New Ways to Save in the New Year

There is something so renewing to know that a new year is beginning and that you have a whole new year ahead of you to start fresh. In February, our New Year’s goals may have already been forgotten, but today I want to encourage you to dust those goals back off and start anew again with a goal that is very dear to my heart… being wise with our funds. The goal that I have each year is to continue to reduce our spending and find creative ways to live our beautiful life on a small budget.

Perhaps it is a goal of yours too? Let’s explore some new ways to save in this new year!

Get Your Finances Back on Track- Isn’t it funny that we have more ways than ever to be in touch with our money, yet many of us couldn’t be further from it? Consider investing in some financial planning software this year or utilizing a free financial planning service like for tracking your spending. Start this year out right and begin analyzing where your money is going and find new ways that you can reduce your spending categories. Viewing your spending history is an eye-opening way to see simple switches you could make to begin saving and planning for your future.

Switch to a Cash System- In some regards, using an envelope system is an old-school method, but it has been the one method that has worked the very best for our family through the years. At the beginning of the week, withdraw the money that you need for your groceries and give an allowance to yourself, your spouse, and a family allowance for dining out/entertainment. This will not only keep you within your grocery budget, but it will also keep those incidental expenses for each family member within a budget too.

No one can shame you for buying a weekly latte and no one can be upset that a family member went out to dinner, provided that it is within your weekly allowance! A family allowance will also allow you to do something fun each week together and give you that much needed family time you deserve. 

Ditch the Membership Fees- Are you paying for a membership that you aren’t using anymore? Many times when I talk to people about memberships they have, they are usually not using them. Do you have a gym membership, but don’t ever go to the gym? Do you subscribe to a magazine that you don’t have time to read or is no longer applicable to that stage in your life? Do you have a movie club, but no one ever has time to watch the movies?

Ditching those memberships doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in those activities; it just means you can be smarter about how you are doing them. A gym that offers a punch card where you only have to pay per class might be a better option if you can’t ever make it to the gym. Checking out those movies and magazines from the library might be a better way to indulge in those entertainment expenses without paying yearly on them. Rethink how you can approach those spending categories and you could easily save $30 or more off of your monthly expenses. 

Embrace a DIY Lifestyle- The best thing you can do for your finances this year is to invest in learning new skills that you will save you money. Take a class to learn how to make your own birthday cakes, learn a new craft that could save on gift expenses, visit a Saturday workshop at your local hardware store to complete a home improvement project, research on You Tube or check out books from the library on how to tackle projects that you normally have to outsource. Embracing a DIY lifestyle is what frugality, to me, is all about. Go out and learn a new skill today and see what it can do to improve those family finances. It just might surprise you!

When looking for materials for these DIY projects, be sure to stop at your Goodwill store to see what treasures you can use to tackle those home improvement projects. Goodwill is always my first stop when looking for materials for my favorite DIY projects. 

Get Rid of That Clutter- Clutter not only weighs us down physically, but clutter causes us to spend money when we don’t need to. One look at a cluttered pantry or bathroom closet and you know exactly what I am talking about. Duplicate purchases occur when we don’t have a strong grasp on our inventory in our home and clutter hides us from the real treasures that are in our lives. Stop allowing clutter to put a drain on your budget and your life.

The best part about our Goodwill stores is that not only can you get rid of clutter, but you can score savings at the store by stopping by and making that donation. An employee will happily hand you a tax receipt when you drop your items off at the Goodwill Drive-Thru Donation Center. The bonus, that makes the trip and decluttering your life entirely worth it, is that our Michiana Goodwill Stores attach a coupon to your tax deduction form that will save you a percentage on your next shopping trip.

When you visit Goodwill, ask about their Goodwill Loves Moms Reward Program.  It’s amazing!  You can register in the store for $4.00 and you’ll receive a re-useable Donation Bag and Reward Card.  When you donate with the bag, they’ll validate your Reward Card.  When the card is full, they’ll send you a gift valued at $25.00 – or a Shopping Certificate – you decide!  Find out more at:

I call that a win-win situation when it comes to ways to save money and reward yourself in the new year!



get all the holiday décor dealt with before February. 

New Years Day. What does it mean to you? For me, it means cleaning and organizing. Putting away all the holiday décor and getting my house back in order. And for some reason that task seems to get harder and harder each year.

