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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Simplify Birthday Parties {Week 40}

Every week in 2013, I’ll be sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

Guest post by

Birthday parties are great, but throwing one these days can almost break the bank. It is possible to throw a birthday party on a budget and make it a party that your child and their friends will long remember. Here are five tips to help:

1. Make your own cake.

Buying a birthday cake from a bakery can be a costly proposition. Instead, get a couple boxes of cake mix and frosting to make your own. Cupcakes are even better! Get a fancy star tip and decorating bag to put a neat swirl on top.

2. Use solid color party-ware.

Your child’s party can still be themed with their favorite character or activity, but instead of having all matching cups, plates, napkins, and more, pick up some solid color items to match. They are less expensive and are easy to match the themed items. You will save money by just getting the themed invitations, a centerpiece, and a mylar balloon.

3. Just serve cake and ice cream.

Much of the cost for a birthday party is in the food. Invite your guests over in between lunch and dinner. That way the only items on your menu can be cake and ice cream.

4. Go back to the basics for party games.

It is easy to host some party games with items found around your home — think three-legged races which only require something to tie ankles together, a spoon and egg race, musical chairs, and freeze tag. Serve cake and ice cream before the games so that the kids can burn off all the extra energy!

5. Cut back on party favors.

It can be so tempting to go overboard on party favors to send home with your guests. Instead bake some cookies, place them in a cellophane or sandwich bag, tie with some ribbon to match your party theme, and place them in a basket by the door to hand out as people are leaving. This a great activity for your child to participate in if they love to bake.

Your child can still have a great birthday party even without spending a bunch of money. Follow one or all of these tips to help celebrate their special day and stay on budget.

Shannon Weidemann is best known as the . Check out all the great party ideas on her website to help plan your next celebration

52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Frequent the Library {Week 39}

7-Ways-to-Save-by-Using-the-Library

Every week in 2013, I’ll be sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

When Jesse was in law school, there were a lot of really hard things about that season of life, but there was one huge bright spot about those law school years: the library. I’m not exaggerating.

You see, we lived in Topeka, KS, and it’s home to what I consider to this day to be one of the best libraries in the U.S. It was new, it was large, it was clean, and it was FREE.

We had almost no wiggle room in our budget, we were a few hours away from family, we lived in a town where we knew very few people, and we were newly married. Needless to say, that library was a sanctuary for us. We spent countless hours there. In fact, when we went back to Topeka for a visit not too long ago, we stopped by the library for old time’s sake.

When we moved to Kansas City, we were blessed to find a rental that was within walking distance of the library. Every Friday, I’d load the girls up in the stroller and we’d spend a few hours at the library — checking out books, playing with puzzles and games, and playing with the train set. We didn’t have a second vehicle, so the library became on oasis for us in Kansas City, too.

Yes, I’m a wee bit sentimental about libraries… but they’ve saved us so much money over the years and provided so many hours of inspiration and entertainment that I just can’t help myself. 🙂

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While the library is a great place to check out books, of course, most libraries also offer many other money-saving programs and resources. Here are a few more ways to save at the library:

1. DVDs & CD’s

Not all libraries offer free DVD rentals, but if your library does, take advantage of it! Our kids especially love checking out old TV series to watch during movie time each day. We also have enjoyed checking out music CD’s from the library, too.

I can’t even begin to fathom the money we’ve saved by checking out DVDs from the library over the years instead of renting or buying them!

2. Kid’s Toys

Many libraries have kid’s play areas — with puzzles or other toys that children can play with. It’s a great place to take your children on cold winter days that doesn’t cost any money (and mom can bring some books home, too!). All for free.

3. Audiobooks

Check your library to see what their audiobook collection is like. Many have a pretty extensive collection — and some even offer audiobooks you can download for a time period.

52 Ways to Save $100 Per Year

4. Ebooks

Have you checked to see if your library offers ebooks you can “check out”? Here’s a tip from Hannah:

Many people don’t realize that most public libraries have eBooks available for checkout through their websites. All you have to do is log into your local library’s site using your library card, then follow the links for eBooks (often, there are also digital audio books available).

