Tuesday, April 1, 2014

8 Ways to Save Money When Eating Out

Welcome back to another week of The Teacher's Salary series. Feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email if you have any suggestions for future topics.

Click HERE to see links to some of my previous posts from this series.

It's no secret that Kev and I love to eat out.  I cook mostly out of necessity {although I'm slowly coming around to actually enjoy it on occasion} and since clean up is even worse than cooking, I welcome any invitation to eat out.  The problem is eating out can be expensive.  

When it was just Kev and I, we had it down to science.  But with adding children to the mix and us desiring to feed them more than just junk food, it can be even trickier.  We ate out tonight so it got my juices flowing about ways to save on eating out.  

1.  Avoid restaurants with servers
It's no secret that tipping can add up quickly.  Try to avoid restaurants where servers bring out your food and tips are expected.  There are some great places out there which have yummy food but are a little less formal than a sit down restaurant.  

2.  Pick a day when kids eat free
Kids meals are not cheap, so eating out on a day when kids eat free is key!  We love McAlister's Deli on Tuesdays and Dickey's BBQ on Sundays because kids eat for free.  There are probably others that we don't know about yet  :-)

3.  Order water
Restaurants make a killing off beverages.  We love Diet Coke, but it's pricey when eating out so we only order a drink when we can splurge.  

4.  Split entrees {at restaurants with large servings}
Many restaurants have enormous serving sizes, so consider splitting one with someone.  It will save you some money and probably a lot of calories too.  

5.  Opt for a lunch out rather than dinner
The lunch menu prices are typically cheaper than dinner.  Sometimes they even offer good combo deals or free soup/salads with lunch too.    

6.  Bring a coupon
If you follow some frugal living/money-saving blogs, you can hopefully snag some coupons to restaurants.  Just make sure you check out any exclusions to make sure they really offer a good deal.

7.  Take advantage of Groupon or Living Social deals at restaurants you love
I don't always buy them, but I subscribe to the daily Groupon and Living Social deal sites and often see them for local restaurants.  It's a great way to get a meal for sometimes as much as half price!

8.  Take advantage of restaurant loyalty programs
Kev joined one for a restaurant he loves.  He gets coupons for a free burger on his birthday and sometimes other email offers.  I think they also reward him after spending a certain amount at the restaurant.

* * * * * *

I know eating out isn't always the healthiest or most frugal option, but we really enjoy it.  We just have to make sure to include eating out within our budget and then we try to stretch that money as far as we can by doing many of the things listed above.   

How do you save money on eating out?

Linking up with:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Songs for a Grieving Mother

I don't know about you, but music has always touched to me.  I don't know all the latest artists and songs, but in times of trial and in times of celebration, there's nothing like finding a good song to express exactly what I'm thinking or feeling.

I stumbled upon a song that ministered to me so much after we lost our first son, Andrew, and it brought to mind that time of my life.  I couldn't help but remember some of the other songs that helped me cling to hope when I was utterly heartbroken.  I still tear up when I hear many of those songs because it reminds me of who is missing in our family, but also the amazing way that God has restored our joy and brought dancing where there was once nothing but what seemed like buckets of tears.

If you are grieving or hurting, perhaps these songs will minister to you as well.  I sure hope so, because when it feels like your world is falling apart, something as simple as a song filled with truth can be what helps you keep waking up each morning.  Some of these songs deal specifically with the loss of a child, but not all of them.  Please share with those who may need to hear these.      

1.  "Held" by Natalie Grant

2.  "Praise You in This Storm" by Casting Crowns

3.  "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller

4.  "Never Let Go" by David Crowder Band

5.  "Glory Baby" by Watermark

6.  "I Will Carry You" by Selah

photo source

Monday, March 24, 2014

Matthew's Super Hero Party

I'm back!  Did anyone miss me?  Don't answer that.  :-)

I decided to take a spontaneous blogging break last week, but didn't really take the time to let you in on it.  It just sort of happened, but it was great and I needed it!  I love blogging, but my brain needs a break sometimes.

We had a great weekend visiting my family in Baltimore for the weekend.  Our main reason for travelling was for a certain little boy's 3rd birthday party.

The party started with all the kids in my sister's basement glued to the movie Frozen.  It was a super-hero theme party, so it was sort of funny that all the kids were watching a Disney princess movie at first.  They were so cute though.

We enjoyed some yummy breakfast food and then the kids all came upstairs for Matthew to open presents.  He got some nice gifts and it was so cute to watch him line them all up on the coffee table.  It was like he wanted to observe all of his loot after he was finished.

After some singing and blowing out of candles, the kids dove into some birthday cake and then headed outside to play.  Matthew's big present from his parents was a motorized truck.  He is still learning how to drive it, but was so proud of himself!

We went to church on Sunday and then got on the road after a nice BBQ lunch.  It was a quick visit, but it was still nice to spend time with everyone.

