Fun, festive movie ideas from Netflix! #StreamTeam

Fun, festive movie ideas from Netflix! #StreamTeam

Merry Christmas!!  December is already flying by... I can hardly believe it is only a week until Christmas! My husband and I are church ...

Aldi-licious: Famous Black Bean Salad

Aldi-licious: Famous Black Bean Salad

  Heather joins us with another post in her series Aldi-licious here at Simply Frugal Living. Heather’s recipes feature ingredients purchased exclusively from ...

5 Ways to Stash Away for Christmas (for FREE!)

5 Ways to Stash Away for Christmas (for FREE!)

  December is an expensive month every year, especially if you and your spouse come from large families (like we both do!) where ...

30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Clothing and Giving

#29: Buy clothing off season or when deeply discounted

 

If I am going to purchase clothing new, I usually wait until I can “stack” clearance prices with a coupon.  If you are registered with department stores like Penny’s, Sears, Kohls, etc., you should be receiving coupons in the mail, such as the current $10 off $10 Penny’s coupon that frequently comes in the mail. I will take that coupon to the clearance rack and purchase a clothing piece to expand my wardrobe for as little as $.99 out of pocket.

 

Did you know that New York & Co. will give you a 25% discount on clearance items with your AAA card? Love it!

 

I haven’t had huge success with thrift or consignment stores for adult clothing here in the North Hills, but this is a powerful resource in other areas.

 

I have been blessed to receive quite a few nice hand-me-downs for our boys, so I haven’t had to purchase clothing for them that often.  When I do need something, I check our local consignment store (Once Upon a Child), or I combine a Target web coupon with a sale price (I have scored free socks several times going this route). Kohls also offers great clearance prices on their off-season clothing.

 

The key here is to think outside the box.  Don’t run to the department store and pay full price every time you need an article of clothing. Use coupons against sale prices whenever possible.

 

 

#30: Practice generosity and GIVE freely!

 

I cannot underestimate the importance of giving.  Our family has always made this our number one priority, and I believe that God has blessed us as a result.  My favorite verse on this topic is as follows:

 

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. -Malachi 3:10

 

It’s hard to believe we are already at the end of the series!  We have really only scratched the surface of ways to cut the cost of living.  I hope these posts have encouraged you to begin your own research and head toward the goal of reducing your cost of living. Remember, saving in almost every expense category is possible, but it just takes planning and research.  Dive in…it’s worth it!

——————————————————————————————————————

Did you enjoy this series?  Please leave a comment and let me know what topics you would enjoy for series in the future. Thanks!



30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Pet Care


#28: Five tips for saving on pet care

Some of you may have read that we recently rescued a dog from Animal Friends shelter here in Pittsburgh.  He is a year and a half old and is a cute little Beagle/ Dachshund mix. We named him Charlie, and our boys just love him!

I’m at the beginning of learning ways to save when it comes to pets, but here is what I have to offer so far:

1) If you’re in the market for a pet:

-Check in with your local animal shelters and keep an eye out for just the right pet.  Shelters usually don’t charge for the animals, per se, but they ask for a donation to help cover their operating costs.

-Ask family and friends: There could be any number of pets that are “available to a good home for free.”

-Put a wanted ad in the local paper.  You might turn up several possibilities of free pets!

2) Once you have a pet, save on your vet bills by visiting Petsmart Here in Pittsburgh, our stores offer a free first visit and consultation (see below).

3) Get rewards cards at Petsmart, Petco, etc.

If you shop at these stores for pet supplies, make sure you’re getting something back for each purchase you make!

4) Purchase pet meds through discounted vendors, such as 1-800-PetMeds.

1-800-PetMeds is America’s largest online pet medication vendor. Enjoy weekly specials and reduced rates on medications, plus free shipping on orders over $39.

5) Of course, use coupons for pet food!

I was recently able to buy 25 cans of nice dog food at Giant Eagle for $.12 per can by stacking a sale price, store cash back promotion, and coupons!

Here is the info on a free first visit to the vet at Petsmart:

Uniquely located inside PetSmart stores, Banfield Pet Hospital™ offers convenience by enabling you to take care of your pet’s veterinary needs and go shopping at the same time! We are a network of over 770 pet hospitals across the U.S., led by experienced, local veterinarians and guided by medical evidence. We learn from treating millions of pets each year and use this information to develop treatment methods that help to ensure the safety and health of the pets we see at all our hospital locations. By choosing Banfield for veterinary service, you get a trusted veterinary partner dedicated to keeping your pet healthy, energetic and alert for years to come!

