The Thrifty Persons Guide To Cash Envelopes.

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Our family has used cash envelopes for years. In fact I can’t remember a time in our almost 20 years of marriage where we haven’t used cash envelopes to pay for at least a few day to day expenses.

The why how and what of using cash envelopes to save money

 2 Major Reasons People Use For Not Using Cash Envelopes & Why I Don’t Agree With Them

1.Carrying cash is  a safety issue

I hear this excuse a lot; “I don’t carry cash because I know this person who does and it got stolen out of their purse”. True cash can be stolen but so can your bank card number. Trust me I have personally had my bank card replaced twice now due to  leaked banked information both from in store purchase and online purchases.

2. Carrying cash is inconvenient

If people don’t mention the fear of getting their cash stolen to me then they usually bring up “I don’t want to make a trip to the ATM for cash it is inconvenient.  Yes it does take time to run to the bank for cash but, I think it takes less time than trying to add up all I spent at the end of the day to make sure  I didn’t go over budget.

2  Major Benefits Of Cash Envelopes

1.Cash Envelopes Save Money

We have a cash envelope for gas money. I know some would argue that gas is one of those expenses that you can use a debit card to pay with because you are not going to buy more gas than need, however we save 5 cents per gallon by paying cash at our local gas station and that savings adds up.

2.Cash Envelopes Make It Easier To Stick To A Budget

Cash is something physical you see in your hand. When it is gone it is gone. No fancy calculations and spreadsheets needed to keep track of how much you spent and how much you have left.

How To Decide What Expenses To Use Cash Envelopes For

Our family uses cash envelopes for date night, eating out, gas and misc (this usually goes for postage stamps, library fines, the odd thing we need here and there during the week).

You will notice that I don’t use cash for groceries. I did at one time but stopped; here is why, I love eating out, but I am naturally thrifty at the grocery store and won’t buy what isn’t on the list and my list total is always under our grocery budget.

What does that mean? It means that if I take out cash for groceries but don’t spend all the money on groceries I spend the extra in the envelope on take-out (yes I know this is a huge cash envelope no no). If I instead leave the grocery money in the bank and use what I call an in account envelope, I save up the extra to buy food in bulk at Sam’s club, or to take advantage of a rock bottom price deal and increase my savings. When my savings pool up to a significant amount we might consider transferring some out to help us meet a financial goal.

The trick is knowing what areas you naturally overspend in and what areas you are a natural thrifty person in. For those categories you overspend in use cash envelopes to keep you in line. For those areas you are generally thrifty in keep a running tab in your account instead.

Essentially cash envelopes are great for those areas of your budget that  are your weakest link. If clothes make you scream “charge it” making clothing a cash envelope.  If you are a foodie and have problem resisting gourmet food make groceries a cash envelope. You know what your weaknesses are.

Deciding On The Perfect Cash Envelope System For Your Needs

We started out with paper envelopes and had them for years. Then a few years back I got the idea to take a a TJMaxx bag apart and using colored duct tape made a set of sturdy and durable cash envelopes that are still going strong (that is a picture of  them above)

If you don’t want to make your own cash envelopes but still want something more long lasting than paper A Time For Everything is an Etsy Store  sells amazing cash envelopes in awesome patterns made out of a very durable fabric. (I am not an affiliate, I just happen to have seen reviews about these from people I trust, and heard the owner talk on the podcast Brilliant Business Moms and loved her story. This is truly a family business).

Another  option is to use a coupon size expanding file case. I have a friend who uses one of these for her cash. She keeps a small Vera Bradley change purse in the back of the file case for change. She really likes this system because she says it allows her plenty of room to keep receipts which she finds handy to refer to  when the money is gone and she wonders where it went.

Does your family use cash envelopes? Why or why not?

money saving tips a growing list (small)

Want to make the money in those envelopes go further? Check out all my money saving tips.

Linked to Frugal Friday,

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How to Earn a Shutterfly photo book a month using Bing Rewards

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If you are like me you have years worth of photos sitting on clouds, memory cards, and on your laptop (that you pray won’t crash because you know you should back those photos up but haven’t gotten to it yet; or is that just me :) )

How to earn a shutterfly photo book a month using Bing Rewards Takes under 2 minutes a day

Over the last few years I have kept fairly up to date on turning the current years photos into photo books from Shutterfly. I have also managed to get a few of the past years photos in albums too, but I still have several more years worth of photos to convert from digital to something you can hold in your hand and flip through (also something that doesn’t ever crash, or become too outdated to view).

To keep the cost low I have used various free sources of Shutterfly codes, mostly found by following both Money Saving Mom and Shutterfly on Facebook and clicking the “get notification” tab on their Facebook page so I see their updates.

These codes make the cost of a photo book just shipping only which for me currently works out to right around $9.