In just a couple of minutes, you should be able to search through the available titles, download your selection, and begin reading on your device! No late fees for failing to “bring the book back,” because it will simply expire after 2-3 weeks. This is a great, free way to read some of the newest and most popular books without paying a cent — or leaving your home! -Hannah

5. Local Attraction Memberships

Some libraries offer memberships to local attractions (zoos, museums, etc.) that you can “check out”. If your library offers this, it’s a great way to visit local attractions and have some family fun — without spending a dime!

6. Online Foreign Language Programs

Want to learn a foreign language? Michele from emailed in this tip:

I recently learned that my public library has an online foreign language program that I can access for free. There are dozens of foreign languages available that I can learn!

Many public libraries across the country have the same free program. It’s called . If you check their website, you can find out if your local library participates. You can

I thought your readers might enjoy this program especially those who homeschool. My son and I just discovered it last week, and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it! -Michele from

Libary Reading Program

7.  Summer Reading Programs

We started doing our library’s summer reading program in the past few years and we’ve been incredibly impressed with it. Not only does it provide huge motivation for our children to get in a lot of reading during the summer, but the rewards are amazing!

The above picture is what our kids earned from last year’s library reading program. Not only did each child get to choose a free book to take home, they also got a bag stuffed with great coupons and offers from local businesses — things like free Kid’s meals, free miniature golf, a free smoothie at McDonald’s, free baseball game tickets, free ice skating passes, and more.

Note: If you have a relatively small library that doesn’t have a great selection, check and see if they offer Inter-Library loan. Most libraries do, and this offers a much, much broader selection. You have to request the book and then wait for it to come in, but it’s free–which usually makes it worth a bit of a wait!

You can also suggest books for your library to purchase. They might not heed your suggestion, but it’s always worth a shot.

52 Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Use the Library

Rebekah from Simple Rebekah shared that :

Online Classes – My library offers free online classes through .  There are hundreds of classes to choose from out of there 42 areas of study.  Some of those areas include: office skills, performing arts, parenting, homeschooling, do it yourself, gardening, cooking, computers, accounting and web development.

Kindles — I was shocked to find out that my library just started loaning out Kindles!  They come pre-loaded with 15-20 titles.  My library has 13 Kindles, each with a different theme.  The themes include New York Times Fiction & Non-Fiction Bestsellers, Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction, Classics, Popular Fiction, Biography and more!  This is a great way to test out a Kindle before you buy one.

How do you save money by using the library? What other ways do you use the library? I’d love to have you add to my list!

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52 Different Ways to Save at Least $100 Per Year: Cut Your Fuel Costs {Week 38}

52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year

Every week in 2013, I’ll be sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

One simple way to save $100 per year is by lowering your fuel costs. If you shave off just $3 in gasoline costs every week, that’s well over $100 in savings per year.

Here are some practical ways to consider lowering your fuel costs:

1. Have a cash budget for gas.

We used to always pay for gas with our debit card, but while we tried to stick with our allotted budget, we found it was easy to go a little over every month — especially with fluctuating gas prices. We switched to using cash only for gas last year and we’ve seen a decrease in our gas budget. Why? Because we are more mindful of our gas usage and because cash forces us to stick with our budget.

2. Buy lower-grade fuel.

Unless your vehicle requires higher grade fuel, there’s no need to spend the extra cents on it per gallon. While it might not seem like much, those extra cents add up quickly!

3. Observe the speed limit.

Each vehicle is different, but typically gas mileage plummets when you drive over 60 miles per hour. In fact, it’s estimated that for each five miles over 60 miles per hour you drive, it’s the equivalent of paying an additional $0.24 per gallon!

4. Combine errands.

Have a general rule of thumb that you won’t go out shopping or running errands unless you have at least three stops to make. Before you go, map out the most efficient route. Not only will this save you time, it will also lower your gasoline expenses. Plus, you’ll likely carefully consider whether or not that quick trip to the store for milk or bread is worth it or whether you can make-do with what you have on hand.

I’ve also found it helpful to limit errands and shopping to one or two days per week and to work errands or shopping trips into driving I’m already planning to do. For instance, if I’m going somewhere close to the health food store, I’m going to try and work in a stop there to save me making an extra trip later in the week. It only takes a little bit extra time and it costs me almost nothing in fuel since I’m already going to be driving by.

5. Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.

If you have more than one vehicle in your household, use the vehicle with the highest miles per gallon as often as you can. According to :

A vehicle that gets 30 MPG will cost you $903 less to fuel each year than one that gets 20 MPG (assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $3.61).

Over a period of 5 years, the 30-MPG vehicle will save you $4,515.

Planning to buy a car in the near future? Aid your decision-making by using the .

6. Travel during non-peak hours.

As much as you possibly can, plan your trips when it’s non rush-hour traffic. You’ll get to your destination(s) more quickly and you’ll conserve gas.

7. Consider using public transportation.

While public transportation might not seem feasible for you, if gas is eating your budget alive, it’s worth checking into. According to a study by the , you can save over $9,000 per year by using public transportation.

Of course, this number is going to be inflated for you if you don’t work outside the home and have a regular commute, however, it’s important to note that this figure was based on a $2.75 per gallon price. With most of us , if you have a daily commute, the savings could even be higher than $9,000 per year if you use public transportation!

Find more ways to save on gasoline in this post.

How do you save money on gas?

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Sign Up for Swagbucks {Week 37}

Every week in 2013, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

Earn Gift Cards From Swagbucks

If you’ve read my blog at all, you know I’m a big fan of . And you probably signed up a long time ago and have been earning gift cards ever since.

For the handful of you who have yet to sign up for Swagbucks or for the many others who have signed up but feel like you’re not earning much from it, this post is for you.

What Is Swagbucks?

is a search engine that rewards you with Swagbucks for searching. You can use it just like Google (though I still like Google better) for searching and you will be randomly awarded for searching, usually around five to 10 Swagbucks once or twice each day.

These Swagbucks can then be redeemed for a variety of different free items, such as Amazon gift cards, Starbucks gift cards, and much more.

While Swagbucks started out as solely a search engine, over the past few years, they’ve morphed into much more. In fact, they now offer many different ways to earn more Swagbucks making it much easier to earn enough Swagbucks to cash in on their prizes. Some of the most popular ways to earn Swagbucks are doing online searches, signing up for offers, printing coupons, completing special offers, or taking polls.

When I first heard about Swagbucks, I was a little leery because it sounded too good to be true. But I went ahead and tried it — and after earning multiple gift cards every month for the past two years, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too good to be true. Swagbucks works!

I’ve earned many gift cards some electronics from them since I’ve been using them for the last few years. In fact, we were able to lavishly bless our families with Christmas gifts this year thanks, in large part, to the gift cards I’d accumulated through Swagbucks.

And I’m not alone. I know dozens of friends who’ve also had great success with Swagbucks — earning at least a gift card or two every month and sometimes much more than that.

Here’s what Andi emailed me today:

I started using Swagbucks at the end of 2010 and since then, I have earned $325 in Amazon Gift Cards. Last year, I bought all of my husband Christmas gifts, and a few gifts for the Grandparents. This year we have used it mostly for “extras” that I didn’t want to pay for, but really wanted to have (aka: my blow money). I normally earn $5-10 a month in gift cards — and I don’t have any referrals under me. I simply search on my laptop and my Android. -Andi

And Alicia Hansen posted this on my Facebook Page:

Last year, I started about this time and saved enough up to pay for my daughter’s Skylanders game for Christmas for $60. I’ve also saved up at least another $100 in Amazon gift cards, a $50 Paypal gift card and the most important one, a $100 Southwest gift card that I used to get my daughter here for the summer. I’ve slowed down since the summer but I am hoping to have enough to get at least a $50 Southwest card to help bring my daughter here for Christmas. It’s made a huge difference! -Alicia

See on how much they are .

How Do You Get Started Earning With Swagbucks?

Just sign up for a free Swagbucks account. Once you’re signed up, I encourage you to read through my 15 Ways to Earn More Swagbucks series and pick a few different options of ways to earn. Experiment with different ones until you determine the ones that works best for you.

