9 Easy Ways to Save Money Right Now

It’s that time of year again when those once-a-year bills come in {like HOA dues and the like}, Holiday shopping begins, and extra expenses {big family meals, stamps for Christmas cards, etc.} pile up.  Everyone is looking for ways to save money.  Personally, Dave and I are in the final week of our Fall session of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  We teach the class twice a year, and this year we have begun to issue a challenge to our class each week…a small way to save a few bucks.  In addition, my Small Group has been doing Jen Hatmaker’s Bible Study, Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  This week’s focus is on spending.  With all of this going on, I thought today would be the perfect time to share some of our ideas on how to save a bit of money.

Obviously, there are bigger and better ways to get more money this holiday season.  Whether it’s working extra hours, getting a side job, or selling the kids on Craig’s List…there are some drastic measures that are sure to work.  But what about the little stuff?  As they say, those pennies add up!

Here’s my list of 9 easy ways to save money right now:

9 Easy Ways to Save Money Today from Palmettos and Pigtails

-Don’t go grocery shopping this week…see how creative you can get with the items in your pantry and fridge.  And while you are in there, clean it up and organize it a little!  And while you are cleaning out your freezer, take an inventory of the food that’s in there with my handy Freezer Inventory List!

-Put a full water bottle in the back of all of your toilet tanks to displace the water in the tank, use less water, and save on your water bill.

-Save any $1 bills with significant letters on them {We save J’s, A’s and L’s in honor of our kids’ names}.

A great tradition and a way to save money: collect dollar bills with the letters of your kids' names on them

-Unplug electronics and appliances when not in use.  Big culprits in our house are laptops, the coffeepot and cell phone chargers.

-When paying for items, don’t use exact change….round up to the nearest dollar.  Save the change you get back, and each night empty your change into a jar…those coins add up quickly!

-Only drink water…no buying drinks or coffees at the store or restaurants.  You’ll save between $2-$5 for EACH DRINK!  {so put aside those $$$ you would have spent on the drink…and watch it add up fast!}

-Pay CASH instead of using a card….it’s a lot more painful to see those precious dollar bills disappear, than using that “magical” card.

-Establish a Swear Jar or a Manners Jar….each infraction costs a dollar out of one’s personal blow money.

-Get organized with your meals.  Use a weekly meal planner and Southern Savers to plan out meals and create a grocery list based on  your grocery store’s weekly specials.  Only buy what is on your grocery list.  My family of five usually spends about $80 a week on groceries.  That’s it!

Hope this simple list helps save you some cash TODAY!  Need a couple more ideas?  Check out this list of stuff you can sign up to do to get paid.

Got any others?  Leave a comment with how YOU save money during the holidays!

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The Seven Experiment: Media Blackout

I’m back!!! Did you miss me?  Probably not.  And no offense, but I didn’t really miss you either!  It’s hard to believe that we had virtually NO media exposure over the last week.  Our media blackout included TV, Radio/Music, Phone {except for relational calls and informational texts}, Computer, Internet, Social Media, and Electronic Games and Apps.  Seven things that have become idols in our house, taking up our time, energy and attention to the detriment of our relationships with others.

So it was all gone last week.  Cold turkey.  And guess what?  It wasn’t that bad.  I got zero complaints from the kids.  They blindly accepted the new “rule” when we broke the news to them.  Dave and I struggled a little with temptations {ahem, Facebook}, but we gave ourselves a B+ overall.

I even cheated a little on Day One, when I realized I had never completed an Amazon order for some craft fair items that I needed for this past weekend.  Jayna busted me getting out the computer, and insisted that she sit next to me and watch to “make sure I didn’t go on Facebook.” Man, talk about commitment from that kid!

But overall, it wasn’t as hard as I thought.  The house was quieter, we talked to each other more.  The kids played, rather than whining about TV or music selections.  Jayna even had a weeklong mystery when a bracelet of hers was missing.  She carried a notebook around writing down clues {like green dots and pizza crumbs} and gathering her suspects.  I’m not sure if the bracelet was ever found, but she had a blast sneaking around and solving the mystery!

The list of suspects is long in the Case of the Missing Bracelet!

The hardest thing for me was not watching TV while I folded laundry, and not scanning Facebook or Pinterest while sitting in the car-rider line at school or at the craft show this past weekend.  But other than that, totally fine!

