December212012.info
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Category: Earning & Managing Money

Ask the Readers: Deals on TV adapters

Do you know anything about deals on those TV adapter boxes
the government is issuing $40 coupons on? I can't figure out where to
buy one or what a good price might be. I know I can't be the only Money
Saving Mom reader who doesn't have cable! -Catherine

Since we have a digital TV, I've not even looked into what a good deal on a TV adapter box might be. Anyone out there know or want to share hints or suggestions for those who are looking to buy one right now before all television switches over to digital service?

Guest Post: The Balancing Act

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photo by

Guest Post by Kasey Tross from

 
This
fall my two-year-old and I signed up for Mommy & Me gymnastics classes. As we began attending the classes and she started learning some basic
gymnastic skills, I was surprised by how adept she was at the balance beam.
Usually, being a two-year-old, her balance leaves a lot to be desired, but once
she gets up on that balance beam, she just holds on to my pinky with one hand
and scoots right along.

Her only downfall (literally) is when she loses focus
on the end of the beam. Once she looks down at the beam or at one of the other
children practicing another skill on the floor, she immediately begins to
wobble and lose her balance.

 
One
day as she was scooting along holding my pinky, I started thinking about how
much living life on a budget is like walking on a balance beam: there is not
much room for error, and distraction can lead to disaster and frustration. But I
have also realized if you practice and start to get comfortable up there,
not only can you stay on, but you can make it a thing of beauty.
 
Life
on a budget can be difficult–much like walking on that balance beam. We have only a few inches on which to
keep our footing, and if you try to pretend there’s an extra inch or two, you
can completely miss your mark, lose your balance, and fall.

Up there on the
budget balance beam, it is tempting to focus on the restrictions. It is
tempting to stare down at the narrow beam and at the long drop on either side,
to wish for money you don’t have, and gripe about a small paycheck. But once
you start focusing on the limitations, you begin to lose sight of the goal.

For
most, the ultimate goal is to someday have a little more wiggle room, so that
the balancing act isn’t so hard. When you keep your eyes up and focus only on
that end result–the dismount–you can keep your balance and put one foot in
front of the other.

           
Another
fatal distraction can happen when you start looking around at everyone else who
isn’t walking the budget balance beam. They may be bounding across the floor doing
their tumbling or soaring through the air on the uneven bars.

If all you do is
watch them, you will long to jump off the beam and run out onto the floor. In the process,
your focus on the end of the beam will be lost and you will fall. If you want
to reach your ultimate goal, then that goal is where your focus needs to be–not on the financial situations of those around you.

 
We
all walk the beam differently; there are some people who, like my two-year-old,
gingerly scoot across the budget beam, somewhat unbalanced at times, nearly
falling off once or twice before dismounting. But there are others who see the
tumblers flipping and twirling across the floor and rather than be discouraged,
they are inspired. They see the beam not as a limitation, but as an opportunity
to test their skills and do amazing things.

Granted, they can’t leap and bound
with the same freedom of those on the floor, but in their own way, up on that
balance beam, they can turn their balancing act into a
beautiful and graceful
gymnastics show, just as remarkable as those on the floor, even with only a few
inches on either side to work with. Time after
time, cartwheel after flip, they nail the beam and come up with arms
outstretched, smiling triumphantly.

 
So,
what are the financial life lessons I learned from the balance beam? Don’t look
down, don’t compare your financial situation with those of the people
around you, and keep your eye on the ultimate goal: financial freedom. Remember, too,
that sometimes it’s not just about staying on–it’s about making the most of
the journey, about exercising your creativity, and finding real joy in your
beautiful thrifty life.           
Kasey Tross is a
stay-at-home mother of 2 living in Richmond, Virginia. She celebrates the fact that the most beautiful things in life don't cost
money and blogs at .

Guest Post: It’s not about how much we save, it’s about how little we spend

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Note from Crystal: One of the most exciting things about having this blog is the opportunity to hear from readers. Your kind and encouraging emails brighten my days. And while what is shared on this blog is the combined effort of hours of work from many different bloggers and readers who take the time to find and share the deals with me so I can post them, I am honored and humbled to have a little part in helping families to live on less than they make so they can save more and give more.

I hope Jill's testimonial below of how December212012.info has impacted their family and the changes they've made as a result is an encouragement to you today–wherever you are in your financial journey.

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Guest post by Jill

Prior to early July 2008, I never gave any thought to my purchases. If we
needed something, I bought it.  If we wanted something chances are we
bought that, too. I always rationalized that I was a working mom so we could afford those extras.

Then one day, on a parenting message board I
frequent, there was a topic of what websites you visited daily.
Someone responded with December212012.info. I clicked the link and the rest, as they say, is history.

Originally, my thought was that I'd try to save what the higher fuel
costs were costing our family. That was easily achieved just by
entering the world of CVS shopping. 

I was proud of myself and my new found
frugalness. Oddly enough, I
found the deal finding, coupon clipping, and deal shopping strangely
entertaining. Suddenly, in addition to the weekly savings I was
accumulating at CVS, I was also saving in entertainment budgeting because my
new entertainment was saving money! 

Somewhere along the line, I came across a blog about questioning your
purchases. What stuck with me was the question, "How can I do this for
less?"
. It was a life-changing concept. 

It didn't say that I should
necessarily go without my desires, just that I should search for a way
to do it cheaper. Eureka!

I quickly started adopting that idea as
part or my daily mantra. Recently, for example, my husband and I
wanted to get our children the John Deere Gator ride-on toy. In the
time where we paid for shampoo and toothpaste (that's how I refer to our pre-CVS days!), we'd go to the toy store and spend the
$350. This time was different.

