Friday, April 30, 2010

The Power of Asking for a Discount

photo credit: Saving Money Smarts

Sometimes I think I embarrass my husband when I ask for an additional discount. I guess that is just my tightwad nature kicking in and receiving additional 10% off my purchases brings me joy. As a child I was always encouraged by my family to ask questions. My mom would tell me that if I do not ask, I would never know the answer. I still hold on to her teaching principles not only at work or at school, but also when I want to know if I can receive an additional discount.

You would be surprised how many business are willing to give you a price cut. For example, not too long ago I was shopping with my mother in law. I was not very familiar with the store so I quickly scanned for a clearance section. I found one and started to look through marked down items. Before too long I noticed a cute business jacket that would look great with my black pants. I looked at the price and was shocked when I saw that original price was $79.99. I then saw a marked down price of $19.95, but the deal got sweeter, because the sign on the clothes rack said take additional 50% off. This brought the price down to about $10. I was so excited and decided that I was going to buy this cute jacket, especially when I tried it on and it fit me perfect.

I marched to the cashier to check out, when I noticed that on the inside of the jacket there was several spots from the red marker that a sales person used to marked down the price. Apparently when the sales person marked down the price, he or she did not let the tag dry. However, I did not care about the spots since they were barely noticeable plus when I would wear the jacket no one would see them anyways. The tightwad that I am, I decided to point out the damage to the cashier and ask if she can give me additional discount. She called her manager and he willingly gave me 20% off bringing my total to mere $8 plus tax. I was not only happy about buying my beautiful jacket, but also about saving $70 dollars!

This saving principle can be applied not only on clothes but on anything that you would like. As I mentioned before, I ask for discounts anywhere I go, even at the hotels. My husband and I traveled to Atlanta for a doctor’s visit. I was so thrilled when I told my husband that we are going to stay at a hotel and only pay $0.01 cents for it. That is right; we only paid a penny for our stay (no taxes) because that particular hotel had a hot promotion going on that month. My excitement quickly dwindled, when I learned that I had to go for a follow up visit the next morning. Since we were not prepared to stay another night, we had to find a hotel and pay a full price for the room. After dinner we started to search for a hotel that would be close to the doctor’s office. If you are familiar with Atlanta, hotels are located on every corner. We chose a hotel, parked our car, grabbed our bags and went in to check the rates. This is how the conversation with customer service clerk (CSC) went.

Daniel: “Do you have available room for tonight?”
CSC: “We have one room with two beds for $119.”
Me (thinking): “I am going to have a heart attack. This is one expensive room compared to our penny room we stayed in last night”.
Me: “Do you have a discount?”
CSC: “Do you have AAA?”
Me: “No, but I can find some one with it!”
CSC (smiling): “Ok, then you have AAA.”
Me (playing along): “Oh, yeah we love it.”
CSC: “How long have you had it?”
Me: “About two weeks.”
CSC: “Your total $107 dollars.”

Although we only saved $12 dollars, we were happy to stay close to our doctor’s office to avoid morning traffic and enjoy free breakfast. So you may think that $12 is not much, but when I became a tightwad my saving mentality changed. By saving $1 dollar here and $12 dollars there the total savings add up to substantial amount in a course of one year. So, my friends, next time you are shopping or reserving a hotel room, do not underestimate the power of simply asking for a discount. You never know how much you can save until you ask.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coupon Advice from a Friend

This post was written by Lindsay from One Day At A Time.

So I get an e-mail from Oxana asking if I could write a post on what motivates me to use coupons. Honestly, my coupon use isn't as frequent or as top notch as hers, but I was honored that she asked! The other day I shared a story with her, that I'll share with you, too.

I am currently living at home with my parents and try to help out where I can. Dad had told me he had a coupon for CVS for $29 of ECB (Extra Care Bucks) and asked if I'd pick up a few things we needed. We had also just received the Sunday paper, full of other coupons. From the paper, I saw they had Cokes on sale, 4 twelve-packs for $10 and toilet paper on sale. (I can't remember how much, but cheaper than we normally pay) I also had a coupon for a $ amount of off Kellog's Corn Pops.

That day, I ended up buying 4 packs of Coke, 16 rolls of toilet paper, one box of Corn Pops, re-wetting drops for my eyes, and a nail file for only $2.61. I had an Oxana moment for sure and I couldn't wait to tell her!

That same day, I stopped by Lowe's grocery store for something random, honestly I can't remember. That same morning I had grabbed a coupon for Jell-o- products and picked up the new Mousse product that they have. Much to my surprise, when I was being checked out, they were having DOUBLE COUPON rewards. I had heard Oxana talk about this but never experienced it first hand. I think my coupon was for $.80 off a Jell-o-, and I ended up getting $1.60 off! It was great!

I'll share something else though, while I may not be great at grocery coupons, I am pretty good at retail coupons. Before I started working at Gap, I was a frequent shopper of other stores. If you get in close with a manager or sales associate who works at that store, they will give you a heads up on when things are being marked down, or when promotions are coming up. When it comes to retail, it's all about loyalty, and when they can get people to come back- they are the ones benefiting!

For example-at Gap, we have a coupon that gets people coming back in on Wednesdays. It's 40% off one full-price item, and 45% if you use your Gap card. When we get these coupons from the higher powers we pass them out to customers, but I know I keep some in my purse and pass them out whenever I can.

Another tip I can share from experience is to ask if you can use expired coupons. I know Bed, Bath & Beyond's coupons never expire! I did, however, have a bad experience at Ulta the other day when it came to expired coupons and not being able to use them. Bummer. So always ask! The worst they can say is "no".

I definitely think you have to be super organized to get the most out of coupons. I, on the other hand am not super organized. I think once I move out, and have a place of my own, and have to be responsible for my own groceries, I'll get better at being grocery coupon organized.

It's always nice to know that you've saved some money whether you're shopping for groceries or clothing!

Saving Money on Prescription

Handing my debit card to a pharmacist to pay for my prescription never excites me. But since I have learned a very valuable money saving trick, I am now more willing to hand over my debit card for a payment. Every Sunday I buy a newspaper and look through Target, K-Mart, CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens sales paper. I then look for store coupons that say something like, “Receive $25 dollars gift card for new or transferred prescription”. The coupon is clipped and stored in my coupon box until it is time for me to fill up my prescription. Last month I filled up my prescription at Rite Aid and received $25 gift card, this month I am planning to transfer my prescription to Target and receive $10 gift card. I hope that by the time third month rolls around K-Mart will put out a coupon allowing me to transfer to their store and receive $25 gift card. So you got the idea, you keep on transferring your prescription each month from store to store and before you know it is time to repeat the cycles again by transferring your prescription back to the very first store you initial filled it in. After I fill up my prescription at K-Mart, I plan to transfer it to CVS. Although CVS rarely puts out a coupon for a prescription, they take competitor’s coupons. The way it works is that you bring a coupon, last time I brought Rite Aid coupon that gave you $25 for transferred prescription. Manager must approve it (I did not have any issues with my coupon) and he or she will then hand you $25 gift card.

In a year I have accumulated many gift cards. The best part is that there has been times when a doctor prescribed a cold medicine that required me to pay only $3 co-pay and with a coupon I still received $25 gift card. I can redeem my gift card for anything in the store. You may say that you do not shop at K-Mart or CVS and would rather avoid the headache of transferring your prescription each month. Even though you may not shop at these stores, I know that you go out to eat or shop at department stores, so why not exchange your store card for a gift card of your choice. For example, I do not shop at K-Mart unless they have Double Coupon Event. I still transfer my prescription to K-Mart and then redeem my $25 dollars store gift card for $25 dollars gift card to Starbucks or Belk or Macaroni Grill. All the stores, CVS, K-Mart and Rite Aid have a huge variety of gift cards that you can chose from and buy with your store gift card. If you have to pay to fill up a prescription why not get paid back, only in a form of a gift card?! It is a win-win situation for you and the store.