About Banfield Services:

At Banfield, we offer a wide range of services to help keep your dog, cat or small pet healthy throughout their entire life, including:

  • Vaccinations
  • Surgery, such as Spays & Neuters
  • Dentistry
  • Internal Medicine
  • Geriatric Care
  • Cardiology
  • Advanced Diagnostics, including radiology
  • Microchipping
  • Skin Care and Flea Control
  • Dietary and Behavioral Counseling
Five Months of Flea & Tick Protection for $50 for Your Dog.

Free Office Visit and Consultation *

As partners, Banfield and PetSmart has teamed up, and we’re offering a free office visit and consultation for your pet. In order to receive this offer, please download this coupon and submit at the hospital at the time of your visit.

Use our Hospital locator to see if there is a Banfield location at your local PetSmart.

Additional resources for discounted pet supplies:

ValuePetSupplies.com

$5 off $50 at PetMountain.com with coupon code SAVE.

PetsWarehouse.com

30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Doctors, Dentists, Orthodontists, etc.

#27: Shop around and price compare before deciding on a doctor, specialist, dentist, or orthodontist.

Even if you have insurance, there are still co-pays, deductibles, and medical expenses that are not covered by your insurance.  Make sure you are seeing the best doctor for the best possible price!

As with many of the expense categories we have discussed in this series, a little time spent in research could pay major dividends.  Here is a brief story from our experience that demonstrates this:

A few years ago my husband decided to get braces.  We got a pretty good deal and the job was done well.  He was given one set of plastic retainers.  Unfortunately, one of the retainers cracked once we had moved and were living far from the orthodontist.  We were unable to take advantage of the free replacement we would have enjoyed had we still lived near the orthodontist. My husband went to visit an orthodontist that had been recommended to us and found that the replacement cost ranged from $250-$500!  I couldn’t believe it!  I asked my husband to give me a chance to call around and price the replacement with a few other orthodontists in our area.  After a few calls, I learned that he could get the retainer replaced for a little over $100 at another office right down the street from us.  My husband made an appointment, got in that day, and picked up his replacement that evening for only $90!  (The doctor decided to give him a discount since he worked in a church.)

In our five years of marriage, we have had two major moves and found ourselevs in the position of needing to find new doctors, dentists, opthamologists, a hospital for the birth of our second child, etc.  I have found the reviews on Yelp to be extremely helping in locating good physicians.  Of course word of mouth is also helpful, but this is another valuable resource to help in the process of locating a doctor.  Don’t be afraid to call and ask for prices, find out if there are discounts available, etc.

When I found out I was expecting our second child, I actually went so far as to call the different hospitals in our area to find out their estimated costs since we had 80/20 coverage and I knew we would potentially be facing some very large medical bills.  Again, a bit of research and time spent comparing prices and services paid off well in the end!

Groupon and other daily deal sites are starting to change the game a bit when it comes to medical services like dentistry and opthamology.  I often see deals for up to 80-90% off these services.  If you see one you’re interested in, just hop on Yelp and read the reviews!

Another note: If we need medical attention of some type that is not covered by our insurance, I always, always ask for a discount!.  I am usually not disappointed.

What ways have you found to cut your medical expenses?  Leave a comment below!

————————————————————————————————————
 
 Enjoying this series?  Subscribe for my free daily updates so you don’t miss anything!
 

Be sure to check out my previous posts on eating out, family fun, haircutsgift-giving, babysitting, groceries, cosmeticselectricity, natural gas, water, auto repairpurchasing a vehicle, decorating, medical bills, cable/movies, travel, dinners for $5 or less, insurance, and eating gluten-free.

30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Eating Gluten-Free

#26: If you are eating gluten-free, use today’s tip to cut back on this huge expense category.

I am grateful to my mom for providing today’s post!

 

When I discovered my husband and daughter needed to be on a gluten-free diet, the first thing I did was go to the library and check out an armload of books and cookbooks on the topic. I learned a lot about what gluten sensitivity and celiac mean, and had a wealth of resourses at my fingertips. I renewed 9 times if that means anything. All that being said, I have never come across a book of such consequence to the gluten-free household as Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. Nicole Hunn had me from the Introduction where she lays out her philosophy on how gluten-free doesn’t have to be a money or time gobbler. Nowhere had I ever read that before!  In fact, costly ingredients and time consuming steps to compile a recipe are the norm.

