Our Current Favourite Frugal Toddler Activities

Our Current Favorite Frugal Toddler Activities

In the recent Simply Frugal survey I did, I received a few answers from readers saying they’d love to know what sort of frugal activities are keeping my daughter occupied. Since I like to read other bloggers posts that give me a peek into their daily lives, I thought I’d oblige!

A little background. My daughter will be three at the end of March 2015 (*sob*) so she’s starting to get more interested in activities that are more structured. Also, since having my daughter, I find I have to get out of the house at least once a day. Even if it’s going for a walk or getting groceries. I go stir crazy if I’m at home too long (says the girl who was a homebody before kids.)

I’m always looking for new frugal things to do with her but currently, these are our favourite things to do:

Crafts

She loves craft time. She pretty much has free reign over the supplies I’ve picked up from the dollar store, Target (I’m going to miss that dollar section!) and various other stores. I have a plastic bin with paints, crayons, googly eyes (her fave), stickers, glue, ribbon and more just for her. She loves to make birthday cards and they’re a hit with the recipients :) We’re going to give this craft kit a try on an upcoming road trip we have.

Dolls/Pretend Play

It’s so fun to watch since her pretend play is really starting to develop!  One of her favourite things to play with right now is dolls. She loves to take care of them: bathe, feed, play and dress them (with my help).  We also do a lot of pretend shopping trips with her grocery cart and play food. She also loves this Melissa & Doug food set. We have picnics with it and this LeapFrog picnic basket. Another thing she loves is a toy jeep and little people that my mom kept from when we were kids.

I don’t think my daughter has a ton of toys but when I do purchase something I like to invest in good quality with good playability toys. Most of them have been bought off Amazon, bought used (the best!) or given as gifts.

Sensory bins

This is something that I want to play around with more this year. So far the two bins that I’ve set her up with she loves. I can usually get almost 1/2 hour of independent play out of a bin.  That is amazing to me! One bin I made holds dried beans and small farm animals. The other is rice with plastic insects and pom poms. She loves to bury them and then dig them up.  Pouring from one bin to another is also fun. She’s past the age of putting random things in her mouth, but when she was younger I would keep a very close eye on her.  I love this post about Sensory Bins, it’s so thorough.

Involve Her

From a young age, I always tried to involve her in what I was doing around the house.  If I was cleaning, I’d hand her a damp cloth or her mini mop and she’d clean right beside me.  If I’m baking, I measure out the ingredients then have her pour them into the bowl.  When we’re out grocery shopping, I point out things she can put in the grocery cart. She loves to help unload the cart at the end and likes to help me pay by handing over the cash.  Sometimes it feels like a lot of work and makes things slower than if I were doing them myself, but I like the idea of what I’m teaching her. I think one day it will really pay off!

Reading

She’s not one to normally sit down by herself and start “reading” a book, but she loves her bedtime stories. Some of her current favourites are:

Throughout the next year, I want to start incorporating some learning activities that go along with the books.  This is an example of what I have in mind. Even if I don’t end up doing most of the activities, I like to have something planned for when her boredom strikes.

Walks

While I do go on walks with her, most of her walks happen with her Grandpa. (Such a blessing for me since I get a chunk of time to work!) They have so much fun walking to the park, our small airport to watch the planes and even the grocery store. She’s starting to get really observant of the things that are outside so I want to take her on a nature scavenger hunt using a simple guide I might find on Pinterest.

Gymnastics

Currently this is the only outside activity that I pay for. She goes to a local drop-in so I only pay when she goes.  She has so much fun and burns off energy.

Free community programs

We used to attend a Mother Goose program but we’re going to start trying the Strongstart program offered at local schools. I think it will be more her speed and they usually have a variety of fun activities!  Story time at the library is also a hit.

Playdates

Mainly this is an excuse for me to get out and visit my friends, but most of my friends have kids close to my daughter’s age that she enjoys playing with. In the summer months we meet once a week at a local beach to hang out and eat lunch. :)

So there you have it. A peek at our current favourite activities and toys. I hope I didn’t bore you to death and that at the very least you have gathered some ideas!