How do you save on prescriptions?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The frugal, the cheap, and the wardrobe

guest post written by Pam Roberts

My closet is full of name brand clothes, I get compliments on the way I dress, and I have never spent over $15 on any one item. Having labels like Ann Taylor, Talbots, Tommy Hilfiger, Cold Water Creek and Jessica Howard hanging in your closet is easy if you know where to shop.

Thrift stores and consignment shops have become a weekend tradition for me, and the great part is that practically every community has one. If you’re on vacation, ask where the nearest is. In resort cities, wealthy people with summer houses will redecorate every few years, guess where their old, barely used furniture and accessories goes.

I prefer smaller, more private shops, for name brands, but I found my Stairmaster at the Salvation Army for $25 and the mirror hanging above my couch came from Goodwill for $15. I stripped and refinished it to match the rest of the wood in my living room and it looks great. At high end stores I’ve seen much smaller and less elaborate mirrors sell for over $400.

I searched department and specialty cooking stores for almost a year for a plain tube pan, evidently this staple of baking is no longer made or sold, I own a couple of Bundt pans, but I needed a tube pan. Then it occurred to me that I could probably get one from one of the thrift stores I frequent. Sure enough, that weekend I found exactly what I needed for $1.

Since then I have stopped narrowing my searches to only clothing, I now look for bestselling paperback books for .25 to .50 and hardcover books for .75 to $1. I’ve scored kitchenware with names like Pampered Chef and Visions, not to mention the jewelry, Christmas ornaments and beautiful flower pots that I would never have been able to afford if I had to pay full price.

During her pregnancy, for just a few dollars spent at her local consignment shop, one of my sisters dressed like she had just stepped out of a magazine. Now that my nephew is here, she gets all of his clothes and toys from the same consignment shop; in a couple of months, after he’s outgrown them, she takes them back & gets more. She has such a large store credit that she hasn’t had to pay for anything in months.

My niece bought the last two of her prom dresses from consignment shops. Each dress was in incredible condition, obviously worn only once and cost well under $100.

Before beginning your shopping spree keep these things in mind:

1) A thrift store sells used articles, especially clothing to benefit a charitable organization. They will accept practically anything and in any condition.

2) A consignment shop is a retail store that stocks and sells merchandise on consignment from individuals. A good consignment shop is particular about the condition the clothing they sell.

3) Stores may be set up differently. Some stores organize clothes by color, some by size, and some by style. Most shops have the clothing, books, and household items separate; although I have been in some store where everything was together in a couple of large rooms. Personally, I consider this junk & since I have absolutely no patience for shopping, I turn around and walk out, but I’m sure if you like to plunder, you’d find some really good buys in these stores.

4) In most of the stores, the listed price is not the absolute price, especially if you frequent the same stores & the cashiers get to know you. Don’t be afraid to make an offer, in the consignment shops the cashier will have to get approval from the owner of the item before the price can be reduced, but that’s usually as simple as a phone call & I’ve never had an offer rejected. It seems a good rule of thumb is to offer at least 20% off the marked price.

5) Just because you’re in a thrift store or consignment shop doesn’t necessarily mean items will be inexpensive. Remember, most of the time these are used items, so look at them for flaws, make sure the electronics work, but most of all don’t pay too much. Now $150 for a designer dress may be cheap when you compare it to the regular price of $800, but I’d personally NEVER pay $150 for used clothing, I wouldn’t pay $20 for a used Mr. Coffee, and I certainly wouldn’t pay $200 for a used headboard and footboard that I’d have to refinish. I actually saw some of these prices at a Habitat for Humanity store.

Today I walked out with a really cute wind chime for my patio, and 3 shirts (pictured), each top costed me $4. The total for all my purchases was $13. Not bad for Woolrich, Coldwater Creek & Kim Rogers!

The next time you get tired of seeing the same old thing in your closet but can’t afford a new wardrobe, take a trip to your neighborhood thrift or consignment shop. Believe me; you’ll be surprised at what you take home with you.

Pork Chops - My Mama's Style

I am not the best photographer on this planet, plus pictures can be deceiving. So I would ask you to take my word for it and trust me when I say that these pork chops are simply amazing. My husband, who is a picky eater, asked me to fix pork chops this week three times. They are super easy to make and taste great with mashed potatoes.

4-6 Pork chops
1 egg
1/3 cup flour
Salt to taste


Lay the pork chops on a cutting board and use a special tool, meat tenderizer, to tenderize your pork chops on both sides. Beat 1 egg in a shallow dish. In a separate dish add flour and salt. In a mean time add olive oil on to the frying pan and let in warm up. Dip pork chops in egg mixture making sure that both sides are covered and then place your pork chops in the flour dish turning pork chops once to cover both sides. Immediately place your pork chops in a hot frying pan and fry until pork chops are golden brown. Serve meat while it is hot with mashed potatoes. Simple and delicious.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do You See What I See?

I started to give up hope on my planting the garden skills. My expectations were high and for some reason I though that all the seeds that I planted would grow overnight. I faithfully watered all the plants daily, but did not see any signs of life. I was certain that my squash would never show up, the roots of my tomatoes would rot and my strawberries would simply protest producing berries. Thankfully I was wrong! When I watered my tomatoes one morning, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw tiny green leafs coming out from the dirt. In a few days, I saw my squash forcing itself out and my strawberries had pretty white flowers. I was so thrilled that I must have told my husband to look at the progress of our bucket garden twenty five times in one day!

We continued to see progress daily. I must confess I was upset when I noticed that the flower peddles on our strawberries were falling off. “I must have over watered them”, I thought to myself. However, the next morning I noticed that the reason the flower peddles were falling was because the center of the flower is what produces a strawberry! My tomatoes were also growing like crazy, but I think I planted way too many seeds in one cup. As I was pulling some of the tomato plants out, my husband asked me what I was doing.

Me: “I am going to throw some away, because I only have 1 pot to plant them in and we have a gazillion tomato plants growing. “

Daniel: “No you are not!”

Me: “I am not planning to spend another $70 on buckets, plus you don’t even like tomatoes.”

Daniel: “Well, be creative and figure out where to plant them, but you will not throw them away.”

So perhaps throwing my plants was not the best tightwad idea, but I really didn’t want to spend anymore money on the garden. I talked to my friend Jennifer, who is very knowledgeable about gardening. She suggested that I stop by the bakery department at our local grocery store and ask for empty 5 gallons buckets that they throw away. What a brilliant idea! I must have missed that part of her lesson a few months ago. On a beautiful Saturday morning I stopped by our local grocery store and a very nice lady handed me over two buckets. They had to be cleaned because sticky icing was all over them. When I came home I was very tempted to stick my finger in the leftover icing, only to find out that it was all melted due to the buckets seating in my car for several hours. I soaked my buckets to get all the sticky icing out and then let them air dry on the sun. My plan is to stop by the bakery department several more times to pick up more buckets. Stay tuned and hopefully soon I will show case the fruits of my labor!

Bare Necessity

Have you ever thought how blessed you are to have a roof over your head, hot dinner on your table and clean clothes to wear? Many of us forget how much we have until we no longer have it. During the summer of 2007, when I went for 1 month on a mission trip to Kenya, I learned a true meaning of bare necessity. As I walked through the slum of Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, I felt like I was in the surreal world. The smell of sewage was so strong that it made me feel sick to my stomach. Just when my nose began to adapt to this strange smell of poverty, my vision became blurred. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I felt numb to the surroundings and wanted some one to pinch me, so that I could wake up from what I thought was hell on earth. When I realized that this is not a dream, but a reality in which people live, then something clicked.