My goal is simple: get my home to a Christmas-decoration-free zone. Inevitably as I started going through things, I get side tracked and unmotivated.  This year it occurred to me ‘why don’t I eliminate some of this holiday clutter and donate it to Goodwill’. BRILLANT! 

Imagine being able to just load up your holiday stuff into your car, and not dealing with the organizing / reorganizing! Then, next year head to your local Goodwill store and load up on new holiday decorations. Seriously…I might be on to something here! 


Here are some tips when considering eliminating your holiday clutter:

1. Before you start undoing all of your beautifully staged holiday decor, go through the storage totes and consider what you didn’t use.  Do you really NEED those things? Can they be donated?

2. Then, as you put things away, think about it’s meaning.  Of course you don’t want to donate those sentimental ornament that your daughter made for you in 3rd grade, so before you repack your ornaments, have 2 piles “keep” and “donate”. Put things in the ‘donate’ pile that you may not like, you haven’t used or simply want to replace next year.

3.  Keep a list of those things you’ve decided to completely replace next year. Nothing could be worse than next December, getting all into the holiday spirit and decorating and realizing you donated all of your garland and lights. …and when next year comes, remember to start your holiday decor shopping at your local Goodwill store.  You will be surprised what you find!

To find a list of Goodwill stores close to you, click HERE.

Stay tuned for other New Year’s Resolution tips!

Donations… Step 1 – Organize!

I think we all can agree that donating our used goods to Goodwill is a good thing.  We all want to help people in our communities gain the resources necessary to go to work and become self-sufficient.  But the reality of ‘doing that’ means we need to motivate ourselves to clear out some clutter.

Overwhelming?  Not really.

I talked to a professional organizer friend of mine, Donna Roland.  She is simply amazing!  She offered the following very simple step-by-step process to get started with a closet organizing project. 

(photo from Donna’s website:

Set aside the proper amount of time you will need to tackle this project.  If you don’t have time to do it all at once, take a section at a time.
Determine what your “style” is and what clothes need to be kept in your closet to fit your style. Having this information helps determine which items should be kept
STEP 3    
Remove and sort everything from your closet so you can start with a clean slate. This includes shoes, purses and accessories as well.  This will require trying things on and asking yourself several questions which include:  Does it still fit?, Is it still in style?, Do I like how I feel in it?,  Does it fit my style?, and Would I buy this today? 

Sort the items into piles of “Keep”, Donate” and “Toss”.  Once all the items are sorted into your piles, immediately throw out the items in your “Toss” stack and take the “Donate” items to Goodwill so they are out of sight and you no longer have to think about them.
Storing your “Keep” stack.  Now it’s time to place the “Keep” items back in your closet.  Arrange the items in your closet by categories such as: season, purpose, color, style and length.  Make sure the items are all hanging so they face in the same direction.   Hang your items so that you can “shop” your closet and see exactly what you have.
Be proud of your accomplishment!   Stand back and be proud of what you have accomplished and enjoy your new closet and how it makes you feel.  Now you can use your new knowledge when you go on your next shopping trip and know exactly what to buy!
Remember… place your “donate” items in the car right away and head to Goodwill. 
You’ll feel great having the extra space in your closet.  And, you’ve helped others in our community at the same time.

Creating Your Own Back to School Traditions

In less than one week, my two sweet kids will be boarding their bus and heading off to their first day of school. It is hard to believe that another fun summer is behind us, but if this picture offers any indication, I am just a tiny bit enthusiastic about getting back to our daily routines and having time to work without carving time away from my attention to them.

We truly have much to celebrate and be thankful for in our family – including our school milestones – and I always try to make these days as special as possible with a fun celebration dinner for the kids.

Today I want to share some easy ideas for fun school-year celebrations you’ll enjoy all year long.

Create a School Picture Tradition

I love to see how much my children grow each year and I’m always trying to think of a new way to capture this big moment in their life.

Create a sign that says what year they are going into school or search on Pinterest for free back-to-school printable signs to use for your big day. To really take your sign to the next level, visit Goodwill to find a cute picture frame to put your sign in and spray paint it for a pop of color. You could also hunt for a small chalkboard or create your own chalkboard using chalkboard spray paint and jot down their school year. 

