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In my previous post 7 Debt-Free Resolutions for 2016 I talked about finding a way to visually track our debt-payment process. This is so so important to me because seeing a visual representation of my progress, and knowing I’ll have a few rewards along the way helps me stay motivated! I finally decided on a system for this, and created a FREE printable to share. It can be used to track saving or debt-payment goals, and the Mason jar is a fun alternative to the “thermometer” goal tracking sheets currently available on the world wide web. Hopefully it will help you on your debt-free journey as much as it helps me!

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To fill it out, write your BIG goal on the top line, then divide it into 9 smaller goals and write those goals on the lines beneath; you can even plan a few rewards along the way to keep yourself motivated. Fill in your Mason jar as you go to track your progress! A link to print your own is at the bottom of this post!

 

 

Financial Goal Tracker

Click HERE to print your own!

March 13, 2016 1 comment
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Cotton wreath

Hey there! I’ve gotten so many compliments on my handmade cotton wreath that I thought I would share a quick how-to. I’d seen these gorgeous cotton wreaths selling for anywhere from $50-$80, and had been wanting one for a long time but could never justify spending that kind of money. Here’s how I made my own (and only spent $20.33!!!).

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Cotton stems

I used 6 of them for my 14″ wreath. I bought them at Hobby Lobby when they were 50% off so they only cost me $2.99 each. Floral stems usually go on sale every other week at Hobby Lobby so be patient and wait a few days to save the extra money!

 

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I used a 14″ inch grapevine wreath. I applied my 40% off mobile coupon and got it for $2.39 at Hobby Lobby. I chose one that was a little bit thinner than most, so it would easily be hidden by the cotton stems.

You’ll also need:

Wire cutters
Floral wire
Hot glue & gun
Embellishments (optional)

Start by laying out your stems on top of the wreath, space them out evenly so you don’t have any gaps. Then, one stem at a time, cut them down and work them into the grapevine wreath. Secure each stem with some floral wire to keep it from slipping. If you notice that some areas look too bulky, cut out a few of the cotton blooms and hot glue them in a thinner area to balance everything out.

DSC_0266Add a bow, an initial, or whatever embellishments you like and you’re all set! Now go hang your handmade cotton wreath on your front door with pride!

March 8, 2016 5 comments
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Since we were in high school, this has been one of James and I’s favorite frugal date-nights so I’m excited to share it with you! We pick a store, agree on a budget, set a timer on our phones for 30 minutes, and then split up to find each other the perfect gifts. When the timer goes off, we meet up and “open” our presents.

The first time we did this, we went to Wal-mart and each spent $10 on each other. I got him a few small things he needed, and surprised him with a bag of live gold fish which we kept together as our first “pets”. It’s something we still remember and laugh about to this day.

This Valentines day, we went to Target and had a budget of $25 each. Our Target has a Starbucks so we met there to enjoy a drink while we opened our gifts. He bought me the beautiful Chesapeake Bay candle pictured above, and a container of my favorite body lotion. I bought him a set of nerf guns (he’s still a kid at heart!) and we had a blast chasing each other around the house during the inevitable nerf gun war that ensued later that night.

The great thing about this date idea is that you can adjust it to suit your budget. It’s not about how much money you spend, but having fun and creating memories together as a couple! I hope you’ll give it a try! Let me know about your adventures in the comments section below!

February 16, 2016 1 comment
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This is the third and final post in my series on How to Coupon (for Beginners!). I’ve had so much fun sharing this passion of mine with you, and hope that you’ve learned a thing or two along the way! Todays post will be all about rebate and reward programs you can use to maximize your couponing savings! I’ll also talk about a few of my favorite time-saving apps, because anything that makes life easier is worth sharing! Untitled

Rebates & Rewards:

When stacked with coupons, and great sale prices, rebate and reward programs can stretch your savings even further! Sometimes I even MAKE more money than I spend on these deals!

