Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

On Curving Balls and Stretching Dollars

Sometimes, life has a way of throwing you curve balls that force you to abandon all of your plans and best intentions. Actually, life’s been throwing us an inordinate amount of those lately. The most recent involved raw sewage backing up into our bathtub, and also up through the drain under the water heater in the garage. After a couple of days of trying not to panic and praying that we wouldn’t need to call a plumber, a very helpful person on Facebook recommended Instant Power Main Line Cleaner from Home Depot. Two bottles, many pots of boiling water, and a few days later, and we’re able to shower again. Hallelujah.

All of which is why there was no post last week.

I had wanted to go over my 101 in 1001 list and talk about how that’s coming, but honestly, that feels a little overwhelming right now. I think I probably need to embark on a project that breaks the big goals down into smaller ones, but at the moment I’m too scatterbrained to figure that out. ย One goal I have been working on this week, though, is creating a budget now that our income has stabilized a bit (for now). This has made me somewhat obsessive about learning how to stretch the grocery budget as far as possible. I think my husband and I both have a long way to go before we become coupon experts, but so far, these two sites are helping immensely:

1. Money Saving Mom – This blog lists weekly deals, coupons, freebies and giveaways, and has a ton of useful info for newbies (like us) to the whole couponing game. One really helpful feature is that it scouts out the best deals at various stores, like Target and Walgreens, and matches them up to coupons and rebates to help you get the ultimate savings. Pretty cool.

2. Swagbucks – I’ve been a Swagbucks user for a few years now, but I’ve always been pretty casual and passive about it, just using the search engine whenever I remembered and racking up the occasional Amazon gift card here and there. If you don’t know what this is, it’s a rewards program that randomly awards you “swagbucks” for using their Internet search engine, which you can exchange for gift cards and other prizes. You can also earn swagbucks by playing games, watching videos, taking surveys and various other activities on the site.

This week, I’ve gotten more serious — read: obsessive — about racking up those swagbucks, mainly because they also offer Target and Walmart gift cards, as well as an option to just swap your swagbucks for Paypal cash. And the awards really aren’t that hard to earn, with a little diligence. I already do a lot of searching most days while researching freelance articles. Searching alone usually gets me between 15 and 30 swagbucks a day. I’ve learned that I can significantly add to that amount pretty easily by simply installing the tool bar, going through the site’s To Do list each day (which takes less than 10 minutes), and letting the videos play on mute in another tab while I go about my business. It’s basically free money to spend at the places where we buy most of our groceries for not a lot of time and effort.

And for the sake of full disclosure, if you decide to sign up yourself using my referral linkย I’ll earn additonal swagbucks, not only when you sign up, but also every time you earn your own swagbucks. You’d be helping us stretch our budget as you stretch your own. That would definitely help to take the sting out of having spent the last week with our house smelling like poo.

Got any budget-friendly links or advice you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!


  1. Carla

    I tried swagbucks, but I keep forgetting about it; even though they continually send me emails to remind me!
    I’ve been trying to be more mindful with the budget, and have been trying to adopt more frugal low cost recipes that the kids will eat. So far, so good, but I’d definitely do better if I had a system for storage and could buy more in bulk.
    That said, my food budget nearly doubled last week when I went gluten free. I’m sure there’s a frugal way to go gluten free, but I haven’t figured it out yet. Just in buying some staples and additional fruits and vegetables to make up the difference really ticked up the total ๐Ÿ™

    P.S. glad you got the backup issue resolved. I’m sure that was very stressful ๐Ÿ™

    • Jean

      I think I spoke too soon about the plumbing. It backed up into the tub again today. :/

      Swagbucks is awesome, though. Today I got 150 of them just to sign up to Audible and download a free Neil Gaiman book.

      I’ve been thinking maybe I should go gluten-free (I’ve read that there might be a link between hypothyroid and gluten), but I’ve held off because I’m not sure how we’d afford it right now. I’m having enough trouble as it is sticking to my low-glycemic diet (although the cold weather and all of Matt’s baking doesn’t exactly help with that, either ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

  2. Rebekah Loper

    I love Swagbucks so much. I’ve used it pretty consistently for about three years, though I usually get Amazon gift cards because those seem to be the most cost efficient way to redeem Swagbucks, and really, you can get almost anything you need at Amazon (with the exception of fresh produce, lol).

    Good luck with the couponing – I tried it (fairly obsessively) a couple years ago, and while it saved me money, the main thing I noticed was that I would eat a lot more junk food. I also make a lot of things from scratch, and there’s rarely coupons for the items I need to do that.

    • Jean

      Yeah, I’ve always gotten the $5 Amazon cards because they’re less than all the other $5 cards. I checked my gift cards folder today and realized I’ve still got three unspent ones from early last year. So I might switch back to Amazon for a while until I rack up enough cards to cover a large enough purchase to get free shipping.

      I’ve made stabs at couponing in the past, but I’ve never been very organized at it. One thing I did learn is that there’s no use in clipping coupons for things you don’t already buy. Otherwise you just end up spending more money than you would have in the first place trying to use all your coupons.

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