My Favorite DIY Granite Countertop Cleaner

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When my husband and I were renovating out current home that we bought for just under $10,000 one of many areas that got completely gutted and redone was the kitchen.

It was so much fun designing and picking out supplies for the kitchen. I of course kept things thrifty but one area I felt would be worth the splurge would be getting a solid surface counter top.

My favorite DIY Granite Countertop cleaner that makes my counters shine

I was willing to do tile so that my husband could install it and we could save money on both supplies and labor. I first picked out a plain cream ceramic  tile, perfectly functional and inexpensive but not really what I wanted. A day later though when we were once again in the hardware store there was my dream tile, a grey  granite with white and black flecks. Best part, it was priced lower than the tile that I bought the day before that wasn’t granite,  because there wasn’t enough left for a major project.

It took me all of 10 seconds  to convince my husband to let me return yesterday’s so so tile find for that day’s amazing find.

Years later I still love it, but my husband, well he likes the granite but he hates his tile job. His skills have grown and now he hates seeing where it is a bit uneven or not quite square. I tell him stop fussing it is fine.

One thing I did notice very quickly about the granite though is that although it is hard wearing in many ways it does stain. I wanted something natural, and inexpensive to take care of those stains with. After all I didn’t want to spend as much on the cleaners over time as I did on the amazing counter tile itself. Plus a lot of cleaners trigger my headaches, not fun.

Somewhere on Pinterest, I am not sure where I found a pin where the blogger was using hydrogen peroxide to get stains out of her granite. I Googled it to make sure that it was indeed safe to use on granite and found that several sources said  that as long as you are using it no more than once or maximum twice a week  to give your granite a good cleaning and remove stains it is okay, otherwise you should clean your granite counter tops with simple hot water and soap.

I also found out that you should use no more than 12% strength hydrogen peroxide, any stronger and you could damage your granite.

How to use hydrogen peroxide to remove stains from your granite countertops

I bought a bottle of hydrogen peroxide for a whopping .60 cents at my local discount grocery store, placed it in a small spray bottle from the dollar store and gave it a try. It did indeed get rid  of the stains and left my granite countertops shining. I was hooked and it has been my favorite DIY granite countertop cleaner ever since.

For more cleaning tips visit my Cleaning Tips Resource Page

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Christmas on a Zero Budget

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I know what you are thinking is it really possible to pull of Christmas on a zero budget? Yes, you can if you are willing to put in some hard work and be very creative. You also have to be willing to keep Christmas simple.

Christmas On A Zero Budget 10 ways to afford gifts & food for Christmas Day when you have no money to spend

12 Christmas’ ago I pulled off Christmas for almost nothing. Our family had taken a big move that summer and it resulted in a lot of expenses. Plus my husband was starting off a new job as a Register Nurse for the first time and therefore was earning an enter level wage.  We had some medical bills come up and after praying over it I knew God wanted me to pay them with what little I had saved for Christmas and there I was mid November with not a nickle saved for Christmas.

Yet come Christmas day, each  of our 3 children  had a gift from us, a gift from Santa and a stocking. My husband got a small gift from me and he gave me a few pieces of a Dollar Tree Christmas Village I had been eying. We had a very simple Christmas meal . The highlight of the day was the beautiful Christmas tree we got just in time for the big day for free.

How did I do it? I got very creative and thought outside the box, and at the very last minute my husband got called in for an afternoon of  over time work and that pay check arrived the day before Christmas and helped pay for a few items I had not yet gotten. Which is why I said I pulled it off for almost nothing.

If you don’t have the hope of overtime filling in the gaps for you, you can still pull of a great Christmas on a zero budget, especially since now 12 years later you have more possibilities  available to you than I did, thanks to the growing internet.

10 Ways Celebrate Christmas On A Zero Budget

1.  Go through your home from top to bottom

Christmas for zero requires you doing some inventory. What do you have that you no longer use that you can sell? Could you sell those jeans you no longer fit in for enough money to fill the kids stocking. What items do you have around the home that could become gifts? Could that tablecloth you never use become  doll clothes.

Go from room to room looking through every nook and cranny taking stock of everything you already own and try to see it with new creative eyes.

2.  Find a local Facebook Buy and Sell Group

In most areas November is a little late to have a yard sale, but now a days you can have a yard sale any day you want with a Facebook Buy and Sell group. You can sell items big and small in these groups.

3. Start Working Point Reward Programs That Have Low Payout Minimums

Now is not the time to spend hours on surveys for a company that doesn’t pay out until you reach $30. Instead work at programs like Swagbucks where gift cards in general start at 500 Swag Bucks for a $5 card. Visit my Christmas Swag Bucks plans for 24 ways to earn Swag Bucks.

Another fast earning program is Bing rewards where in 30 days you can earn enough points for a $5 gift card, and generally they take just 24 hours or less to arrive.

A new to me program I recently discovered  is InstaGC where the pay out is set at a minimum  0f 100 points for a $1 gift card. That might not seem like much but InstaGC has a lot of ways to earn and when I played around on the site I was able to hit 50 points in less than 30 minutes.

