10 Ways to Save Money this Christmas

Posted by on Nov 15, 2017

Christmas is coming up fast: only 39 shopping days left! Here are our top ten ways to help you save money this Christmas. Do you have your own frugal Christmas tip to share? Let us know about it!

 

1. Sign up with Swagbucks!
Use Swagbucks to earn gift cards to help pay for gifts. You would be surprised how quickly you can earn gift cards. I average 2-3 $5 Amazon gift cards per month. And that’s not putting in a lot of time or effort. That means you could earn $150 or more per year for just a couple minutes a day! Not sure what Swagbucks is? Check out our Swagbucks 101 post.

2. Make a list
Make a list now of who you need to buy for and then brainstorm gift ideas. Then you can watch for deals on those gifts instead of running out on Christmas Eve to grab the present they want at a price you don’t.

3. Shop for deals!
I know this is the no brainer, right? But sometimes we get carried away getting excited to be done with our shopping and forget to shop around to find the best deal. The internet is an amazing thing. It’s super easy to research prices and find the best deal without ever leaving your house. One of our favorites for this is Amazon’s Movers and Shakers. They are updated often with the hottest deals right now and you can score big on everything including baby, Kindle, electronics, toys, and more.

4. Go homemade
I’m not necessarily super crafty. But I also don’t want to shell out big bucks for neighbor, teacher, or co-worker gifts. So instead I get my kids involved and we make cookies or cards or both and give those instead. All those receiving the gifts seem to love seeing the things from our kids and that helps me to feel like it matters. Plus, grandparents especially love these kinds of gifts.

We’ve found Pinterest to be the best source of ideas and inspiration. You can also follow our personal Pinterest boards if you so desire, but keep in mind these might not be as “professional” as the Mamas on a Dime Pinterest boards because we don’t necessarily censor ourselves there. We are more a bit more active with these though: Becky’s Pinterest and Jacki’s Pinterest.

5. Use coupons
Hello, this is a given, right? There are coupons or coupon codes all the time. Even for gift cards. We posted deals in the past where you could save 15% on iTunes gift cards. Take advantage of those types of deals. Or you can also use Gift Card Mall to get discounts on gift cards. And don’t forget to use coupons and stock up on grocery deals for dinner, breakfast, and parties for the upcoming holiday season. Crazy4Smiths is my go to site for the best grocery deals.

6. Get personal
Everyone loves pictures, scrapbooks, or maybe even unicorns. Whatever it is that your friend/relative is into, focus on that. You might be able to get a much better deal on the skillsaw your husband has been lusting after than you would on the gift card for him to buy it himself.

7. Set a budget and stick to it
It’s also a good idea to set a budget for each person. I find that when I write out my list and add up the amounts for each person I often realize just how unrealistic those amounts are. When you see the numbers written down it will make it easier to prioritize. Plus, you can make sure to stick to your budget! If you budgeted $50 for grandma don’t buy her a gift for $75 just because it’s a good deal.

8. Give Service
Instead of giving store bought gifts, give coupons for service. You could offer up babysitting, weeding a flower bed, organizing a closet, extra TV/video game time, or a million other ideas. Have fun with it and the recipient will be thrilled with the gift.

9. Picture perfect
There is nothing grandma likes better than pictures of the grandkids. Make a photo book, photo collage, or calendar and give it as a gift that will keep on giving all year long. Check out sites like Shutterfly or Artscow to look for great deals and spend very little out of pocket.

10. Buy after the Holiday for next year
As soon as the holidays are over the clearance begins. Most stores mark down holiday decor, toys and more at least 50% the day after. And the prices just keep falling from there. So head out and snag, plates, cups, and some gifts for next year at a killer deal.



Take Your Own Family Photos to Save $$

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014

Need pictures of your kiddos, dog, or something else but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg? Why not try your hand at taking them yourself?

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About a week ago my son was baptized in the LDS Church. I won’t go into the details of that here, but if you are interested in learning more you can click this link. Since this is a pretty big deal on our church I really wanted some pictures taken of him. However, I ran out of time. And I really didn’t want to pay a lot of money to have them done. So, instead, I grabbed my trusty Canon camera, had my 8 year old put on his new suit, and we headed to our local LDS Temple.

