Hi! I’m Cassie and I’m so excited to share my new blog with you! I have lots of fun, informative content planned to post here. For my first post, I’d like to introduce myself and my mission here on a Life on a Dime.
First and foremost I am a mom, but I was a mom first and foremost even when I had a full-time career in the accounting field. The only difference was we had consumer debt keeping me from being really being there with my kids.
That all changed about a year ago. We both worked hard, and a lot. But even on two good incomes, a mortgage, student loans, car payments, daycare tuition, and occasional credit card debt kept us bound financially. My husband and I had bought our first home almost a decade prior and slowly renovated room by room ourselves and with the help of family in cash. We started to get the itch to build… we had equity in our home, we just weren’t sure how much.
After a lot of discussions, help from God, family, and a lot of hard work we took a leap of faith. We started on a new adventure. When the opportunity came I left my job, we moved in with my dad who not only housed us but deeded us land to build on, finished updating the house, and sold. We were blessed to have made the decision and had good timing with the market. We were able to pay off all of our consumer debt and set aside the 20% requirement for a construction loan.
So began our journey to give our kids a better life; one with less stuff, and more of what mattered. This is our life on a dime. Please follow along with us on this journey and leave a comment below with questions or suggestions of what you’d like to see on here.
Did you know you can buy Hallmark greeting cards at Dollar Tree?! September 22nd actually marks one year of Heartline a Hallmark Company and Expressions by Hallmark being available in all 6,800 Dollar Tree stores nationwide! That’s a lot of savings to celebrate!
**I was compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.**
Who doesn’t like the sound of a Hallmark quality card for $1? How about 2 for $1?! Expressions by Hallmark cards are 2 for $1! I love greeting cards but hate spending almost $4 a card for something decent at the grocery store.
I’ve actually been buying these cards at Dollar Tree for wedding showers, birthday parties for several months and I’ve never been disappointed. Just look at the quality of these cards; these do not look like cards you paid $1 on. And the Heartline cards are 2 for $1!
These are an awesome frugal find! And you know I appreciate those. When I budget for a birthday gift I don’t want to spend $5 of that money on a card!
Those aren’t the only Hallmark quality cards you’ll find at Dollar Tree either! Also available at select stores are the Mahogany line celebrating black culture, the Vida line, which expresses the voices of Latinos of all generations, Tree of Life which celebrates Jewish holidays and traditions, and joyfully yours from Dayspring!
There are hundreds of cards to choose from for everyone and every occasion. You can find out more about their collections here.
So what are you waiting for?! Stop spending more money on greeting cards and get them at Dollar Tree instead! Your budget will thank me; no need to apologize to your wallet for overspending!
Why My Family Doesn’t Use Cash Envelopes for Most Spending
While most people who are getting out of debt and adjusting to a budget opt to use cash envelopes my family did not. In fact, I do not like cash envelopes for everyday spending. I think they are great if you have impulse shopping issues and understand the psychology of it.
If you used the cash envelope system to help your family get on track financially props to you! That is awesome. I am not here to knock that. Getting out of debt and in a better financial situation is a win no matter the method (as long as it’s legal of course).
Cash is kind of nasty…
But I’ve worked at a bank. I know what nastiness is on money. According to this TIME article pathogens have been found on 94% of paper money, and the flu virus can live on paper money for up to 17 days. Ew.
Aside from the ick factor there is also the security factor; if someone spends an average of $25 a week on gas, $100 on groceries, $25 on miscellaneous/personal spending money, allows themself that $5 latte one a week, and average $25 on miscellaneous items for the kids, etc… they could easily be carrying almost $200 (or more, depending on their budget) on them at all times.
If you take out cash for the entire month at the beginning of the month (which I see on social media a lot of people do) you probably have several hundred dollars on your person just walking around town. This makes me nervous. If my purse were to be stolen or I left it somewhere today I could easily call and freeze or cancel my debit cards instantly. If I lost cash…
Then there’s always the confusion caused when I find cash in my wallet. Did someone give one of the kids money and I forgot to deposit it? What was this for? Who is this from? What am I forgetting?
I do make a few exceptions
We have at times kept a cash envelope at home for special little sinking funds. This is a great way to set money aside for things like spending money on clothing, birthdays, small personal loans… money that doesn’t need to be redeposited for online spending or bill payment.