What are your current favourites at your home?

10 Ways to Reuse K-Cups

10 Ways to Reuse K-Cups

10 Ways to Reuse K-Cups

I happen to own and love a Keurig machine. What I don’t love is how many K-Cups I’m left with for the trash.  I’ve started saving them for craft time with my daughter, but those empty K-cups can really add up! So, why not take a look at some new ways to use them? K-cups can actually be quite practical once they are empty; you just need to get a little creative. Take a peek below at 10 ways to reuse K-cups that you can try, long after the coffee is gone!

1. Organize office supplies.

Put a few K-cups in office drawers to hold paper clips, pins, stamps, and other small office supplies that tend to get lost in the shuffle.

2. Organize small jewelry pieces.

Tuck a K-cup or two in jewelry boxes or drawers to hold small earrings, earring backings, pin backings, and other small jewelry pieces.

3.  Make a matching game for kids.

Place a sticker on the inside of each K-Cup. Make sure each sticker has a match found in another cup. Turn the cups over and let kids play Memory. Talk about a game you can make for just pennies!

4. Start seeds.

K-Cups are the perfect size cup to start seeds in. Just poke a quick hole in the bottom for drainage, add soil, and add your seed. It is a frugal way to get gardening!

5.  Scoop out dry goods.

Rinse out a K-cup and keep it in your flour, sugar, and other dry goods to use as a scoop. It is a quick way to get what you need without getting hands or spoons dirty.

6.  Add a few to sensory tables.

Toss a few K-cups into sand or water for children to enjoy. They will love scooping with them and can practice pouring as well. Who would have thought that K-cups can strengthen fine motor skills?

7. Craft some little doll cups.

Take sharpie markers and decorate the outside of the K-cup. You can then give them to dolls to use for tea parties. They also make great accessories for dolls as you can make them into trash cans, hats, hair accessory holders, and more.

8. Organize craft supplies.

K-cups are perfect for keeping buttons, stickers, pom poms, and other small craft supplies organized and at your fingertips for when you need them.

9. Freeze herbs.

This is a really cool way to reuse K-cups. Just fill them with water and add your favorite chopped herbs. Freeze them. When you need herbs for a recipe, all you need to do is pop out the herb cube and add it. You could even make flavored ice cubes this way, freezing fruit juices in the cup before using.

10. Make a stamp or stencil.

K-cups are great when you need a circle stencil. You can also dip the K-cup in paint and use it as a stamp! You will get the perfect circle every time.

Did you ever think K-cups could be so practical? Give these tips for using K-cups a try and see how creative you can get.

52 Ways to Save: Build a Frugal Pantry (Week 8)

Every Monday in 2015, I’ll be sharing a different idea to help you save money! Add all of these tips to your frugal repertoire and you’ll be able to save a lot of money this year! I hope you’ll gather a few new ideas or at least some inspiration from this series.

Build a Frugal Pantry - Building a frugal pantry is simple, and as you will see, it doesn’t require you breaking the bank to get started.

How to Build a Frugal Pantry

Keeping your pantry stocked with necessities is a great way to avoid the dining out trap. But how exactly do you build a frugal pantry so it can perform its duties best? Take a look below at some helpful tips on how to build a frugal pantry, so you can be sure you always have everything you need right at your fingertips. Building a frugal pantry is simple, and as you will see, it doesn’t require you breaking the bank to get started.  Now, let’s get building!

1. Evaluate your eating habits.

To begin, take a look at the meals your family eats each week. Do you love casseroles? Slow Cooker meals? Veggie side dishes? Snacks? Knowing what your family enjoys regularly can help you best plan out your pantry. Write down 10-12 dishes your family loves so you can start to deconstruct the ingredients.

2. Deconstruct the ingredients.

Once you know what you are eating, see how you can deconstruct the ingredients. For example, if you love boxed skillet dinners, deconstruct the ingredients so you can start buying them in bulk. For example, instead of buying skillet dinners for $3-$5 a box, you can buy noodles and seasonings in bulk instead and make your own. Create a list of ingredients that you can try as alternatives.

