5 Tips How to Buy a Car + We Paid Cash for a New-to-Us Car

How to Buy a Car

Before we were expecting our third child, my husband and I had talked a lot about purchasing a new vehicle. We knew that fitting three kids in car seats in the back of our small car was going to be tight. But we also discussed that having a car payment and adding another $200-$300 to our monthly bills would be financially stressful, and we didn’t want to pay the interest that comes with a car payment.

We’ve been saving money the past few years because we knew we would eventually purchase another vehicle. In addition, for the past year, my husband has been researching vehicles online and staying up-to-date on prices so we would know when a vehicle was a good deal for what we were looking for. Besides wanting a larger vehicle for a good deal, we didn’t want the vehicle to have more than 60,000 miles on it because we didn’t want to worry about it breaking down on us any time soon. Our plan is to keep this next vehicle for 15-20 years or more.

We finally found a vehicle at the right price and at the right time with the money we had saved.

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5 Tips How to Shop Black Friday Deals

5 Tips How to Shop Black Friday DealsWhen Black Friday comes around, I’m the type of person who likes to shop online in my pajamas because I don’t want to fight the crowds. Plus, I think that there are a lot of great deals online during the Black Friday weekend. For those of you who love to shop Black Friday either in the stores or online, here are 5 Tips How to Shop Black Friday Deals.


1. Create a List

Before you even look at the Black Friday sales ads, create a shopping list of all the items you want to give as Christmas gifts. Prioritize the items by importance, and write down how much you are willing to spend for each item. If you don’t have a list, you’ll end up spending more than what want or what your budget allows.


2. Research Online

Once you have your list, go online to various stores to research and find out what the items are priced at. You’ll then want to check out the Black Friday sales flyers, many of which you can find online on sites such as BlackFriday.com, and compare those prices to see if they are priced the same or lower than what you’ve researched. I additionally always compare the prices with Amazon.com because sometimes you can find the items for less expensive.

Be sure to sign up to receive your favorite retailers’ newsletters so you know what types of sales they’ll be offering on Black Friday. And as you do this research, make notes about each offer including store opening times, when the sales begin, and prices, as well as early bird sales and doorbusters. You’ll then be able to figure out which stores you want to visit.


3. Plan Your Trip

If you don’t time your shopping trip right, the items on your list that you really want could be gone before you walk into the store. Know which stores you want to visit on Black Friday and what items you want to purchase at each store before going there. Plan your trip based on when a store opens, if the item is a priority on your list, the lowest prices, and the possibility of shortages on an item. And if possible, plan to go to stores that are next to each other so you don’t have to backtrack and miss out on the doorbuster deals.

Before Black Friday arrives, visit the stores you plan to shop at and walk through the store to see where the Black Friday merchandise will be located. Also, check the aisles where the merchandise usually is located. And be sure to go first to the stores that will offer you the biggest potential savings on the items you need. Only spend your time waiting in the store to get those items that will help you save the most money.

If you go with a family member or friend, you can work as a team and split up to get more of the items on your lists. Start on separate ends of the same store and meet in the middle after picking up as many items as you can on your lists.

Familiarize yourself with each store’s price matching, coupons and store policies ahead of time. Many stores have special price matching policies specifically for Black Friday. And be sure to take the Black Friday ads with you to the store just in case the cashier questions a price that rings up incorrectly.


4. Shop Smart During the Black Friday Shopping Trip

While you’re shopping on Black Friday, stick with your list and don’t be tempted to buy things you really don’t need. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and throw extra items in your cart, but doing so can have a negative impact your budget. Stay in control and be wary of impulse buys.


5. Consider Shopping Online

When it comes to deals, consider the value of your time over money to determine if it’s worth it to wait in the long Black Friday lines or camp overnight. Shopping online can be an alternative rather than going to the store. And by knowing which stores have the best price will help you determine if it’s worth a trip to the store or if it would be better to shop online. If shopping online, be sure to know what day and time the items you want will go on sale and be available to purchase them at that time. And to save even more money on my online purchases, I shop online using a cash back site such as TopCashBack or Ebates. I’ve used both of these cash back sites and like them. Plus, if you sign up with either TopCashBack or Ebates, you’ll receive $10!

Sometimes you can get better deals online even when you factor in shipping costs. Plus, you’ll save time and gas when shopping online. And you might just want to skip Black Friday and shop on Cyber Monday because there are always some awesome deals that day.

