Friday, March 26, 2010

Updated Ways to Maximize Your Dollars

Here are all the ways our single income family saves money:

Books/Video Games/CDs/DVDs:, Freecycle, local library, consignment shops/thrift shops/flea markets, trading amongst friends, buying from friends

High Value Coupons or coupons for free products:
Email or write a letter to the company that makes the items that you and your family enjoy. Tell them your honest opinion of their products and ask them if there are any coupons that they can share with your and your family. The address or email address of the companies who make the products you enjoy are on the packages/bottles/boxes themselves.
Note: We have received many high value coupons and many coupons for free products this way. The short amount of time that I invested to write the email or letter was nothing in comparison to the high value or coupons for free items. It helps to have a template of the different letters on hand as well.

You can also join online programs like Vocalpoint that sends their members high value coupons to try new products and share their opinions. It is really that simple.

Eco Friendly: we have our own garden, we recycle a lot (aluminum cans monies are collected and saved), we combine errands when we go out to save on gas, we consistently try to reduce our electricity usage by turning most everything off or unplugging them when they are not in use, we are trying to incorporate organic foods into our meals, we are trying to decrease the amount of processed foods that we purchase and opting to go for a more natural homemade option so we know what goes into the food we put in our bodies, we do our own home improvements and recycle any material that is replaced, friends pass on their unused coupons to us (less trees wasted on a newspaper subscription for us)

Entertainment: free local activities (at the library, local restaurants, etc...), parks, playgrounds, Smithsonian Museums, Entertainment Book with buy one, get one free admission coupons and discount movie tickets, state tourism savings pass, military ITR offices,, Redbox and Blockbuster Express movies, movies, books and cds borrowed from the library, having friends over to play and just hang out or barbeque, buying candies at dollar stores before going to the movies, signing up for rewards programs so when you purchase you make your purchase work for you

Grocery Items: huge coupon clipper (store and manufacturer), newspapers, internet printables, magazines (i.e. All You), buying in bulk, pack lunches (work, school, outings, roadtrips), eat leftovers for next day lunches or freeze for future meals, drink sugar free drink mixes, sodastream, fruits and vegetables in our garden, we make our own laundry detergent, cut our dryer sheets in half (later use some of them for dusting, trying the bounce laundry bar that I got for about a buck with coupons, stockpile on items using sales and coupons (getting them cheap or free) and absolutely love shopping the discount area in the grocery store and using coupons on those items.Magazines: mom sends me her magazines, deeply discounted online

Online Shopping:, in conjunction with online coupon codes for percentage off or free shipping,,

Restaurants: coupons in newspapers, fliers/brochures/magazines that come in your mailbox, sign up on for their rewards/email programs, google search coupons for the restaurants you are interested in dining at, Entertainment Book and

Samples: Signing up for samples online allows our families to try new products without having to purchase the full size item up front. It has saved us a lot of money since not everything works for our family.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Our First Spring Weekend

This year, our first day of Spring was fun and busy. We did some shopping on base and picked up some home improvement items before heading home. We had lunch and started on the days work. We cleaned out, scrubbed down and brought our grill back up to speed. We purchased our grill a little less then 10 years ago.

We will be able to enjoy many more years of grilling now. We will also be able to enjoy our patio a little more on hot days this year. We were very thankful to have received a patio umbrella with base this weekend through our local freecycle.

While Mike was doing most of the scrubbing down and bringing our grill back up to speed, the kids and I were in our garden. I started out by weeding, then we moved on to digging trenches and planting. After that, I made homemade signs so we know which vegetables are where. We changed it up a lot this year and planted yellow onions, garlic, strawberries, cucumbers, hot & long peppers and some green onions. (Last year, we had a ton of roma and cherry tomatoes and jalapeno peppers.) Mike lightly watered our garden toward the evening.

I did a little freecycling in between everything else that we had going on. My items were picked up on time and found new homes this weekend. It is always great when I do not have to deal with freecycle no shows.

The kids and I were able to take advantage of the free italian ice that Rita's offered again this year. Our free root beer, sour apple and chocolate italian ice's were delicious! The line was long but it moved fast because it broke off into three windows.

