family video showings, or family fun nights.

2. Eat beforehand or pack your own food. You won’t have to buy food from vendors, which are always overpriced (I’m talking about you, $5 hot dog and $3 bottle of water!)

3. Invite friends over to your house. Host a meal, bonfire, games or a movie night at your house instead of going out.

4. Get discounted tickets. Check with your community center or public school district to see if they sell discounted tickets to local attractions. You can also look on Craigslist, Facebook buy & sell groups, or sites like StubHub, Ticket Master, or Cheap Tickets to get discounted tickets rather than paying full price.

5. Go to a matinee movie. If you’re set on seeing a movie in the theater, many theaters offer cheaper (like half-price) tickets for movies shown earlier in the day.

6. Look for special discounts. Look online or call to ask about special deals. A local theater by me has military discounts, senior discounts, and student discounts. Even if you don’t qualify for any of those discounts, they have special ticket prices one day per week. Take advantage of these to save on entertainment.

7. Use Groupons. You can get 25% off your first Groupon if you’re a newbie. There are tons of deals for restaurants and just about anything you can think to do, like paint nights, amusement parks, wine tasting, comedy clubs, cooking and dance classes, museums, theaters, concerts, and more.

8. Explore outside. Step away from noise and technology and find some entertainment in nature. Go for a hike, a bike ride, walk the dogs, go to a park, pack a picnic, go camping, fishing, sledding…just go outside. This is one of the best frugal living tips for your wallet and your soul.

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7 Ways to Save Money on Insurance

Would you believe I recently saved over $700 on insurance! It’s true


I finally did the dreaded task of comparing insurance carriers for our home and auto insurance, which I’d thought about doing for a couple of years but kept putting it off. I’m so glad I did it because I found out we could get better coverage for $400 less than we were paying before. It wasn’t fun, but it really wasn’t that bad. And the results made me wish I had done it a lot sooner.

In addition, my husband and I earn $300 every year by taking a health assessment for our health insurance company.

So those two things put $700 extra in our pocket!

How can you use this super frugal living tip and save money on insurance?

1. Compare insurance companies. A few hours of getting quotes could equate to hundreds of dollars saved each year, like it did for us.

2. Negotiate your rate. Once you know what other companies offer, you can better negotiate with your current insurance provider. Let them know the rate they need to beat or you will switch to another company. **Here’s an exact script you can use to negotiate lower car insurance, thanks to Ramit Sethi.**

3. Complete health insurance assessments. If your health insurance offers an incentive for completing an online or in-person assessment, take the time to do it. It can be an easy way to earn a few hundred bucks. We either get gift cards or prepaid Visa cards as compensation.

4. Get healthier. You can lower your life insurance rates by being in the top tier of health (e.g., be at a healthy weight, don’t smoke, manage your stress, etc.).

5. Drive carefully. Traffic tickets and accidents not only cost money immediately, they affect your car and life insurance rates too.

Many car insurance companies offer discounts for every year you go without a claim, plus, if/when you have kids, you’ll want them to drive carefully too, so be a good role model while driving to keep your insurance costs down.

6. Earn good grades in school. Car insurance companies often have discounts for students who excel in school. So if you’re a college student or if you have kids in school, stress the importance of earning good grades and do your part to help make that happen. Ask your auto insurance provider about good student discounts.

7. Evaluate your coverage and deductible. You want to make sure you have enough coverage, but not too much so you’re not paying for more than you need.

Be sure to carefully assess your insurance needs to ensure you have enough coverage, and speak to a professional if you’re unsure before making any big insurance changes.

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How To Live Frugally And Use Your Local Library

Those who know how to live frugally adore public libraries because they are a FREE resource for all sorts of things. Check out what the libraries in your area have to offer this month. You might be surprised at how much money you can save if you keep your wallet closed and open the doors of your library.

1. Free music, movies, TV series, books, ebooks, and audiobooks. Borrow thousands of items for completely free. Just use your card to check the items out and return them before the due date.

2. Free internet. If you can get by without internet at home, you can use the library for the times you really need it to save money.

3. Classes, clubs, and fun events. My local library offers toddler yoga, toddler story times, reading to therapy dogs, Pokemon club, movie & popcorn nights, family trivia nights, potluck picnics, book clubs, summer reading programs, and more throughout the year. And they are all FREE!

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10 Money Saving Ideas For Housing

Housing is the biggest expense for many people, so it also has the most potential for the greatest savings. These are some of the best frugal living tips for your home.