Despite horrible living conditions, people are different. They are happy although they live with bare necessities! They don’t have big houses; in fact, most houses had only one room and are built from mud. I can’t recall seeing a TV. Showers are luxury, especially hot water. Starvation is a natural state that many children experiencing on a daily bases. Clothes are simple and worn out, yet the joy that radiates from people is priceless.

Through tough economic times it is hard to find joyful people, but easy to find people occupied with fear for their future. In part we encounter fear is because we spend more than we have on things that we don’t really need getting ourselves in debt. The joy that I once experienced in Africa is unexplainable. As I remember making a vow in Kenya to live simple upon my return to the United States, it was quickly broken as I was immersed back in to the culture of "the more you have, the happier you will be". It took almost 2 years, when it was officially declared that we were in recession, for me to be reminded of the unexplainable joy that I experienced in Kibera. I began to look at my lifestyle, particularly at my spending habits. Many Americans justify their expenditure as necessity, but what if we all adopted the lifestyle of bare necessities of Kenyans and applied to our lives? We would all be better off and be filled with joy instead of worries.

First off, separate needs from wants. Ask yourself, do you really need cable TV and internet. Sure, you can find many reasons to justify the fun entertainment part of it, but I promise you once you forgo cable TV and internet, you will never miss it. The added bonus is more time spent with the family and less money spent on paying the bills.

Secondly, if you can not afford, don’t buy it. According to statistics, $2.6 trillion dollars in 2007 were spent on consumer debt. It is ok to live in a small house, drive old car and shop at consignment stores. Who are we trying to impress? The only people that are impressed by our spending habits are the banks who loan us money by allowing us to use their credit cards. If credit cards become a temptation for spending, cut them up and use cash. But remember the first point, separate needs from wants. Fridge breaks? You do need another one, but do you really need a new one? This way you will not spend money that you don’t have. The added bonus is less debt.

Last but not least, give. I promise that you will begin to experience joy by helping a friend or a strange in need. It is very rewarding to be able to give without asking for anything in return. When was the last time you looked through your closet and helped clothe someone? There are many people who can not afford new clothes and would be grateful for a pair of pants or a shirt. When was the last time you anonymously helped to pay someone's electric bill? There are many people who are hurting financially and what a blessing you can be to someone. The added bonus is seeing a person you helped smile.

As I continue to trust in the Lord for Him to provide for my daily needs, I want to encourage you to embark the journey of "bare necessity" with me. There are so many great benefits by living simple that I can write a whole new article just on this topic. But the greatest benefit of all is joy and not fears, no matter what state our economy is in. I would like to close this article with a quote from my Kenyan team member in hopes of reminding you of how blessed we are as a nation and individuals. She said, "I’ll admit that for awhile our American culture had me convinced that I pretty much rocked and that on my own power I had earned the right to live so comfortably. But when I went to Kenya, and looked into the eyes of a three year old orphan, I realized the only thing that kept me from being born into her situation, was God’s will. Each and one of us could have been born into Africa’s largest slum, and realizing it has made me more humble than ever before".

Monday, April 26, 2010

My name is Oxana and it is nice to meet you...

Call me frugal, penny pincher, or a tightwad and I will take it all as a complement. Strangers may laugh at me during my grocery shopping trips, because of the bucket that is “attached” to my hip in which I carry my coupons. However, those who laughed at me are now raising their eye brows, when they see me pay $4 for $50 worth of groceries. Prior to my tightwad ways, it was not unusual for me to spend $100 at a grocery store for two bags worth of groceries until I entered the world of coupons. As I hesitated to cross the line in to the unknown world, I have to confess that now I can not imagine stepping out of it. I must first give thanks to my co-worker, who introduced me to coupons and persuaded me to give a try. She insured me that I indeed can save money on brand name products, although I was convinced otherwise. Shortly after I began my journey I learned that not only can coupons save me money, but also that they allowed me to acquire free products.

Free became my new favorite word, when my tightwad nature kicked in. But I wasn’t always that way.Born in a small country of Belarus (near Russia), God opened the door for me to come to the US as a teen. I have been blessed beyond my imagination with wonderful people who were put in my path during my journey. One of these people is my beloved husband, Daniel. The first year of our marriage, we were so excited to have pay checks that allowed us not to stress about finances that we would spend all the money quickly. When we filed our taxes during our first year of marriage, we had nothing to show for the money that we made during the year. In fact, we wondered where all the money go.

It was not until economy change for the worst that we began to evaluate our spending habits. One day on my way home I was listening to the Crowns Financial Ministry on the radio when I heard Proverbs 22:77. It says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender”. It was not until the Holy Spirit convicted me that I began to desire to be a good steward of God’s riches. My husband and I began to work on our emergency fund and all the savings that we were seeing from using coupons allowed us to create a small emergency fund in no time. I was so thirsty to become debt free that I know I drove my husband crazy. Although I had fun with coupons, I wanted to find other ways that would help us save. I would unplug everything in the house to save money on electricity. I would reuse zip lock bags until holes appeared. Needless to say, we started to implement new ideas that allowed us to live below our means.

Living below our means took some adjustment. Do we still go out to eat? Absolutely, but we make our outings a special event. Do we splurge occasionally? Believe it or not yes, this keeps our motivation going. Most of all living frugal allows us to bless others through giving. It is my heart’s desire to share all the tips and tricks that we use in our tightwad journey with you in hopes of helping you to become good stewards of God’s riches.

If you have any questions or suggestions, I would love to hear from you tightwadintraining @ gmail . com (remove spaces).

The Power of Bartering

I desperately needed a haircut, but I really didn’t want to pay $30 for it. During my high school years I had no problem dropping $100 for highlights and a haircut and then another $20 for hair products to maintain my expensive new hair style. But when I became a tightwad my money spending habits changed and so was my desire for an expensive haircut. When I started my now job, I learned that my co-worker, now friend, had cosmetology license. Now that summer was right around the corner I needed a hair cut that would be easy to maintain.

My hair was way too long and it daily suffered from a ponytail syndrome. So, one day my friend and I were talking about coupons and she mentioned that she needed toothpaste. I softly mentioned during our conversation that I desperately needed a haircut. And the power of bartering kicked in. We agreed that she would cut my hair for free in exchange for several tube of toothpaste. Since I obtained quite a few tubes of free toothpaste of the last year, I was happy about our exchange. And in case you are wondering my hair cut turned out amazingly beautiful!!!

As I styled my hair this morning I wondered who else can I barter with. Bartering is a powerful tool in helping you save money. You can barter with your hairdresser for a free haircut in exchange for a basket of toiletries that cost you pennies or you can offer a basket of freebies to your friend in exchange for a night of babysitting services. The options are limitless! Next time you need something, ask yourself if bartering is an option and you may be surprised at the outcome.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

God Hears and Answers

photo credit:Oli Haukur
"It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four solders each (that’s 16 soldiers for one person…crazy!!!! ~my comment). Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him". Acts 12:1-5

If you continue to read chapter 12, you will learn that the angel of the Lord appeared and Peter was able to follow Him out of the prison. Ok, so your initial thought may be "How cool is that?!" The Lord reassured once again that He is much bigger and stronger than any man. This can be particularly reassuring to us as Christian during tough times knowing that God has our back. However, when I read this passage, what the Lord impressed on my heart was the power of a prayer.

If we all earnestly prayed for one another, can you only imagine the power of a prayer that we would witness?!?!?!?! The church who earnestly was praying for Peter was able to witness a miracle, when Peter walked out of prison while 16 people were guarding him. We can also pray earnestly for each other. Do you have a prayer request or praise report that you can share in the comment section? Let's commit to care for one another and earnestly lifting each other up to our Heavenly Father to whom nothing is impossible.