Extra Care by CVS

CVS’s  Extra Care rewards program is by far my favorite one out there! Download their app or create an account in-store to get the special members-only discounts advertised in their sales circular, receive coupons in your e-mail, and earn Extra Care Bucks rewards. Extra care bucks are coupons that can be redeemed towards your next purchase. They are earned by purchasing select items as advertised, plus you will get $5 for every $50 spent on beauty, and $5 for every 10 pharmacy credits. Any Extra Care Bucks earned will print at the bottom of your receipt, but watch out! Unlike gift-cards they do expire. “Roll” your extra care bucks by using them to pay for your future purchases and you will reduce your out-of-pocket expenses!

iBotta

The iBotta app is a rebate app that helps you earn cash back on your every day purchases. Choose from a list of rebates available at your favorite store, then unlock and redeem them by submitting a photo of your receipt. Once you’ve reached $20 you can transfer your rebates to your PayPal or Venmo account, or with a $25 minimum you can purchase gift cards to select retailers. Taking advantage of available rebate offers is a great way to maximize your savings! I’ve even used the app to “make” money off of items I received for free after coupons!

Apps:

I’ve rounded up the best of the best when it comes to apps for couponing! These free apps will save you time & money! Download them and start taking advantage of these incredible resources!

Coupons.com

The Coupons.com app is my favorite place to find printable coupons. Just browse the list of available coupons, “clip” the ones you want, then print them right from your phone! They have a large database of online sales and coupon codes as well. Printable coupons can only printed two times from each device.

Flipp

The Flipp app is a great resource containing up-to-date sales circulars for all your favorite places to shop. It has a filter to help you search for the best discounts, and has a “Clip” feature so you can add sales to your list for later. It is SO convenient to have all that information available in one place!

Cartwheel

Target’s Cartwheel app has a barcode scanner to make searching for discounts quick and simple. I scan every item as I put it into my cart just to make sure I don’t miss anything! If the item scanned doesn’t match any offers, the app will suggest a similar item that does. Once I find an offer I want to use, I add it to my barcode and have the cashier scan it at the register. I find some unexpected savings every time I shop! Cartwheel offers can be stacked with one Target coupon AND one manufacturers coupon per item, and can be used over and over again until the offer expires.

Krazy Coupon Lady

This app is basically everything a couponer needs compiled in one place! So so so helpful! Select your favorite stores to “follow” a feed of their sales, coupon deals, and clearance finds. Browse printable coupons, create a shopping list, and share a “brag” post to pass the fantastic savings along! Check out their “Learn” section for money saving hacks, educational videos, and a super awesome Transform Your Shopping Habits in 10 Days e-book. This is a great app for beginning couponers because it contains so much helpful information!

That wraps up our series on How to Coupon (for Beginners!) If you have any questions, or care to share some of your money saving tips leave a comment below!

January 21, 2016 0 comment
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Hey there! Welcome to part 2 of my 3 part series on How to Coupon (for beginners!). In my last post, we talked about the basics including where to shop, where to get coupons, and when to buy. I also shared a few fantastic resources for beginning couponers so if you haven’t read that post yet, make sure you go here and check it out!

Today we will be talking about the different types of coupons available, and how to “stack” them. I’ll also be breaking down a few different deals for you can you see the magic happen for yourself & hopefully this will all start to make sense!

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Types of Coupons:

There are three different types of coupons: manufacturers coupons, store coupons and category coupons. Don’t know how to tell the difference? It’s easy. Look for a box somewhere on your coupon, usually at the top:

curad coupon

As you can see, this one has a green box at the top that says “Manufacturer’s Coupon”.

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Similarly, this one has a black box at the top that says it is a Target coupon. Coupons that say “Redeemable at” or contain a store logo are not necessarily store coupons, so it’s important to read the coupon carefully!

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This is an example of category coupon. Since it doesn’t apply to one single item, you can use it in combination with other coupons as long as the items are all within the “Baby” category. Coupons that say things like $5 off a $25 purchase, etc. work the same way! Since it’s also a Target coupon, it can only be used at Target stores.