3. Create your list.

Once you know what you need, you can create your shopping list. The idea is to stock up on canned and dry goods that can be used in a variety of ways. All of these items can be purchased in bulk and last a long time, so you will have a stocked pantry that is easily accessible. Here is what your shopping list may look like:

– Dried rice, pasta noodles, quinoa, couscous
– Flour, salt, pepper, sugar, baking soda, baking powder
– Canned vegetables
– Canned fruit
– Dried and canned soup mixes
– Dried and canned sauce mixes
– Assorted seasonings and dried herbs for sauces, marinades, and coatings.
– Dried cereals, granolas, and oatmeal
– Crackers and bread mixes (for use as intended or to create coatings)
– Oils for seasoning, frying
– Dried beans, lentils, nuts, seeds

You could also check out my Basic Pantry List that includes a helpful printable!

4. Buy on Sale

If you can, try to purchase all of your pantry staples while they’re on sale. This will give you the most bang for your buck and allow you to purchase more than what you normally would have if they weren’t on sale. If you’re into using coupons, be sure to use any that you may have!

5. Organize your pantry.

Once you have your items, you want to organize the pantry so the ingredients are easy to find. Group them as described above. This will help you see what you have, see what you want to use, and see what you may need to buy.

6. Start cooking!

Use your frugal pantry ingredients to create all of your favorite meals. In most cases, all you need to add is fresh meat, dairy, or a few fresh vegetables or fruits to finish off the recipe. Having these staples on hand will cover a bulk of the recipe however, saving you time and cash.

So are you ready to eat great while saving some cash? Building your own frugal pantry is easy when you give these tips a try!

What are some items in your pantry that must be on hand at all times?

Build a Frugal Pantry - Building a frugal pantry is simple, and as you will see, it doesn’t require you breaking the bank to get started.

How to Decorate with Things You Already Have

How to decorate with things you already have- Freshening up your decor doesn't have to cost a lot, in fact, it can be free if you use stuff you already have on hand!

How to Decorate with Things You Already Have

Do you want a fresh look for your space but don’t want to go broke making it happen? If so, take a look at these ways to decorate with things you already have!  I find that once February comes (or once I’ve had enough of the dreary winter weather), I want to freshen things up inside. Make things brighter if you will.  Chances are, with these tips, everything you need is right under your own roof; you just need to get creative with it. Here are some helpful tips to get you started decorating with the things you already have!

1. Get savvy with spray paint.

Just about anything can achieve a fresh new look when you give it a coat of spray paint. Paint vases, lamp bases, small furniture pieces, even glassware knick knacks. Choose a color that goes with your color scheme or opt for fresh white. It’s sure to look like a whole new piece!

2. Bring the outside in.

Arrange some long branches in a vase for a pop of rustic charm. Fill bud vases with flowers and fresh cut greenery. You can even paint rocks or pine cones to use as bowl fillers. Nature provides so much beauty, find ways to bring it indoors!

3. Get crafty with fabric.

Take fabric scraps or old clothing pieces to use as the makings for runners, throw pillows, place mats, and more. You only need a little fabric and some simple stitchery to make these items happen, so why not give it a shot?

4. Get creative with picture frames.

Do you have tons of picture frames around your home? Use them to frame photos, artwork, colorful fabric scraps, scrapbook paper and more. You can even use them to frame electrical outlets.

5. Use old things in new ways.

Use that old mason jar as a cotton ball holder in the bathroom, or an old fruit crate for magazines. Using items in ways other than for what they were intended is so fun and functional.

6. Get budget savvy with books.

Books can be stacked up to create some visual interest on end tables and coffee tables. You can even frame old pages of books, make bunting banners, or use them as trinket boxes when you carve out the center of them.

7. Let kids get creative.

Display children’s school and art work in fun and decorative ways. Create banners with it, frame it, or laminate it and use as place mats, runners, and more.

See how simple it can be to decorate your home with things you already own? Give these tips a try and see how budget savvy and beautiful your space can be.

How do you decorate on a budget?