Lead Me to the Cross

I was tired and cranky. A long day at work had worn me out and I was ready to come home and rest. Before I left work my husband called and told me that he was not feeling well. He asked if I would stop by Wal-Mart and pick up medicine for him. The sweet wife that I am I dragged myself to the store with hopes that I would be in and out. My hope of a speedy check out was crushed, when I saw a mile long line at the pharmacy. My cranky mood just got worst (at least I am honest, right?!) as I anxiously waited for my turn to ask the pharmacist a question.

I wasn’t the only one wanting to ask a lot of questions that day. An elderly lady seating on a chair near the pharmacy department was asking a lot of questions too, only her questions were not directed toward the pharmacist. She asked a customer in front of me a million questions about her personal life. I could tell the lady who was bombarded with questions was annoyed and aggravated. But finally she was next to talk to the pharmacist, which meant I was next in line to be showered with questions. I was not in a mood to stand and answer millions of questions; in fact I just wanted to be left alone. "Where do you live?" was the first question that the elderly lady asked. During the next 5 minutes, I shared not only where I live but also shared about my work, my husband and my reason for coming to Wal-Mart. I was very relieved when I heard the voice over the counter say, “Next!” Not surprisingly, the elderly woman moved on to the next person in line with her questions.

I in a mean time asked the pharmacist what I need to buy for my sick husband. Once the pharmacist pointed me in the right direction, I was ready to grab a box of cold medicine and leave. As I was leaving pharmacy department of the store, I heard a familiar voice.

“Excuse me”, quietly said the elderly lady.

As I turned around, I saw her motioning for me to come. I thought, “What else does she want to talk about?” I made my way to her chair and she looked right in my eyes and with all seriousness asked, “Are you Oxana Baul, the famous ice skater?” I couldn’t help but giggle. “No, but I can give you my autograph”, I told the stranger jokingly. When I looked into the eyes of this elderly woman the Holy Spirit began to convict me. In fact, the Lord has placed Hebrews 13:2 on my heart as I looked at the stranger. It says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angles without knowing it”. The foot notes of my Bible say, “This verse is not given as the ultimate motivation for hospitality but to reveal that one never knows how far-reaching an act of kindness might be”. While walking to my car with my head down, I felt guilty and ashamed for not being nicer to the stranger. What if she just needed a friend or a nice hug? What if she is lonely and does not have any family members living near by? As questions ran through my mind, I felt like I failed the mission. Through my failure I have learned a very valuable lesson to be kind, loving and compassionate to every one at all times, even when you are cranky and tired. Remember what Matt 25:40 says, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of My brethren, you did it to Me”.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


It feels so good to take a break from coupons occasionally. This week I did just that, I shopped only at two stores, Ingles and CVS. At Ingles I was able to stock up on organic apple juice that my husband absolutely loves. Our freezer is filled with meat and veggies, so I didn’t have to spend money on these items. This week at CVS I was able to stock up on toiletries not that we need more toothpaste, but we can always share with others that are in need. I was particularly excited about Gillett Mach 3 cartridges. They were on sale this week and generated 3 ECB plus I had a coupon for $4 dollars off. When I send packages to my dad in Belarus, from time to time he asks for Mach 3 cartridges. I get super thrilled when I find them on sale (does not happen too often). Other than buying cartridges, I scored several freebies, used my ECB and received some ECB back.

Total spent:$12.22 Total saved:$52.27

Did you have a good grocery shopping week? Please share with us.

Friday, April 23, 2010

How I Save Money on Meat

photo credit: Glennaa

One of my favorite ways to save money on meat is to buy it when it is reduced for a quick sale. We have been using this approach now for over a year and have never had any problems with meat. In fact, this simple approach allows us to eat shrimp, steak, organic chicken and pork chops, which we otherwise would not have been able to afford. Every time I shop at our local grocery store, I always walk through the meat department. If I see 4 packs of ground turkey reduced to $1.99, I buy all 4 packs and freeze them when I come home. Now, I do look at the color of the meat before I buy it. If it looks like the color has changed in comparison to the regular meat, I pass on the deal. However, if the color of the meat that is reduced for quick sale looks good, I stock up.

I maximize my savings on meat by using coupons on already mark down prices. For example, a pack of organic chicken not too long ago was reduced to $1.78 a pack from original price of $4+ dollars. I had a coupon for $1 off, which allowed me to purchase a pack of organic chicken for $0.78. Woot Woot! I was beyond thrilled the day I bought several packs of meat for less than $1 a pack!

When I do buy lets say 4 packs of reduce for a quick sale meat, I try to ask meat department manager for a further discount. This is how the conversation usually goes.

Me: Sir, I am planning to buy all 4 packs of reduce for quick sales ground turkey. Would you be so kind and further reduce the price?

Manager: No, this is the lowest that I can sale it for.

Me: What are you planning to do with this meat if no one buys it?

Manager: Throw it away.

Me: So if I do not buy it right now, you are taking a chance of no one else buying it. This means that you will throw away meat and lose money. However, if I buy it at a reduced price, it will be a win-win situation for me and the store.

Manager: Will $3 for 4 packs of ground turkey work for you?

Yes, thank you very much! (with a big grin on my face)

The day that I had this conversation with a meat department manager a stranger who listened to the conversation came up and asked if I can go car shopping with him. I had a good laugh that day. So needless to say if you do not ask, you will never know the outcome. Now, this approach doesn’t always work for me. Some days they reduce my meat, others they say no and I walk away with no further discount. Either way I save at least 50% on my meat every time I grocery shop.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stop...Do Not Use This Coupon...Yet

When I first started my frugal journey, it made me feel so good to redeem a coupon thinking that I am saving money. Unfortunately, redeeming a coupon doesn’t always mean that you are saving money. Once companies release a high dollar coupon like $3 dollars off Snuggle dryer sheets, most likely dryer sheets won’t be on sale for several weeks. You have a choice of going to the store right away to buy dryer sheet at full price ($4.50) redeeming $3 dollar coupon and paying $1.50 or waiting until dryer sheets go on sale and get them for free. I really like getting my dryer sheet for free and I hope you are too. When you cut or print your coupons, hold on to them until item goes on sale and only then redeem your coupon. Your savings will go up and you will be hooked on using coupons, when you walk out of the store with free items.

My other favorite method of walking out of the store with free stuff is buying travel size items. When I cut a coupon, I always read fine prints. If a coupon specifies which size of an item I must purchase in order to redeem a coupon, I must buy only the specific size that coupon indicated. However, if the coupon does not indicate a specific size or states that I can use the coupon on any size, I go to Target or Wal-Mart and buy that item in travel size if available. For example, Procter and Gamble often puts out a coupon for $1 off any Tide detergent. This means that I can go to Wal-Mart and buy travel size packet of Tide for free, because the cost of the travel size is $0.97. Over a year I have accumulated over 70 packets of free travel size Tide detergent. I have also purchased with coupons travel size lotions, shampoos, razors, deodorant and wipes just to name a few. Most of the time a coupon will beep if you are buying traveling size items, because the amount of the coupon exceeds retail price of the item you are buying. This makes cashiers nervous and they will tell you that you can not use your coupon. In this case I explain to the cashier that coupon states that I can buy a product of any size and redeem this coupon. If cashier is still not allowing me to use my coupon, I then ask to speak to the manger who always tells cashiers that coupon is acceptable.