However the free codes are only available often enough to keep me current. To get through my back log of years that are stuck in digital photo land I need another source of inexpensive Shutterfly photo books.

For my backlog I have also used My Coke Rewards points since it is a perk of my husband’s nasty 2 to 3 cans of coke a day habit.

I am going to guess though that some of you out there though may not have a loved one addicted to a cola product and therefore you might need another source to receive free Shutterfly book codes.

Well you are in luck. Bing Rewards offers a cash out for a 8×8 hardcover Shutterfly book for just 470 points and you can easily earn one to two of these free  per month through just 2 to 3 minutes of work within the program each day. Considering a book is worth $29.99 you are earning a pretty good return on your time spent ($20 per hour if I did my calculations right).

Remember you will still have to pay the shipping cost, but you do that with pretty much any Shutterfly free code.

How to earn a Shutterfly photo book a month using Bing Rewards

1. Join Bing Rewards: Click here to join

2. Each and every day go to your Bing Rewards dashboard and see if there are any bonus points available for the day. These might be questions or just clicking and looking at a site. There is usually at least one a day and they just take a second to do and earn you one point.

3. Complete your 30 web searches on your laptop for your daily 15 points. Here is a tip when you click on the “PC Search” section it currently takes you to a news tab, hit “web” at the top of that tab and then begin you searches using the “related searches” area found down the side of the web page. It will make your searches go a lot faster.

4. Cash in at 470 points  for a free hardcover 8 by 8 Shutterfly photo book. You should be able to do this approximately every 30 days.

To earn more than one photo book a month and to get to your very first Shutterfly photo book faster, after you have signed up for Bing Rewards download the Bing Rewards app and do 20 searches in it daily for an additional 10 points. This will cut your time down to earning a Shutterfly photo book to 19 days. Meaning every other month you can claim 2 books.

Seems like a pretty simple way to keep the cost of photo albums low, and get that back log of digital photos into a form you can flip through while having loved ones cuddled up beside you, regardless of whether your tablet has battery life.

Plus if you should catch up on your photos you can continue to earn points using Bing Rewards and cash them in for other rewards such as $5 gift cards to Amazon, Starbucks and more.

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10 Tools To Help You With Your Debt Free Journey

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Getting debt free & staying debt free is hard work. It takes discipline, self sacrifice and often a lot of out of the box thinking.

10 tools for getting and staying out of debt

Over the past 3 weeks I have shared our families debt free journey

Today I want to share with you the tools we used to get out of debt and to stay out of debt for good.

10 Tools For Your Debt Free Journey

1. Help to make a budget & a plan

To do any of the steps below you first must have the knowledge of what it takes to get out of debt and how to set up a budget that works.

Here are 2 great books to help you create a budget & a plan

2. A Budget

Unless you have a plan of how to spend every dollar earned your chances of living below your means so you can pay off debt are very slim. After you debt is paid you will still need a budget to help you stay out of debt and  reach further financial goals.

Here are some helpful free resources for budgeting

3. Goals

Budgeting is going to go a lot smoother when you have an idea of what you are aiming for. I know some of you are thinking “I am aiming to get and stay debt free” but that is too broad a goal. Instead break down what getting to debt free and staying debt free will take into small actionable steps. For instance that goal could state “3 months from now we plan to have paid off…..in debt which works out to a monthly goal of…… and a weekly goal of…..”.

 4. Cash Envelopes

I will discuss cash envelopes in further detail next week (update: post in now live) but for now all I will say is that when our family uses cash to pay for eating out, date night, and other sorts of activities we always spend less than budgeted. When get busy and decide to skip the trip to the bank to get out the cash and use our debit cards instead we always go over budget.

A great article on the pros of cash envelopes & a few resources for making or buying your own

10 books you need to read if you want to be a thrifty ninja (300)5.  A library of ideas on how to keep expenses low

Through the internet and the library you can find out how to save on just about every area of your spending.

(if you want to purchase some of the books listed for your home library make sure to check out Thrifty Bookworms & Swagbucks The Perfect Romance to find out my favorite ways to save money on books)

Work At Home Ideas And Tips (med)For Success6. Flexible ways to boost income from home

Sometimes there is just that one last bill to pay that the paycheck, even with over time, can’t cover. Other times you really want to have date night, but there just isn’t enough wiggle room in the budget. Or perhaps you just want one cup of fancy coffee a month, or a week, to help you feel special during the whole “paying off debt not seeing the inside of a restaurant” stage.

If so here a few ways my family has made money from home to cover those types of expenses

10 Ways Thrifty People Renovate(med)7. A DIY spirit

Paying to do things gets expensive. Yes doing things yourself does take time, but it can be fun, rewarding and a great way to save a substantial amount of money.

Our family renovated 3 homes together and saved a lot of money on the renovations by doing the repairs ourselves.