 

Nicole has 125 recipes and many that are unique to gluten-free cookbooks, in that they are casseroles and meals you can freeze and pre-make in parts. She tells how to use coupons and where to get them. She unlocks the mystery of ordering in bulk online and tells you what to buy and from where (with a list!!). Once-a-week and once-a month cooking are explained and the recipes they work with listed. This is a paradigm shift for the gluten-free community, and one I was thrilled and ecouraged to find.

 

I looked at some of the pages in this book on Amazon.com when I bought it and I was able to use her shopping lists for ingredients to have on hand when the book arrived. I was never so excited to get a book in the mail and I was not dissapointed! If you are gluten-free and frugal (words that never went together before), Gluten-Free on a Shoestring is a must read. (Most recipes can be made dairy free as well)

 

Grab your copy of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring today!

 

While you’re on Amazon, be sure to check out the Gluten-Free Amazon Deals.

 

Do you eat gluten-free?  What ways have you found to cut the cost of gluten-free food?

 

————————————————————————————————————————————-
 
 

Enjoying this series?  Subscribe for my free daily updates so you don’t miss anything!

Be sure to check out my previous posts on eating out, family fun, haircutsgift-giving, babysitting, groceries, cosmeticselectricity, natural gas, water, auto repairpurchasing a vehicle, decorating, medical bills, cable/movies, travel, dinners for $5 or less, and insurance.

30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Insurance


#25: List all of your current insurance companies (auto, home/renters, medical, life, etc.) and your cost per month for each.

Here’s a sample:

Auto: Geico

Impala: $___ / month

Civic: $____/ month

Home: Farmer’s

$____/ month

Renter’s: Geico (Traveler’s)

$____/ month

Health Insurance (Blue Cross)

$____/ month

Life Insurance

Husband: $____/ month

Wife: $____/ month

Now, go to a site like http://www.insurance.com/ and run a comparison in every category.  Take all things into consideration: rates and reviews of each company, deductible amount, service options, policy restrictions, rates for monthly vs. quarterly payments, combined category discounts (auto and home insurance through the same company, for example), etc.  You may find that you could save hundreds each month by switching companies!

Health insurance is a huge topic, and I am just barely touching on it here.  If your employer offers health insurance, this is likely your best bet, as the group buying power provides much lower rates than individual insurance.  If you don’t have the option of company health insurance, you will want to camp out here for a long while before making your decision. HMO/PPO/ Health Savings Plans…there are many options and considerations, just a few of which are as follows:

-Are you and your family relatively healthy?

-Do you want lower monthly rates and a higher deductible?

-Do you need maternity coverage?

When my husband was in grad school and we had to purchase insurance for my son and I, I literally spent DAYS on this with multiple spreadsheets, tons of phone calls, and endless number-crunching before I made a decision. We ended up using two different insurance companies for the two of us, but we got the best possible deal available for the best coverage possible!

I realize that research of this natures takes a lot of time.  If your experience is anything like ours,though, you will find that the savings you score will prove it to be a wise use of your time. Dive in and tackle this huge monthly expense category this week!

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Enjoying this series?  Subscribe for my free daily updates so you don’t miss anything!

Be sure to check out my previous posts on eating out, family fun, haircutsgift-giving, babysitting, groceries, cosmeticselectricity, natural gas, water, auto repair, and purchasing a vehicle, decorating, medical bills, cable/movies, travel, and Dinners for $5 or less.

30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Dinners for $5 or Less

#24: Set a $5 budget for meals most nights of the week.

One of your monthly expenses is groceries, as we have discussed.  One way we have cut back in this category is by attempting to keep our dinners to $5 or less less most nights of the week.  There are TONS of great recipes that allow you to stay within this budget, and I am going to give you one today.  Keep a look out for more “Dinners for $5 or Less,” because I am going to be making them a regular part of my posting!

Chicken Tetrazzini

Boil and cut up 1 lb chicken breast

Boil one box of veggie rotini

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, rotini, and the following:

1 8 oz. tub sour cream

2 cans cream of chicken or mushroom soup

1 can mushrooms

1 t. pepper

1 t. parsley

1/2 t. garlic salt

1/2 t. onion powder

Spread  the mixture in a 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve!