I encourage you to set an earnings goal each day and try to login and hit that, if possible. If you can even just put in 5 to 15 minutes each day, it can really start to add up! I loved what Megan that she does:

If you earn the $5 Amazon cards it usually is the most bang for your buck. You only need to earn 15 SB in a day to earn $5 in Amazon gift cards each month (these are 450 Swagbucks). So if that was all I did, I would easily have $30 to help out with Christmas with six months of savings. I have found that watching (usually with the sound off) about 30 seconds on 10 videos on Swagbucks TV is a fast way to earn bucks… in addition to doing the daily poll, noso, and using the toolbar. In about 10 minutes of your day, 15 Swagbucks is pretty doable. We have a tight budget, so the 10-15 minutes a day is worth it for us. I have several little kids so can’t commit much time or energy to it, but every little bit helps and has worked for our family. I am able to catch codes and such while I’m at work too and with searches usually earn well over the 15 Swagbucks each day. -Megan

Do You Have To Refer People To Make It Worth Your Time?

Swagbucks has a great referral program: you’ll earn matching Swagbucks (buck for buck) for the first 1,000 Swagbucks anyone you refer earns. Obviously, this is a fantastic way to increase your earnings — and one way that has helped me earn quite a few more Swagbucks over the years.

If you try Swagbucks and it works well for you, be sure to share your referral link with your friends or write a post about it on your blog. Don’t keep a good thing to yourself.

That said, you can still earn a decent amount with Swagbucks even if you have no referrals at all. I outline how you can earn 15 Swagbucks each day in less than 5 minutes per day here.

How Much Can You Earn?

You can easily earn $5 to $20 per month in Amazon gift cards without spending a lot of time. However, if you want to earn more in a shorter time period, I highly recommend checking out Swagbucks TV — especially if you spend a lot of time working on the internet every day. You can increase your earnings significantly by watching Swagbucks TV each day while you’re working online — or through their smartphone apps.

In addition, if you have friends you know who would love to try out Swagbucks, by referring them in the next few weeks and helping them be successful, you’re likely going to significantly increase your Swagbucks earnings, too. And this will result in more gift cards for you to use toward Christmas gifts!

I’ve earned over $75 this year through Swagbucks and I honestly don’t even spend three minutes a day earning points. Not too shabby when I combine this with earning by taking surveys with Mindfield Online as well as programs like MyPoints and Treasure Trooper! You can on my weekly on my blog each Wednesday. -Theresa

How Do You Redeem Your Swagbucks?

Once you’ve earned enough Swagbucks to cash in for a gift card, you just log into your account and request your gift card. You’ll have to confirm your request and then your gift card will show up in your account within a few weeks.

There are dozens of different gift cards to choose from but I’d recommend going for the $5 Amazon gift cards for 450 Swagbucks each. This is the best deal and you can use an unlimited number of Amazon gift cards per order on Amazon.

How Can You Save $100 Per Year By Using Swagbucks?

Swagbucks is one way to easily shave some money off your monthly budget. How? Use the points you earn from Swagbucks to cash for Amazon gift cards and then use these toward something in your budget that you were planning to buy anyway — such as diapers, groceries, or another larger ticket purchase.

This way, you’re actually maximizing your Swagbucks and truly lowering your expenses by the time you invest in earning Swagbucks.

I’d love to hear your experiences with Swagbucks! Tell us your secrets to maximizing your earnings, give us the scoop on how much you’ve earned so far, and share any insider tips you’ve uncovered. Let’s help each other be more successful in earning free gift cards to use toward lowering our budgets!

(Note: The link in this post is my referral link. Read my .)

52 Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Have an All-Cash Christmas {Week 36}

Have an All Cash Christmas

By being intentional and planning ahead, you can save a lot of money (and headache!) on Christmas. Follow these steps and you may save as much as $100 on Christmas this year, if not more:

1. Create a Budget

Yes, it’s kind of a no-brainer, but you can’t stick with your Christmas budget if you don’t have a budget in the first place. Sit down this weekend, if at all possible and look at your current expenditures and your income and decide what is a realistic budget amount to set aside for Christmas.

2. Start Saving

The sooner you can start setting aside money for Christmas, the better. Even if all you can manage to squeeze out of your budget is $3 to $5 each paycheck, start setting that aside in a separate fund. Do not allow yourself to touch it for any reason, except to purchase Christmas gifts.

