How I’m going to save $30,000 in 10 years

It seems like the American dream is to own nice cars, a great house and have piles of debt. Until five years ago, I would have agreed with that!

Until I discovered Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover book. We’ve lent it to many friends since we read it. Basically, he helps people pay off debt and gain financial freedom in seven baby steps. He recommends paying with cash and actually making a budget – telling your money where it should go instead of asking where it went last month. (My friends in their 30s just paid off their house following Dave. Wow!)

One thing I never thought about was money in 10-year increments. Like dining out. That’s a total budget-buster for me. I enjoy going out to eat, and we have plenty of great places here in central Iowa. But $150/month x 12 months x 10 years = $18,000. That’s a car, some college, or nice vacations!

So here are some ways I’m looking to save, besides budgeting (and sticking to it) better:

Abigail's coupon bookMobile coupons

They’re popping up all over the place, including Kum and Go gas, Hy-vee, Target and many others. I also downloaded Ibotta, which includes mobile coupons for groceries and more.

Ditching cable

We haven’t had cable in more than seven years. I thought I couldn’t live without reality shows, but there’s so much on Netflix and over-the-air TV we record on TiVo, I haven’t missed it. And I’m more productive by skipping some of that stuff. So we’ve saved $70/month by switching from cable to Netflix. $70 x 12 = $840/year. $840 x 10 years = $8,400! And with new options like SlingTV, we can watch ESPN again.

Second hand clothing

Thanks to my generous family with a daughter just a year older than ours, we’ve saved hundreds of dollars getting their hand-me-downs. And if I do need something, I check out Stuff, Etc or the other second-hand stores in the area.

What if you stopped buying new clothes altogether? What if you only bought second hand stuff? And how many different outfits do they need?

If you cut back from $100 to $50 per kid per season, that’s a savings of $200/year per kid (which is still a generous amount). That’s a savings of $200/kid per year, or $2,000 per kid in 10 years.

The library

There are always book fairs going on at preschools and elementary schools. They can be hard to resist. But how many books do your kids need? Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE books. Kids enjoy a used book as much as a new one. Tag sales are great places to find books at a seriously bargain price.

Or you can get them from the library for free, as long as you remember to return them on time.

Say you spend $100 a year on new books for five years, as there aren’t as many book fairs in middle school and high school. That’s another $500. Now that’s not thousands in savings, but it’s a some good spending money for a freshman year of college.

Good reason to go to the library. Or check out half-priced or discount bin books.


What additional money-saving tips do you have?

Positive Pinterests

I’m an avid pinner. I may not make/do everything I pin (who does, really?), but I like seeing all the ideas.

So I completed a few pins late last year, and I’ll share my successes with you. (Also, you can find us on Pinterest here.)

Laundry room artwork

Laundry artworkOur laundry room needed some life. It seems like I spend hours in there some weeks, so I needed to make it a little more inviting. So I headed to Pinterest.

For one project, I simply headed to, printed the copies at a local copy center (my home printer didn’t work well), then I bought some cheap 8″x10″ frames and put them up. They make eight copies – four landscape and four portrait, so you can hang them however you’d like.




Laundry2As for artwork around the window, I bought a package of assorted buttons at Michael’s with a 40% off coupon, then lined them up in shadow boxes, also found at Michaels. Then I superglued them onto the paper.

For the full instructions, go here.

(All of this was easy for me; my hubby helped with measuring and hanging them on the walls.)




Dry erase calendar

CalendarMy sister and her husband have busy schedules, so I thought they’d enjoy this dry-erase calendar for Christmas. And they did!

I picked up some paint samples, a poster frame and some ultra-fine point dry erase markers. With my husband’s help lining up the trimmed squares, we were finished in no time!

For the full instructions, go here.




Map coasters

MapcoastersIt was a DIY gift year! I gave a set of these to my sister and parents. I just went to AAA, where I’m a member, picked up some maps of places my family has been, got some tumbled tiles at Menards on clearance, trimmed the maps, Mod Podged them to the tile, let them dry, then sealed them with spray. I also added some leftover felt from my daughter’s craft to the bottom of each of them so they don’t scratch surfaces.

So easy and they looked great!

For the full instructions, go here.


Dora2With all of the negativity shown in the media, it’s refreshing to know kind people still exist. I’ve witnessed some examples already this year.

  1. During the first few days I was home full-time with Abigail in January, we got our weekly groceries at Target. (Picture the coldest and windiest day – and that’s the day we went.) As I was leaving the store, I struggled to hold Abigail so I could keep her warm while pushing my full cart. A woman asked if she could help. I sighed in relief. This woman pushed the cart all the way to my car so I could hold my child. I explained how it was my first week home with her and how Abigail and I were figuring it all out. The woman just smiled and said, “We’ve all been there.” I wanted to hug her.
  2. Abigail and I met my sister and I met for lunch at Old Chicago. I had a coupon to burn. Toward the end of lunch, one of the other waiters brought her a picture he drew of Dora. Abigail doesn’t know who that is, but it was kind that he went out of his way for her.
  3. We had a personal-sized pizza coupon to burn at Godfather’s (thanks to the library reading program), so Abigail and I headed there for lunch. I called in advance to have it ready, since she doesn’t like being strapped into a seat for too long. (Who does, really?) By the time we got there, the pizza was finished and we started eating. The cashier came by and said that since the buffet was closing in 15 minutes, I could give Abigail pudding, applesauce, etc. from the buffet. So, I did. Then, she came around a few minutes later and said, “It wasn’t too busy this morning, so I played the claw machine and got this.” She pulled out a small, stuffed bear from her apron and gave it to Abigail. We’re definitely coming back.

The moral of these stories? It doesn’t take a large gesture to make someone’s day. Plus, I’ll return to these establishments often. And keep telling people like you how great these employees are.


Abigail's coupon book. $1 at Target.

Abigail’s coupon book. $1 at Target.

I love coupons. I love the thrill of the savings. All of my friends and family members know this. I rarely go anywhere or do anything without checking for a coupon first.

In fact, when my husband and I first met, he was in the process of ordering something online. I asked if he had a coupon code. “What’s that?” he asked. “We have some work to do,” I thought. (Sure enough, he found a coupon code for 30% off. He’s never looked back.)

So this got me thinking about couponing. I found some interested facts here, including:

  • 80.6% of consumers in a Valassis study reported using coupons regularly.
  • Moms are roughly twice as likely to search for coupons online as other categories of women.
  • 96.8 million adult Internet users will use online coupons in 2013.
  • Every hour spent couponing in 2011 is worth an estimated $100.

I’m not an extreme-couponer, with binders of coupons and thousands of boxes of cereal stashed in my basement. I simply look at our local ads each week when making our meal menu, plan accordingly based on sales and then look for coupons.

As a side note, another interesting point in the article is in regards to income. To my surprise, a majority of the “super heavy” and “enthusiasts” have a household income of more than $70,000 per year. So, how did they get some of their wealth? Couponing, perhaps?

Do you coupon?