Accountability Alternatives if You Don’t Like Cash Envelopes
Just because you choose not to use cash does not mean you get a pass on tracking your expenses. I still keep receipts even if I do not need to use them to split it into different budget categories in the Every Dollar transaction. I scan those receipts into my cashback apps to optimize my savings. Only after I have transactions logged in Every Dollar, scanned onto Fetch Rewards, and any receipts with qualifying items on Ibotta redeemed do I put the receipts in the recycling.
Most banks even have a budget component to their online banking; you can build a budget and categorize expenses as they happen right on the bank website. How’s that for handy? As a bonus, since we just use our debit cards most of the time I don’t have to worry about making sure my husband has cash if he stops at the store for me on the way home. I just record the transaction and move on.
To Use the Cash Envelope System or Not?
In the end, we all need to do what works best for our family to help us meet our financial goals. If cash envelopes work best for you then that is great. Personal finance is personal after all. Just because I don’t like cash envelopes doesn’t mean you won’t love them.
The main reason I felt compelled to write this article was just to let people out there know it’s okay if doing what popular radio hosts and financial experts say doesn’t work for you. It’s perfectly acceptable to combine the advice of several experts and your own personal preferences into a system that works for you.
Any steps you take toward getting on a budget, paying off debt, and saving for your future are to be applauded. You don’t have to like cash envelopes to make that happen. Find what works for you and work that plan to reach your goals. And if you do use cash, just carry what you may need that day with you.
Two of the most common ways to pay off debt are the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. Chances are you’ve probably heard of at least one of them, if not both. I’m going to outline the basic concepts as well as the pros and cons of using both to pay off debt.
Using the Debt Snowball to Pay off Debt
If you’ve listened to a single Dave Ramsey podcast or spent five minutes looking at #debtfreecommunity online you’ve probably heard of the debt snowball.
To follow this method you simply write down all your debts from smallest to largest. You then take the smallest debt and find any money you can in your budget to add to the monthly payment. You pay only the minimum amount due on all other debts.
Once the smallest debt is knocked out you take your snowball amount (which should have grown from when you started) and you add it on top of the minimum payment of your next smallest debt. This process is continued until you have a very large snowball to throw at your largest debt. Once you are done the size of your snowball is now your money to keep every month!
Congratulations! You’re out of debt and are now free to save and invest that money! Following the common baby steps, you then build up your emergency fund before investing in retirement and saving for a house down payment (if you plan to buy a house).
Pros & Cons of the Snowball
The pros of this method (beyond the obvious fact that you pay off your debt) are mostly psychological; it’s easier to stick with it for the long haul and knock out all your debt when you see measurable progress. By starting with the smallest debt you feel the momentum faster and stay pumped to keep going.
The biggest con of this method is that you can pay out more money in interest if you aren’t as “gazelle intense” as you can possibly be the entire time or you have a lot of higher interest debt. If you slack off or take your time on your smaller debts but you have one credit card that is maxed out at a high-interest rate you’re going to pay more interest just making the minimum payments until you make it to that debt with your snowball. If you’re a huge numbers geek you may have a problem with this.
We used the debt snowball to pay down credit card and furniture debt early in our marriage as well as pay off vehicles early, but didn’t get very far on student loan debt with the snowball.
Most adherents of the snowball method also pause retirement investment during the snowball. I didn’t pause my retirement contribution til I was really feeling concerned about job security and felt the urge to get more intense and stay home with our kids. They are our why for being debt-free after all.
The Debt Avalanche
The debt avalanche method involves paying debts according to their interest rate rather than the individual balances. List your debts from the highest to lowest interest rate and pay them off in that order. Make only the minimum payment on the smaller interest debts until you reach them in the avalanche (downhill momentum) Some people only aggressively pay off the highest interest rates before focusing more intensely on investments. It makes more sense to some people to invest money at a much higher return than they are “losing” on lower interest debts such as their mortgage.
Bear in mind people who invest more aggressively while carrying some lower interest consumer debt typically have more disposable income at their fingertips. If you don’t feel like you can both pay off your debt and invest at the same time, then don’t. Get your debt out of the way and the invest.