By having a strategic plan on how to shop the Black Friday deals, you’ll be able to focus on the items you need while saving the most money. What tips do you have for shopping Black Friday?


7 Tips to Save Money Now for Christmas Final

You might also like to read 7 Tips to Save Money Now for Christmas. Since Christmas is next month, you might not be able to save as much now, but use these tips to get a head start on your Christmas next year.

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Tips to Build Your Food Storage + The Ready Store Giveaway ($300)

Tips to Build Your Food Storage FinalThe month of September is emergency preparedness month. And I was able to stock up on a lot of items during the case lot sales to build up our pantry and food storage.  I really like case lot sales because you can purchase items for a discounted price that you use regularly in the kitchen. And the items that are a part of our food storage are items that I use all the time when I cook. If I run out of an item I need while cooking, I really like that I can “shop” at my own house and run downstairs to grab that food item. The photo above shows part of our food storage. This saves me time so I don’t have to go to the store to get it, plus I’ve saved money because I most likely purchased the item when it was on sale.

When you don’t have a lot of extra money, the way to build up your pantry and food storage is little by little. Most people don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend just to build up their food storage. It takes time, but even $5 extra in your grocery budget will help you to get a few extra cans or boxes of food that you can rotate through and use for meals. One way I save money on groceries for my family each month is to purchase items on sale so I don’t have to pay full price for them. And while I shop, I try to always buy a few extra items to add to my food storage. You can read more about how I Buy Groceries on a Budget here.

72 hour kit items

Another way to be prepared is to have 72-hour kits for each person in your family. Last year, I had the opportunity to be on ABC Channel 4 to talk about Building a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget. This is a great way to start 72-hour kits when you don’t have a lot of money to spend. You might also like to read the following posts:

Emergency Preparedness on a Budget: Water Storage

How Our Emergency Fund Helped Pay For My Father’s Funeral & Tips to Build Up An Emergency Fund

Tips on Stockpiling Food When Living in a Small Space


Ready Store Giveaway

And thanks to The Ready Store and Mother’s Niche, we have an Emergency Preparedness Giveaway where you can win 3 Easyprep buckets: Fruit Fest, The Milky Way, and Easy Fire (more than $300 value!). To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter form below. And for one week only, you can get 35% off the Easyprep line when you use the promo code EASYPREP at checkout. They have great items to help you build up your emergency preparedness.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The giveaway ends September 30, 2014 at 8 a.m. MST. See “Terms and Conditions” for more details.

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How Our Emergency Fund Helped Us & Tips to Build One Up

emergency fund 1

My father passed away last month. Since he didn’t have a life plan or life insurance, the financial burden of the funeral fell upon me and my siblings. Thankfully, my husband and I had an emergency fund, and we were able to help pay for our portion of the funeral. You’ll be able to hear more about the circumstances because I am guest posting about my experience on Money Saving Mom.

An unexpected event can happen to anyone at anytime. It might be the death of a loved one, an unfortunate hospital visit, or a job layoff. What’s important is that you’ve planned for these unexpected events by having an emergency fund. This is your financial cushion in case something goes wrong and you need to access money quickly. Below are tips to build up an emergency fund:

How Much to Save
It’s recommended that you have 3-6 months of living expenses in an emergency fund. To determine what’s best for you and your family, examine your financial situation, income, and needs, then decide how much of an emergency fund you should set aside.

Before you begin building your emergency fund, be sure that you are meeting your basic living expenses. And as you are building your fund, reduce your spending in areas of your budget such as food, clothing, etc. to avoid going into debt. Here are some helpful tips on budgeting.

Dave Ramsey, a personal money-management expert, recommends that if you have debt, the first step is to save $1,000 in an emergency fund, then start eliminating your debt. Once your debt has been eliminated, then you can build your 3-6 month emergency fund.

How to Start Saving
After reviewing your financial situation, determine how much money you’ll be able to put aside in your emergency fund each month. Even a small amount like $10 is better than nothing, and it will begin to add up quickly. The important thing is that you get started if you haven’t done so yet. For our family, some months we only have an extra $20 we can add to our emergency fund. It just depends on that month’s expenses that need paid.

