4 Creative Ways to Earn or Save Money

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Back in June of last year, I wrote a guest post on Money Saving Mom about how to survive a season of unemployment. I shared our own personal experience and how we had to find creative ways to get through one of our leanest financial times.

I wrote, hoping that I could encourage someone, who was going through such a difficult trial. But what I didn’t expect was being more encouraged by readers, who commented and shared how they were able to make ends meet during their most challenging financial seasons.

It’s exciting to hear about how people have found ways to live on less, and more than that, they come out of such trials, being more thankful and better stewards of what they have.

If you’re racking your brain trying to figure out how else you can save or earn money to help pay the bills and get food on the table, perhaps the following posts from other bloggers will give you the needed inspiration.

Milk for Sale

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With my first child, I pumped and stored so much breastmilk in the freezer, one would think I was expecting a natural disaster. Had I known I could’ve sold all that milk and start a savings account for my kid, I wouldn’t have tossed it all out. Though the idea of selling breastmilk may spark some controversy, The Penny Hoarder posted an interesting article about it here.

Reduce Clutter, Increase Cash

Artsy yard sale sign

If you’re looking to have a more minimalist lifestyle and make a few extra bucks in the process, having a yard sale is a great idea. K&M: The Stay-at-Home Life shares some helpful tips on having a successful yard sale.

Save on the Never-ending Chore of Laundry

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Whether you’re a load-of-laundry-each-day kind of a person or someone who tackles the whole mountain of clothes in one day, we can all agree that laundry can be a daunting chore as well as a pricey one. Kate from Stay at Home Mom with Money Saving Tips shares different ways you can save money on this necessary household task.

Release the Writing Genius in You

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If you want to bring in some income on a more regular basis, and you love to write, check out how Brittany from Equipping Godly Women is able to make real money by accepting writing orders from various website owners.

Your turn! Do you have any creative ideas for saving or earning some extra cash?

 

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Putting the MIU COLOR® Reusable Bag to the Test {Product Review}

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Years ago, during a major shopping trip to Walmart, the cashier asked me if I brought my own reusable bags. I had never brought my own bags to the store, just something I didn’t think about. So, after I told the cashier “no”, she said I could buy some for 20 cents each. Sounded cheap enough. The bags were basically the same size as the regular plastic bags but in the canvas-like material.

Though I bought about 5 of them, I had never used them again. And right now, I honestly cannot find even a single one, so I assume they have all ended up in the “reusable bag black hole” where all the others are.

Reusable bags are a great idea, but not all bags are the same.

I had an opportunity to review a bag by MIU COLOR® that is sturdy, water-resistant, and large enough to hold many items [affiliate link].

[affiliate link]

We put their bag to the test during a grocery run. If you want to know how I do store trips with 4 kids in tow, read on.

I don’t buy a lot and stick to my list.

It’s hard enough when my kids get distracted and start wandering down a different aisle, but when I get distracted by this sale or that, we’re on our way to a store meltdown.

I don’t use a shopping cart.

If I know I’m not buying a lot of bulky items, I avoid the shopping cart altogether. I load the two youngest on the sit-n-stand stroller and clip my reusable shopping bag on. The older kids help me with getting items. This is where a large reusable bag would come in handy, and the MIU COLOR® bag passed the test!

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Our bags do take a beating during trips to the store, but the nice thing about the MIU COLOR® bag is that it is machine washable. In fact, though most people don’t wash their bags, studies show that it is a good idea to clean them regularly to avoid the risk of harmful bacteria from raw foods.

Besides grocery runs, we can use the bag to carry our stuff for library trips, swimming classes, and park days.

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The MIU COLOR® Reusable Bag comes in green, dark blue, and light blue and is available on Amazon [affiliate link]. Though the price is reasonable, I probably would hesitate to pay that much for a reusable bag, but then again, I’m the woman who bought 20-cent reusable bags that were never used again!

The bag has actually received great marks from Amazon customers. So, for a sturdy bag like this that will likely be reused multiple times, it may be worth the price for you!

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Click here for more information on my disclosure.

 

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When Things Are Looking Down, Look Up

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I had one of those days … “Eeyore” days, as I like to call them, where I’m dragging my feet, looking at everything through my lens of pessimism. It was actually a fairly typical day. Typical schedule. Typical routine. Typical conflicts with the kids. Really, nothing major.

But because I had set myself up to sit under a cloud, those minor conflicts and road bumps throughout the day seemed like massive mountains blocking my path.

Are you having one of those days? Perhaps you need that same encouragement I needed … when things are looking down, look up.