Coupon Stacking:

Now that you know and understand the three different types of coupons, lets take a look at how they can be used. Most stores will let you use one of each type of coupon on any single item, this is referred to as “stacking”. When combined with an already low sale price, coupon stacking is the most effective way to save money by couponing. Here’s an example:

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This is a manufacturer coupon for Buy One Get One Free Herbal Essences shampoo (my favorite!) When this coupon came out, Herbal Essences shampoos were on sale at Target for $4.99 and they had a special running that if I bought four I would receive a $5 gift card after checkout. I also had a category coupon for $5 off a $15 beauty purchase at Target. When I combined these deals, I walked out of Target with 8 FREE bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Here’s how it worked:

I bought 8 at $4.99= $39.92
I used 2 $5 off $15 beauty coupons (-$10.00)= $29.92
I used 4 BOGO coupons (-$19.96)= $9.96 (paid this +tax out of pocket)
AND I got back $10 in Target gift cards to use on groceries, orrr that new scarf I had my eye on. 😉

Pretty awesome right?! Let’s try another one! This deal is called a money maker because I actually got back more money in gift cards than I spent! I don’t have  a photo of the coupon, but it was a manufacturer coupon for $2 off a Swiffer duster starter kit like the one pictured below.

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Target had the kits on sale for $3.99 each, and ran a special that if I bought 3 I would receive a $10 gift card after checkout. I made $4.03 off this deal! Here’s how it worked:

I bought 3 Swiffer duster starter kits at $3.99= $11.97
I used 3 $2 off one Swiffer duster starter kit coupons (-$6.00)= $5.97 (paid this +tax out of pocket)
AND I got back $10 on a Target gift card! YAY!

As you can see, coupon stacking is the key to getting AMAZING deals! Check your circulars for sales or promotions, and follow your couponing blogs closely so you don’t miss any match ups! When you find a match up, calculate your price and check it against this stock up price list from Passion for Savings to make sure it’s a good deal. Then write it all down on your shopping list, organize the coupons you need, and double check your math. These three steps are so important to a successful shopping trip! The couponing world moves quickly, and it takes some work and dedication but it is SO worth the effort!

Come back Thursday for the 3rd and last post in my How to Coupon (for Beginners!) series. We’ll talk about a few apps that will help you on your couponing journey, as well as some reward and rebate programs you can use to maximize your savings!

January 18, 2016 0 comment
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As part of James and I’s plan to pay off $40,000 in debt in 2016 (more about that here), I’ll be using coupons to save on all our household essentials. After several failed attempts, I finally learned to coupon in August of 2015 when a friend of mine took time to teach me the ropes. Since then it’s saved us hundreds of dollars and become a fun hobby of mine. I often find the things I need for 50%-70% off retail, and sometimes even FREE! I’ll never pay full price again!

In my next three posts, I hope to teach you how to coupon for items like toiletries, cleaning products, detergents, and more so that you can enjoy the same savings! In this post I’ll cover the basics including a list of resources, where to shop, where to get coupons, and the different types of coupons available. This post will contain LOTS of information,  so make sure you pin it for future reference! Let’s jump right in!

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The Basics:

Where to shop:

Target seems to be the most popular choice among couponers, this is because their coupon policy is easy to work with, they have great sales, and you have the option of using the Cartwheel app to maximize your savings. They are my personal favorite place to shop. CVS is a close second. Since these stores are where I do most of my shopping, I’ll focus on them in my post today.

Where to get coupons:

One thing I get asked all the time is “How do you get so many coupons?!” The answer is simple, I buy SO MANY newspapers! When I started couponing, I purchased 4 papers a week from my local Dollar Tree store. Paying $4 a week for my coupons was worth the extra expense because I knew I would be saving wayyyy more than that!

Printable coupons are another convenient & budget friendly option. Visit Coupons.com and Target.com to find hundreds of coupons you can print right from your home computer!

The third option is to search for what’s called a “Coupon Fairy” in your area. This is someone that sells newspaper inserts in bulk at a discounted rate. Or you can order your coupons from sellers on Facebook groups like Coupon Inserts & Clippings.

When to buy:

You’ll hear couponers talk about “stock up” prices. The “stock up” price is estimated to be the lowest price an item will sell for in about 3-6 months, so when you find an item available at a “stock up” price, buy enough to last until the next time the item goes on sale. By doing this you will eliminate the need to pay full price for your household necessities and maximize your savings! For a list of “stock up” prices on the most common household necessities head over to Passion For Savings and search for the item you need! It’s easy as a newbie couponer to overspend on things, simply because everything seems like a great deal compared to what you’re used to paying! Consulting a “stock up” price list before buying will help keep you and your wallet on track. 🙂

Resources:

There are many fantastic blogs and social media groups out there completely dedicated to couponing. I would encourage you to start following a few as you begin your couponing journey. Some of my favorites are:

The Couponing Couple
The Krazy Coupon Lady
The Consumer Queen
Passion for Savings
Target Couponing
CVS Couponers

These websites and groups will keep you up-to-date on all the latest deals, as well as post updates about store coupon policies, money saving tricks, etc. The couponing world moves quickly so make sure you check in often!