Need a bit of DIY instruction? Try out a few of Craftsy’s free mini video courses. Craftsy also came out with a line of free downloadable PDF courses (scroll to bottom of linked post for full list)  that include step by step colorful photo instruction for things like photography, sewing, woodworking and more.

10 bible verses thrifty people memorize (med)8. Words of wisdom

Our family gets our wisdom from the bible: Here are 10 bible verses about money that have helped us become and stay debt free as well as shape our view of money.

20 thrifty ways to send quality time with your child making memories doesn't have to cost much (med)9. A wealth of inexpensive ideas for fun

Life can get really boring fast if all you do is stay home and read books from the library because that is the only free activity you can think of. (yep a bookworm just said that)

Here are a few resources to help you expand your horizons and find frugal sources of entertainment

10 Key Things Thrifty People Do Over And Over To Save Money On Just About Anything10. A toolbox for ways to save money on just about anything

If you click over to 250 Ways Thrifty People Save Money and scroll down to the bottom you will find 10 key things  our family does to saves money on just about anything. I would call this our ultimate savings toolbox, and of course all of  the 10 tools are free.

What would you add to my list?

Never miss one of my posts on saving money, time management, decluttering and more sign up to receive them in your email inbox.

Linked to Frugal Friday, Thrifty Thursdays, Mom2Mom,

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What being debt free looks like for our family

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Over the past 2 weeks I have shared, why I don’t like talking about our debt free journey, as well as a huge mistake we made along the way to being debt free and what we learned from it.

What the debt free life looks like for one family

This week I want to tell you what being debt free, for our family, looks like and feels like.

Before we were debt free, I had this idea in my head of what debt free would look like. I had this dream idea that we wouldn’t have to worry about paying the bills anymore. My husband would work a 40 hour work week and we would have money and time to spare. We would live on a small acreage with farm animals and a huge garden to give us fresh food. I could go on but you get the idea I was thinking of a debt free utopia. Not at all realistic.

Now that we are debt free I know that although certain elements of my debt free dreaming were true most were not.

What being & staying debt free really looks like

1. You still discuss money often

My husband and I still talk frequently about how much money is coming in and setting priorities for where it will go.

We still keep a running list of non-monthly expenses that will be coming up as well as non-monthly wants so that when extra money does come in through over time, bonuses, or blog money we use it wisely and not give it to restaurants and Target.

2. You still keep a budget

Our budget is a simple piece of typed paper broken into monthly recurring payments like property taxes, insurance, utilities, and other set payments as well as a set amount of money for  food, clothing and other more flexible yet still needed expenses. When we get slack on keeping ourselves accountable to our budget we spend way more than we should and end up not reaching the financial goals we desire to reach.

3. You still have to work hard to pay the bills

My husband is an RN. Shortly before we became 100% debt free he was offered a nursing job in another department of the hospital that was a lot less stress than his current position in the ER at the time. In the switch he lost his evening hour pay and his weekend pay. He also couldn’t work his second job around the new position hours.

The pay off was a hubby who enjoys his work days more and is home with his family more hours per week. The cost was that we broke even financially, meaning the cut in pay equaled the payments we no longer pay. Our budget is essentially just as tight without payments as it was when we had payments.

We chose family time over a bigger pay check and to do that means sacrificing the extra money freedom that I thought all debt free families enjoyed.  You know the one you hear all the debt free advisers on the radio talk about “think of all you could do with that money you will no longer be using for payments “. We traded that money for time.

My husband’s basic pay each month pays for our “need budget” basically our food, shelter and transportation bills with little wiggle room for other bills.

Thankfully due to investing some of the inheritances we received into a rental we have that monthly income to pay the kids for chores, give my husband and I some spending money and pay for a few activities for the children each month.

My husband also often receives overtime, and as of late a I receive a  small amount of monthly income from my blogging. These streams of income plus bonuses my husband sometimes receives at work pay for our “unexpected emergency needs” and a few things from our “want it” list. (I plan to write more on how we budget for these in a future post)

We feel pretty blessed to meet and sometimes exceed our bills each month. God is faithful to provide for His people.

4. You might not live in a grand home

I have no idea why but for some reason before we were debt free, I always thought that all  debt free people lived in great neighborhoods in fancy homes, or could afford all the expenses that come with country living. After reading The Millionaire Next Door I know that isn’t true for all those living debt free lives including ourselves.

We live in a very average home that we bought for just under $10,000 dollars, nope I did not forget a zero we bought the home for ten thousand dollars, then spent 2 years and $30,000 remodeling it from top to bottom  by ourselves.

We got a home for under $10,000 because it is in a so so neighborhood. In fact the house next door to us is quite the sight to behold (the picture with this post shows just a bit of what our neighbor’s home looks like, that is the view out my dining room window).

We really don’t mind though as the location is so near to everything it saves us a lot of time commuting giving us more time at home together and we set out on our journey to being debt free to do just that to have more family time.

