Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

Get Free Textbooks with a Special Allowance

 Erm, did someone say free textbooks? Doing this next semester.

When you’re trying to improve your situation, you come up against a lot of obstacles. Maybe you got into school to further your education, but, especially if you have children, you can’t afford to go without working–which conflicts with your class schedule.

You can combat this by applying for scholarships that will cover your costs above and beyond tuition.

After you have those scholarships, you have another major hindrance: textbooks. They’re crazy expensive, especially if you have a narcissistic professor who wrote their own and only publishes through the school. In a lot of situations, you can find ways to get textbooks for cheap, but sometimes the school bookstore is the only option.

If you’re truly struggling with money, there may be a way for you to get free textbooks. You may be able to get a special allowance (SPAL) through your state welfare office to get these costs covered.

How to Use a SPAL to Get Free Textbooks

In Pennsylvania, the Special Allowance Program (or SPAL) is available to those who are on food stamps or cash assistance. In order to qualify, you mus be willing or required to participate in an employment training program, including, but not necessarily limited to, college.

These SPALs can help pay for books, transportation and even qualification or certification tests.

If you do not live in Pennsylvania, that does not mean SPALs are not available. It just means that I’m not as familiar with the system in your state.

To get the SPAL forms you will need to go into your welfare office and talk to a case worker. Ask them for a Special Allowance packet, making sure you let them know why you are asking.

They will give you a packet of paperwork including some forms for your school to fill out and a job/career plan outline. There will be a couple of additional personal forms for you to fill out, too.

From here, you’ll want to take the forms to your school’s financial aid office. When they fill them out, make sure you also get a copy of your current class schedule and verification that the books and other materials you need are required to take each course.

Now you can mail in all the paperwork. If you’re approved, you will get the Special Allowance to use at your school’s bookstore for free textbooks. You must use it within 14 days of issuance, and then submit your receipt to the welfare office so they can verify that you used all the money for its intended purpose.

In that packet, you should have also received a monthly attendance worksheet. You will need your professors to verify that you are attending class by the 5th of each following month.

Say you’ve filled out the form for February. You will need to submit it to the welfare office by the 5th of March. Make sure you keep up on your paperwork or you could end up owing all that textbook money back.

Your experience may vary a little from the above. First of all, this is based off of personal research. I did not qualify for a SPAL when I was going to school, but you can bet I tried. Because free textbooks would have helped a lot.

Additionally, if you’re not in the state of Pennsylvania, the availability of special allowances may differ, or be nonexistent. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth researching, though. Free textbooks can save you hundreds or even more than $1,000 per semester–and that adds up.

Functional Fashion Pieces for Modern Frugal Moms

functional fashion modern frugal mom

Modern moms don’t have time to fuss with fashion, but they still want to look good and feel their best. So, how do you blend fashion and function without breaking the bank? Turn to key fashion pieces that can be worn all year round and provide purpose along with style. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either. Many essential fashion pieces can be found at discount stores and on sales racks, especially toward the end of each season.

If you’re having a tough time figuring out what staple pieces to add to your wardrobe, think basics and accessories. Here’s a list of some of the key pieces you always want to have in your closet.

Jazzy Jeans

Whether you’re working off your baby weight or are perfectly content with your body, you need a pair of hot mamma jeans. When you find that perfect pair of jeans, you feel great because you know you look great. Plus, you’re able to slip on a variety of tops and shoes to transition smoothly from day to night.

It might be tempting to buy a bunch of cheap pairs of jeans, but make sure you get the right cut and fit for your body type. Consider investing in at least one higher quality pair so that you know your purchase will last longer than three wash cycles. If you can’t find a pair that fits perfectly, match your figure as closely as possible and take the jeans to a tailor to get them hemmed or altered.

