No Spenduary Update: Generosity on a Budget

We are two weeks into our No Spenduary Challenge and so far so good!

I did want to clarify a few things- we ARE buying groceries every week, which include things like healthy fresh produce, milk and lean proteins.

This is important to our family. And in all honesty our grocery budget is something we do need to workout because since the birth of Issie, it's kind of taken a backseat. I have just been trying to survive and keep my head above water with a baby who doesn't sleep. (Pray for me, will you?)

So we are still on track with our spending and I will tell you it's made balancing the checkbook each Thursday SO MUCH EASIER! 

Last week, however, my sister-in-law had a sweet baby girl and my husband wanted to meet that niece of his. So we looked at our budget and decided to take little road trip to his hometown this weekend. 

We packed our own snacks and only payed for gas. 

But I wanted to take my sister-in-law a care package. New mom care packages are a great way to bless mamas. Watch the video above to see how I put it all together. 

Let's be honest, people go crazy over a new baby and forget mom, who did all the work. 

I had $6 in ExtraCare bucks to my local CVS that I needed to use. I knew with my savvy eye I could get a pretty good amount of stuff for that. I brought the $5 to cover my tax. 

And I brought my little red-haired shopping buddy. 

I got hand soap for $.88

And body wash for $2.07. 

I got chocolate for $1.99 and some lip balm for $1.50. 

In total: I spent $6.44. 

$7.01 after tax. So really is cost me $1.01.

I supplemented my care package with some homemade bath bombs, Crystal light packets, hand-painted note cards my friend, Elizabeth, makes. I threw in some detergent samples (because breast milk stains and spit up make no one feel special.)

And I included a light-hearted read I enjoyed (from my bookshelf) and a devotional I love. I was up front with her that the books were used. She didn't care. 

Generosity and kindness do not have to be expensive.

It truly is the thought that counts. Leslie's face lit up when I gave her the care package. It was just for her. Just for mom. And she didn't have to share!

You can do little things to help out a friend or neighbor. If you know a family struggling, add an extra jar of peanut butter or gallon of milk to your grocery cart.

Bring a single mom's garbage can in from the road on trash day. Offer to babysit for free for a family with a special needs child to give those parents a little respite. 

Or pray! Praying does not cost you a penny because that debt has ALREADY been paid! 

What are some things you've done to show someone you care? 



No Spenduary - Update and free budgeting printable


So were a week in to no Spenduary and so far so easy. We've not had any "hiccups" no one slipped up and ran by the grocery store on the way home. 

I did forget to get Jason "game food" during our shopping trip last week and he did run out to the local grocery store to get cheese dip to eat while he watched the Super Bowl, but they were things that had been on my shopping list that I had forgotten. *Sigh. 

But I wanted to talk this week about budgeting. It's easy NOT to budget. It's easy to just spend money willie nillie however you want. It's easy to get in debt without realizing it. 

Did you ever read "Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday?" My mother read this book to us as kids and in the story young Alexander comes into some cash, and then watches as it flies out of his pocket throughout the week. There are even illustrations of coins with wings. 

Well that, my friends, is what happens when you DON'T budget. Your money flies away without you knowing where it went. 

It seems so simple- right? Just tell your money where to go. But it's harder than it looks and it takes some practice. 

So step 1 in setting a budget is to write down where your money is going. I have provided you a free printable where you can jot down your income and expenses. 

Come back next week and we will discuss HOW to write an effective budget. 

What are you doing this month to save money? 


No Spenduary - A month-Long No Spending Challenge


It's February! Or as I am calling it "no spenduary." 

For the month of February the Senn Family has committed to not spending money outside of our basic obligations. 

No, our children won't be going hungry, or sitting in dirty diapers. We will be spending money on those needs. 

We will be paying our bills and tithing and putting cash towards our savings goals. 

But we won't be doing the following:


  • buying cups of coffee from Starbucks
  • hitting up the drive through for breakfast (ahem Jason)
  • buying books for our Kindle (ahem Lydia)
  • stopping by Zaxby's for lunch after church
  • buying things simply because they are a good deal


Our spending in this house is not exorbitant, but like many people we can still reel it in. And then we can get a good idea of where our money is actually going. 

While our debts are few and we have never been MORE disciplined in our savings than we are now, it's still good for us to take a step back and evaluate. 

Our church is also hosting a Financial Peace University class. While we can't commit to the class (due to our fussy baby and his "witching hour") we will be participating on our own. 