Decorate with Things

 

52 Ways to Save: Use a Slow Cooker (Week 7)

Every Monday in 2015, I’ll be sharing a different idea to help you save money! Add all of these tips to your frugal repertoire and you’ll be able to save a lot of money this year! I hope you’ll gather a few new ideas or at least some inspiration from this series. 

Using your slow cooker on a regular basis can help you save in quite a few ways. Read on for some of my favourite tips, tricks and recipes for making your slow cooker a great money saving tool.

52 Ways to Save: Use a Slow Cooker

I happen to think that using a slow cooker can save you quite a bit of money. After all, everyone wants to eat healthier, but planning, shopping and prepping meals all.the.time can get old really fast. While I don’t mind cooking, it’s not one of my favourite things to do, so making the task easier is a priority of mine. :) The fact that I can quickly put ingredients together into the slow cooker, turn it on, then walk away while it cooks all day practically makes me giddy.

Using your slow cooker on a regular basis can help you save in quite a few ways.  Read on for some of my favourite tips, tricks and recipes for making your slow cooker a great money saving tool:

1. Purchase Cheaper Cuts of Meat

When you have a slow cooker, there’s no need to buy those expensive cuts of meat. Because the slow cooker cooks slow, it’s great for tenderizing cheaper cuts of meat.

2. Save on Electricity Costs

Did you know that slow cookers actually use less energy than the stove top or oven? It’s true! Don’t just save dollars on your grocery bill, save on your electricity bill too!

3. Use Less Meat

Perhaps it’s the recipes I use, but I’ve noticed that I use less meat when I make a slow cooker meal.  Meat can be one of the more expensive things on your grocery bill so making it stretch can help a ton. I often times shred the meat I use or the vegetables far outweigh the meat quantity. Of course, you can skip the meat entirely and create a delicious pot of baked beans, lentils or what ever strikes your fancy.

4. Resist the Take Out

The slow cooker sort of takes away a lot of the excuses you could have for ordering take-out. After all, you put together your meal in the morning, when you’re (hopefully) your freshest. So when you’re tired at the end of the day, your dinner is already cooked!

5. Double Up

Or in other words, make a huge batch and freeze the extras for a super easy meal that you can just pull out and heat up!

6. Round up the Fridge

Do you have a few leftovers that are staring to pile up in the fridge? Vegetables that are just about on their last legs?  Throw them into your slow cooker and create a delicious soup or stew!  Try out this Pantry and Pasta soup for some ideas.

7. Not Just for Soups and Stews

Slow cookers are good for sooo much more than soups, stews, and chilis. Check out this post for 5 Unique Ways to Use Your Slow Cooker.

So, are you convinced that the slow cooker will save you money? How often do you use one? Do you have any great recipes to share? 

Below, you’ll find a bunch of our favourite slow-cooker recipes:

How One Family of Three Saves on Their Grocery Bill

How One Family

Lorraine wrote me a great email after my post about Frugal Meal Ideas for When You’re Broke.  She has some great tips, plus, it’s kinda fun to see how other families use their grocery money. I also really appreciate Lorraine’s focus on healthy eating.  She has found what works for her. I think if you really focus on narrowing down what works for your family, you can save a bundle by buying basically the same things each time you go grocery shopping. In my mind this simplifies the meal planning process, and you will start to see when you should be stocking up on the items your family uses over and over again.

Here’s Lorraine:

With regard to your frugal meals on a budget, I would like to suggest that people can eat vegetables that are in season. For instance, during the summertime and early fall, when the bounty abounds, we freeze many of the local vegetables in freezer bags and have them on hand throughout the winter. We freeze broccoli, cauliflower, shallots, leek, celery, peppers, zucchini and use them in soups and casseroles when the weather gets colder and the cost of produce becomes exorbitant. We buy canned tomatoes in bulk when they go on sale for 88 cents and add them to our soups and sauces. During the winter, we eat a lot of root vegetables and cabbage as they are plentiful and a produce of Canada. We also eat lots of stir fries, chicken casseroles, chicken cacciatore made with ground chicken that we buy when the ground chicken is on sale. We buy stewing beef when it is on sale and add way more vegetables than meat to our stews. We eat potatoes regularly and stretch the budget by boiling chicken pieces for a broth in a soup and then use the boiled chicken in sandwiches or casseroles such as chicken à la king. We incorporate at least 6-9 fruit and vegetables in our daily diet to ensure that we get all the necessary nutrients.