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I am so happy with how these picture turned out! My son was very cooperative and I impressed even myself with my photography skills. It doesn’t hurt that my son is super cute. Or that the setting was absolutely gorgeous!

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After taking pics and uploading them to my computer I realized a bit of editing was in order. But, again, I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money. So instead of buying Photoshop and trying to figure out how to use it I went to Picmonkey.com. There are tons of options that are free to use! Or, if you want even more flexibility you can pay around $30 for a year long membership.

Picmonkey totally helped me amp up some of the photos and to create some affects like below. So pull out that camera! What’s the worst that can happen?

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10 Ways to Have a Frugal Christmas

Posted by on Nov 3, 2011

Christmas is coming up fast (only 51 shopping days left!) and we all have gifts we want to give without breaking the bank. Here are Mamas on a Dime’s top ten ways to have a frugal Christmas. Have your own frugal Christmas tip? Let us know about it!

 

1. Sign up with Swagbucks!
Use Swagbucks to earn gift cards to help pay for gifts. You would be surprised how quickly you can earn gift cards. I average two $5 Amazon gift cards per month. And, believe me, I put in very little time or effort to accomplish this. That means you could earn $240 per year for only seconds per day! Not sure what Swagbucks is? Check out our Swagbucks 101 post now.

2. Make a list
Make a list now of who you need to buy for and then brainstorm gift ideas. Then you can watch for deals on those gifts instead of running out on Christmas Eve to grab the present they want at a price you don’t.

3. Shop for deals!
I know this is the no brainer, right? But sometimes we get carried away getting excited to be done with our shopping and forget to shop around to find the best deal. The internet is an amazing thing. It’s super easy to research prices and find the best deal without ever leaving your house. One of our favorites for this is Amazon’s Movers and Shakers. They are updated often with the hottest deals right now and you can score big on everything including baby, kindle, electronics, toys, and more.

4. Go homemade
I am not the crafty queen. But I also don’t want to shell out big bucks for neighbor, teacher, or co-worker gifts. So instead I get my kids involved and we make cookies or cards or both and give those instead. All those receiving the gifts seem to love seeing the things from my boys and that helps me to feel like it matters.  Plus, grandparents love these kinds of gifts.

5. Use coupons
Hello, this is a given, right? I have always used coupons, but until recently I didn’t even think to use them for Christmas gifts. But there are coupons or coupon codes all the time. Even for gift cards. We recently posted a deal where you could save 15% on iTunes gift cards. Take advantage of those types of deals. And don’t forget to use coupons and stock up on grocery deals for dinner, breakfast, and parties for the upcoming holiday season.

6. Get personal
Everyone loves pictures, scrapbooks, or maybe even unicorns. Whatever it is that your friend/relative is into, focus on that. You might be able to get a much better deal on the skillsaw your husband has been lusting after than you would on the gift card for him to buy it himself.

7. Set a budget and stick to it
It’s also a good idea to set a budget for each person. I find that when I write out my list and add up the amounts for each person I often realize just how unrealistic those amounts are. When you see the numbers written down it will make it easier to prioritize. Plus, you can make sure to stick to your budget! If you budgeted $50 for grandma don’t buy her a gift for $75 just because it’s a good deal.

8. Give Service
Instead of giving store bought gifts, give coupons for service. You could offer up  babysitting, weeding a flower bed, organizing a closet, extra TV/video game time, or a million other ideas. Have fun with it and the receiver will be thrilled with the gift.

9. Picture perfect
There is nothing grandma likes better than pictures of the grandkids. Make a photo book, photo collage, or calendar and give it as a gift that will keep on giving all year long. Check out sites like Snapfish, See Here, or Artscow to look for great deals and spend very little out of pocket.

10. Buy after the Holiday for next year
As soon as the holidays are over the clearance begins. Most stores mark down holiday decor and more at least 50% the day after. And the prices just keep falling from there. So head out and snag, plates, cups, and some gifts for next year at a killer deal.