I’d like to say we’ll keep it up.  But already we’ve gone back to our ways of having a TV on regularly {even if no one is watching it!}.  And I feel like since the week was over, I’ve had to spend DOUBLE time on the computer, just catching up from last week.  So I can’t say that too much has changed.  But I will say that we will be more mindful of our phones.  It was so nice last week {when all of my notifications were turned off}, not having to check my phone every time there was a little chime.  It was nice spending time with Dave, without Sportscenter being in the middle of our conversation.  So I think I’m going to leave my social media notifications turned off, and work on only browsing Facebook or Pinterest when I’m alone.

What do you do to cut back on media time?

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Why I’m Quitting Social Media

Don’t panic.  It’s actually only for this week.  In a nutshell, I’m in a Small Group studying Jen Hatmaker’s Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  And each week we give up some type of excess in our lives.  This week is media.

So I am radio silent {no, I’m not cheating right now, because I actually wrote this last week and just scheduled it for today}.  I’ve given up:

1. Television

2. Radio/Music

3. Internet

4. Computer

5. Social Media

6. Phone {except for informational calls and texts…no social chatting!}

7. Electronic Games and Apps

So, if you need me…I’ll be back in a week.  In the meantime, I’ll be spending the week with my family and friends.  Facetiming….literally.

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The Seven Experiment: An Update on my Mutiny Against Excess

Well friends, I’m about to start week four of Jen Hatmaker’s Bible Study, Seven.  I can sum up my experience of the Seven Experiment so far in one word: Fail.

Let me back up.  So, Week One was about Food.  Some of the challenge ideas in the book were:

to clean out 7 items from your pantry a day
only eat 7 foods for the entire week
cut out 7 staples or extravagant foods from your diet for a week
only eating organic/clean/local for the week

You know how I spent the week?  Traveling.  Eating out at both fast food and nice restaurants as I headed up north with the kiddos {by myself!} for part of the week, and then coming home to turn around and head for Alabama for a weekend getaway with Dave.  I pretty much ate the entire week.  Not to say that I didn’t think about the study, or sacrifice, or hungry children in Africa.  My word for the week was GUILT.  And I struggled with my intentions and the legalities of the study….promising myself and God that I would “double-up” the following week since my travel week wasn’t convenient to limit food.  Needless to say, I still haven’t “doubled-up.”

So, fail.

Week Two was about clothes.  Here were some of the challenge ideas:

Wear the same seven articles of clothing for the entire week {undergarments not counting!}
Wear only handmade clothes for the entire week
Give away seven items of clothing/accessories each day for a week
Create a pile/section of your closet for all the items you wear during the week, in order to get a visual for the percentage of items you actually use versus own.

So my word for this week should have been UNINTENTIONAL.  The first part of the week, I was still traveling.  I had only seven items with my on my trip {thanks to the carry-on bag rule!}, but it was purely coincidental, and I wasn’t thinking about the items at all when I was packing.  And when I got home, halfway through the week, I was so focused on getting back to my kids, and routine, that I forgot.  Simply forgot.  I had read my chapter on the plane {usually I don’t have time to read, so I’ll read a page of our study here and there throughout the week….which helps me stay on track}, so I literally did not pick up the book again until it was time to head to Small Group.  And then I realized that I hadn’t worn those same clothes the rest of the week.  I hadn’t even thought about the study or challenge at all.

Fail.

Week Three: Possessions.  I have done much better this week.  I’ve been more purposeful, and trying to stick to the plan with a cheerful heart.  Honestly, I was excited for this week especially…eager to start the cleanse: my life, my heart and my closets!  But then reality kind of set in.  It started when I was reading the chapter in Seven.  And my stomach got caught in my throat.  In the book, Jen and her husband had visited a church whose speaker encouraged the parishioners to leave the shoes they were wearing at the alter when the came up for communion.  And so Jen and her husband left their brand new fancy boots at the front and walked out into the cold in bare feet.  And she admits that her feet were freezing and uncomfortable walking on the gravel for the five minutes it took to get to her warm car.  Imagine your feet feeling that way all. the. time.

And then I thought about the PILE of shoes at the bottom of my closet.  Not to mention the PILE of shoes on the shelf in my bathroom {overflow parking!}.  And like Jen, my favorite pair out of them all are my cowboy boots.  I wear them all the time.  I got them on our family vacation to Gaitlinburg, Tennessee three year ago, just before our tiny family of three became four {and now five!}.  To me, those boots are not only comfy and cute {and maybe a bit stinky since I hate wearing socks with them!!}, but they symbolize family, simplicity and happiness to me.  They make me taller, and somehow more confident….and dangit, they look good with just about anything I wear!  I could not imagine not having them as a staple in my wardrobe.  How could Jen sacrifice hers?

