Make A Better Wish List, Before Black Friday

It can be hard to convert loved ones to our new frugal ways.  They are unable to truly adopt new priorities, without being ready to change their entire attitude regarding money.  While we won’t be shopping, there is no talking down the rest of them.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday, those “holidays” which exist for the sole purpose of spending money, are upon us.  Do everyone a favor and give some direction on what would really make good gifts for you and your family.

lonely present

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The One Healthy Food Switch That Saves Us At Least $200 A Year

I am in love with our bread maker.  There I said it.  It is just so easy, the bread is delicious, and it saves us money.  What is there not to love?  I remember that my parents had a bread machine when I was growing up .  They never really got the hang of it.  Of course, I don’t think that they tried very hard to figure it out.  Even when you get the recipe down, it still requires some effort in adding ingredients and cutting it into even slices.  My parents, just like so many people today, opted for the convenience of grabbing some pre-sliced loaves from the grocery store.  Purchasing our bread machine is one the best decisions we’ve made in converting to a more frugal lifestyle.

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Mogl: A Discreetly Frugal App

My priorities have changed and I don’t care as much about what people think of me anymore.  While very liberating, it is also frustrating to explain to others again and again that we are choosing not to spend money on frivolous extras.  In addition, I can’t even tell most people about the ultimate goal of financial semi-independence for fear that it could get back to my employer.  I don’t have a problem educating others about our new perspective on finances, but at the same time, I also don’t feel the need to advertise it to gain attention.

mogl

I recently found out about an app called “Mogl” that sounds perfect for those special occasions when you decide to eat out.  I flat out refuse to pay full price for restaurant fare.  So, we always bring along a coupon or something printed off of an online deal website.  Mogl allows you to get the same discounts without having to draw attention to yourself as someone with frugal tendencies.  All you need to do is download the app and sign up with a credit or debit card.  When you use your card to pay at selected restaurants, you receive cash back on your card every month.  Mogl boasts that they have saved users a total of $5 Million since 2011.

Another nice thing about this company is that they give back to others.  There is an option to share some of your cash back to help feed the hungry.  In addition, with a brother-in-law in the military, I love that they are partners with Operation Homefront.  Mogl donates $5 for every new member that signs up via http://military.mogl.com/ or with the referral code “military” via the mobile app.

This app is perfect for fulfilling my professional obligations.  Besides special occasions, the other time you might catch me in a restaurant would be for some business function.  My colleagues don’t share the same financial perspective as me, instead succumbing to the pressure to focus on impressive appearances.  From time to time, however, I have no choice but to eat out with clients or colleagues.  While I’m adverse to the idea of spending full price, it would not look good for me to take out a coupon at the end of the meal.  Thankfully, Mogl allows you to save money while being discreet.

For now, Mogl has deals in San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County, San Francisco, and Phoenix.  They will start up in any city with requests from 100 members and 5 restaurants.  The Mogl app definitely has the potential to easily save you some cash.  I would venture to guess that they will start spreading to more and more cities.  And, it doesn’t hurt that they have a cute canine mascot named Mo.  Why pay full price when Mogl can save you money without needing any coupons?

This post is sponsored, but the opinions are my own. 

My One Pair Of Sandals For Summer

“Harmony’s Toolbox” features products or services that I personally use and recommend.

Let’s be honest: our closets are filled with far too much clothing and more pairs of shoes than we will ever need.  It is this overabundance that will allow me to achieve my goal of not purchasing any clothing in 2015 and pay off our debt instead.  As the weather grows warmer, I’ve started to pull out my summer clothing.  Thanks to the purchase of these sandals last year (with Amazon credit earned from Swagbucks), I feel confident about my ability to survive the summer relying primarily on this one pair of footwear.

crocs

I was never a fan of the traditional Crocs, but these Capri Flip-Flops are the perfect sandal.  They are incredibly comfortable and a basic style.  I purchased the black ones and can wear them with pretty much everything.  There is a little bit of an arch and a really supportive heel.  Unlike other sandals, these do not absorb moisture, so there’s no worry about them becoming smelly.  And there are even little bumps on the sole of the sandal that massage your feet. Get your own here:

There is a difference between purchasing quality items and overspending on brand names.  I went with a product that was more expensive than a pair of basic flip flops, but can be worn all of the time and will last for years to come.  They still look practically brand new after wearing them all last summer.  I absolutely love these sandals . . . and the fact that they are helping me save money!

Harmony’s Toolbox: Goodreads Is A Free Reading Organizer, And More!

“Harmony’s Toolbox” features products or services that I personally use and recommend.

I’m always looking forward to those infrequent opportunities to relax and lose myself in a good book.  As a working mom, it’s hard to predict when I will have enough time to start, and finish, reading something new.  Goodreads is a free website and app that maintains your to-read list. The best way to describe this tool is as a digital bookshelf, with an optional social-network.

GoodreadsEvery time I hear about a new book I head to Goodreads to read the description and check the reviews. These reviews always seem more authentic, as compared to Amazon or other sources. In addition to writing reviews, the users also rank the books on a scale of one to five stars. If it looks like something you want to read, simply click the button to add it to your to-read list (I have over 200 books on my to-read list right now). Each account has a number of default bookshelves, including for the books you’ve “read” and those you intend “to-read.” You can add other categories too. One of my personal shelves is for books that I “did not finish,” to track that I already gave them a chance. Another one is for books that I own, in case any friends want to borrow something (you can add a book to multiple shelves).

