In case you’re new here, we have a “tax time rerun” for you today. One of the things we focus on at Madame Deals is being charitable. Using coupons and bargain shopping has helped us become more charitable and one of the easiest ways to be charitable is through our use of coupons.
April 15th is right around the corner and that means tax time. Are you looking for more deductions? Here’s something you might have overlooked. Most people are aware you can take a tax deduction for charitable donations of cash, clothing and household goods. Did you know the retail value of groceries and health and beauty aids (HBA) which you donate to your local food pantry, church or homeless shelter is also tax deductible?Continue reading
I think we all need a touch point a place we can go to be inspired. Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy! AMEE
Sitting alone in my kitchen with a fresh bowl of homemade vegetable soup and a handful of buttered saltine crackers, my eyes filled with tears. Now, there were onions and black pepper in my soup, but that was not the reason for the tears. It was the memories that flooded my mind as I sat there enjoying the fruits of my labor, or in this case, the vegetables of my labor.
As far back as I can remember, one of my most favorite meals was homemade soup. My momma would drag out the pressure cooker fill it with water and plop in a bunch of soup bones and the process would begin. Back in “the day” pressure cookers were not digital with timers like the ones available today. My mommas pressure cooker was that beautiful golden color of that era and the lid on it must have weighed at least ten pounds. Sitting a top of that big ol’ lid was a little jiggly thing that bobbled back and forth as the pressure inside the pot increased. After the meat was cooked she would carefully adjust it to allow the steam from the inside of the cooker release slowly. If it didn’t release slowly she would have a big mess to clean up. And once in a while she would have a mess to clean up. Once the meat was cooked, she would add lots of vegetables and let the soupy concoction simmer on the stove for the rest of the day. The result was a wonderful soup that would fill us up on a cold winter’s day.
Sitting there eating my soup and crackers my mind not only drifted back to my own mom, but to my grandparents. My Grandma and Pap were two of the most wonderful people I have ever known. They were hard working, honest people who never asked for anything and worked hard for everything they had. My Pap worked at a local car dealership detailing cars and Grandma worked in a blue jeans factory as an inspector. While they loved me more than I could ever put into words, they never spoiled me (or the other eight grandchildren). It wasn’t their way. And as an adult, I am so thankful they did not lavish us with gifts and material things. When I was nine years old, my grandparents purchased their very first home. That was 1976. They purchased a dining room table, chairs, china hutch and china for their new home. I remember going to see their purchase and hearing my grandma say to me “Karla Anne, when I am dead this is yours”. Now I was nine and the thought of my grandma leaving this earth would have never crossed my mind. However, she was a realist and she wanted to make sure that I knew that her treasured furniture would someday be mine and that everyone knew it. I am sitting at her dining table as I write this.
I am proud to introduce a new column to Madame Deals! I think we all need a touch point a place we can go to be inspired. Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy!
As a preschool teacher to approximately 20 three year olds every school year, I find myself in a unique position. I become an extended part of the families of the children I teach….well sort of. Because I am “older” than most of the parents of students in my class and because I have a child who is almost 18 and another who just turned 12, I am looked upon sometimes for advice or my opinion because I’ve already been through that stage in my children’s life. For some reason these younger parents seem to think I have some magic book of answers. Sometimes I have answers and sometimes, well, sometimes, I don’t.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned as a mother, is that children do not come with an instruction manual. Children are the authors of their own book of life, from the day they are born…often times from the day they are conceived. From the time we find out that a baby is on the way, we begin to plan, change our lifestyles and prepare for this new person to enter into every facet of our lives. We are excited but have absolutely no idea what we have really gotten ourselves into. We don’t consider the fact that we will lose sleep, never eat a hot (let alone warm) meal for several years, we will never go to the bathroom by ourselves for at least five years and we will spend at least two nights a week on the couch with a small person sleeping on our chest.
On the day of delivery we were handed this beautiful warm bundle of sweetness and pretty much sent on our merry little way without a lot of instruction. I, myself, had never changed a diaper until the day my daughter was born. I was 25 years old and had no idea what I was doing. But she was so beautiful and she was ours and we were going to take her home and be the best parents in the world. Well, she’s still beautiful and we did take her home, but I doubt we will ever win the best parent award. But that’s o.k.
As we have meandered down our road of life, we have come to realize that it is o.k. to make it up as we go along. Each age and stage brings new challenges, new ideas, and new rules. As they grow, we grow right along with them. For example, meal time used to be spent in front of the t.v. on the sofa or standing over the kitchen sink. Once that little person arrives, you decide how important it is to eat at the kitchen or dining room table as a family. And, the music you listened to will become and thing of the past, at least for a while, because after all your little one would rather hear “the wheels on the bus” or the theme song from Barney instead of the loud head pounding music you’ve listened to for years. Your choice in television shows change too. Gone is the lazy Saturday afternoons of movies, sports, etc. Now you get a kick out of watching your little one enjoy the Wiggles, Backyardigans, Blue’s Clues or Dora the Explorer. You will even find yourself singing right along and no longer think it’s childish. You will enjoy those precious moments with your child. Your life changes so quickly and sometimes drastically and you don’t even realize it. You drive the speed limit, check your seatbelt, you don’t talk on the phone while driving, you eat healthier, and the list goes on and on. You do this all because you became a parent.