If you have a magazine lover in your family join Recycle Bank, and do their environmentally friendly themed point earning tasks. Magazines subscriptions start at 160 points.There are some activities that come out worth 150 points so it won’t take long to earn enough for a magazine subscription for a loved one.  There is a wide variety of magazines including those for fitness lovers, home decor lovers, celebrity news lovers and more.

If you want to surprise a book lover young or old with a new book join Tyndale Rewards and follow the instructions in my article on Tyndale rewards to earn enough points in your first day as a member to purchase a book. Books do take a few weeks to be delivered so plan accordingly..

4. Trade Books  And Clothing & Toys For Store Credit

Books I no longer needed was something I found on my inventory walk through those 12 Christmas’ ago. I took them to a local secondhand bookstore and got credit that I used to pick out like new board books for my toddler to put in his stocking. You could also try children’s consignment stores that pay cash up front, they often give you more if you will take store credit, and usually they have like new toys you could give as gifts to your youngsters.

5. Hold An Eat What You Got Week

For one week skip the grocery store and get really creative making meals out of food already in your cupboards  and use the savings to buy gifts. I used mine to buy the ingredients needed for Christmas baking and Christmas dinner that tight financial year.

6. Wait Until The Last Minute For Amazing Deals

That Christmas 12 years ago was the first time I have waited to finish my shopping until Christmas Eve. When I knew we had no money saved for Christmas, I had made a list and had prioritized it, and was doing well at getting  the most important items, the two things I was missing though were a tree and Santa gifts.

We were making do with a 2 foot artificial tree I found in the attic. It had been left by the previous owner of our home and was  very Charlie Brown like but it worked. I was racking my brain for free Santa gift materials around our home, when my husband got the afternoon hours of  overtime and we figure out the money from it would arrive Christmas Eve.

With the money in our account early that morning I sent my husband out with a list and told him, Santa gifts first and if there was money leftover a tree. He got the gifts and thought we had enough leftover for a small real tree. When he got to the tree seller’s place the guy was shocked we didn’t have a tree yet and pointed out that he had already gotten his ready for trash pick up but he allowed my husband to pick one out for free.

You can imagine my face when he came home with a huge tree, and if I remember rightly he spent the money we saved on some 50% off tree decorations to decorate it.

7. Sign Up For Samples As Soon As You Can

Right around Thanksgiving it seems like companies go crazy with free  sample sign ups. Money Saving Mom is my favorite place to find out about them. The site has a weekly round up list of them, but I prefer checking the site daily for new ones.  Free samples can make great stocking stuffers, or gift basket fillers.

8. Search Pinterest For Ideas

If  Pinterest were available that year I created Christmas out of next to nothing, my brain would have hurt less. Use the Pinterest search bar to enter whatever materials you seem to have in surplus of and watch amazing remake and repurpose ideas come up.

9. Watch Out For Coupons That Lead To Free Items

For  probably the last 5 years now I have been buying my children chocolate for their stocking for pennies by using the Hallmark $5 of a $5 purchase coupons that are available to print online and also found in free magazines I enjoy.

CVS Black Friday sales as well as Walgreens are also a great place to get free items by stacking deals with coupons.

10.  Give handmade Coupons

If you want to include friends in your giving but all 9 ideas above leave you too short to make it to them, here is an idea. Give out handmade coupons. Give babysitting to the couple you know never gets out. Give a coupon of “I will help you plant your flower garden this spring”, to the brown thumb friend who needs someone to be there to guide them in purchasing the right plants and getting them in the ground in place they will grow. Give your hubby a few coupons too, for back rubs and …….(be creative :) ).

A Christmas day filled with simple gifts and good food can be created even  if you have zero saved right now and little hopes of an overtime check coming your way, it just takes out of the box thinking, and a can do attitude.

New to Snail Pace Transformations? I would love to have you follow along as I share what I have learned and am learning about thrifty living, home finances, working at home,  time management and homemaking.  You can find me on Facebook  and  Pinterest or have my posts delivered directly to your email box as I publish them.

Thrifty Christmas Tips (small)

All my Thrifty Christmas Tips in one convenient resource page.

Linked to Frugal Friday Link Up, Mom2Mom, Thrifty Thursday, Saver Tips Tuesday, The Mommy Club,

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Snapshot Thursdays: A peak into my daily life

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I miss posting pictures that help include my readers into my daily life. I miss sharing what I am reading. I really need to post what I am tossing each week now and again as my clutter tossing is getting slack.

Welcome to Snapshot Thursdays where I hope to get my readers involved in my daily life once again. We are talking about a good old fashioned “look what I got up to” picture filled weekly post.  I plan to share 3 photos a week and keep it short (aiming for under 400 words but you all know I am wordy! :) )

The pictures  could be what I am reading, or what I am tossing, or just a picture of a pretty tree I saw on a walk.  I will also include pictures of our family from time to time, although now that I have older children they don’t like being on the blog as much as they use to.