Frugal Birthday Party Ideas Part Four: Games & Activities

Posted by on May 19, 2011

Part four of our Frugal Birthday party ideas!

Games/Activities:
I think kids can have more fun and are much easier to please than sometimes parents realize. There are many games that can be played indoors or out. Some of the classics are the best games for birthday parties. Musical chairs, tag, duck duck goose, and even pin the tail on the donkey (you can even make it yourself and match it to the theme of your party).

Carnival games and relay races are also easy to do yourself and lots of fun for the kids. Becky saved some empty soup and soda cans and used a ball (any type would work) for the kids to throw and knock them down at her son’s a couple of years ago.

Favors:
To give or not to give? We consider this a gray area. My kids are young so I’ve never given favors at a party yet. Some years Becky does them and some years she doesn’t. For one of  Colton’s parties she had the kids do their own craft. They made little foam visors that they decorated themselves with markers and stickers.

So, we say give them if you want. And don’t, if you don’t want to. But it’s possible to do a favor without spending a lot of money and without giving out a bunch of what we like to call “5 minute toys”. Find more homemade birthday party favor ideas.
We would love to hear your frugal birthday party idea. Send them to us in an email or comment on one of our posts. We are always looking for new ways to save.

Frugal Birthday Party Ideas Part Three: Presents

Posted by on May 18, 2011

Here is part three of our Frugal Birthday Party Ideas Series.

Presents:
For presents last year I got Beckett’s super cute fire truck couch from Amazon using gift cards I earned from Swag Bucks and Expo TV.

Marshmallow Fun Furniture Flip Open Sofa with Play Mat - Fire Truck

And I already have presents for my 4 year old, Holden for his 5th birthday in November. If I see a toy or book I know he will love and it’s 75% off I snag it and tuck it away. I also have a few presents for friends and family in our gift closet as well. I find that if I buy ahead of time during sales and clearance I ALWAYS save more money.
As an example, I stocked up on Toy Story Operation with the recent sale and coupon that were available! I paid only $2 per game instead of $20. Great gifts for any birthday parties that they’re invited to.

Daily deal sites are also a great resource for gifts. Mamapedia recently had a deal with Little Tikes to get $50 for only $25. I snagged this deal and got Beckett the way cute tool bench below for way less than regular price.

Make sure to sign up for the daily deal sites so you know of the deals coming up.

Frugal Birthday Party Ideas Part Two: Cakes!

Posted by on May 17, 2011

Here is part two of our Frugal Birthday Party series.

Cakes:
My favorite way I save a little dough on parties is by having my mom make the birthday cake. They are super cute and the kids love getting them from Grandma. Here are some pictures of cakes she has done for us in the past:

Okay, so maybe having her make the cake is less about saving money and more about how freakin’ awesome she is! But either way it’s a win win.

Want to make your own cake? There are some really great resources out there to get ideas and show you how to do it. Just search for cakes based on your birthday party theme. Here are a couple (but there are TONS more):
Coolest Homemade Birthday Cakes
Betty Crocker -this one has some how-to videos
You can also find lots of how-to videos on you tube like these: Train cake and Princess cake.

Or if you don’t want to do it yourself you can ask around to see if you have any family members or friends that would be interested in doing it. It could even be their present to the birthday boy/girl!
At Colton’s party Becky had all the kids frost and decorate (sprinkles, little candies) their own cupcakes instead. It was a big hit with the kids!

If you still decide to buy a cake then you should know that there are a lot of grocery store bakeries that offer a FREE “smash cake” with the purchase of a birthday cake. These are the little cakes for one year old’s to eat and make a huge mess with. 🙂

Keep watching for the next part of our series!



Where to Find the Lowest Gas Prices

Posted by on May 17, 2011
We posted this last year, but it seems to be some very good information to have right now so we thought it might be a good time to repost.
Want to know where the cheapest gas prices are?
Check out UtahGasPrices.com or SaltLakeGasPrices.com which will help you find the cheapest gas near you.
Don’t live in Utah? Find your state at GasBuddy.com.

Frugal Birthday Party Ideas Part 1:Decorations & Simplify

Posted by on May 16, 2011

We all throw birthday parties; for our kids, for ourselves, or for our friends. So here are some ideas to help keep costs down while still having an awesome party. Today is part one.