If you feel like you are already living from paycheck to paycheck, then start small by cutting back on expenses and looking for ways to generate extra cash. You might also consider using next year’s tax return to get your emergency fund off to a great start.

Set It Aside and Don’t Touch It
It’s wise to keep your emergency money in a place that is not too easily accessible so you aren’t tempted to use the money for items that aren’t necessarily an emergency. David Bach, the author of The Automatic Millionaire, said, “The reason most people don’t have any emergency money in the bank is that they have what they think is an emergency every month…A real emergency is something that threatens your survival, not just your desire to be comfortable.”

You can place your money in a high-interest savings or money market account. If you think you’ll be tempted to use the money, then set up the account at a bank across town and don’t tie a debit or credit card with the account. It is a good idea to keep a few hundred dollars in cash in a safe place within your home just in case.

After you’ve saved enough for your emergency fund, then you can begin to save for your other goals. As a family, we enjoy going on trips together. Once we get our emergency fund back up to where we want it to be, then we will begin to start saving for our next trip. We also want to pay our mortgage off faster, so when we have extra money one month, we like to put it toward our mortgage.

It takes time to build up an emergency fund, but it’s worth it because it will prepare you for those unexpected events that happen in life. Within a few days after my father passed away, me and my siblings had to come up with enough money to cover the cost of the funeral. Coming up with a large sum of money in such a short time could have been a financial disaster, but luckily we had an emergency fund to help out in a time that we needed it.

Do you have any tips or advice on building up an emergency fund?

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Tips on Stockpiling Food When Living in a Small Space

Not everyone has a full basement or a room to store the extra food, household, or personal care items they purchase from the store. If you have very little space to keep your stockpiled items, use these tips to help you maximize where to cleverly store your stockpile.

1. Buy Only What is Needed
If you live in a small house with no space to store excess items you purchase on sale with your coupons, then stick to the basics. Pick up the items you prefer to use for free, or next to nothing, but pass on the items you would not personally use. Stockpile 2-3 of your favorite items and wait until the deal happens again.

2. Clean Out What You Don’t Need
Check all of your closets and clear out the unnecessary clutter. As you work through every room in the house and clean out everything you don’t need, you’ll be surprised at what you can throw out or give away. This will allow more room for extra grocery and household items that you would like to purchase or need.  

3. Stay Organized
Part of maintaining a stockpile is knowing what you have on hand and using it. Keep your stockpile organized. Keep a list of what you bought and how much you have on hand. It’s also important to know how long food stores and how to store it.

No matter when you buy your stockpile items, you need to have a plan to rotate it. You don’t want to invest your time and money into building a stockpile only to have it go bad sitting on your shelves. Always pull the older items to the front and put the newer items toward the back. When you plan your meals, consider your stockpile before you go on your weekly grocery run. Use what you can and replace older stockpile items with newer ones.

4. Be Creative
Now it’s time to be creative by using top shelves in closets, and filling the empty space under beds and couches. Here are some ideas:  


  • Place beds on cinder blocks, then purchase shallow plastic bins to place under the beds. Add skirting to conceal the items.
  • Store cans on their sides under a twin bed. Line them up in rows of their category (fruit, veggies, meat, etc…). When cans are purchased, place them under the left side of the bed. When a can is needed for meal preparation, pull it from the right side. This is an inexpensive rotating storage system under the beds.
  • Plastic bins, boxes, cans, food buckets, or milk crates can be stacked in the corner of a bedroom closet. 


  • Convert the coat closet into a little storage room by adding shelves to it. Keep coats in the bedroom closet. 
  • Place short bookshelves in closets and used them for food storage.
  • Clear everything out of the bottom of a closet. Fill that space with either #10 cans or a couple of cases of canned goods. Cut a piece of plywood to size and place on top of the cans. This creates a false bottom in your closet. 


  • Clean out and organize under the kitchen sink. With any leftover space, store cans of food or paper products.
  • Hang a pantry door shelf that hooks over the top of the pantry door and place all the spices in it.


  • The laundry/utility room often has extra space above the washer and dryer that can be used to store items such as toilet paper, dish soap, shampoos, etc.
  • Place boxes of food between the wall and the couches. 
  • Make a table with a board on top of a couple of cases of canned goods and cover it with a table cloth. 
  • Stack 2-liter bottles of water horizontally between the filing cabinet and the wall.