Next time you are cutting out your coupon, read the fine prints carefully. If you have enough coupons, you can buy 5 travel size items for free that would be equivalent of buying one full size item at full price. If the desired item is not available in a travel size, wait until the item goes on sale and only then redeem your coupon. I promise your patience will pay off and you will never go back to paying a full price for anything.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


by Colleen Littleton

My name is Colleen Littleton and I have a very hard working husband Adam. We are the typical American family with 2 children and a dog. We have a house and a truck and best of all a minivan. I love being a minivan mom. We feel that we are like most other people our age in that we live pretty much paycheck to paycheck doing the best we can. I would wait until we were almost out of toothpaste, deo., shampoo, conditioner, etc. and then travel to Walmart and pay full price to get what we had to have. I would always end up spending more than I wanted to and would leave the store thinking how frustrated I was. Well then I began taking a class at church about living frugal. I must admit the first class I was overwhelmed and thought to myself I am not going to do some of the ideas that were given. I am stubborn in many ways and am a creature of habit. It did not take long at all for me to see results of simple saving ideas. I looked at each purchase as a contest and I very much wanted to be a winner. I have gone from never shopping at drugstores because I thought they were too expensive to now looking forward to going in and seeing what I can get for free or almost free. I have cabinets full of toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deo. etc and I look forward to never paying full price again for these items. I have to thank God for blessing us in this venture because he is the ultimate provider. I want you to know that with just a little effort you can stop paying full price and start enjoying saving lots of hard earned money. Don't wait, just do it! What do you have to lose? You are already paying full price.

Do you have a success story? We would love to hear it!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rewash and Reuse

Way back when I bought a pretty Tupperware set with red lids to store all the leftovers that I would have after cooking a deliciously amazing meal. Somehow over the years our dishwasher swallowed half of the lids and half of the containers have magically disappeared. My once pretty set with red lids was no longer pretty and I was faced with the choice if I wanted to invest more money in buying a new set. Sure, spending $10-$20 on a new set my not be a big deal to many, but I could find lots of other use for that money.

Deal or no deal I had to make the decision and guess what I chose? I chose to reuse containers from anything that we would buy that would require me to wash the containers and reuse them. I was pleasantly surprise to find containers of all shapes and sizes that held my and Daniel’s lunches and leftovers just as good or even better then my red lid expensive Tupperware. The best part it cost me zero dollars. Yes, I did have to buy an item that was originally in a container but I would have to buy it regardless so why not utilize the container in which the item came in. Next time you are about to throw away your cool whip container think twice about it. You may be pleasantly surprise of how well this free container will serve you in holding your deliciously amazing leftover lunch. The best part you will save $20 by opting to use free containers!

Do you have tips and trick on saving money? Please share with us!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Where can I find a great deal?

Did you know that you can find amazing deals everywhere?! One early Saturday morning, 7 am to be exact, my friend Colleen and I decided to spend all day shopping. When I say all day, I mean we shopped from 7 am until 4:30 pm! Since stores like Publix and Target are an hour away from where we live, we decided to attack these stores first. Publix had several items on sale and because we were able to use store coupons along with manufacturing coupons, we maximized our savings. We also learned that Publix does not reduce meat or produce for quick sales. In fact we learned that they donate meat and produce to local ministries, which made me respect this store so much more.

Our learning experience continued at Target, where we found lots of items on clearance and what made this treasure hunt exciting is finding clearance items that we had coupons for. I was able to buy Ziploc bags that were marked down and I had a coupon for each box that I purchased. The best part is that I was able to submit my receipt for a rebate not only getting my items for free, but also making $2. Colleen, the bargain shopper that she is, also scored some great deals at Target.

Deals were also available at Bi-Lo, where I redeem two coupons for free organic eggs and Walgreens, where Colleen used her Register Rewards and paid practically nothing for her purchase. But our most exciting stop was at Lowe’s! We stopped by the garden section and check out the prices on strawberry plants and plant buckets. We were on a mission as we browsed through the store to find something on sale. Well, well, well… we stopped by the lighting department just to find out that if we were there a week early we could have scored unbelievable deals, because there were practically giving out light fixtures right and left. There were a few items left and I grabbed what I thought would fit my decorating style. Once light fixture was originally $50 and was reduced to $3, while the other one more modern light fixture was originally $60 marked down to $15 and after I asked the salesman if he would be so kind to reduce it further, I paid $10 for it. Colleen did not leave empty handed either. She was able to buy two big Clorox wipes cans for free. We spotted a can of wipes that had a coupon that if you buy $50 worth of merchandise, you get $10 off. Colleen was already buying paint, so Clorox wipes were the added bonus.

It seemed like clearances and bonuses were all around us and all it required of us were to just look. It is easy to spot a red sticker that usually indicates that item is reduced and what made all the deals sweeter are coupons. Next time you are in the store ask a sales associate if they have clearance section and I promise you won’t leave empty handed.

Do you have tricks on finding deals? Please share with us as we would love to learn about your adventures.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

God Hears and Answers

photo credit:Oli Haukur
"It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four solders each (that’s 16 soldiers for one person…crazy!!!! ~my comment). Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him". Acts 12:1-5

If you continue to read chapter 12, you will learn that the angel of the Lord appeared and Peter was able to follow Him out of the prison. Ok, so your initial thought may be "How cool is that?!" The Lord reassured once again that He is much bigger and stronger than any man. This can be particularly reassuring to us as Christian during tough times knowing that God has our back. However, when I read this passage, what the Lord impressed on my heart was the power of a prayer.

If we all earnestly prayed for one another, can you only imagine the power of a prayer that we would witness?!?!?!?! The church who earnestly was prayering for Peter was able to witness a miracle, when Peter walked out of prison while 16 people were guarding him. On that note, my reader asked me if it would be possible to have a section on this blog dedicated to prayer requests. I thought that was a fantastic idea to have the honor and privilege to pray for one another. We may not know each other’s circumstances and that’s ok, because God does! So each Sunday you will see “God Hears and Answers” post, where you can leave your prayer request or praise report in the comment section. There are many hurting people all around us, who would appreciate us praying for them. You may be hurting too and need a word of encouragement or a prayer. So let’s commit to care for one another and earnestly lifting each other up to our Heavenly Father to whom nothing is impossible.

Lead Me to the Cross

Have you ever prayed for a stranger? What I mean by a stranger is someone who you have never met in your life, yet felt compelled to pray for. I am not sure when or why but I started to pray for strangers as I would pass them by asking for God’s presence to be evident to them in their daily life. It (the earning to pray) usually happens when I see a person walking on a sidewalk as I am driving by or students waiting outside for a bus to pick them up for school. We all face life’s unexpected giants in our journey so why not lift each other up in prayer?! I may not know specifics of a situation that a person is dealing with, but God does. And I find it an honor to be able to lift them up to the Lord asking for His hand to be upon them. In fact I experienced a stranger’s prayer in my life.

I was surrounded by a crowd of strangers as I was boarding a plane after a speaking engagement out of state. Those who spend a few minutes with me learn quickly that I am a talker. In fact, if I am quite for more than 5 minutes my husband checks on me to make sure that I am ok. I absolutely love meeting new people and getting to know them, which usually starts with a casual conversation. The day I boarded the plane was no different. As I was buckling up I noticed that a man (lets call him Johnny, because I can’t remember his name) next to me was playing a video game, so I started a conversation by asking what brought him to the state we were about to leave. Johnny turned off his game and started to tell me that he just left his mother’s funeral. I told him that I was sorry to hear about his loss and his next comment opened up a double door for me to start up a conversation about God. Johnny said that he hoped his mom was in a better place. Before you know a man that was once engrossed in his video game was interested in a conversation about God. His questions were tough and quite honest I did not know how to answer many of them.

At a time when my answers were few, I would pause and ask God to speak through me. I believe what Matt 10:19-20 says, “Do not worry what to say or how to say it. At that time you would be given what to say. For it will not you, but the Spirit of Your Father will speak through you.” God always comes through with His promise when I am lost for words! Once again He gave me words and stories from the Bible as I tried to answer Johnny’s questions. I am not so sure what was going through Johnny’s mind, but I do now that it was not by accident that God have placed us as airplane neighbors. Before you know the announcement informed the passengers that our plane was about to land so Johnny and I said our goodbyes.