Here a 3 photos from my week

pear tree in fallThe fall color here in Indiana this year has been amazing. Sadly it is coming to a close, but I was glad to see this one pear tree with its colorful leaves in amongst all those that had shed the last of  their leaves during the storm we had Halloween night

Do you like watching the leaves change?

national chocolate dayDid you know that October 28th is national chocolate day? Well I wasn’t going to let such a tasty holiday pass my family by. I picked up chocolate for the entire family, even dropped one in my husband’s truck for him to sneak out and get on a break at work.

What is your favorite type of chocolate? mine is usually dark but every once and a while I get a craving for some good quality milk chocolate.

running on leavesFor those of you that noticed the milk chocolate above and remembered that I am trying the THM style of eating, well I have a confession , THM eating is not going well. I have a few health problems that seem to not agree with a extremely low sugar and carb diet, and my love  of working out for 1 hour a day 6 days a week needs more carbs for fuel. I am however still reading the book and finding myself liking a lot of their suggestions and recipes. I am aiming for less sugar, and less carbs than I normally eat but just not as low as the book suggests.

All 3 of these photos come from Instagram: Join me there to see more of what I get up to each week.

Join McAlister’s DelGram e-club and get a coupon for a free cookie!

10 Clutter Free Gift Ideas

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We all have them people on our list that either HATE clutter or they have so much stuff already you can’t think of a single thing they need or would want.

10 Clutter free gift ideas for Christmas or Birthdays

Or perhaps you are like me, you are so tired of dealing with your own clutter that you don’t want to give something to people that might make them just as tired as you are with dealing with clutter.

So a few years ago I made a pact with myself unless some one has specifically said I would really love “………….” their gift from me is a clutter free one.

10 Clutter Free Gift Ideas

When giving clutter free gifts  make sure to observe the persons likes and dislikes first, because what is consumable to one person might not be to someone else.

To explain let me make a confession, I am a plain Jane black, white and brown sock only type person and yet every year a friend gives me a pair of Christmas socks.  Another friend will give me a scented candle every year,  and I don’t have the heart to tell them scented candles give me a wicked headache.  I also receive at least one gift each year of hot cocoa, and my family tells me it tastes amazing, but I am one of the very few people on the planet who doesn’t like hot cocoa.

These gifts although all consumable are not clutter free to me. I accept them gracefully  but I have to find others to consume them for me. The real key to giving a clutter free gift is to pay close attention to your friends likes and dislikes.  What do they love so much that you see them using it whenever you are with them. What your friend will love every minute of using it up is a true clutter free gift. What brands do they mention in their social media feeds. What items show up in their Instagram feeds over and over.

1.  Gift cards to large department stores

If the person you are buying for isn’t a friend it is going to be hard to do a lot of things on this list since you won’t know their personal tastes yet, in that case I would get them a gift card to a large department store full of so many items that surely your new friend, co-worker or family member will be able to find something they like.

Thrifty tip: To save your recently new found friend gas money make sure the department store is actually near them. This also increases the chances of the gift card getting used.

2. Candles

I know I just told you I don’t like Candles and yet they are number 2 on my list. Truth is I did at one time like scented candles  but in recent years they started giving me wicked headaches . However  many women and men love having a scented candle going at all times. Look around your friends home next time you are over, are there half burnt candles sitting here and there, and are they dust free? If so then chances are she burns them regularly.

Thrifty tip:  If you have several scented candle loving friends, make sure to sign up for emails from the Yankee Candle website so that you will be able to find out about sales.

3. Gift Card to their favorite restaurant

One of my favorite gifts  to receive at Christmas time is a simple $5 gift card to Starbucks so I can enjoy a specialty coffee, or a $5 Chick-fil-la  gift card so I can grab a few sweet teas on my friend.  Look through you friends Instagram feed, or Facebook wall and see what restaurants show up in their feed over and over again and grab a gift card to it and give it to her as a gift. You can make it a meal size card or just enough for her favorite drink, depending on your giving budget.

Thrifty tip: Check out Cardpool for discounted gift cards and get your friend a larger gift card balance for less money.

4. Favorite food items

I am a foodie, I receiving things like great organic chocolate and amazing coffee as gifts. Chances are your friend might be too.  As I said in point 2 stalk your friends social media feeds  and see what foods appear over and over. Or if they are not the social media type, when at their house raid their kitchen  cupboards while they are in the bathroom, what food is hidden in the back of the cupboards, where the kids won’t find it but your friend can! (admit it we moms all do it).

Thrifty tip: Look out for printable coupons or rebates in coupon apps like ibbota, Checkout 51 and Snap to help reduce costs.

5. Craft & hobby supplies

Crafters love brand new supplies. To a painter a good quality new paint brush is like candy. To knitter, new yarn  or more of their favorite brand in a new color is a sweet treat. Again do a bit of digging, when your knitting friend leaves the room dig down to the bottom of her yarn bag and shoot a picture of the yarn wrapper you will most likely find there. Brands tend to matter to crafters so if you are really at a loss and don’t want to dig, simply ask about their craft and what they use to do it and make a mental note of brands they mentioned.

