4 Ways we are using our tax refund to reduce stress

how to use a windfall

It’s that time of the year again: tax time. When you’re a family paying off debt and living paycheck to paycheck, anticipating a windfall like your tax refund is like looking forward to Christmas. You’re not quite sure what that pretty package has in it, but you’re certain it’s going to be amazing! And you already have about fifty million exciting ideas for how to use that refund.

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Our Favorite Free Days (3 Questions to determine which ones are worth your time)

For budget-conscious families, advertised “free” days are enticing. They hold out promises of fun, memorable experiences for your kids you don’t have to pay for. But how “free” are they really?

Yesterday was National Pancake Day. Those who follow all things free – signing up for every single restaurant’s e-mail insider list JUST to receive notifications of such freebies – know that IHOP offers free short stacks all day on National Pancake Day.

How “free” is free?

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How to Get Cheap K-Cups

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This frugal girl dreamed of a Keurig. It was just a dream though, mostly because I thought cheap k-cups were impossible to find. I simply couldn’t justify the cost, especially after reading articles that crunch the numbers and tell me that by using a regular coffee maker, I could save $400 a year! (source)

After receiving a Keurig for Christmas, I happily discovered I was wrong about cheap k-cups.

Keurigs: The Coffee-Loving Mom’s Essential

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The Downside to Minimalism (that no one likes to talk about)

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Minimalism is in. Marie Kondo has become a household name, and even Emily Gilmore jumped on the decluttering bandwagon!

Reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up two years ago changed my life for the better. Trust me, I’m a believer, right down to the way I fold my clothes.

I joined the ranks donating bag after bag of unworn clothes, unplayed with toys, and unread books. The clutter disappeared, I spend far less time now cleaning and reorganizing our belongings, and I can finally think straight (as straight as a mom with four little kids can, anyways).

I breathe easier. I have spare time.

But for the middle class, single income family, there is a downside, and no one likes to talk about it.

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Why You Should Quit Clipping Coupons

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I first read about extreme couponing in the Boston Globe sometime in 2011. The front page featured Kathy Spencer, author of How to Shop For Free: Shopping Secrets for Women Who Love to Get Something for Nothing. Her minuscule grocery budget inspired me, to say the least, and I immediately jumped on the extreme couponing bandwagon.

We had a new baby, a boatload of student debt, and one income. I committed to being a stay at home mom out of deep conviction, but I itched to contribute financially. Like any good drug, extreme couponing filled a void, and I convinced myself that saving money was my most valuable contribution to our family.

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How to Encourage Pretend Play (A story of kids needing less than we think)

how to get kids to play pretend, encouraging pretend play, should i buy a play kitchen, playkitchen

Creating an environment that encourages pretend play can feel daunting in our screen-filled world.  Many parents who want to foster their child’s imagination think a play kitchen is an essential toy for encouraging creative play.  In fact, play kitchens are now commonplace, found in most homes with young children.

I fell for it too – believing a play kitchen (and other props) to be absolutely necessary for my kids to play pretend.  

As my daughter approached three years old, I started looking for the perfect play kitchen.  Home aesthetics are important to me, so I prioritized the ones I could handle looking at every day in our small apartment.  

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7 Benefits of Minimalist Meal Planning

minimalist meal planning, minimalist meal planning benefits

Minimalist Meal Planning is a tool every mom should have in her meal planning toolbox. This method will not work for everyone long-term – not everyone loves to eat the same meals week after week.

But there are events like childbirth, deaths, and moves when you just need to not think about meal planning. Decision fatigue in these times is overwhelmingly high.

You need the ease of take-out without the cost. Minimalist meal planning can help!

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Amazon Subscribe & Save: Why Amazon Prime is Essential for Parents with Young Children

Amazon Prime, Amazon family

Is Amazon Prime worth it? Are Amazon Subscribe & Save’s prices decent?

I pondered these questions from time to time, especially as our family grew and shopping became exponentially harder.  The more kids we had, the more items we needed every week.

And have you tried grocery shopping with four kids? My motto is “Get in and get out: as fast as possible.”  The less time spent in the store, the fewer catastrophes can occur (and they still happen, like the time a case of Campbell’s cream of chicken soup busted my son’s lip – true story).

Having items delivered to my door in bulk was appealing, and if I can save time, money, and energy all at the same time, sign me up! Amazon Prime seemed like the answer.

But wouldn’t an item being delivered to my door be more expensive than going to the store myself? I searched for some of our regular products, knowing both their regular and sale in-store prices. I was happily surprised!

Many of the items we regularly buy are CHEAPER (some significantly so) when purchased using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save feature.

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How to Successfully Shop for Second-Hand Furniture

how to buy second-hand furniture, getting good second-hand furniture

In our recent move, we got rid of a lot of our furniture.  I shopping for second-hand furniture at two thrift stores last weekend to see what I could come up with for our new family room space and the dining room.

Three hours later, I came home empty handed.

Part of me wanted to cry because I view shopping as a sad waste of time.  I’d rather be spending that time on a million other things.  At least if I put in the hours, I want there to be something to show for it.

But I took solace in the fact that while three hours for nothing didn’t seem like a win, it actually was.  I didn’t buy anything I didn’t love.  And by love, I mean, jump for joy that it will be in my home kind of love.

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Why We Are a One-Car Family (& How We Make It Work)

one car family, one car, how to make one car work

We are a one-car family living in the suburbs of Raleigh.

My husband takes the car to work most days of the week.  I stay home with our four kids (ages 7 and under) all day long.  He’s at work from 7:30 am until around 6 pm.  I also homeschool.

Let me explain.

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