I was once again surrounded by passengers as I was rushing through the isle of a plane. Before my feet had chance to exit the plane I was stopped by a stranger. The woman looked at me and said, “I heard you witnessing to a man next to you, and I just want to let you know that I prayed the whole time”. I was speechless! My God knew that I would be seating next to Johnny who would ask tough questions about faith. He then placed a stranger, who was compelled to pray during the time I was lost for words. God then honored the prayer and gave me words to say. I am amazed, are you?! My friend, next time you see a stranger passing you by stop and pray for the stranger. You never know a stranger may be praying for you too.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Oh boy, did I have fun grocery shopping this week or what?! I mainly shopped at Ingles this week and scored some amazing deals. During my first trip to Ingles I stocked up on organic apple juice that my husband loves and drinks 4 bottles in one day! I also picked up a few packs of pork chops that were reduced from $6+ dollars to $3+ dollars. Amy’s pizza is a must around our house and since it was on sale for $5 this week I picked up the last two boxes. My favorite cashier in the whole wide world gave me a rain check, so I can pick up $5 pizza in several weeks again. I spent $18.67 during my trip and saved $26.20.

My second trip was a little bit more exciting. I always stop by Ingles before church to pick up Sunday newspaper for $0.98. While I am in the store, I always browse through meat department looking for reduce for quick sale meat. I hit jackpot, when I found organic whole chicken that was originally $9+ dollars reduced to $4+ dollars. The best part is that I have $2 dollars off coupon, which made my organic whole chicken only $2+ dollars. Woot! Woot! Ranzoni pasta was on sale B1G1 and after coupons it was free plus it gave me a little bit of overage. I then noticed men’s Bic razors (5 pack) were on sale for $1.98 and I hade four $2 dollars off coupon making my razors absolutely free. And of course I couldn’t pass on Pillsbury promotion. Biscuits were on sale for $1 this week and if you buy 6 packs you then get $4 dollars off your next purchase coupon. I had three coupons for $0.30 off two packs, which made my biscuits pretty cheap. I paid $7.64 for my purchases and saved $34.97 plus I received a Catalina for $4 dollars off my next purchase.

Finally on Wednesday night after church, I stopped by Ingles to buy milk and eggs. My out of pocket total was $0.56, because I used my $4 dollars Catalina that I received from Pillsbury promotion.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I would like to introduce you to something super exiting called Swagbucks. I want you to start accumulating Swagbucks so perhaps you can down the road redeem them for gift cards for Christmas presents. Do I have your attention, yet? Free = super exciting. is a website that is similar to and Personally I always preferred to search for whatever I needed until I discovered By doing your every day searches you can earn points and later redeem these points for gift cards. The most popular gift card is for which sells tons and tons of items anything from diapers to electronics. And on orders over $25 you score free shipping.

To get started visit and because you will be going through me (oxinabox1), by signing up you will automatically earn 30 Swagbucks. Then if you refer a friend and they sign up, when they earn a Swagbuck you will automatically earn it too up to 1000 Swagbucks! Each day you can do your normal searches through and earn free point for something that you would normally do anyways. To make things easier you can download a tool bar, but if you don’t want to do that just make sure you sign in when you log on to

There is no science behind which word or phrase you should type to earn swagbucks, they are given out random. For example, the other day I received 50 swagbucks, which was quite exciting. On Fridays you can be a winner of 100 Swagbucks, because Fridays are super swagbucks days...woot woot!

You will be surprised how fast you will accumulate swagbucks and can redeem them later for gift cards to help you lower your expense of buying a gift or an item that you may need. There are people who earn enough swagbucks in a year to help them pay for their entire Christmas shopping. Please note that I am not trying to materialize Christmas, because it is not all about material is about a precious baby that was born many years ago to later die on a cross so that you and I can have eternal life.

So are you ready to start making money??? Go and sign up following the steps that I outline and start searching away.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Have you ever opened up your kitchen cabinet just to find that you don’t have the item that your recipe calls for? You then have two choices; you can drive to the grocery store and buy the item at full price or find another recipe. Well, I found myself in that situation quite a few times. Driving to the nearest store was never an option, since it would take too much of my time, so I always had to think of something else to cook. Thankfully we no longer have this problem, because we practice stockpiling method.

For those of you who are not familiar with stockpiling, it is a process of buying items at a rock bottom prices. It is also buying enough items that are on sales to last you until the next sales cycle, which is usually 4-6 weeks. This is where the importance of buying multiple newspaper copies comes to play. During a good coupon week, I may purchase 3-4 newspapers. I also have a co-worker who graciously brings me her coupons. This means that when for example peanut butter goes on sale for $0.40I buy as many jars as I have coupons for. Since Daniel eats a lot of peanut butter, I don’t have to worry about going to the store and pay full price($3.50).

Buying cheap items, like peanut butter excites me. It allows my family to save gazillion of dollars. When Daniel or I want to have a breakfast bar, all we have to do is go to our pantry shelf and get us one. It is like shopping at your own home and at your own convenience. Having a stockpile also means that we can give. Seriously, there are so many people who are in need and having a fully stock pantry allows us to bless others. The Word of God says that it is much more a blessing to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

As we count our blessings, I would like to encourage you to join us in stockpiling not only to provide for your family, but also to give bountifully to others. You don’t have to have lots of space to store items, I promise. Use your creativity and you will be surprised at how much extra space you have around your house.

Do you have a method for stockpiling? Please leave your comment in the comment section so others can learn as well.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Coupon Categories

When I first started to coupon, I was overwhelmed with looking through accordion style wallet for a coupon that I needed. I then decided to organize my coupons in a box and create categories for items that I used the most. Today I would like to share with you categories that I created with hopes that it will help you to be more organized.

• Baking Supply
• Bi-Lo
• Breakfast Bars
• Boxed Dinners
• Candy
• Candles
• Cereal
• Cleaning Supplies
• Coffee and Tea
• Dairy Products
• Deodorant
• Dishwasher Supplies
• Drinks
• Eye Care
• Fruit
• Health Foods
• Ingles
• Laundry Supply
• Lotion/Soap (body)
• Lotion/Soap (face)
• Make up
• Misc. Supplies
• Meat/Fish
• Oil and Butter
• Paper Products
• Pasta/Rice
• Pharmacy
• Peanut Butter and Jelly
• Razors/Shaving Cream
• Sauce
• Seasoning
• Shampoo
• Snacks
• Soup
• Store Policies
• Tooth Brush/Tooth Paste
• Toppings/Nuts
• Veggies
• Yogurt
• Walgreen

Feel free to add any category that you use that is not listed above. Happy coupon organizing!

If you have a trick or a tip on how you organize your coupons, please share with us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Written by Kristie Roach

My life changing money turn around started a little over two years ago. My life was the typical cliché, new house, new cars, vacations, a new camper, and spending money with no end in sight. (1 Timothy 6:10 for the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.)

My husband started working at a family member’s construction company for a little more than minimum wage and quickly worked his way up to making close to $5,000 a month. First we purchased my car a Denali with all the bells and whistles, then my husband’s brand new truck with even more amenities than my car. We did not stop there; we had the cars and a new camper, but wanted a house. We lived in a small mobile home, and it certainly did not fit our new lifestyle. We moved into a large, beautiful lake house in a gated community with a waterfall at the entrance. We were making deals for spec homes and investments. During the time that we were acquiring everything that we thought was important to us we were neglecting God, and not going to church. Instead our weekends were spent shopping, camping, and staying out on the lake all day Saturday and Sunday. We were getting further and further away from God and His word. What is sadder than that is we were keeping our children from God through our lifestyle.