Thrifty tip: In the front of most of the major craft stores you will find current flyers, these tend to have coupons you might be able to use on your purchase.

6.  Gift cards to stores that sell their favorite brands

Does your running friend always seem to show up in a certain brand of running attire? Find out where it is sold and get a gift card to that store so they can pick out exactly what they want. Don’t feel like you have to get a certificate large enough for one item if your friend is a designer lover and you have a thrift store budget, even getting $5 to $10 off an item with a gift card is a gift that a true friend will appreciate.

Thrifty tip: Prices for certain brands can vary from store to store, do a bit of looking online before getting a gift certificate and figure out what store might give your friend more bang for their gift card bucks.

7. Kindle gift cards

If you have a book worm friend a Kindle gift card  you will probably get  a big hug. Even if they don’t have a kindle device, with the free kindle app your friend can read books on their tablet, smart phone, or even their laptop.

Thrifty tip: Help your friend make their gift cards go further by sharing some thrifty e-book sites with them. My current favorite is Spirit Filled Kindle.

8. I owe you gift certificates

If you are great at baking bread and you know your friend loves it because you watch her devour piece after piece when you invite her to dinner, then make up a gift certificate for a fresh loaf each month for a year. Does your friend have little kids and no family in town to watch them nor the budget to higher a sitter for date night, make her a few gift certificates up that are good for a night of babysitting.

Thrifty tip: Think through how you can save on the product part of your service. For instance if you are bringing them their favorite peanut butter cookies make sure to know the best price for peanut butter by keep track of it in your price book along with other ingredients in the cookies.

9. Movie night in a box

Did you know you can buy Redbox movie gift certificates. Buy one large enough for your friend to grab a few movies, then grab a few of her favorite treats, and a bottle of her favorite beverage, and wrap it up in a box. If you don’t know what she likes then how about a small gift certificate to the convenience store nearest her and the Redbox gift card placed in a card with a few kind words from you.

Thrifty tip: You can earn Redbox movie gift certificates from Swagbucks and write them in the card, or make your friend a homemade laminated gift card with the code you earned on it that will fit in her wallet for easy viewing when she needs to enter it into Redbox. Here are several more  ways to earn Christmas presents with Swagbucks.

10. Baking Mixes

Does your friend love freshly baked cookies but you know she doesn’t have a lot of time to bake? How about making her up a cookie mix in a jar. I found this tutorial on making 5 different types of bake goods in a jar complete with printable labels while searching pinterest one night.

Thrifty tip: If your family consumes a product that is sold in a glass jar roughly the same size as a canning jar , you could save money on the gift by reusing those glass jars instead of buying others. The dishwasher does an amazing job of making glass jars sparkle and here is a tutorial on how to get the last of the labels off.

What clutter free gift would you add to my list?

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Tuesday Links: 3 Podcasts On Blogging

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Tuesday links 30 or so link to articles on one topic for you to explore, learn, and apply to your life

I LOVE listening to podcasts. I listen to them when cleaning, when in the car alone and on the two long walks I take a week (I prefer music when I run).

Podcasts are such a great way to learn about any topic. I generally listen to ones that talk about blogging, and entrepreneurship as I am always looking for ways to make my blog better for my readers.

If you are a blogger, or a entrepreneur here are 3 podcasts that I love that you are going to want to check out.

1. Brilliant Business Moms :Great for not just bloggers but any mom running a business out of her home.

2. Ask Pat:Crammed packed with great blogging information. Ask Pat is short generally under 15 minutes, making them my favorite go to when attacking clutter piles in short bursts.

3. The Oh So Pinteresting Podcast :Pinterest is big for bloggers and The Oh So Pinteresting Podcast can help you stay on top of changes and help you increase your traffic from pinterest.

If you love Podcast and want to check out a few more, I share four more I listen to in this article.

Christmas Swagbucks Earning Plans

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I am so excited to offer you another Swagbucks giveaway this time not for one $50 gift card (5000 Swagbucks) but 2 $50 gift cards (5000 Swagbucks). That means 2 people have a chance to win 5000 Swag Bucks just in time for Christmas shopping.

Enter to win $50 in gift cards from Swagbucks.


Swagbucks Giveaway Information

Giveaway is now over and winners have been contacted.

Why I love Swagbucks

Swagbucks is one of the most flexible point earning programs I know of. You can put in several hours a week and earn up to $75 or more a month in gift cards or you can put in just a few minutes a day and still earn $10 in gift cards a month.

I also love all the choices of gift cards. There are so many different stores to choose from in the rewards store that you are bound to find one for a store you normally shop or a restaurant you normally eat at.