 

I use this site in conjunction with my local library for free entertainment. While many a good book have surely been found while browsing the stacks, I save a lot of time by just referencing my to-read list. I can compare my list to what is available and easily find one, or more, new tales to bring home with me. My library does have an electronic-request system where they will pull a book for you and have it waiting up front (and I suspect most others do too). But, the cost is twenty five cents each time you use it – that can add up quickly. For someone like me, who is clicking for pennies on the internet to pay off debt, those fees are a small, but easily-avoidable expense.

Goodreads is very handy for discussing books as well. If someone asks for your opinion on a book, you can easily look back at how you rated it or read your personal review. I’ve often scanned through my “read” list when asked for a recommendation.

If you want, Goodreads will run a search of your email list or Facebook account for friends who are also signed up with the site. If you choose to connect with them, you will be able to see what they are reading, their reviews, and ratings of the books. If they find out about a new book and add it to their to-read list, you will see it in your news feed. I’ve read books with friends after seeing that both of us recently added the same one to our bookshelf. There is a fun little tool that compares your books and ratings with those of a friend and provides interesting data about your reading compatibility. Goodreads also has discussion groups and a variety of virtual book clubs.

Bonus: There are free giveaways! You can look through the contest listings and enter ones that appeal to your taste. It is very easy to enter and I’ve won three free books by entering a just a handful of giveaways. You don’t even have to pay any shipping. Most of these books are advanced reader copies (soon to be released) and the authors are hoping for some good reviews in exchange for free copies of their book.

How many times have you seen a book, thought that you would like to read it, but then completely forget about it? Thanks to Goodreads, that does not happen to me anymore. I highly recommend this fun and handy tool that helps keep my life a little more organized.

Harmony’s Toolbox: FREE Printable Lessons

“Harmony’s Toolbox” features products that I personally use and recommend.

As a working mom, it’s hard not to wonder about the experiences of those who stay home with their children.  In the limited time that I have with my kids, it feels like there is always too much to do.  The “mommy guilty” especially creeps in when I question whether they are learning enough at home.  My mind starts to conjure up aspirational images of sitting down together and learning colors, numbers, writing, math skills . . . But then I return to the real world, where a healthy dinner finished, children bathed, and books read together before bed feels like a momentous accomplishment.

One small change that has somewhat allayed my concerns is using 3 Dinosaurs printable lessons.  There are tons of PDF packets in different themes.  They include cute pictures and a variety of learning tasks organized by age.

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Goofball working on tracing monster words.

While Goofball works on tracing words, Tornado is coloring and working on “pre-writing.”  Even Mr. Smith joined in a colored a monster.  And it was absolute adorable when Goofy tried to help Tornado trace the zig-zag lines.  I plan on printing out some pre-primer sight word packs to try with Goofball next.  I might just print up everything from this website (on the printer at work) to have available while on maternity leave.

They think of it as a fun activity, while I can feel like their daycare education is being supplemented.  It’s another activity for us to do together as a family.  And it’s awesome that these fun printouts are FREE!  You can’t get any more frugal than that 🙂

Thank you Cassie for this wonderful resource!

 

 

Harmony’s Toolbox: The Ladybug Game

ladybuggame

Fitting that Goofball is wearing bug pajamas 🙂

 

“Harmony’s Toolbox” features products that I personally use and recommend.

Board games are a great way to spend time with your kids.  Our time together is limited, so I’m always looking for ways to make the most of it, instead of just sitting like zombies in front of the television.  I thought we might be rushing things when the kids didn’t seem too interested in games like Chutes and Ladders and Sorry.  We played a modified game of Monopoly with Goofball, but he was really just following our step-by-step directions.  Hungry, Hungry Hippos didn’t even hold their attention very long.  I’m not sure what it is, but my toddlers LOVE the Ladybug Game!!

Each player gets a ladybug to move along the board.  The cards have numbers to tell you how many spaces to move – green for forward and red for backward.  If there is a ladybug on the bottom of the card, you get to go again.  Even though Goofball can’t read the words, he understands what each card means.  There are two main obstacles to get through: a praying mantis (in order to pass him you need a “bug off” card) and the ants (you need to pay them 10 aphids to get through).

I think we’ve played this game a hundred times since they received it as a present on Christmas.  The rules are simple enough that Goofball will set it up and play by himself, or help his sister play with him.  I’m still amazed that Tornado actually sits still long enough to finish the game.  They both keep asking us to play again and again.  I love that it teaches counting and some basic math (adding and subtracting little bugs called aphids).  And it’s quality entertainment without the need to spend money.  I highly recommend this game for toddlers, and parents will have fun too!

Harmony’s Toolbox: Bread Maker

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I was lucky enough to find this bread maker on Craigslist (brand new) and it is wonderful.  We were spending upwards of $5.00 per week on bread and now, spend approximately $1.00.  And it is so easy!

The bread-making process consists of adding all of the ingredients in the pan, placing it in the machine, and turning it on.  There is a recipe book filled with different options, but I usually make the boring old white bread.  Instead of 3 cups of white flour, I substitute 2 cups of white and 1 cup of wheat to make it a little bit healthier (use 1/8-1/4 cup more water).

The machine does all of the work – kneading, timing the rise, and baking.  It takes a little over 3 hours.  I noticed that some of the reviewers complained about the beeping.  It emits 5 beeps, 5 times, to mark the time when you can add nuts, raisins, etc.  Then, about half-way through, it beeps six times to notify you that the mixing paddle can be removed.  You can leave it in, but there will be an indentation in the bottom of the bread.  I usually try to take it out.  I don’t find the beeping that annoying – the kids are usually in bed when it goes off and they don’t wake up.

The bread is good, easy to make, saves us money, and is healthier than what we were purchasing at the store.  Efficiency wise, it does take an extra minute to slice the bread, so I recommend a good bread knife.  Overall, this bread maker was a positive change in 2014 that will keep us moving towards our goals in 2015.