I sat with the idea of wanting it; I
knew we didn't need it right then, so I waited. Then, one day I found
one on ebay and we won it for $36–just under a 90% savings! You know
what? My kids are just as excited as if it were brand new. 

I've found there are two ways to think about being frugal. There is
the "Wow, I saved $95.23!" approach and there is the "Wow, I only spent
$5.32!"
approach.

When I first started this journey, I was amazed by
how much money I was saving and didn't focus on how little I was
spending. It wasn't until I checked my bank account recently, that my
eyes were truly opened. Our account was rapidly growing and it wasn't
because we were putting more money in, we were just taking less money
out.

Being frugal, shouldn't be about how much you save, it should be
about how little you spend.  Some days I could rack up great savings on
products I don't truly need, but I have to focus on spending less, not
saving more.

Throughout this journey, the economy has continued to decline and my job
has become less stable.  Back when we paid for shampoo and toothpaste,
the thought of being unemployed would have terrified me. Now, we are
actively planning for me to become a stay-at-home mom. Yes, our
spending has changed so dramatically, that it not only negates the
raise in gas prices, it would also balance my loss of income (along
with the savings in childcare and work-related expenses). 

We've
watched our savings account rise, our cupboards and freezer fill, and
our heart rest easy in knowing God's provision for our family. What amazes me is that while we are spending significantly less money
each month, we aren't sacrificing more. We are still eating the same
foods, buying the same products, and living a life with extras. We are
just being a lot more mindful of the sales, asking ourselves "How can
we do this for less?"
, and stockpiling a bit when there are good deals
on products we regularly use. 

December212012.info hasn't just provided me with a few good deals; it has provided me the
opportunity to have a sense of peace in a worrisome economy.  We'll be
okay, it will work out, and if all else fails, we have enough Kashi, Chex
Mix, and Johnson's Buddies to see us through the rough patches!

Jill is a working mom of three who is eternally
thankful her mother-in-law's paper route nets her multiple copies
of the ads each week.

photo by

Get Your Finances in Line in 2009: Our financial goals for this year

Would you like to live on less, pay off debt, and/or save more money this year? If so, I’d love to have you join me and many others here in the Get Your Finances in Line in 2009 Challengea year-long campaign to encourage families worldwide to live on less
than they make and take personal responsibility for their finances.

Each family is going to have different goals, so I can’t necessarily tell you what your financial plan should look like. I can, however, encourage you to make every effort to get on a written budget and start making your money work for you. This is the first step towards really achieving financial freedom.

If you’re new to living on a budget, let me reassure you that it’s not some ball-and-chain sort of life. On the contrary, we’ve found great freedom in purposefully allocating our money to work in the most effective way for our family. And we’ve learned a lot about this from . I’d highly encourage you to , , , , and even consider enrolling in , if you’ve not already done so. (By the way, I don’t earn a penny of any sort for plugging Dave, we just have saved so much and been inspired so much thanks to him that I can’t help but recommend him to anyone who will listen!)

Secondly, I think it is imperative that we all set financial goals–whether big or small. If we don’t have a goals in place, it’s very easy to just wander aimlessly about, with money slipping through our fingers like sand.

My husband and I have been amazed at how motivational it has been to set down at the beginning of each year and map out goals for our family for the following year. We try to stick with goals which might seem far-fetched, but which are achievable if we really set our minds to it.

We try to avoid impossible resolutions such as, “We will not overspend this year.” and instead stick with doable goals, such as, “We will aim to have put an extra $200 in savings each month.” We publicly posted our financial goals last year and found that to be a huge source of accountability each month. In fact, by God’s grace and a variety of unexpected events, we ended up accomplishing all of our goals for last year. (You can read more about that here.)

Because of careful stewardship and living on a budget over the past six years of our marriage, God’s blessing, and lots of hard work and zealous frugality, we are currently in a financial position where we have no debt of any kind, have a fully-funded six-month emergency fund, are investing an IRA and in our children’s mutual funds, and are able to live comfortably significantly below our means. Because of this, our focus this year is on giving and saving.

We are so excited to see the fruits of frugality paying off so greatly in our lives and to be in a position to share more with others! It truly is “more blessed to give”.

In addition, we are aiming to have saved up enough money by the end of 2009 to pay 100% down on our first home. At this point in time, we have 33% of our final goal saved up. With my husband’s career change and our moving to a less-expensive area a few months back, we are very hopeful that we just might make 100% of our goal by the end of this year.

I’ll keep you posted concerning our progress each month. And even if we don’t quite make this very-ambitious goal, we hope that we’ll at least be much closer to it by the end of 2009!

Note: If you are interested in seeing my personal goals for this year, you can check them out .

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What are your financial goals for this year?
Post about them on your blog and then come back here and leave your
link below. If you don’t have an anonymous blog, feel free to only
share as much detail as you feel comfortable with. We’ll be having a
monthly check-up to track and report our progress in achieving these
goals.

Reader tip: Ask for mark-downs

Susan emailed me yesterday with her experience in asking for a mark-down:

I went to Kroger today to get a few
things and I really needed some organic milk. I can often find some
marked down, but today there was none marked down. However, I found they had some
Horizon milk that had a sell-by date of Dec 12 (4 days away).

I found someone who worked at Kroger and asked them if they could tell
me what days they mark down dairy products. When they told me that it was no no specific
day but just every so often, I asked if the milk could/should be marked
down since it expires in 4 days. They said "sure"!

The nice lady
asked how many gallons I wanted, and marked them down and give them to
me, and then marked down the rest of them too! I was so excited that I
got my organic milk for only $2.75/gallon! It never hurts to ask!

Have any of you asked for a mark-down before on items which were nearing their expiration date or produce which was going bad? I have done this very successfully at Aldi before–sometimes even scoring free produce!