5 Easy Ways to Make Legitimate Money from Home

In this day in age, are there really ways to make money from home? There are several skeptical people who believe the only way to make money is to go to a job site every day, work several hours, and get a paycheck every week. Whether you want to make an extra couple of dollars on the weekends or you are one of those stay at home parents, making legitimate money online can be easier than you think.


Who doesn’t love to browse the internet? We use it for the purposes of work and entertainment. Why not get paid to use the internet for your enjoyment? This is where Swagbucks.com comes into play. This is an amazing website, free to join, and will pay you for your time and input, with popular gift cards. You gain points by taking surveys, watching videos, playing games, searching the web, and shopping online. Many can even do this while on the go, simply by using a smart phone or tablet. Each task you complete is worth a certain number of points. Once you earn so many points, you are eligible for multiple gift cards of your choosing. Some of these gift cards are for places like Amazon, Walmart, or Target. Sure you are not getting a paper check, but you are getting a gift card for places you love. Instead of spending cash money on groceries, buy them at Walmart using your gift card earned through Swagbucks!

Sell or rent items online

EBay is probably the best known site for selling goods you no longer need, but what about renting out your items? There are several other websites that allow you to rent out your clothes or shoes to other people, and they pay you for the rental. Say you have a nice formal dress and you don’t want to sell it. You can rent it to those looking for a certain style they only plan to wear once, rather than spending a fortune on a new dress.

Be a website tester

This one seems unreal, right? It is true! You can actually get paid to test out a company’s website. Usertesting.com will pay you upwards of $30 an hour to test out a website. All you have to do is visit a website or app that usertesting.com gives you, complete a set of given tasks, and speak your thoughts about the site. It is as easy at that!

Sell your talent

Are you a crafty person who likes to make unique items? Well you no longer have to attend craftshows or flea markets in order to sell your items. Etsy.com is a wonderful website that allows anyone to become a shop owner. You are in charge of what you sell in your shop, and can even limit the number of a specific item available. Sellers on Etsy also provide buyers with an estimation for completion of personalized items. Sellers gain more customers through the use of positive start reviews, which can make a person even more money!

Sign up to be an instructor

Udemy.com is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to learn about a topic of interest. Not only can you learn and take classes on Udemy, you can make money by becoming an instructor. They have any topic imaginable, from learning how to use the newest version of Windows to introductory photography courses. You can work along or with other instructors to develop a course which is made available to users around the world. If Udemy helps to promote your course, you get 50% of all profits made, and get 100% if you promote it on your own. There are some rules and regulations for becoming an instructor, but many of them are common courtesy rules. Making money for teaching a topic in which you are an expert is an awesome way to make extra cash from the couch.


How to Avoid Wasting Money on Groceries

If you’re like most people, food probably takes up a big chunk of your monthly budget. Whether you’re feeding a family of four or just yourself, there’s a good chance you’ve already fallen victim to the classic trap of overpaying for food, or buying food you don’t end up eating. It happens to all of us. But if you plan well and shop smartly, you can avoid wasting money on groceries and instead use that cash productively. Here’s how to do it:

Always Check the Circulars

One of the easiest ways to avoid spending more than you have to on groceries is to check the circulars at your local stores before you head out shopping and see what’s on sale. If, for example, your family goes through 12 yogurts a week and a local store has your brand on sale for $0.50 less than another supermarket, you can save $6 right off the bat. Most grocery stores post their circulars online, so all you need to do is commit to giving them a weekly read at your convenience.

Pay Attention to Expiration Dates

Sometimes we all have no choice but to shop for food when we’re in a hurry. How many times have you grabbed the first container of milk off the shelves only to get home later and realize it expires within a couple of days? To avoid wasting money on food, be sure to pay attention to when the products you’re buying are about to expire. If you can’t find the item you’re looking for with a decent date, ask a supermarket employee to check the stock room. The more time you have to consume your food before it goes bad, the less likely you are to waste money by having to throw it away.