To show you the flexibility of Swagbucks earnings, today I am going to give you 3 point earning plans that will earn you $10, $25 or $50 to help with your Christmas shopping, using entirely different point earning options in 30 days of continual work. You could also mix and match the programs to suit you better, picking just what you like, or do them all and walk away with $85 in gift cards 30 days from the day you start. (please note you can only cash in for 2 gift cards of one type per day, and it takes sometimes up to 2 weeks or more for gift card codes to arrive so plan accordingly  if you want to use your earnings to purchase gifts) 

How to fill a Christmas stocking using SwagBucks

The $10 Stocking Stuffer Plan: Using Mainly Simple Daily Task Point Options

In our thrifty home we set a budget of $10 per Christmas stocking and get very creative to make it work. To earn your $10 to fill a stocking here is what you need to do daily for 30 days. (psst…I would cash my $10 in for Target  gift cards so I could use their dollar spot to help fill my thrifty stocking)

1. Daily Poll: Found on your Swagbucks homepage at side of screen

1 Swag Buck per day = 30

2. NOSO: Found on your Swagbucks homepage at side of screen

2 Swag Bucks per day = 60

3. Daily Crave: Found on your Swagbucks homepage at side of screen

1 Swag Buck per day =30

4. Use the Swagbucks toolbar at least once per day: Download the toolbar found under Discover tab/ extensions

1 Swag Buck per day = 30

*5. Read & Discover: found on Swagbucks homepage  under Discover tab/Read

30 Swag Bucks in a month

*6. Do  all your daily web searches through Swagbucks homepage or toolbar and win random Swagbucks:

150 Swag Bucks on average per week =600

7. Radio Royalty: Found on Swagbucks homepage under Discover tab/ Special offers/ Radio Loyality

Listen to 1 hr and a half daily = 6 Swag Bucks = 180

*9. Special Offers: Found on Swagbucks homepage under Discover tab/ Special offers

Do 40 points worth in 30 days = 40 points

Total Points in 30 Days: 1000 or $10 in gift cards

Those activities with a * in front of them are averages based on what I myself have earned in past months. If you earn less you may have to listen to Radio Loyality more or complete more special offers to make the points equal to the 1000 you need for a $10 gift card.

How to use Swagbucks to pay for $25 worth of Christmas gifts

$25 Small Gift Plan: For App Lovers (no need to jump on the laptop to earn)

Did you know that Swagbucks now has 5 apps for earning points and 2 more are coming soon. I made this plan using just the video driven apps that play continuously, although you do need to check on them every now and again as they do pause from time to time.

If you have an older tablet or iPod that you don’t use as often, the apps may still work on them (they do on my 4th generation iPod) that way you will still have your smart phone available for other tasks.

Remember these plans are suggestions. I know some people won’t want to play this many videos in one day, and that is okay, add in some activities from the other plans and you will still make $25 in gift card earnings a month that is the beauty of Swagbucks it is  flexible.

1. Swagbucks TV App

36 Swag Bucks daily =1080

2. EntertainNow App

18 Swag Bucks daily = 540

3. Sportly.TV App

18 Swag Bucks daily = 540

4. Lifestylz App

18 Swag Bucks daily = 540

Total points in 30 days = 2700 (you need 2500 Swag Bucks for $25 in gift cards so this gives you 200 point wiggle room in case apps are buggy one day)

How to use Swagbucks to pay for $50 worth of Christmas presents

$50 Big Gift Plan: The Laptop Video Lovers Plan + Bing Rewards

Yes this plan is video crazy but once again these plans show you how there are as many ways to earn Swagbucks as there are personality types. The beauty is you can make a Swagbucks earning goal and pick what point earning actions you want to meet your goal every month.

1. Watch Swagbucks TV on your laptop: Found on Swagbucks homepage under watch

150 Swagbucks each day = 4500

2. Sign up for Bing rewards and everytime you reach 475 points get a Swagbucks  Swagcode card

500 Swagcode once a month = 500

Total points in 30 days = 5000 Swag Bucks enough for $50 in gift cards

How to use Swagbucks to pay for $85 worth of Christmas presents

Work all three plans together and earn $85 for Christmas shopping

$10 Stocking plan: Daily tasks driven plan

$25 Small gift app lovers plan

$50 Big gift video lovers + Bing Rewards plan

Total: 8700 Swag Bucks enough for $85 in gift cards with a bit of wiggle room

24 ways to earn swag bucks to help pay for Christmas


 9 More Ways To Earn Gift Cards With Swagbucks

I didn’t include the ways to earn Swagbucks below in any of my plans just because they are hard to estimate earnings from them over a 30 day time frame, however they are still great ways to earn, and will help you to either earn more than the plans per month or you can swap out some actions above and add others in and still meet your monthly goal. These 9 ways below plus all the ways above give you 24 different ways to earn Swag Bucks. I can’t think of another point reward programs that gives you that amount of flexibility to earn.