So my word this past week should have been SACRIFICE.  Which, admittedly, I did very little of.  Sure, I cleaned out closets.  I have a huge bag of coats, scarves, mittens and hats waiting to go to the shelter.  I have another pile of towels and rags ready for the SPCA.  I’ve gone through toys and books and kids clothes to pull some essentials out for a little girl I know that has nothing.  I’ve asked around for ideas of families or people that may be in need {if you know of any, shoot me an email!}.  Knowing that about 10 of us in my group are all purging this week, we should have plenty of items that are looking for homes.  But nothing I donated made me uncomfortable.

And I found that even though I still couldn’t part with those beloved boots, I was able to create a pile of 16 pairs of other shoes to donate.  It’s a start. And I found that the more “piles” I created, the more eager I became to find more.  The less discriminating I became about what could go.

A little less of a Fail.

This week, the topic is Media.  And I plan on diving in headfirst.  I think I even have Dave on board.  And the kids…they just don’t know it yet.  So I am ready to unplug the TV, turn off all notifications on my phone {I’ll only be using it to speak to someone or for quick, informational texts…no social banter or emojies for me this week!}, and shut the computer down!  I debated the last one, as my smallish blog does have advertisers and deadlines to deal with.  But I have decided to shut down the blog for a week, schedule the few tweets/FB posts/etc. that I’m required to do for my sponsors, and focus on life for once {without posting to Instagram first!}.  So.  I won’t be checking email, posting on social media or blogging.  Radio Silence.

Wish me luck, and I’ll see you next week!

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The Seven Project: Intro

My small group just started a new study by Jen Hatmaker, called Seven.  This awesomely funny chick decided to shake up her family’s world by identifying seven areas of excess in their lives, and fighting back.  Each month, she chose a different area of excess to focus on.

Food, Clothes, Shopping, Media, Waste, Stress and Possessions.

Seven - Jen Hatmaker: My small group's journey to rid excess from our lives too!

So my Bible Study group decided to take the challenge with her, by following along and participating in the challenge each week {rather than month, like she did}.  Although technically, this was just the “intro” week for the group, Dave and I decided to start a week early, since we’ll be traveling next week and will have a hard time limiting our food.

So, for the first seven days, we will whittle our diet down to  seven items.  Total.

Chicken, pasta, lettuce, tomatoes, bananas, eggs and bell peppers.

This study comes at a perfect time…because all I can think about is “simplifying” lately.  On a daily basis, I’m horrified by the wasted food, unappreciated toys and plethora of clothes that compel me to think I have”nothing to wear.”  It’s quite sad.  And I’ve been fixated on it for awhile.  I stumbled across this article on Living Well, Spending Less about minimalism when it comes to toys, and it started snowballing from there.  So when my Small Group suggested this study, I went right out and bought Seven, and struggled to resist reading it immediately.  So I’m ecstatic to be jumping into this journey, and sharing it with you!

Stay tuned to hear the results of our version of The Seven Project: Foods!

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Breathing Room

I have a wonderful small group of women that I meet with on a weekly basis from my church.  Yes, we do Bible Studies.  But we also do deep conversations, laughter, rants, tears, and affirmations.  My Wednesday nights are what get me through the week.

Breathing Room - thoughts on Andy Stanley's study {Palmettos and Pigtails}

The study that we are currently doing is a video series by Andy Stanley, called “Breathing Room.”  We have discovered, as a group, that one of our biggest challenges and weaknesses is the lack of margin in our lives.  We ALL have a very hard time saying “No,” we are jamming as many activities, things and experiences into our lives as possible.  And for what?  Stress?  No sleep?  A messy house?    All for the sake of “keeping up” and “making the most of the time we have.”

In our attempts to make the most out of life, we lose control over what is important.  Our stress levels rise, our focus narrows…and so other areas suffer.  But it’s still so hard to give ourselves a little room to breathe.  A little less clutter.  We jam as much in because we have a fear of missing out on something, of falling behind, of not leaving a tiny imprint in our world.

