Meal planning is just one of those things I do. I’ve always loved the quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This reminds me of the time before I started meal planning. Of course, before I had kids this was no big deal! We could whip something up or order something on a whim. Now that I have two sweet and very hungry, may I add, little boys I need to know what is going into the oven before “HANGRY TIME” happens.
Oh yes, my friends, there was a time I was way less organized. A time when I had two kids under two and I was pulling my hair out just thinking about making dinner. At that time, I needed a way to make things go a bit smoother in our household. The chaos of dinner time was real (and scary)!
That’s when I had a brilliant -not so new idea – to start meal planning. I’ve always been a budget-conscious person and I would make sure I had enough food for the week, but now I needed to take it to another level. I now had four hungry mouths to feed so I decided to meal plan for two weeks at a time. This saved me from going to a store with two kids more than twice a month. If you are a busy mom, you know exactly why I want to avoid the store with kids!
Why Meal Plan?
Meal planning, as mentioned above, will save your sanity as a parent. However, another HUGE reason to meal plan is one thing I LOVE – saving money. You may think using meal planning is a waste and won’t really save you much, but I have literally slashed my grocery bill in half by using some careful planning. The best part is, it only took me around 30 minutes to plan out two weeks worth of meals and complete a grocery list. It may take your more time the first time, but once you get the hang of it, it is easy peasy. Here are some ways meal planning will save you a ton:
- Less shopping – less time in the store, less purchased
- Using a list – using a list helps you stop randomly throwing things in your cart
- Less waste – plan with what you already have and go from there
- Less take out – no more Chinese food and pizza runs
Suggested Reading: $40 Meal Plan Your Family Will Love
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned…to buy things they don’t want…to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers
Have you heard this one before? Will Rogers definitely hit the nail on the head in terms of budgeting. I mean, where do we draw the line between what we want and what we need? When budgeting, we should ask ourselves if we really want something or if we are buying it to impress someone else. If that is the case, it is better left on the shelf.
It doesn’t help that 8 out of 10 of Americans are in debt (source CNBC.com). Money management has been left behind as we view commercials showcasing the “cool” guy in the car with a bunch of hot girls, the best hair, best clothes, and the best life! He is living “the good life” we all want, right? It is because of advertisements such as these that most people feel what they have is never enough and going into debt for “the good life” is as easy as a stroll in the park.
Yes, my friends…Advertising is at an all-time high. You may not realize you want that new lamp until you see a perfectly placed store display at Target and the lamp starts calling your name. After watching one cartoon, my kids now want three different toys they didn’t even know existed until the said cartoon was complete.
It seems the latest and greatest has replaced any concern for sticking to a budget. Credit cards are the norm and people spend on a whim without realizing the full consequences. These consequences of spending without a budget include the following:
- Huge debt
- Paying interest
- Paying more for items because of interest
- Losing your car
- Losing your house
- Unneeded stress and anxiety
- Debt collectors
Is your budget bursting like the buttons on Santa’s coat? Is swiping your credit card making your anxiety run high? Holiday spending is a major cause of stress. It is easy to get caught up in all the gift giving and Holiday activities that we live in the moment and forget the Holidays can spin us into a whirlwind of debt.
The best way to curb the anxiety is to create a plan. If you make a budget and check it twice, you are bound to have a stress free Holiday Season with visions of a debt-free life dancing in your head.
According to an annual study conducted by Prosper Insight and Analytics people plan to spend an average of $967.13 which is up about 3.4% from last year (source National Retail Federation). Not to mention, 56% of Americans plan on going into debt for the Holidays and although many realize how important a budget is 58% of families fail to stay on budget. (source: The Motley Fool). Spending $967.13 is a HUGE chunk of change, especially if you are already struggling financially.
Many are tempted to dip into their emergency fund or retirement account or open a credit card to make ends meet during the Holiday Season. This is a bad idea all around. Your emergency fund should be used only when NEEDED and using a credit card only guarantees you will pay way more because of interest. Since going into debt this Holiday season is not an option, I’m going to give you some jingly-good ideas to help save your budget and still have a nice Christmas or any Holiday you celebrate.