Sunday, we got our daily chores done and finally put up our new medicine cabinet in our main bathroom. We had previously taken down our old medicine cabinet a few weeks ago because it was very irritating to keep opening three doors to get to our stuff. I spent some time after helping to install our cabinet lining it, putting things back in and wiping down the areas where we temporarily housed our things. It looks wonderful now! A little more work in our main bathroom and our bathroom update will be complete.

Other then that, Mike watched his race on tv (Tony came in second - yeah!), Tyler got sick and Lane and I played some games.

We had a wonderful first day of Spring weekend!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Freecycle is a way for communities to connect people who are getting rid of items to people who need these items together to keep things out of our landfills. See Freecycle's mission statement here:

Our family loves to Freecycle and have been members of our local Freecycle for 4 years now. We love the fact that the items that we no longer need or use anymore have found new homes where they can be enjoyed/used by other families and it helps that everything is free. Since moving here, we have gotten rid of about 1/4-1/3 of the things that we brought with us through Freecycle. We have given so much back to our community and they have in turn helped us out as well.

With Freecycle, you sign up to become a member and answer a few questions. After your membership is approved, you can start posting. Unlimited offer posts and depending on your local Freecycle group's rules (2 wanted posts announced via email per month for ours as long as there is a balance of offer to wanted posts) plus you can post the rest of your wanted posts in the wanted items database and have it listed there for 3 months. When Freecycling, it is always important to remember to be courteous, polite and to be on time when picking your items up because some Freecycler's who do not have a porch need to be home to put the items out.

Here's how it works. Freecycler's post their items. If you see something you are interested in, you reply to the post and politely state that you are interested in their item(s) and state when you can pick up. It is up to the person offering the item to select the person the recipient of their item(s). The person offering will contact you if you are the recipient of their item and if not, you may not hear back from them. It is the responsibility of the person offering the item to update the group if the item is taken pending pick up (ppu) or taken. If you are selected for their item, you ask for their address and you work out a pick up date and time. You then pick the item(s) up at your designated time. Note: If you will be late or cannot show up for any reason to pick your items up at your designated time, it is a courtesy to let the offerer know and to set up an alternate pick up time.

We have met so many wonderful people through Freecycle and enjoy seeing them every now and again when they pick things up or we pick things up from them. We have enjoyed getting to know our community and look forward to what the future holds. The friendships we have made through Freecycle have been wonderful!

Go here to see if there is a Freecycle group in your area and you can sign up here:

Check it out and Happy Freecycling!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Swap Tree

Do you have dvds, cds, books or video games that you no longer need? is a great service that allows you to enter items that you have to trade and enter items that you want. It is a free service that promotes trading between members. When Swaptree asks you if you want to accept a trade, you can either say yes or no. Once you agree to the trade, there's no backing out - the trade has to go through. Once both parties have accepted the trade, you can either print out a swaptree shipping label (shipping is charged to a credit card on file at the beginning of the month) or you can take it down to the post office. We like to use the online postage because it includes a mailing label with postage and delivery confirmation and you can print it in the comfort of your own home and put it out to be picked up with the rest of your mail by usps. It's like getting a "new or new to you" game/cd/book/dvd for the price of postage.

You can sign up free here:

Note: Sometimes the person you are receiving your wanted item from may not be the same person you are sending your item to.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Public Libraries

We love our public library and have been utilizing it since we moved here. Our public library has been an incredible resource for saving our family money. Instead of purchasing books, cds, dvds, books on cd, learn a language cds or dvds like we had always done in the past, you can rent them out and return them. Movie rentals are on a 3 day loan and books and cds are on a 3 week loan. For things like Rosetta Stone, you can download it from their website and listen to them that way.

If your public library does not have the item that you are looking for, you can search on their website, order it online and have it delivered to the public library that you visit most and it can all be done online. There's no fee for this service and it does take a few days. When it is available for pick up, they send you an email reminder. What more can you ask for?

Also, throughout the year they run different reading programs and events including story telling, anime and science events. All of the events and programs are free to participate as long as you register in advance and show up early.

Go check out your public library and save some money!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

We make our own powdered laundry detergent. Making and using our own laundry detergent has been working great for us and it saves us a lot of money. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for name brand laundry detergents a year, why not make your own and keep the rest of the money in your pocket. It used to take some time to grate the soap bars but since my wonderful husband got the shred attachment for our Kitchen Aid this past Christmas, I can whip up a batch in no time.