Will you join us in No Spenduary? Maybe you can make your commitments small. Decide to cut out a soda from the vending machine everyday, commit to brown bagging your lunch or say no to an app purchase or movie rental. 

What are some things you could give up for the month? 

Paying cash for hospital bills

Last summer I wrote a post for Money Saving Mom about our experience paying cash for the hospital birth of our son

And since I am having another baby in a few weeks I plan on doing it again. Now granted our financial situation has changed a lot in the 17 months since our son was born. 

My husband has a better paying job. We have better insurance and we have built up our savings. 

But I still get questions from readers in similar situations we were in asking for tips. 

I got this email from a reader: 

We are planning to do this with our first child and hope we don't have to do it for the others that follow but because of the circumstances at this time it seems it will be unavoidable for baby number 1. How did you go about talking to the hospital about paying cash? Any tips for who in the hospital to talk to and maybe specific questions to ask? Approximately how much should we expect to pay out of pocket? Any specific tips for avoiding unnecessary costs while at the hospital? For now, that's all I have but I may have more later. Thanks for answering! :)

I am certainly happy to answer this reader (or any reader if you want to shoot me an email!).

Sometimes these situations are unavoidable. I hope this is an easy process for anyone going through this. Know that as a new mom, you will be in my prayers.

Note: We did have insurance, it was just really, really, really bad insurance. Our bills reached five digits fast. Because we paid our bill when it was due instead of paying in installments we paid about 20 percent less. Yes, that is a lot. And yes, it is a LOT to pay out of pocket. 

1. I talked to the "insurance lady" at my doctors office. Here is a little known secret. There is one amount that insurance companies pay and there is another amount the cash patients pay. Ask up front what that cost will be to your OB and then ask if it is cheaper to be cash patient. Also, your OB's office might still accept installments even if you are a cash patient. It behooves them to do this because they are guaranteed direct payment. 
2. Call your hospital's billing department and ask up front the average cost for Labor and Delivery and Recovery. It pays to price compare. We ended up having our son in the next county because it was cheaper and it turned out the hospital was better. Also call and ask if they offer a cash discount. Often it is 20 percent and a lot of times a hospital will tell you up front. Sometimes the hospital will offer six months interest free payments, this is also a good option for some people. 
3. If you're planning on having an epidural that will be billed separately, but the hospital can tell you the average cost. It is usually around $700. 
4. If you don't eat hospital food, you don't pay for hospital food. It pays to bring your own snacks and drinks and have your husband or a family member bring you food. 
5. Also, limit your stay. If your pregnancy is healthy and there are no complications talk to your doctor about leaving early. You might can only stay one night instead of two. And trust me- you will want to go home. 
6. Another thing. The hospital will give you a ton of stuff that you have already paid for and you won't be charged extra for, like diapers, extra breast pump supplies, ice packs etc. Put these in your bag and ask for more. 

7. I know women who chose to forgo the hospital and go to a birthing center. They had great success with this and it was a fraction of the cost. Personally, I want to be where the meds are, but I am a wimp. Also, Alabama doesn't have birthing centers... so there is that. 
Take a deep breath, this is overwhelming. I want to tell you a story to encourage you. 
I was planning on going back to work after my son was born. I had prayed and prayed and prayed that the Lord would provide my husband and I with an opportunity for me to be at home. In the middle of my maternity leave my husband was offered a job OUT OF THE BLUE. He didn't even apply for it and he never interviewed for it. It came with MUCH better benefits, a raise and the opportunity to move 45 minutes away from my parents as opposed to eight hours. 
The Lord delivered. And He will deliver for you. 



How I save cash on groceries- without coupons (Free Printables)

Let me start by saying, I actually love coupons. I am not a coupon queen, by any means, but thanks to Laurie over at Passionate Penny Pincher, I have learned the coupon basics and saved quite a bit of cash. 

But I am not a faithful couponer every week. I know a lot of people who are and save a lot of money. But I have a few reasons it doesn't always work for me. 

1. The local paper won't deliver to my house. Yeah, as a former newspaper reporter I would LOVE to subscribe, but they won't drive the extra 1/2 mile to my house to give me the paper. So, I get busy on Sunday and forget to buy it. 

2. I love my computer, but Smart Source and Redplum don't always like to print and I get tired of updating my software ever two seconds to make those programs happy. 

3. I have a baby and run a business and even though there are A LOT of really great websites that do matchups, sometimes I don't have a spare minute. 

So I thought I'd share how I save BIG bucks on my groceries each week WITHOUT coupons. 


