August 4

Do You VUDU?

vudu movie screen

When my family decided to cut the cord, cancelling our cable tv services once and for all, we knew we wanted to be able to watch certain things that weren’t going to be on Netflix or Amazon Prime for a while. We happened to be flipping through the channels on our Roku box, and discovered an app called VUDU. We noticed that they were offering a free rental credit for signing up and activating the account on the Roku, so we gave it a shot.

We have never looked back.

VUDU is a platform that allows you to rent or buy movies and purchase television shows if you don’t want to pay for cable or satellite to watch them. For example, we ditched our cable, but I absolutely had to see the season finale of Doctor Who. Yes, I am a shameless Whovianbut that’s a matter for another post!

We started off with a few movies on VUDU, then added more when some of the DVDs we bought in stores came with digital codes to redeem a copy on VUDU. At first we were like, what’s the point? I mean, we already had the DVD. But, have you ever been faced with a whiny toddler who wants to watch Frozen for the millionth time, and couldn’t find the disc? It’s not pretty.

cranky toddler

If you have a copy on VUDU, you don’t have to find the disc, put it in, etc. You just select the movie you want to watch from a list of movies you own, and nobody gets hurt.

VUDU is available on loads of platforms, from your computer to your smart tv and even your iPhone. We have it on game consoles, Roku, an iPad and a Bluray player. So, availability is not a problem for us, but if you don’t have quite as many gadgets (my husband suffers from Shiny New Object Syndrome, lol!), you may be able to pick up a set top box from Amazon.

One of the neater services that VUDU offers is something called Disc to Digital. You pay a couple of bucks to have your DVDs put onto your digital account, making the disc totally unnecessary. This has made a huge difference in the way we watch movies, particularly kids’ movies. No more digging through dozens of DVD boxes just to find something to watch! Even better, they GIVE you free movies to start your collection. Gotta love FREE!

I also discovered a great benefit when we went to my Mom’s house recently. It’s a four hour drive to get there, but we downloaded a couple of our VUDU movies onto my tablet computer and the kids stayed quiet for ages. Bliss!

If you’ve seen the VUDU logo on your mobile device, Bluray player or internet-connected television, but didn’t have a clue about it, now you know. It’s easy to use, super convenient, and can save you money, especially if you catch movies on special offers. Check it out for yourself, and let me know how you like to VUDU in the comments section below!

March 29

Spring Clean Your Finances

Five things you can do right now to improve your family finances!

I was just reading up on a few of Dave Ramsey’s posts on his website when I found this great article. I love Dave’s no nonsense approach to getting control of your money, and these tips are so easy, you can do them today!

1. Review all your insurance policies.

Dave makes a great point about reviewing all your insurance policies–home, life, and auto–in order to see if your circumstances have changed and to see whether policy changes could save you money.

2. Cut the grocery spending.

Rather than using coupons to save on shopping, Dave advises his readers to try cutting the monthly food budget by $10, and moving that money to another area of your budget. You could use this to pay off extra debt, or simply put it into a savings account. You won’t have to sacrifice much, and the money could be put to much better use in another part of your budget.

3. Review your cell phone plan.

This one is definitely worth doing, because most of us never use every feature of our plan that we pay for. Data usage is on particular area where people often overpay, so check your usage and see if you could save money by lowering your data limit.

4. Combine two items into one.

I really like this tip…it is especially useful for people like me who tend to break their budget down into waaaay too many categories. He suggests combining budget items to save money. You could combine things like ‘eating out’ and ‘entertainment’ to save more money every month.

5. Take a look at the kids’ extracurricular activities.

Again, this one hits home with me. It can get very expensive trying to keep three kids happy and entertained with their hobbies and after school activities, not to mention overwhelming for the kids if their schedules get too out of hand. Pick one favorite activity, and find the least expensive way to do it, and everyone wins!

What tips do you have for tweaking your budget this spring?