Everything seemed to be going wonderful when the economy dropped in what seemed like a day, and the housing market went belly up. My husband came in one day and said that he no longer had a job, that we had to move back to our old house, and that we would have to give up both cars. We probably could have hung in there for a while with struggling, but the money we had invested was stolen from us to the tune of around 100K. I cried and was angry. I did not understand why it was happening to us. We were decent people; we helped others in need. After a few days of a self-pity party, I started to turn to God for the first time in a very long time. I had been mad at God for so long over my childhood. I prayed and one day said “God, I understand why…I do, just please help me through this”. I did understand why, I understood that we were living outside of God’s word, and spending His money the way we wanted to. He blessed us with so much, and yet we turned from Him to a lifestyle that meant nothing and went nowhere. I decided at that time that I was not going to stray away from God again. I was going to have full trust in Him, to have full faith in Him in everything I do, and in every situation.

My husband lost his job on Thursday and got a call for an interview on Saturday went in and got the job that day! Dear friends, that is God!!! We did move back home and were able to get out from under the house and truck. The only car that was returned was my Denali. I decided to try the Dave Ramsey program, but did not have the $25 to buy the book. I went to the local library and got on a waiting list. Three weeks later the library had a copy in for me and I read it front to back, and back to front. I approached my husband with Dave’s concept, and of course he was still licking his wounds and scoured at the thought of us being anything but in the negative for years to come. I never gave up on him though. He calls it nagging…I call it consistent reminding, but I kept telling him all about the book, and how it could be us. He kept saying that we could not even make minimum payments much less save money and get out of debt. We even through around the idea of filing the horrible “B” word. I can’t tell explain how we did it, how we started to dig out of some of our debt. I can only tell you friend that it was God! My husband gave in, and started working on paying off a small credit card debt. Before we knew it that card was paid and we had freed money up to pay on another, then another, and so on. To add to this I started researching using coupons, and surfing for websites that would guide me to get the most out of coupons. I did find I get all kinds of free stuff, and learned how to be a savvy shopper and walk out of the store with a cart full of groceries for pennies. I search for great deals and cheap or free activities or trips for our family.

Since then we are no where near out of the woods or even close to being debt free, but we are still working hard on it each day and relying on God. We are now in church full time, tithing faithfully (something we had never done before), watching every penny we spend, and teaching our children about God and the proper way to handle God’s money. I truly believe that we received a blessing from God, an awaking, not a hardship. He has provided everything that we ever need and could want without the fancy cars and house. He has changed our site if you will to see what is truly important. I now have a strong relationship with God, and so much has changed for the better.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It’s Time to get my Hands Dirty

Last year when I visited my in-laws I was very impressed with their bountiful garden. I would leave their house wishing that I could plant a garden too. Unfortunately unlike other gardeners I have a black thumb and I am not joking about it. When I was in college I bought a cactus because it did not require much care. After graduation my American dad looked after my cactus and it grew nicely under his care. During one of my visits home I brought my cactus with me and faithfully watered it every week. I was deeply saddened when one day my cactus was no longer standing straight, instead it was pitifully lying down. To make a long story short I killed by cactus by overwatering it.

I guess my thought process is that when I water a plant it should grow, however I learned the hard way that this principle does not apply to cactus. So moving on with my gardening plans. The tightwad that I am I decided that this year I will plant a garden. Although we do not really have a space for a garden, since we live in a wooded area, my friend Jennifer shared with us during our Wednesday night Bible study that we can plant garden in pots and hanging basket. Oh boy, I was so excited to try it that I could not stand still. I told myself that right now I am too busy with school and work that I wouldn’t have time for a full garden anyways. I was very content with the idea of planting garden in a pot and hanging baskets.

The idea of planting a garden was easy, but acting upon it not so much. I decided to go to Lowes to buy all the gardening tools. As I was walking through the store’s garden section I was shocked how expensive everything was. I thought that people who invented selling dirt in a bag must be super rich, since people like me are willing to buy it. My mission was to find strawberry plants, tomato and squash seeds, handing baskets and standing pots and some slow release good for your plants stuff (I can’t remember what it really call). Because I no nothing about gardening I asked the same sales lady a billion questions and I know she must have thought that I was wasting her time and my money.

As I was checking out my total was around $70 and I too wondered if I was wasting my money because I will probably kill all this plants by overwatering them. However I am not a quitter and decided to go with the flow. My husband hung my baskets and I started to get my hands dirty by digging through the dirt. Questions were running through my mind on what I was suppose to do with all the tools that were in front of me, but I stuck some seeds in dirt and watered them with hopes that they will grow. I know you can laugh at me, because that is what I will be doing in two months when my pretty hanging baskets will be hanging with no strawberries in them. But all I can tell myself then is at least I tried.

Stay tuned… Jennifer is writing a post on how to garden. I promise you would really want to read it. In a mean time if you have gardening tips, please share with us.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lead Me to the Cross

I must confess to you that I really like my little green car, because it gets me from point A to point B without consuming gazillion gallons of fuel. But recently my little green car has started to give me trouble. In fact it was "kicking" the whole way to work as if it was a small child trying to protest his mommy going to work. Ok, you can make a confused face, because that what everyone else did when I tried to tell them that my car "kicks". Every single person looked at me as if I chose the wrong English word to describe the problem that my car was experiencing, but trust me if you were in my car, you too would feel the "kicking". As a result of my car’s bad behavior, my husband had to take it to a dealership to diagnose the problem.

Diagnosis revealed that air filter and some kind of wire (as you can tell I am not very savvy when it comes to cars) needed to be replaced in order for the "kicking" to stop. My husband made the decision to purchase all the needed parts and fix the problem himself. By the way, opting to fix my car at home instead of dealership saved us around $180 dollars! Woot Woot! Needless to say our wallet was happy, we as proud car owners were happy and so was the little green car! However, the story does not stop here.

Since it was getting dark outside when we came home from church, stopping and fixing the car some other time was not an option that day. Daniel was getting ready to go out of town for the weekend and neither of us wanted for my car to break down in the middle of the mountain with no cell phone reception. So, as my sweet husband was working on my car, I decided that it would be a good time to clean the house. As I was gathering my cleaning tools, the phone rang. It was my father in law returning Daniel’s call so I proceeded to make my way outside to hand the phone over to my husband.

I had two options of delivering the phone to Daniel. The first option was to walk all the way around the house and down to the basement. The second option was for Daniel to jump and catch the phone as I release it from my hands while standing on our porch. The latter option sounded better to both of us and so I bent down and stretched my arm out holding the cell phone as Daniel attempted to jump and grab the phone. Well, attempt number one was unsuccessful because I did not release the phone at all. Attempt number two was worst than attempt number one. As Daniel jumped to catch the phone I released it at the wrong time, which caused the phone to hit the ground pretty hard. I knew the reason our phone suffered unpleasant fall, because I did not trust that Daniel would catch the phone.

Thankfully the fall was recoverable since Daniel was able to carry on a conversation with his dad using our phone. I, in a mean time, went back to the house to continue my cleaning. The thoughts of the phone crash were running through my mind and the Lord reminded me right then right there that just like I did not trust Daniel with catching the phone that experienced unpleasant fall, many times I do not trust God with taking care of my problems, which results in everything tumbling down around me. Sure, often I audibly let go and tell God that He has full control over the situation just to find myself the next day still holding on tightly to the problem trying to control every aspect of the desired outcome. You know why? It is because I never really gave it all to God’s control in the first place. God cares, hears and answers! I love what Psalm 116:1-2 say, "I love the LORD, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned His ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live". He wants you to trust Him and let Him take care of anything and everything that is of a concern to you. Why you ask? Because He loves you!!! I love what the Word of God says in Matt: 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Before the described yoke becomes easy, we must become part of God’s family and yield to His sovereign will for our lives. I absolutely love being a part of God’s family and find comfort in knowing that when I am stubborn and hold on to my problems, God’s stretched out hand is always there ready to take off the stress, worries and burdenS off my shoulders. My dear friend, God is stretching out His hand to you right now wanting to take away your burdens. Trust Him and as His Word promises, you will find rest in Him.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


When I looked through our cupboards and freezer, I realized that I can take a week off from shopping. I thought I was going to take it easy until I found out that K-Mart is having their Double Coupon Event this week. This means that after doubling my $2 coupon becomes $4! After work I decided to make a quick stop by K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Bi-Lo and CVS. As you can see, I was able to find quite a few items that were on sale and after coupons were free! I absolutely love using coupons, because they have saved thousands of dollars for our family!