Traditional T-Shirts

You don’t have to wear the latest trends to look chic every day. Most of the time, all it takes is a good pair of jeans and a form-fitting t-shirt to look good. Shirts that are simple, basic, and neutral are your best friends. Grab a couple of white, black, gray, and navy blue shirts with various neckline styles such as crew, V, and scoop. T-shirts are durable enough to endure juice spills and dirty hands, and they’re cheap enough to get replaced when stubborn stains prevail.

Simple Scarves

Scarves are the perfect accessory. They add color, style, and completeness to basic outfits. Large, cozy scarves are perfect for chilly winter days, while lighter fabrics provide that extra special something to spring and summer garb. If your body is still operating as a food machine, scarves are great cover-ups while breastfeeding.

The key to wearing scarves fashionably is learning how to wrap them. There are all sorts of ways to tie and braid scarves based on their thickness, design, and purpose. If you can’t be bothered with learning a bunch of different knots and wraps, learn one or two basic techniques and stick with those.

Purposeful Purses

Handbags are not only fashionable, but they’re a huge help when carting around babies and toddlers. Why settle for boring old diaper bags with kid-friendly designs all over them? Instead, reach for a large tote with multiple compartments where you can store all your kid’s essentials in addition to your personal items. Totes double as professional bags, too. So, if you need to transition from manager to mommy at various times during the day, find a design that matches both your professional and personal style.

Signature Shoes

A wardrobe is not complete without a proper collection of shoes. However, gone are the days when fashion mattered more than comfort. The last thing you want after a long day of chasing after little ones is swollen tootsies and blisters. Instead, it’s important to find a couple of pairs of footwear that feel great and match a variety of outfits.

Your best bet is a pair of comfy suede ankle boots in a neutral color like black, brown or nude. Ankle boots go with jeans, cropped pants, dresses and skirts. They’re great for casual wear, running errands or meeting up with other moms for lunch. Though they keep feet warm in the cooler months, you can still wear them in the summer with a sundress or skirt.

Quality Clothing is a Good Investment

Long-term, investing in less pieces that are timeless and durable will serve you better than buying copious amounts of clothing that is trendy but cheap. As long as you keep your selections versatile, you’ll spend more money up front, but save more over the long haul.

 

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

Uncomfortable Pregnancy? Find Relief for Under $20

OMG wish I had these during my own uncomfortable pregnancy! The first one is genius.

I may have been one of the most miserable pregnant ladies ever. Every time I’ve been expecting, I have an uncomfortable pregnancy, whether that’s due to heartburn at night or which nerve the baby is sitting on.

I did learn a couple of hacks along the way, though. Then after I had given birth, I found out about even more ways to ease the discomfort–especially in that last trimester. Here are some of my favorite ways to find relief, and all of them are under $20.

Vive Shoe Horn – $12.95

vive-shoe-horn

At a certain point in pregnancy, there were things I just couldn’t do on my own. Shaving my legs. Driving a car. Even putting on my own shoes.

I so wish I had had this Vive Shoe Horn back then to solve the latter. It allows you to put on your shoes without bending (or tipping) over! Plus, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. It’s super durable and isn’t going to break, but in the event you do find a way to do so, you won’t be out your $12.95.

Boppy Pregnancy Wedge – $15.99

Boppy� Pregnancy Wedge in Petite TrellisWhen you’re pregnant, you pretty much have to sleep on your side. Sleeping on your stomach is craziness and bad for the baby, and sleeping on your back is bad for your internal organs.

Side sleeping gets uncomfortable after a while, though, especially as your belly gets bigger. I had one of theses Boppy pregnancy wedges and it made all the difference. While a maternity body pillow would be nice, they cost around $60. This wedge is only $15.99.

Cantaloop Pregnancy Support Belt – $19.99

Cantaloop� Large Pregnancy Support Belt in WhiteMy second pregnancy was the worst on my hips. At one point I actually had to go to physical therapy because my little bundle of joy was making it increasingly difficult for me to walk. At all.

Pregnancy support belts are amazing for relieving that hip pain. They support your belly so the weight isn’t just sitting on ligaments, forcing other muscles to pick up the difference. Cantaloop has them in white, black and nude so you can match them to anything in your wardrobe. Well worth the $19.99.

