After the Altar: Saving Money as Newlyweds

In case you missed it, my “After the Altar” series on saving money as newlyweds concluded last week. You see all the posts below. I hope this series was encouraging to you, whether a newlywed, a single person, or a more-experienced married person.

How to Save Money and Live Frugally as Newlyweds at Grace Upon Grace Blog

Since money is one of the biggest reasons that couples divorce, I wanted to deal with it quickly, both on my blog and in my own marriage. What are some other issues that you have faced in your own marriage? I would love to continue exploring how to make marriages (especially new ones) even better. Please comment below with suggestions or contact me here.

After the Altar Series Recap

Part One: 6 Things We Just Don’t Buy

Part Two: 4 Things We DO Buy

Part Three: 4 Things I’d Like to Stop Buying

Part Four: 3 Ways We Make a Little Extra Income

Don’t forget to check out my Facebook page and Pinterest profile!

How to Save Money and Live Frugally as Newlyweds at Grace Upon Grace Blog

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3 Ways We Make a Little Extra Income

With a wedding behind us, student loan payments now, and a family in the future, the husband and I are looking for ways to save money, make money, and spend less. This post is part four of a four-part series on living frugally. See the previous posts in this series here: 6 Things We Just Don’t Buy, 4 Things We DO Buy, and 4 Things I’d Like to Stop Buying.

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{This post may contain affiliate and referral links. I only recommend products I use and love.}

The number one way to save money is to buy less, with the exception of buying items in bulk. However, what really helps is making a little more money here and there. Here are our favorite ways to do just that.

A Second Job

As teachers who don’t yet have kids of our own, we work over 40 hours during the week, but we are off on weekends, school breaks, and summertime. In order to make a little extra spending money, we take jobs during those times. My husband has refereed soccer games since he was in high school, and he can make over $100 in one weekend. Since he chooses the games he wants to work, he still has time with me and time to go to church. In addition, we are both planning to get part-time jobs this upcoming summer.

The trick is matching your skills with what people need: Do you have experience with children? Do you have medical experience? Could you get lifeguard certification? Have you ever worked in an office? Are you good with numbers? Can you write, proofread, design, or draw? One of the reasons we have experience in various fields is that we often volunteered in those fields first, and then we have experience to list on a job application. What extra time do you have? Could you work another job during that time?

Reverse Couponing

I love clipping coupons as much as the next frugal gal, but apps that work with a click are are a ton easier than stacking and cutting over and over again. Also, if I’m going to buy it anyway, I might as well get cash back for it, right?

I love Ibotta and highly recommend it. Click here to use my Ibotta referral link on your smartphone or computer and you’ll get $10 when you redeem your first rebate. I have earned $146 in the last two years and it comes straight to my checking account via apps like Dwolla and Venmo. You could earn more money much faster if you have a larger family for which to shop.

Other apps I have used and recommend include Checkout 51 and Receipt Hog. Receipt Hog is great because, by scanning your receipts, you can earn enough “coins” to redeem for an Amazon giftcard. It costs you absolutely nothing beside the items you were already going to purchase.

Sell the Things You Make

Everyone has heard of the highly popular Etsy, where you can sell anything from vintage finds to handmade decor to ebooks. I like to think I am crafty, but I know I’m not ready to sell anything on Etsy. I do, however, sell teaching materials. I have made over $100 selling materials that I have written and used as a teacher. It is so nice to use what I have already made for a second purpose, and it feels great helping fellow teachers.

Do you have any experience with teacher materials, kid-friendly graphic design, computer programs like Photoshop, or homeschool curriculum? Sign up here with my referral link to open your own store. Teachers Pay Teachers has two options: one where you pay nothing upfront (but a portion of your sales goes back to them) and a second option where you pay a fee upfront and then a much smaller percentage (if any, depending on the situation) is taken out of your sales.

Bonus: Blogging!

As I am relatively new to the blogging world and extremely new to efforts to monetize my blog, I have not yet made any actual income from my blog. It is my hope to be able to afford to buy a few years of self-hosting in advance, and that is the goal I am working towards. So many resources have been helpful to me on this quest, but one that truly stands out is the Building a Framework ebook and materials from Just a Girl and Her Blog. I absolutely love the ideas, suggestions, and resources, and I appreciate everything I have learned. As I develop as a blogger, I hope to share more and more about the money I have made from this venture.

How do YOU make a little extra income?

Hurry to pick up Abby Lawson’s Building a Framework ebook all about blogging before it is temporarily unavailable! Grab your copy before Tuesday, February 14th.

