Sunday, October 28, 2018

just a little PSA

If you live in Cuyahoga County, early voting is happening now! 

Make sure you get out and vote! Our futures depend on it. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Money Making Website Spotlight: Swagbucks Daily Poll (Part IV)

Part I, Part II and Part III. I highly recommend you start from the beginning before diving in or it will get very overwhelming very fast.

Yesterday I discussed completing my To Do list every day. The first item on this list is the Daily Poll. You can find the Daily Poll in two sections: clicking the hyperlink in your To Do list will take you directly there. Otherwise, you can find it under Answer on the left sidebar of Swagbucks' website:

Once you click this link, you are redirected to a simple poll question. You will receive 1 SB for answering the question. This resets to a new question every day. It takes less than 10 seconds to complete.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Money Making Website Spotlight: Swagbucks Dashboard (Part III)

Part I and Part II can be found here. I highly recommend you start from the beginning before diving in or it will get very overwhelming very fast.

So as indicated in Part II, the first thing I do every day is hit my blue goal.

The second thing I do is complete my daily To Do list. This list can be found on the left sidebar of the Swagbucks home page (if you are on mobile you may have to scroll down a bit.
Just like hitting your blue goal results in bonus SBs, so does completing your To Do list each day. Furthermore, by completing the list you are earning SBs towards your goal, so it is a win/win. Each of the items listed here are hyperlinks and will take you to the appropriate area on the Swagbucks website to fulfill the item. Some of them you don't have to do anything beyond clicking it (Daily Search and Deal of the Day) whereas others you have to actively try to complete the task, like the Gold Survey. The Gold Surveys will be the most trying of your patience and perseverance. In the following days, I will be breaking down each of these sections individually.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Money Making Website Spotlight: Swagbucks Dashboard (Part II)

There are multiple avenues to earn money from Swagbucks. Before I dive into those sections, there are a few basic principles I follow every day to get the biggest bang for my buck. The first is to always hit my blue goal (which will sound foreign if you are unfamiliar with Swagbucks).

Once you login to Swagbucks, you will notice a Daily Goal section at the top of your page.

If you click on your Daily Goal, it will list out two sets of numbers - one is in blue and one is in red. It will say Goal 1 / Bonus 1 for the blue goal and Goal 2 / Bonus 2 for the red goal. Essentially, if you earn the specified amount of Swagbucks (SBs) listed in your Goal 1, you will earn bonus SBs, as indicated in Bonus 1. In my case, if I earned 99 SBs that day, I would get a bonus of 7 SBs. These bonuses are paid out by the 5th of each month.
Why do I care about hitting my daily blue goal? Because of the Winning Streaks, as indicated at the bottom of the daily goal screen.
Winning streaks are another way to earn bonus SB. If you hit your blue goal every day each month, that earns you $3. So just by hitting my daily blue goal (note: red goals are NOT counted towards the winning streak so do not stress if it is far too high) you are getting bonus SBs for the goal itself but also towards a bigger payout. The winning streak awards also hit before the 5th of the next month. And that's it! Your goal will increase if you consistently hit it, but I have never seen my blue goal exceed 115 SBs. Weekends are also a lower blue goal to make hitting it easier. My personal goal is to hit at least 100 SBs ($1) per day regardless of what my blue goal says. It hasn't been particularly challenging to do.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Money Making Website Spotlight: Swagbucks (Part I)

Swagbucks is a website you can use to earn money for doing tasks like watching videos, answering surveys, or shopping through their link (similar to Ebates). I had started using Swagbucks many years ago but after a handful of failed survey attempts and making literally pennies I threw in the towel.

Fast forward about five years and suddenly I am trying to save for a Disney vacation on a budget that doesn't leave much left at the end of each month. I couldn't justify siphoning this little bit of money away for something frivolous so I decided to figure out how people were able to use Swagbucks to fund their Disney vacations. I did a ton of research and finally understood it all. You can cash out to a variety of gift cards (including PayPal) from Swagbucks. 100 Swagbucks (often referred to as SBs) are the equivalent of $1.

