Ways To Track and Save During the Holidays

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SaveWithHopster #CollectiveBias

The holidays should be full of joy, happiness, time with family and friends, and the creation of precious memories.

Often, though, the busyness and strain from added expenses and to-dos turn them into anything but the most wonderful time of the year. Recently I shared a post with you on how important it is to step back and realign with what really matters during this busy season.

Today I’m tackling the other half of the problem by sharing how to track and save! Once you get your holiday budget under control it’s a lot easier to enjoy the season.

First off, let’s start with the saving–because once you get a good handle on that you’ll have more money to put back into that gift budget you’re tracking!

For savings I’m sharing a great app with you that you might not already know about! It’s Hopster Mobile Rebates! One of the best ways to get more money for holiday fun is by saving on the items you already buy. You can download it here and start saving because it’s super simple to use! You just follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose your rebates from a large selection of brands

You’ll find rebates for your favorite groceries, beauty essentials, pet supplies, plus new products you’ll want to try.

Step 2: Shop at your favorite store — most of the rebates you can redeem from *any store* or you can pick from a list of your favorite retailers!

Step 3: Take a picture of your receipt showing the items you purchased–it walks you through exactly how to do it!

Step 4. Rebates will be redeemed and the cash credited to your PayPal account as soon as the redemption is validated. That means you don’t have to wait to reach a certain number or value of redeemed offers!

You can see for yourself how simple and great this is for saving! As you make your shopping list it’s so easy to hop on, scan for items you can take advantage of rebates on, and then scan in the receipt right after you put the items away! All those rebates can add up to a nice little chunk of change to roll into your holiday budget. Which brings us to the tracking part!

The best ways to track your holidays and helpful tips before you dive in!

I’ve mentioned this to you before, but it really is such a lifesaver each year! This year I’ll also cover a few things you’ll want to do in case you’ve been using this or a different system before!

Set A Budget

I know, I know, but trust me, knowing how much you *can* spend actually frees you up to enjoy it and not stress out. Sit down with whoever else is involved in the money situation in your house and come up with a budget to stick to.

(Tip: Start using Hopster and also think outside the box for ways to save on normal things during the holiday months. Maybe you can cut back on a service or plan. Take your extra savings and put it right into your holiday budget!)

Make A List & Check It Twice

Growing up and getting married and all having babies is super-ly amazing and fabulous!!! It does make for a long, long, long  Christmas list after just a few years, though! And things can get awkward when you keep buying presents, and they stop, or vice versa. This year have a pow-wow with your extended family. Often you might find that they’d prefer one family gift they all can enjoy, they just want gifts for the kids, or you might discover it actually blesses everyone the most if you no longer exchange gifts. Just like the budgeting thing, it’s far better to clarify in advance, then to be disappointed when reality strikes.

Make & Track Using a Spreadsheet

As you can see I’ve been using this system for over 5 years now because it’s that awesome! I put in everyone on my list, put in ideas for gifts before I buy them and then fill in the prices when I actually purchase them, and fill in the slots so I know what has been purchased, wrapped, and shipped for our out of state family. At the bottom I have formulas that automatically add up the totals for each column, and also show my savings.

This is super easy-peasy to create for yourself–but I’m making it even easier for you!! Here is a blank gift tracking sheet just for you!

So, to use this you’ll want to go up to where it says File at the top menu bar. Click on it then go down to “Make a Copy”  here you can name it, and save it to your drive. Then it is private to you and you can customize it for your own personal holiday tracking! If you have any questions about how to tweak it further just drop me a comment and ask!

By putting these simple steps into practice this year you’ll save money and sanity this holiday season! Don’t forget to get started by downloading the Hopster App here!


Keep Family Ties Tight with the Lowest Priced Unlimited Plans

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser which offers Walmart Best Plans with Unlimited Talk Text and Data/Web. #FamilyMobile #CollectiveBias

The day I met hubby one of the things that impressed me the most about him was that even though I could tell he was attracted to me, he didn’t once try to ditch his little brother who was tagging along with him. Having a strong, loving tie to your family was something that meant the world to me and a quality I’d always been hoping to find in my future spouse! In addition to being super close to his younger brother, hubby has always had a great relationship with his Dad as well.

Through the years hubby has always kept his family ties strong even when he, his Dad, and his brother were spread far apart throughout the country because of the boy’s military service and their Dad’s job in welding inspection which keeps him continually on the road.

Continue reading “Keep Family Ties Tight with the Lowest Priced Unlimited Plans”

Clever Family Fun Ideas for Less This summer ~ Dinner & A Movie on a Dime

Clever Family Fun Ideas for Less This Summer
The ever clever Collective Bias® gave me a heads up that I could get great deals through Scott Shared Values and Vudu and they compensated me to check it out! All clever tips, snuggling with hubbies, and silly pictures in paper towel aisles are my own.