Try to capture the big things, like that growth spurt that seemed to happen overnight, and then capture the little things like their fancy new school shoes or their cool character backpack. Even if you might have missed the moment on the first day of school, there is an opportunity to capture this all year long and no one will be the wiser that it wasn’t your kid’s first day back. I promise that these pictures will later be a treasure to you and to your kids when they can look back and see how much they have grown and changed.

Create a Celebration Plate Tradition

One of our wedding gifts when we got married was a Celebrate plate that my mom picked up at our local greeting card store. This tradition was handed down to me because when I was growing up, any time we had a celebration in our family, the special recipient got to eat on the special plate.

You can create your own Celebration plate that you decorate together using a plate from your local Goodwill store and a porcelain paint set that you can find at the craft store.  Use a waterproof marker pen to jot down the date and the exciting occasion you’re celebrating together on the back of your plate for a sweet tradition that can sit sweetly in your family budget. 

Create a Fun Decorating Tradition

Our balloon wreath isn’t just for celebrating birthdays anymore.  I now hang this wreath in our doorway anytime there is a celebration to be had in our house including those school year celebrations. You can make your own balloon wreath by covering a straw wreath with two large packages (of 72) balloons and attaching them with greening pins (in the floral aisle of your craft store). This wreath can be used for any of life’s little celebrations… big or small!

Create a Fun Meal Tradition

Nothing says celebration like a big plate of your favorite food. In our house, the most requested dish is my spaghetti and meatballs. When celebrations arise, whether it’s a great report card or the first day back to school, let your children make the dinner selection for the night.  We have had everything in our house requested, from our favorite sub sandwiches to a taco bar night to homemade pizza.  Not only will you not have to plan dinner one night, but the bonus is your kids will eat it and love it!

Whatever you do, I can assure you that your children will long remember and appreciate! I wish you many celebrations all school year long!

Looking for the perfect recipe for homemade spaghetti & meatballs to celebrate your kids and their first day back? I have you covered with this easy sauce and baked meatballs that rival any Italian restaurant. Double or triple the sauce and meatballs for delicious meals that you can eat all week long! 

Homemade Spaghetti & Meatballs

For Sauce:

3/4 cup chopped onion (we omitted because we don’t like onions)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For Meatball (this recipe will make enough for a double batch, half to eat and half to freeze):

1/2  cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 cups grated Romano (or Parmesan)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Italian turkey sausages (remove the casings)
1 pound ground beef

To make sauce: Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Gently break apart the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon.  Five to ten minutes before serving, add in your meatballs and then serve over a big bowl of your favorite pasta.

To make meatballs: In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the turkey & ground beef, then gently stir to combine. Make your meatballs the standard size and put them on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes. When done cooking, drop in the baked meatballs for a few minutes. This will be just as delicious with a lot less mess and fewer calories.

How to Make Outdoor Living a Family Priority

School is out for summer! We are so excited to finally have time to truly enjoy the outdoors over the next couple of months..  I love nothing more than lounging around in our backyard and hitting our community pool all summer long.  Indiana winters are so long and our summers here are far too short. I really try to make the most of every moment of sunshine.

Wouldn’t we all love to just lounge around in the backyard all day with our feet kicked up? While I can’t say it will be possible every day, I want to share with you a few things we have been doing to make outdoor living a priority in our home over the years.

Chores come first. 

We all love being outside and in order for me to be able to camp out with the kids in the backyard, we need to have our indoor chores accomplished. The short list for me is to unload the dishwasher, make the beds, and swipe the bathrooms. The kids have to eat their breakfast, get dressed, and tidy up their rooms and playroom. With the promise of fun and relaxation outside, we all are more motivated to do our chores inside.

Get the dinner prep done. 

After I have finished the chores, it is time to get together whatever we will be eating for dinner in the evening. Slow cooker meals are a great alternative in the summer because they don’t heat up the house and can be pulled together quickly. If you don’t have a slow cooker, Goodwill is a great place to check for this great summer tool for getting dinner on the table without heating up the house. Likewise, marinating meats or preparing meat for the grill is another way to keep the house cool and keep one step ahead of the game in mealtime prep.

