Are You Reading These Reviews?

March 28, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Do you ever read the reviews on the Natural Mom Product Reviews site?

We’ve gotten some really great reviews lately. Thanks to those of you who submitted well written reviews! (And the Paypal cash was nice, no?) ;)

It helps to get someone else’s opinion before you spend your hard earned money on stuff. Go read some of these:

If you’re a mom in business you can send your products to me and I will review them personally. Contact me at carrie at naturalmomstalkradio dot com if you’re interested.

Cold Hard Cash for Natural Kid Product Reviews

March 20, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Happy first day of Spring :)

I have a favor to ask you. Would you be willing to write a review of one of your favorite (or not favorite!) natural kid products in exchange for $5 cash in your Paypal account?

Go here: Submit natural product reviews501498_money_stack.jpg

I’ve paid out dozens of moms for their honest thoughts on all kinds of products including:

* Homeschool supplies
* Natural health products
* Toys
* Cookbooks
* Skin care and baby care

and a lot more. Right now I’m really looking for reviews for products for your kids. All you have to do is fill out the form here: submit natural product reviews for cash

Do take a moment to read the terms. I’m not looking for you to write a thesis or anything, but many of the reviews are rejected because they were either copied from another website
(not nice!) or way too short.

Thanks so much!

FF: When Frugal Isn’t Best

February 29, 2008 | 5 Comments

Chele from Moms Love Shopping asked me to come back on her show to talk about what I see as a negative side of the CVS shopping “system”. As I said on the show, it was with much caution that I wrote about this. If you haven’t read it yet, go read my post on CVS and the natural mom.

One of the points that I made on the show is that we vote with our dollars. We make a statement with our purchases. And our non purchases. When we buy lots of single use products that pollute our environment and our bodies, we’re telling manufacturers to create more of these cheap disposable goods with unhealthy ingredients. We’re telling them that cost is the most important consideration for us. (When it should only be one consideration.)

We’re also getting caught up in the culture of spending, the culture of consumption. That’s a bad habit that leads to more of the same.

On the other hand, when we buy quality products that are built to last, that are reusable and not wrapped in multiple layers of plastic, we are also sending a message. To both the marketers of these products and our children.

There are better ways to be frugal in my opinion. We can make our own natural skin care products, we can use cloth menstrual pads or other alternatives. We can use cloth diapers. We can clean with natural home cleaning products that we make ourselves. And there are a million other ways to save money.

We can also buy products that last. For example, buying toys from family owned companies like Heirloom Wooden Toys so that our kids can pass these along to their own children.

Some other great related blog posts about when frugal isn’t best:

Get Rich Slowly: Shopping leads to more shopping
Being Frugal: When buying on sale isn’t frugal

So what do you think? When is the frugal choice not the best choice?

Work at Home Mom Success Tips

February 22, 2008 | 9 Comments

I wanted to pass along this interview that I did with Christina Lemmey for MommysPlace, an excellent work at home Mom resource website.

If you’re considering starting an online business or are new to the internet marketing/wahm world, you might find it inspiring at least and helpful too. I talk about:

  • The journey from my first website to full time wahm
  • How I decided to target the natural mom niche
  • Some of my early mistakes marketing online
  • Tips on finding your niche
  • Support - finding it and leveraging other’s wisdom
  • My biggest obstacles (this one will surprise you)
  • The internet and passive income (this is great for moms!)
  • Advice for those who are discouraged

Go listen here.

You Scratch My Back, I Scratch Yours

February 17, 2008 | 2 Comments

Have you heard about Scratchback? It’s kind of like a fancy tip jar, but with a nice twist for the tipper: you get a link from my site to yours.

Scroll down and look at the right sidebar here, under Subscribe to Natural Moms News.

See the links? Click on the Show some love, tip me link. You can get a link from this blog for only (right now) $3. That is VERY cheap. Considering I get $50 - $125 for advertisers on my podcast.

So if you’re on a budget and want some extra traffic to your blog or site, leave me a tip!

How I Got Out of Debt

February 14, 2008 | 1 Comment

I’ve been meaning to post this for several months, but listening to Marie Ynami interview Christine McKinley on her podcast reminded me. They talked about Christine’s free teleseminar (which is now passed but if you check out her site she offers this information in ebook format) all about getting out of debt.