This meal stays within the $5 budget and is a quick and easy crowd pleaser!

What is one of your favorite dinners that stays within a $5 budget?

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Enjoying this series?  Subscribe for my free daily updates so you don’t miss anything!

Be sure to check out my previous posts on eating out, family fun, haircutsgift-giving, babysitting, groceries, cosmeticselectricity, natural gas, water, auto repair, and purchasing a vehicle, decorating, medical bills, cable/movies, and travel.

30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Travel

Travel is inevitably part of the cost of living.  Today we will discuss some ideas for keeping travel costs under control.

#22: Compare the cost of traveling: driving vs. flying, and use travel tickers, calculators, and spreadsheets to decide your most cost-effective method of transportation for long trips.

Our family’s travel usually always consists of visits to grandparents who live far away.  Before we had children, we would calculate the cost of flying vs. driving, and flying usually won out if we were able to catch tickets on sale.  Now that we have a three-year old, the cost of driving seems to win every time.  Here are some tips for keeping your travel expenses to a minimum:

  • Avoid “peak” travel times to save on both airfare and gasoline.
  • Check the airfare for your desired travel dates on Expedia (Expedia does not charge a fee for their service.)
  • Then, go directly to the website of the airline with the lowest quoted rate and do a +/- 3 day search to see if there are any lower rates available.  This sometimes turns up some great deals!
  • Check the cost of driving by using AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator (This handy calculator takes your car’s make and model into consideration!)
  • Find the least-expensive gas along the journey using Gas Buddy’s trip calculator and gas price-finder. Another super-handy tool!

Once you have an idea of the base cost for flying vs. driving, take the following additional costs into consideration.

For flying:

  • Did you add the cost of tax and fees to your ticket price?
  • Will you have to pay for parking? (If so, park off-site for the lowest rate.)

For driving:

  • Add the cost of food on the road.
  • Will you make your trip in one day, or will you have to stop at a hotel along the way?
  • Add a bit for the expense of wear and tear on your vehicle.

You may find that the difference in price is drastic, and you have an easy decision, but if the difference is not so great, you may need to use a simple spreadsheet to weigh the options. Take other things into consideration, too.  For example, do you need to get there right away, or do you have the extra time that driving takes?  Do you have a pet that you need to bring with you?  Is your vehicle up for the trip?

If your vehicle can’t handle a long trip, but driving would be substantially less, consider renting a vehicle for the trip.

How about you?  What ways have you found to cut the cost of travel?  Leave a comment below!

(Note: A few links in this post are my referral links. Read my disclosure policy here.)

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Enjoying this series?  Subscribe for my free daily updates so you don’t miss anything!

Be sure to check out my previous posts on eating out, family fun, haircutsgift-giving, babysitting, groceries, cosmeticselectricity, natural gas, water, auto repair, and purchasing a vehicle, decorating, medical bills, and cable/movies.

 

30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Cable and Movies


#19 Cut out cable.

In preparation for this post, I crunched a few numbers and found out that our family saves at least $445/ year by not having cable! I know many of your are cringing at the thought, but if you really need to cut your expenses to get some financial traction, this is an extra that can go for a while!

There are plenty of free online resources for viewing shows.  Here are just a few of the options:

http://www.freetvonline.com

http://www.hulu.com

http://xfinitytv.comcast.net

http://wwitv.com

If you’re not willing to cut this expense, you should at least give your cable company a call and tell them that you are thinking about dropping the service because of the high cost.  See if there are any new promotions or plans available, or just ask for a discount!  It’s worth a try!

 

http://www.redbox.com/image/logos/redboxdefault

#20 Wait until movies come out on DVD to view them (and don’t pay full price at a store like Blockbuster–use Redbox or Blockbuster Express!)

My husband and I have decided that we can wait to see new movies until they come out, and by doing so, we save at least $300/ year (if we were to go to the movies once per month).   If you count the cost of a child’s ticket to the movies, we save at least $400/ year in this category.  Now, this doesn’t mean that we can never, ever go see a movie, but it means that I wait until there is a Groupon deal or something that cuts the price in half, at least.

We used to get a Friday night movie at Blockbuster (to the tune of several dollars a pop), but now we use Redbox and I usually have a free coupon code. For a while, Redbox was sending free movie codes to my cell phone on Mondays, so we were having our date night on Mondays!  Totally free family entertainment!