Pros & Cons of the Avalanche
The biggest and most obvious pro is the amount of money saved on interest. If you are a numbers geek you may love this method. It also allows a little more flexibility in that most adherents still invest in retirement while paying down their debt. This is awesome especially if your employer offers a match. Even while paying down debt at least invest up to the match; it’s free money you’re using to pay for your future! It also seems a little less intense than the snowball.
The cons include the potential to casually carry debt if you aren’t very intense or diligent in avoiding low-interest debt. Another con is the potential for misguided attempts at using the avalanche to ONLY pay on the higher interest debts and neglect the other debts.
Use the Method that Works for You to Pay off Debt
You can use either method to pay off debt. The most important thing is that you pay it off! Paying off debt is one of the best things you can do financially. The goal is to earn interest, not pay it.
Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn’t, pays it.
I personally prefer a mix of the two; if you have one or two really high-interest debts knock those out and then follow the snowball. And take advantage of any employer matched retirement contributions. Chances are you won’t miss the median match of 3% pre-tax income.
In the past, between my sensitive skin and our oldest child’s eczema, I thought we were stuck using unscented “free and clear” laundry detergents. The clothes were clean but didn’t really smell like it. In fact, they didn’t really smell like anything unless they had a strong, bad smell prior to laundering. Then it was just a faint, bad smell. It never occurred to me to use or make a laundry scent booster. The scent was bad, right?
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Then I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Thieves Household Cleaner from Young Living last year. In March I took advantage of the monthly Essential Rewards promo and stocked up on the rest of the Thieves line- laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and more household cleaner.
I use Thieves toothpaste now as well. I love using Thieves laundry detergent so much more than the unscented free and clear alternatives. My clothes are clean and I understand all the ingredients. Plus, one bottle goes a long ways, even if it isn’t diluted.
But sometimes the laundry still needs a little something extra to take care of the smell. I have a husband who works outside all the time and two kids who play hard. Laundry can have a bit of a funk. I did some Googling last month and found several DIY laundry scent booster recipes and knew I just had to try one. The only problem was what container would I use to store it once it was mixed?
Laundry Scent Booster DIY
For a few weeks, I made small batches and left them in a stainless mug on the laundry room shelf. We try not to buy a lot of glass after our son’s accident this summer and stainless steel is a little more than I wanted to pay for this little project. Then I found this little bamboo saltbox on Amazon. I double-checked it was an acceptable vessel for a product mixed with an essential order, then added it to my cart.
How to make your own DIY Laundry Scent Booster:
Unscented, All Natural Epsom Salt (I got mine at Dollar Tree!)
A sealable container (preferably glass, stainless, or bamboo like this one)
An essential oil of your choice (think Citrus Fresh, Purification, lemon)
Bowl and spoon for mixing
Measure enough Epsom salt to fill your container. Pour into the bowl.
2. Add several drops of essential oil of your choice. I used Citrus Fresh.
3. Stir until oil is well blended into the salt.
4. Pour into saltbox. I use the second scooper from the Thieves dishwasher detergent to add my laundry scent booster to the wash.
It’s Frugal, Oily, and EASY!
The total cost on this little project is less than $10! That’s right! $10. I paid $6.99 for the saltbox and $1 for the epsom salt. As a bonus, this project was both frugal AND sustainable; when this runs out I still have plenty of salt left and I will reuse the saltbox. I repurposed a scoop and the Citrus Fresh was free in the August Essential Reward promo! Not on Essential Rewards? Check out the More on Oils page to see why I use Young Living and feel free to contact me if you have any questions! This one is a winner in my book!
Be the Gatekeeper Your Family Needs and Gain the Peace of Mind You’ve Always Wanted
Ever feel stressed when you walk in the door at the end of the day? Is home not the peaceful, serene place you hoped it would be? Wonder how all that stuff wound up there? Wonder what is in the stuff that wound up there? Need more peace of mind?
Lately I’ve noticed on social media and in real life a lot of people being more aware of things; aware of the fact that their home is not a source of peace, their finances are a hot mess, or they’re just fed up with all of the extra stuff they don’t understand listed on the label of the products they use every day in their home.
