Friday, December 30, 2016

After Christmas Planning : Christmas WIthout Debt Series

Christmas is over for another year, but it's time to start planning for next Christmas if you want to be able to put together a debt free holiday a year from now.

Very first thing to do is take stock of what you used this year.  How much gift wrap.  How many cards.  How much did your grocery bill go up because of special foods or baking?  How much did you spend on new clothes for holiday get togethers, gifts, and anything else related to the holidays.  Figure this amount out.  Be prepared for shock because in 2016, the average family spent nearly $1,000 on gifts alone.  (And for this exercise you will be figuring in any other expenses related to the holidays, including airline tickets home, etc.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Taking Care of Your Health with Apps for Your Phone

FTC disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post from U.S. Cellular.  All opinions are my own.

A few years ago I went to a fitness camp.  While there, we learned about several apps that we could use to track fitness and health.  Thanks to nationwide 3G coverage, even though I was in Texas, I was able to use my U.S. Cellular phone to download some of those apps and even show others how to use the ones I had become accustomed to using.  Since then, the number of apps available have exploded in this area -- and beyond.  Back then it was mainly apps to track fitness and count calories, but now there are so many ways you can help manage your health with your mobile device.

Two useful apps in managing diabetes and watching your blood sugar are The Diabetes Tracker (cost $9.99) This app helps individuals better understand and manage their diabetes and diets.  You can track insulin and medication and set reminders to test your blood glucose.  MySugr Diabetes Logbook (free) is a great app that synchronizes health dad by Bluetooth.  This allows you to log meals and view glucose graphs.  (The MySugr app is one we learned about at the fitness camp!)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Is it better to save money or earn extra Cash?

I sometimes get asked the question if it is better to save money or to earn extra cash.

Well, honestly the answer is BOTH.  The key to being financially independent is to make all you can and save all you can.

But when it boils down to it, I say things like using coupons, when looking at dollar per dollar amount is more benefial.  Here's why:  You don't have to treat it as income.  It's not taxable.  Say you save $1,000 in the same amount of time it would take you to earn an extra $1,000.  All things are equal (providing that savings is on things you truly need.)  You don't have to pay state or federal income tax on that.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Why I believe in Giving Children REAL items instead of Toys (when appropriate)

FTC disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.

I've always been a bargain shopper.  I also always thought the things my grandmother could do with yarn was absolutely amazing.  When I was about six, I picked up a child's toy "Learn to Crochet" kit at a garage sale for a quarter.  I took it to my grandmother's house and asked her to teach me.  She took one look at it, and threw the plastic hook in the trash and gave me a REAL one.  She said she could never crotchet using that hook and she wouldn't expect me to, nor would she teach me using such a cheap thing.  That was the first time I ever had an adult replace a toy with a real item.  Now, looking back, there is no way someone could have learned to crochet with that little kit I bought, but handing a six year old a skein of yarn and an adult crochet hook?  Absolutely a six year old can learn with the right tools. (And even easier now with youtube videos and such.)

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Trick to Finding Cheap Items for Free Super Saver Shipping at Amazon

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

It seems this time of year everyone is ordering from Amazon.  I sometimes order multiple times a day if I find a good deal.  I have Prime so it's not a big deal to me.  (Hint:  This would be a good month to sign up for a free trial!)

But if you don't have Prime, sometimes you need a small item to boost your cart up to the $25 or $50 amount for free shipping.

Here are some searches that often bring up inexpensive items:

I chose to link to books because it works for book orders or other item orders.

Dover Sticker
Dover Activity books
Dover Classic Books   (some of these are as low as $1.00!)
Decorative notebooks

Friday, December 2, 2016

Five Lesser Known GREAT Christmas specials

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

1.  Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.   I remember when I
was really little, in the 1970s, in the days before VCRs we used to have to try and watch for this to be on.  And the public broadcasting station always interrupted it for their fund drive, which seemed to be FOREVER.  This is another I watch every year.  Oscar the Grouch scared Big Bird about how Santa can deliver all the toys in one night, Big Bird camps out on the rooftop without telling anyone and all of Sesame Street is searching for Big Bird.  The Bert and Ernie rendition of O'Henry's classic Gift of the Magi story is fun.  Even without kids, you will find me watching this every year!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: Take Your Life Back by Stephen Arterburn

FTC disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

I have been a long time fan of books by Stephen Arterburn.  In a world of too many Christian psychology books giving pat answers, I love his approach combing true therapy answers with faith.  Take Your Life Back:  How to Stop Letting The Past and Other People Control you was once again a breath of fresh air in a genre where it seems all too many books give the answer "pray".  (While I'm not saying you shouldn't pray, there are studies and discoveries that can enrich our lives with their knowledge.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Bible Journaling and Scrapbook Stickers from Faith That Sticks!