February 2

'Cut the Cord': How One Short Ebook Can Save You Hundreds Of Dollars On Cable And Satellite

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It’s Sunday morning here in South Carolina, and we are chilling out, watching back to back episodes of ‘The Middle’ on TV. I don’t have a DVR, they aren’t ‘on demand’ with a cable company or satellite, but they are absolutely free to watch, at least a few episodes worth!

Two years ago we were paying way too much for cable television. Almost two hundred bucks a month kept my kids glued to the box, bickering over the remote control, and left my husband and I wondering what the heck we were even paying for. We could hardly ever find movies that we hadn’t seen, and our DVR was full of shows I never had time to watch.

Sound familiar?

I went on a money-saving, sanity restoring mission to get my family watching TV differently, so I started looking at my options. I posted about my experience with the Roku, which we love, but we use so many other methods to watch our favorite movies and shows, and we don’t spend a fortune doing it, either!

I decided to write a short ebook talking about the resources that we use at my house that brought our TV costs down from nearly $200 a month to under a hundred, including our super high speed Internet. I don’t expect everyone who reads this book to immediately jump ship from their cable or satellite providers, but I hope they can glean a few bits of information that will help them cut costs.

After all, who couldn’t use a little more money every month?

Visit your Amazon site in your country to download ‘Cut the Cord’ by Jessica Brooke Woods for FREE February 2nd and 3rd to get a look for yourself.

Cut the Cord at Amazon.ca

Cut the Cord on Amazon.co.uk

Cut the Cord on Amazon.com.au

Hope you save a bundle…please share your experiences with saving money on your cable or satellite costs in the comments section!

January 5

Product Review: Saving Money With Roku

In the ebook I wrote about ditching your cable or satellite in order to save money (coming soon!), I listed some useful products and services that can help you achieve those savings. Here’s the first of those in depth product reviews for you. Enjoy!

When I first heard of Roku, I had no idea what it was. A friend told me to check it out if I liked ‘funny British shows and weird stuff’, but also a lot of really good programming, too.

I went online to do my homework and started by visiting Roku’s website (www.roku.com) and took a look at their information. Then, I went to Walmart and looked at the box. Then I repeated these two steps about three times, LOL, because I am terribly indecisive about new things! BUT, I really should not have worried.

Even if you don’t want to ditch your cable, I really recommend a Roku box as an alternative to a second receiver. It offers so much, for a really reasonable price, you’ll probably fall madly in love and want to break up with your cable company after all.

What it is

A Roku box (there are also streaming sticks available) is a set top box that connects to any HDMI television and your high speed Internet. It has ‘channels’ you can download, from Netflix to Amazon Prime and more obscure Internet only channels on subjects from meditation to moneymaking.

Not every channel is a premium service; there are a few that are completely free and show older movies and TV shows. There are also a few games you can download, such as Angry Birds. Some games are free, others cost $1-3 or so. We’ve only ever downloaded the free stuff, but it’s more than we could ever watch.

We bought our box about three years ago, so prices are probably lower now. We bought the HD model, but now I think they’re all pretty Hi Def.

You can get a box with a regular remote control or one with a motion controlled one for gaming. It’s so easy to use, even my toddler can scroll through the channels (we just have the plain remote).

Here are the pros and cons of the Roku.

Pros

Easy to use
Relatively inexpensive
Loads of content, much of which is free
Always adding channels
Several games available for the kiddos

Cons

Some content requires subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc.)
You may already have a game console or other device that offers the best channels, but the other content is pretty good, too.

For Amazon’s supply of Roku products, click Here.

Here are some of the most popular Roku products Amazon sells:

Let me know if you’ve tried Roku’s products, and if so, do you love it?

December 31

Goodbye 2013, Hello New You!

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Happy New Year…almost! I just wanted to wish you a very happy New Year…I know that good things are coming your way in 2014!

This is typically the time when we all make those resolutions, you know the ones…lose weight, get out of debt, change our lives for the better. Well, for what it’s worth, I want to help you make 2014 the year that you make your financial goals come true.

I will be showing you some great ways to save money, earn more money, do more with the money you already have, and generally improve your financial situation. I hope you’ll join me in making 2014 the year that all your financial worries disappear!