Summer should be all about enjoying time together as a family! When you’re on a tighter budget (like our college student with a family budget, for example) it can feel a bit discouraging as you look at how much everything costs. Simply going on a movie date with your hubby will run you around $30 or more if you get snacks and a drink and skip out on dinner—and let’s not go into how much all that would be if you choose to bring along the kids!!

Because of this I’m constantly on the lookout for how I can pair up smart shopping, good savings, and score deals towards fun things for our family whether it means a fun but inexpensive date for hubby and me, or a way for the whole family to have fun together for less!

My first big score this summer was coming up with a perfect way to have a fun dinner & a movie date on a dime!

Continue reading “Clever Family Fun Ideas for Less This summer ~ Dinner & A Movie on a Dime”

Spending, Splurging, & Dial Coconut Water Body Wash

One of the things that has been keeping me so busy over the past several weeks is attending a Couponing for the Kingdom Bible Study each week that is taught by my “in real life” blogging buddy from Thrifty Texas Penny. 

In it we’ve been going over everything frugal living and couponing–something extremely useful for me on our college budget right now! While I’ve always been great at finding huge deals (hello Amazon and Groupon) and am a recently converted garage sale addict (my MIL and Pinterest did me in for that), I have never been able to get into couponing and the “Drug Store Games” left me with my eyes crossed. (Any CVS or Walgreens lovers out there???)

 Over the past few weeks I’ve learned a bunch and started  to work my new found knowledge to product “magic” at CVS. I now love to come home and brag to my MIL–LOOK! I got these 9 awesome products for under $1 a piece!

In the class we also talked about everyone needing to have their one “splurge” area. Maybe you love to have fast food but you can buy cheapo toliet paper, maybe you’re not brand loyal for makeup but you must have a certain kind of Kleenex. Everyone has their caveats! (Some of mine? My Macbooks and eating at fancier sit downs–Hello Outback and Red Lobster!)

One of my “splurge” areas has always been body & bath products. While I love me some affordable makeup there is something about body washes and lotions that leaves me always gravitating back to my high end specialty store brands.

While I was staying with my mom over Christmas she mentioned that they’d tried several body wash brands lately that they had picked up at Walmart but had that specialty body & bath feel. I was a little surprised and said I’d have to check them out.

& Dial Coconut Water Body Wash

When I was sent a bottle of Dial Coconut Water Body Wash I had high hopes that this might be just what my mom had been talking about! The androgynous look and smell would make this body wash be perfect for the entire family if you wanted it to be–but the subtle notes of floral make it just a touch girly with an overall really fresh, light, and clean smell to it. I was very happy with how much it lathered up–that’s usually my biggest complaint about big box store brands–they just don’t have that  delicious foamy lather! As you can see in my picture, however, Coconut Water Body Wash provides a thick and creamy foam that’s just perfect for scrubbing up all over!

All this for a product I’ll be able to use some of that CVS and Wal*mart magic to get for next to nothing! Looks like I might be changing my must have splurge items after all!

Even better! Right now Dial® is running the Healthier Skin. Healthier You.® Sweepstakes featuring Dial® Coconut Water Body Wash!

One lucky grand prize winner will receive $1,000, while 250 second place winners will receive free Coconut Water Body Wash. Awesome right??!!

 But don’t worry–even if you don’t win the sweeps One Lucky Reader from my blog will get to try out Dial Coconut Water as well!