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  I received samples of the products from the company for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.

I have been a sticker fan since I was a child.  I can remember counting my stickers by the hour to see how many I had in my collection.  So whenever there is a new sticker product on the market, I want to try it.

I've tried my hand at Bible journaling, and while I love the creativeness of it, my art skill are somewhat lacking.  I often stick to coloring Bibles or when I do Bible journaling, just doing fancy lettering of the Scripture in the margins.

Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers and Faith that Sticks,  I had the opportunity to review their coloring stickers and Bible journaling stickers.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Preparing for Black Friday And Cyber Monday: Christmas without debt

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links, all opinions are my own.

If you have been following the Christmas without debt series, you should have some money saved up this month for buying the things you want to purchase for others as gifts.  But hold on, let's save money money while we're spending, don't you think?

First off, have a list of everything you want to buy.  Check prices NOW, before Black Friday and Cyber Monday and jot down prices at three stores.  So now you know what price you want to beat.  Sometimes the sales over Thanksgiving weekend aren't the best deals out there and that's not what we want.  We want to save money.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Connecting Caregivers With Mobile Technology

This is a sponsored post from U.S. Cellular.  All opinions are my own.

While I used some apps when helping to care for my mother who was on dialysis, there are many more available these days.  One of the best things is as long as everyone who is a caregiver has the password, each person can access the information on their Apple iPhone 7.   Back in 2012, we primarily used texting and phone calls.  My mother didn't have a smart phone, so I tracked everything on mine, and my health was bad at the time, so there was a lot of use of my cell phone!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ellie Claire Bible Journaling Kit Review Giveaway Ends 11/20/16

FTC disclaimer:  I received a free product in exchange for a fair and honest review.  This post contains affiliate links.

When I was offered the opportunity to review the Bible Journaling Kit by Ellie Claire, I was excited.  The kit includes:

  • 4 sheets of word stickers
  • 4 sheets of alphabet stickers
  • 24 "tab" stickers
  • 8 twistable coloring pencils
  • 1 journaling pen
  • 1 pouch with adjustable strap
  • 1 ruled page protector mat with tracing lines
I am not very artistic when it comes to non-fiber arts, but I do enjoy coloring and some Bible journaling.  With my Bible journaling I often just recreate Bible verses with lettering, but still this kit seemed perfect for me.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How I am saving on Home Improvement Costs

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

My house was built in about 1890.  The carpet in the living room is from the 1960s with layers of padding, carpet and linoleum underneath.  It needs replaced.  The entire house is paneled except for one room.  When we moved into this house in 1986, I was a teenage girl, and of course I wanted to paint my room lilac.  My dad wanted paneling in my room.  After a lot of going back and forth, I got purple.  Obviously paneling went out of style soon after that.

When there was the earthquake in Virginia a few years ago, it damaged part of the roof in the house, which caused some other problems in the room where the damage was.

I've decided it's time to get these things fixed.  Being the frugal person I am, I want to get the best price possible for home improvement supplies.

Friday, November 4, 2016

How to Win a Skill Contest

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

My favorite type of sweepstake or contest is a skills content.  The reason is, the more creative and off the wall I can be, the more likely I will win.  These are usually fully judged.  Sometimes they are judged and then go to voting.  You can read more about how to win a voting contest, but in this post I am going to concentrate on how to win a skill contest.

As we learned in the basic of entering contests and sweepstakes,  be sure and read the rules.  I have seen all kinds of unique rules ranging from no animals may be in a photo to no people may be in a photo to people and/or animals required to be in a photo.  Just make sure whatever you submit follows the rules because if it doesn't you won't be able to win.  If it's an essay contest, make sure you say within the word or character count.  No matter how good your entry is, it will likely be disqualified if you go even one word over the amount allowed.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Zendure A3 External Battery Charger Review

FTC disclaimer:  I received a complimentary Zendure A3 in order to faciliate a review.  All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

It was four years ago today that Hurricane Sandy hit my town.  The superstorm piled a massive amount of snow on my area.   If you think that would be bad enough we lost power.   Plus my mother was on dialysis.  And there was a utility line down in our driveway we needed to make sure it was not a live wire before we attempted to drive under it.

