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Do It Yourself

How to Throw the Best Kid’s Birthday Party on a Budget

I love throwing awesome, over-the-top birthday parties for my kids. Every year, I go all out. I create a beautiful cake with fondant and set up games and decorate. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have that when I was a kid.

But the problem is, parties are expensive. But not MY parties. I throw awesome parties with very low cost by using a few secret tricks that I’m going to share. The same tricks can work for any kind of party including a baby shower, bridal shower, and more.

9 Frugal Party Planning Tricks

Here is the 9 step plan to an amazing party without breaking your budget.

1. Plan

The first step for any party is the plan. I use my own party planning checklist to stay on track. I start by asking my child what theme they would like and go from there. I always have their parties at home to save money. Venues are just not worth the money.

Then I plan the decor, food, games, and activities. I set a budget and split it up into categories so I know how much I can spend on each thing. Download your free Party Planner and Budget here.

2. Theme

birthday party on a budget

Homemade Pirate Cake using free printables

Not everyone likes a theme, but my kids usually pick out a theme each year and I try to go with it. To save money, I go on Etsy and look at the designs out there for invites and party decor.  

There are also tons of free printables on Pinterest. So I usually get an idea for what I want based on the other examples out there. Then I print out free invites, cupcake toppers, signs and other items that I can find.

You don’t have to plan around a theme. If you like simplicity, there are lots of free printables online that just incorporate balloons and typical birthday images. But since I love themes so much, I have a few websites that I recommend if you are looking for free themed party printables. continue reading

Start a Blog in 13 Minutes or Less (Even If You Are Tech Challenged)

start a blog in 5 easy steps

You Can Make Money From Home by Blogging

Have you ever wanted to start a blog to make a little extra money? You might have seen posts online about how people can make thousands of dollars a month, just by blogging. Well, it’s true! There are mom’s all over the country that are quitting their day jobs because they make so much money from blogging. And you don’t have to be a computer genius to do it. It’s so much easier than you might realize.

I am a full-time blogger, and I don’t have to worry about money anymore! I have financial freedom because I started my own business at home. You can do this too. I just love being able to work from home. No boss to tell me what to do. I make my own schedule. I’m there when my kids need me, and I can work in my PJ’s if I want to! Blogging is a great creative outlet. Plus I get to help people and be a part of an amazing online community.

If you are dying to start your own blogging business, take a leap and set up your blog today. You can get your blog hosted for only $3.95 per month by using my signup link for Bluehost. And, I will give you step-by-step instructions on exactly how to do it.

5 Easy Steps to Start a Blog

All the steps to start a blog are listed in this Free Quick Start Guide to Blogging.

Step 1. Decide on a Niche.

A niche is basically the topic of your blog. Do you want to blog about money management advice like I do or something else? There are lots of great topics to blog about including fashion, crafts, food, parenting, marriage, hobbies, etc.

Step 2. Think of a Name for Your Blog.

Your name can be anything as long as the domain is available. My domain name is MommaMoneySense.com. Yours can be anything you like. But it’s a good idea to make your blog name similar to your niche. For this, do a brainstorming session to come up with 10 possible names. You will check the availability of the names in the next step. The Free Quick Start Guide to Blogging has a brainstorming sheet for step 1 and 2.

Step 3. Signup for a blog hosting service and get a domain.

I recommend using SiteGround or Bluehost to host your blog because they have the best customer service if you ever need help. Web HostingThe domain name is the website address. For step-by-step instructions on how to set up a blog hosting account and domain name at BlueHost or SiteGround, download the Free Quick Start Guide to Blogging.

Step 4. Install WordPress.

Once you have set up your domain and hosting service, it is time to install WordPress on your blog. WordPress is the software that allows you to write posts on your blog. It comes free with your hosting service, and I will teach you the exact steps to install the software in the  Free Quick Start Guide to Blogging. It’s sooooo easy!

Step 5. Install a Theme.

The theme of your blog is what provides you with the look and style of your site. There are plenty of free themes you can choose from. It’s such an easy process to install a theme into your blog, and it will look so professional afterward.

That’s it! Only 5 steps. Now for your freebie! Click here to download the detailed, step-by-step instructions with pictures to help you complete the five steps in my FREE Quick Start Guide to Blogging.

You did it! You started your very own blog.

After you start your blog, email me the website address and I will share it with all the readers. I’m so excited to see what you create.

My Favorite Blogging Resources

Here are the things that have helped me the most in my blogging journey:

start a blogNew Here?

If you are looking for help to set up a budget, click here. Come back soon for more money management advice from a professional accountant, entrepreneur, and college instructor. I can teach you to prepare your own taxes, start a business, budget, be frugal, make more money, save money, and so much more!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small referral credit at no cost to you while still providing you the best offer I’m aware of.  Please read my disclosure page for more information.

 

 

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Budgeting Apps

budgeting apps

Alright friends, so you’d love to save more money. And you could certainly use a little extra cash in your pocket or some more cushion in your account, right? Right.

Picture it– going on a little weekend getaway with your friends, throwing a nice birthday party for your kids, buying help buttonyourself some new clothes, or just not having to stress about scraping money together for rent or groceries. But, how do you save money when you have all the bills and debt?