If you follow these blogs or groups for any length of time, you’ll notice that couponers seem to have their own secret language. Here’s a cheat sheet, you might want to save it for future reference as I’ll be using it in the following posts:

couponinglingo

 

I think that pretty much covers the basics, but we still have a lot to learn! Come back Monday to learn about the different types of coupons available, and how to stack them to get the most amazing deals!

Feel free to ask questions in the comments, I would love the chance to help you learn! I’m excited to share more about my passion for couponing and hope you’ll join me on this journey!

January 14, 2016 1 comment
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James and I have set a BIG financial goal for 2016 to pay off $40,000 of our home loan debt. We are setting such a big goal because we are eager to start a family, but want the security of being debt-free and able to live comfortably off one income. Making this goal a reality will require dedication and creativity! As we re-evaluate our budget for the new year, here are 7 Debt-Free “Resolutions” for 2016 we will use to help us acheive our financial goals!

7 debt free resolutions

1. We will live below our means.

My husband and I both work full time jobs and earn average incomes, but we have chosen to live on less than half of what we make. My smaller income will be dedicated to covering our living expenses, and we will budget accordingly. We won’t “depend” on his income, and will use it only for building our savings and paying off debt.

2. We will save money on essentials.

To make living off one income more comfortable, we will coupon for our household essentials, buy all our groceries at Aldi and reduce our monthly bills. Doing this will allow us to put some of MY income towards paying off debt as well! I’ll have more posts about how we do this coming soon!

3. We will cut unnecessary spending.

We will scrutinize our spending and separate our “wants” from our “needs”. To quote Dave Ramsey “You can’t get out of debt while keeping the same lifestyle that got your there. Cut out everything except the basics.”

4. We will use a financial planner.

You can find a free printable for the one we use by clicking here. We will use it to track our bills, budget our spending, and keep ourselves accountable to our goals for each month.

5. We will give every dollar a job.

Dave Ramsey wisely said “You’ve got to tell your money what to do or it will leave.” This concept is as basic as having a plan for exactly where every dollar of your paycheck will go, but for some reason it is so SO hard for me to do.  This is something that we will learn this year so we can take full control of our finances and set ourselves up for financial success!

6. We will put all extra income towards our debt.

This includes bonuses, tax returns, overtime pay, and income from the blog or other side jobs. I also have the option to take a payout instead of going on two weeks of paid vacation so we will be dedicating that to our home loan debt as well.

7. We will find a way to visually track our progress.

It’s just so much easier to stay motivated when you can actually SEE your progress, and have a few rewards planned for yourself along the way. We haven’t settled on just how we will do this yet, but when we do I’ll make sure we let you know! ;D

Do you have any tips that have helped you save money and achieve your financial goals? If so we would love to hear them! Just leave a comment below to share!

 

 

January 11, 2016 3 comments
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Today I’ll be sharing a peak at how I create my monthly budget, as well as a FREE download of my 2016 Financial Planner printable! I’m sure I can’t be the only one who’s made a late payment simply because I forgot a bill was due. I always used to get so frustrated with myself, especially if late fee’s were involved. It was like throwing my money away!! I started using this system last year and haven’t missed a payment since! It’s simple to use, takes just a few minutes a month, and reduces my stress level, so it’s a win-win-win! Links for the download are at the bottom of this post!

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My financial planner consists of just these three pages. I keep them in a binder with my calendar, notebook and meal planner (printable coming soon!)

The Oklahomemaker Bill Payment Tracker

This page is my Bill Payment Tracker. If you only use one of the printables I’m sharing with you today, make it this one! It’s a life saver. I start by listing my bills in the column on the left, I like to start with those due at the beginning of the month and work my way down to the bills due at the end of the month. For bills that stay the same I enter the amount, but if it’s one that changes monthly (electric, water, credit cards etc.) I just write “Varies”. Next enter when the bill is due, and then put a check mark by it when it’s been paid! Easy peasy.