Happy New Year!

Jess

September 18

How Much Money Can You Save With Amazon Prime?

The answer is, it depends.

I signed up for Amazon Prime in 2012 when we decided to get rid of our cable television. I was intrigued by the benefits that they claimed to offer, including the free ebook lending for Kindle owners and free 2 day shipping on Millions of products. I also liked the fact that they had a large selection of free to stream movies for Prime account members. Even though we already had Netflix, Amazon had some things in their Prime section that Netflix did not.

I do some work through Amazon’s Mturk platform, and I can use my money to buy Amazon gift cards which are basically instant credit to buy lots of stuff from Amazon, including buying digital editions of movies and TV series through the site.

I already shopped at Amazon, and I tried to always find free shipping options, but couldn’t always. But, I did notice a LOT of the things I bought were Prime eligible, so I was really curious. I investigated, and here is what I found.

Movies: Currently Amazon has over 40,000 movies and television shows available to stream or download. Over 15,000 of these are available free to Prime members. Of course, that number could go up as new titles are added. One cool thing: CBS’ ‘Under the Dome’ is available on Prime pretty quick after it airs on TV. Even Hulu doesn’t have it!

Free 2 Day Shipping: There are literally millions of items that qualify for this, from clothes to food to toys and baby gear and household items and…you get the point, right? It’s a BUNCH of stuff. If you consider what shipping costs for most items, you’d probably save the cost of your annual subscription cost in a few purchases.

Free Kindle Books: Kindle owners can borrow from up to 350,000 Kindle ebooks, including best sellers and new releases. I don’t have a Kindle, but my son does, and I have ‘borrowed’ it to borrow a few. WELL WORTH IT in my opinion!
If you don’t have a Kindle, you should consider getting a Kindle Fire …it’s a great tablet for reading and watching movies!

Cost: A year’s subscription to Amazon Prime cost $79. That breaks down to $6.58/month. It’s less than Netflix or Hulu Plus, and it has more benefits to me.

Bottom line: We renewed our subscription this year. We are thrilled with Amazon Prime and the whole process. I’ve ordered items from Amazon 7 times this year and never paid a penny on shipping. Plus, I’ll probably buy more than a few Christmas presents on there, all Amazon Prime eligible, of course!

So, I’d say you could save a HUGE amount of money with a Prime membership, especially if you reduce your cable or satellite package at the same time. After all, with 40,000+ movies and TV shows to watch, who needs cable?

SPECIAL PROMOTION ALERT!!!

Amazon Prime is offering a free 30 day trial. This is an amazing opportunity to try it out, and with free 2 day shipping you could buy a ton of Christmas presents and never pay shipping!

Join Amazon Prime – Watch Over 40,000 Movies

Do you use Amazon Prime? How do you save money on your online shopping and movie watching?

September 6

Grab These Bargains in September for Biggest Savings!

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Ahh, September…the kids are back in school, summer is a quickly fading memory and Christmas will be here before you can even say ‘Happy Halloween’. Before you develop a severe case of seasonal affective disorder let me share a great secret with you…September is an awesome month for bargains!

Lifehacker.com posted a great piece as part of a twelve month guide to ‘what to buy, when’, and here’s what they have to say about September.

“Big appliances: Stoves, washing machines, and other gear that’s way too big to fit into your car starts appearing in showrooms… But you’re not buying that stuff—you’re wisely watching the stuff that’s still new, but just slightly older, get real markdowns to make room for the new stuff.”

Don’t be suckered in by low sales prices if you don’t really need the item. Most new appliances have a pretty long lifespan these days, and repairs are almost always cheaper than buying new.

“Cars: Now is the sweet spot between last year’s inventory needing to move quicker off the lot and all that inventory being gone. Go in on a weekday morning if you can to get the sales staff’s full attention, and try to keep track of cars you like, then watch how long they sit on the lot. If you’ve got a favorite that isn’t moving, that’s the time to sweep in for the much better deal.”