Avoid On-Sale Items You Don’t Tend to Use

It’s easy enough to fall into the trap of getting lured in by a good deal, but remember, on-sale items are only worth something if they’re things you use regularly. If, for example, you see gorgonzola cheese on sale for half-price but only eat it once a year, don’t buy a giant block. Similarly, if you see a certain type of fruit or vegetable on sale, only buy the amount you’re likely to consume within the week. Having extra produce on hand to spoil is definitely no bargain.

Plan Your Meals in Advance

One of the best ways to avoid wasting money on food is to plan out your meals ahead of time. Take one night a week to write out your menus and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need to bring your dishes to life. This will help you avoid getting tripped up by missing ingredients once you’re already cooking, but just as importantly, it will help you avoid spending money on items you don’t need anytime soon.

Keep a Solid Inventory

Buying things you already have, especially perishables, is a good way to throw out your money. To avoid this, keep a detailed inventory of the items you have in your refrigerator and pantry, and update it every week before you head to the supermarket. In fact, you can, and should, use your inventory to build your weekly grocery list.

Make a List, and Stick to It

One final way to avoid throwing money away on groceries is to make a list before you shop and limit yourself to whatever’s on it. If you commit to skipping impulse purchases or sales that aren’t particularly relevant to you, you’re more likely to bring home items that’ll actually get eaten.

Remember, you work hard for your money, so there’s no sense in wasting it on unnecessary food. Follow these tips, and before you know it, your grocery bills will be much more manageable, leaving extra cash in your budget for when you need it the most.

3 Ways to Have Excellent Credit Even If You Have Debt

My credit? Excellent.

Whenever I’m having my credit checked I always feel a little surge of pride, like I’m about to get a big fat gold star on a piece of homework I’ve worked on.

Except I have tremendous debt, so that gold star? Yeah, it’s more than a little tarnished. Despite having credit card, student loan, car payment, and mortgage debt, I’ve been able to maintain a squeaky clean credit record for a long time.

Having no debt doesn’t equal having excellent credit. In fact, lenders want to see that you’re able to manage your debt—as in pay them back on time, even if you maintain a balance over the long term. Of course, if you’re able to always pay your balance in full each month, that’s great for you too—since you aren’t paying for finance charges and never need to worry about late fees.

Don’t Pay Late

The first thing you can do to maintain excellent credit is always, always, always make your payments on time. This doesn’t mean you have to pay more than the minimum amount due, but it’s a good idea to do so since it will take you forever to climb out of that hole if that’s all you’re paying! What if you’re late once? Will that show up on your credit? Well, the answer is it depends. Usually it depends on how late you are. If it’s a few days or a week late, you’ll get slapped with a late fee and possibly a higher APR, but it’s unlikely that if you made a payment at this point it would show up as a black mark against you on your credit report. Still, why take the risk? Set your bills to auto-pay and when you forget them, you’re already covered.

Hit Your Repayment Goals

Secondly-it’s a testament to how trustworthy you are as a borrower when you’re able to pay back what you’ve borrowed in full. When you pay off your car, your house, or finally see a zero balance on those credit cards, it will reflect in your credit score—even if you still carry other debts that you’re still working on. Don’t give up—it might be a long journey, but it will come to an end.

Don’t Close Your Paid Off Accounts

Part of your credit score is determined by your credit to debt ratio. This means if you have ten thousand dollars of available credit, but only have a balance of one thousand dollars, you’ve only tapped into 10% of your available credit.

Though it might seem to make sense to close your credit card accounts when you pay them off—don’t. It will hurt your credit score immediately. Why? Less credit available means you’ll a higher ratio, even if you haven’t spent any more money. Imagine you have the same ten thousand of credit and only a balance of one thousand. Then you close a card with five thousand dollars available on it. Suddenly, your ratio goes up—to 20% of your available credit.