Keep it Simple:
Since my son Beckett just turned two we opted for a low key family only birthday party at home. This really has so many advantages! We save money by not paying for a place that he doesn’t care about while also keeping all of the conveniences of our house. After he dives into his birthday cake and gets his fill of sugar and icing we can put him right in the tub. Easiest clean up ever.

And even with older kids you can have friends over to your house instead of paying for an expensive play place.
When Becky’s son turned 6 she threw a party for him in her front yard. There was a pinata, crafts, and the cutest homemade games ever. The venue let the kids interact with each other more than if they had gone to some sort of play place and it cost less too.

Also, to help keep it simple and to keep costs down we don’t usually have parties during meal times. That way we don’t have the added expense (and mess) of serving food. We can just serve cake and ice cream. And, let’s face it, the kids prefer this anyway.

Invitations and Decorations:
We usually try to buy invitations that match our party theme, but this isn’t always the most frugal way to go. So to save money you might need to get a little creative. I have a good friend who has made her own invitations, which is a great way to go, but I’m just not that crafty.

If you don’t feel like making your own here are our best tips for getting stuff on the cheap:

  • Watch for clearance sales. Becky bought some Scooby-Doo invitations and decorations for 75% off about 5 months before Colton’s 5th birthday. (Scooby was his favorite at the time.) I also got all of Holden’s decorations and invitations for his 2nd birthday at the same sale. What 2 year old doesn’t love Elmo?
  • Check the dollar store. There are lots of party supplies at the dollar store.

We used to buy all the matching plates/cups/napkins, but then we got smart and now we just buy all that stuff in solid colors that coordinate with our theme. This brings the cost way down while still being cute. And everyone just throws it in the garbage anyway.
Becky also often just uses Evite for family party invitations and doesn’t mail anything.
You can also make your own birthday banners and other decorations.

Stay tuned for part two tomorrow.

Guest Post: Post-Holiday Bargain Tips for 2010-2011

Posted by on Jan 3, 2011

When the state of the economy starts to affect shoppers on big bargain days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers start plotting their next move. And usually, that means offering even bigger discounts after the holidays to boost the year’s sales. It’s the last chance to get rid of inventory and pick up a profit, no matter how marginal, before the end of the year. It sounds like a foolproof way for shoppers to get great deals, but that’s not always the case. Unless you’ve done your homework and know how to work a sale, you might be able to get a much better deal on the same merchandise somewhere else. So if you’re planning on making some big purchases at the 2010-2011 post-holiday sales, check out these tips to make sure you’ll be getting the best deals available.

1. Use Gift Certificates
If you received gift certificates for Christmas or have any left over from the rest of the year that you haven’t used yet, make sure you take them along. Don’t forget that you have them with you – a mistake I almost always make – and be sure to use them on post-holiday sale items to maximize their value. You can find great deals that will make your gift certificates worth more than their face values, so cash in on this opportunity to stretch them beyond their limits.

2. Check the Ads
Some stores will do price matching, so take the ads along with you to make sure you’re getting the best deals. You can get the best value on an item without the extra legwork if you simply bring the ads along with you, so don’t leave them behind. It’s easy to fold them up and stash them in your bag or pocket so they’ll be handy if you need them. As you’re standing in line for checkout, look through them to make sure you’re getting the best price on your purchases – and if you’re not, ask the cashier about price matching.

3. Focus on Quality
It helps to make sure you’re buying a high-quality item ahead of time. For example, if you know you need a new blender, do some research to find the best ones and don’t settle for less. You might be able to get a low-quality blender for a great price, but in the long run, it’s better to pay a little more for a blender that will last longer and function better. There are plenty of “bargains” out there, but the real deals are on high-quality items. Keep your standards high and don’t fall for cheap substitutes, or you’ll find yourself paying for a defective item that breaks just after the warranty expires.