5. You do worry less but you still worry

Just a few months ago my husband came home and told me his department was being bought out by another company and that he wasn’t sure at that point what was going happen.

Before being debt free with a 3 month emergency fund that type of statement would have sent me into worry mode.

Now with no payments and 3 months worth of income stored away, I just looked at my husband and said “God’s got this, no worries you are a great nurse, we will be okay” and I 100% meant it and slept peacefully that night.

Everything did work out and he is still working.

However, there are still days when I wonder “how are we going to afford the glasses the boys need, or the bill for my daughter’s emergency tooth extraction, or the ingrown toe nail bill”, but God takes care of that too. It never fails that just as the bill comes due, the money becomes available.

6. You can give more (and that is my favorite thing)

My favorite part about being debt free is how much easier it is to give. To help a person out and not wonder “if I give this can I still afford to pay the payment for ……  by the 15th of the month when it is due” is a very freeing feeling.

When you are debt free you have more control over your budget and saying where your money can go, and if you wish to give you can.

Yes I know I said above that our budget it still tight, and that is true, but it seems like whenever we give God takes care of it and we once again pay our bills and have a bit left over for wants. We are blessed.

In fact, I set aside a portion of my inheritance specifically for giving. God allowed my husband and I to help out people in a pretty impactful ways with that money and I pray continually that  He will use our family give in that way again. To me giving is healing.

If you are debt free what does it look like for you?

Please join me next week as I share our families top 10 resources for becoming and staying debt free (it is up now for you to read). Sign up to receive my posts in your email so you don’t miss it.

Linked to Thrifty Thursday,

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How To Get Out Of A Date Night Rut Without Blowing The Budget

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If you have been reading here for any length of time you know that I believe in the importance of regularly dating your spouse.

How to get out of a date night rut without breaking the bank

I also believe that dating can fit in any budget no matter how tight. In fact I have written numerous articles full of ideas of how to date for less.

Lately though I have been feeling like my hubby and I are in a thrifty date night rut. Short dates have become a trip to the hardware store for supplies, and longer dates always seem to end with grocery shopping.

Which made me pick up and read a copy of  $10 Great Dates: Connecting Love, Marriage, and Fun On A Budget last week. I was hoping to find a few inexpensive ideas to blast us out of our same thrifty date over and over rut.

I honestly opened it up with low expectations think surly I would just find the same things you find in free blog posts about thrifty dating. However, I ended up highlighting several areas of the book and came away with at least half a dozen new thrifty date ideas for my husband and I to try.

Another thing I really loved about $10 Great Dates were the insightful advice from the authors on what it takes to build a good marriage.

Advice on why couples should intentionally stay out of date ruts

Advice on how to date from $10 great dates“..predictable dinner-and-a-movie dates have less impact than dates that stretch you and take you out of your normal routine. New experiences help bond together and often result in a big payoff for your marriage”.

Advice on why to intentionally set time aside for dating

why dating in marriage must be a priority from $10 great dates“With so many things competing for our time, dates rarely just happen naturally. A date communicates, “I choose you as a priority, and I want to be intentional about nurturing our relationship”

Advice on the elements for a great date

definition of a date by $10 great dates

“quality time together, giving each of you a break from your normal routine, a shared activity and conversation”

 A Few More Reasons I loved $10 Great Dates

Each and every date in $10 Great Dates can be taken for $10 or less. The book has ideas for all seasons. The authors lay out what to do to prepare for the date, what to do during the date, and gives insightful take-a-ways that will build your marriage.

If you and your hubby are in a date rut, or you are struggling for ideas of how to date on a tight budget.  I suggest reading $10 Great Dates.

(psst… read my post on Thrifty Bookworms to figure out how to fit book purchases into your budget, my top 2 favorite ways currently are Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks & InstaGC)

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Our Debt Free Journey Part 2: How We Ended Up Back In Debt

Last week I told you how we got out of debt and why I don’t share our debt free journey often. I ended by telling you we ended up more than just out of debt we were 100% out of debt plus the mortgage and owned two rental homes as well.

I then ended my story with a cliff hanger (don’t you hate those! I do too but the whole story from start to finish was over 3000 words long, so I thought it merciful to split it up). I ended by telling you we ended up back into debt by paying stupid tax to the tune of 40,000+ dollars of new debt.

How one family went from debt free to in debt to debt free again and the lessons they learned from it.

Our huge mistake: How we made it worse, & how we became debt free again

The story of our huge mistake, starts at the beginning when we paid off debts and bought our $9000 home and set out to renovate it.

We thought we were being wise paying off debts and figuring out how to pay off the mortgage too with two inheritances that in most parts of the country wouldn’t cover the cost of one home, let alone pay for three homes in full and pay off an additional $15,000 or so in debts too.

However, we neglected two well known steps of getting and staying debt free.