While we all wish for freedom from debt, it’s a hard fact of life that it’s likely we’ll be under some kind of debt during our lives. At the very least you can take comfort in the fact that just having debt doesn’t mean you have to have bad credit and in fact, you can have fantastic credit if you pay your bills on time, eventually pay off your debts, and keep your credit to debt ratio balanced.

The top 5 Wallet Drainers and How to Eliminate Them

It’s Monday morning and once again you hit the ATM on your way to work. But, by Wednesday afternoon you’re broke again… You’re frustrated, but not shocked. Why? Because your unmonitored spending habits are slowly eating away at your budget. You carefully watch your spending, yet it seems like your money is held hostage by a wily magician and caught up in a disappearing act.

The only real “disappearing act” to your cash is wearing a blindfold when it comes to day-to-day expenses. Note – we said “expenses” and not necessities. To get a handle on these wallet-drainers, let’s look at the most common pitfalls.

1. That Morning Brew/Afternoon Pick Me Up

It doesn’t matter if it’s the premium coffee purveyor or its more prevalent and discounted cousin. Your morning caffeine ritual is costing you big time:

Obviously the $4 latte isn’t the only threat to your budget. Even the “premium” brews from the less expensive drive thrus add up. The two most popular spots for “affordable” coffees can still cost you $20 – 40 at the end of the month. And that’s only for a five-cup a week habit. If you need a 3:00PM “boost” for an afternoon lull, you’re doubling that amount.

Even if your morning jolt of choice is a soft drink, smoothie, or fresh juice the outcome is still the same.

Fix It: Even buying premium bean coffees will cost you less. Stocking up on your favorite soft drinks will cost you less than the company vending machine. You don’t even have to go “cold turkey” – just cut down to a few days per week.

2. Paying Too Much at the Pump

Even with a short commute (or relying on public transportation for most of your daily travel needs) you can risk paying way too much for gas. Not taking the time to find the best-priced gas station is going to hit your wallet pretty hard.

Gas prices can vary from .15 to .40 per gallon – and if you’re running on empty at a “premium spot,” e.g. an off ramp of the expressway, you’re paying way more than you need too.

Running on a low gas tank also means that sediment from the gasoline is settling in the bottom of your tank. Over time, it’s going to hurt your filter.

Fix It: Use www.gasbuddy.com or other popular smart phone apps to find the best deals. You could also become a member at a “big box” store that offers fueling services.

3. Banking and Service Fees

Banking fees are also “spending fees.” Meaning you’re penalized for spending and using cash. If you find that your frequent trips to the cash station are coming with a little “price tag” of $2.50 – $4.00 per month from your bank, you’re accumulating expenses that you don’t need to.

If you’re in a pinch and use an out-of-network ATM, then congratulations! You just cost yourself anywhere between $2.50 – $4.00 per transaction.

4. The Cost of Convenience

Our days are busy and long. Taking time for a healthy lunch might not be in the picture, but a carry out salad or rice bowl will at least tide you over until the time you get home.

The good news, you’re not starving. The bad news is you’re paying for a lot for convenience foods. It all adds up: Carry out lunches and dinners, delivery fees, eating out, tipping your wait or counter person. An average lunch out can cost between $9 – $13. That’s close to $50 per week…

Fix It: Brown bag it a few times per week. If you do order out, choose dishes that will make good lunch or even dinner leftovers. You could also look into the services that deliver fresh ingredients to you to cook at home.

5. Not Saving Receipts

Even if you’re paying cash for a packet of mints, not saving the receipt doesn’t mean it was “free.” Whether you’re using a debit card, credit, card, or cash, all those receipts account for spending that might not be essential.

Fix It: For just one week save every receipt from every purchase. Look where your money is going and see what spending patterns emerge. From there you’ll have an idea of where to cut.

How Much You Can Save By Bringing Your Own Food to Work

There’s a reason some financial advisors say you can fund a child’s college education by bringing your own food in for lunch. Buying prepared food is expensive, and if you work in a city, the cost of buying food every day can be astronomical.