Needless to say we were in a matter of life and death.  If my mother couldn't get to dialysis, she would die.  The only communication we had out of the house was my cell phone.  But we had no power to charge it.  Suffice it to say, I was in an all out panic mode because I knew I had to figure out a solution before my battery died -- or my mother would too.  I was able to, but it was a lot of added stress to an already survival mode situation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review: RESTORED! God's Salvage Plan for Broken Lives by Dan Schaeffer

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

A while back I  read the book by Dan Schaeffer entitled “Restored! God's Salvage Plan for Broken Lives”.

When I saw it was using the Biblical book of Ruth to make his points, I was a bit skeptical as I had never heard Ruth taught in this way, but I enjoyed his insights and how he wove practical application into this book while providing examples from the Bible.

It is the rare person who hasn't had some major loss or hurt in life, so this is a book for everyone. Each one of us has reason to do as Naomi did and asked to be called Mara. (In the Hebrew this means bitter.) We can take a look at our lives, the broken pieces, the shattered dreams, and the disappointments and say “My life is a mess. Nothing will ever improve.” and eventually become bitter ourselves.

What to Do When You Have Won a Sweepstakes

With so many scams out there, it's difficult for some people to believe they really have won anything.  When I won my first sweepstakes, I had an attorney friend of mine look over the paperwork and I asked questions such as, "How long is the sales presentation I will have to sit through during the trip?"  (Answer, you don't have to sit through one on a real win, you won't be asked to buy anything, and no money will be requested of you to claim the trip.)  One exception is occasionally if a trip is overseas, especially Mexico, there are sometimes airport fees, but they are reasonable, under $100 a person.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Halloween Safety Tips Using Your Smart Phone

FTC disclaimer:  I am part of the U.S. Cellular Better Moments Blogger Brigade.  This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them.

It's almost time for Trick or Treating, and safety is on everyone's mind as little ghosts and goblins -- and even scarier -- little clowns take to the streets in search of treats!  Trick or Treat was so much different when I was growing up.  Mom usually let me go out with a friend and she stayed at home with a bowl of candy. Our usual amount of kids to treat back then was anywhere from 300 to 500.  Last time I gave out candy, there were less than 50 kids show up, and I live on the same street I have my whole life.  So times have certainly changed.

Monday, October 17, 2016

How to Get Free and Cheap Candy at CVS

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

I have been a coupon queen since before it was popular.  The only thing consistent about it over the years is my desire for a good deal.  If I was plunged into the current world of bargain shopping when I was 18, I wouldn't have the first idea where to begin (or even how to use the Internet).  The way I used coupons when I was 18 wouldn't be something I would want to do today because it would take too much time, and I'm all about time saving while saving money!

There is a lot of information in this post, so follow closely and I'll sum it up again at the bottom of the post.

So I try to do as much savings as I can electronically.  I've been recently getting lots of candy deals, and someone on my Facebook page asked for more information as to how I do it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How I Learn New Skills for Free

FTC disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

I love to learn.  I always have.  I graduated high school at age 15, and I spent my summers reading books.  I am a non-fiction aficionado, and I have discovered that there are amazing resources out there to learn pretty much anything you want for free (or very inexpensively).  It doesn't come with certification, but there is so much knowledge available you can implement to make your life better, more efficient, saving money, or fun!

About a year ago I decided I wanted to learn more about blogging and what kinds of items sell best on eBay.  Now I'm wanting to learn how to use coupons most effectively at Dollar General and homesteading skills.  Why am I switching?  I feel like I have the knowledge I want to cut back on the time I invest in learning the first two topics.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Saving so you Can Give to Others

FTC disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

When I was a teenager, there was about a year that my mother and I had nothing to eat but potatoes because we were trying to make ends meet.  That is when I decided I was going to do what I could to figure out a way we could afford a bit more variety in our food as well as being able to have the heat set above 58 degrees in winter.

That's when I started reading books like The Complete Tightwad.  Although this book has advice from 20+ years ago, much of it is still quite useful, and one I would recommend to be in any penny pincher's library.  I still read my copy from time to time, usually getting it out every two years or so for a refresher course to see if I'm still doing everything I can -- or even if I can implement something new.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review: The Recovering Spender

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.  This post contains affiliate links.