I also see a lot of people who seem to think that is just how it is. How it is isn’t good enough! They’d like to get more organized, but they have so much stuff and they “need” it all at some point so why get rid of it? Everyone is in debt, so at least they’re not alone in their situation. Non-toxic products cost so much more money, why try.
The government should just write off our student loan debt and ban certain ingredients (no disagreement from me on that last one). Besides, with those student loan payments, there’s no way you can afford non-toxic, cleaner products. It’s just not true friends.
What if I told you that I have three simple (notice I didn’t say easy) tips to help you with all three of those problems? Give you peace of mind in your home, your finances, and your health? You have the power to do that yourself.
I’m going to let you in on the big secret. Maybe you already know it or maybe you never thought of it this way, but you already are the gatekeeper of your home. You just need to learn how to be a better one.
1. Be More Minimal
I’m not saying sell everything and live on a bus, although being a skoolie does look pretty amazing. I am saying you need to take bite the bullet so to speak and start decluttering. Sell it all but the kitchen sink if you have to. We’re after counter space. Breathing room. Find a little of that and you’ll find a little peace of mind.
This can be a daunting task, but you landed in a great spot to find more information on minimalism, decluttering and even organization. It happens to be a passion of mine. Sometimes in order to be a better gatekeeper, we need to throw some stuff out of the gate. A lot more stuff in some cases than others. That’s okay. Start small, see how it feels, and then go from there.
2. Read the Label- Don’t Buy What You Don’t Understand or Trust for Some Peace of Mind
Before you put anything in your cart read the label. If you don’t understand what’s in it Google it. If you don’t like what’s in it don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that. It’s your job as the gatekeeper to keep anything you deem harmful, inappropriate, or contradictory to your goals out of your home and budget.
This is one of those times Google is your best friend; google every ingredient, process, or item you don’t understand. Download an app such as Think Dirty and find their independent grade for any number of products while you’re still in the store. You’ll be amazed at how much you don’t buy when you pay attention to the labels.
If the labels with items you do approve of come attached with a high price tag weigh your priorities. Are you willing to spend more money on products you know will meet your standards or will you spend time to DIY some solutions of your own? Be sure you budget your time and money accordingly. You can also check out my Non-Toxic Home and oily pages for some frugal and non-toxic DIYs. I mix my own dish soap, hand soap, and am currently researching my own facewash using non-toxic bases and a few drops of essential oil.
3. No is a Valid Answer. Use it.
Start saying it more often. It is amazing the freedom that comes with one simple word. Don’t want it in the house? On the kids’ calendar? Don’t want to keep spending money like you’re in congress? Then don’t.
The hard truth is that every, “yes,” is a “no,” to something else. Choose your yeses and nos carefully. You don’t get more time back with your kids when you overload the schedule, you don’t build up your emergency fund when you max out the credit card every month, and you don’t pay off debt unless you quit adding to the total. It’s a hard mindset shift for sure, but it does get easier with time.
Choose what matters most to you and your family. Prioritize around what matters most and say no to things that don’t align. Adjust the budget, clear the schedule, and hold fast as a family. One shift in thinking, one decision made more intentionally, and then the next. Slowly but surely, one step at a time you will feel yourself becoming the gatekeeper your family needs at home and peace of mind won’t be too far behind.
It’s something that’s been on my mind a while and there’s no time like the present… So as of today alifeonadime is on YouTube!
Be on the lookout for new content! The YouTube channel will feature topics like budgeting, minimalism, and more. I plan to include a lot of frugal DIYs, my favorite frugal finds, tips on being frugal and sustainable!
Be sure to subscribe to the channel: alifeonadime on YouTube
Head on over and subscribe to the alifeonadime channel so you don’t miss out on new content there! And be sure to hit the button to subscribe here on the blog if you haven’t already!
I am very excited, and a little scared! If this isn’t getting out of your comfort zone and really going for it I don’t know what is! I recently posted my first video on Instgram and people were very supportive! It was definitely encouraging.
I know most bloggers write a lot of posts and post a lot of videos before going live. I really wanted this journey to happen organically. This blog and now my YouTube channel will grow along with me. Just like in life I am figuring this out as I go! Come along for the ride with me. We can grow together.
As always, if there is something specific you want to see just let me know in the comments or contact me! I love the feedback!