Of course, anything that you can do after your grocery shopping will also give you more time to enjoy being outside. Chop up veggies and fruits for snacking on throughout the week, cook pasta for pasta salads and keep it in a food storage bag to make a yummy cold pasta salad, bake chicken for the week to dice in tortilla wraps, for cold chicken salad sandwiches, or to toss into a pasta salad. I also love to wash and chop the lettuce for the week and use it on burgers or for a light lunch for myself or a side salad with our dinner.

Take the night off completely from dinner and roast your dinner on an outdoor fire pit instead. Children will love the novelty of cooking their foods over the fire and you will love having a night off from cooking. We try to do this a couple of times a month as a fun family night tradition.

Scale back those fancy dinners and keep things simple with grilled meats, fresh veggies, and fresh fruit. Summer is not meant to be spent in a hot kitchen so get acquainted with your grill or slow cooker so you can enjoy that beautiful weather outside.

Be prepared for outdoor excursions. 

The past couple of years, I have learned to become more prepared for those unexpected outdoor adventures. On our door hangs a beach bag that is ready to go for a fun outdoor getaway. I keep sunblock, bug spray, towels, bathing suits, and a water bottle in this bag.

Check Goodwill for a great beach tote that will fit nicely into your family budget. These totes not only come in handy for your summer excursions, but can be a great way to keep your family organized all year long.

For example, in our car, we have a collapsible bag that is filled with activities for the park. I try to keep containers of bubbles, a ball, a waterproof blanket for sitting on, a Frisbee, and a lawn chair. These activities not only come in handy for when we take a trip to the park, but they also are invaluable when visiting friends who don’t have activities/toys to keep little hands busy.

Revise your homemaking schedule with the weather. Check the forecast at the beginning of the week and try to format your schedule according to the weather. If it is raining on Thursday, make Thursday your day to clean the house. If it is sunny on Tuesday, use that day to accomplish the laundry day outside and hang your clothes on the line instead. If it is sunny all week long, then accomplish chores during your child’s nap time or after they head to bed. By revising your homemaking schedule to fit the weather forecast, you can take advantage of as many beautiful days as you possibly can.

Remember they are only young once. 
Each summer, I marvel at how much my children have grown and how quickly our time together seems to be passing. I am trying to savor these moments and for me, that means slowing down our summers. While we make big plans for summer activities, I can admit that I become selfish with my time with them in the summer. The school year will begin again and we will be back to the crazy grind of school days.

Savor these moments and revise your schedule so you can enjoy each moment of them. Seek a little shade with them. Create with them. Hop in the kiddie pool with them. Indulge in homemade slushies and popcorn every single day and blame it on “the kids” and “hydration.” Be selfish with them and their time. Treasure them.

This year as they hopped off the bus on the last day of school, I whipped out silly glasses and told them that fun was the only thing this family would have on its agenda. We giggled all the way home from the bus stop. This is the stuff that makes memories.

As my husband and I say after it takes two hours to put away all the outdoor toys and clean up after the dinner, “We are making memories.”

Indeed….we are!

How do you make outdoor living a priority in your family?

Spring Cleaning With Goodwill

Cleaning lady vacuuming a soft carpet in living room.

It is that time of year again when we all have the urge to get rid of the useless items , reclaim our garages, and restore order in our home. I used to try to do spring cleaning in one week, but with endless activities on our calendar, it makes it difficult to devote a week’s worth of my time to just cleaning. Who really has time for that?

Instead of doing one deep cleaning try “spring cleaning” all year long rather than trying to set aside a specific time to do this. By simply incorporating smaller scale spring cleaning projects into your daily routine, you can accomplish the same tasks on your limited schedule.

vacuuming dirt off a green carpet

Make a Checklist- Begin by making a checklist of everything that you would normally do during your spring cleaning. Tasks like washing all the linens and drapes, wiping down baseboards, washing windows inside and out, cleaning out your pantry, washing your shower curtains, organizing your linen cabinets, wiping down walls, and cleaning doorknobs and light fixtures are items that are typically on a spring cleaning checklist.

Take Inventory of Your Supplies- Take inventory of your cleaners and the tools that you will need in order to accomplish all of the necessary cleaning. Nothing is worse then getting ready to do your task and then finding out that you are missing that one component needed to complete your task. Put the items that you will need on your shopping list and get these items on the day that you perform all of your errands.