4 Things I’d Like to Stop Buying

This post is part three of a four-part series on living frugally after the altar. With a wedding behind us, student loan payments now, and a family in the future, the husband and I are looking for ways to save money, make money, and spend less. You can also read part two (4 Things We DO Buy) and part one (6 Things We Just Don’t Buy).

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{This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend products I use and love.}

The number one way to save money is to buy less, with the exception of buying items in bulk. However, the following items are things I would like to stop buying, even in bulk, even on sale, because there is probably a better option.

Pizza Dough / Crusts

We love making our own pizzas. It’s cheaper than ordering takeout and better than frozen pizzas. However, unless pre-baked pizza crusts are very much on sale, it’s a lot cheaper to make your own. They taste better as well. One reason we have not yet gone to homemade pizza dough is because I don’t want to wait for the yeast to rise and I don’t want to have such a big, floury mess to clean up each time we want pizza. I found this dough recipe, though, and it looks good. What do you think? Do you make your own pizza dough?

Ice Cream

I love ice cream, particularly mint chocolate chip and cookie dough and moose tracks… Mmm! Unfortunately, that money and that sugar add up a lot. I have not found any good ice cream recipes don’t require an ice cream maker… Maybe we’ll purchase an ice cream churn they get marked up for summer.

Salad Dressings

A couple weekends ago, I made a lovely vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. It cost basically nothing since I already have all of those pantry staples. I would love to make ranch-style dressings as well, and I’ve seen some ideas using plain yogurt or sour cream. I already make my own vinaigrettes, but I would like to start making my own creamy dressings. We’ve recently stocked up due to several coupons and deals, however, I think I’ll use what we already have first.

Breads and Bagels

We eat bagels (with either peanut butter or eggs) around 3 or 4 mornings a week. If I could find a way to make my own bagels, I could save a lot of money. Currently, we take advantage of a free bread ministry offered by our workplace, and we stock up and freeze bagels when they’re on sale. Bread is the same way. I LOVE making my own bread, but it never comes out quite like sandwich bread, which is over half of the reason we buy bread.

Friends, I would love to hear YOUR ideas! Which items would you like to stop buying? And what suggestions do you have for me and my list?

4 Things We DO Buy

With a wedding behind us, student loan payments now, and a family in the future, the husband and I are looking for ways to save money, make money, and spend less. This post is part two of a four part series on living frugally. See part one (6 Things We Just Don’t Buy) here.

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{This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend products I use and love.}

The number one way to save money is to buy less, with the exception of buying items in bulk or buying things that will last. Here are some of my favorite things that we do buy, even though they might seem more expensive, because it pays off in the long run.

Multi-Use Food Items

I spend money on quality ingredients that can be used for a variety of recipes. Food items such as breads are only as good as in the ingredients in them. When I’m buying a premade ingredient, however, especially one that will only be used for one purpose, I usually buy a lesser or least expensive option. For example, I generally only use pasta sauce for pasta, so I buy a cheap pasta sauce and then doctor it up with canned or fresh tomatoes, which are usually a higher quality because I can use canned tomatoes in a variety of different ways.

Larger Sizes or Bulk-Packaged Foods

I always check the price per ounce or per item on foods that are nonperishable or easily frozen. Often, it is ridiculously cheaper to buy the larger size, since the items cost less when packaged together.

Higher Quality Household Items

We saved up some money to buy higher quality items for our first home. We also put some of these on our wedding registry. Many well-made products last a lot longer than those that are cheaper, meaning you have to buy a replacement rarely or never. For example, I got tired of buying new muffin/cupcake pans every time a tin pan rusted or get scraped. Instead, I bought Wilton silicone muffin pans, and they are absolutely wonderful. They have lasted me a lot longer than tin or aluminum pans and they are easy to use, clean, and store.

Another high quality product that we love is our glass Pyrex food storage containers. This is a twenty piece glass storage set with plastic lids that we have and highly recommend. When we used plastic storage containers for our leftovers, I would have to throw one away weekly due to staining or warping. Glass containers do not have that problem.

Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

We love frozen food items that contain just the fruit or veggie, not a sauce or rice combination. I use frozen blueberries in smoothies, infused water, or homemade muffins, and I use frozen green beans in casseroles or side dishes. The best part is that they don’t go bad! In addition, most of the time, frozen fruits and veggies are picked and flash-frozen at a perfect ripeness, so you can have good produce even in its off-season.

Stay tuned next week for part three of the series! Missed part one? Check it out here

What do you buy in order to save money?