1. Shop the sales, meal plan accordingly. Every Wednesday the sales papers arrive in my mailbox. I am a faithful Publix shopper. So I grab the Publix sales paper, and I use my Pantry and Freezer inventory (Free Printables here.) and I plan my weekly meals. 

For example if I have a whole chicken in my freezer and brown rice and vegetables are on sale, that's a meal one night. Or if ground beef is on sale and I have lasagna noodles and sauce, that's a meal!

And no, I am not loading up my cart with cheap, processed foods. In fact, you'd be surprised how little processed foods we eat at our house. Since I make 95% of our food from scratch I save a lot by just buying the fresh foods I need for one week. 

2. Organize your list in sections. Organize your list like your store is set up. I organize mine like this: produce, protein, dry goods, dairy. 

That way my list is already set up and I don't wander around the store looking for things I put on the list out of order. This means I also don't walk past a tempting looking "sale" item I don't need. 


3. Ditch the debit card, carry cash. I tell myself I am only going to spend $65 a week on groceries. That makes us seven dinners, breakfasts, and lunches. We always have leftovers! 

I will use that sales paper I just talked about and figure out the price of things I need. I also keep a running talley of the cost of my staples like milk and eggs and I factor that into my budget. I only spend what I say I am going to spend. I even use my calculator in the store to make certain I don't go over budget before I get to the register. 

4. Grab a smaller cart. Ever noticed how much bigger shopping carts are these days? Yeah, the supermarket has caught on and they make those baskets bigger for a reason. Don't fall fool to this. Grab a smaller cart if you can. 

The carts with the "cars" for children attached to them often have a smaller basket, use that. Or line your shopping cart with the small baskets. 

5. Don't buy meat every week. I only buy meat once a month. I store it all in our deep freezer and I have a list of what is in there. I buy things like chicken, pork and ground beef when it goes on sale each month and then I don't purchase it again. 

I also roll my leftovers into new meals. For example, last week I used one chicken to make three meals (18 servings) for only $23. 

A few more ways to save: 

Dollar Tree- I buy our toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrushes and shampoos) as well as cleaning supplies (bleach, pinsol) at the Dollar Tree. I can get a pack of five toothbrushes for $1!

Banish name brands- I don't buy a lot of name brand items, I buy store brand and my husband can't tell the difference. If you swear you can, give yourself time you'll adjust and your pocket book will be happy. 

Amazon- I buy my toilet paper and the occasional diaper we use using Amazon subrscribe and save. 

Don't forget to hop on over to Romance on a Dime for Take it On Tuesday

Five Reasons to Meal Plan

It is no secret that I am not an organized person. Sigh. This is something I am working on, but it is difficult for me. But I have other good qualities...

But, one way I have gotten myself more organized is to plan my family's weekly menu. Right now it's just my husband and me who are eating these meals. But our little one is starting to enjoy more and more meals that aren't pureed

1. Meal planning and cooking every night leaves us with a lot of leftovers which saves us a lot of money.

By having my husband carry his lunch to work everyday he is not only saving time he is saving $1,250 to $2,500 annually by not spending $5 - $10 a day on lunch. 

This is just one reason I have really come to love meal planning. 

Now I am going to give you four more reasons to meal plan. 

2. It saves time. Tons of time. Looking at your pantry and planning your meals, even if it's just week night meals, will save you a TON of time. Need an extra 2 hours in your week to get more done or just relax. 

If you spend 30 minutes a week planning your menu, you are done. If you spend 30 minutes a night figuring out what to cook that is 2 extra hours a week you wasted staring at the contents of your freezer. 

That's 104 hours or four days a year you have earned back!

3. You will waste less food. We've already talked about how much money you will save by packing a lunch of leftovers. But what about the money you will save by "shopping from your pantry." 

According to this article Americans throw away $165 billion in food annually. This makes my stomache turn when I think about all the hungry children in the world. 

This means, according to this article, "the average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food."

That's insane!

If you keep an inventory and you cook based on what you have in your freezer or pantry you are throwing less a way.

4. Your meals will likely be healthier. Unless you're frying chicken and fries each night, chances are your meals will probably be healthier than what is shoved at your in a greasy paper bag. 

And it is easy to make cheap healthy meals. A roast chicken will cost you less than $7 and yield lots and lots of leftovers. 

Here is a great example of how to stretch chicken. And here are my own thoughts and a few recipes for stretching a chicken

5. You will feel a little more organized. For me this is a big one. I often feel scattered brained and not centered, like I am just floating around with my to do list. But meal planning makes me feel more anchored. 

Even if it is the only planning you have time to do each week you will feel lighter.