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1. What’s your usual starbucks order?
I am not at Starbucks enough to have a usual (we are on a rather tight budget till we get medical bills paid off and build up our emergency fund), but one of my favorite things to order is a mocha with no whip and some chicken chorizo tortilla sous vide egg bites. That actually sounds really good right now. I think I may have to Google myself a good recipe to make my own. The mocha is either iced or hot depending on the weather and always with NO whip cream. It’s a texture thing.
2. What does your workstation look like?
There always seems to be a pile of clean placemats and tea towels fresh from the dryer behind my laptop; I’m a terrible multitasker!
3. Favorite food?
It’s hard to pick an absolute favorite. If I truly had to narrow it down it would be the Arkansas Fritters at Tusk & Trotter in Bentonville, AR. This was a favorite restaurant of ours when date nights were a regular thing and anything on the menu would probably qualify. I also love their pizza.
4. Favorite author?
Hmmm. I have read a variety of books primarily on personal finance and minimalism lately, but I think my all-time favorite author would have to be C.S. Lewis. I am not a Narnia super fan, but I haven’t read anything of his that didn’t resonate. I need to dig Mere Christianity back out and reread it.
5. What do you think of open relationships?
I agree with Lafrieda: “3 or more is a crowd-So Nope.”
6. What is your favorite video game?
I don’t play very often, but Wii Sports! I love bowling on the Wii!
7. Guilty pleasure treat?
I like to eat it straight out of the container. I just have to hide in the laundry room so the kids don’t see!
8. Favorite movie?
9. Favorite book?
I don’t know that I have one, but if I had to choose I would say it was a tie between these two. Hmm… maybe I have more than one favorite author?
I definitely enjoy my laptop more right now, but mostly because I do not have a desk yet. It’s a little more comfortable at the kitchen counter than the console table where the desktop is.
12. Best advice you’ve ever received?
It was probably to trust my instinct and do what I felt was right/best.
13. What project are you working on right now?
Mostly this blog; I’m still new to the blogging world and trying to figure all this out.
14. Favorite color?
Purple. I don’t wear or use it often, but it is still my favorite.
15. Did you get good grades in school?
I did fairly well in high school but made the Dean’s List in college a time or two. I was more motivated as an adult in school paying my own way! I look forward to the day when I am able to finish my degree. It is not in our best financial interest for me to pursue that now. That is a whole nother post though probably!
16. Dream job?
I am working toward being a mompreneur; I would love to keep doing what I’m doing and actually provide steady additional income for my family without the need for childcare.
17. Play sports?
Not so much; I have an incredible lack of coordination and depth perception.
18. Do You Have a Degree?
No, I do not. I will probably save that story for a later post and not in a Vogue 73 Questions answer though. The good news is I cash flowed my tuition so I obtained no student loan debt.
Born and bred in the USA, mostly Irish roots with some Dutch and Swedish according to my sister’s 23 and Me analysis. There were no major revelations in her test so I figured I’d keep my DNA to myself and save $100.
20. What’s your favorite type of blog post?
I really like posts that tell a story but are also informative and helpful. I don’t have a lot of time for entertainment so I prefer my time reading to be spent on personal growth. It helps if they’re funny too.
21. What do you like to collect?
Friends and memories! That’s what’s so great about becoming a blogger; I’ve met so many new people and leared so much in just a few short months! Since I started on this minimalist path I decided to focus on experiences and not things. I’ve always been leary of collections anyway; you get one French rooster for example and the next thing you know that’s all anyone gets you for your collection! It’s the stuff of nightmares I tell you!
22. Describe yourself in 3 words…
I would say I am kind, introspective, and sometimes a little too serious.
23. If you were a rapper what would your stage name be?
I have no clue on this one. Any suggestions?
24. Who was the last person you DMed?
I respond to stories a lot more than I DM, but I believe I last reached out to an IG friend in West Texas after hearing about the latest shooting in Texas. I learned that if you’re in Texas you don’t consider Midland/Odessa to be West Texas.
25. What’s on top of your wish list right now?
Believe it or not, we sleep on an air mattress right now; I sold our old bed and mattress before we built our new house. They weren’t what we wanted anymore and the mattress needed to be replaced. I decided I’d rather take the cash and not move it twice. Here we are a year and a half later still on the air mattress.