Sad, but true.  I am a prime example.  I am a blogger.  A blogger that usually has a lot of photos in my posts.  I have three kids, whom I love more than anything….and I love to give them experiences and memories.  And, I love to document those experiences.  And although I don’t usually plan our family activities around the blog, I am always aware of opportunities to share about them on my blog.  So I really have to reel myself in from taking a million and three photos from every angle, and I have to consciously live in the moment…reminding myself to just enjoy the experience with my kids…not to worry so much about what I’ll write about, and if the lighting is good for photos.  Margin needed.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalms 90:12

The Breathing Room study is teaching us to cherish each moment.  One of the examples that Andy gave in the video, was to think about the little tiny blip of time that is our lifespan…when compared to God’s timeline.  Think about how fast our lives go and how quickly our children grow up, and then think about how fast it must seem to God.  Imagining the finite spanse of my lifetime makes me re-focus on what is really important.  The whole concept kind of blows my mind.

Remembering that our time is limited provides us with the wisdom to know how to spend our limited time
-Andy Stanley

Another pivotal moment in the video was the story of a woman who worked in Hospice, and asked people at the end of their lives what their greatest regrets were.  And the top two answers were, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” and “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to me, not what others expected of me.”

That second regret really hit home.  Initially, I’d say I don’t really worry what others think of me too much.  I’ve pretty much accepted the way I look, dress and act.  But then, digging deeper, I thought about my life in relation to how I portray it on my blog.  As much as I try to keep it real on here for you, there are certain pressures that I struggle to ignore.  I mean, I love Pinterest as much as the next gal, but  I have to admit that it does often make me feel a bit inferior to all of those crafty pinners.  The expectations for a blogger are high…in order to get paid, we are expected to have quality posts about stuff our readers care about…several times a week, with excellent photos, original ideas, and clean houses to stage everything in.  And thanks to Pinterest and Photoshop, that’s what a lot of you think our reality is.  I mean, who am I really trying to impress?

Family? Close friends?

Y’all know me better than that…you know that any clean surface of my home that is in a photo, really just has stuff shoved to the side {out of frame, of course}, that will resume it’s place as soon as the flash goes off.

Strangers who don’t know me personally?

Let’s be honest, most of them don’t care.  In fact…they probably aren’t even reading this because they didn’t find this post on Facebook or Pinterest.  There aren’t any pretty pictures.  And they don’t really care about getting to know the real me anyway.  They just want to know what my next project is.  So why do I feel so pressured to make them like me?  Golly….it’s like high school all over again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love that there are more of you than ever reading my thoughts on a weekly basis.  But I hope you want to know me.  And connect with the real me.

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Montreat 2014

My favorite summer tradition is going to Montreat, NC.  This tiny college town on the edge of Black Mountain and about 20 minutes northeast of Asheville is my Mecca.  Each summer the kids and I trek there to meet our oldest and bestest friends from Maryland.  They are youth councilors at the church we grew up in, and take their group of high schoolers to Montreat for the annual Presbyterian youth conference.

But luckily for us, the schedule at the conference is flexible enough that we get some amazing Betsy and Jay time while the teenagers are in their small groups in the middle of the day.

And now that my parents have moved to Florida, it’s really the only one reliable time that the kids get to see their God-parents!  I just love that all of our kids are so close in age….just wish they could spend more time together.

But there is another reason why I love taking the kids there each year.  It’s because of the actual conference.  The convergence of hundreds of teenagers from around the country.  Watching the interactions between groups of teens, participation in silly games, and getting a glimpse of their Christian journey is magical to me {especially since I lived it!}.   And I can specifically say that Betsy and Jay’s group of teens are “no exception.  My girls {especially Jayna} loooove the Big Kids.  She talked the whole way home about her new “Teenager Friends, ” Anna and Victoria…and how she wished she could stay longer to hang out with them.

Each year, I am tickled to briefly get to know these teens again {I watched most of them as babies when I was a teenager, volunteering in our church nursery!}.  I’m always amazing at how polite and caring they are, choosing to not only spend some of their free time with Betsy and Jay’s kids {who they know well}, but also with mine!

And sure, they are teenagers…so my kids get a little exposure to a little rough language, short shorts and rough play…but overall I feel just fine about having my girls look up to them.  And I can only hope my kids turn out just as well!