Add Just One Hour- Continue doing your normal daily routine, but add an extra hour each week towards accomplishing just one of these tasks on your list. Check off the items that you accomplish and press on to the next one. By just devoting one hour a week towards your spring cleaning goals you will have a more manageable deep cleaning routine.

Donation Day

Reclaim Your Home- Clear out as much clutter as you can. Make a box for trash and a box for your Goodwill donations and fill these with all of the unnecessary clutter in your home. By donating these items to Goodwill your items continue to help Goodwill’s mission to provide jobs, training and placement services for people with barriers to employment. Not only will someone who needs these items more benefit from your donation, but you can receive a tax break and reclaim space in your own home. If you don’t like to dust it, don’t love the item, and want an organized home- donate it!!

Make Cleaning Convenient- Keep a caddy of cleaning supplies on each floor. I find it much easier to clean my house when I know that the tools that I need to accomplish my task are just a few steps away. Keep your checklist either in one of your caddies or somewhere that is accessible so that you can always stay on track with your deep cleaning.

As an aside, I also encourage you to do your cleaning when it is convenient for you. Some people work better during morning hours while others of us would rather be snoozing and do better in the evening. Take advantage of the times that you work best. If you would rather break the hour into smaller increments that is totally up to you. The idea behind all of this is to make it as easy as possible so fit it in wherever and whenever you can.

bench monday: what a mess

Get the Kids Involved- Enlist your helpers to help you on these tasks. Your children and your husband can be active participants in getting your home organized just like they help to contribute to the clutter. Schedule dad for clearing out the garage, taking inventory of the tools you will need to do your gardening, cleaning out the basement, weeding through the family electronics, or other tasks inside and outside of the home. Children can aid in cleaning their own rooms by helping to remove some of the clutter in the house. Involving your family can be beneficial in showing them all that you do to keep your house running smoothly.

Make it Fun- Whatever you do, try to make the experience a fun one. Turn on some great music, watch television while polishing tables, do whatever you can to make getting your home clean easier and more enjoyable.

What are your best tips for Spring Cleaning? We would love to hear how you accomplish the Spring Cleaning in your home!

Please click on the above pictures for photo credit and to access the photographer information for each image.

Creating a No Spend Challenge for Your Family


Does taking a No Spend Challenge sound like a daunting project? It is actually easier than you might think. Our family tries to go on this little adventure every February and have made a commitment to have a month of no spending.

The technique of giving yourself a break from spending, whether it is a weekend or a year, is a popular technique among personal finance writers and financial advisers to aid in getting your budget back on track.

Money-free weekends are nothing new to our family. We often make commitments verbally that we will forgo spending for a weekend, but no spending for an entire month? This will be a new one for us.

To make a commitment to our no-spend month, we have budgeted exactly what we need for gas and groceries. We will, of course, pay all of our monthly bills, but will go without any incidental spending that usually occurs during the week. That means no trips to Hobby Lobby for me, no dinners out when I am too tired to cook, no drinks out with the girls. As you can see, it will be quite the commitment to not spend carelessly.

Empty Wallet

What can be gained though from a no-spend month can prove to be of great value for families. When you are not able to spend, you suddenly see how plentiful your life already is. The richness of what is around you and how little you truly do need to be happy quickly comes into focus.

As a consumer, we become conditioned to spend so those initial first weeks can prove challenging, but the rewards are great for families who can overcome that hump and break the cycle of spending. A no-spend month does come with challenges, but it also comes with the gratification of knowing that you have let your bank account grow and have become aware of where your money is going.

Would you like to take a no-spend adventure with me? Just think of all of the free time you will have if you are not out shopping and spending for a month.

Here are a few ideas for how you could spend all of that free time!

– Get your finances back on track by trying out a free program like and get in better touch with your past spending.

– Dust off those old board games and spend an evening playing them together.

– Watch free movies on or take out the DVD collection and watch your favorite movies again. If you are really craving a new release, sign up on to get free movie codes sent to your cell phone to use towards a fun new release.

super nintendo

– Break out that really old game system and relive those games again with your kids.

– Dig through your old cookbooks and try out recipes using some of the ingredients in your pantry.