Of course, buying food instead of bringing your own to work has its benefits. First, there’s the convenience factor. Running out to pick up some lunch or a cup of coffee is easier than making your own. You don’t have to wash dishes, plan your meals in advance, or go to the grocery store for supplies. And then there’s the variety angle to consider. When you bring in your own food every day, you’re more likely to get bored of your own concoctions. When you buy prepared food, on the other hand, you tend to get more of a selection.

Many people who work full-time opt to purchase all of the food and drinks they consume on the job, writing off the expense as a cost of being employed. But here’s what you could be saving by bringing in your own food:


Coffee has one of the largest markups as far as prepared foods go. If you’re not picky, you can easily make your own cup of coffee at home for under $0.10 a cup. Even if you buy quality coffee, you’re still looking at well under $0.50 per cup. Compare that to the $2 to $4 you’ll spend getting your morning caffeine fix at a coffee shop. At a minimum, you can save over $300 a year by spending five minutes each morning making coffee at home and bringing it in to work.


You may love your morning bagel and cream cheese, but at close to $2 (more if you work in a big city), you’re really throwing your money away. Instead, buy a package of frozen bagels and a container of cream cheese for $2 each, and you can cut your breakfast costs to $0.70 or less. That’s a savings of $300 a year right there.


Yes, packing your lunch might be a hassle, but consider the markup on popular lunch items like soup and sandwiches. You can make a pot of vegetable soup at home for $10 to cover 8 days of lunch. Want bread or crackers with that soup? Buy a loaf or bag at the supermarket for $3 more. All in all, you’ll spend $13, or just over $1.50 per lunch, whereas prepared soup can be $5 or more. Assuming you eat soup every day, that’s a savings of roughly $800 per year. Now let’s talk sandwiches. You can make your own for under $2, whereas buying one will probably set you back $6 to $8. You can save over $1,000 each year by making your own sandwiches.


Sure, it’s tempting to hit the vending machine when you need an afternoon fix, but when you do, you’ll easily pay $1 for a candy bar or bag of chips that would cost you $.50 at the supermarket at most. Assuming you grab a snack every day (because who doesn’t?), that’s roughly $120 you could be saving by bringing in your own stash.

As tempting as it may be to buy your work food on the fly, bringing in your own can save you a significant amount of money over the course of a year. You may have to spend a bit more time on shopping and prep, but think about what that money could otherwise buy you. Maybe it’s a vacation, or a new wardrobe, or an upgraded TV. Whatever it is, it’s probably more important than a medium latte or turkey club.

How Recording Your Spending Habits Can Help You Save Money

It is easy to spend without thinking, from an afternoon pick me up latte to an impulse splurge buying a magazine at a grocery store. In the moment, these little purchases seem like no big deal – they’re only a couple dollars, right? However, in the long run, they can end up costing a significant chunk of change.

For that reason, it’s important to keep track of your spending habits, both big and small. That way, you can notice trends in your spending, and then figure out ways to cut down costs.

Here’s a few easy steps that you can use to record and learn from your spending habits:

Keep a Journal

Write down everything you spend money on, even if it’s as tiny as some gum. It can be nice to have a small notebook that you can keep in your purse or pocket, so it’s easy to access. Since everyone’s different, there’s not one way to do this. Other options are keeping an updated document on your computer/phone or creating a voice memo. Find what’s best for you; it may even be a mix of things that you compile together later.

When you record information, include what you bought, the price, and the approximate time it was purchased. This data can be extremely helpful.

Keep Track at Least Once a Day

While ideally, it would be a good idea to make a note about spending habits right after you’ve made a purchase, sometimes that’s not possible. In those cases, strive to get everything recorded by at least the end of the day. This gives you a bit of flexibility.

Maintain Your Tracking for A Couple of Weeks

Diligently maintain your recording habits for a couple of weeks. This amount of time gives you a solid idea of your spending habits. No matter what happens, be honest and don’t judge yourself. That’s the only way you can accurately assess where you are – and where your money goes.

Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate

Here comes the meat of the process. Once you have a couple weeks’ of information recorded, you can begin to look at it. Try to find trends. For example, is there a time of day where you spend more money? Beyond your needs like rent, where does your discretionary income go toward? Movie theater tickets, eating out, clothing sprees?

It’s important to reflect about what you want. For example, if you prioritize buying new clothes on a regular basis, that’s okay. After all, it is your money.

However, it becomes an issue when, say, money goes toward a daily to-go coffee when you’d rather have a larger purchase down the road, like a fancy electronic device. So, when you look at your spending habits, notice what you can cut out or swap.

Some easy swaps/changes include:

  • Drink free coffee at work instead of buying it.
  • Use Groupons for restaurants or fitness classes you frequent.
  • Cook meals instead of going out.
  • Reduce the frequency of getting your nails/hair done.
  • Take advantage of free events and media materials from the library.

Repeat and Re-Evaluate on a Regular Basis

The thing about spending habits is that they can change. So, every once and awhile, start recording your spending habits again. See what you find, and adjust accordingly. Happy spending (and tracking!).

Don’t Purchase a New Car

Don’t Buy a New Car!

Don't Purchase a New Car

It might make some questionable noises, the tape-deck-era sound system might not be the nicest, and the purple exterior is no longer as cool as it was when your car rolled off the assembly line a decade and a half ago. But here’s why you should hold off on buying a new car, and why you should hold on to the one you have for at least another year:

The Longer You Hold Onto a Car, The Less It Depreciates Each Year

Depreciation is your biggest enemy in the car game. It’s the main reason why buying a used car is always a better idea, and it’s the biggest pitfall for anyone looking to replace their old car.

Car depreciation is at its worst in the first four years of a car’s life. That’s when the value drops dramatically and when your car purchase regret is at its highest. If you buy a used car that’s at least 3 or 4 years old, you should be able to avoid the depreciation landslide (with a little research on the type of car and it’s value).

But as a rule of thumb, the longer you hold onto a car, the less it depreciates with every passing year, making it increasingly cost-effective. While the trade value of a 2003 sedan is much lower than the same model of a 2006 sedan, you’ll have saved money with the 2003 model because the depreciation value is better than the newer version.

The older your car is, the less you have to worry about its value depreciating significantly. “Cars are a rotten investment. The longer you keep them, the better off you’re going to be from a financial perspective,” says Remar Sutton, president of the Consumer Task Force for Automotive Issues.

Fewer Repairs Might Not Actually Save You Money

You’re probably sick of patching your car back together again. Something is always falling apart- the tires need realigned just as soon as you’ve changed the oil and serviced the engine, and your brakes pads need replacing just as soon as you finally fixed the heater.

But unless you’re spending more in repairs than you would on a newer used car, it’s probably not worth the major purchase. Save the newer car for when your transmission is close to going kaput or your engine is almost to the point of no return.

If your monthly auto repairs are far exceeding the estimated monthly car payments (including insurance, registration fees, and keeping in mind things like depreciation) then it might be time for a new car. Otherwise, hold onto the one you have for as long as you can, or until that financial milestone.

The fear of miles on your car is not a particularly valid one. With proper care, a car can go as far as 200,000 without skipping a beat. It all just depends on the model, wear-and-tear, and some luck. But there’s no reason why you should feel the need for a new car just because it has a few thousand miles on the odometer.

Cars that are well-maintained hold their value surprisingly well. And if you have a car that has value, you can always borrow against it if you need cash in an emergency. Check out Title Loans Fresno.

If You Absolutely Have to Buy A New Car . . . Buy It Used

There’s no point in buying a brand new car. You can avoid the depreciation dip, score a better deal, and save a ton of money when you opt for a used car over a new car.

If you must buy a new car, do it right. Buy a new car when your old one finally dies on you, needs a major repair that would be more costly to fix than simply buying a new car, becomes unsafe, or no longer meets your needs. Buy a new car when your new job requires you to travel long distances and you need something more reliable and gas-efficient, or when you have your second kid and your tiny old car isn’t going to cut it anymore.

