Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Save 70% on your Grocery Bill


 

Groceries are probably the biggest variable expense for most of us, and it is also the one area where we can drastically cut cost without really affecting our lives.

I love that Extreme Coupon show but it seems so time consuming, and unrealistic you can rarely double your coupons in Canada except at I believe London Drugs, and the only time I find coupons of significant value are on food products like cereal boxes.

So how do I save approximately 70% a week on groceries?

By buying everything on sale. That's it. I go through the flyers every week find the best deals for products our family actually uses and stock up. Instead of going from grocery store to grocery store (and wasting gas) I make a detailed list of the price and store, and circle the items on the flyers with magic marker and take them to Walmart and price match them. It takes a little longer at the checkout, made a little more stressful by an impatient one and three year old - but the savings are always worth it.

Price Matching Tips
  • Check the fine print in the flyer - the brand and size have to be the same in order to price match, and different stores carry different sizes of the same item.
  • Some stores will include higher volume items ie. 120 pack of diapers for a low price because the biggest size they get in is 80, but Walmart usually carries larger items and you can get a really good deal this way.
  • Don't forget to look at drug store flyers - they usually have a few really good deals on grocery items to entice people in to their store weekly

I do shop at different grocery stores when there is a sale on meat (and sometimes produce) - I personally don't find the meat at Walmart is as high quality as the local expensive stores and I stock my freezers. Here in Ontario chicken breast regularly can be as high as $9.99/lb so I stock up when I see it for $3.99/lb or anything else.
 
 
Money Saving Mom@ Printable Stock-up ListThe secret to making this method the most effective - is to know your prices and to buy enough to get you to the next sale - which isn't too long approximately six to eight weeks between sales depending on the item - certain products like steaks and roasts seem to go on sale less often.
 
Tips to get the best deals:
 
Don't be fooled by a 'sale' price - some stores advertise sales when they are no lower priced than a local more inexpensive grocery store. It's hard when first starting out to know what a good deal is but keep track of your purchases and note when you find a better price and where.
 
I find a simple stock up list like the one I printed for free from Money Saving Mom useful to get the best deals. She offers a filled in one with prices in her area and a blank one so you can customize it and fill in your own prices.
 
 
Always check expiration dates and find the one with the longest shelf life - it's not a good deal if the product expires before your family uses it.
 
 
Know if you use coupons on top of the sale price you can save even more but remember 50 cents off a $4 product is not as good as a half off sale, so your probably better to let the coupon expire and wait for a sale.
 
Do you have any helpful tips for saving money on groceries? Or have you tried Walmarts new app - the Savings Catcher. Wish we had it in Canada but would love to know your experiences with it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ultimate Gift Buying Guide: One Year Olds


Here is my Ultimate Gift Guide for One Year Olds - you can find the rest of the list HERE. I actually have all of these, or at least a version of them. (Wow that makes my kids seem a little spoiled lucky really fortunate)

ultimate gift guide for one year olds

#1 Fisher-Price Little People Fun Sounds Farm
This farm includes a chicken, Farmer Eddie, horse, cow and sheep and makes noises.

#2 VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels - Train Station Playset
The train talks when you press the button and has sayings every time you drive it over a 'smart point'
and all the sets are interchangeable

#3 Mega Blocks Ride On Caterpillar with Excavator
These ride on toys seem to be a big hit with one year olds. This one has realistic sounds, underseat storage and working shovel scoop.

gift ideas for one year old girls


#1 Fisher-Price Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace
Includes Cinderella and Snow White.
Each princess you place on the dance floor sings her own song from the movie and has a couple of her own phrases. You can buy sets separately which are great for small presents or stocking stuffers.

#2. Light N Sound Elsa Activity Ride-On


The pictured princess one is no longer available so you can purchase this similar Elsa one from Target for $32.99

#3 Leap Frog Shapes and Sharing Picnic Basket
14 piece picnic set, and music and sounds every time you open the basket lid. This is an inexpensive toy and is a hit with both my son and my 3 year old daughter still plays with it.