– Play a game of Iron Chef with your spouse and let your children be the judge of the best dish by having your very own cooking contest. You might be surprised that even dad’s toasted Pop-Tart might be the judge’s favorite in this contest.

– Actually use the craft supplies that you have bought and start tackling some of your crafty ideas for the holidays.

– Find the floor in your laundry room.

– Look for free community activities that you could do as a family.

– Volunteer or find things in your home that you could donate to Goodwill to reclaim that space in your home.

Donation Day

– Visit the library and actually read the books.

– Clip coupons and plan your grocery shopping in advance for next month.

– Take a wonderful and delicious nap.

– Learn a new skill set or check out books on self-improvement to help make your life better or easier. I love to visit You Tube to get great video tutorials on everything from doing my hair to discovering a new craft.

– Get free museum passes from the library or check the local museum’s websites for information on their free admittance days. Don’t forget to pack a lunch!

– Have a potluck-style swap night with your friends and exchange three of your things for three of theirs.

– Read that pile of magazines or newspapers that never gets read.

– Exercise.

– Listen to free music on Spotify, Pandora, or Groove Shark and make a fun mix of songs you listened to when you were dating your spouse.

bubble bath
– Take a bubble bath.

– Play on the floor with your children.

– Organize your closet and take inventory of your wardrobe. Be sure to start a great stack of items to pass on to Goodwill!

– Recharge those batteries and put them in the children’s toys to make them “new” again.

– Tackle a home improvement project that you bought supplies for, but still haven’t finished.

However you decide to spend your no-spend day, weekend, week, month, or year, I hope that it brings into focus how great it can truly be to not spend and that it gives you the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with those around you.

Have you ever tried to go without a period of not spending money? What did you learn from that experience? Please feel free to share!

Please click on the above pictures for photo credit and to access the photographer information for each image.

Finding Thankfulness in a Simple Holiday

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. What other holiday do we just eat and sit around being thankful for what we already have? While Christmas really should be about that, I find that Thanksgiving is the holiday where our family seems to focus best on all of the blessings in our life. There are no presents to distract us from our thankful hearts and the focus is all about being together as a family.

We don’t have very many Thanksgiving traditions in our family other than a morning spent watching the Thanksgiving parade in our jammies and just being together. The beauty in Thanksgiving, for me, is finding simple ways to give thanks for all that we have in our lives.

As Jacqueline Winspear has said though, “Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live.” I want to live thankfully, to be aware of every blessing (great AND small), and the more aware I become the more thankful I am. The more thankful I am, the more blessed I feel. It is a richness that money can’t buy.
Here are a few ways to embrace a life of thankfulness in the little things this holiday season:

Say Thank You With Simple Gifts– Contrary to popular belief, even though I blog abut saving money, you won’t find this girl at the Black Friday sales trying to score the best deals. My favorite thing to do is to spend the day after Thanksgiving lounging around in my pajamas, sipping coffee, and starting my holiday crafting for those I love.

Instead of making a plan of attack at the store this year, embrace a DIY mentality towards your gift-giving and start jotting down the crafts you want to try this year. I don’t know about you, but nothing means more to me than someone taking time out of their day to create something beautiful and unique just for me.
Make a list of supplies you need for making those crafts happen and hit Goodwill first to see if you can find the craft supplies for less or find a vision for what to do with these thrift store items. If you need a little inspiration to get you started, be sure to read my entry on, “Breathing New Life In Thrift Store Items.”
With those beautiful handmade gifts, jot down a note to say thanks and tell that person why they are so important in your life. In a day and age where we barely write anymore, just imagine what a little note included with a handmade gift could mean to someone you love?
Start a Simple Christmas Stocking Tradition- Tired of trying to find a home for all of those useless items in your stocking? Why not start a new tradition that will remind you what the holiday season is all about?
On the first day of December, I set out a basket with small slips of paper. Each person in the family is supposed to write something about someone else in the family that they appreciate about them and stick it in each other’s stockings. On Christmas morning, we have something fun to look forward to opening, which centers on family rather than gifts. If you have smaller children, have them draw pictures for each family member and jot down the sweet things they say about their family members. It is truly a highlight of my Christmas morning and brings us all closer together as we share our family breakfast.