1. Find a cheaper place to live. If you’re looking for one super frugal living idea that could save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, find a cheaper place to live. Research refinancing, finding cheaper rent, or downsize to a smaller home with a smaller (or no) mortgage.

2. Get a roommate. You can get someone to split all your living expenses.

3. Rent out your space on Airbnb. You can rent out your entire place on Airbnb for special occasions, such as big sporting events, or just a room or certain area of your house, such as a finished basement. This extra income can help pay for your housing costs.

4. Use High Efficiency (HE) appliances. When it’s time to update your appliances, go with high efficiency to cut your monthly expenses, and possibly earn a tax credit.

5. Adjust the thermostat. Saving on housing expenses doesn’t have to be drastic measures. Even adjusting your thermostat a few degrees warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter will help save money on heating and cooling expenses. While you might not notice a difference after one month, you will notice the savings over a year.

6. Use a programmable thermostat. This small investment could save you money on heating and cooling because you can schedule times to automatically adjust the temperature of your home. No need to run the A/C when everyone’s gone at work, right? There are plenty of reliable programmable thermostats under $50.

7. Get a fan or window a/c unit. That way you can cool only the room(s) you use most often, rather than the whole house.

8. Use a room heater. Likewise, you can heat just the room(s) you need during the colder months instead of heating the whole house.

9. Turn off or unplug fans and electronics. When you’re not using electronics, such as toasters, cell phone chargers, or lamps, unplug them to lower your electric bill.

10. Use a rain barrel. Collecting rainwater to water your plants and garden can save a bunch on your water bill.

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6 Tips For Frugal Living And Gift Giving

Generosity is admirable, but there are lots of ways you can live frugally and still be a giver.

1. Give your time. Your time is the only gift that is irreplaceable. When you’re looking for the next gift for a kiddo, instead of wrapping up yet another toy, take the child to a park or beach, pack a picnic, bring a ball and a kite, and play with them. Create memories all year long for free with this gift in a jar your child will be sure to cherish.

2. Cook a nice meal and dessert. Host or deliver a meal to show kindness to a loved one.

3. Volunteer your time. Instead of donating money for a cause that’s meaningful to you, donate your time. This is one of the best frugal living tips that you can use to impact the lives around you.

4. Reuse. You can easily reuse gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons, and bows instead of buying new ones.

5. Use newspaper to wrap presents. For those you know don’t care, wrap their gifts in newspaper instead of wrapping paper. For me, it’s a joke with my dad. Both my gifts to him and his gifts to me are often wrapped in newspaper. It ends up in the trash anyway, and we’re both ok with that!

6. Make a handmade card. Instead of buying another greeting card, write your own message. If you have kids, ask them to help color and design it with you. Not only will your card stand out among all the other store-bought cards, it will probably be more meaningful.

7. Keep gifts small. You don’t need to constantly one-up your last gift or compete with anyone on social media for who spent the most on a gift. Keep your gifts simple and intentional, like these simple Easter Basket gifts for under $10.

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9 Ways To Be Frugal While Shopping

1. Buy used. With all the places to buy and sell stuff online and in person these days, there isn’t much you can’t buy used. Check Facebook buy & sell groups, Craigslist, eBay, consignment stores, thrift stores, or even your friends and family to see what they are selling. From furniture to clothes and baby gear, buying used can save you a load of dough.

2. Cut convenient yet costly subscriptions. If you have any monthly subscriptions, examine the value of what you are paying for. Many times you’re paying a hefty price tag for convenience, so ending an unnecessary subscription might be an area you could save money each month.

3. Sign up for subscriptions that will truly save you money. While some subscriptions are more for convenience, others really do save you money. With Amazon Prime, for example, I can get the best price on my vitamins and diapers by using their “Subscribe & Save” option. These are things I will buy every month no matter what, so I might as well subscribe to get the best price.

At first, I assumed if I subscribed that I would have to pay every month no matter what, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out I have the flexibility to skip months if I don’t need an item yet. If you haven’t yet, you can Try Amazon Prime Free For 30-Days to see if it would save you money.

4. Set “No Spend Days.” Start with one day per month and dedicate it as a day you will not spend any money. Increase it to one day per week and that’s four guaranteed days of not spending any money every month. Here are even more tips for successful no spend days.