Basically, this is what I did to pay off my credit card debt:

  1. Stopped using the cards - You can’t get out of a hole unless you stop digging!
  2. Paid off the smallest card first - I did this for the psychological boost it gave me. It had a small balance and getting it over with made me happy.
  3. Created a large visual - I put a large chart on my office wall with my debt, income and savings. It was exciting to see my savings and income grow each month while my debt got smaller!
  4. Sold stuff of value - I got rid of things that didn’t mean a lot to me but that could be turned into cash. And I disciplined myself to use that money towards the debt.
  5. Started an emergency fund first - While this seems backwards to some, it helped me feel safer and in control. I thought it would be awful to get out of debt and then have all 4 tires fall off my car or have some other emergency and have to get back in! So having that “baby contingency fund” gave me real peace of mind and made me feel proactive instead of reactive.
  6. Ramped up my income - I worked hard in my business to step up my earnings.
  7. Tracking my spending - I kept a small notebook in my purse and wrote down EVERY penny I spent. Just the act of doing that curbed my spending! Plus it pointed out weak spots (coffee and books) that I could work on.
  8. Rewarded myself for being frugal - I budgeted a small amount (less than before but still something) on little treats for myself so I wouldn’t feel totally deprived.
  9. Transferred balances - I transferred balances on two cards to one that offered zero interest for 6 months. And I paid it off in 6 months then closed the card. Teehee! I beat the evil credit card companies at their own game!
  10. Read a lot about personal finance - I read a lot of books during that time about debt, personal finance and emotions around money. I discovered some great blogs!
  11. I made sacrifices - I temporarily stopped paying my kids an allowance. I talked to them about my goals, about debt and about what we would do when the debt was paid. One of the things I did when the cards were paid was buy my oldest a guitar. I also didn’t buy myself new clothing for a few months. I just kept focusing on what I wanted, which was to not be beholden to anyone, and did whatever I could to meet that goal, which meant sacrificing things that weren’t as important to me.
  12. I spoke my goal out loud - I shared my goal with others who were close to me, and because of that, opportunities came my way because I had declard my intention.

I hope that helps someone else :-)

Moms Talk Radio

Cho-co-lat-e Blog-a-lot eh? (Oh and the CVS thing and natural moms)

February 14, 2008 | 8 Comments

Show that inspired this post: Chele’s interview with CVS Diva Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMommy.com

100 words: (Chele if you’re reading this, don’t get your feelings hurt. I am now hooked on your show.) This was the first episode of Moms Love Shopping I ever listened to, probably because I follow Crystal’s blog and she mentioned she was interviewed there. I enjoy Crystal’s blog a lot, she has some of the best advice on how to make money from a blog for example, as well as valuable frugality tips.

I am a frugal mama, to be sure. But I didn’t think the whole CVS “thing” would work for me. Nor was I sure I even wanted to do what I see other moms all over the internet doing and blogging about.

When it comes to the first issue, I don’t use a lot of products, period. And most of the products I use are either all natural and organic, or I make them myself. For instance, I moisturize my face at night with olive oil. I make my own tooth powder (I’ll share the recipe here someday). I use cloth menstrual pads. I like for the stuff that touches mine and my kid’s skin to be as safe as possible. Other than Burt’s Bees and BeFine (which I haven’t investigated yet), CVS doesn’t carry those types of products, and there are very rarely any deals that feature those kinds of products.

I do use a regular moisturizer with sunscreen in it for daytime, I have since I was 12, but CVS doesn’t carry the brands I use. And I use rechargeable batteries and my local CVS is always out!

The few things that CVS carries that I do buy are overpriced, like paper products (notebooks for the kids and computer paper). That must be where they’re making up the difference for the stuff they can give away for free. And I suppose I could buy band-aids, vinegar and baking soda there, but again - they would be priced higher and there aren’t any Extra Care Bucks or coupons associated with those kind of basic, generic items. Most of the great deals are on items that I never, ever buy, like soft drinks, candy and junk food.

I’m also concerned with the temptation to buy when I wouldn’t ordinarily BE buying, and buying items that I wouldn’t ordinarily BE buying, just to get it free, or to get more ECBs, or whatever. Does that make sense?

This is where I might lose some friends, all in a desperate attempt to get free chocolate. Ahem. Does that mean my priorities are messed up? No… actually I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time now. Really I have. ;)

I am not judging anyone else here, but getting a lot of stuff for free at CVS or any other store doesn’t feel good in my gut. So I don’t do it. I don’t understand how a person can go in to a CVS and take home several bags of stuff, week in and week out, and pay pennies for it. It doesn’t feel ethical to me. It feels like getting something for nothing, and that goes against my understanding of certain Biblical principles. It gives me that funny feeling in my gut, and I have to listen to that. I would be wrong not to… we all have our conscience and we had best not ignore it.