Many people have found Netflix to be a good alternative, but we don’t watch enough movies to even make this worthwhile.  Thanks to free Redbox codes, it’s rare that we even spend $2/ month on movies!

What ways have you found to cut the expense of entertainment?  Leave a comment below!

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Enjoying this series?  Subscribe for my free daily updates so you don’t miss anything!

Be sure to check out my previous posts on eating out, family fun, haircutsgift-giving, babysitting, groceries, cosmeticselectricity, natural gas, water, auto repair, and purchasing a vehicle.

30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Medical Bills



I recently read that it has been estimated that up to 80% of medical bills contain errors–sometimes dramatic errors! Based on my experience, I believe this statistic.  For example, I received a medical bill last month for a trip to an urgent care facility.  Upon close investigation,  I discovered that they had given me a “no insurance” discount. What? I have insurance! A quick call to the billing department proved that they had not even billed my insurance company. They said to disregard the bill and do nothing.

Do you think they would have ever discovered this error on their own? I don’t think so. A 10 minute phone call saved me $81!  Not a bad return for my time. Be your own advocate for your medical bills, and you might find that you save a LOT in this category.

We have also had great success in appealing medical bills. Additionally, if you receive a large bill and are unable to pay it all at once, the billing department will usually always set up an interest-free payment plan for you to pay the bill over time.

What ways have you found to reduce your medical bills?  Leave a comment below!

 

Enjoying this series?  Subscribe for my free daily updates so you don’t miss anything!

30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Decorating, Part 2

#18: Use the occasion of spring cleaning to redecorate for super cheap or even free.

I am grateful for today’s guest post by my mom!  See part one HERE.

I love to use the excuse of spring cleaning to redecorate one or two rooms. I usually do this by using what I already have! One of my favorite ways to gain inspiration is to look through magazines (my old ones, the library, or online) and find a color, some arrangement on a side table, or pillows piled a certain way on a bed to get me geared up. It works both ways, because then I’m anxious to get to my spring cleaning! As you clean, be sure to take everything out of the room and off the walls as well. That way you can take a fresh look at your room and have a clean palette to imagine some new groupings.

One principle that brings instant order and a quick change to a room is balance. Gather everything you have in pairs that would work for that particular room. Don’t be afraid to grab from other rooms as you look for lamps, candlesticks holders, pictures (with the same frame finish), pillows, end tables, chairs, etc. Find your focal point (fireplace, window, or sofa) and highlight it with some sort of pair. Match framed prints, end tables (matching or the same height), etc. with a pair of lamps or a pair of dining room chairs on either side. I’ve found that many people have split their pairs of lamps (or tables, or chairs) in two different rooms. Keep matched pairs and sets together to make more of an impact in one room.

Once you’ve done your cleaning, bring back your furniture and don’t be afraid to put it in different places. Check out yesterday’s post on how to arrange furniture for a conversation area. Look around your room for a chance to use the pairs you have gathered, then sit back and enjoy the new landscape.

Collectibles often fall into the same misuse category as those stray lamps—a small part of a collection here, a little more there—spread out all over a room, or the entire house. Grouping your collectibles together will do the most to showcase them. What constitutes a “collection”? Anything of which you have multiples: glass candlestick holders, figurines, tea cups, vases, silver, or old books, to name a few.  If you have a hutch displaying china, crystal or silver; group like items on the same shelf, with the tallest in the back. You will be surprised how your shelves come to life!  For an even more dramatic look, paint the back of your shelves in an accent color or line with wrapping paper in a pop of color. Don’t be afraid to put Grandma’s silver tea service out on a tray to be seen and enjoyed everyday. Spray paint a bunch of frames black and make a large grouping of prints on a large wall. Think outside the box of what you’ve been doing year after year. Spring is the season for new life and change.

They key is to muster some courage, find a color you like or things you love, and surround yourself with them. It doesn’t have to cost much, or anything, to get a fresh new look in one or two of your rooms. There’s no time like the present, so let’s start cleaning and get about refreshing our surroundings…for free!

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Enjoying this series?  Subscribe for my free daily updates so you don’t miss anything!

Be sure to check out my previous posts on eating out, family fun, haircutsgift-giving, babysitting, groceries, cosmeticselectricity, natural gas, water, auto repair, and purchasing a vehicle.

Image Map