Don’t forget that new cars, even last year’s models, lose value very quickly. Take a look at the used cars on the lot. Many of these come with partial warranties and are a better value for your money.

“Wines: Somewhat obvious, sure, but you can also lock down some hard-to-find, small-run wines in the early fall harvest season…”

Umm, why wait to buy wine? I didn’t get this one! Then again, I buy my wine by the box, LOL!

“Holiday airfare: As we’ve suggested, the cheapest time to buy a ticket is eight weeks before a flight. Guess what’s just about eight weeks from now? Start buying your airfare for Thanksgiving, then wait a bit and grab any tickets you need for the longer December holidays.”

Totally agree with this for one main reason: planning ahead and around busy travel days is just smart practice. Last minute tickets during the holiday season is a real no-no…it’s too expensive and impossible to get tickets on the days and times you want.

“Laptops: Just because you don’t happen to be re-enrolling in undergraduate studies, or (thank your lucky stars) heading back to high school, doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a sweet back to school laptop deal. If you are in school, hey, we admire your ability to manage free blog reading time and your studies.”

The Labor Day sales start off a small frenzy of bargains as shops try to clear space for newer models in time for Christmas. Grab a bargain for yourself or your student this month.

Great deals on laptops from Amazon–click here!

“Grills and Lawn Mowers: As you might imagine, the people are looking one way (toward fall and winter indoor things), while retailers are looking back at the grills and lawn maintenance stuff they didn’t sell. ”

My husband and I always shop a season behind for this very reason. Right now we are browsing the gardening stuff, but come January we’ll be hitting up the Christmas decorations!

Grab a grill at bargain prices!

“Shrubs, Bushes, and Other Landscaping Plants: If you’ve got a warm area to keep plants, or you live in an area where growing happens all year, now’s the time to jump in…”

If you live in a moderate or warm climate, September is great planting time. Nights are cool but not cold, and the soil is warm enough for roots to thrive. I like the fact that the heat doesn’t kill you when you gardening September, too!

Have you snagged any bargains this month? Please share below!

August 26

Cheap Comfort Foods: Chicken and Dumplings

chicken and dumplings
These are not my chicken and dumplings…it’s from Flickr…who the heck puts carrots in chicken and dumplings anyway? Still, it’s sort of like mine.

Hi there!

I woke up this morning to a cool, hazy morning and couldn’t wait to get the kids to school so I could get some work done! We went to the Greenville Zoo yesterday and had a great time, but I’m glad for a quiet house today!

With Fall on the way, I love to break out some of my favorite comfort food recipes. My grandmother, Nanny Jean, makes the best chicken and dumplings, ever! I learned from her, and while I don’t think mine are quite as good as hers, my kids always ask for seconds, sometimes even thirds!

I love chicken and dumplings because you really don’t have to be precise. Just throw all the bits in and use canned biscuits…quick and yummy! Oh, yeah, and CHEAP if you make it the way I do! Chicken leg quarters, drumsticks, thighs and other cuts of chicken are almost always on sale at my local grocery store. I can get them for a dollar a pound, sometimes less, and they freeze up beautifully, so I stock up when I can. Here’s how to make warm and comforting chicken and dumplings the easy, inexpensive way.

Ingredients:

2-3 pounds of chicken pieces (I used three leg quarters here)

2-cans biscuits-ten-biscuit-per-can-sized (store brand saves you $$$!)

2 tbs. butter

Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

1. Boil the chicken and butter in a pan with a lid until it is cooked thoroughly. Remove chicken, but keep the liquid as your base for the dish.

2. Remove chicken from the bone once it has cooled down enough to handle it. Drop it back into the liquid and add your seasonings of choice. (No measuring…just taste it and use your imagination. If you like garlic, add garlic. If you like chili powder, you might be from Texas. 🙂  )

3. Bring the liquid to a boil.

4. THE FUN PART. Open your canned biscuits and tear each biscuit into 2-3 pieces. Drop each piece into the boiling liquid and let it boil for 2-3 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the dumplings look like little pillows and not like raw dough.