I was excited when I had the chance to review The Recovering Spender:  How to Live a Happy, Fulfilled, Debt-Free Life by Lauren Greutman.  As is common in today's world, another financial book by a financial blogger.  I find nothing wrong with that.  I am a financial blogger myself, but I can't read every blog, and I love hearing others' stories of how they got into -- and out of -- debt.

The one thing I found very different about Greutman's story is she was a shopaholic.  I often think of people who get in trouble financially as ones that lose a job, incur a large amount of medical bills, or something similar, it was her shopping that got her family into trouble.

There were different times reading this book, I thought, "That's a terrible idea" -- such as the impulse buy of a house in another state!  Honestly, that's something I would LOVE to do because I admit I'm unhappy where I live now, but I know it's not financially feasible for us to move for a while.  The Greutman family just up and bought a house a few states away.  I feel this was even a bigger problem to their finances than her shopaholic tendencies.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Should You Keep The News of a Sweepstakes or Contest Win Quiet?

I have been entering sweepstakes since 1998. My first win was a trip to Arizona with $2,000 cash.  I didn't think it was real because I figured that companies would give away small prizes like keychains and t-shirts, but I doubted if they really gave away anything that was actually valuable.

I didn't have a lot of choice in keeping that quiet. The company contacted my local paper, and the paper did an interview about me and the sweepstakes trip.  Since then I have been in the newspaper a few times for wins -- once for a win for a local school and when I won a contest with the story about how my dad's class ring was found after a devastating flood.  That was published at the anniversary of the flood, and was actually a heart-warming story of that tragedy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What is the best way to make money from home that is legit?

FTC disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

 I hear the questions all the time. Is it hard to sell on eBay? Is it better to open an Etsy or Amazon store? Should I sell a multi-level marketing product? Do people really win contests or sweepstakes? How can I make money from a blog? Each one of these questions could be the focus of a blog post itself. But here are some quick answers from me.

Selling on eBay 

Selling on eBay can be time consuming, and with all these things there is a learning curve.  However, in my opinion, it's the best way to start making some extra money.  Instead of going out and buying inventory, sell some of the things you have around your house.  It can be confusing the first few times you list on eBay, but I started selling in 1998, and I had to learn everything on my own.  I have a number of blog posts about selling on eBay, there are lots of good instructions on the eBay site itself, and there are also a huge number of books available for the eBay newbie.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Gift Guide to High Tech WiFi Enabled Devices

FTC disclaimer:  I am part of the U.S. Cellular Better Moments Blogger Brigade.  This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

Can you believe it's almost October?  Christmas is only three months away.  If you are like me, Christmas is not only in your mind, but there are a few gifts being stuck back in your closet. Sometimes chores are easier if we have our phone with us, and a recent study shows that 91% of SmartPhone owners never leave their device at home, so here are a few ideas for a gift for yourself or someone else to stay connected to your home, and know that your day was made easier thanks to technology. 

Review: Praying for Your Future Husband by Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains referral links.

When I was a teenager in youth group, I used to be told “Pray for your future husband. He needs your prayers.” The advice was good, but no one ever said HOW to pray for your future husband or WHAT to pray for him.

That's where Robin Jones Gunn's and Tricia Goyer's book Praying for Your Future Husband comes in. The subtitle is “Preparing Your Heart for His” so from just the cover you know it's not all about your Prince Charming, but on what the future bride can do NOW to get herself ready for her husband.

Gunn and Goyer have twelve chapters of things we can pray for our future husband. (Although not mentioned, if wanted you could focus on one chapter a month.) Also in the back is a list of fifty-two Scriptures with comments of how to use each of those in prayer. They did make the suggestion these be used one per week for a year.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Book Review: Money Secrets of the Amish

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

This book made me discover something:  I'm Amish.  Or at least many of my shopping habits are!

In Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving, Lorilee Cracker examines why even during economic downturns the Amish still are thriving financially.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What are the Pros and Cons of Selling Online and on eBay and Etsy

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

This is the first of two posts.  I'm going to discuss the Pros and Cons of selling online as well as the Pros and Cons of selling things locally.  I am mainly going to discuss what I consider "The Big Three", but please be aware there are many different places you can sell items on the Internet.