I love that my children get to spend time with their cousins on my side of the family, but I wish it could be more often.  It's even harder knowing that we are missing out on lots of those milestones with their cousins on Kev's side of the family.        

Did you have a nice weekend?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

4 Benefits of Saving for Incidentals

Welcome back to another week of The Teacher's Salary series. Feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email if you have any suggestions for future topics.

Click HERE to see links to some of my previous posts from this series.

Kev and I are not strangers to the budgeting process.  I’m actually pretty passionate about creating and working a monthly budget.  I’ve found that if we don’t tell our money where to go, it will run out! 
About six months ago, I began to realize that we did not plan well for some of life’s “incidentals.”  I don’t know if that’s the official words for it or not, but I’m going to go with it for this post.  J

Talk of a summer vacation would arise amongst our families and Kev and I would look at each other clueless about whether we’d be able to pay for one.  Preschool tuition would be due the next month and I had to quickly factor that into next month’s budget to be able to cover it because I had forgotten.  Car repairs would sometimes need to be paid for with cash out of our emergency fund.  We were usually able to make it work, but it sometimes resulted in anxiety, taking from another cash envelope, squeezing our budget even more to be able to add in a last minute expense, or “borrowing” from our emergency fund and paying it back later.

I finally decided that enough was enough.  Rather than sit back and wait for these expenses {sometimes foreseen and sometimes unforeseen} to come due, I decided to start planning for them within our monthly budget.  I wanted to be as ready for them as I could be when they arose.

Since we like to leave our emergency fund alone unless we encounter a true emergency {for us, it’s something that we could have never foreseen like losing a job or a medical catastrophe}, I decided to start putting some money aside in a separate bank account.  It’s linked to our family’s checking account, which makes it easy for me to transfer the money each month after we get paid.  It’s not a fancy account, but a basic checking account strictly for saving up for these sorts of incidentals.  If you feel like you might be tempted to transfer money out of the account for other things, then you may want to consider opening up a separate account at a different bank.  Do whatever will help you be successful! 

There is no way to predict every expense you will encounter, which is why an emergency fund is so important.  An emergency fund helps remove some of the risk for when Murphy strikes.  This type of savings I’m talking about is different though.  I’m talking about the expenses that will come either once or twice a year, or that you know will come, but you just aren’t sure when.  Here is the list of our incidentals that we’ve begun saving for each month {I may add in Christmas too}.

- Preschool tuition
- Vacation/Trips to Mississippi
- Car repairs
- Home repairs
- Insurance premiums
Now that we've been saving for these incidentals for a few months and have even had to tap into our account, I wanted to pass along 4 benefits we've seen from saving for incidentals.

1.  Less anxiety
I tend to be the worrier in our home and saving for these expenses has helped me to feel more prepared.  I don’t stress as much about what we would do if/when something happens to one of our cars or if an appliance goes out in our house.

2.  We aren’t tempted to put it on credit
We are committed to staying debt-free and while I know there are some times when it just can’t be helped, I like that we aren’t even tempted to charge these expenses.  There’s no reason to charge them when the money is there.

3.  We don’t have to take money out of your emergency fund 
We had to make some pretty firm rules about our emergency fund.  We no longer touch it unless a true emergency arises.  Since we know car repairs will eventually happen, we can’t justify paying for them with our emergency fund anymore.    

4.   We don’t have to tighten up our monthly budget 
We no longer have to make major tweaks to our monthly budget when these do occur.  If we have to take some money out of our incidental account {which we did recently for a home repair}, we just keep putting money aside until it’s been replaced.    

* * * * * * 

It's been such a relief to have a little stash set aside for some of the expenses that come up throughout the year.  Just recently, we had to pay for a contractor to do a repair to our roof and for a mechanic to repair our SUV.  The repairs were not cheap, but it was so nice to have the money in our account to pay for it and not have to derail our budget. 

Do you save for incidentals?  
What tips can you share?  

Linking up with:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Frugal Fashion Friday - My Mommy Uniform

I'm hoping I won't regret this post after it's published, but I thought I'd keep it real for you with today's Frugal Fashion Friday post.  It's been one of those weeks where I've worn my Mommy uniform more days than not.  Sue me, it happens sometimes!  :-)  

So, rather than try to come up with some cute outfit to end a long week, I figured it might be fun interesting to give you a sneak peak into what I looked like most of the week this week.  No airbrushing, no pretending that my pants don't have bleach and paint stains on them, or slapping some makeup on at the end of the day just so I could have Kev take a photo.

Nope, today's post is just me in my Mommy uniform!

T-shirt // souvenir my sister's honeymoon
Jacket // Target
Pants // Ross
Shoes // Crocs

So, there you have it friends. 

Happy Frugal Fashion Friday, friends!  
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