We would love a new mattress and for my husband to be able to build this farmhouse storage bed. He’s very handy; he’s built all the furniture in our house except our couch and his dresser. The bed will hopefully eliminate the need for the dresser.
26. Sorting Houses?
27. How many tattoos do you have?
Just the one. I have my kids’ names above the anklet and feathers. After some post-cesarean complications with the second child I wanted something pretty on my body to remind me of my pregnancies. I would like a watercolor peony on my arm, but no immediate plans there (we are on a budget and all that jazz).
28. What are you most grateful for?
Family! We literally would not be where we are today without them!
29. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month?
It hasn’t happened yet, but this month is our 13th wedding anniversary!
30. What’s the best thing that has happened to you today?
Nothing much has happened today and I like it that way!
31. What’s the best thing ever?
I want to be funny and say chocolate, but I’m going to have to go with salvation. Without that everything else would be pointless.
32. Favorite season?
Fall! So glad it is just around the corner! Arkansas weather is so meh, but fall is not too hot, not too humid, not to mosquito-y, not too cold. It’s just right for a little while. I am a big fan of sweater weather.
33. Favorite Holiday?
Christmas! I love the music, the food, the family, the meaning…
34. What fictional character do you relate to?
I am drawing a blank on this one.
35. Do you like surprises?
Good ones, yes.
36. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever received?
The fact that I am a stay at home mom and my family is consumer debt-free in a brand new house is beyond my wildest dreams!
37. Which surprise made you cry?
Nothing happy is coming to mind, so I’m going to skip this one.
38. What’s the best surprise you’ve given someone else?
Probably my husband’s surprise 30th birthday party.
It feels so good to be on a budget and know that your money is now going to work for you! But what if you’re spending more money than you realized on food? Even after slashing the takeout budget you’re spending more than anticipated. I know at one point I just thought, “food is just so expensive,” and that we’d always have a problem with this area of the budget. That doesn’t have to be true! Here are five simple hacks that can save you dough at the grocery store! Pun intended.
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1. Shop Your Cabinets and Make a Meal Plan
Before you even think about what to buy at the grocery store you need a solid meal plan for the week. Make a meal plan for the full length of time between grocery trips. Check your cabinets, fridge, and freezer for older food that needs to be eaten. Plan meals around these items first.
Opt for simple, inexpensive dishes if cooking isn’t your forte yet or you are typically pressed for time when preparing dinner. Examples of inexpensive meals include spaghetti night, taco night, turkey meatloaf, pasta salad, baked chicken and veggies…
Consult the Meal Planning and Recipe pages if you need some frugal ideas that are still pretty healthy. It may even be a good idea to invest in one or two good cookbooks. I am to a point where I have several recipes I use on rotation and love to keep a recipe file book on hand. It helps a lot to have a selection of tried and true recipes at hand to make meal planning and prep easier. This can either be a file box or tin with index cards or be kept in binder/book form.
If you shop once a week you need a plan for 7 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I actually prefer to sit down with the wall calendar and plan out dinners for the majority if not the entire month in one sitting. It saves time and a lot of hassle. It also prevents the endless “what’s for dinner?” question from anyone who can read! Leftovers can take care of at least one night a week with careful planning and portion control. See, budgeting can good for your waistline as well!
2. Make a List
Now that you’ve shopped your cabinets and come up with a meal plan it is time to make your list! Go through each meal on your weekly meal plan and write out all ingredients needed not currently in your cabinet. Need more than just a few items for that ambitious meal you’ve never made before? Is a particularly expensive cut of meat called for but no special occasion to celebrate? You might want to save that dish for later.
Be sure to include any snack items or the ingredients needed for snacks you plan to make yourself in the list. This is one area I need to improve on. I probably spend enough money on snack items a month that if I buckled down I could afford that food dehydrator I’ve been eying after just a few months.
You can even save yourself some time by buying double what you need for one meal and prepping two batches at once. Take that turkey meatloaf for example; from time to time when I bake this tried and true recipe at our house I mix up a double batch and freeze one for later. It takes the guesswork out of things on a more hectic day the following week. Just thaw the day before and put in the oven when you need to set the timer and forget it while you tackle something else on your to-do list.