To me it’s similar to the cheap toy situation. We (meaning we as American consumers) “demand” by our shopping habits cheap plastic stuff. So, the manufacturers have to keep cutting corners to give us what we want, which is cheap plastic stuff. Then we complain when the cheap plastic stuff ends up being what it is: cheap. It’s not safe, it’s not good for our health or the environment, or whatever, but it’s really our fault for wanting so much stuff, so cheap.

If I take home $100 worth of stuff from CVS and pay 0.23 for it, I’m feeding into that system.

To be fair, I DID take advantage of that Sambucol rebate deal where I purchased a bottle of their Elderberry Extract and got a $10 ECB from CVS and then mailed in the rebate, getting the full purchase price back. :-) 

Link to Moms Talk Radio

Lowering Your Grocery Budget

December 22, 2007 | 12 Comments

Last week a mom started a thread at the forum asking whats your grocery budget like?

I thought I would share some of my tips for lowering the grocery budget here, and ask you to add some of your own. Personally, no matter what my food budget is looking like, I like to practice frugality in the kitchen to avoid waste and because being cheap makes me feel like I’m getting one over on the man. :-)

Here goes.

- Learn to love beans and rice, both of which are among the cheapest sources of good nutrition available, period. You can use your imagination to make this combo tastier, like cooking your rice with some coconut milk to make it sweet and yummy, or adding a little vegetable or chicken broth to your water, or using curry or other spices with the beans. Even if you’re not vegetarian, check out vegetarion cookbooks from the library for inspiration and recipes.

- Eat less meat, period. But remember that some veggies are expensive, like red sweet or yellow peppers which cost more than meat per pound! Variety is important in your diet but you can get those same nutrients from other, cheaper vegetables. Use lots of carrots, potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes and celery in your cooking, they’re the cheapest veggies and have tons of fiber to fill you up.

- Practice loss leader shopping. I know it’s a pitb to shop at more than one store, but if you stick to the loss leaders in the sales circulars you can save a boatload of money by going to more than one store (easier if you shop without the kids). If shopping at more than one store is too much for you because of multiple kids or being tired due to pregnancy (been there, done that, got the T shirt and the scarf), then ask hubby to stop by the store on his way home and make sure he has a detailed list of what to buy including name brands. The point is to buy the loss leaders ONLY from each local grocery store, and plan your menu around those cheap foods. You know the food manufacturers are in cahoots with the grocery stores and often send out their coupons in the newspaper when the stores are featuring their products on sale, so combine loss leaders with coupons and save more. It’s all marketing, so you might as well use the “system” to your advantage!

- Put together a price book so you know what’s really a great deal and buy more to save you money (great for stuff that saves like peanut butter, beans etc). You can do this the lazy way by simply keeping your receipts and jotting down in a notebook what you’re paying for stuff you routinely buy. Then you know if that buy one get one free deal is really cheaper, or if the store has jacked the price way UP in order to stick it to you (sad but true!). More on pricebooks.

- Cook stuff like chili, soups/stews and casseroles that stretch the protein.

- Do bulk if you can. You can buy 20 pound bags of rice at most grocery stores and eat that for pennies a serving, but it’s white rice. You can get bulk brown rice at Whole Foods or other larger health food stores. You might have to spend more than your weekly budget for the first two weeks of the month in order to take advantage of bulk savings, then spend less the last two weeks. - Cheap dinner ideas. Baked potatoes with melted cheese, a little diced bacon, green onions or broccoli etc on top is cheap.

Here is another: Slice sweet potatoes and sprinkle with salt, then douse with a little olive oil and then sprinkle garlic powder on top. Bake at 375 on a baking sheet. When soft, top with barbeque sauce and black beans. This is delicious and really cheap.

Another cheap dish that’s healthy is fried rice. I heat some oil in a large saute pan and cook some chopped onion until soft, add an egg or two (scramble). Then add garlic, peas, carrots, sugar snap peas, whatever veggies you guys like. Stir in leftover rice and top with a little soy sauce or teriyaki sauce for flavor. Protein, fiber, nutrients and super cheap!

Books like the Tightwad Gazette are great sources of cheap cooking ideas.

Avoid lunch meats, boxed cereals, instant oatmeal and convenience foods like the plague. Not only does this stuff cost too much but it makes your blood sugar crash which makes you hungrier later …. and remember the food additives and multiple hidden flavors the manufacturers add to make you eat more! Proof that this is true: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

- You Pick It. In the spring and summer, do pick your own at berry farms and local farms (also organic). Search localharvest.org for local farms.

- Practice extreme rubber chicken. Never buy chicken unless it’s a whole one and on sale for .49 a pound, then buy two. Cook them both first (roast them in the oven with an orange peel or whole lemon cut up inside the skin, plus garlic and rosemary or whatever herbs you have, butter, pepper etc), eat chicken for dinner the first night.Then cut all meat off carcasses, freeze for casseroles/chicken salad sandwiches/chicken soup/etc. Then boil carcasses for chicken stock (adding onion, celery, spices etc for flavor). 