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Look up and see the blessings

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3)

When I looked up, I saw that I have been blessed beyond measure with my little ones. Toys and books scattered on the living room floor, and there they were, all four of them, happily playing. I sat there, quietly eavesdropping on their amusing conversations.

At the end of the day, I recalled even more little blessings …
… when my 3-year-old woke up way too early and snuggled with me on the bed.
… when my daughter showed me her designs to open up her own salon.
… when my oldest willingly played with his youngest brother when he asked him.
… when my other son skipped out on his favorite show to help me clean up.

Even on what I thought was a gloomy day, there were rays of sunlight breaking through.

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Look up and see others

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

There are needs inside and outside my home, far more worthy of my attention and focus than my petty complaints. When I looked up, I saw the friend, who asked for prayer for peace in a family conflict. Then, there’s the text I received from another, who had to start working full-time again after being a stay-at-home mom for the past 4 years. And, my heart is personally drawn to a young mom in my church, who has a child with special needs.

Trials, hardships, and pain abound. People need people.

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Look up and see God

“Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

To fix my eyes on God means I begin to see through His eyes. The mountains blocking my way are but a mirage. The obstacles I face are small pebbles in the Lord’s hands. When I looked up, He lifted me up, giving me a new vantage point, where I realized that, all along, my times have been and always will be in His caring hands.

So, if you are still gazing down, look up! See that the cloud looming over you is no bigger than your fist. It only takes one step to depart from its shadow and bask in the warm sunshine.

What wonderful things do you see when you look up?

 
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10 Ways to Ignite Your Marriage (After Having Kids)

wedding ceremony me put ring on russ closeup

A woman’s passion for her husband can diminish after children enter into the picture. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Plan a date night

Pick up the phone and make those restaurant reservations yourself instead of trying to send those mind signals that you want some alone time with him.

Make a special dinner

If going out is just too far-reaching, then make dinner extra special. Feed the kids ahead of time and let them have a movie night while you and your beloved enjoy a candlelit dinner “alone”.

Pasta, bread, wine

Wear something he likes

I possess articles of clothing that I know my husband would rather see burn in a fire. Since I’m usually home all day, I figure who cares what I’m wearing? But at the very least, I can change into clothes that I know he likes before he gets home from work.

Fix yourself up

I don’t normally wear a lot of makeup, but I can, at least, shower and brush my hair for my husband. In other words, try not to look like that haggard mom, who has been chasing around her kids all day (even though that’s probably true).

Find babysitters

Wouldn’t it be great if you can get someone to watch your kids even before your hubby comes home from work? Imagine how quiet the house would be when he walked in! He’ll think he stepped right into the Twilight Zone!

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Shorten his to do list

Does your husband have a “Honey, Do” list? Why not take one or two things off his list? My husband typically takes out the garbage, but there’s no rule that I can’t do it either.

Shorten your to do list

If your endless to-do list is getting in the way of spending quality time with your spouse, perhaps it’s time to reassess. Save some of your tasks for another day.

Send him a love note

There are many ways to send messages nowadays that we really have no excuse. Tell him why you love him or how you appreciate something he did or just get flirty.

love note / nota de amor

Recall your love story

A good love story isn’t just found in books and movies. Your own love story is probably way better than the latest chick flick. Spend some time reflecting on this (look through pictures or old love letters if it helps), and you may start swooning again when he walks into the room.

Initiate the intimacy

At the end of a day of cooking, cleaning, running errands, and the kids, the only thing on your mind is probably getting some needed sleep (and hoping your hubby will be just as tired). But you know what will really make him happy, right?? ;-) 

Do you have anything to add? What do you do to keep the flames of passion burning in your marriage?

 

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Fixing Up Our Fixer-Upper

Special thanks to Urban Compass* for inviting me to participate in their project called “Starter Stories”, a collection of stories from different bloggers about their first place. Here’s my “Starter Story” …

 
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I bought my first home before getting married … the home that we’re living in now.

That wasn’t exactly Plan A. I had opened an account to start saving up for my dream wedding, but, alas, the only wedding bells I heard belonged to my friends. This longer-than-expected waiting period allowed my savings account to increase quickly, but so did my collection of bridesmaid dresses.

With no suitors clamoring for my attention, I decided to put that money in a house instead. It was a competitive market, but I finally found one within my budget. It was liveable but old. If I was on a quest to be even less dateable, buying this fixer-upper put me up there on the list. What guy would want to be with this girl, who now owned this house in need of some repairs? Well, my guy did. Love is blind, they say.