We also eat a rainbow diet; example: purple cabbage or raddichio, red peppers/tomatoes/red skinned apples, yellow beans/yellow peppers, rutabaga, for the greens, we eat kale, broccoli, spinach, the darker lettuces and cabbage and the for orange in our rainbow diet, we eat tons of carrots, sweet potatoes, squash.

Legumes are also a cheap way to get protein when combined with a whole grain pasta or an ancient grain like quinoa. We use quinoa and wild rice in our soup bases to ensure a good nutritious meal. We add lima beans and lentils to our soups. We also eat baked beans as a main course with a side salad and a whole grain bun or slice of bread or a muffin made with whole grains.

muffins

We do not eat much cheese as this is high in saturated fats. Quite often, I use a drizzle of avocado oil, grapeseed oil or almond oil in our soup instead of chicken or beef stock. This ensures that we are getting the good oils in our diet and helps to maintain our good cholesterol levels.

We watch the aisle in the grocery store for the meat marked down as it is close to the expiry date and there is never a problem if it is stored right away in the freezer for future use. We also buy chicken that has been reduced in price as long as it is within the best before date. We do not buy cheap fish, as much of the fish from Asia and especially China is contaminated with chemicals that are harmful to human consumption. That is one item that we splurge on and try to buy “wild” fish from Canada such as cod or trout.

As the cost of meat has skyrocketed in our area, we only buy when it goes on sale and we prepare meals according to the sale cycles. We also eat omelettes made with vegetables and a side salad for a healthy, quick and filling meal. When cooking meatloaf, I add a lot of oatmeal to the mix and am able to get more portions out of a small quantity of hamburger meat and as oatmeal is known to reduce the bad cholesterol, it plays an important role in our diet.

We also buy frozen fruit in the winter time when it is on sale as it is much fresher than the exotic fruits coming from South America and elsewhere. The longer the travel time, the less nutrition a food contains. Again, we freeze berries in season and use them during the winter months. We buy apples on sale as well as oranges and bananas. When the kiwi goes on sale, we purchase these for their Vitamin C content.

oranges

We also check out the bread rack where some loaves have been reduced for quick sale. They are usually still quite fresh and if they are frozen, they are great when toasted. We buy oatmeal and other cereals in bulk and save on the packaging. Oatmeal is great for a dinner with fresh fruit and almond or rice beverage and a good alternative for those who are lactose intolerant.

We also stock up on butter when it goes on sale at $2.99 or lower. We buy enough to ensure that we will have it on hand until the next sale cycle. We watch the sales for lactose free milk and buy as many as we know we can use before the expiry date. We do the same thing for orange juice as we have a special brand that we prefer. The sale cycle for orange juice is fairly short; therefore, when we buy six containers at a time, we are sure to find a good deal when we run out.

We also watch the sale cycles for paper products, cleaning products and hygiene products and we stock up to last until the next sale cycle. All of these measures ensure that we eat properly, maintain an ideal weight and do not feel deprived of life’s most basic pleasures.

I hope you’ve gleaned some ideas from Lorraine.  Or at least been inspired to keep it simple and always buy on sale!  Give us a look at how your family uses their grocery money in the comments!

Looking for some more practical ways to save on groceries?  Check out my ebook, Trim Your Grocery Bill.

7 Frugal Meal Ideas for When You’re Broke

7 Frugal Meal Ideas for When You're Broke

7 Frugal Meal Ideas for When You’re Broke

Do you find it hard to prepare tasty and filling meals when you’re in between pay days? Cooking hearty meals on a tight budget can be a challenge, but the truth is, it’s totally possible! You can enjoy a tasty, healthy, and filling meal for less when you give these frugal meal ideas a try.  Bonus: You can whip them up in no time!