What I’m Reading Wednesday

I. Love. Reading. Since college graduation, a real job, and a wedding, I’ve been reading less. However, like I tell my students, writers must be readers! I recently read Chronically Hopeful’s What I’m Reading Wednesday, and I was inspired to write my own. Maybe this will encourage me to finish the books I’ve begun and begin new ones! Fitting for my word for the word, reading is one of my priorities, and I hope to continue my “What I’m Reading Wednesdays” for the course of the year.

{Note: I may use affiliate links in this post. If so, I only link to products that I use and love. Thank you for supporting me.}

Personal


For my personal growth, I am reading One Flesh: The Secret to a Blessed Marriage by Roberto Hernandez. I have the honor of knowing Mr. Hernandez, and he is a wonderful man, husband, and father. As a newlywed, I find the information and encouragement in his book to be extremely helpful and God-honoring. I hope to write a full review in the future once I’m finished.

 

Professional

I am in the process of renewing my teaching certificate with a Christian organization. My state certificate does not expire for several more years, but at my school, I am required to have both. One of the books on the reading list is Teaching Redemptively by Donovan L. Graham. I have the second edition, and I am loving it so far. Graham encourages his reader to think outside of the box and to consider what may or may not be working in today’s Christian schools.

 

Faith

While I am not reading a traditional Bible study book at the moment, I am working through the materials at Her Binder Project. They release a new study for each month of the year for free! This month’s theme is “Behold.” I’m also reading Experiencing God Day by Day by Henry and Richard Blackaby with my husband as our nighttime devotional. Finally, the Scriptures themselves! I recently wrote a post reviewing two journaling Bibles, and I am loving my new Bible.

What are you reading?

7 Tips for 2017 Brides

Right about this time last year, as my husband and I (both teachers) settled into Christmas break, we began to get a lot of questions about our wedding plans. We had just gotten engaged in October. There was a lot I didn’t know about weddings, but there were also many very helpful people who came beside us along the journey to our wedding in June and the beginning of our marriage. Since our wedding, I have been in, been to, or been behind-the-scenes for several weddings. I wanted to share some of those helpful pieces of advice and resources I have found extremely valuable. (This post may contain affiliate links. If so, I may receive a commission if you make a purchase from one of those links.)

  1. Plan Early! – I used and loved this timeline planning checklist. It’s cute, printable, and FREE! You do have to provide your email address. I stored mine in a binder I had on hand, but if you need a cute binder, here are some beautiful wedding binders and planners. Also, there are so many useful smartphone and tablet apps to help with the planning process. I used Dwindle for our wedding day countdown and Microsoft Excel to keep up with our guest list. The Knot and Wedding Wire also have beautiful, useful apps. Amazon is my favorite place for registries. If you have not created an Amazon registry yet, what are you waiting for? Create an Amazon Wedding Registry Here
  2. Splurge or Skimp? – I began making a list of the items and services we needed to buy and rent for the wedding. The planner helped. With every item on my budget, I talked with the people who would make the purchase possible (my parents, my then-fiancé, myself, etc.) and decided on which items to spend the most money, and in which areas where we would want to spend less. For example, we knew we wanted an excellent photographer and a beautiful venue. Those cost over $2,000 each. Then, we ordered food from a restaurant but did not pay for the expensive catering service. We ordered cupcakes from Sam’s Club instead of a cake from a bakery. I wore my mom’s dress and bought my veil online. Narrow down your big spending items so you have more money set aside for those things.
  3. Easy + Customized Invitations – After you set a date and pick a place, you’ve got to order your save-the-dates, invitations, thank you cards, and RSVP cards (if you’re using them). There are plenty of great resources for papergoods, but my absolute favorite is Zazzle.com. I bought all my papergoods there, and I had so much freedom to customize using the artist’s original design. At many stationery shops, online or off, you are unable to customize what you’d like. However, at Zazzle, I used designs from Jill’s Paperie and then adapted them very easily into exactly what I wanted. To save money, we used postcards for our save-the-dates and shower thank-yous.
  4. Counseling or Mentoring – Nothing in the wedding-planning process was as helpful as our marriage mentors. We found them through our church and grew to love them. A couple who has been married for a while, has kids, and can devote some time to walking through life with you is a great help, whether for formal mentoring or casual coffee together. We worked through the book Preparing for Marriage God’s Way with our mentor couple and recommend it.
  5. Think of Your Guests – Yes, it is your and your betrothed’s special day. However, if your loved ones are traveling to your venue and buying you a gift, you need to consider them and their needs. Is anyone in a wheelchair? Provide special parking or a golf cart for transportation to an outdoor setting. Will it be hot? Consider buying fan programs (or make your own with this Wilton Print Your Own Fan Kit). Is it outside? Sunscreen and bug spray are thoughtful. Are there small children? Consider a children’s area or have coloring pages at your tables. One bride I knew had uncovered bales of hay as seating arrangements for her guests. Unfortunately, since the invitation was very fancy, guests thought they should dress up for the wedding. Can you imagine wearing your short cocktail dress and finding uncovered bales of hay as your only seating option?
  6. Plan Ahead for Something Special in Your Wedding – Every couple has a special symbol to remember their wedding by. Some use sand ceremonies, candles, or memory walls for loved ones who have passed. We went to a wedding that had guests write well-wishes and advice on small rectangles that the bride’s grandmother then sewed into a quilt. At our wedding, we used a Unity Cross, both for the display and the during-ceremony event. I’m glad we did. It is such a special memory with a beautiful result that we can display in our home. The meaning behind each piece is so special to me. You can order your own by clicking on the image below. Or, check out the new Unity Hearts!
  7. Breathe! When you remember to breathe, you are a happier, healthier, more humble person, and that makes for a beautiful bride. Keep in mind that the goal is not a one-day wedding, but a life-long marriage.

