Is Not Keeping Up with the Joneses Boring?

We’ve been on a journey to pay off our debt for 3.5 years now.  At first, we were gazelle intense, but then I burned out from working too hard, so we slowed down on the debt repayment.

Last year, we moved to Arizona from Illinois, so our money became much tighter as we faced unexpected moving expenses.  (Aren’t there always unexpected expenses when making such a long move?)

To make matters worse, in the first 3.5 months of 2015, we’ve faced $5,000 in unexpected car repairs and dental bills.

The good news is that even though we haven’t made significant debt repayment progress over the last year, we’ve been able to pay for all of these most recent expenses in cash, without going further into debt.

Boring JonesesBasically, each year for the last 3.5 years, our budget has become tighter and tighter.  We’ve definitely NOT kept up with the Joneses.

Yet, we’ve not found this type of life boring.

We Appreciate Splurges More

If anything, living this way makes us appreciate a “treat” that we used to take for granted.  For instance, I homeschool my kids, and my daughters recently completed preschool and kindergarten.  They were both very excited about moving on to kindergarten and first grade, respectively, so my husband and I decided to take the family out for a treat.

We went to our favorite restaurant.  We went for breakfast, so the bill would be cheaper, and we used a $25 gift card that we had gotten at Christmas and saved.  Because we had not gone out to eat in about five months, the kids were beyond thrilled.  All of us enjoyed the meal greatly.

Because we haven’t gone out to eat in so long, doing so was a special treat.

Before we got on a budget and started paying down debt, we often went out to eat three or four times a week.  Honestly, because we did it so often, going out to eat had become boring.  Now, because we don’t do it very often, we appreciate the meal when we do go out.

Because we have simplified our lives, we are able to enjoy special occasions much more.

We Have Plenty of Fun—For Free

Just because we aren’t keeping up with the Jones and are on a budget doesn’t mean we aren’t having fun.  Just this week, my mom was in town for a visit.  We took her to a national park, which had free admission that day.  We watched artisans make homemade tortillas and weave baskets.  We listened to a local band, and we got an excellent tour of the site.  Before heading home, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the grounds.

Last month we went to the Tucson Festival of Books.  There was so much to do (for free!) that we stayed over five hours.  We could have stayed even longer.

Going on a tight budget and deciding NOT to keep up with the Jones can be difficult at first.  Now, however, we’ve done it for so many years that we find living this way actually improves our quality of life.

 

Giveaways: Budget Stretcher or Waste of Time?

Giveaways are nothing new.  Just read a handful of blogs and you’ll likely find plenty of giveaways.  But are they worth the time and effort?  Can you ever win something good?

I’ll be honest, my husband and I are digging out of a hole of debt.  The good news is that we’ve paid off over half of our debt.  Yeah!

However, we’ve reached a point where we firmly refuse to acquire any new debt.  Meanwhile, our car is 10 years old and has 150,000 miles on it, our 10 year old needs braces, and we’ve just had nearly $2,000 in medical and dental work. . .

Our money is stretched to the max.

GiveawaysSo, I decided to try my hand at giveaways.

Right now, we just don’t have a lot of extra money to pay for presents and fun items for the kids, so I thought giveaways could be a good way to get some of the luxuries we can’t afford.

So far, in three months (December through February), I’ve won 5 prizes:

  • A $50 Visa gift card
  • A board game for my 10 year old ($29.95 RV)
  • A $10 bookstore gift card
  • A movie
  • A book

During these past three months, I entered 47 giveaways, meaning I won 10% of the giveaways I entered.  Not bad.

How Much Time Do I Spend Entering Giveaways

I know there are some people that spend A LOT of time entering giveaways, but I don’t have time for that.  Instead, I enter giveaways once or twice a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time.  I often enter the giveaways when my kids are watching television in the afternoon (they get an hour a day of tv time), or in the evening when I’m too tired to do anymore work.  (Unlike just vegging and watching Netflix, entering giveaways has the prospect of giving me something back.)

I don’t enter giveaways just to enter giveaways.  Instead, I focus on ones that offer cash or gift cards (though these are the most competitive and difficult to win), ones that have products my kids would like or that would make nice gifts, and ones that offer homeschool curriculum.

If you want to start entering giveaways, deciding what you would like to focus on winning is a good way to limit the amount of time you spend entering giveaways.

Where I Find Giveaways to Enter

To maximize my time entering giveaways, I try to enter ones that have low entries.

I have found some Facebook groups to join where people advertise their giveaways.

Another site I love is Tightwad in Utah.  She lists low entry giveaways that are ending in the next week.

If you’d like to enter giveaways and don’t really care if they’re low entry or not, you can use this link or this link to find linkies for giveaways from a wide array of bloggers.

Finally, if there is a blogger who routinely offers the types of giveaways you’d like to win, make sure to come back and visit the site regularly.  Chances are that entry requirements for the giveaway are to like the site’s Facebook or Twitter pages.  Just do this once, and for every subsequent giveaway on that blog, you’ve already met those requirements.

I don’t expect to get rich from entering giveaways or even to be able to supply all of my kids’ presents.  However, it is nice to get free stuff in the mail, especially if some of it can be used to offset the expense of Christmas and birthday presents.

Do you enter giveaways?  Why or why not?  If you do, how much success have you had?  How much time do you spend entering giveaways?

5 Ways to Save When Online Shopping

Online shopping is a multibillion dollar industry and it continues to grow for a couple of reasons. Aside from the obvious fact that it’s extremely convenient to shop at home in your PJ’s and avoid all the crowds, another major benefit to shopping on the web is that it can save you money.

Not only does the act of simply being present in a physical store result in more impulse purchases, but the Internet and new technologies today give us access to a multitude of tools that can help in significantly reducing the overall cost of our shopping carts. Here are five great strategies for saving money and shopping online:

Sign up for emails.

When you’re included on a store’s email list, they will often send you special promotions on a weekly and sometimes daily basis as well as alert you when they are having a sale. Try to limit your online shopping to when a store is having a sale. if you’re tempted or overwhelmed by all the emails you get, throw them in a separate email account and open that account only when your budget allows for it.

Utilize social media.

“Like” your favorite stores on Facebook because a lot of them post coupons to their Facebook pages and sometimes they even announce sales early. Also, follow brands on Twitter or Instagram, or use hashtags (#discounts #coupons #shopping etc.) to search for deals.

Use coupons and promo codes.

Possibly the biggest way people save when online shopping is by using coupons. If the website you’re on has the option to enter a coupon or a promo code, then chances are they are out there somewhere! Check out resources like Groupon Coupons to search through thousands of coupons at major retailers, like Sears or Fox Rent-a-Car. You can even sort by category if you have a certain item in mind but want to browse through different brands. Another easy way to search for coupons is just by simply performing a Google search.

Let the items sit in the checkout cart.

Surprisingly, many people are unaware of this trick. Simply by keeping items in your checkout cart, stores will often reduce the price of these items or send you a coupon after a couple of days to entice you to complete the checkout process. This requires some patience but it can definitely pay off!

Try to get free shipping.

A lot of stores offer free shipping when you spend a certain amount of money. If you’re close to reaching that amount, think of buying an extra item or two that you might need in the coming months so that you’re not wasting money on shipping fees.