Dreambaby Bump Belt – $19.99

Dreambaby� Bump Belt?This is another one I didn’t have but in retrospect, I wish I had. It pulls the seat belt down so it sits under your bump without riding up, keeping everyone safe.

You’ll remember that I said I couldn’t drive at the end of my uncomfortable pregnancies. Part of that was because I had short legs and a huge belly. But the seat belt riding up was definitely a contributing factor. Spending $19.99 on a bump belt would have been worth it.

Love Notes Healing Aromatherapy Bath Salts – $19.99

Love Notes Healing Aromatherapy Pregnancy comes with aches and pains and swelling and pain and pain and pain. One of the best ways I found to get relief was hopping into a warm bath full of salts. The salts serve to calm down the swelling and alleviate some of the aches, while I would use the water to just float, taking all the stress off of my muscles.

You will be able to find bags of Epsom salts for $5 and under. But don’t do it. In the long-run, it’s a bad financial move. You’re going to want to splurge on the economy pack as this is something you’ll need again and again, and going with something like this tote from Love Notes is going to cost you less per use.

 

How did you ease your uncomfortable pregnancy? Leave a comment below!

 

*This post contains affiliate links and sponsorship. While I am compensated when you purchase through these links, you do not pay anything additional for using them. Thank you for supporting the content on this blog!*

Free Rides Home to Prevent Drunk Driving

Sending this to my friends---free rides to prevent drunk driving!

I had an interesting conversation with my Japanese friend while she was visiting. We were driving through an area laden with bars and night life.  Which can be a fun area if drinking is what you’re there for.

But that wasn’t what we were there for, and it got us talking about drunk driving. I related the lives I’ve known that have been lost to the horrible mistakes of both themselves and others while under the influence and behind the wheel. I lamented the lack of consequences for those who do drink and drive.

She looked shocked. “It is not like that in Japan. If I did that, my father would lose his job.”

Hell, yes, Japan.

Costs of Drunk Driving

Our system is way too lenient. But that doesn’t mean there are no consequences. Here’s some of what you face if you do drive drunk:

  • A night in jail.
  • Bail money.
  • A fine.  And a big one. They get bigger the more offenses you have, but the first one is nothing to laugh at.
  • Possibly extra time in jail. Upwards of six months.
  • A misdemeanor on your record.
  • Might have to attend AA.

Honestly, a DUI with its accompanying consequences would be good news. The fact that the cops caught you means that they got your drunk butt off the street, preventing you from killing someone else.  Or yourself.

Free Rides Home When You’re Drunk

Believe it or not, there are quite a few ways to get a free ride home when you’re drunk–especially on major holidays. Here are some of the best:

Cheap and Frugal Alternatives to Driving Drunk

Maybe you can’t get a free ride home, but you can use one of these options instead. Every single one of them is a heck of a lot cheaper than a DUI:

  • Public Tranport– This one is best if you plan to use it before you leave. On New Year’s and other holidays, cities usually leave their public transport open much later than usual so you won’t have to drive at all.
  • Sober Rides– AAA has created a compilation of programs across the country that offer DD services. They do charge a fee, but most of them not only drive you home, but also send a second driver out to get your car home, too. Check them out here.
  • Tell Siri you’re drunk. She’ll immediately offer to call a cab for you.

Cheaper Than a Funeral

Even if you pay for a super long, super overpriced taxi fare and get your car towed, the costs will still be less than that of the average funeral: $7,000. And that’s if only one person dies at your hands, not including additional damages awarded in the sure-to-happen law suit and the deep, painful remorse you’ll experience for the rest of your life.

It’s okay to have fun–as long as you’re responsible.

I hope everyone has fun tomorrow night–truly!

But I hope even more that you’ll do so responsibly. 2016 has sucked enough.

 

 

 

*This post does contain referral links. While they will provide me with credit, they’re the only way I known to get you a free ride—which is the entire point!*

Beef. It’s Cheap for Dinner.