1. Loaded Tomato Soup and Cheese Sandwiches

Prepare a pot of tomato soup and toss in some filling extras such as rice, cheese, or pasta. Prepare with a side of grilled cheese sandwiches and some cucumber slices.

2. Baked Italian Chicken Legs and Rice

Chicken legs are one of the cheapest cuts of chicken. Bake chicken that has been marinated with Italian dressing in the oven. Prepare with a side of rice and a small side salad if budget allows.

3. Hearty Baked Potato Bar

Prepare baked potatoes along with a bar of toppings. Enjoy them with sour cream, chives, cheese, bacon, ham, or other tasty toppings that turn them into a meal. Side with soup if the budget allows.

4. Ham and Cheese Croissant Pockets.

Take canned croissants and stuff them with ham and cheese before rolling. Prepare as usual. The end result is a hot and tasty treat that is best when served with inexpensive soup, steamed vegetables or salad.

5. Brinner!

Brinner is when you enjoy breakfast for dinner! Eggs, pancakes, and fruit can all make for an inexpensive but hearty dinner. If budget allows, prepare some sausage links or bacon.

6. Hamburger Casserole.

Cook a pound of hamburger and drain. Add in a packet of brown gravy mix. Add in a cup of frozen corn as well as a cup of frozen peas. Pour the mixture into a baking dish, top with shredded cheese, and finish off with frozen tater tots. Bake until golden and enjoy. It’s cheap and easy.

7. Meatless Taco Bar.

Create a meatless taco bar with shells, refried beans, cheese, sour cream, beans, avocado, lettuce and tomatoes. With so many fresh toppings, you won’t even miss the meat.

If you need to prepare a hearty meal on a budget, give these ideas a try! You’re sure to create something tasty in no time flat.

What are your go-to meals for when the grocery budget is running dry?

7 Frugal Meal Ideas for When You're Broke

52 Ways to Save: Make Your Own Homemade Cleaners (Week 6)

Every Monday in 2015, I’ll be sharing a different idea to help you save money! Add all of these tips to your frugal repertoire and you’ll be able to save a lot of money this year! I hope you’ll gather a few new ideas or at least some inspiration from this series.

Make Your Own Homemade Cleaners

One way I really like to save money is by making, from scratch, items that are normally bought at the store. Some of my all-time favourite products to make are homemade cleaners. I’ve mentioned before, but I’m really into DIY projects that I can complete in an hour or less.  Homemade cleaners definitely fall under that category. In fact, you could create a whole line of cleaning products that will clean your entire house in well under an hour. That my friends, is a good use of time and money for me! (Now, if only doing the actual chores was that quick…)

I’ll admit that we’re not 100% store-bought cleaner free. I still buy laundry detergent and Windex. Though often times I’ll just use water and a cloth for the windows/mirrors. As for laundry detergent, I just can’t get enough nerve to try making my own homemade laundry detergent. Maybe one day, but for now, buying those two things is what works for our family!

In the very basic sense of homemade cleaners, all you really need is vinegar, baking soda and water. Those three ingredients together and separately create the basis for your clean house.  The best part? Those ingredients cost just mere pennies to use each time you create a DIY cleaner.

Over the years, I have posted quite a few Homemade Cleaner recipes on Simply Frugal that I thought I’d put together in one post for you.  Here are my favorite, tried & true homemade cleaner recipes:

All-Purpose Cleaner

This all-purpose cleaner is a step up from a really basic recipe. It requires a couple of products that you may not have on hand initially but once purchased, a little goes a loooooong way.

DIY all purpose cleaner

DIY Natural Soft Scrub

This DIY natural Soft Scrub works so well!  I would suggest making just a little bit at a time since it does solidify and becomes hard to get out of the jar.

DIY soft scrub

DIY Super Citrus Cleaner

This Super Citrus Cleaner works really well for the soap scum we had in our bathtub!  Try it out for yourself!

super citrus cleaner

3 Ingredient Drain Cleaner

About once a month, I freshen up our drains with this 3 Ingredient Drain Cleaner.

drain cleaner ingredients

Homemade Dryer Sheets

Sometimes I add white vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser in our washing machine. Other times I throw in one of my Homemade Dryer Sheets!