Swagbucks is somewhat of a complicated beast. For the sake of brevity, I will be writing multiple posts just to make it easier to understand. So far, I have earned close to $2400 using Swagbucks and I started using it actively in December 2017. My Disney vacation (which won't be happening until sometime in 2020) is half funded thanks to it. I spend less than an hour per day using Swagbucks and that is spread out throughout the day so it isn't a huge commitment. If you have an hour to mindlessly scroll Facebook each day, you have an hour to make money! It is all about your mindset: this isn't typically a huge immediate payout (though there are exceptions!). But if you are saving for something long-term and are patient, it really does add up.

So how do you get started? First, create an account.

Disclaimer: if you sign up using my referral link, Swagbucks will match 10% of your earnings and give it to me (so you don't lose anything, they just pay out above and beyond to whoever refers you). If you don't want me to benefit from you using Swagbucks, by all means - don't use my link. But if you do use my link, I genuinely appreciate it as it does take time (and money) to keep this blog going.

Anyway, once you create an account you will want to get acclimated with the different sections of Swagbucks. I will start taking you through each section and what I personally do every day over the next several posts.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Money Making App Spotlight: Shopkick

Shopkick is an app that's a pretty slow earner (at least for me) but is really easy to use (once you form the habit!). Essentially, you earn 'kicks' for things like walking into a store, scanning specific product barcodes, watching short video clips, and sometimes buying specific items. These kicks can be redeemed for gift cards to places like Walmart, Amazon, TJ Maxx, Target, Disney, etc.

I use Shopkick the most at Target when we are already there doing our regular shopping. I almost always get a walk-in (15-50 kicks usually) for having the app open while entering the store, then I can usually get up to 400 or so kicks per visit by scanning specified item barcodes.

Also, every day, I click into the Discover section of the Shopkick app. There will be short video clips (less than 30 seconds) in here that have a kick value associated with them. There are always 3 quick kicks available per day and usually there will be one or two more videos for 3-5 kicks as well.
I've already earned one $25 Disney gift card and I am more than 80% of the way to my second. If you use my referral and complete your first walk-in or scan within 7 days of joining, we will both earn 250 kicks.

$4, 4-minute DIY no sew children's poncho

I recently scored a very cheap poncho on Amazon thanks to a coupon code. As soon as my oldest daughter saw me wearing it, she asked for one also. Since we are on a tight budget and I didn't know if she would wear it, I ventured out to find a cheap alternative. Jon and I managed to make each of our kids one for less than $5/kid. The best part? All we had to do was make some cuts and it took less than 5 minutes to do!

We used 3/4 yard of fleece for each of the girls (they are 4 and almost 2) and 1 yard for our very tall 6-year-old. The 2-year-old had a lot more extra fabric than the 4-year-old so we probably could have gotten away with a 1/2 yard for her.

The process is easy!

1. Trim the fleece so it has straight edges (doesn't have to be critically straight since it will just hang).
 2. Fold the fleece in half diagonally.
 3. Use a cup--yes, a small drinking cup--to trace your line. START SMALL! We initially tried with a children's bowl and it was way too big. Fleece is stretchy and you want the head hole to be smaller than your child's head. Place your cup half on the fleece in the center.
 4. Trace the cup with a sharpie.
 5. Cut along your line and see how that fits your child.
 If necessary, slightly enlarge the hole.
Voila! I may try to add some fringe or something to the edges, but for now this was hands down the easiest and cheapest project we've undertaken to date.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Mixed Diet Meal Plan - Week of October 20th

One of the biggest ways I save money is by meal planning. I know you've probably heard it before, but it's true. If we do a good job sticking to a meal plan, we can feed our family of 5 for about $600 per month. Jon is vegan, our youngest is allergic to dairy but is not vegan, and the rest of us are omnivores (though I lean more vegetarian than carnivore). Having different dietary restrictions can be a total pain in the butt and makes meal planning all the more important. Generally speaking, I try to plan our meals around the Aldi weekly specials because I can usually get the biggest bang for my buck that way. I also try to incorporate ingredients I might not use all of for one meal into the other meals for the week (for example, when a recipe calls for a stalk of celery) to minimize waste.