Give Simply to Others- Even though I have the best intentions to keep gift-giving simple, we always receive so many wonderful gifts from our family that we have to find a home for. Use this time leading up to the holidays to bless others with the abundance in your life.

Talk with your children about the importance of giving back and have them help you weed through their books, toys, and electronics to make room for the gifts that they will be receiving and to reclaim some much needed space in your home.

Want to visualize how much your Goodwill donation will mean for others with your children? Visit The Donate Movement page and you can use their calculator to discover what your impact will have on your community and the amount of hours your simple donation will provide to educate and train employees at Goodwill. Head on over to their page today and see what a difference a simple day of decluttering could do for someone in your community.

Instead of Gifts Create Simple Family Moments– Last year we started a new tradition with the money we received from our grandparents. In year’s past, I would spend an entire day shopping and trying to find gifts that the kids might want even though they really didn’t need anything.
Instead of buying gifts, we put the money toward an experience that we could do together. Last year we all dressed up very fancy and took our children to see, “The Nutcracker.” We finished the show by having hot cocoa at The South Bend Chocolate Cafe. It was a memory I hope they will never forget.
Consider asking for gifts like money to put toward a pass to a local museum, zoo, or a special show that you would love to see at the theater. Not only will you have had a fun experience together bonding as a family, but you will also have a memory that will last far longer than another gift under the tree.
What are some of your favorite simple holiday traditions? Feel free to share them here!

Reclaiming Your Garage

Garage Shelving

You may not realize that Goodwill experiences a dip in donations around this time of year, but it does! When summer winds down people often do not donate as much and this creates a shortage of product for Goodwill. That is why I think it is the perfect time of year to discuss cleaning out your garage and making room for your cars before the winter season approaches, while creating donations that will help Goodwill thrive during this time of year.

Pull Everything Out– The first step towards getting that garage truly cleared of clutter is to pull everything out and assess what you have. You may find that you have multiples of items like yard tools, mechanical tools, or parts and equipment for household projects. Remove any multiples you have and add them to your donation bin to help reduce that extra clutter.
While you have everything out, I like
to assess the items that get stored higher up in the garage or rafters. Are these item really something we need to be storing and just how often do we get these items down to be used? If they haven’t been used in years, you likely don’t need to store them!

Charlotte Clean & Green

Clear Out That Electronic Clutter- I talk a lot about getting rid of the electronic clutter on here, but electronic clutter seems to gather in every corner of our home, including our garage. You may not be aware of what electronics Goodwill accepts, but you can learn more about their program with Goodwill by reading this post on the Dell Reconnect program that Goodwill offers.
For example, Goodwill will happily process those cords and cables (power cord & USB cables) that no longer have a use in your garage. They also accept your ink & toner cartridges (either full or empty), computer speakers, telev
isions and software. They even take your old cell phones! If your garage has become a warehouse for your old televisions, cords, and outdated computer equipment, load them up in your car and take them on over to Goodwill.

Items where the glass could be broken, like computer monitors and scanners, just need to be placed into a trash bag or box and clearly labeled that they are broken and the date of your donation. Isn’t it nice to know that even those broken items in our home can be processed for donation?

Organized Garage Oct-2010 03

Sort Like Items Into Clear Bins- Once you have gotten rid of all the clutter and duplicate items, you can begin sorting the items that you want to keep into clear bins. I try to keep in mind that if I can reduce the amount of items that we need to keep, we can reduce the amount of bins we will need to buy! Label the items clearly and then place them back into your garage.
Try to be strategic about where you place the items when you put them back in. For example, seasonal items can be stored higher up, and then keep items that you need more often lower and into easier reach.
Use the vertical space and wall space for mounting shelving and sorting items upward and along garage walls to get items cleared from your garage floor.

old car

Get Rid of that Clunker– Now that all of your like items are sorted into bins, why not assess the bigger items that might be gathering dust in your garage. Is there a car in your garage that you were hoping to repair one day, but know that you never will? Why not free up the space in your garage for the car you really do love to drive!

You may have a car of humble means that you could offer as a donation to Goodwill that could give a new lease on life to someone e
lse. Even if your car is not drivable, it could make economic sense for Goodwill to take the donation to their auction site . There is no need to detail your car before donating it, just clear it of the clutter and contact Goodwill to let them know that you have a car that you would like to donate.
The vast majority of these vehicles are sold at dealer auctions and those donations help Goodwill’s mission to provide jobs, training and placement services for people with barriers to employment.