  1. Never stopping your car payment but instead paying it to yourself for vehicle replacement purposes
  2. Have a fully funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months.

We were not woken up from the error of our ways until we were moved into our $9000 home, and were waist high in renovating our $15,000 rental and had a budget set and money put aside for renovating our original home for rental purposes.

How we ended up with a third home before our original home was finished

Yes you read that right our original home was renovated after the $15,000 rental. A co-worker of my husband’s needed an inexpensive place to crash for a few months shortly after we had moved to our full renovated $9000 home. He knew the poor condition of the home but was willing to pay for all holding costs and utilities anyways as that was cheaper than rent elsewhere. At the time he moved in we were waiting on my grandmother’s inheritance to arrive so we could have the money to renovate, so having him pay the holding costs in the mean time was a relief to us.

He was still renting the place when my inheritance from my grandmother came and so we set aside a realistic amount of money to make the house livable again, and realized we would have money leftover.

I prayed about what to do and really felt like a rental would be a good investment.  We had just $15,000 to spend and the foreclosure I wanted was close to $30,000 but the bank took our cash offer and we set out to fix the home.

Just a few months into those renovations, we discovered our HUGE MISTAKE .

Our awakening began one afternoon when my very old car died in a parking lot with 3 children in tow 45 minutes away from home.

The car would start, but it wouldn’t move out of park. I called a trusted mechanic and he said the fix was expensive and cost more than the value of my old car. I left the car abandoned in the parking lot over night and had a friend drive me home.

Now my first thought was, we will just survive with one vehicle until both remaining homes were renovated and rented. Then we will use the rent and save for a clunker.

My hubby was quick to remind me why I didn’t drive the van anymore. You see it had started stalling and requiring a strange jump start that required a glove and knowing just when to jump back. It had also had an episode where I was driving down the highway and its doors had started opening and closing by themselves while the alarm and horn started honking also unaided. It was not a family friendly vehicle anymore.

The van, like my car, had been given a “sorry folks it isn’t worth fixing” death sentence from our mechanic. Our plan had been to have my hubby drive it and hope it lasted until renovations were over and we were collecting rent money that we could save for a better clunker.

With a car that couldn’t stay stuck in a parking lot forever and another vehicle close to death my husband and I decided we would search Craigslist for a clunker that was safer than our family van . We were thinking we would get an idea of what a clunker would cost and then see if we could trim the renovation budget enough to pay cash for it.

But, thanks to the governments “cash for clunkers” program that year, the low priced clunkers were no where to be found, people were taking advantage of the program instead of privately selling them. We quickly discovered that there was no way we could trim enough out of the renovation budget to pay cash for a vehicle.

Our frustration over the whole situation led to a step that was insane but in the end it was a huge turning point for us that taught us a lesson about debt we will never forget.

We went to a dealership and drove 2 vehicles each 3 years old with low mileage off the lot, and let them go lift my car out of the parking lot, and take our surviving by a thread van. We did get very good deals on the vehicles we bought, this thrifty gal does know how to negotiate with a car dealer and we walked away paying less than Kelly Blue Book value on both vehicles,  but both of those vehicles came with a hefty monthly payment.

My husband and I had a plan, that was risky, stressful, and didn’t work. Take it from me, any plan made on no sleep is not a good plan.

We thought since we had no other debts, and we now had rental homes, we could use the money from the rental homes to pay off the vehicles faster and the money from the second job my husband had yet to quit to make the payments in the mean time.

Sure it meant he would be working a second job for a few years more but at least we would have decent vehicles that we could hold onto for years to come, since we tend to prefer to hold onto a vehicle until no one else wants it but the auto wrecker.

Once the vehicles were paid off we would set up a “vehicle replacement fund” like we should have done before and we would not have to have a car payment again.

The plan backfired.

We did manage to finish and rent both homes but one set of renters never paid on time if at all. Then my husband saw his chance to switch departments at the hospital to an area he had been wanting to try for a while. The switch  thankfully reduced his stress level, but it also reduced our pay as he wasn’t able to work his current second job around his new hours in his new department.

With 1/2 the rent we planned to receive and less monthly income keeping the vehicles was too costly for our family. Every month we were juggling the budget to make the payments.

We fought over the solution, my husband figured new renters, and a second job that worked around his new job were all we needed to get back on track with our plan.

I however felt like our original home just wasn’t a good fit for renters. It was just too expensive to heat and cool for most of the families who rent in our area to afford on top of rent (if you haven’t guessed by the low housing prices yet we live in a somewhat low income town). I felt like we should sell it and use the money to pay off the vehicles and set up an emergency fun.

My husband felt like we shouldn’t use inheritance money to pay for vehicles that don’t  hold their value. I argued with him that the sale of the home would allow us to set ourselves up financially to be debt free for good and that had a value beyond money. It would give us more family time, and the ability to make financial decisions instead of having them made for us because of a payment owed.