In other cases, it’s smarter to hold onto your old car for as long as you can before committing to buying a new one. But when that time comes, you should always aim for a good used car.

You’ll find better prices from owners who simply want the car off their hands than a dealer who has thousands of cars to sell and has to make money off of you. Check repo auctions and for-sale-by-owner magazines or online forums.

If you go into a used car lot knowing how much a model is really worth, you’ll have all the power. Use these resources to check out potential cars before you start shopping:

Worry less about trade-in value and looking cool. If you have to buy a newer car, focus on saving more money per month and annually, and dodging that depreciation trap. Finding a car that will last you another decade is a big deal; make sure you do it smart!


Save Money for the Things That Matter, Spend Less on Things That Don’t

Spend less on things that dont matter

Save Money by Spending Less

Savings are talked about a lot, generally in grandiose tones that tell you about big cuts to make and big deposits for accounts that the standard saver might not ever have. That might be why an estimated 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. After all, if the best advice financial advisers can give you is to get $10,000 in savings as soon as possible, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

You don’t have to cut back at all costs to save for the things that matter, though. You can put that savings account to work for you today, with nothing more than your spare dollars and cents. Here’s how.

Save Money by Identifying Comfort Spending

Think of comfort spending like emotional eating, except with money. It’s taking something you need to do – providing resources for yourself – and doing it to the extreme. No matter who you are or what your paycheck looks like, it’s something we all do.

Look at the money you spend on necessities that go beyond what you actually need – look for where spending goes from necessary to just for your comfort. You need food, but do you need to spend money on eating out or having it delivered multiple times a week?

Say you spend $10 on lunch out twice a week. Then check out a lunch wrap that you can make for around $2 a serving. Even with the $4 for two wraps, that’s going to save you $16 a week, which translates into over $800 savings in a year.

Maybe food isn’t where you comfort spend. Maybe it’s on clothing, personal care, toys for your kids, or even cleaning supplies. Maybe you have to have that name brand glass cleaner, regardless of where you live or who shares your home. Assuming that bottle costs around $6, you could save $4 a bottle just by switching to the $2 generic brand. Do that for every cleaning item in your home and you have hundreds saved in a year.

Identifying comfort spending is not about telling to make deep cuts; it’s about making little ones that can add up to big dollars. Your needs will still be taken care of, and you might even find a new product or recipe favorite that you wouldn’t have discovered if you kept comfort spending.

Save Money by Consolidating Your Debts

If you’re reading this and you’ve ever had money to your name, you probably have some debts, too. The average American household has over $15,000 in credit card debt, $33,000 in student loans, and another $150,000+ in mortgage costs.

Consolidating your debt doesn’t mean you’re going to get rid of any of that – not by a long shot. What it does mean is that you’ll be paying a lot less in interest.

Let’s look at credit card debt as an example. The average American has over $7,000 worth of debt spread across three cards. Those cards likely have different balances and different interest rates, and you’re making separate payments on each of them. Consolidating your debt can mean a lower overall monthly payment, and it also means interest is only accruing on one account, so you’re earning less of it overall. The same goes for student loans.

To see how much you could realistically save simply by consolidating your debt, check out this handy online calculator.

Save Money by Busting Out Your Piggy Bank

It might seem like a cliché, but the change jar has stood the test of time for a reason. Especially these days, when coin use in general financial transactions is down, those times when you take cash out inevitably leaves you with nickels and dimes lining your pockets or purse. Don’t just leave them to the dust bunnies, put them to use. Save up your coins and when your vessel – jar, piggy bank, plastic bag, whatever – is full, take them in to deposit.

This doesn’t come with a cut, at all. It’s your money. You already have it. All you have to do is get it back into your bank. Bam! Instant savings.

Save Money by Turning Your Mind Around

Believe it or not, your savings have a lot to do with your state of mind. Specifically, a number of studies including a 2014 journal article from the University of Minnesota have found that those with a childhood background of financial uncertainty are more likely to make impulsive decisions and give up on difficult situations, including in their own finances.