I was talking about it with a good friend yesterday and she wanted the recipe so I told her I would post it here.

So, here's the recipe we use:
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
2 cups of shredded Irish Spring bar soap

Make sure you shake everything until well combined (We keep ours in an air tight plastic bottle.)
Use 2-3 Tablespoons per wash load (We use 3 Tablespoons per load. We use a small container as our scooper, it's exactly 3 Tablespoons - which makes it a lot easier.)

You can also double up the recipe like we do so you do not have to make it as often.

Try it and see how you like it! Let me know what you think.

Note: We previously made some liquid laundry detergent but have found that it was too messy and bulky for our family. Therefore we have opted to stick with powdered laundry detergent.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Movie Theater Savings

Do you find that movie theater ticket prices are high these days? I do. Going out to see a movie in the movie theater is fun but it does come with a heavy price tag especially for families, especially those living on a single income. This is why I researched how our family can save a little money and still afford to go to the movie theater.

The Entertainment Book has coupons where you can purchase tickets from AMC, Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark at a discount. has a member deals section where you can purchase discount tickets from so many movie theaters (way more then what is listed here) that it would be worth it to pay the cost of the book.

Entertainment Books may be kind of pricey if you buy them at regular price or if you buy them as a fundraiser. However, if you wait until they have their books on sale and go through an online rebate site like, you can get an Entertainment book for next to nothing and you would immediately make that money back after redeeming just a few of the many coupons that are included in the book.

Do you have AAA? If so, you can take advantage of discount movie tickets for AMC, Regal, Reading Cinemas and Bow Tie Cinemas purchased in set packs of either. Check out their member discounts here:

Do you have a Costco or Sam's Club membership? They also offer discounted tickets when you buy in bulk. Check their websites out for more information.

You may want to also check the base ITR or ITT office to see if they offer discounted movie tickets as well.

Many local theaters offer free summer movies on certain days, so check out their websites as the season gets closer. We have checked out movies on the free days and the theaters is just packed to the brim so you may want to show up really early for those.

Also most theaters have their own free rewards programs/clubs that if you sign up for them you can reap the rewards. Some offer discounted concession items while others allow you to earn points with every ticket purchased and your can redeem those points for different items. Again, this is just another way to make your purchase work for you. Sometime they have special sign up times where you can get a free popcorn when you first sign up and others may do similar promotions so check out your local theater.

For Maryland family and friends, here's some cool movie deals you may/may not know about:

Cinemark: (theater locations here:
1. Seniors Every Monday (senior ticket prices (valid for ages 62+, Seniors day, all day Monday, any movie, any showtime), details here:
2. Discount Tuesday (discount Tuesday prices, all day), details here:
3. Early Bird on the first matinee showtime of the day (7 days a week), details here:
4. Discount tickets on Entertainment Book online up to 35% off.
5. AAA has discounted movie tickets too.
6. Costco has Cinemark discount movie tickets, details here:

1. Discount tickets & discount concession package on Entertainment Book online and discount coupons in the Entertainment Book.
2. AMC Movie Watcher Rewards Free Program, details here:
5. $5 in concession for only $4 Concession Saver, details here:
7. Seniors (60+) enjoy Senior Day every Tuesday for a limited time. Also high school and college students can show their id's everything Thursday for discount ticket prices. Details here:

Regal Entertainment Group: (theater locations here:
1. Join their Regal Crown Club Free Program here:
2. Discount tickets on Entertainment Book online and discount coupons in the Entertainment Book.

Bow Tie Cinemas: (theater locations here:
1. Free Criterion Club Member, join here:
2. Discount tickets on Entertainment Book online.

Fort Meade Base Theater - Reel Time Theater:
- Adult - $4
- Child (6-11) - $2
- Children 5 & under - FREE

For Hawaii family and friends, here's some cool movie deals you may/may not know about:

Consolidated Theaters promotions, details here:
I think you can still get Consolidated Group Movie Tickets (GMT) through places like HGEA, UH Manoa & Community Colleges, etc...