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The Bible Miniseries Giveaway

 Exciting news!  Have you seen the commercials for the new mini-series on the History Channel? The Bible will be airing beginning on March 3rd, and will be a 10 part mini-series.  The show will show events of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  It will also feature some of the lesser known {but equally important} stories of the Bible….such as the stories of Rahab, Bathsheba and Joshua.

Bathsheba and the Baby from The Bible Mini Series

Bathsheba and the Baby from The Bible Mini Series

In addition to the series on television, they also have corresponding musical soundtracks, Bible studies, children’s books and apps.  The folks over at Grace Hill Media have been gracious enough to put together an awesome giveaway to celebrate this historic television event.

A Story of God & All of Us – Young Readers Edition

(Based on the mini-series, “The Bible”)

The Bible Mini Series Giveaway over at Palmettos and Pigtails

 “A STORY OF GOD AND ALL OF US is a sweeping narrative that dramatizes some of the most important events and characters in the Bible. The young reader’s edition of the novel contains abridged action-packed versions of the Bible’s most fascinating stories, featuring Moses, David, Daniel, John the Baptist and Jesus.   This edition includes an exclusive introduction by author Roma Downey and a photo insert including images from the companion epic TV miniseries “The Bible.””

The Bible Mini Series Giveaway over at Palmettos and Pigtails
I don’t know about you, but I am super excited about this mini-series…it’s been in my DVR queue for weeks now!  And I will be so jealous of the winner, because this is a great way to relate the mini-series to kids!
Mary reaching out to Jesus from The Bible Mini-Series

Mary reaching out to Jesus

A young David throwing water from The Bible Mini- Series

A young David throwing water

Want to see more?  Check out the video clips!

Remember, even if you have already done any of the entries {i.e. you already “like” me on Facebook} be sure to click on that entry because it totally counts for you!!  And please, please share this giveaway! (It  ends March 8th!)

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!  I’m taking a few days off {away from the computer} to celebrate the holidays with my family!  See you next week!

Montreat 2012

Well, we are finally back from Montreat, NC and slowly getting back into the swing of things.  It’s amazing how even four days away can mess with your household!  Unlike last year, it was a beautiful week in the mountains….not too hot and no rain!  We shared my last post with the scrapbook photos with the high schoolers that Bets and Jay brought this year, and they loved it!  They were completely amazed at how I used a disposable camera (no retaking those blurry shots!), and at how cool the three of us were back then! =)

So, to recap…Bets and Jay are our best friends from Maryland.  They are our kids’ godparents, and their little Lulabelle is like our third daughter.  Betsy, Jay and I grew up together in our church, which they are still members of, and now the youth counselors at.  So they are continuing our church’s tradition of taking the youth group to Montreat each summer.  And since Montreat is just a couple of hours from us, the girls and I try to meet up with them for a couple of days while they are up there.  While the youth group stays in the lovely dorms at the college, the girls and I prefer the local Marriott!

And although Jayna did sleep in her own bed at night, this is what I awoke to each morning!

And since this trip was a first for Millie….I decided to bring and break in my brand new stroller.  Can I just say that it is awesome!  It has like 12 different sitting combinations, but the one we used was Millie in the front seat, Lulabelle sitting on the jump seat, and Jayna standing.

And Betsy pushing. Did I mention we were in the mountains?

We finally gave up on pushing all three girls, and put Millie in the front pack and made the big girls walk!

Jayna and Lulabelle were so stinkin’ cute together.  Jayna was all about playing the cool big sister….and although she is great with Amelia, I think she truely enjoyed manipulating helping Lulabelle…from buckling seatbelts for her, to convincing her that she liked pickles, to teaching her how to hula hoop!

And every year, the scenery just takes my breath away.  Lake Susan is like glass, framed by a baby blue sky and mountains.

Jay and some of the boys noticed huge fish sitting on some of the rocks at the bottom of the lake….tadpoles?  Man, they are gonna be some HUGE frogs!

But even the small details had me appreciating the scenery.  All of the buildings are stone, and they have gorgeous hydrangias around every corner.

I even caught this little inchworm hanging {literally} by a thread!

While the big kids were in small groups, we took the opportunity to spend some time with Betsy and Jay.  There is this cute little park at Montreat that has great playground equipment, and then several creeks running through for the kids to play in.

And although they tried hard not to get wet…both girls ended up soaking wet and laughing!

It’s a good thing Jay was willing to get wet too…that mountain water was COLD!

Now we just need to get Dave up here!!

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