1. Shop & Earn: Found on Swagbucks homepage under Shop tab

Points vary from store to store (takes up to 30 days for points to be added to account)

2. Print and Use Coupons: Found on Swagbucks homepage under Discover tab/ coupons

Get 10 points for every coupon you print and redeem (take a while for points to appear in account )

3. Buy your daily deals through Swagbucks: Found on Swagbucks homepage under Shop tab

Points vary and again it takes a while for the points to be added to your account

4. Fill out Surveys: Found on Swagbucks homepage under Answer tab/ Paid Surveys

These can be time consuming but can easily be filled out while watching TV and winding down for the day.

5. Complete Tasks: Found on Swagbucks homepage under Answer tab/ Tasks

Points vary as does the amount of time each tasks take.

6. Swagcodes: Enter them on the Swagbucks homepage by hovering over the Swag Code symbol

Find Swagcodes by following Swagbucks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also find them on the Swag Blog. I find at least a few each month. Very simple way to add a few points to your account here and there.

7. Encrave: Found on the Swagbucks homepage under the Discover tab/ Encrave

Another video section of Swagbucks found on homepage of Swagbucks. Here is a tip from a reader do the ones with green circles as they keep running on their own until the cycle is done.

8. Play Games: Found on the Swagbucks homepage by clicking the Play tab

I haven’t used this area of Swagbucks but from what I understand you win Swagbucks randomly as you play, and you can also win more by winning tournaments.

9. Refer Friends

Once you have tried Swagbucks for a while and decided you love it, share it with your friends and earn 10% of their Swagbuck earnings for life.

As you can see the ways to combine point earning options to meet your Swagbucks gift card goals are endless.


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10 Ways Thrifty People Prepare For The Christmas Shopping Season

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Tomorrow is the beginning of November and for some that will seem very early to start Christmas shopping, for others it will seem too late (yep, I know at least one person who wraps up Christmas shopping before Christmas in July!).

10 ways thrifty people prepare for the Christmas Shopping Season

For me  though, starting to shop November for the bulk of my gifts is just about right. I do a few things much earlier to prepare but most of my shopping will be done in the last 2 months leading up to Christmas day. I find it leaves me enough wiggle room to snag some great bargains.

Our Christmas budget has always been tighter than I would like, but I have always been able to keep within it using a few thrifty tricks.

10 Ways Thrifty People Prepare For The Christmas Shopping Season

The christmas wallet (small)

1. Make a budget

This is one of the things I usually do way early, as in December 26th. Every December when Christmas is done, I  total up what we spent and decide if some areas were just too tight or if others seemed like they had too much wiggle room and then I decide what we will spend on next years Christmas and divide the number by 12. I either pay it like I would a set payment (such as a phone bill) each and every month, or pay it down like I would a large bill (such as a medical bill) with any overtime my husband gets until it is paid in full. It simple depends how much wiggle room our current day to day budget has. I set up what I call an account “envelope” to gather the money in. Really it is just a sheet of paper with the word Christmas account written on it where I keep track of deposits.

When I am ready to do my Christmas shopping I take out the cash I need and put it in my Christmas wallet, so that I don’t go over budget.

If you haven’t made your Christmas budget yet don’t panic. Here is a great article I found recently that will help : Interactive Christmas Budget Calculator

2. Order discount gift cards

If you tend to shop at certain stores each and every year for Christmas gifts, you might want to see if there are discounted gift cards available for them at Cardpool. Don’t forget to look for discounted cards for restaurants and movie theaters too.

Each year our family enjoys a 3D movie together as a family, a rare treat for our thrifty family, since I know it is going to happen I purchasing a discounted gift card for the theater in our town is one thing I do to keep the cost of a family movie night out more reasonable.

3. Sign up for daily deal sites

Every year for the past few years daily deals have been a great source of thrifty Christmas gifts for our family. Either we have bought gifts with them, or given them as gifts. We have also used them to save money on Christmas entertainment.

4 Thrifty Reasons to use Brad's Deals An online hub for great deals (medium)

4. Sign up for Brad’s Deals

It looks like a daily deal site, but Brad’s Deals is so much more than that. Brad’s deals is a hub of the best deals out their on the web day after day on all sorts of items you might give as gifts such as electronics, clothing, sporting goods and more. I love their daily emails during the Christmas season as they always save me money on at least one gift on my list if not more.

12 Ways To Save Money On Christmas (small)

5. Review after Christmas sales bin to see what gifts they already have

I keep a bin full of deeply clearance after Christmas sales items that I can use to give as gifts to our friends and  my husband co-workers. Usually these are just part of a gift, like a mug that I might fill with chocolate and coffee, or a Christmas tin to fill with my chocolate treats to give as gifts.

6. Search Pinterest for ideas to repurpose what they already have on hand into gifts

One way to avoid having to go out in the bustle of Christmas shoppers and save money is to get creative and use what you already have to make Christmas gifts.  I love using Pinterest to search for ideas to repurpose items. I keep two boards for things I always have in surplus. One board is my Rescue Your Jeans board for ideas of what to do with those too small or holey jeans and the other board called T-shirt Remake, Reuse because being a runner I collect several 5K run t-shirts a year that I don’t wear, but could make into something I could give as a gift.