Meal: Slow cooker French onion soup (use dairy-free cheese for the youngest)
Groceries Needed: onions, beef broth, baguette, shredded cheese

Lunch: Gimme Some Oven's cozy autumn wild rice soup (vegan)
Dinner: It's our oldest daughter's birthday and she requested Costco pizza
Groceries: mushrooms, wild rice, vegetable broth, spinach, sweet potatoes

Meal: Sweet potato tacos (vegan and dairy-free)
Groceries: salsa, avocado, flour tortillas

Meal: Leftovers
Groceries: None

Meal: Coworker cookout
Groceries: none - company is providing food

Meal: Spaghetti (vegan and dairy-free)
Groceries: marinara sauce

Meal: Chickpea salad sandwiches (vegan and dairy-free)
Groceries: none (covered by other groceries)

Weekly Aldi sale items on our grocery list:
-4-ct. avocados: 3.29
-chopped kale: 2.79
-3-lb. bag of Bartlett pears: 1.99
-2-lb. bag of Honeycrisp apples: 1.69

Weekly Marc's sale items on our grocery list:
-3-lb. bags of many apples (seriously, Jon will buy probably 4 bags): 2 for $4

Weekly Giant Eagle sale items on our grocery list:
-red seedless grapes: 0.99/lb.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Cash Back Website Spotlight: Bing

Bing is probably the most underused rewards program in the 'budget mom' demographic. Jon is actually the one who introduced me to it. Essentially, if you sign up for a free Microsoft Live email account, you can earn rewards for searching the internet using the Bing search engine. Those rewards can then be redeemed for gift cards to stores like Target. Jon and I hoard all these gift cards we earn and use them to pay for the kids' birthday and Christmas gifts when the end of the year rolls around. As it stands now, if I do all of my daily Bing searches (you get bonuses for consecutive days of meeting your searches and extras, more on that below) we earn a $5 gift card about every 10 days. That may not seem like much, but it's over $180 per year when you figure in bonus points for something that takes me maybe 5 minutes per day to complete.

So how do you start? First, create your live account. Then you can login to Bing with it.
 Do you notice those squares on the bottom of Bing's homepage? If you click each one individually, they will give you points for searching. To see how many points you've earned (there is a cap each day) you can click on the little medal icon on the top right of the Bing home page.
 Clicking the medal icon brings up this little drop down, where you can click to See All.
 Once you do that, you are redirected to this page.
 This page is your rewards dashboard that tells you how many points you've earned for the day. Every day it also offers extra ways of earning points - polls, quizzes, and just generic clicks will earn you anywhere from 10-50 points. It's these extras and either your desktop or mobile searches that earn you points towards a daily streak.
 Right now, I've been good about hitting all my goals for the past 107 days.

If you click the Points Breakdown link on the top of your rewards dashboard, this pops up:
This tells you all the points you've earned each day. You can use Bing on your phone to hit your mobile search goals (just make sure your Live account is logged in!). The Microsoft Edge bonus is for searches done on Bing in their browser--formerly Internet Explorer. PC search is the Bing searches done on your laptop.

It is so easy to do this. For my PC searches I always start by clicking all the boxes on the home page. Sometimes that fills up my PC goal for the day. If not, I can just start typing words into the search bar and I'll just search ones that auto-suggest. For my mobile searches, I usually just start typing and then choose a longer auto-generated search option. Then I will go and delete one letter at a time, hitting enter after every deletion as that counts as a new search. Doing this has really reduced the birthday gift burden on our family!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Cash Back Website Spotlight: Ebates