Hopfully this helps to give you new ideas. If you have additional tips about how to stockpile food when living in a small space, please share with everyone.

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Emergency Preparedness on a Budget: Water Storage

If you missed last week’s post, Emergency Preparedness on a Budget: Building 72-Hour Kits, you can read it here.

Water is extremely important to have on hand in case of an emergency. You can live without food, but you can only survive about three days without water. It’s important to stockpile enough drinking water to last your family 3-10 days. The minimum amount would be one gallon of water per person per day (two quarts for drinking and two quarts for food preparation and sanitation). Keep in mind that this is the minimum, and it would of course be more comfortable to have more water on hand. If you have a baby, pets, or live in a hot environment, you’ll need to store more water.

For those of us on a budget, it’s not always possible to spend a large amount of money to purchase big water storage containers or lots of smaller ones that will add up to the amount of gallons needed for the family. And for some of us, we don’t have the space for them. Here are some tips and ways to store water without having to make a big purchase.

1. Soft Drink and Juice Bottles
Store water in plastic containers such as soft drink and juice bottles. If you don’t drink a lot of soda or juice, ask family or friends for them. Make sure to avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles.

To sanitize the bottles, first add a solution of 1 teaspoon of liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart (1/4 gallon) of water. Swish the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. Make sure to sanitize the lids really good too.

After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water. Fill the bottles with tap water all the way to the top of the bottle. For treated water that already contains chlorine, place the cap on the bottle and seal tightly. For well or spring water, add only two drops of bleach to the full bottle and place the cap on the bottle.

Using a permanent marker, label the outside of the bottle “Drinking Water” with the date it was filled. Store the water in a cool, dark place such as under a bed or in closet. It’s recommended to replace the jugs with new water every six months.

2. Empty Bleach Containers
You can also store water in empty bleach containers. Once the bleach is gone from the container, you don’t need to rinse the container. Just fill it with water. Make sure to remove the bleach label and write “WATER” visibly across the bottle.

3. Water Jugs
Using coupons, you can get water inexpensively or even free. Kroger frequently has $5 off 10 items sales, and the 3 liter jugs of water (normally $1) are usually a part of these sales.

One of my goals this year is to make sure our family has 4-7 days of water in our home in case there is ever an emergency. If you have more tips about storing water or emergency preparedness on a budget, please share them with everyone.

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Tips to Store and Preserve Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

With the end of summer and beginning of fall comes a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables from farm stands and gardens. Eating abundant amounts of fresh food can be more healthful but can also lead to a kitchen full of rotting perishables if you buy more than you can prepare and eat before the fruits and vegetables spoil. In fact, produce is the most thrown-out food in U.S. households. To keep spoilage to a minimum and avoid wasting money, follow the food-storage tips below.


Apples Store on a cool counter or shelf for up to two weeks and away from strong-smelling foods so they won’t absorb odors. For longer storage, place in a cardboard box in the fridge. If the refrigerator is full, then store apples in a cool, dark place.

Citrus Store in a cool place, with good airflow, never in an airtight container.

Apricots Place on a cool counter to room temperature or in fridge if fully ripe.

Cherries Store in an airtight container. Don’t wash cherries until ready to eat because any added moisture causes mold.

Berries Place in a warmer part of the refrigerator, unwashed, and in a dry, covered container. When storing be careful not to stack too many high–a single layer if possible. A paper bag works well. Only wash before you plan on eating them.

Melons Leave uncut in a cool dry place, out of the sun up to a couple weeks. Cut melons should be in the fridge, and an open container is fine.

Nectarines Store in the fridge if ripe, but it is best when taken out a day or two before you plan on eating them so they soften to room temperature.

Peaches Refrigerate only when fully ripe. More firm fruit will ripen on the counter.

Pears Will keep for a few weeks on a cool counter, but fine in a paper bag. To hasten the ripening put an apple in with them.

Pomegranates Keep up to a month stored on a cool counter.

Strawberries Don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them.  Line a tupperware container with a paper towel, place a single layer of unbruised strawberries in container. Cover with a paper towel and seal with lid. Can also be placed in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week. Check the bag for moisture every other day.


Note: Always remove any tight bands from vegetables or at least loosen them to allow them to breath.

Artichokes Place in an airtight container sealed, with light moisture.

Asparagus Place them loosely in a glass or bowl upright with water at room temperature. They will keep for a week outside the fridge.