I've been selling on eBay for 18 years, and so I have a few years of experience under my belt.  I was a "picker" from the time I was a child.  One of my first eBay sales was a book from the 1940s I picked up at a garage sale for a quarter when I was about 8 or 10 years old.  I had to wait for eBay to come on the scene, and then when it did, I sold the book I picked up thinking, "This looks like it might be worth something" for $90.  So I've had an eye for antiques, collectibles, and the unusual since I was a child.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

12 Uses for Spiral Notebooks (besides the obvious)

FTC disclaimer:  This post may contain affiliate links.

I absolutely love notebooks.  I have always loved this time of year because school supplies go on sale, and a new notebook is so full of potential.

Here are some ways I have used notebooks over the years, besides the obvious for school.

1. Journal.  Seriously, who would think someone would keep a journal is a notebook, even more so if you write "MATH" on the cover.  My mother even used one to write a letter to a friend.  The. whole. notebook. A letter!  Wow.

2.  Savings Tracker.  I used to take a notebook every year and write down everything I received in the mail -- this was when all mail in rebates were through the mail and not through Ibotta.  I would calculate how much I spent at the store, how much I saved

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: The Illustrator's Notetaking Bible

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this Bible from the publisher in order to facilitate a review.  All opinions are my own.  This post does contain affiliate links.

I absolutely love the new craze of Bible journaling, notetaking, and coloring.  When I was in college, I tried unsuccessfully to find a Bible that would allow me wide margins so I could take notes, draw, and paste in clippings from church bulletins, etc.  I couldn't find one, so I opted for a blank book and a plain Bible (very much like a Pew Bible.)

Almost twenty years later, I realize I was no alone in my desire for a Bible like that.  I would have loved the HCSB Illustrator's Notetaking Bible.  There are over 600 images including drawings, text design, and filigree.  I love the text images the best, though.  I am not as artsy as I wish I was, and those seem less daunting for me to color.  (I'm the one who had my Kindergarten teacher call my mother over a deer I colored one day when we were learning about the letter "D" in class.  I've always been self-conscious of my artwork since that day.)  I do love coloring, though.  I always have, I used it as a stress reliever in college, and the very first time I colored in my new Notetakers Bible, I had a stressful day, and I used it to help relax me and help me focus my mind on the Lord.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

August 2016 Goals (and Adoption Prep) Update

*Note*  This post does contain affiliate links.

Adoption / House Goals

*We need to get the 89 year old windows replaced.  A church group provided the labor for this.  It was a good thing, too, since the windows weren't measured properly and some extra frames needed to be built around them.  
*A new furnace since ours quit working the last snowstorm of winter.  Still without heat, but it's still summer.
*Declutter the house.  Still working on this.
*Homestudy and paperwork finished  We haven't sat down and worked on this in a while.  There seems to be so much else that needs done.
*drywall installed in rest of the house  
*vinyl plank installed in the rest of the house.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Five Favorite eBooks I've Read this Year (plus a giveaway)

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

I've mentioned before on my blog how I love my Kindle Unlimited subscription.  The first month is free, and after that it's $10 a month.  I call it the Netflix of books.  While there aren't a ton of traditionally published books available on Kindle Unlimited, there are a lot of independent authors, and you can learn something about most anything that interests you.  I am constantly reading non-fiction books to learn something new about blogging, finances, saving money, social media, and more.

Here are a few of my favorite Kindle Unlimited books I've read in the last six months.  They are in no particular order.  While these are all available for Kindle Unlimited, they can also be purchased to keep in your library permanently.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back To School, Back to Technology

FTC disclaimer:  I am part of the U.S. Cellular Better Moments Blogger Brigade.  This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

I never thought I'd be saying "Back in my day" at such a young age.  I attended my 25th high school reunion this month, and the world has changed so much since 1991, that I can't even begin to imagine going to school now.  I got on the Internet the first time at computer camp in 1985 -- it was a bulletin board system and much different from what we now think of as the Internet, but I had no idea that one day this amazing thing we were watching teachers chat about lesson plans in real time -- this newfangled technology would be the way I would make my living.  We were encouraged to start thinking of what we wanted to do in life as early as age 8, and amazingly, many from my class are working in jobs that if we would have told a teacher they wanted to grow up to do what they are doing *now*, the teacher would have told us to quit dreaming.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Don't Be Average -- Reduce Your Debt

I read last night the average American household has over $130,000 in debt, $48,000 of that in student loans, and $15,000 owed to credit card companies.