Ebates Chrome extension notifies you when cash back is available
Ebates is a cash back website that allows you to earn a percent of your purchases back. The exact percent back varies - they often do sales where you might get as much as 12%-20% cash back. You can either navigate to Ebates first, then search for the store you want to shop at to be redirected there, or you can install their Google Chrome extension and it will automatically notify you if there is a cash back offer on a site you are browsing. If you create an Ebates account using my referral, you will earn $10 back after your first qualifying purchase. Ebates pays either via PayPal or a check. Just by activating the Ebates extension, I've earned $230 back over the past two years. When I need to make a purchase online, I always compare cash back offers between Ebates, Swagbucks and Ibotta to see which has the highest percent. This is another really easy way to earn money back for purchases you need to make.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Money Making App Spotlight: Dosh

The last app I'm going to focus on for now is Dosh. Dosh is similar to Ebates but on local purchases. For Dosh, you create an account and link your credit card. If you make a purchase at an establishment that is part of Dosh and use your linked credit card, you will automatically get cash back. If you download the app using my referral link and link a credit card, you will automatically get $5. Once you get to $25, you can transfer your balance to your bank account.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Money Making App Spotlight: Achievement

Achievement is the easiest app to use. It is a very slow earner, but it is an earner nonetheless. If you have a fitness tracker (I have this Fitbit and I LOVE it), Achievement syncs to your tracker app and imports your data. You get points for activities--including logging food and water intake, sleep and weight--and once you get to 10,000 points you can redeem for $10 PayPal or direct deposit. You never actually have to open the Achievement app if you don't want to, though they do offer occasional surveys (usually just one yes or no question) for some extra points if you do. I love the passivity of the app but ability to redeem for real money. So far I've only redeemed once, though I am close to redeeming a second time. For next to no effort, though, I'll take it!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Money Making App Spotlight: Ibotta

Ibotta is just slightly more intensive than Receipt Hog or Fetch Rewards. Ibotta serves as a mobile coupon source. They have approved retailers that get offers for specific products. The way I use Ibotta is I make a grocery list (most of the offers are food-related) and before I go I always check the Ibotta app to see if there are any coupons for anything I need to buy. If so, I will write down the details on my grocery list (because sometimes it's more cost effective to buy a store brand even with the Ibotta offers) for reference later. I will also note if there are specific terms (sometimes the coupons may require you to buy more than 1 or there is a limit on how many times you can redeem it) that may influence my decision. After I go shopping, if there is any overlap in what I bought and Ibotta, I just take a photo of my receipt and upload it to Ibotta.

Ibotta is more than just a grocery store app, though. You can also shop through the app online and get a certain percent back on your purchases. When I need to make an online purchase, I always compare Ibotta's cash back with Ebates and Swagbucks, which I will go into later. Once you hit $20, you can cash out to PayPal, Venmo, or a variety of gift cards. If you use my referral link to sign up, you will earn $10 after redeeming some offers. I started actively using Ibotta last summer and I've already gotten nearly $340 back.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Recent Budget Buys