Friday, November 14, 2014

Top 2014 Toys


Here are a few of the top toys for 2014, with price comparisons at all the major box stores and Amazon. Prices are valid as of November 14th, 2014.

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Chair


For ages 12 - 36 months. Has three levels of play - Explore, Encourage & Pretend for older children.

Amazon - $28.49 (with free shipping for orders over $35)

Walmart.Com - $28.49 - Yellow or $29.97 for Pink 

Toys 'R Us - $34.99

Target.com - $28.49
Fisher-Price Little People City Skyway


3 foot tall, Little People car track. Recommended for children 1 - 5 years.

Amazon - $29.97

Walmart - $29.97

Toys R' Us - $29.99

Target - $29.99

Frozen Elsa or Anna Toddler Dolls



Recommended for ages 3+ Elsa and/or Anna Frozen Toddler Dolls with miniature Olaf.

Amazon - Get Elsa for $32.45 or get Anna for $31.81 or Get both for $42.00 + $6.49 shipping

Walmart - Anna - $29.99 (currently out of stock online)

Toys R Us - $26.99 each for Elsa or Anna

Target - $37.99 for both or $24.99 each 
 
Hot Wheels Track Builder Total Turbo Takeover Track Set  


For children ages 3 - 7. Requires 4C batteries (not included)

Amazon - $33.24

Walmart - Was $39.97 Now $33.24
 
Toys 'R Us - $34.99
 
Target - not found.

Flutterbye Deluxe Fairy - Rainbow or Tinkerbell

Fairies that really fly! And float above your palm. Rainbow has light up dress. Recommended for ages 5+ Requires 6AA batteries (not included)
Amazon - Rainbow $29.67 Tinkerbell - $29.97
Walmart - Rainbow $29.67 Tinkerbell - $29.97
Toys R' Us - Rainbow $29.99  Tinkerbell $29.99
Target - Rainbow $34.99  Tinkerbell $29.99
Zoomer Dino

Try to teach and tame this interactive dinosaur. For ages 5+.

Amazon - $96.99 with free shipping

Walmart - Was $99.97 Now $79.88

Toys 'R Us - Was $99.99 Now $79.99

Target - on sale for $79.99
 


Disclaimer: I do make a small fee if you purchase your items from Amazon, and if you do, me and my family greatly appreciate it!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Budgeting for Christmas



I think I have mentioned before that I LOVE Christmas and everything about it -- the gift buying, the decorating, the cookies and yummy food but there is one aspect I don't like about it - the cost! And I'm sure I am not alone. But there are a few ways you can save drastically this Christmas.

Planning.


It's important to have a plan and a set budget in mind, because it can be very easy to overspend and be suffering from credit card debt in January. If you find the perfect gift for someone on your list but it's over the budget just find a deal on a gift for another person on your list so you even it out. So know your budget and stick to it!
 
Each year I buy gifts for my kids, hubbie, parents, parents-in-law and all my nieces and nephews. I try to set a budget for each and try to get the kids presents for around $25 each.

There are several free holiday resources that can help you plan and budget for Christmas including...
 
Free binder printables from Thirty Handmade Days which includes binder cover, card list, gift lists for ideas & budget, and a section for receipts and birthdays/anniversaries so you're prepared all year long.  
 
 
 
iheartorganizing also has some useful and cute Holiday planning printables including party planning list, letter to Santa,  December calendar, to do list and travel checklist.
 
Or you can get the 2014 Holiday Planning Workbook free with e-mail subscription from Living Well Spending Less
 

Well you get the idea... there's lots of options on Pinterest and I'm sure you can find some to suit your personal needs.

Shop Sales.


Once you have a plan and a  good idea of what you are going to buy each person on your list, you can look online and in the flyers for good sales!

I love getting the present I wanted for 30 or even 50% off!
 
You can take advantage of major sales like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, or look up prices at your major box stores and compare to find the best price for each product.

Keep your receipts organized in case you find a better sale price than the one you purchased before Christmas. Some stores allow you to claim a better sale price for up to 90 days.

Buy Used


Kids, especially younger kids are oblivious if you buy them second hand toys, and Fisher Price and a few other brands are very durable and clean up nice.