Total spent: $7.69

Total saved: $103.32

Friday, April 9, 2010

Where is that coupon?

Coupon organization is very important if you would like to be an efficient coupon shopper. When I first started couponing, I bought a small accordion style coupon file and stored my coupons in sections. Before too long I outgrew my coupon file and started to look for other methods of coupon organization. I came across a picture of a plastic show box that perfectly stored clipped coupons. My mission began of finding that perfect shoe box.

I especially like the price of the clear plastic box that sat on the shelf of a Dollar Store starring right at me. While looking through Daniel’s bookbag I found some note cards and all I needed to finish my project was envelopes. And the masterpiece began. I wrote down every category that I could think of to better organize my coupons and one by one stuck the card vertically in the envelop, who’s top flap has been cut.

I loved this method of coupon organization simply because it is easy, time saving and efficient for me. My clear shoe box worked for me faithfully for a whole year and I then had to replace it. I wanted something a little bit sturdier and found my new box at Big Lots for several dollars. I then remembered that during my college years I acquired a lot of envelopes from organization that I interned for and who was going to throw away unused envelopes, so I took them home in hopes of one day finding a use for them. I them decided to laminated my note cards to prevent them from bending and getting dirty. And this system now works b-e-a-utifully for me.

Do you have a favorite method of organizing your coupons? Pleas share with us in the comment section, we would love to hear!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Help, Please!

My friend, I need your help!This blog was created to help you save money, while being good stewards of God riches. My other goal was to share devotions as God places them on my heart. I would love to hear form you! What do you want to see on this blog? If you have ideas, please share with me! Thank you in advance.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Apple Sauce

I love to pretend that I am the next best cook in America and try new recipes. A while back I was looking for all kinds of different recipes and stumbled upon a recipe of making apple sauce in crock pot. End results – DELISIOUSNESS.

7 apples
¼ cup water
1 tsp Cinnamon (optional)

Pill, core and slice fresh apples. Add water to crock pot first to prevent apples from sticking to the bottom of the crock pot. Then add apples and sprinkle then with cinnamon. Cover and let apples cook on low for 5-6 hours. Once apples are ready take a fork and mesh the apples until the mixture is smooth. However, if you prefer chunky apples sauce, mesh the apples lightly. Pour in a container and keep it refrigerated.

Do you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share? We would love to hear about it!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

$0.99 Strawberries Anyone?

I noticed in Aldi’s sales paper that their container of strawberries is $0.99 this week. I was so excited about it that on Wednesday after work I decided to make a quick trip to the store just to find out that all strawberries are gone. I was pretty sad, but figured I had a few more days left in a week to get my strawberries. I decided to stop by the store again on Friday, when I was out and about just to learn again that all strawberries are gone. At that point I was determined to get my $0.99 strawberries one way or another.

Strawberries were on my mind all week long and I just pictured making chocolate covered strawberries and then eating them. So I got up pretty early on Saturday with one mission in mind to not leave Aldi’s empty handed. The store was opening at 9:00 am and I got there a few minutes before the store was scheduled to open. I was shocked to see a small group of shoppers waiting on store doors to be opened. In fact I giggled when I saw a friend from church on the same mission. I felt much better to know that I am not the only desperate person in our area wanting to snatch $0.99 strawberries.

The moment the store doors opened, people crowed strawberry area. Within 5 minutes most strawberries were gone. I didn’t feel guilty buying 8 containers, because I was informed that they have several more pallets of strawberries in the back. As I was yawning at a checkout lane, I knew that mission was accomplished and I can finally go home and make my chocolate covered strawberries.

I am certain that Aldi’s will run this deal again. If you need cheap strawberries, make sure you arrive earlier to the store. According to the cashier their strawberries disappear by 10:30 am.

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Monday, April 5, 2010


I didn’t spend too much time grocery shopping. I picked up items that were on sale and also a few items that I needed in order to make banana pudding for Daniel. My husband is a health nut and I mean it. So I was happy to hear that he would eat banana pudding if I make it. My first stop was at Ingles where i picked up cheap meat and organic apple and tangerine juice. I also had Daniel with me, so he added a few items to the cart that I did not have a coupon for. I was happy when I received $3 Catalina off my next purchase for buying biscuits!

Later in the day I stopped by Bi-Lo to pick up free sour cream, cherry pie filling and dryer sheets. I also picked up ingredients for banana pudding. I didn't have coupons for vanilla wafers, but was happy that they were B1G1 this week. Boxes also had a coupon on them that if you buy a box of wafers you get bananas for free. By the way free is my favorite word. Before I left the store, I had to buy a box of whole wheat cookies for my husband but when I came to the register I remembered that I did not bring a coupon for the cookies with me. Oh well.

Ingles: Spent $27.38 Saved: $37.29
Bi-Lo: Spent $13.85 Saved: $39.34

Saturday, April 3, 2010


As a college student I had a pretty boring ride home, when I visited my family on weekends. The reason my drive was boring is because the road that I had to take was straight with very few turns and was not very picturesque. My life journey however is full of straight roads and curvy roads with yield, stop, do not enter and detour signs just to name a few. I have been going down the straight lane for a few months now but today I stumbled upon a stop sign that was hard not to notice.

My stop sign was a size of a giant and I wondered which way I would have to turn once I press the gas pedal. Since I have become an American citizen a few weeks ago, I knew that my trip to Belarus to see my family would be right around the corner. I had every step of the way mapped out up until the day that Daniel and I would board the plane. I figured my “road” to visit my home is going to be straight with no bumps. Today I called Belarussian embassy to verify all the documents that I would need in order to obtain a visa and was shocked to find out that because I was born in Belarus different rules apply to me than that of an American. To make a long story short it may take a long time to get all the documents that I need to visit my family. When I finally hung up the phone, I sat in disbelief for a few minutes until tears started to run down my face. Will I ever be able to go to Belarus to see my dad whom I haven’t seen in over 10 years? Will I ever be able to hug my grandmother and tell her that I love her again? Will I walk the streets of my hometown with my mom reminiscing my childhood? The answers to these questions were unknown to me.

I knew that God was the only One who had the answers to these questions. As I wiped my tears He gently reminded me that His Word in Isaiah 55:8 says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”. And His ways are so much better than mine at all times. He has never failed me and in fact allowed me on numerous occasions to watch Him opening doors in my life, when all the doors were shut very tight. I should take this time to seat back and watch God at work. I find comfort in knowing that “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) Today I also saw yet another sign, a yield sign that required me fully to yield to God’s will in every aspect of the situation.

We are all faced with different situation in our daily lives. Some situations seem so big that we think no way can we ever overcome them, but know, my friend, that with God you can overcome anything. Some of us will see stop, turn around or take a right sign, but we will all be faced with the yield sign. No matter what you are dealing with, my friend, we must all yield to God’s will. Knowing that He has control over the situation has reminded me of a children’s song, “My God is so Big, so Strong and so Mighty, there is nothing my God can not do for you”. As I hum this children’s song, I am excited to see how God will open the door for me to see my family in Belarus in His time and according to His will.

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