4. Shop Online
You can get some amazing bargains by shopping online, but in this situation, it’s especially important to know exactly what you’re buying. If you can’t get enough details about a product from one retailer, find the manufacturer’s website and read up on it until you can get a good impression of the item’s quality. For even better foolproof results, check out the item you want to buy online in advance by finding it at a store near you. Ask the sales representatives about the product and take note of the item number to make sure you’re not buying something different when you purchase it. Online reviews are also a great way to make sure you’re getting a good product, but make sure you read more than just one or two. For some of the hottest 2010-2011 online bargains, check out this list of sales and deals.

5. Buy Gifts in Advance
Make your Valentine’s Day, birthday, anniversary, and even Christmas gifts now, while the post-holiday sales are offering great bargains. This will save you the stress of last-minute shopping and will allow you to save a significant amount of money. You can even pick up housewarming gifts or hostess gifts for those unpredictable dinner parties.

6. Request Gift Receipts
If you know you’re buying a gift, or if you’re picking up an item and don’t know what you’re going to do with it, make sure you get a gift receipt. You might end up giving it away, and it’s always less hassle for the recipient if you include one.

7. Document Gifts
Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. If you’re anything like me, you stash early gifts in a “safe place” so you’ll be able to locate them later. Except that the “safe place” is never found again. I have an aunt who has a “gift closet” – a place to keep things she wants to re-gift and an actual safe location for gifts she’s bought in advance. Try clearing off a shelf in your linen closet or designate an old trunk for the purpose of storing your gifts, and you’ll be able to find them when you need them. It’s also a good idea to keep a list of what you’ve bought for certain people for specific occasions, plus a list of what you’ve stashed away for hostess or housewarming gifts. That way, you won’t have to go through any last-minute searching or wondering and you’ll be fully prepared for any situation that requires a gift.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at the Online Schools site, where recently she’s been researching different online music degree programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Guest Post: Basic tips to help you save money and extend the life of your vehicle

Posted by on Jun 18, 2010
This is a guest post from my fabulous hubby, Tim. He is a wiz with vehicles and knows what to do to save money and make your car run better for longer. So here are some tips to help you.
  1. Tire inflation: Improper tire inflation can cost you money both in replacement and at the pump. Under/over inflated tires can produce premature wear that will mean buying tires sooner than you need to. Properly inflated tires can save you up to 3% in fuel economy. What’s in 3%? About $1.50 extra per tank of gas, maybe more depending on your vehicle (at $3.00 a gallon). Use your tire gauge to inflate your tires to check pressure, then inflate to the max cold psi rating for your tire (find the psi tolerance on you tire’s sidewall). Max cold psi is the measurement based on your tires being relatively cool (before you drive to work or take a road trip for example). The air in the tire heats up as you drive along and will expand, giving you a higher reading than when cold. Check your tires once a month. It only takes a few minutes!
  2. Air filter: Changing your air filter approximately every 12,000 miles can do quite a few things for your car. It helps keep your fuel mileage optimal, helps your car’s power, reduces engine strain and helps the overall longevity of your vehicle. When your filter is plugged up, it means the engine has to work harder to produce power, wastes fuel and can leave the inside of your engine dirtier meaning less mileage, less power and increased wear. If you don’t know how to change your air filter go to Checker Auto Parts or AutoZone where they’re generally happy to replace it for you for free when purchasing the filter! This, again, only takes a few minutes about once a year!
  3. Clean out the junk: Depending on your vehicle/engine size you could save up to an additional 2% fuel economy per 100 pounds of excess weight in your vehicle. These savings add up!
  4. Lead foot: Vehicles require more fuel when they first start moving (inertia) than after they start moving. Having a lighter foot from the stoplight or from moving slowly can add up at the pump and reduce the strain on your engine.
  5. Find your optimal speed: Every vehicle has its own optimal speed, where it achieves peak fuel economy (check your owner’s manual, usually 55-65 MPH). For every 5 miles per hour you go over your car’s optimal speed you reduce your fuel economy by around 6-8% or more depending on your vehicle and weight in/behind the vehicle.

You can alsocheck out some facts and figures as well as other tips from Goodyear and Fuel Economy.gov.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE TIPS ON HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR VEHICLE’S MILEAGE AND LONGEVITY ON THE CHEAP!