Just make sure that all the buttons work and they are clean and you can probably save 80 - 90% on Christmas toys! 

I have also found 'like new' name brand clothes at used clothing stores for 70 - 80% off, and if you really shop around you can sometime find designer items.

Money you can allocate elsewhere if you have a tight Christmas budget or start them a college fund ... which they won't appreciate for another seventeen years. =)

What are your favourite ways for saving during the holidays?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ultimate Gift Buying Guide: Christmas 2017

I love Christmas - buying gifts for the kids, the overly sappy Christmas movies, the cookies, decorating the Christmas tree and the whole house, wrapping presents - pretty much everything.



But sometimes it can be stressful trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list so I will be adding to the "Ultimate Gift Buying Guide" over the next few weeks and hopefully it will give you some inspiration for that difficult person on your list. 

Babies




toddler gift ideas
And come back often to see more of my "Ultimate Gift Buying Guide" including the perfect gifts for tweens, men and women and the top gifts of 2017. 

And check out the rest of the Ultimate Gift Guide on Pinterest

Ultimate Gift Buying Guide: Mother In Law/ Grandma

women gift ideas


A few years ago I stumbled upon the perfect gift for my mom and my mother in law! And what's even better is that I have been able to recycle the same gift every year since.

It was photo books of the grand kids, a cute 8 by 8" hard cover book I ordered from Shutterfly for under $20! I took all the best pics of the kids throughout the year, uploaded them, picked one of their hundreds of themes and it basically put itself together. (And of course I order one for myself while I was at it)

And you can customize it as much as you like, by adding captions, cute saying, image details, backgrounds and more.


mother in law gift ideas



And you can get creative with your ideas as well. I created a "baby book" for each of my children's first years - with dates of some of their "firsts" and favourites, or you could do a year in review with highlights of your family over the course of a year, or pictures of you and your mom or grandma throughout the years:

gift ideas for mom



I also like the idea of creating a recipe book for your college student or grandkids with family favourite recipes, pictures of you baking together, or a picture of your great grandmas recipe in her handwriting.


gift ideas for grandma


Sometimes we can feel a little overwhelmed with all the presents some of us fortunate people receive at Christmas and it's nice to give and receive something that is a little more personal. And I was really happy with the quality of the book. One year I left ordering it to the last minute (with a completion date of I believe Jan. 3) and they rushed it so it would arrive in time for Christmas.

And you can  save up to 50% on photo books, calendars, holiday cards and more by clicking on Shutterfly's Special Offers Page. 

See more form the Ultimate Gift Buying Guide

gift ideas for everyone


This page does contain an affiliate link but the opinions are my own, and if you do use my link my family and I sincerely appreciate it especially around the holidays!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ultimate Gift Buying Guide - 6+ Months

It's difficult buying gifts for infants especially if you don't have kids yourself, and even if you do it's always nice to get gifts that are popular with most kids. So here is my gift guide for children 6 months and up...



Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Remote and Smilin' Smartphone Bundle 
All kids seem to have an obsession with the remote control and both my son and daughter loved this toy. Its small enough to throw in your purse for long shopping trips and it's not overly loud (although they control the volume)



Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Fun with Friends Musical Table - $42.99 on Amazon
This also was a big hit with my kids and their friends although a little more so with my daughter. It has a piano, storybook, laptop and telephone, and you can remove the legs for kids who can't stand yet.

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Puppy's Activity Home $23.74 on Amazon
My son received this toy for his first birthday and loved it. He liked opening the roof and door to find they toys hiding inside and my 3 year old loves all the songs - that are now perpetually stuck in my head (at least their catchy)

Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy Do you hear that? Baby will discover seven classical melodies from Mozart, Chopin, and more by pressing the center button.





Was their a toy that was your children's favourite?

Sometimes it can be difficult thinking of stocking stuffer ideas for infants, so here are over 20 creative stocking stuffer ideas for babies.

stocking stuffer for babies

Keep it Clean Pacifiers - these pacifiers snap shut every time they are dropped keeping the pacifier clean - ingenious!  


baby stocking stuffer ideas

Lullaby cd - I sing my children lullabies until I am hoarse, purchase a lullaby cd - they have tons by famous artists now.