Avocados Place in a paper bag at room temperature. To speed up their ripening place an apple in the bag with them.

Broccoli Place in an open container in the fridge or wrap in a damp towel before placing in the fridge.

Cabbage Can be left out on a cool counter for up to a week. Otherwise, place it in the crisper. Peel off outer leaves if they start to wilt. Cabbage might begin to lose its moisture after a week, so best used as soon as possible.

Carrots Cut the tops off to keep them fresh longer. Place them in closed container with plenty of moisture, either wrapped in a damp towel or dunk them in cold water every couple of days if they’re stored that long.

Cauliflower It will last a while in a closed container in the fridge, but they say cauliflower has the best flavor the day it’s bought.

Celery Remove the leaves, then wrap it in aluminum foil to last for weeks and place in the vegetable bin in the fridge. You can also place it in a cup or bowl of shallow water on the counter.

Corn Leave unhusked in an open container, but corn really is best the day it’s picked.

Cucumber Wrap in a moist towel in the fridge. If you’re planning on eating them within a day or two after buying them they should be fine left out in a cool room.

Eggplant Can be left out in a cool room. Don’t wash it. An eggplant doesn’t like any extra moisture around its leaves. For longer storage place loose in the crisper.

Garlic Store in a cool, dark, place.

Green beans They like humidity, but not wetness. A damp cloth draped over an open or loosely closed container.

Lettuce Wrap in a paper towel and place in an airtight container in the fridge.

Onion Store in a cool, dark and dry place where there is good air circulation. Don’t stack them.

Potatoes Store in cool, dark and dry place such as in a box in a dark corner of the pantry; a paper bag also works well.

Radishes Remove the greens so they don’t draw out excess moisture from the roots. Place them in a open container in the fridge with a wet towel placed on top.

Snap Peas Refrigerate in an open container.

Spinach Store loose in an open container in the crisper. Keep cold.

Summer Squash Can be left out on a cool counter for a few days, even after cut.

Sweet PeppersOnly wash them right before you plan on eating them because the wetness decreases storage time. Store in a cool room to use in a couple a days, place in the crisper if longer storage needed.

Sweet PotatoesStore in a cool, dark, wellventilated place. Never refrigerate. They don’t like the cold.

TomatoesNever refrigerate. Depending on ripeness, tomatoes can stay for up to two weeks on the counter. To hasten ripeness place in a paper bag with an apple.

Turnips Remove the greens, then store them in an open container with a moist cloth.

Winter SquashStore in a cool, dark, well ventilated place. Many growers say winter squashes get sweeter if they’re stored for a week or so before eaten.

Zucchini Can be left out on a cool counter for a few days, even after cut. Wrap in a cloth and refrigerate for longer storage.

If you know of other ways that keep fruits and vegetables fresh, please share with us.

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Tips on Saving for Christmas Now

One of the things all of us don’t look forward to after Christmas is paying off the gifts that were purchased for Christmas. Hopefully many of us can say we don’t have that credit card bill, but unfortunately a lot of people do. Here are a few tips that have helped our family during the year so we don’t have to pay off Christmas items later.

1. Set a budget
Determine how much money you are going to spend on Christmas 2012, and set a budget. To figure out how much you’ll spend, look back and calculate how much you spent this past Christmas. That should give you an idea of what you think you’ll spend this year. It might also help you realize that you spent more than you planned.

2. Begin Saving Now
After you’ve determined how much you think you’ll need, then break it down into how much you need to set aside each month to reach that goal. If it seems like there is no way you can set aside that much money each month, then at least set aside something—even if it’s only $10 or $20 a month. By the time the holidays come around, you’ll at least have saved about $100 or $200, which will help out tremendously.

Last year, I made it a point to set aside $50 a month and place it into a “Christmas” envelope. Now there were some months that were tight and we had extra bills to pay, so I wasn’t able to put aside that money each month, but by the end of the year, we had $500 in our Christmas fund.

It was nice to be able to pay for our Christmas items as we purchased them. And what’s even better is that with the money we didn’t spend, we will now put it toward our goal of paying down our mortgage or increasing our savings.

I realize it’s sometimes difficult to come up with extra money monthly. There is always something that you want or need to buy. But it will be worth it to prioritize and start saving money now for Christmas. It’s been really helpful in making Christmas less stressful for our family.

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