The Oklahomemaker Paycheck Budgeting

Since James and I are both on a bi-weekly pay schedules, we plan our spending around two paychecks each month (we live on my income and are using his to pay down our loan). Some months have three paychecks and when those come around we either pay extra towards our house, or save them. To fill this one out you’ll use your Bill Payment Tracker to figure out which bills are due during each pay period and plan accordingly. I set a budget each month for grocery, transportation, giving, and extra expenses and I spread these out over the two paychecks as well. Then add up all your bills and budgeted expenses and subtract that number from  your income. That number should be what you have available to put into savings, pay off loans, etc. Having this in writing always motivates me to stay on budget so I can have the “reward” of extra money at the end of the month.

The Oklahomemaker Password Log

 

The last page isn’t necessarily for financial planning, but it does make paying bills a lot easier! We pay the majority of our bills online so we keep a log with all the web addresses, and account info we need. I write down a hint instead of our actual password, just to be safe. 😉

Well there you have it! I hope these spreadsheets are as helpful to you as they’ve been to me! Links and printing instructions are below:

Bill Payment Tracker PDF Print 1

Paycheck Budgeting PDF Print 12

Password Log PDF Print 1

January 7, 2016 1 comment
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Happy New Year readers! If you’re like me, you probably started taking down your Christmas decorations on January 1st. As much as I hate to see them go, I have to jump at the chance to try something with my decor! Most of my living room is covered in boxes and tissue paper as I pack away the last of the Christmas decor, but I’ll share a few snapshots of what I’ve been working on so far!

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I still have a lot to do, but I’m really loving where this space is headed! Keep reading, I’ll have more photos and a full home tour on the blog soon!

January 4, 2016 0 comment
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25 + Homemade Gift Ideas

We’ve had so many adventures during our first year as homeowners, from bringing home our first puppy to DIY-ing our first home repairs. BUT, one of the best things about being a homeowner is the chance to become part of a community. We’ve been blessed to share fences with some incredible neighbors who are always ready and willing to lend a helping hand. That’s why I was so excited to do something special for them this Holiday season to show our appreciation. In my search for the perfect neighbor gift, I’ve rounded up 25+ of the best homemade (and budget friendly) gift ideas perfect for your neighbors, coworkers, or friends! Click on the images to view the original posts!

 

Cinnamon Shake and Pour Pancakes By Tater Tots And Jello

Christmas Stovetop Potpourri By Yellow Bliss Road

“Soda-Lighted You’re My Neighbor Gift” By Love The Day

Dip Mix Ornaments By Bubbly Nature Creations

DIY Snowman Kit By Confetti Sunshine

Gourmet Popcorn Gift By The Country Chic Cottage

Sand Art Brownie Mix By Taste of Home

Redbox Neighbor Gift Idea By Over The Big Moon

Hot Cocoa Mix Ornaments By Bubbly Nature Creations

Oreo Elf Feet By The Diary of Daves Wife

Wrap it up! By A Girl And A Glue Gun

Rustic Wood Candle Holders By Marty’s Musings

Gingerbread House Kit By 30 Minute Crafts

Handmade Holiday Gift Tags By The OklaHomeMaker

“Grate” Neighbor Gift By Mel Designs

Etched Birch Ornaments By Design Mom

Soup Mix Ornaments By Bubbly Nature Creations

Free Printable Nail Themed Christmas Tags By Persia Lou

Cinnamon Honey Butter by The Food Charlatan

Let Us Do The Dishes! By A Girl And A Glue Gun

Rustic Snowflakes

Snowball Playdough By Yellow Bliss Road

DIY Travel Farkle Game By Fun Cheap or Free

A Bright Idea! By The Partiologistj

Snowman Mason Jar Gift By Polkadot Chair

Iron on Transfer Dish Towel By Today Creative Life

Free Printable Christmas Bingo By Crazy Little Projects

Thanks to all the fabulous bloggers out there who created these posts! I hope you’ve been inspired to create the perfect gift and spread some Christmas spirit to the neighbors in your neck of the woods!

December 9, 2015 2 comments
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