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Nicole Elliott

Ten tips for saving money during the back-to-school season

Brown Bag It!
When we were in school we skipped out on cafeteria food and always brought it from home. Not only will it save money (think–leftovers!!) It will be a whole lot more tasty and nutritious for your kids as well!
Shop Online
With sites like Freecycle, Craigslist, Loobalee, Amazon, and Ebay you could do all your supply and school shopping from home and get everything for hugely discounted prices if not free! Plus you don’t have to deal with the crazy back to school crowds or hauling 3 kiddos with you–talk about a win-win-win!!!
Shop Garage Sales
Not only are they great places to find clothes (my mother in law just scored a Gymboree dress shirt that looks as if it’s never been worn for my daughter for $1) you can also keep your eyes out for notebooks, crayons, art supplies and more!
Shop Discount Merchants
Ross, TJ Maxx, Wal*Mart, all the various Dollar Stores and more….think $2 shirts and .50 cent notebooks!
You can score super nice clothes for super nice prices if you shop the sales and be sure to use coupons! Places back West like Herbergers mark clothes down to crazy low prices for their yellow dot sales and many stores also have some great back to school deals. I try to never, ever pay full price for any item!
“Shop” Your Home
If you’re like me you probably have about 200 pencils, crayons, and notebooks lying around…somewhere. Go “shopping” in your own drawers first to see what you already have off of your child’s supply list. You might not end up having to buy anything at all!
Friends & Family
Chances are good you have some relatives or friends who have kiddos a few years older than your own. Ask around and see who has clothes and supplies cluttering up their homes that they’d be willing to part with for cheap (or even FREE!)
Know when to go cheap & when not to
A 25 cent notebook is a great find but you might consider buying a nicer brand of backpack on sale. Although it’ll be more expensive than opting for the cheaper brand it can be used year after year and would be worth it to get one that will actually last!
If you’re homeschooling and can wait be sure to take advantage of the sales on Back To School supplies after school starts! You’ll be able to grab up supplies and clothes for the year and save lots while doing so!
Buy Early
The after 4th of July sale and various other ones throughout the year usually come along with better prices than any back to school sale does. Try to keep your eye out throughout the year and get clothes/supplies when you can for the lowest amount!
I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Staples blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Earth Day Ideas ~ Using Bottle Caps!

So I’m not what you’d call a “liberal feminist tree hugging hippie”. In fact I’m pretty much at the other end of the spectrum, lol. People who put “the creation above the Creator” irritate me to no end. However I do not think that means anyone should adapt the attitude of “oh who cares” either! As Christians we are required to be good stewards of everything God has entrusted to us–and our Earth is a huge part of that!!! So while you’ll never find me yelling about drilling for oil or cutting down trees for paper-I do think everyone can do their part to “reduce, reuse, and recycle”. Little actions add up to big changes when everyone gets involved!
One of my favorite ways to do this started when I read the Cap Catcher Article by Shara. In it she talks about her friend Barbara and how she came up with the ingenious idea of using Bottle Caps (which cannot be recycled) in classrooms. I thought it was a great article and a wonderful idea so I immediately started “catching caps”. When I read her article Where Our Plastic Goes it made even more sense why collecting caps, plus recycling our other plastics, was so important!
Now the question was….what to do with them? Thankfully Shara didn’t leave me hanging there either! You can find great ideas for everyone to toddler to early learners to grade school children in these articles:
Bottle Cap Games for Kindergarten Readiness ~ planning on using all these ideas with Amber soon!!!


Personal Child Stories Book about Bottle Caps ~ Written for early learners and teaches about the “3 Rs” as well as gives ideas for using caps with toddlers/young children.


Bottle Cap Projects ~ Even more fun ideas!


I’ve come up with my own ideas as well! As you can see in the pictures so far I’ve just let Amber “free play” with the caps by giving her them, bottles, water, and a spoon. Although this might seem random even this kind of free play is teaching her many things!
  • Helps teach numbers-counting as she puts them in the jar
  • Colors–asking her what different colors the caps are
  • Fine Motor Skills–skill required to pick up the small caps and place them within the bottle
  • Early Science Learning–Hey look, when I put them on water they float!
  • Sensory Learning–wet, rough, smooth, good stuff!
On top of all that she loves playing with them!!! I mean, she seriously will sit there for 30+ minutes playing with them and asks if she can every single day–for a child who doesn’t spend that amount of time on anything else other than pictures this is amazing!!!! Plus the best part of it was ever single one of these “toys” was free and something I would have normally thrown away!

The Coupon Mom

I’d like to think of myself as a “frugal minded” person. I always try to keep our family within our budget, don’t spend money on unnecessary things, and never buy clothes or makeup unless they’re needed and on sale.
I have a confession to make though.
I don’t cut coupons!!
*Collective gasp from the audience*
Yes, I know, I know! Shame on me! The whole prospect has always overwhelmed me a little bit. I throw out the same excuses everyone else does I’m sure “It’s took much work, it won’t save that much, after paying for the paper and/or ink is it really even worth it? If I buy generic wouldn’t it save me more money anyways? Even when I get them I forget them at home so what’s the use?” On and on it goes.
Some of these I know are just excuses, others are legitimate questions I have. With us moving back to the high living cost of the big city though, I know I need to seriously reconsider. I’m thinking about having a Coupon for Dummies: 101 course on here and asking my frugally coupon-ly minded friends to help me out! If you’d be interested let me know!
In the meantime I was introduced to the coolest site ever!!!
Coupon Mom is an amazing website set up to help dummies like me, and even experienced clippers! There’s also a web series that’s going on right now, where they’re posting new episodes each Thursday where she’ll teach a new aspect of how to use coupons to save a bundle.
The episode below was the one that really interested me and made me want to share all this information with you. I hope you’ll check it out and you’ll find it as interesting as I did! I just may be a convert 🙂