Something goes wrong in everyone’s wedding. It’s impossible to have a “perfect” day. However, your celebration in the beginning of your life with your new husband is perfect regardless of how the day turns out. Don’t forget to celebrate it!

The featured image in this post is courtesy our wedding photographer: http://www.orpheusandaphrodite.com. 

A Newlywed Christmas {Plus budget-friendly ideas}

It’s our first Christmas season as a married couple, and I’m up at 6am unable to sleep. We’ve been very happily married for six months, and we look forward to many more. However, foraging our way as a new couple and a new family together in this tradition-laden season is difficult! I don’t think I fully knew just how plain weird it would be!

On the other hand, it is also just plain fun. Making new traditions, hanging out with friends, and visiting family are all wonderful this time of year. In addition, my husband is an expert at “lemons to lemonade” circumstances, and we came up with some great Christmas gift ideas that saved us quite a bit. While we’re paying off our college loans and saving for the future, it’s important to work within a tight budget.


Here are some of our strategies for a budget-friendly Christmas:

  • DIY Decorations – I love crafting. We have saved quite a bit of money by making our own decorations instead of buying new. I made our Fall door wreath with $1 fake flower stems and a 40% off basic wreath from Hobby Lobby. The same thing would be cute as a gift for a friend’s home.
  • Hand-Me-Down or Secondhand Decorations – My grandmother gave us a huge tote full of decorations she was not going to use. We sorted out what we could see ourselves using in the next five years and donated the rest.
  • DIY Wrapping – It amazes me how much wrapping paper and other gifting accoutrements cost. We had rolls of brown kraft paper left over from our wedding that I used as wrapping paper this year. I had purchased “Fall” ribbon for 75% off at the end of November and I used it to tie bows around our gifts. (I have also used the comics page of the newspaper to wrap gifts before.) I wrote the recipient’s name on the kraft paper itself with markers. For gift bags, I cut out the image from the front of used Christmas cards and hole punched it to make a tag. Then I wrote the recipients name on the other side and tied it to the bag with ribbon.
  • DIY Gifts – I bake, cook, knit, and write. What better time to put my talents to use than at Christmas? In the past, I’ve done mini banana bread loafs in cute cellophane wrappers. This year, we made my dad chocolate- and butterscotch-drizzled popcorn. It was inexpensive and he loves it.
  • Secondhand Gifts – I know it sounds a little tacky to buy used gifts, but here me out. There is a very nice secondhand bookstore in our area that stocks high-quality books, audiobooks, DVDs, musical instruments, children’s toys, etc. Many of the items are new and the others are gently worn. We were able to find brand new and like new items at this store for a fraction of the cost! They also have a teacher discount, so we were able to save big. There is a wide selection, so it was not shopping only the latest trends either.
  • Free Shipping – Finally, always use free shipping. I signed up for an Amazon Prime account free trial just for the holiday season.  Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. Anything we weren’t able to find elsewhere for cheaper, I ordered from Amazon.  We did pay for shipping for one item because it was supporting a small business that did not offer free shipping. It was worth it.
  • Start Early – It may too late now, but remember this for next year: If you shop for Christmas around the year, the toll it takes on your December paycheck will be minimal.

I firmly believe that Christmas is about the thought, the care for each other, and the celebration of our Savior… Not about the money spent. With a little bit of planning, our first newlywed Christmas is not going to put us into debt. I’m so excited to be celebrating this season with my sweet husband.

I may use affiliate links in this post. If so, I may receive a commission if you purchase an item from the link.