Finally he agreed and we placed our now empty original home on the market. It took 9 months to sell, and in those 9 months God ingrained it on my husband’s and my own brain how painful it is to scrape money together to make payments on something you purchased when you were in a different income bracket.

You are never guaranteed to earn tomorrow what you do today, always leave plenty of wiggle room in your budget and savings for a negative change in income.

The day the check from the house sale cleared was the same day I paid both vehicles  in full. It was also the same day I drove down to the bank and set up an automatic withdrawal into a savings account each month that is labeled “future vehicles” for about 1/2 of what our monthly payments were, but still enough to get us nice enough vehicles when our current ones have to be driven, or towed to the wreckers.

Our lesson was learned. We were done with debt for good.

And so we began our journey of being debt free for good. It has been almost 2 years now since I paid off those vehicles and I feel blessed. My heart still hurts over the loss of my loved ones, but I think my relatives would be happy with what we have done with the financial legacy they left.

However being debt free doesn’t look or feel like I think a lot of people think it does.

Come back next week (sign up for emails of my posts as I share what being debt free looks and feels like for us and how it isn’t what I thought it would be nor how I think a lot of people think debt free living looks like. (update: you can now read about our debt free life here)

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Changes To Swagbucks That Just Made Earning $25 A Month EASIER

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Swagbucks recently announced that starting March 2nd it will take less points to earn your first $25 gift card of the month.

earning a $25 gift card from swagbucks just got easier

The Scoop From Swagbucks

Starting March 2nd, you will be able to redeem 2,200 Swag Bucks for one $25 Gift Card OF YOUR CHOICE once a month. This gift card discount only excludes PayPal and Gas Cards.

- We are introducing a new $3 Amazon Gift Card which is only 300 SB.

- To accommodate these benefits, we will no longer offer $5 Amazon Gift Cards for 450 SB. They are not going away though, as they will be priced the same as our other $5 Gift Cards at 500 SB. Currently, you are only able to redeem five $5 Amazon gift cards a month. By making these changes we can now remove this limit.

Some additional benefits include:

1. Greater Savings – If you previously redeemed five $5 Amazon Gift Cards, you were spending 2250 SB. Now you can get the same $25 worth of Amazon Gift Cards for 2200 SB, a 20% higher discount!

2. More Choices – Right now, the only gift card we currently discount is Amazon. This introduction offers you a discount on over 100 gift card choices of your favorite brands, stores, retailers, and restaurants – brands like CVS, Walmart, Visa, Target, Starbucks, Ebay, Best Buy and more!

3. Faster Redemptions – The $3 Amazon Gift Card allows you to get an Amazon Gift Card 33% faster than is currently possible. To expand the options for speedier gift card redemptions, we also plan on offering more low denomination Gift Cards of other brands in the coming months.

How to Earn Your 2200 points for  whatever $25 gift card you want month after month

With this announcement it is now easier than ever to earn at least $25 a month with Swagbucks. In our household $25 just about pays for date night at a restaurant (tip extra).  $25 is a few items of clothing bought on clearance. $25 is……(you fill in the blank)

And it doesn’t take many activities to earn $25 with Swagbucks, even less now that you only need 2200 points.

1. Complete the NOSO daily

  • Swag Bucks per day =60 a month (takes around a minute to complete each day)

2. Watch the Swagbuck TV App Daily.

  • Swagbuck TV App 36 daily Swag Bucks =1080

3. Watch 2 other Apps Daily

  • EntertainNow App 18 daily Swag Bucks =540
  • Sportly.TV App 18 daily Swagbucks =540
  • Lifestylz App 18 daily Swagbucks= 540

You pick which 2 of these 3 apps to watch and you will have 1080 points

Add these 3 activities together and you get 2220 points which is enough for the 2200 point $25 gift card of your choice each and every month.

Of course this is only one way to earn 2200 points. One thing I love about Swagbucks is all the different ways to earn.

Here are 2 other articles on way to earn Swagbucks you might want to look at to help you figure out which earning activities you want to do

Remember these changes don’t start until March 2nd 2015, until then you can still cash out on the $5 Amazon cards for 450 points each.

Swagbucks 2200 $25 gift card

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Why I Rarely Talk About Our Debt Free Journey

(post contains affiliate links:see disclosure)

My families journey to becoming debt free won’t make the news. It won’t become a book. It isn’t the type of story you scream about on The Dave Ramsey Show. Why I rarely talk about our families journey to a debt free life

Honestly I don’t even like talking about our debt free journey because when I do mention it I can tell it makes people feel uncomfortable. It leaves them grasping for words. There instantly becomes this awkward pause in conversation when I mention it.