When it gets cold outside, I get lazy with my cooking. Maybe it’s a lack of Vitamin D, but by the time we get to dinner I’m ready to be done in these winter months. The sun has gone to bed and so must I.

These are the times I bust out pot roasts and stews—they’re easy to make and warm my soul.

Luckily for me (and all of us, really), beef prices are down this year! That means all the pot roasts and stews you’ll be eating will cost you less than they did during previous winters.

At the end of 2014, beef prices hit a major peak. So pot roast two years ago? Super expensive.

But at the end of 2016, we’re looking at a 10% price decrease. If you’re a savvy shopper, you will have noticed the decrease at the meat counter, and you can expect those prices to stay low.

How to Save Even More on Beef

Beef prices have gone down, but we want to save as much money as humanly possible every time we go grocery shopping. Or shopping period.

Today we get some insider tips from the folks at The Beef Checkoff—AKA real, live beef farmers and ranchers across the country. Check out this infographic to see if you can find innovative new ways to save:

Great tips on how to save on beef!

Personally, I had no idea you could even do number four, but I do own a knife and am happy to cut both my own steaks and my grocery bill simultaneously.

Food Safety and Beef

Good food safety measures start before you even bring your food home. You can start right there in the grocery store by picking up your beef last. There’s this rule that it should only be thirty minutes from store cooler to fridge/freezer.

I once lived in a rural setting where I traveled a pretty long distance to get affordable food. The store was just about 30 minutes from my house, so there was no way I was meeting the store cooler to fridge rule. I invested my own cooler, which helped me bring my meats home safely.

When you arrive home with your beef, make sure you put it on the lowest shelf of your fridge or freezer so the juices won’t contaminate any of your other foods. It’s also a good idea to put the beef on a plate or tray inside the fridge.

To thaw beef safely, you should do so in the fridge—not at room temperature! Once again, make sure you put the frozen beef on the lowest shelf on a plate or tray so that juices don’t spill over onto anything else.

It is okay to thaw ground beef in the microwave, too. Check out this video to make sure you’re doing it correctly.

If you want more, specific food safety tips, you can find them here.

How do you know which cut to buy?

It’s no good to go through all the effort of saving money at the store if you end up throwing away uneaten leftovers when you’re done. Food waste is evil and expensive. It’s like throwing money into your trash can.

Don’t throw money into your trash can. Instead, get educated about how many servings come in a pound of beef, whichever cut you’re buying.

Speaking of cuts, if you’re anything like me, you’ve stood at the meat counter looking and feeling like an idiot as you stare at all of your options, unsure which to pick. There is no beef package labelled “pot roast” or “Bake me!” You just have to know which cut to use for which recipe, which is something I did not learn in Home Ec.

There is a solution for this, though! Before you go to the store, use this quick tool to figure out which cut your recipe calls for so you can go in looking confident instead of confused. Yay for the internet!

Find Amazing Beef-Centric Recipes

Remember those beef farmers and ranchers? They also have an online recipe portal full of delicious ways to prepare a meal. I’m partial to these recipes because they also tell me which cut to buy which saves me another step.

Here are a couple that our family will be trying:

Garlic-Herb Crusted Roast recipe. Mouth watering!

Photo courtesy of The Beef Checkoff

Garlic-Herb Crusted Roast

This one requires me to use the oven, but it’s still simple enough for my lazy self. Plus, it’s one of their lean recipes which is a win.

Cider-Maple Gravy Pot Roast with Butternut Squash. So excited to try this recipe!

Photo courtesy of The Beef Checkoff

Pot Roast with Cider-Maple Gravy and Mashed Butternut Squash

Confession: this is not one of their lean recipes. But holy festive flavors! Definitely excited to give this one a try and check out their other holiday-oriented recipes.

Have you noticed beef prices going down in your area? What techniques do you use to save at the butcher’s counter?

 

 

*This post is funded by The Beef Checkoff and brought to you by The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.*

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