Pacifier clip - a practical gift, so their pacifier doesn't inevitably end up on the floor of Walmart


stocking stuffer ideas for babies


Socks - adults may think socks are a boring present but infants seem to think pulling off socks is the funnest thing in the world!
These fresh food feeders prevent babies from choking while learning to eat real food. 


stocking ideas for babies

Personalized soft photo album - teach your baby all their family members names, even if nana and poppa live far away with a soft photo album with family pictures.

Silicone Teething Biscuits - these silicone biscuits are so cute and great for teething babies to chew on.


stocking stuffer ideas for infants



Personalized Christmas tree ornament - get a keepsake of your babies first year that you can pass on when they get their own Christmas tree (I still have mine)

Tag blanket - babies love tags for some reason, they find playing with tags soothing. So I found these blankets were great for keeping babies warm and for them to entertain themselves.

infant stocking stuffer ideas,


Treats for babies - like stars (dissolvable star shaped puffs) yogurt or dehydrated fruit melts, mum mum biscuits, 'dessert' flavoured baby food, etc. make a great stocking stuffer.

Baconease Teether - apparently even babies love bacon. Who can blame them? Love this bacon shaped teether toy.


stockings for babies
training tooth brush -  babies need to brush their gums even before they have teeth, and once they begin toothing they love chewing on tooth brushes.

stockings for infants

Wrist rattles - for arms and ankles are great for young babies because they supposedly help babies find their hands and toes quicker. 

baby gift ideas


Car seat toys - there are so many options for cute and fun toys that attach to babies car seat - great for trips in the car, or for when you transfer their car seat to the grocery cart.

soft headbands or small Velcro bows are so cute - and not to mention help distinguish a babies sex because lets be honest it can be difficult to tell at two months.

infant gift ideas

Amber teething necklaces for teething babies

small gift ideas for babies
or fashionable silicon necklaces for mom so baby can chew on them

new mommy gift ideas

teething rings for fridge are a great gift idea, and they come in so many different shapes

Soft Stuffed Toy Blanket - like this adorable fox stuffie

babies first christmas gift ideas


bandanas - least your babies can look fashionable while drooling profusely with these super absorbent bibs 
first christmas gift ideas
Love these Classic Baby Lit board books in classics like Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes and more.

cute baby gift ideas
Baby leg warmers - keep babies from bruising their knees when they are learning to crawl not to mention they are absolutely adorable!

I don't know what it is but all babies seem to love Sophie the giraffe. 

And for more gift ideas - check out the Ultimate Gift Buying Guide for Everyone on Your List



Monday, October 20, 2014

Review of Affiliates



As a new (or even an established) blogger it is difficult to choose which affiliate programs are the most profitable or the best fit for our blog. Now I am not claiming to be an expert in any way but from my own personal experience I will tell you what has worked (and what hasn't) from my blogs. And hopefully it will save you a little time through that tedious trial and error of finding the best advertising mix for you.

There are basically four types of blog advertisements : pay per view, pay per click, pay per sale and sponsored posts.

Pay Per View


This is possibly the easiest way to make money at if you have high page views, and choose a company with a high eCPM (basically how much you make per 1000 impressions)

The companies I have personally tried are...

Smowtion

Smowtion is very easy to qualify for however their earnings are really low (approximately $0.10 per 1000). One upside they use to have was they had a two tier affiliate program in which anyone who you referred to join their company temporarily earned a higher amount and you received a portion of their profits however, I'm not sure they even offer this benefit any longer?

Personally, I no longer use Smowtion the earnings were quite low in comparison to other companies I have tried, and their minimum payment was really high at $100.

Google AdSense


The most common pay per view is Google AdSense and unfortunately I was denied the first couple times I applied as I featured round-ups from other blogs. So I cannot personally tell you how much they pay but I do know you need to wait a minimum 90 days after establishing a blog before applying.