One last thing on that list – it will take some practice, but organize your list in order of how you plan to move around the store. For example, I shop at Aldi, so I start my list with produce, then snacks, fresh meats, deli, dressings, canned goods, cereal, pasta, spices, and tortillas, dairy, eggs, then frozen foods. It saves a lot of time knowing I can get in, get what’s on my list, and get out without doubling back multiple times to the same aisle.
3. Save More Dough by Cooking from Scratch
Save your dough by rolling your own! I make my own bread and love it. The kids are a harder sell on fresh homemade bread; in fact, they both prefer store-bought. Hence the different school lunches I pack my daughter. See my article on 25 Frugal and Dairy-Free School Lunch Ideas or my Instagram story highlight on School Lunches to see what I feed her instead.
I do however bake bread for my husband’s lunches at work and occasionally enjoy an open-faced breakfast sandwich on one myself. The bread I bake every week can be found in my recipes!
I also save a few bucks here and there making all my sauces from scratch. The pizza sauce I make is really easy and can be found in my recipes as well.
4. Shop the Perimeter of the Store
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. That’s because it works! Stay out of the seasonal and prepackaged food aisles! Avoid the convenience food section, the candy aisle, insert your weakness here aisle. I myself can be a sucker for the seasonal aisle at Aldi because heaven forbid that item I don’t even need isn’t there next time!
It will save you more dough and more time if you just stick to the list and don’t even go down the aisles that have nothing on your list. I repeat – just stay away from an aisle if its contents are not on your list. And put your blinders on when you’re in line at the register! Those items are there for a reason. So much psychology goes into the placement of items at stores. Be aware of this and pay attention so you don’t fall for their efforts to put more in your cart right before you check out.
5. Time Your Grocery Trips Right
If your favorite grocery store has a deal day (when they set out the weekly deals) go then. If your grocery store has a double coupon day for sure do your shopping then if you have any coupons for items you already plan to buy. Please don’t use a coupon for an item you wouldn’t buy otherwise; that’s not saving any money.
If you’re not worried about timing the sales then save money by timing your trip on a day you are out anyway; for example, my son’s therapy clinic (just graduated physical and is now in speech) is right behind our closest Aldi. Right now he has speech on Wednesdays and Fridays so we go grocery shopping on Wednesdays. Some weeks we’ll stretch it out and go on Friday if we have eaten with family more than planned or just want to wait till payday.
We plan our trips to avoid unplanned purchases and save gas. It really does add up; I’ve been more mindful of what time and how often I go grocery shopping this last month and I go two to three days longer per tank of gas between fill-ups!
Bonus Tip – Scan Those Receipts to Save More Dough With Cash Back Apps!
Who doesn’t love free money? That’s what apps such as Ibotta and Fetch Rewards give you! Browse the Ibotta app for cashback on items you already plan to buy and then redeem those points. There are any brand deals on certain items (say chocolate milk for instance) and any item deals that offer 10-50 cents back on literally anything. Just scan the receipt and cash out once you have earned enough rewards. Need a referral code to get started? Click here to get started with Ibotta and enter referral code itxrhcs. For Fetch Rewards download the app through Google Play or the Apple App Store and use referral code 8H9Y1.
For the full list of referral codes and links to cashback and survey apps that I use as well as hosting information check out my Recommendations page.
What are your tried and true ways to save more dough at the grocery store? Let me know! And be sure to follow a Life on a Dime on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see more of mine!
So you’ve started budgeting. That’s great! Here are a few activities and expenses that might come up this season to make sure you have fun while still being frugal in the fall.
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Don’t Let School Expenses Derail Your Attempts to be Frugal in the Fall
Just because you bought the supplies doesn’t mean you’re done with school-related expenses. Below is a list of possible expenses that could come up. Whether or not you choose to spend money on these items is between your family and your budget; just be sure you don’t miss out on anything you want to do for your kids because you failed to budget.
PTA dues– If you are like me and want to be as involved as you can find time for you’ll probably consider joining. It was just $10 to support and join our school PTA. This was included in our back to school budget category in August. Since a lot of schools start in late August, early September the opportunity may come up this month for you.