Your household surplus is probably different than mine, but whatever it is enter it into the Pinterest search bar and I bet dozens of ideas will come up as to what you can make out of it to give as gifts.

no bake christmas (medium)

7. Make a list of all the ingredients needed for baking, cooking as well as supplies for crafts they want to make and then watch for sales

Sometimes I will do a Pinterest search and find I have all but one item needed to make a craft. I put this on my “to buy” list. I also make a list of items I need for all my holiday baking and items for the big meal Christmas day.

By making up this list in November I have several weeks to try and grab the items on sale, or better yet on sale and with a coupon.

8. Follow sites that share great deals

Money Saving Mom is my favorite site to follow for great Christmas gift deals. There are many more great deal sites out there though. I suggest at Christmas time that you hop over to your favorite deal sites Facebook page and click the “get notifications” tab so that you see all their posts in your notification area and can see deals as the come up. You can also subscribe to them and get their deals in your email inbox too.

How to make sure you get the best cash back rate when shopping online (medium)

9. Bookmark their favorite cash back websites

  • Top Cashback  (no limit for cash out and an extra 2.5% back if you take an Amazon gift card code for payment makes Top Cashback my favorite cash back site)
  • Ebates
  • Swagbucks (shop & earn area)
  • MyPoints  (shop & earn area)

Cash back sites won’t save you money on Christmas presents but instead earn you money on your online Christmas present purchases. Cash back sites offer you a certain percentage back on purchases made by clicking through from their site to the site you shopped at.  Point companies like Swagbucks and Mypoints offer you points for purchases, and this can be a great way to rack up points for a payout.  Here is a tip, make sure to compare cash back rates before you shop to maximize your earnings.

18+ point programs to help you earn $50 or more in gift cards each month (medium)

10.Up gift card earning activities

I have used point programs for years to help pay for Christmas gifts.  My friends have received gift cards earned through  My Points in their Christmas cards from us. Our children have found gift card codes for Itunes written on cards in their Christmas stockings that came from Recycle Bank. One year I gave my husband a promissory note that stated he would receive the bulk of the Swagbucks I earned for 1 year in Amazon gift cards to load his kindle up with new book titles.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget to start checking printable coupons sites, and coupon apps such as ibotta, Checkout51 and BerryCart: The coupons on these sites will not only save you money on food used in the baking you give as gifts but also gifts like children’s art supplies,  family board games, and even clothes .

Looking for money saving tips? Follow my Saving Money Tips board on Pinterest.

Linked to Frugal Friday Link Up, Mom2Mom, Thrifty Thursday,

Thrifty Christmas Tips (small)You can find all of my Thrifty Christmas articles on one spot.

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Step By Step Guide To BerryCart: A Coupon App For Organic, Gluten Free & Non GMO Foods

(post contains referral links see disclosure)

I just recently discovered a coupon app that I am very excited about. BerryCart is a coupon app for all those who love natural and organic foods. It works in a similar way to the ibotta app I love so much.

Step by Step Guide to BerryCart A coupon app for organic, non-gmo, gluten free foodsIf you have read 10 Ways Thrifty People Save Money On Organics you know that my family doesn’t buy 100% organic foods but there are some products that we do prefer organic and we like saving as much money on those products as possible.

The BerryCart app will now be added to one of our ways to save on our favorite organic products.

How To Use The BerryCart App

1.  Sign up for a BerryCart account online. (go here now  to sign up)

2. Download the BerryCart app to your Smartphone or tablet with rear facing camera

sign in to BerryCart app

3. Once the app is is downloaded go ahead and enter your email and password you chose.

BerryCart App Picking your deal4. Press the filter tab to see what stores are available in your area and what products they have to offer.

BerryCart Unlock the savings

5. Pick the product you want to earn cash back on and perform the short tasks to unlock the savings

This is when the BerryCart app begins to remind me of ibotta in that it asks you to preform short tasks to unlock rebates.

For this particular item, Beanitos chips, you had to answer why you wanted to buy Beanitos  to unlock .25 cents (they gave you a range of answers to choose from) and then you had to read one fact about why Beanitos were good for you for another .25 cents.

Please note that the products may have to be a certain size and flavor. For example to receive your rebate on this bag of Beanitos you had to pick the 6 0z bag.

6. Click Redeem

Once you buy the product click the green redeem button and you will be prompted by BerryCart to scan the bar code of the product you bought followed by the receipt.

BerryCart redeem your rebates through paypal7. Redeem your rebates through Paypal

BerryCart lets you have your rebates deposited into your PayPal account when your account  reaches  a minimum balance of $5 .


BerryCart Gift card options8. Or if you prefer cash out for a gift card code

I love the gift card area of the BerryCart app. It is full of a great variety of stores currently it includes, Starbucks, Amazon, Target, Gap, The Home Depot, Staples, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Barnes & Nobles. The size of the gift cards range from $5 to $35. The BerryCart App gift card area also lets you decide if you want the gift card emailed to you or a friend. So if the budget is tight and you want to send your friend a gift card for her birthday, you could cash in your rebates and send her own with the BerryCart app, or send her one just because you know she/he could use a pick me up.