- Refrigerator Stew. Keep a container in your freezer for small amounts of leftover vegetables, grains, meat and beans. When the container becomes full, you have the makings of a great soup. Growing up, my mom always made the best soups with everything but the kitchen sink. As long as you start with a base of onions sauteed in butter, it’s hard to go wrong.

- Don’t waste. Never toss out stale bread or the ends that no one seems to ever want to eat. Make it into home made bread crumbs or croutons instead. Throw bread into the blender and pulse until you have crumbs, and use to top casseroles or wherever bread crumbs are called for in recipes. If you have fruit that is over ripe, but not moldy, mash it up and bake it in muffins and breads or use in smoothies.

For health and to save money (and eat less), drink more water and drink a glass before meals. Teach your kids that beverages with flavor (juice, tea, etc) are treats and that we quench our thirst with water. They’ll learn to crave it.

There you have it. So what are your tips for lowering your grocery budget?

Frugal Friday: Free Money. Yes, I Mean It!

December 22, 2007 | 2 Comments

This week’s Frugal Friday beats all because below is an offer for at least $25 free, but actually much more, depending on you and your habits. You can’t really top free money, can you? Read on:

I opened a Bank of America checking account a year ago and signed up for their “Keep the Change” program. Basically it works like this: Each time you use your debit card, they “round up” the amount you spent to the next dollar. Then, they automatically deposit that amount of change into your savings account. That means if you pump $19.01 in your gas tank, they debit your account $20 and put the .99 in your savings account.  I saved a lot of extra money last year quite mindless and painlessly, and what’s more, it made balancing my checkbook easier since I always entered whole dollar amounts into my checkbook. LOL!

Then BoA MATCHED my “change” amount penny for penny! They are putting that extra money into my savings account on the 22nd of this month. How cool is that? Free money. Once the first three months is over, they keep matching the change savings, at a lower rate. But still!

Oh, I forgot to mention that they gave me $25 for no reason at all other than opening the checking account. And there are no checking fees as long as you have direct deposit (and since I work from home, they DO count stuff like my Google AdSense earnings. Yea!).Anyway, they have a special deal now where you get $25 for opening an account… I can send you a link and you can open your account online. Let me know if you want me to send you an email invite because I will also get $25. :-)

So, to recap. You open a Bank of America checking account. You get $25. Then you get however much you managed to save by using your debit card. Plus your friend Carrie Lauth here gets $25.

See what I mean? Free money.

p.s. I am really enjoying Bank of America. The tellers have all been super friendly so far, they give me deposit slips IN THE DriveThru. Every Time. Because I always forget. And don’t want to drag 4 kids into the bank. I even opened up two savings accounts there. So email me at carrie at carrielauth dot com and get your email invite, ok?

:)

Get Cash for Your Used Books

December 20, 2007 | 1 Comment

Lately I’ve had little success selling my old books on eBay or Amazon. It’s frustrating because I don’t want to throw them away, but can’t lose money by relisting them (with eBay and Paypal fees to boot!). There are a few used books stores in the metro area, but most of them are a long drive, and to burn gas and spend all that time just to have most of the books rejected doesn’t excite me… plus I would end up blowing my budget shopping while I was there. ;)

So I searched around for another option and here’s what I found. Online book swaps and sales sites.

Cash4Books

This is just as it sounds - they pay cash for your gently used books. The process was super easy. I simply entered the ISBN of some of my books and voila, they offered me a payment for one of them. You just print out their postage paid label (nice!) and packing slip and you’re all set. Love that.

PaperBackSwap

This one doesn’t pay you cash, but you earn credits which can be used to get new (used) books to feed your bibliophile self. I haven’t tried this one yet but when I do I’ll come back and let you know my experience. Tell them Carrie Lauth sent you please if you sign up - I’ll earn points, and you can earn points referring friends too. :)

These are two great ways (other than Amazon and eBay) of keeping books out of landfills.

Update: Well that was fast! I had just listed a bunch of books on PaperBackSwap and minutes later I had a request to send one! I’m stoked. Now I get to ask for a free book from another PaperBackSwap user.

PaperBackSwap gives you a “wrap” to print out with the address of the recipient and your return address all filled in. They even tell you how much postage to put on the package based on the weight of the book (this information they already know since you entered the ISBN to list the book - VERY convenient!). The “wrapper” is the package so you don’t even have to hunt for an envelope to ship the book in. The whole process was super quick and easy.

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