T-shirts – You name it at school and chances are at some point they’re going to want you to buy a t-shirt or three. At $15 or more a pop you want to know your limit before your kids start asking if they can have one. We said no to ALL shirts last year, but will probably buy the shirts the PTA sells this year.
Fundraisers– Every year there is at least one fundraiser per semester at our school. Be prepared to say no or know what your budget says is enough before that order form gets thrust in your face by some sweet child.
If you do not feel like volunteering your money on shelf-stable cookie dough for example perhaps you could volunteer your time. There are lots of events that need volunteers. Chances are there is at least one you can make time for this school year.
Book Fairs – These are not cheap. I let my kindergartener take $5 of her own money with the only guideline being NO slime last year and she came home with very little change, an eraser shaped like licorice (which a visiting toddler did try to eat this summer-thank goodness it was too tough!) And a bookmark. Books are sometimes available for $1 but the majority I saw were $12 each. And it’s not just books; there are experiments, diaries, notebooks, craft kits… you name it they’re trying to sell your child one in the library. If your kid has their heart set on a book fair item be sure to check the price on Amazon! It may still make a great Christmas gift but you can still save yourself some money and feel frugal in the fall.
Sports/Extracurriculars– These add up fast! Know your budget and know your child. Don’t encourage or force your child into activities you know they won’t enjoy for the sake of socialization. And don’t feel like you have to say yes to form your kid brings home from school. Be sure to know the full commitment cost of extracurriculars prior to signing up! We felt quite shocked after six weeks of martial arts was up and the studio asked for $700 to continue. Thank, you next! That is not our idea of frugal.
Field Trips– These aren’t always free; sometimes the kids need a few dollars to cover something the school doesn’t. Oftentimes the teachers request lunches packed in which everything can be thrown away when they’re done. With older kids, they often take them out for fast food.
When summer winds down there are often harvest festivals, corn mazes, and other seasonal events to keep the family entertained. These are great activities for the kids! And they can be frugal fun outings! You don’t have to buy all the crafts or jams but events such as the Arkansas Apple Festival are so fun! Aside from parking, it’s free to attend!
They have parades with antique cars and tractors, as well as crafts, face painting, and food vendors… it is so fun just to walk around and see everything. $20 can keep a family of four entertained for a few hours including a yummy snack. Fresh apple slices are available free at the nearby Lincoln Apple Festival here in Northwest Arkansas. It’s a delicious way to stay frugal in the fall!
Home Maintenance – Frugal in the Fall for Savings in the Winter
Fall is a great time to do some maintenance and cleaning around the house. Gutters need to be cleaned out and any exterior damage to the home repaired. Fall is a great time to do this! You can do most of this yourself.
It is always a good idea to get your chimney swept in the fall if you use a wood-burning stove or fireplace. The more you burn the more often you need to have it cleaned out to prevent flume fires and check for signs of damage. Check out the Chimney Safety Institute of America for more information on that.
Upcoming Holidays – Is it beginning to look expensive?
Planning a trip to see family for Thanksgiving? Hosting 16 people for dinner on turkey day? You may want to start setting money aside a month or two early to save yourself a little stress or the urge to swipe the credit card when you see the price of that 16-pound bird. Make it a point to cut back on unnecessary expenditures and be frugal in the fall so you can be sure to enjoy that holiday dinner instead of wonder how much of 2020 you’ll spend trying to pay for the 2019 holidays. There’s some food for thought.
Hopefully, you’ve started saving for Christmas by now. If not you need to get started now! Check out my article Six Months til Christmas for some ideas. It’s later in the year, but the principles still apply. Scale back to be sure you can save up enough money or just opt-out of gift-giving altogether. Just be sure you let your closest friends and family know you are not spreading Christmas cheer in the usual fashion this year. They may be relieved and decide to opt-out too!
Make it a point to cut back on unnecessary expenditures and be frugal in the fall so you can be sure to enjoy that holiday dinner instead of wonder how much of 2020 you’ll spend trying to pay for the 2019 holidays. There’s some food for thought.
What frugal fall adventures do your family go on? I’d love to hear from you. I’ll be sure to post any frugal fall fun my family has here or on social media. Remember, you can follow a Life on a Dime on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! Happy fall all!