If you think of yourself as someone who “grew up poor” or “who’s always been poor,” you’re perpetuating a mental cycle that tells you your cash is likely to up and leave if you don’t use it while you got it. It’s a very real thought process, but you have to remember that it’s not going anywhere unless you say it is. Just like with anything else in this world, if you’re looking to save, you have to believe that you’re capable.

Spend On What Matters

Don’t save without a reason – you’re going to feel directionless and less motivated to continue if that’s what you do. Figure out what matters to you and don’t be afraid to put your money toward that. Going out to the movies might not seem important, but taking that family vacation might.

Having a car with the newest features might not matter, but having one that’s safe for you and your family should. At the end of the day, your savings are there to be applied toward larger things later. It’s good to have an emergency fund, but keeping all your spare cash tied up for “just in case” isn’t going to motivate you to save. Having goals that enhance your life will.

Just decide what matters, and put your pennies toward that. Soon, they’ll grow into dollars, and you’ll have your goals in hand before you know it.

Make Cheap Healthy Meals and the Savings Can Bring Gourmet Returns

So, here’s some food for thought: Good meals don’t have to cost a fortune. Even if you could afford prime rib three times a week, would you really want to eat it that often? Should you be eating it that often? Of course not. One of the beautiful aspects of cheap healthy meals is the variety and creativity that goes into them.

Another idea to consider is this: Good meals and bad habits cannot coexist. So, in order to make room for cheap healthy meals, get rid of these easy traps:

  • Drive-throughs on your way to work
  • Carry out on the way home
  • Prepared meals in specialty stores
  • Late night delivery

Sure there might be healthy options, but they won’t save you any money. Feeding a family of four at a well-known fast food restaurant runs close to $20 (not including dessert). For that money, you could make a healthy baked pasta primavera, salad, bread, dessert. Or, homemade chicken tacos, rice, beans, chips, and dessert.

If you like to treat your family to “fun” meals, make them at home. Burgers, chicken strips, and pizza – they’re all doable and will be far more enjoyable. A large delivered pizza (16-inch) can also run about $20 – even more with delivery. You could make close to three large pizzas for that price.

Making Cheap Healthy Meals is a Family Project

For grade-school kids with reading skills, delegate the coupon hunting to them. Older kids can help with menu planning (even researching ideas) as well as cooking and cleaning.

But these family meals also have a goal: To save money for a really great payoff. So, what would you like to save for? Here are a few suggestions:

  • A weekend at a waterpark
  • A family room makeover
  • A family-friendly cooking class
  • A wardrobe update for the family

Saving money for something rewarding also reinforces good savings habits. And the whole dinner table conversation shifts about healthy food, new recipes, and what to look forward to.

How to Create Better Family Meals

Every successful savings plan starts with a budget. So do the same with your grocery list. Once you know how much money you have to work with, you can look for savings. Need paper towels? Check the Sunday paper for sales or coupons. Go online to surf for coupons.

Every grocery store has protein on sale every week. Stock up on chicken and start researching recipes or cuisines: French, Mediterranean, Italian, or Eastern European.

And each style of cooking utilizes grains and starches, not only as meal stretchers but because prepared well are delicious. And the simplicity in the dishes is a thing of beauty.

Sometimes doing meal makeovers can be overwhelming. Don’t sabotage your efforts by trying to accomplish everything at once. If you’re not comfortable with the “Meatless Mondays” idea, try serving less meat: Buy two small steaks and make steak sandwiches, homemade baked potatoes, and a vegetable. No one will walk away hungry.

And don’t overlook the value of leftovers – not only do they save you money but they give you a day off in the kitchen.

The Potential Problem with “Budget Dinners”

Some of the recipes we researched think that squash soup is a respectable dinner for 4. I’m married to a recreational hockey player and that’s not going to work for him. If you have pre-teens or teens, that might be stretching the idea of “dinner.”