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Fast forward 12 years later … we’re still here, but with 4 additional little occupants. A lot has been done to this old house, but we certainly didn’t tackle them all at once. Taking a slow pace with home renovations has allowed our wallets to breathe a little easier and provided us the time to just enjoy our growing family without the stress of paying off mounting debt.

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So, let me take you on a time tour of the last 12 years and the things that God has allowed us to fix up in this place we like to call home.

The house, when I bought it, was pink. Now, I can stand a little pink here and there, but a whole house?? It’s just not us. On the plus side, people visiting us for the first time never had trouble finding our place.

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I never took a picture of our pink house, so you’ll have to take my word for it. This is the “After” picture (we were actually trying to sell our house before, but decided to stay).

Step inside though, and you’ll discover what the previous owners’ favorite color must’ve been. The kitchen has always been the center of activity in our home. When we would have people over, most of them would end up gathering within the U-shaped counter. So besides trading in the pink tiles, we trimmed the counter to create a more open feel. And to save some money, we kept the cabinets and just painted them.

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After the kitchen, the living room gets the most traffic. To update, we pulled out the peach carpet (so, not pink, but perhaps it just faded to peach over time) and replaced it with wood floors. I was so glad when we did this because with 4 little ones, you can imagine how many spilled drinks, pee pee, and vomit have seeped down into that carpet.

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Our most current project, which is still pending, is the deck. The wood was rotted, and when my husband took it apart, it wasn’t even secured to the bottom posts. The new floors have been laid out and when the weather gets better, hopefully, he can finish off the steps and rails.

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What about you? Do you have a “Starter Story” to share? Do you like fixing up the old to make it new and more you?

 
 

*Urban Compass is a real estate platform that connects folks searching for NYC apartments with the neighborhood that matches their personality and taste.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.

 

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5 Simple Ways to Show Someone You Care

Alone

You may have hundreds of friends on Facebook but still feel very alone. Or perhaps it’s your birthday, and the only card you received in the mail was from your dentist (and we all know this is really a cleaning reminder in disguise). You can even have a couple of BFF’s but feel like you can’t really confide in anyone about what you’re going through.

And even if this doesn’t describe you, there is probably someone you know who is exactly in this place in life. I suppose the easier thing to do is to turn the other way and pretend you don’t notice or tell yourself there’s enough on your shoulders without having to bear another’s burdens.

But reaching out is not as hard as we think it is. And in the end, we may find that we have been blessed more as the giver than we’ve ever been as the receiver. What can you do to show someone you care?

Remember their birthday

Like I said, a cheesy birthday postcard from my dentist doesn’t exactly produce sentimental feelings. But receiving an unexpected birthday greeting from a friend certainly makes my day. I don’t make a big hoopla about my birthday, but when someone remembers, well, it’s just plain sweet.

Mail something

You don’t have to wait for someone’s birthday to mail something. Send an encouraging note to someone just because. Though there are so many faster ways to receive a message, there is still nothing more personal than holding a handwritten letter in your hand.

letter

Call them

Another lost art, besides mailing letters, is calling someone. Why call when you can find out what someone is up to on Facebook? Why have that live conversation when you can just text? I personally find it easier to text someone for non-urgent things because a phone call would require me to hide out in the bathroom from my kids. However, there are some matters where a personal phone call would be more fitting.

Follow up

If someone shares something with you, remember it and ask them about it the next time you see them. Believe me, this can take effort, especially if you’re sometimes a scatter-brained mom, like me. But this is when a conversation switches from small talk to a meaningful exchange.

Talk

Invite them

Have them over. This, too, can also take effort if you have a house that looks like it was shaken around in an earthquake but, in reality, is just occupied by a bunch of rambunctious kids. But an invitation into your home, even a less-than-perfect home, can help break down the walls that someone may have put up.

Do you have more to add? What are other ways to be a friend to someone?

 

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Ways to Encourage Communication at the Dinner Table

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When our kids were still young, we rarely ate together at the dinner table. We had a dining room, but it was used more for various projects than for meals themselves. Often, my husband and I would eat at the kitchen counter. The kids would eat in their high chairs, which were parked somewhere in the kitchen or in the family room.

When we finally realized that this set-up was doing nothing to encourage communication within our little family, we moved our meal times to the table. Here are some ways that we have found helpful and fun to facilitate conversation during meals that sometimes have kept everyone sitting down long after the finishing the last bite.