In fact I am only sharing it here today because I feel God tugging at my sleeves asking me to talk to you about the importance of handling financial windfalls well, and I can’t seem to write a word about it without first telling you our families story. How we have handled financial windfalls both well and poorly, and what we have learned from our mistakes, and our successes.

If I had to put our debt free journey into a sentence this would be it: My family is 100% debt free including the house today because people died.

Yes that statement is blunt, but making inheritances smell like flowers in spring time isn’t something I can do.

Don’t get me wrong I am so thankful for family members who paid their bills and left no debt unpaid. For family members who left behind life insurance policies to cover their funeral expenses and more. For family members who thought to pay off their homes in full before they passed away so proceeds  from the sale of their homes could be enjoyed by those left on earth.

But it still hurts. I never forget the day the inheritance check came from my mother’s estate, I was crying so hard as I took it to the bank that the bank teller had to wait for me to stop sobbing to explain what I wanted to do with the check. She even had to go searching for tissues so I could dry my eyes enough to see the forms I was signing.

In that moment all I could think was “God, would you take this check and just let me spend one more day with my mom”.  I know I will see her in heaven one day, but on that day all I wanted to do was exchange that check for another day with her here on earth with me.

But I couldn’t. What I could do however, was make sure I used the financial gift she left me wisely. To make it count. I knew what I wanted to do. My husband had been working 60 to 70+ hours a week for years to pay our bills. I wanted to give our family the gift of a dad and husband who was home more.  I knew to do that I needed to reduce our monthly bills and the only way to do that was to reduce our debts.

Our lives before we became debt free

First let me tell you our debt wasn’t high to begin with, we had around  $5000 in car loans, $10,000 in student loans and $60,000 in a mortgage. Roughly $75,000 in debt including the mortgage, or $15,000 without. Not large debt numbers, since we have always been thrifty people who have lived on a budget, refusing to carry a credit card balance from month to month. Our month to month payments were  right around 25% of our take home pay before overtime and the second job. These numbers sound conservative, comfortable even but we had a few challenges.

One challenge was we wanted children raised in a home with a full time mom present. My husband is an RN, a good job, with good pay, but still one job in a two income world is hard.

We had also been paying cash for me and one child at a time to make the 3000 mile trip to my mom’s several times a year during her 4 year battle with cancer, and that wasn’t cheap.

These trips had left us paying minimum payments only on our debts, which was a first for us in many years of our marriage. They also left us unable to fix a home that was so badly in need of repair the ceiling was falling on our heads (well thankfully just the dining room table and no one was hurt).

I knew my inheritance check was coming months before it arrived and I spent the time praying to God about how use to wisely in a way the would best benefit my family and honor my mother.

Our Plan To Become Debt Free

Our plan ended up being a bit crazy, but  it worked. With my inheritance check  from my mom I bought a  $9,000 home, paid off the rest of our student loans and our small car loans.

The plan was to renovate and then move into the $9000 home. Once moved we would fix the home we currently had mortgaged. In the end we were going to decide which one we liked best, and sell the other to pay off the mortgage and be 100% debt free.

With no debts we would have lowered our expenses enough for my husband to quit his second job and work a 40 to 50+ hour week ( there is hardly an RN position out there that doesn’t require you to work some overtime). The children and I  would see him more and yet our family could still be able to live life thrifty yet comfortably.

The plan sounded great but those who have renovated before would have seen our error right away. We were not at all realistic about the cost of renovating two homes. Our money ran out just as the first home was finished.

We were moving into our newly fixed paid in full home and trying to figure out how to raise the cash to fix our original home when my maternal grandmother died. She left the share of her estate that should have been my mother’s to my sister and I.

With a grieving yet grateful heart I took the money my grandmother left me and set aside enough to fix our original home, as well as pay off its mortgage while we were working on it, and the inheritance stretched just far enough to buy a 3rd home for $15,000 and fix it up to rent.

We were now 100% debt free with 2 rentals.

Yes I know our debt free story should end there BUT it doesn’t.

Make sure to come back next week, (sign up for emails of my posts)  when I share our $40,000+ stupid tax story, what we learned from it, and how we became 100% debt free again and plan to stay that way.  (update: you can now read part 2 here as well as part 3: what living debt free looks like for our family)

I mentioned two  Dave Ramsey terms  in this post, so just in case you don’t know who he is, Dave Ramsey is the author of The Total Money Makeover as well as Financial Peace University and his talk show The Dave Ramsey Show. He shares wisdom on getting out of debt and staying out of debt. You can check him out at Dave Ramsey.com.

Linked to Thrifty Thursdays, Frugal Friday Link Up,

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How I Got Paid $75 To Stay Home On Black Friday

(post contains affiliate links: see disclosure)

Yes the title is true I basically got paid $75 to stay home and shop in my PJ’s Black Friday. I did have to wait a while for my pay check to arrive. It really just came last week, that 2 1/2 months of waiting was worth it though.  I was so excited to see the $75 in gift cards arrive last week. All for restaurants the hubby and I love;date night here we come.