However, you can serve a hearty soup (vegetable beef, chicken tortilla soup) and supplement the meal with a grilled cheese, quesadillas or nachos, or a salad.

Another issue for me is “portion size.” You don’t have to miserly dole out a ladle full of pasta to save money. Bulk up meals with whole grains and fresh or frozen vegetables. Even a simple fruit salad (or apple slices) can be a welcome addition to dinner.

You don’t have to go hungry to save a bit of money. And always do what’s best for your family. In the long run, you’ll feel fuller in your stomach and your wallet.

Global Gifts

Holiday gift guide: Gifts with a purpose

Let’s face it. Two weeks after the holidays, that designer sweater that you spent way too much money on has already been stuffed in the back of his closet. Think smarter this holiday season by purchasing gifts with purpose. These hot-ticket cause-based items are not only economical, but also stylish.

(All items can be found online by clicking the name of the product)

Headbands of Hope

Two years ago, then 19-year-old Jessica Ekstrom was inspired by her work at the Make-a-Wish Foundation to make a difference.

“I was pulling my hair back in a ponytail and thought about the hundreds of girls I encountered that lose their hair to cancer. Being a young girl presents many struggles with self-esteem already, and losing their hair as a result of a life-threatening illness is traumatic,” she says.

She took action by creating Headbands of Hope. “For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer. $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund life-saving childhood cancer research.” From shimmery beaded pieces to knockout headwraps, each band retails for less than $20. “Over 10,000 headbands have been donated to girls across the country and that same amount has been donated to St. Baldrick’s,” she adds.


Denik also helps children in need. It teams up with fine artists across the globe to design journals and sketchbooks that fund school construction.

“Currently the artwork is submitted through our website and reviewed by our art team. … We’re building a middle school in Mali, Africa. Mali is in desperate need of schools and increased education,” says CEO and founder of Denik Tyler Tolson.

Popping with color and bold themes, the journals are $12. $1 from each purchase is donated to building schools and 5 percent is paid to the designer. “As the user shares their own story on the pages of the notebook, they become part of something bigger. It stores memories, ideas, and passions,” he shares.

Buy Native

Like Denik, the Buy Native Campaign launched in 2011, during the recession.
“I was thinking about ways that we, regular people, can help our current economic situation, says Jessica Metcalfe, who organized a consortium of Native American jewelers, crafters, home decor and clothing designers.

“Individuals spend hundreds of dollars on gifts each holiday season, and if we put even a fraction of that money back into our local economies then we have the potential to see immediate positive impacts … our Native American artists, designers, and businesspeople are some of the most vastly underrepresented in the retail industry.”
Chickasaw jeweler Kristen Dorsey adds, “Native-owned businesses are a way for this unique knowledge and artistic traditions to be passed onto the next generation. The culture is preserved and allows for (small) business owners to make a viable living doing what they are passionate about.” Her designs are featured on the Beyond Buckskin website.

Changing the Present & Oxfam America

If you’re anti-gift wrapping, you can still be pro-cause by linking with hubs such as Oxfam America and Changing the Present. Both sites allow users to select gifts that directly impact change within a chosen region or field of interest.

Starting at $5 on ChangingThePresent.org, you can select from thousands of charities and non-profits to “… preserve an acre of the rain forest, fund an hour of cancer research, or provide shoes for girls in Africa so they can attend school,” says representative Robert Tolmach.

Oxfam America’s mission is to create long-lasting solutions to end global poverty, hunger and injustice. Its “Most Wanted” list of charitable gifts includes a goat (‘The Kid‘) and building tools (‘The Fixer‘),” all of which promote self-sustainability. Gifts start at $12.


Chie Davis

Chie is a blogger and video correspondent for The Huffington Post and Ebony.com, She recently produced a multimedia column on the phenomenon of art-based pop-up shops for KCET’s Artbound and has contributed to E! News, The Wendy Williams Experience, Billboard Magazine and NPR.
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