Regal Entertainment Group: (theater locations here:
1. Join their Regal Crown Club Free Program here:
2. Discount tickets on Entertainment Book online and discount coupons in the Entertainment Book.
I think you can get discount Regal Movie theater tickets at UH Manoa & Community Colleges, etc...

Hickam Base Theater Reel Time Theater:
- Adult - $4
- Child - $2

Schofield Base Theater Reel Time Theater:

For Montana family and friends, here's some cool movie deals you may/may not know about:

Carmike Cinemas: (theater locations here:
1. Discount tickets on Entertainment Book online.
2. List of their programs/promotions here:

These are just a few ways that I found when researching the idea of saving money while watching movies in theaters. If you have any other tips, please feel free to share them with us.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Famous Footwear Spring Sale

Famous Footwear is having their Spring Sale.

They have a 20% off printable coupon on your entire purchase here:
or to redeem online, valid until 3/13/10 use coupon code: BLOOM.


Monday, March 8, 2010

All things for St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day this year was wonderful!

We got together with friends and hung out all day.

When we got home, it was great to smell dinner cooking in the crockpot.
Dinner was ready by 6pm and it was delicious! We had corned beef and cabbage, rice, beer, green lemonade and because I was out all day, we had mint chocolate chip fat boy ice cream sandwiches. Dinner must have been great because some of us had seconds. Even our sometimes picky eater ate it all up and said it was delicious.


1. Aeropostale - up to 60% off, details here:

1. St. Patrick's Day Events around Maryland, details here:

2. St. Patrick's Day Events around Virginia, details here:

3. St. Patrick's Day Events around Washington D.C, details here:

Free ECards:

Crafts, recipes, printables:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Birthday Freebies

So you want a freebie on your birthday? The freebies are out there, you just have to sign up for them to be delivered to your email inbox.

Here are some resources for finding out what restaurants, stores and fast food restaurants offer freebies for your or your kids birthday:

Here are some of the birthday freebies we get:
Applebee's - free dessert, printable coupon emailed
Baskin & Robbins - free scoop of ice cream in a cup or bowl, printable coupon emailed
Bob Evans - free kids meal the month of your birthday
Burger King - free hamburger kids meal to kids club member, printable coupon emailed
Cactus Willie's - free meal with meal purchase, postcard mailed
California Pizza Kitchen - free kids meal the month of your birthday, postcard mailed
Chevy's - free dessert, printable coupon emailed (select restaurants only)
Chili's - free dessert, printable coupon emailed
Chuck E Cheese - free tokens, printable coupon emailed
Cold Stone Creamery - free like it or kids like it the week of our birthday, printable coupon in our online account.
Dairy Cream - free ice cream, printable coupon emailed
Dave n Busters - free $10 in game play, printable coupon emailed
Famous Dave's - free dessert, printable coupon emailed
Firehouse Subs - free sub, printable coupon emailed
Friendly's - free ice cream, printable coupon emailed
Fuddruckers - free 1/3 lb. burger, printable coupon emailed
IHOP - free kids meal, postcard mailed
Johnny Rockets - free hamburger, printable coupon emailed
Macaroni Grill - free dessert, printable coupon emailed
Medieval Times - free admission ticket for your birthday ($53 value, just signed up)
Noodles & Company - free meal on your birthday, printable coupon emailed
Texas Roadhouse - free appetizer, printable coupon emailed
TGI Friday's - free dessert, printable coupon emailed
Toys R Us - $3 gift card for kids birthday
Uno - free personal pan pizza, printable coupon emailed

Go have some fun on your birthday and get something free for being you,


Want some freebies? Check these out:

*Note: We got our free cards, no hallmark gold crown membership required.

2. Become a fan of Nabisco Cookies on facebook and get a chance to receive a free package of Nabisco cookies every month (with purchase). Join today and print your coupon here:
*Note: We got our coupon but the commissary wouldn't take it.

3. Free MP3 downloads from here:

14452490_pe_04/?node=334897011&field-date=20100224-20100302 or here:

*Note: Some downloads I have heard of but most of them unknowns or up and coming artists.