PulsePoint


Since I didn't qualify for AdSense I looked for the best alternative and personally I like PulsePoint.com You get to set the price you want for advertisers to pay and a minimum rate you want. So for instance you can set $1 for a side banner advertisement then you can set a minimum rate (say $0.60) you want before you use a back-up ad.


They are a little more difficult to implement only because you have to decide on your own rates and they do not have a 100% fill rate so you need to have a back-up ad [of the same size!] when no advertisers meet your minimum. I was using Smowtion as a back-up advertiser and recently switched to Share A Sale.

Media.Net

Although I am not currently using Media.Net I wouldn't discount them, I have heard other bloggers have had success with them and they are by far the best at personally working with you - recommending which size ads and where to place them. I took them off because I was receiving less than PulsePoint and was having difficulty in placing ads where they had recommended and didn't receive help quickly by e-mail but later received a few emails asking to work with me again.

Info Links

I'm sure you have encountered Infolinks often - the advertisements which underline key words within your blog posts. Infolinks provide links related to customer searches. They are fairly easy to qualify for, and review your application in 48 days. The payment threshold is $50 and they pay by pay pal. Although the threshold is a little high I have been paid by them a few times already. This is great for blogs with high views, if you only receive a few hundred views monthly your payout may be .10 cents but will increase with views and it's nice to earn anything while you work to establish your blog. I also like that it's not another advertisement clogging up your sidebar.

Pay Per Click


Chitika

Early in my blogging days I tried Chitika and was not at all impressed with them, you only seemed to earn one or two cents when somebody clicked on an advertisement, and all their advertisement were text based so weren't very visually appealing.

Pay Per Sale


Pick Your Plum

 I  really liked the appearance of the Pick Your Plum advertisements but after a couple months without any sales (I did have several clicks though) I removed them from my site. They might be worth a try if your viewers are closely aligned with their products which offer a new deal daily.

 
ClickBank

I found ClickBank offered a lot of digital products, downloads etc. and sometime I found it difficult to find companies with banner advertisements. I personally didn't like ClickBank as their ads weren't always professional looking and I didn't have any sales with them.

Share A Sale

Share a Sale is now one of my favourite companies, I haven't been using them very long but they have a lot of companies they work with, their ads are really attractive looking, and their commissions are quite reasonable. I am still hovering under the minimum payout but have seen a spike around holidays and incorporating products into blog posts.


Share A Sale also has a referral program in which you get $1 for referring new affiliate referrals, and I believe it's $150 for referring a new merchant (so I would really appreciate if you used my link =)  )

The only complaint I have with Share A Sale is that when I am searching for a specific product I cannot always seem to find a merchant who is selling it.

Amazon

Although I have yet to have a sale with Amazon I still use them as they have by far the largest product selection and I can find nearly any specific product I am looking for. I also just realized I was able to offer Amazon.com products even though I am Canadian and am hoping to see a few more sales as most of my readers are from the U.S.

Amazon starts with a 4% commission rate and eventually increases the rate to 6% after a certain amount of sales.

Sponsored Blog Posts

Moms Affiliate


I unfortunately haven't written any sponsored blog posts yet but do hope to get into writing a few in the future and have recently joined Moms Affiliate.

A fairly new program just for mommy bloggers, you can choose one of their campaigns, advertise their products and set your own rate for your sponsored posts.

They also pay for referral (so I would be super happy if you use my link to join) and also offer giveaways you can host on your blog for free - some of which even pay you for how many people enter.

Sverve

I have also joined Sverve - they are like a social networking and affiliate program in one. Personally I like the twitter campaigns Sverve offers where you are paid 10 to 12 cents just for posting a tweet. They also offer campaigns that pay up to $350.

You can join Sverve  here for free - and if you are looking to learn more about Sverve - you can read my article How to Make Money Blogging with Sverve and join my Sverve link party that is permanently open to gain more followers and endorsements.

 

My Recommendations:


So for me personally my favourite affiliate mix is Infolinks, Share A Sale, Amazon and Pulse Point. My second favourites would be Pick Your Plum and MediaNet.

Please leave me a comment and let me know your experiences with these affiliates and what your favourites are.

*this post contains a couple affiliate links but, I did not base my opinions on referral programs
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