Okay…here’s a disclaimer. I don’t know what the calorie/nutritional content is on this dish, but it’s comfort food, so the calories don’t count, right? This is an easy dish, it feeds four of us with leftovers and doesn’t require a lot of attention, which is perfect for me since I have Attention Deficit…hey, is that a piece of chocolate over there…?

Anyway, I hope you like this recipe. I plan on sharing a few more cheap things you can do with chicken, and some of them are actually edible. Stay tuned….

Share your favorite cheap comfort foods below!

August 15

Christmas is Coming

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My youngest daughter looks pretty freaked out about Christmas in this photo, and I usually feel the same way about the holiday once the excitement of the back to school rush settles down. By Halloween I’m practically hyperventilating about all the gifts I have to buy, food I have to cook and visits to family that I should, but probably won’t, get around to making.

Sound familiar?

Dave Ramsey (oh, God, I love that man!) always says that it shouldn’t come as any surprise to us that we will need to budget for Christmas. It’s not an unexpected emergency, and it always happens at the same time every year. But, still, many of us freak out and do some crazy silly things during the holidays.

My personal bad habit is twofold; I overspend and don’t budget enough for gifts. Or, rather, I set an amount that looks reasonable on paper but once I get into the stores my husband and I can’t seem to accommodate all our gifts on the suddenly miniscule budget.

This year, I’m ahead of the game. Hopefully. I figured that if I put aside $25 each week, starting this week, I’ll have nearly $500 by Christmas. That will definitely help cover the cost of all those gifts and goodies during the holiday season!

Consider this: If you can only manage $10 each week, starting from today, you’ll have $190 put away for the holidays. That’s like, two McDonalds breakfasts a week, or a couple of ‘good’ coffees. You can probably even shave ten bucks off your grocery expenses each week and slide that money over into a red and green envelope for some real holiday fun! Better yet, keep it up all year long for an almost effortless $520 bucks for next year.

See if your bank offers a Christmas club account that holds your savings, possibly pays a little interest, and mails you a check sometime in October or November. Set up an automatic transfer of ten bucks, or whatever you can afford, each week from your checking to the Christmas account, and lose a whole lot of stress in the process!

Excuse me while I go pat myself on the back for being ahead of the game, LOL! I think I’ll indulge in a little early Christmas shopping. If you want, feel free to join me over at My British Christmas !

Got any tips for saving for Christmas? Please share…we love it when you do!

August 13

How To Save Money On Back To School Clothing

Quick! Have you kitted your kids out in the latest and greatest trends for their return to school in a few weeks time? No? Well, good for you! You may have just saved yourself some money and hassle.

According this article on DailyFinance.com, people jump to buy too quickly and may miss out on deeper savings.

“In the summer, you’ll find plenty of back-to-school apparel sales, but beware of kid-branded promotions in August. According to DealNews.com, Old Navy had a 20-percent-off back-to-school sale in early August 2010. Just 10 days later, however, the company had a sitewide sale, offering 30 percent off the same items. So, you see, a few days can make all the difference.

If you can hold out until September, you’ll find the best discounts during Labor Day sales. In 2012, DealNews also reported that back-to-school supplies, “including apparel and dorm goods,” were priced at their last and lowest markdowns of the season.”

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/08/06/save-on-back-to-school-clothes-savings-experiment/

It’s true that a lot of parents get caught up in the hype of back to school shopping, but just waiting a few weeks can save you a lot of money.

Can’t wait because you need school uniforms or your kids have just grown too much over the summer? Buy online for the next best discounts. Plus most online retailers offer incentives such as free shipping or future discounts for shopping online, and most offer no worry returns via mail or their local stores.

Another benefit of shopping online is the fact that you can please even the pickiest fashionistas without fighting the crowds, a win for everyone!

Checkout the Amazon School Uniform shop for some great savings on uniform essentials, or check out their other more unusual offerings, such as this adorable school-themed outfit:

So, slow down, save some money and take some of the stress out of back to school shopping!

How do you save on school clothes for your kids?