Reading Aloud

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Even though my older kids can read on their own, these times of reading aloud to my children still hold a special place in my heart. When I read to them during meal times, I have a captive audience. But in this activity, I’m not the only one talking. The kids are eager to ask questions, make their own observations, and offer commentaries about the story. For more on this, here’s a post I wrote a while back about “How to Have a Successful Reading Time with Your Kids”

Bible Memorization

Last year, we had committed to memorize Bible verses together as a family. I tell you, I’ve been amazed at the children’s ability to memorize so much Scripture that it puts many of us adults to shame. Memorization can become a mindless, repetitive activity, but making it a point to discuss what the verses mean and how it would apply to our lives has certainly encouraged more talking in our family.

Guessing Games

It can be a simple game of “I Spy” or “Twenty Questions.” My husband is really good with this, starting it off with some random, “What’s long and orange and good for you to eat?” Pretty soon, not only are they clamoring for a turn at guessing the answers, but also to be the one asking the questions. Honestly, my husband and I are often cracking up at the creative things that they come up with.

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Ask About Each Other

In this world of technology and social media, it is not an unusual scene to walk into a room full of people, where each is engrossed in the “conversation” on their device instead of engaging in meaningful interaction with the person next to them.

Being at the table together is just one of the times we can encourage real conversation with our children by simply asking them how they are doing, what their interests are, what they did today, who their friends are, etc. Those brief talks at the dinner table are sometimes just a springboard for deeper, meaningful discussions later on, especially as they get older.

What are some ways you have encouraged communication in your family?

 

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And The Winner is …

Congratulations to Bree B. on winning the Savi Mom Nursing Nightgown Giveaway! Bree, you should have received an email with details on how to claim your prize.

Nursing Nightgown Giveaway

Thank you all for participating!

 

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Grandma’s Hands

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“Your hands remind me of my Grandma.”

This is what my husband said to me when we first started dating. Not exactly the line you would advise a young man to say to his new girlfriend.

But after I met his grandma, I realized it was one of the best compliments I have ever received.

Grandma’s hands were weathered. They have …

… washed many dishes
… cooked several meals
… served countless people
… touched numerous souls
… held many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren

And, even with all the work that her hands did, they never felt more at home than when they were held by her beloved.

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Often, we would see Grandma sitting next to Grandpa on the couch, her hands tightly grasping his, while she gave him sweet kisses.

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“When you’ve been married as long as we have, you run out of things to get mad at each other about. All you have left to do is laugh with each other.”

Grandma’s hands were special. She used them to the glory of God. I only hope that these hands of mine could do even half the things she did.

Our dear Grandma went home to be with her Lord last week. She was 92.

We will miss her.

 

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5 Ways to Help You Get to Bed Early

image In college, I would pull all-nighters, head to class in the morning with caffeine running through my veins, take the dreaded final, then head back to my apartment and crawl into bed. Those days are long gone (though the caffeine thing probably still applies). But, today, I seriously cannot function, taking care of my home and kids if I don’t get a good night’s sleep.

Last week, I shared my renewed resolve to make the most of my mornings by getting up early before my children wake up. I also mentioned that if I really want to get a head start on my day, I must go to bed at a good hour.

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If you’re on a quest to get more sleep, here are some ways that can help you stick to your bedtime.

Get the kids ready for bed early

How long does it take your kids to get ready for bed? However long it takes, dial your clock back by that much. For our kids, they need to start at 7:30 in order to be in bed by 8. Sometimes, what helps is having them get ready even earlier, like right after dinner, if our plan is just to stay home in the evening. image

Set your own bedtime

My husband shared a tip from an article he read to set a bedtime alarm. I thought this was a great idea! You can set an alarm to go off 15 minutes before your bedtime to alert you to wrap up whatever task you’re doing.

Plan your date night

It is possible to have time with your spouse, even with an earlier bedtime. When you reserve an hour or so to hang out with your honey after putting the kids down, you can be more intentional in how you spend that time. Need some fun at-home date night ideas? Check out this post on “How to Have a Date Night When You Don’t Have a Babysitter”

Make your night time to-do list short

If you want be in bed by lights-out, don’t start any major, deep-cleaning chores. Your to-do list should be things that will make your mornings go more smoothly. I shared mine in the previous post, and it includes getting homeschooling and coffee ready for the next day. image

Let it go

I’m sorry to have to use an overused line, but sometimes, you just have to “let it go.” I like waking up to a clean sink, but there have been times when I’ve had to go to bed, leaving the sink full of dirty dishes. And you know what? It was still there the next day, and eventually, I got around to tackling it. My point is those unfinished chores will, sooner or later, get done. Maybe you wanted to check them off before the end of the day, but perhaps, it will be a good lesson for the kids the next day on how to fold laundry.

Do you go to bed early? What are some of your tips?

 

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