I have to wonder when this became acceptable.  I got my college degree when it was less expensive to do so, and I graduated "only" owing $16,000.  I paid that off slowly but surely, and it was a very exciting day when I called my student loan company and asked about not receiving my last bill.  I owed three dollars and some change, and I was looking forward to making that final payment.  (This was in the days before online banking.)  I was told that it wasn't worth it to them to even send a bill for that amount, and it was marked paid in full.  I can still remember where I was sitting when I was on the phone, where the Christmas tree was located in the room (we tend to have it in different spots), and even which phone I was on (a landline.)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Easily Repeatable CVS deal August 11, 2016

FTC disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links.

Having a prescription to pick up, I made my way into CVS today.  I had nothing planned, but I did well anyway, and you can do even better than me.

What I bought:

2 packages of Bounty extra large Select A Size
2 packages Charmin 12 count
1 Hershey's Candy Bar
1 Box Lucky Charms
1 Colgate Max Fresh toothpaste
1 Black Forrest Organic Gummy Bears

Monday, August 8, 2016

How to win #AmazonGiveaway Sweepstakes

In 2015, Amazon started a service called "Amazon Giveaways" In it, an author or company or blogger can give away an item that Amazon sells. Amazon fulfills everything that needs done from picking the winner to shipping the prize.  The sponsor just pays for the item!

While this can be a way for people to increase their twitter following, the majority of giveaways happen to advertise the product.  The author of a self published or small press published book may use this to promote their work.  I've seen a few companies turn to Amazon because it's just easier for them to have Amazon do all the work than themselves.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Book Review: Spiritual Sobriety by Elizabeth Esther

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  I received a copy of this book for review purposes, but all opinions are my own.

When I was offered the opportunity to review Spiritual Sobriety:  Stumbling Bak to Faith When Good Religion Goes Bad by Elizabeth Esther, I was excited.  I reviewed her book Girl at the Edge of the World when it was released, and I was looking forward to reading her second book.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Christmas Without Debt -- August Challenge

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

Christmas always seems to be a time when people struggle.  Either there isn't enough time or money -- or both -- to go around.  This series is an attempt to get control over that so that when Christmas (or the holidays if you celebrate something else) arrives you will be able to look at it, and say, "I'm ready,"  then you can sit back and enjoy all the festivities without the stress of last minute preparations.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Practicing Common Cell Phone Courtesy

This is a sponsored post from U.S. Cellular.  All opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

Back in 2002 Jacqueline Whitmore declared for July to be Cell Phone Courtesy month.  Can you believe that's been 14 years ago we have been dealing with "mobile manners"!  There are many ways that you can be courteous to others with your cell phone.  Answering texts and phone calls in a reasonable amount of time is one of the best ways to be polite to others.  Another is not sending group texts.  I have somehow gotten in group texts of people I don't even know and having to receive so many texts where someone is ranting about their ex-husband, it's not fun!

I am a firm believer in people should interact with others and not a screen.  My husband and I want to foster / adopt and we have starting making some house rules, as it's easier to enforce rules with children if they are already in place.  One of our rules is that people are more important than electronics.

Monday, July 11, 2016

5 of My Favorite Things Birthday Edition

FTC disclaimer:  This post may contain affiliate links.

It's my birthday month, and I'm starting to have freebies come in from all over the Internet.  To celebrate, I wanted to give one of my readers a gift of one of my favorite things -- an Amazon gift card!  There's so many wonderful things on Amazon.  A few of my favorite things lately are:

Kindle Unlimited.  I call this "The Netflix for Books".  Seriously, what can be more fun than to download a new book every time you finish one for one monthly price?  Only certain ones are available on this service, but I'm finding no lack of stuff to read!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

How to win a Blog Giveaway

If you have been reading blogs for any amount of time, I'm sure you have come upon what is called a blog giveaway.  These are individuals hosting a giveaway and because it's on a smaller platform than a national sweepstakes, often your chances are better of winning.  How do you increase your chances even more?

First, as with any giveaway or sweepstakes, read the rules.  Make sure you are eligible.  Sometimes these are open worldwide, sometimes only to a certain country (usually the USA, Canada, or Australia.)  I even have seen one where the marketing agency the blogger is working with was
willing to accept winners from Canada, but the service they were giving the code away for was not able to be used in Canada.  That would be disappointing if you spent time entering that only to find out you couldn't use it.  Otherwise bookmark their blog.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

8 Tips for Listing Your Items on eBay

FTC disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links.