4. Free Alice In Wonderland Theme mp3 download at Amazon here:


*Note: We got our free download

5. has free downloads here (must have livemetallica account to download):


6. Outback Steakhouse (March 2010 only) veteran's and active duty military (proof required) gets a free bloomin' onion, details here:

7. Free appetizer at Ruby Tuesday when you become a fan on Facebook

8. Freecycle - join a local Freecycle group and give/get things for free:
*Note: We Freecycle a lot and love it!

9. Panda Express has a free single serving of honey walnut shrimp on 3/10/10, details here:

10. has a free stuff section here:
*Great savings, samples, freebies and coupons.

Now go out and enjoy some freebies that life has to offer,

Free Movie Nights

Our family tries to do free movie Friday nights when possible. We try to rent movies from Redbox kiosks or Blockbuster Express kiosks with free movie codes that we find online. The movie codes are hit and miss but it is definitely worth it for a free movie rental. Here are some resources for free movies. For the redbox and blockbuster express kiosks, you can sign up online to reserve your movies and go pick them up at your kiosk or you can just visit your local kiosk. You can also sign up for their movie codes and have the codes go directly to your cell phone like I have.

Redbox and Blockbuster Express codes can be used one time per credit card number.

Free Redbox kiosk codes can be found here:
REDBOX (new customers only)

Free Blockbuster Express dvd movie codes can be found here:
Here are some of their codes from their list that are still valid.
GL9RA - valid until 3/31/10
GT21A - valid until 3/12/10
GOLIVE - valid until 3/31/10
G213A1 - valid on Wednesday, 3/10/10
GA13A2 - valid until 3/16/10

Free Blockbuster Express rent one, get one free rental codes:
GE12B - valid until 3/8/10 - expired
GN13B1 - valid until 3/8/10 - expired
POPCORN (do not know expiration)

Now go out and enjoy some free movies!

Learning about Organic Foods

Prior to last week and after all the research online and in talking with friends, I decided to finally take the plunge and try to incorporate organic foods into our diet. Organic foods are supposed to be free of antibiotics and free of hormones. Our family has been pretty open to try different products.

Last week, we went to the commissary and picked up some organic items she said they carry- Organic Valley milks (vanilla soy, low fat and fat free) and some organic carrots and tried them. We liked the milk and carrots and I figure if we try a few things here and there, it shouldn't affect our budget as bad. Last weekend, we ran across a MOM's market in College Park when we checked out the REI there. We tried some vegetarian hotdogs and they were disgusting. I was told not to ever get them again. When I asked Wendy about it, she said it is hard to find organic hot dogs that taste good.

Recently, I had been asking a friend of ours about eating organic and different organic products. I asked her what different products her and her family have tried before and she has been very open with me. Thank you for all the information Wendy! I never could have learned so much with out your knowledge and expertise on the matter!

On Friday, we went with Wendy to an organic market called MOM's Organic Market. We tried a few new things like red organic bananas, (I don't think they are ripe yet because we tried them after bringing them home from the market and it tasted like eating I don't know what - yuck!). These red organic bananas are supposed to be sweeter then the regular ones (wonder if they are like apple bananas?) but we'll never know until they ripen up and it was $2.19 for 4 bananas. We'll give them another chance when they ripen up. We also tried a sample of this veggie thing that resembled meat that they mixed with some peppers and put in a sandwich. I was ok. Tyler got some organic fruit leathers that he and Lane love. I absolutely fell in love with the OIKOS greek yogurt with honey! It is delicious and something we'll probably get next time we go to the commissary.

Today we went to the Annapolis Commissary and they have Chobani greek yogurt, puffins cereal, cage free eggs, organic salad greens, organic cucumbers/mushrooms/carrots/tomatoes and Organic Valley milks that we saw. I love the fact that the commissaries are trying to increase their organic varieties because really what they are investing in is the health of their customers.

Now that we are open to and trying a few organic products here and there, we still buy a lot of food that isn't organic and love those as well.

Tonight, I am using the organic carrots and we harvested last weekend out of our garden (yes, they survived both blizzards) in the beef stew I am making for dinner. We grew all of them from seeds so it was wonderful for our kids to see the entire process of what it takes for the carrots to grow all the way until when we eat them.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Resource Tools I Use to Maximize Our Savings

Do you search the internet a lot? Why not make your internet searches work for you? Sign up for swagbucks through my link here:
and start searching and winning points to redeem on stuff like gift cards and other items.