We typically start planning for Christmas spending halfway through the year. Since we use a cash envelope system, we just start socking away most of our gift cash for Christmas. In addition, we also save up our Swagbucks Amazon gift cards to use for Christmas presents. And I keep my eyes open for other ways to earn free gift cards or products that would be good for gifting.

By the time December rolls around, I usually have a nice stash of gift cash gift cards to use for gifts and this becomes our Christmas budget. By doing it this way, we don’t have to dip into any of our regular savings or other money to pay for Christmas–we just have to plan ahead and then look for deals to stretch that money as far as possible.

Feeling strapped for cash this Christmas? Be sure to check out my 31 Ways to Earn Extra Cash Before Christmas series for lots of ideas to help shore up your Christmas gift budget over the next few weeks.

3. Make a Plan

After you get your Christmas budget created and you’ve begun setting money aside, it’s time to start planning your gift list! Again, if you can do this early, you’ll have a huge advantage.

Why? Because when you see some amazing rock-bottom bargain deal that would be perfect for someone on your Christmas list, you can snatch it up then and there and cross that person off your list! Not only will you save a lot of money by starting your shopping early, but you’ll also feel so much more organized and relaxed going into December!

There’s a you can use to keep track of everyone you plan to buy for and what you’re planning to buy. If you prefer to keep a running total on a spreadsheet, you can download the to help you stay organized and stick with your budget.

How to Have an All Cash Christmas

4. Use Cash

If you’re at all tempted to go over your written Christmas budget, I highly recommend that you have a cash-only Christmas. Take the money you’ve allotted for your Christmas budget out of the bank in cash and then only use that money to pay for your Christmas gifts. This will force you to carefully evaluate each purchase to make sure it is the best use of your money and it will guarantee you don’t go over-budget.

Since many of the best deals are online, I suggest that you either use Paypal and refund the money to your bank account immediately from your cash envelope or take money from your cash envelopes and purchase gift cards for your online purchases. This is a bit more of a hassle, but it means you don’t have to worry about any staggering credit card bills come January!

5. Keep It Simple

Christmas should not be about impressing people with expensive gifts. If you’re going to give someone a gift, do it to bless them. Meaningful gifts don’t have to be extravagant and costly.

Consider giving experience gifts or handmade gifts as opposed to high-dollar items. Sometimes, the most remembered gifts are those that took time and thought, not money.

How do you save money on Christmas while still making it memorable?

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52 Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Get Organized {Week 35}

It might sound ridiculously simple — and it is! But it’s true: being organized will save you money. In fact, it could save you at least a few hundred dollars (or more!) per year. Here are 7 ways being organized saves you money:

1. You can plan a weekly menu.

By planning a menu, you won’t be scrambling to figure out something for dinner at the last minute. This saves you time, sanity and countless unnecessary trips through the drive-thru lane.

2. You can buy gifts ahead of time.

When you find a great deal online or in-store, you’ll be able to take advantage of it for an upcoming birthday or holiday, instead of waiting until crunch time and having to buy something at full price. As an added benefit, you’ll likely be able to put more time and thought into a meaningful gift rather than just throwing something together at the last minute.

3. You’ll have the time to clip and organize coupons.

When you plan ahead, you’ll have time to print coupons for things you’re already planning to buy. Or even to match coupons to items that are already at rock-bottom prices at your local store.

4. You can buy in bulk.

If you’re organized, you’ll be able to take the time and effort to buy extras of items when they are free or at rock-bottom prices. You’ll also know what you have on hand already and how much you regularly use of items you buy.

5. You’ll avoid late fees.

When you have your life in order, you’re much more likely to pay bills on time, return books to the library before they are due. It’s amazing how much this can save in late fees and library fines!

6. You can find what you own.

Having a place for everything and keeping everything in their place saves you a lot of time looking for lost items, it prevents you from spending money to replace items you can’t find.

7. You’ll remember to call and ask for discounts.

When you’re organized, you’ll have time to call and try to re-negotiate fixed rate bills annually. Things like internet and phone packages are often negotiable — and we’ve saved hundreds of dollars over the years by calling once a year to ask if they have a better rate they can give us.

How does (or would) being organized save you money?