I've been an eBay member since 1998 and have been selling most of that time.  That's a long time, and I'd like to share a few basic tips for anyone who would like to sell a few things.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Book Review: The Life We Never Expected - Parenting Children with Special Needs

FTC disclaimer:  This post does contain affiliate links.

In The Life We Never Expected, Andrew and Rachel Wilson write the book they wish they could have read at the beginning of their journey of raising two children with special needs.  Their son and daughter both have severe autism, and this book is both hope to the special needs parent as well as the story of how they have learned to cope, find joy, and keep their faith through this unexpected part of their life.

I don't have children, but am related to both an adult and child with autism so this was an interesting book for me to read.  I really enjoyed the layout of the book.  There were five sections, which they called "cycles".  Within each cycle, there were five sections relating to thing that special needs parents can relate to -- weeping, waiting, worshiping, witnessing, "and breathe".

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Get Free Money With the Qricket App!

I signed up for Qricket a while back but wanted to wait until I cashed out to write a review about it.

What is Qricket?  It's an app found both in the app store and Google Play that allows you to earn spins by watching ads.  With those spins you can try spin the wheel and see if you win free money.  I do this when I have extra time -- such as when I'm cooking, waiting on my husband, or even in the bathroom!  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review: Un-Ashamed by Heather Davis Nelson

When I was asked to review Un-Ashamed Healing our Brokenness and Finding Freedom From Shame by Heather Davis Nelson, I was at first reluctant.  Shame is an area I have studied, and I didn't think I would find much more on the topic than I already had encountered.  I am happy to say, though, that I was mistaken.

This book was a fast read for me.  I wanted to devour the information.  Usually when I read a book that quickly, I tend to then re-read it so I can absorb it completely.  This book begins with an overview of shame, how it differs from guilt, and then talks about what it is like to live without shame clouding your world view.  (Can I hear nearly everyone say, "Wow.  Wouldn't that be great?")  Then this book transitions into shame in more specific relationships.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why I Donate Through eBay For Charity

FTC disclaimer:  The post contains affiliate links.
eBay for Charity was created after 9/11.  Originally, eBay only had things set up to donate to the Red Cross and the program was called "Auction For America".  After that time, it began to develop into what it is today.  For a while it was called Giving Works, and now it's "eBay for Charity".  I have been using it with my eBay listings since about 2008.  For the 2016-2017 year I am giving 10% of all my eBay sales to charity.  Here are a few reasons why.
 Let me explain with an example from November 2013. . .

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On Being Bullied: A Letter to 13 Year Old Me

Dear 13 year old me,

I know it's hard right now.  I remember and I hurt for you.  So much of my advice would sound trite, but please know you have two choices.  You can believe them and wither away or you can remain strong and find a solution.  I know you.  I know which path you choose, and you are going to do amazing things, things you could never begin to imagine.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Keeping Your Family Safe on the Internet

I am a member of the U.S. Cellular blogger Brigade, but all opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

I think back and wonder what it would have been like to have today's technology when I was growing up.  In some ways, I am glad we didn't.  I was bullied in school, and I can't imagine how much worse it would have been if cyberbullying had existed.  Yet, I can't help but think of all the photos I missed out on by not having a phone with me, fishing around for coins so I could call my mother and let her know Drama Club practice had let out, and friendships that faded away because of time and disconnect.

One thing I am certain, though, is if I had a cell phone when I was 13, which is the average age kids receive one, my parents would have made sure I truly understood how to be safe with it.  My husband and I plan on foster / adopting, and before we even think of allowing a child a cell phone, we will sit down with them and go over U.S. Cellular's FREE parent child agreement.  I will also go over this with my child's school and teachers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Being Financially Smart Sometimes Requires a Backbone

I remember waking up one day when I was about 12 or 13 years old, and while I expect my parents saw it coming, I was shocked that that day we were poor.  The day before nothing was said about money but instantly, I was hearing "We can't afford it."

I will say my dad was never one to budget.  He also was self employed and since he sold tombstones, they were pricey.  He never took into account the wholesale cost of the stone, the time it would take him, or the cost of labor to hire someone when he set it in the cemetery.  For the next 10 years, my parents were in a lot of debt.  Add in that Dad was hit by a drunk driver on Dad's way to work, and all medical expenses came out of our pocket for years.  I had to drop out of college until the legal process was over because it looked like our family had more money than we did because so much was being spent on surgeons, doctor visits, and medication.