5. Wait 30 Days. Practice self-control and wait 30 days before making any purchases that are not absolute necessities. This will reduce impulse buys and help you stick to your budget. Chances are, you’ll either forget about it, no longer “have to have it,” or you’ll verify that you really do want it and it fits in your budget.

6. Add a Zero. Before you buy something, mentally “add a zero” to the price tag. Then ask yourself if you’d still buy it at that price. Why? This number represents how much you could earn if you were to invest that same money in something like a retirement account, or how much you could save on interest if you used that money to pay off debt instead. This strategy makes that $50 shirt a lot less appealing. ($500? No, thanks.)

7. Be a Mystery Shopper. If you want to earn money for shopping and don’t mind taking surveys, you can explore being a mystery shopper. You can get things like free meals and hotel stays too. Read more about being a mystery shopper here.

8. Google “Promo” and “Coupon” codes. Before buying anything online, open another tab (anyone else have 8 tabs open right now?) and do a quick Google search for the store name + promo code or coupon code. One of my favorite sites for finding these discounts is RetailMeNot. Lots of times, you’ll find an extra 15% off or free shipping.

9. Use EBATES for all online shopping. If you do ANY online shopping, you have to use EBATES. I’ve used EBATES for years to get hundreds of dollars in cold hard cash for pushing a button. It could not be easier. Plus, YOU GET $10 for signing up and making your first purchase, so be sure to sign up before you buy anything else online. Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

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6 More Frugal Living Tips You Need To Try

1. Cut your own hair. Hair stylists can be expensive, so if having a fantastic-looking head of hair isn’t at the tippy top of your priority list, consider finding a cheaper stylist or even cutting your own (or your partner’s hair).

2. Cancel your gym membership. Gym memberships can be expensive, and from my experience working at a gym, most people are not getting the full value out of there membership. If that’s you, stop pretending you’ll use it more next month and cancel it already.

Ending your membership doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising either. There are awesome workouts for free online (BenderFitness has been a favorite of mine). Or just grab a pair of tennies and walk, run, skip, jump rope, lunge, squat, burpee, plank, then push-up. Repeat until you’re sweaty…then repeat some more.

3. Refinance your loans. If you’re able to refinance debt, such as student loans, for a lower interest rate, you could save money and lower your monthly payments. I have friends who’ve had great success refinancing student loans with SoFi. You can read the full details about my big refinancing mistake here.

4. Stop comparing. If you continue to compare yourself and your life to those around you, you will continue to spend, spend, spend to try and keep up.

If you’re looking at life through a comparison lens, you will always be someone with more than you. More clothes. More jewelry. More cars. A bigger house. More land. More money. More vacations.

The sooner you acknowledge and accept that, the easier it will be to stop spending money to try and keep up with the Joneses. This will help you get and stay out of debt as well live a more frugal, simple life. Focus on your goals to save and don’t sweat what everyone else appears to have.

5. Practice contentment and gratitude. Being content with what you have and being grateful for what you have are two keys to making your financial dreams (and happiness) become your reality.

6. Use Swagbucks. You can earn money if you sign up for Swagbucks by using their search engine to do your regular searches, take 5-20 minute surveys, watch short videos, and more. You earn points for all of those items then you can redeem your points for gift cards to just about anywhere.

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Finally, I saved the best for last.

#1 Best Budget Tip for Frugal Living

The #1 thing that will help you commit to a frugal lifestyle is budgeting. Every. Single. Month. It’s was a game-changer for paying off over $60,000 in student loans, building our emergency fund, and even leaving my job to freelance and work from home.\

P.S. You get get my budget template in the Free Resource Library. See the link below!

Know Where You Spend Your Money

If you don’t know where your money is going, then how can you find ways to save it?

When you can clearly see where you spend your money, you can more easily find where you can save and live a more frugal lifestyle.

Here is a simple guide to creating a monthly budget.

You can also get instant access to the budget template I use. It’s part of the Common Cents Club Free Resource Library.


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Use The Best Frugal Living Tips To Work Smarter, Not Harder

If you are looking for ways to save money on groceries, drinks, restaurants, insurance, entertainment, and more, this is the list of money saving ideas that will teach you how.

Now it’s up to you: How much money do you want to save? Use a couple frugal tips or use them all to start saving more money this month and live more frugally.

Remember, saving money is half the equation. The other half is to boost your income and make more money. Bring more money in and allow less money out so you can work smarter, not harder, with your money.

What are your best frugal living tips? Share in the comments.

Whatever you do today, let your light shine,



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