Clean Out the Garage & Join a Movement- You may see cleaning out your garage as just cleaning out your garage, but you are actually joining a very important movement of people! Goodwill has started a movement called The Donate Movement and they are encouraging everyone to participate in it. By visiting the page, you can use their calculator to discover what your impact will have on your community and the amount of hours your simple donation will provide to educate and train employees at Goodwill.

Photo credits- Please click on the photos to access the photographer’s Flickr pages.

3 Suprising Things You Might Not Know About Your Donations

goodwill cart bw

The summer months for our family means oodles of birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and so many extracurricular activities that we have to pay for during these warmer months. It can often feel like we are completely tapped out by the end of the summer. Regardless of our situation though, I am always looking for ways that we can continue to support charities and organizations that need our help, even when we don’t have the financial means to always support everything we can.

I started referring to this giving in my house as my, “scraps of life giving.” There are so many things that I have within my possession and that I can do with the limited talents and budget that I possess that the possibilities for good old-fashioned giving are endless.

Goodwill is a great example of a “scraps of life giving” project that you could be doing with your family and I just love sharing easy ways that you can make donations with items you already have in your home. Today I wanted to showcase 3 surprising things you may not know about those donations you are giving and how they can impact others.

Jeans at Goodwill Store

What a Clothing Donation Means- Of course, it comes as no surprise that you can donate clothes to Goodwill, but what might surprise you is how much of an impact that clothing donation could be to others.

It is shocking to know that a single pair of donated jeans can provide someone in your community with about 10 minutes of resume preparation services. If just one pair of jeans can provide that, think what a good old-fashioned closet cleaning would do for others.

Goodwill has started a movement called The Donate Movement and they are encouraging everyone to participate in it. Visit The Donate Movement page and you can use their calculator to discover what your impact will have on your community and the amount of hours your simple donation will provide to educate and train employees at Goodwill. Head on over to their page today and see what a difference a simple day of decluttering could do for someone in your community.


What an Electronic Donation Means– With two gadget-geeks living in our house, we have accumulated a lot of electronic clutter in our home. I am ashamed at the electronic clutter we have gathered, but it is nice to know that my electronic clutter could have a purpose as a Goodwill donation.

Just a couple of months ago, I shared with you how to spring clean the electronic clutter from your life. This post showcases what happens to your electronics and what you could be donating.

Goodwill has a partnership with Dell to process electronic waste in a technology recycling program that can greatly benefit our community and reduce the waste in landfills. The program is called Reconnect and it offers you an easy, convenient and responsible way to recycle your used computer equipment. You can drop off any brand of used equipment – working or not – at Goodwill’s Drive-Thru Donation Centers at their retail stores.

Look around your home and see what electronic waste you can clear from your life today. Not only will you help the environment by not dumping your item in a landfill, but you also will be supporting Goodwill’s mission to provide jobs for others.

What a Car Donation Means- When I was young, I thought anyone who could donate a car had to be a millionaire to be able to do that. Just this summer though, our family had a car that we had paid off and we were able to give to my brother who needed a set of wheels to get him back and forth to work. Our humble Ford Focus was a Mercedes compared to what he had been driving, and he told me he felt like he got an upgrade and new lease on his life.

You may have a car of humble means that you could offer as a donation to Goodwill that could give a new lease on life to someone else. Even if your car is not drivable, it could make economic sense for Goodwill to take the donation to their auction site . There is no need to detail your car before donating it, just clear it of the clutter and contact Goodwill to let them know that you have a car that you would like to donate.

The vast majority of these vehicles are sold at dealer auctions and those donations help Goodwill’s mission to provide jobs, training and placement services for people with barriers to employment.

The honest truth is, you don’t need to be a millionaire to be a giver.

If there is anything I have learned, it is that those scraps of life giving can often have the most impact to others.

(Photo credits- Please click on the photos to access the photographer’s Flickr pages. The last photo is my own)

Amy Allen Clark is the Founder of, a web community where she shares advice on parenting, money-saving ideas, recipes, and solutions for work-at-home moms. Visit her site for more ideas on ways to live on a frugal budget!