Earning extra money isn’t always easy, however what if you could make some extra cash while sitting on your couch watching T.V.? Would you do it? Taking surveys is such an easy side hustle it is hard to pass up. Yet, you must know before you start, you are not going to become rich by taking surveys and it would be extremely difficult to make this your full-time job. Nonetheless, if you are just looking for some extra spending money or saving up for the Holidays or vacation spending money, then this is the side gig for you!
One reservation I had about taking surveys was putting my information out there; however, if you work with a trusted survey site (see the ones I recommend below) you can rest at ease and feel confident in sharing your opinion. Sometimes you will even get to try free products! For example, I’ve got four different samples from Pinecone Research shipped right to my door. The best part was, I got paid $3 to review the products which took around 15 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE getting paid to try new products.
Reasons people may shy away from surveys:
- Too much work, not enough money
- Don’t want to share personal information
- Not many survey opportunities
- It’s not the right “time” to sign up
- Afraid of scams
Like many people, maybe you are intrigued by the whole “survey thing” but you just haven’t taken the plunge and signed up. – Or maybe you don’t know where to start. I feel you. These are valid concerns! Yet, the survey companies listed below are all trusted companies that I have personally tried myself (or I wouldn’t be recommending them to you.) You can trust that you will make money or gift cards and you will get the most money for your time – I don’t like wasting my time either.
Suggested Reading: 7 Common Money Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Don’t forget, the more sites you sign up for, the more earning potential you will have since you will not get survey opportunities every day from most of these companies.
Toy shopping for young children is quite overwhelming. There are so many choices and it is difficult to know just what toys are the best learning toys for preschool children. Lucky for you, I was a teacher! Part of my studies included early childhood education and I taught preschool for two years in college. Then I worked with preschool age children that were struggling while I was a special education teacher. Yes, this gives me the inside scoop! Oh and I forgot to mention, I have two sweet, sticky-faced preschoolers living with me! My sons are ages three and five and attend junior kindergarten and preschool three’s respectively.
With all this inside info, it will be easy for you to find the best learning toys this year. Yes, it is great to have that cool action figure or doll your son or daughter adores, but in this gift guide, you will find the best learning toys for your children so you can give them something you feel good about.
Furthermore, I will describe why the toys I picked are useful and beneficial for growth and learning in young children.
After teaching for thirteen years, I’ve concluded that all parents want the best for their children. No matter where we come from or what age or stage of life we are in, we are all pulling for our children and want to do right by them.This is why it is crucial to have some preschool age play-based learning toys under the tree this year, instead of the same old toy that your child loves for one day and then throws in the closet and never uses again – parents, we all know that toy! So this year follow along and let this be your number one toy gift guide!
Keep in mind, there is something for every budget and you do not have to spend a lot of money to help your child learn.
Let me just say, I LOVE Thanksgiving food and I always stuff myself to the point of no return! I have hosted Thanksgiving a few times and it is hard work with a lot of fun and family mixed in. We are not hosting this year, but I am still planning on cooking a small Thanksgiving dinner for my family to enjoy together. With that being said, I am not a huge fan of spending over my budget for one meal.
Some ideas to save money this Thanksgiving include serving frugal side dishes and waiting to buy your turkey until one of your favorite stores has a sale – most do around this time of the year. If you are hosting, make it a potluck style dinner and all of your guests can bring a side dish or dessert to share and you can cook the main dish, turkey. Nonetheless, if you decide to cook everything it is a MUST cook up some side dishes that will not break the bank!
I have compiled a roundup of frugal Thanksgiving dishes from some of my favorite food sites to help you on your money-saving quest. If you are playing hostess, know that you can keep your budget in check and still make a delicious spread. Here’s to you and your family enjoying Thanksgiving and worrying less about your bills!