Sign up here for a BerryCart account today, and start earning rebates on your Organic, Gluten Free, and GMO free purchases.

If you love coupon apps make sure to check out my step by step guide to ibotta as well as my how to use Checkout51 posts.

18+ point programs to help you earn $50 or more in gift cards each month (small)

If you love earning gift cards and more with your smartphone, tablet, or computer, check out my list of 18+ point programs to help you earn gift cards and cash from home.

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8 Books To Help You Get Organized For Christmas

(post contains affiliate links: see disclosure)

Next week November while be here and to me that is the month where I start thinking about what I want to do the same this Christmas as last as well as what I want to do differently.

8 books that will help you get organized for Christmas

I also start thinking about what handmade gifts I want to make, and what new recipes I want to make for my own family.

Pinterest is a great place for my searching and I do have Christmas boards there including

But my favorite place to find ideas for Christmas is still books.

4 Touch And Feel Books To Read To Get Organized For Christmas

I like ebooks but I love old fashioned turn the page, paper and binding books more. I try to read at least one new Christmas title every November whether it be a nonfiction one about keeping Christmas debt free or a fictional story that I can get lost in for hours.  (these of course are all also available in Kindle edition for you kindle lovers :) ) .

1. The Red Glove Collection by Karen Kingsbury

The Red Glove Collection  are  heart touching stories about the true spirit of giving that we all should embrace at Christmas time. Warning have tissues ready.

2. The Purpose Of Christmas by Rick Warren

I first read The Purpose Of Christmas last Christmas season and I really loved how it put my heart where it should be at Christmas time. I kept it (and I rarely keep books) and plan to reread it again this year. It is a short and simple read that can be read on a long afternoon or a few short evenings.

3. The Affordable Christmas: How To Have A Fabulous Holiday Without Breaking The Bank by Mary Hunt

I read The Affordable Christmas years ago when it was an earlier edition and called Debt Proof Your Christmas . It is cram packed with valuable information on how to keep the costs of Christmas affordable for any budget.

4. Gifts For Giving by Gooseberry Patch

I got Gifts For Giving a few years back on clearance and love all the great recipes and suggestions of how to pack them for gift giving as well as labels you can photo copy.

4 ebooks To Read To Get Organized For Christmas

Two things I love about ebooks, are that they are often short enough to read in one quiet afternoon and two that I can take fit them in my purse and take them anywhere. I really love reading on my Kindle paperwhite, but I also like using the app on my pay as you go smartphone and for the recipe books I like the refurbished iPad we bought for homeschooling as I can see the photos in color and put it on a stand for easy viewing as I am making the recipe.

1. Planning  For A Stress Free Christmas by Mandi Ehman

For just .99 cents and packed with all types of great tips to help you get organized for Christmas  the ebook Planning For A Stress Free Christmas  is a steal. Mandi tackles topics such as the Christmas card list, getting the house ready, planning Christmas activities, doing volunteer work and more.

2. 101 Days Of Christmas by Mandi Ehman

If you don’t like spending hours searching pinterest for great recipes for Christmas gatherings and great handmade gifts for gift exchanges then spending $3.99 on 101 Days of Christmas :101 Recipes & Crafts For The Holidays will be worth every penny to you. A one stop book full of all sorts of recipes and craft ideas to last the whole season long.

3.  A Simple Season by Jessica Fisher

I read and reviewed A Simple Season a few years back. I still stand by what I said in that review. If you are just starting out in your homemaking adventure and you want a book that will hold your hand and guide you through the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Years A Simple Season is the ebook for you.  If you have been homemaking for years you are still going to learn some great new tips from this ebook, making it well worth the read.

4. Christmas Recipes From My Table To Yours by Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures is one of my favorite recipe blogs. I love that by purchasing one of the blogs ebooks I don’t have to click around the site looking for Christmas recipes instead the are all in one ebook.  Christmas Recipes From My Table To Yours is a collection of simple doable recipes for the holiday season.

What are some of your favorite Christmas book titles? Share them in the comments with me.

thrifty bookworms and swagbucks the perfect romance (smallest)Want the titles above but can’t fit them in your budget? Here is how to use Swagbucks to pay for your bookworm habits and how to make the giftcards you earn through Swagbucks buy as many books as possible.

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Tuesday Links: Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas

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Tuesday links 30 or so link to articles on one topic for you to explore, learn, and apply to your lifeHalloween is just days away now! And if your family is like our thrifty family you don’t spend much on costumes, in fact we normally spend zero unless we find them at a deep discount after Halloween and stash them for next year.

Here are 3 links to help get your creative juices going for last minute Halloween costumes, that you can create with what you have on hand.

1. 28 Last Minute DIY Halloween Costumes

2. 10 Costumes From Your Closet

3. The Ultimate List of Last Minute Costumes

And just in case you still need to grab some candy here is a coupon for you….

$1.00 off TWO (2) MARS Halloween Fun Size Bags