I'm always on the hunt for the best deal possible. Earlier this week, Jon and I took the kids to Target. We had just inventoried our winter wardrobe and realized none of them had boots that fit. That's a necessity in Ohio! Jon checked the Target app and noticed a 20% off shoes coupon that was expiring that day, so off we went. Of course, the girls quickly discovered something very not winter-friendly: high heels! This pair to be exact. Originally we said no, but upon further review, I noticed I had an extra 20% off coupon for being a Red card holder in my Target app. Between these offers and my 5% Red card discount, that brought these shoes from $19.99 to about $12.15/pair! So we decided to live spontaneously and got them each a pair. They've been a huge hit ever since, only made sweeter by the sweet deal we scored.
This isn't really a budget buy, but my favorite wins on Win It! are those that are worth $5! I haven't discussed this yet as this app is affiliated with Sears and Kmart--who might be filing for bankruptcy in the next few days--so the app might go away. If they don't, expect a post all about how I get my household essentials (and sometimes more!) for free soon.
We went from close to 90-degrees to about 50-degrees in Ohio this week. The kids wanted to go to the playground and forgetting just how cold 57-degrees can feel, we acquiesced. I regretted it immediately, especially since I didn't bring a sweater. After about half an hour of playing in the wind, we called it and headed home. That cold weather called for our first hot chocolates of the season! I got my son's mug on clearance at Target last December (post-Christmas sales for the win) for less than a dollar. The girls had Santa and Christmas tree mugs from the same sale. These are the kids' favorite things about hot chocolate!
On Thursday, Shutterfly offered an amazing sale - a TON of freebies if you just pay shipping (which they usually jack up in price for the freebies to recoup their losses). We're talking free puzzles, memory games, bags, mugs, notepads, prints, coasters, ornaments, luggage tags--the list goes on and on. Well, there was also a coupon where if you spent at least $10 and ordered in the app you could get free shipping. So that's exactly what I did :)
$12.95 for $250 worth of products? I'll take it!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Money Making App Spotlight: Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards is very similar to Receipt Hog in that you are just taking a picture of a receipt and uploading it to an app. Unlike Receipt Hog, though, Fetch only takes grocery store receipts (or stores like Target where groceries are sold). Fetch is affiliated with specific brands, so you get rewards for purchasing those brands (these brands include Cape Cod, Hershey's, Pepperidge Farms, and Quaker). However, even if you do not purchase an affiliated brand, you often get rewarded just for submitting your receipt. Just like Receipt Hog, Fetch uses points which convert to gift cards. To earn a $3 gift card you will need 3000 points. Gift cards include Amazon, Target, CVS, Kohls, and so many more. If you use my referral code, FB2WH, when you sign up, you will earn 2000 points when you scan your first receipt. So far I have redeemed $30 worth of gift cards from Fetch Rewards.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Money Making App Spotlight: Receipt Hog

Receipt Hog is probably the easiest app I use to make money. All you have to do is take a photo of a receipt and upload it in the app. You get rewarded for each receipt, so I make an effort to upload every single one (groceries, gas stations, restaurants--you can upload any of them). You technically earn coins can be redeemed to PayPal or an Amazon or Visa gift card. To get to $5, you need 1000 coins, but considering it takes less than 30 seconds to upload each receipt, this adds up fast. You may also be offered slots or surveys to earn extra coins based on your purchases. If you wait to redeem your coins, the coin per dollar ratio improves (for instance, instead of needing 3000 coins to get $15, you only need 2900). Just by uploading receipts, I seem to earn about $5/month on Receipt Hog. If any of you have ever done the National Consumer Panel scanner system (which was the biggest waste of my time ever) - this is NOTHING like that.


I work full-time. That is obviously the main source of our income. That being said, we are a family of five and my income doesn't leave much leftover for things like vacation. I really started getting serious about the budgeting journey when I realized I wanted to take our kids on a Disney vacation in a few years. Do you know how expensive Disney is!? I knew we couldn't afford to siphon any of my regular income towards a Disney fund (especially since my husband, Jon, isn't the most excited about this vacation) so I started to explore other ways of making money with minimal effort on the side.

There's an entire world of apps, survey sites and ways of earning money that I had no idea existed. Through trial and error, I have developed a system using these tools that averages anywhere from $100-$300 per month for my Disney fund (or any extras/expenses that may arise during the month). I don't spend very much time each day to make this work for me, so I thought I would start out by sharing how I do that here. I'll start slow (apps like Receipt Hog) and work my way up to more complicated and intensive systems such as Swagbucks. Honestly, the biggest difficulty with what I do is developing the routine. If you can remember to do what I do every day for about 5 days, it becomes second nature and is so easy to mimic. Please don't hesitate to comment on any posts if you need clarification or want to share your own tips.


Welcome to Busy Mom Bargains! As a full-time working mom who is supporting her family on a single income, it is really important to me to find a budget that works for our family and stick to it. I've tried following all the traditional money saving blogs, but so many of those blogs require things like extreme couponing. While great in theory, the time it takes to plan and execute that approach is just not feasible for us. This blog and Facebook page are a way for me to share the great deals I find on every day products. Please note that affiliate or referral links are used.

You may recognize me from my old blog. I decided to start a new one that includes very little information about my children after receiving a sexually inappropriate email geared towards one of my kids. The internet can be a dark, disgusting place, and while I will use extreme caution surrounding my kids moving forward, I don't want to let the bad guys win.