How to make homemade dryer sheets without using chemicals!

Those are the homemade cleaners that I regularly use in my home.  I know that if you do a search on Pinterest you will find a ton of other homemade cleaner recipes.  Try the ones that catch your eye. They may work for you or they may not!  Just keep trying and eventually you’ll be saving a whole bunch of money because you stopped buying store-bought cleaners.

If you’re looking for more information on how I clean our house without chemicals, read this post: How to Clean Your House Without Chemicals.

If you use homemade cleaners, what recipes do you use?  Have you had any epic flops?  What about laundry detergent, have you tried making that?

7 Ways to Get Your Budget Back on Track

7 ways to get

7 Ways to Get Your Budget Back on Track

Have you indulged in some poor spending habits lately? If so, then it’s time to get your budget back on track. I find once I’m on the spending train, it’s hard to get off! However, I do manage to disembark eventually with a few tips I’ve used over the years. Take a look below at 7 guaranteed ways to get your budget back on track and find your way to financial freedom. Here is how you can get started:

1. Go on a spending freeze.

First and foremost, if you’re stuck in the vicious spend cycle, you have to just stop. Begin by vowing not to spend any money for 10-14 days. In this time, use what you have on hand and refuse to buy anything new. See how much money this spending freeze can save you. You might be surprised!  You might also be surprised to find that you can be content without spending money on “stuff” because you’ve discovered new ways to occupy yourself. (Related: read this post I wrote for YummyMummyClub.ca.)

2. Track your spending.

Following your freeze, track your spending for 10-14 days. If you spend so much as a dime, write it down. At the end of your tracking period, see where your money is going. This visual data will help you see where serious cuts need to be made.

3. Start cutting!

Use the data from your spending tracking to see where cuts need to be made. Get serious about seeing these cuts through. Find ways around these purchases and then stick to it. Some examples may be eliminating eating out, turning cable off, buying less clothing for your kids or giving up monthly magazine purchases.

4. Bring friends on board.

If you need to get your budget back on track, be honest with your friends. Let them know about your goals so they aren’t trying to convince you to spend money when you shouldn’t. This way, you will also have a support system in place.

5. Celebrate small victories.

When you complete your spending freeze or tracking, or make bug cuts, celebrate! Plan a family fun day or go on a cheap date.  Or, if you can, put aside $5 into a vacation fund each time you save $50. Knowing there is a reward each time you accomplish something, can be enough to keep you pressing forward.

6. Track your progress.

Each time you make a successful cut or save a dollar or two through your hard work, write it down. Track your savings so you can see how much your hard work is paying off. At the end of the week, check out your total savings and give yourself a well deserved pat on the back.

7. Don’t quit.

Even when you see the savings add up and the budget gets back on track, don’t stop! It will be important that you keep these tips in mind and perform regular check ups on your budget to stay on track.

See how simple it can be to get your budget back on track? Give these tips a try and see what a difference they can make.

Do you have any tips that help you get your spending to lessen? Please share in the comments!

How to Successfully Sell Stuff Online

How to Sell Stuff Online - great tips for selling items via Craigslist/Kijiji, eBay and Facebook. Post includes a free printable "stuff for sale" list!

How to Sell Stuff Online

Something I like to do on a semi regular basis, is to purge some of the stuff in our home that is not needed anymore.  Although there always seems to be some sort of mess around these parts, extra clutter drives me crazy.  But before I haul everything off to the thrift store, I set aside anything I think I could sell online; it’s always nice to earn bit of extra spending money!

While I’m a fan of the traditional garage sale, selling some of our old things online is really gaining popularity in my books.  I’ve found it to be less work and I tend to make more money than if I were to sell the items in a garage sale.

I’ve been dabbling a fair bit with some local Facebook Buy & Sell sites, so that’s where I have most of my experience. But Craigslist and Kijiji are also great free options for selling your stuff online.  Although, I’ve found that small items typically don’t sell well with Craigslist and Kijiji so that’s why I’ve been sticking with these Buy & Sell Facebook groups. Ebay is also a great option is you have brand name items and collector items to sell.