How I got paid $75 to stay home on Black Friday

All of the gift cards came from My Points and all of the points I earned from just one transaction. My Black Friday, at home on the computer Christmas shopping.

How I Got Paid $75 To Stay At Home On Black Friday

Truth: I did place a substantial order

My husband and I decided that we were going to cut out a lot of Christmas extras this year and spend that money plus more on one BIG gift for each of our children.

Trust me  this is not normal for us, and we explained it to the kids while they were wide eyed Christmas morning ,that this was a one time thing. They all had something that was wearing out or getting too outdated for updates that they wanted to replace and we decided to get it for them for Christmas just once instead of our usual save up for it yourself routine.

Needless to say Santa brought next to nothing with stockings consisting of only socks, gloves and chocolate but my teenage boys love their play systems and my daughter loves her iPad mini so much they didn’t seem to mind the the practical stocking gifts and lack of any other present what so ever under the tree for them.

Truth: I was tempted for the first time ever to go out and shop Black Friday

I know some of you love Black Friday because of the awesome deals, and so I thought I would save a bundle too, since this year all of the gifts we were buying were in the sales at significant markdowns.

As the day approached though I started to get really anxious about all those crowds, so I decided to do some research and see if I could find a retailer offering the same deals online as in store. Turns out this wasn’t hard at all in fact I found several within minutes.

Truth: I saved more than those standing in line on Black Friday

Once I knew I was going to shop online and what store I started looking for ways to make my online deal even sweeter. I tried looking for a discounted gift card at Cardpool but they were out of cards for the store I wanted.

I knew I didn’t need to look for a free shipping code since my purchases met the free shipping limits. I did try to look for a discount code but there wasn’t one.

I then went online cash back shopping and discovered My Points had the biggest cash back available for the store I was shopping.  I clicked through their links over to the store and earned 12,863 points enough for $75 in gift cards to date night restaurants and I still have 1863 leftover which I could have spent on a $10 gift card meaning I really made $85. I however opted  to save towards another $25 card (the cards start at around 3600 for a $25 card, or 1650 for a $10, making saving up for a $25  better deal).

When I was all done shopping online it hit me. I got a better deal than in store shoppers, and I didn’t spend time standing in line or fighting crowds, nor did I have to drive anywhere.

I was so stunned by this realization that I didn’t want to talk about it here on the blog until I actually had the gift cards on hand so I myself had hard evidence that Black Friday in store shoppers are not getting better deals than us stay in your PJ’s at home shoppers. (but if you really like the thrill of it well than go for it :) )

Truth: I don’t do this often enough

This is one area of savings where I am going to try and be more diligent in doing from now on. I would love to say that as a thrifty lifestyle blogger I remember to check for cash backs 100% of the time, but that isn’t honest, truthfully I remember probably close to 60% of the time. I am hoping this year to improve and make it to 95% of the time (no one is perfect).

I order from ThredUP, Zulily, Groupon, Old Navy and more consistently through out the year and I can be earning cash back on all of those purchases.

I  live in a smaller town where retailers often don’t carry my tall size, or my son’s tall and skinny size. They also don’t offer the same selection in their stores as their online counterparts do. I find myself forced to either spend time driving to a bigger town or save the time and gas by shopping online. Plus from what I learned through this experience I could be earning gift cards for  date nights too!

I am thinking this could add up to a significant amount of savings for my family.

Companies offering cash back on online purchases

To earn the most possible back for your purchase  I find it best to be a member of many different sites so I can check around for the best rate first. It doesn’t take long to compare rates, perhaps a minute or two at most. Also not all sites carry the same stores.

Do you currently use cash backs? If so what do you like to do with yours?

Linked to Frugal Friday,

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How To Learn A New Skill This Year For Free

(post contains affiliate links:see disclosure)

Is one of your goals this year to learn a new skill? Perhaps you wish to learn how to sew, or you want to improve your crochet or knitting skills?

40 free classes that you can take to learn a new skill this year

A great source for free high quality instruction in various arts and crafts are Craftsy free mini classes . Today I want to list them all here for you so you can explore the ones in areas you wish to improve in this year. These classes are 100% free, and are made up of series of short high quality videos. You can do them whenever you want to wherever you are.

40 Different Free Mini Craftsy Classes You Can Take To Improve Your Skills this Year

Online Sewing Class

Sewing

Online Knitting Class

Crocheting/ Knitting & Spinning

Cooking & Baking

Photography

Woodworking

Drawing

Drawing & Painting

Jewelery Making

Gardening

Card Making

thread art online quilting class at craftsy.com

Quilting

Go ahead pick a class in an area you have been dreaming about diving into and make this the year you start living life beyond the laundry room.

Linked to Mom2Mom,

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