Shop online much? If so, sign up with through my link here: and start putting more money back in your pocket through online rebates. Shop through links and put a percentage of your order back in your pocket. I joined up in 2009 and managed to accumulate $63+ in rebates thus far.

If you are not into online rebates because some people just aren't, there's also a program called where if you shop through their links, you earn points for your purchases that add up and you can redeem these points for all sorts of things like gift cards and other things. You can also earn points by taking their surveys on their main page. I have redeemed my points for a few gift cards.

Want to try, sign up here: and get $10 credited to your account after you spend $50 and order 6 or more items and shipping is always free. Around the holiday's they sometimes have their gift cards on sale for 30% off which is nice. They also have a lot of organic products, so check it out!

Reliable printable coupon websites:

More to come.

Consigning at the Fort Meade Thrift Shop for Authorized Patrons Only

Today, we met friends at the base thrift shop. Today was apparently a consignment drop off day so it was pretty busy. They have everything from baby items, uniforms (not a great variety), shoes, books, video games, dvds, vhs tapes, cameras, kids toys, clothes for the family, accessories (belts, ties, bags/purses, etc...) and so much more.

We signed up for an account and got all the information on how to consign there.
Here's what you do:
1. Sign up for an account (military id must be presented)
2. They will give you the policy sheet and consignment sheet.
3. Fill out the consignment sheet for the items you are consigning
(5 clothing items and 5 household items)
4. When you come in you hand your consignment form to the lady who them writes out the tags that you will then adhere to you items prior to them putting your items out (items cannot be sold without tags).
5. Masking tape tag needs to be on the inside of each piece you are consigning in case the tag gets lost. Sample format:
Date Account #
Item Description
Item # Price

General Information:
1. Must present current military id.
2. Consignment days are Tuesday and Thursday from 9am-12:30pm
3. All items must be washed and cleaned and clothing must be hung on appropriate hangers.

This will be a great way for us to sell our items that the kids outgrow or no longer use or need.

1. The thrift shop has plastic pants and shirt hangers available for the clothes you are consigning.
2. Everything in their back room is discounted.
3. The first Saturday of the month, they have a bag sale. Bring a brown grocery bag, stuff it with anything from the back room (clothes, toys, housewares, shoes, etc...) and it only costs $2 for the entire bag. I guess it was a big hit this past weekend because their supply has greatly reduced so there's a quick turnover of those clothes.
4. If you prepare everything at home (labels, fill out the form, clothes on hangers, etc...), it does not take very long for them to accept your items.
5. After you label your items with their tags, you put your own items out on the floor.
6. It was pretty busy on Thursday (3/11/10) but the consignment line moved pretty quick.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My First Cooking and Baking Day

Today has been a very productive cooking, baking and preparation day.

From the moment Lane left for school this morning, I have been cooking, baking or preparing items for convenience.

So far, I've made:
1 batch of Blueberry Muffins (package mix)
1 batch of Crock Pot Shredded Beef
2 batches of Cinnamon Rolls (used moneysavingmom's recipe - delicious!)
Prepared two pancake mixes in baggies (just have to add liquids and cook)
1 batch of Taco Meat
1 batch of Homemade Chili

Still left to do:
1 batch Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (moneysavingmom's recipe)
1 batch of Beef Stew (using the carrots from our garden)
Cook up some quick breakfast items: eggs, spam, rice
Cook up some pasta noodles
Portion out individual items for salads (cheese, tofu, meats, etc...)

I better go finish this stuff up and I'll take a picture in the end of my work.

I was able to finish the batch of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and cooked up some pasta noodles. The rest will get done when it gets done.

Girls Day 2010

Today (March 3rd) is Girls Day in our Japanese culture. Happy Girl's Day!!

Applebee's St. Patrick's Day Deals

Visit Applebee's on Friday, March 12, 2010 for Applebee's St. Practice Day and on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 for St. Patrick's Day from 9pm to close for great food specials and drink specials, details here:

A New Adventure

Welcome! I have finally taken the plunge with my own blog after talking with a friend on how to create one. This should be a fun adventure!