Here are some tips to help you sell stuff online through Craigslist/Kijiji, Facebook and eBay:

Research

Spend some time taking a look at items similar to what you want to sell to get an idea of what you should price your item at.  It might also be a good idea to research some of the details you think buyers might want to know. (ie: dimensions, special features…etc.)

Price Your Item Well

If you simply want to get rid of stuff quickly, price your stuff quite low.  If earning a bit of money is your goal, price your items by what you see similar items selling for.  Quite often I’ll price something a bit higher then what I’m willing to take because it’ll be a bonus if someone does purchase it at my asking price. But I know people like to barter to get a lower price.  They’ll feel like they’re getting a deal and I’m happy I was able to earn some decent spending money!

Take Good Photos

Having good, clear photos with your item is fairly crucial if you want to sell it quickly.  Here are some basic tips for taking a good picture:

  • Find good lighting. Try to take your pictures in natural light. In a dark room, the photo won’t show clearly, and artificial light can change the color of the item.
  • Clean the item. Make sure you give the item a good wipe down or wash to show off the condition.
  • Create a clear background. Place the item in an area of your home or yard that is free of  clutter.  You want to make it clear what you’re selling so don’t let any other distracting items show up in the photo.
  • Take several shots. Take at least one shot from every angle.

Choose the Right Category for your Item

To make your item easy to find, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right category to list your item under. After all, no one is going to look for a car in the Housing category!

Write a Clear Headline

In the headline, I like to include what it is and the price.  For example:  Fisher Price Jumparoo, $40.  Having a good headline is important because it’s the first thing people see about your ad and it’s how buyers search for items they want.

Write a Good Description

In your description, you’ll want to include:

  1. What you’re selling. Start the ad by explaining what your item is.
  2. Item’s condition. Briefly explain the condition of the item. Make a note of any damages.
  3. Technical details. Include as many technical details as you can about the item.
  4. Price. Don’t forget to state the price again. Be sure to include whether you’re firm in your price or willing to take a best offer.
  5. Your contact information. At the bottom of your ad, note your preferred method of contact.

Be Safe

Once you have your ad up and running, and you have your buyer, you’ll want to meet in a safe place.  If I’m home alone, I like to arrange a public place for item pick-up.  I try to plan it with an errand I’m already running to save running around all over town. (This one doesn’t really apply to items you sell though eBay since you’re shipping the items to the mailing address your buyer provided.)

The Best time to use:

Craigslist/Kijiji

Craigslist and Kijiji are great options for selling furniture, toys, vehicles and household items.  My husband has had great success selling a couple of vehicles. I have had success with selling some furniture we no longer need.  It’s free to list your items, so there really isn’t any reason not to try a handful of items!

eBay

eBay is the best option for selling popular brand name items such as Coach, Kate Spade and the like that are in excellent condition. High value collector items or hard to find items are also a great match for eBay.  It’s free to list items on eBay but you are required to pay a commission if your item sells.

Facebook Buy & Sell Groups

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Facebook buy & sell groups.  After all, these Facebook groups are easy to use and are free to join and list. I’ve had great success selling baby items, household stuff, outerwear and books. Search for a local buy & sell group, then ask to join. I’m fairly certain that these groups are in almost every city these days. You’ll want to be sure to read the rules of each group so you don’t end up with your listings being deleted by the administrators. (They set rules to cut down on some of the clutter that posting many items by so many people can cause.)

I’ve created, what I hope will be useful, a Stuff For Sale printable that you can use to keep track of your items as you sell them.  Because I use Facebook groups mostly, that’s how I structured this printable:

Stuff to Sell Printable

{Get your Stuff for Sale Printable here}

Have you ever sold anything online?  Will you be giving it a try?  What are your tips for selling, or even buying online?

How to Sell Stuff Online - great tips for selling items via Craigslist/Kijiji, eBay and Facebook. Post includes a free printable "stuff for sale" list!