My family is currently going through the realization that our little ones are not so little anymore and one is actually preparing to leave for college in about eight months. The nerve of her to grow up, graduate high school and go off somewhere to school and leave us after all we have done for her. Sometimes, I feel just like that, but then I catch myself and realize that all of those sacrifices and changes we made in our lives all those years ago were about her (and her brother) and for her (and her brother). We wouldn’t have it any other way. We have spent the past 17 ½ years writing the book of her life. We helped guide her, teach her, nurture her and support her. So as we prepare to watch her walk across that stage and receive her diploma in a few short months, we will have a gift for her as well. The gift will be the book of her life that we will hand over to her and allow her the freedom to write the rest of it, her way, and the way she sees fit. Will this be difficult? Absolutely. Will we try to add a chapter or revise it once in a while? You betcha. But in the end, we must let her be the author of her own life book. After all, she started it all those years ago, she was the author all along, we just held her hand until she learned how to write on her own.
Recently my husband and I have been working on ways to spend less. We are going to need a new vehicle soon but we need to pay some other bills off first. Below you will find a few simple ways to spend less and save more!
by Mrs. Not Made of Money
We all want to spend less, but it is tough to do so without a good strategy. Just like anything else, with some good strategy it becomes easier to make good decisions when it comes to spending money. Following these four tactics can help just about anyone save money on a monthly basis.
Make a Budget
There is absolutely nothing more important when it comes to money management strategy than making a budget. However, many people still do not have one because they do not know where to start or because they feel like it will limit them when they want to spend money. If the idea of a budget is no good to you, think of it as a spending plan. You still get to spend the money on the things you want; you are just going to track it more closely. Later on, you can find ways to cut your spending when you are ready.
It has never been easier to set up a budget. There are plenty of templates and types of software out there to help you get going and keep it up. Just do a search online for budget templates or software, find one you like, and get started. (One free money management service I like is Mint.)
Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions
Maybe you still have that magazine coming every month, and it goes in the trash. Or maybe you have the extended cable (or satellite) package even though you only watch 5-6 channels 90% of the time. Whatever subscriptions or monthly charges you have, take a close look to see what you actually use. Those few dollars per month down the drain can really add up over a year.
Pause Before You Buy
We all make impulse buys. We see that gadget or hear about that sale, and we think we just have to buy that item. However, if you take some time before purchasing something, you might find that you do not really need it as badly as you thought. If you see something that you want badly but do not need it, do not buy it right then. Leave the store and come back later if you still really want it. This way you can think about it more clearly and avoid buyer’s remorse.
Always Buy Used First
The internet has made it easier than ever to find used items. Before you go buy something new, make sure you go online and do some searching for a used version. Obviously, this does not work for everything, but for many items, buying used will get you a high quality item for half the price. However, when buying used, make sure you do your due diligence, and be wary of scams!
If you will follow these four simple tactics, you will find that you can really take control of much of your spending and keep more money in your pocket each month.
Reprinted with permission from NotMadeofMoney.com .
Photo: Tony Yang
It’s a new year and a new you, right? One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions (next to loosing weight!) is to save money. While it is great to set financial goals, something must be done to implement them.
According to financial expert David Bach and author of “Start Over, Finish Rich”, the key to getting your finances in line is to “find your money”. Although sometimes it is less stressful being in the dark about your debt and where your money goes, it is not beneficial. Bach suggests an easy way to organize your finances is to make a file folder system with 14 categories. Basically you break down your bills and expenses into categories. Then you file your paperwork and receipts as they come in. Financial organization is something I need to tackle! I am a stacker (it may be genetic, my mom is a stacker too!). My bills and paperwork are stacked to be filed later…although the paperwork rarely gets filed! You can read more about his system at Today.
If you are into tracking your finances online, try Mint or Wesabe. They are free and offer budgeting tools and they can analyze your spending. If you want to track your shopping saving and spending you might want to try the free excel savings tracker we shared yesterday.
As for myself, I have a lot of work to do in the financial organization department! I have set my weekly shopping budget at $100 ($40 a week for January for the Pantry Challenge!). However, I would like to track our monthly spending better. I just set up a Mint account…very easy! Mint has already started tracking my spending and I have spent $4.97 of my weekly budget!
When setting budget goals, remember that your goals should be tailored to meet your families needs. Your budget goals do not have to match mine or Amee’s.
How do you plan on organizing your finances for 2010? Are you tracking your spending? Do you have a weekly budget?