Well, budgeting is the simple answer. Then why not do it? Many of you downloaded the free budget booklet, so what’s stopping you?

Turns out, not everyone likes paper budgets. For many, a budgeting app is so much easier to deal with. If that’s how you are, then great! Because I’m going to compare and contrast the top 7 budgeting apps out there so you can decide which is best for you.

Pros and Cons of the Top 7 Budgeting Apps

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What To Do If Your Info Was Hacked at Equifax

Equifax hacked

Equifax Hacked

On September 7th, Equifax announced that they had been hacked and about half the population of the U.S. had their private info stolen. The hackers stole names, social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, credit card numbers, and in some cases driver’s license numbers.

In case you don’t know who Equifax is, they are one of the 3 credit reporting bureaus that provide your credit score when you apply for loans. So they basically have info on every person who has credit.

equifax hackedGet Free Credit Monitoring if You’re a Victim

You can go to Equifax’s site and find out if you were one of the victims and if so, they will send you over to a credit monitoring service that will watch your credit for free. This service is usually pretty pricey, but they will cover the cost for you. This is a good idea because they will alert you if someone tries to commit fraud with your info.

However, according to the fine print of the free credit monitoring, if you sign up for the free service you will be giving up your right to be part of any class action lawsuit that may arise.  There is a pretty low likelihood that you could get much money in any class action lawsuit because half of the population in the United States will be eligible to be part of the class.

If you decide to hold out for the suit, then you really should get a paid credit monitoring service somewhere else. The sad truth is that credit card fraud happens all the time and so you really have to review your statements regularly to make sure your cards aren’t compromised.

My 13-year-old daughter had her debit card stolen just the other day, only a month after opening her first bank account. They wiped out everything she had in there. She was completely distraught and in tears.

Luckily, we were able to get the money back after disputing the transactions.  But many people don’t even check their statements to see if anything like this has happened. Don’t be the person who doesn’t notice.

Again, the website for checking to see if you were a victim of the hack is: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/.

If You Are New To This Site:

If you are looking for help to set up a budget, learn to budget in just 5 easy steps. Come back soon for more money management advice from a professional accountant, entrepreneur, and college instructor. Learn to prepare your own taxes, start a business, budget, be frugal, make more money, save money, and so much more! Sign up below for your free copy of The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting.

Sign up for a chance to win our latest giveaway of the Spend Well Budgeting System with a Pocket Full of Cash! Don’t forget to Ask the Accountant if you have specific money questions.  Get free advice from an accountant just by asking. Free to all subscribers.

Do You Know Your Net Worth? It might surprise you!

net worth

What is Net Worth?

Have you ever wondered how well you are doing financially? It’s hard to know for sure without running the numbers. The way you do this is by calculating your net worth. Net worth is basically everything you own minus all your debt.

Why Does it Matter?

Net worth is important because it can tell you if you have enough assets to cover all your debt. You may have heard the phrase “under water” before. This is when you have more debt than assets. That’s a problem because if it came down to it, you wouldn’t be able to cover all your debts.

Finding out your net worth can also help you set goals. You should try to end up with a pretty large positive net worth by the time you retire. Are you on track for that or do you need to make some changes?

How to Calculate

net worth worksheetNet Worth equals all your assets minus all your debt. To make it easier for you to calculate, I have created a free worksheet for you to calculate your net worth. Click the link to instantly download this freebie.

Net Worth Worksheet 

What if My Net Worth is Negative?

Don’t be afraid to face the facts and figure out your net worth. Without this number, you have no idea if you are winning or losing the personal finance battle. If you find out that you have a negative net worth, don’t panic. Lots of people do, usually because of their mortgage and credit card debt. The important part is to decide to do something about it. This is a great time to set some goals and work towards them.

There is a great goal sheet in the Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting. Sign up below for a free copy of this helpful workbook.

How Do I Improve My Net Worth?

In order to improve, you have to either increase your assets or decrease your debt (or both). I wouldn’t suggest net worthincreasing assets by getting a loan because that would not improve your net worth. Instead, try setting a budget, cutting back expenses, and then using some of your extra savings to pay down your debt. This will improve your net worth quite a bit, especially if you use the Snowball method to pay down your debt. Instructions on how to do all these things are also found in the Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide Easy Budgeting below.

Once you are out of debt, then you can improve your net worth by investing your money or saving for retirement in an IRA or 401K. Check back soon for a post all about retirement investing. Another way to improve your net worth is to start a home business that can increase in value as time goes by. I will be doing a series of posts over the next few weeks to teach you how to start a profitable home business.

 

Save Hundreds Per Week at Grocery Budget Makeover

Grocery Makeover

Do you struggle to keep your grocery spending in check? Do you wish you could cut back your food spending and save hundreds per week?

Keeping grocery costs down can be tough. I used to waste so much money on grocery shopping. I tried everything, even extreme couponing, but it never worked. Then, I discovered the secret to saving money on groceries. 

Save Hundreds a Week on Groceries

Everything changed when I discovered The Grocery Budget Makeover. It’s an online class that completely changes the way you approach grocery shopping. The class was fantastic. Not only did it change the way I managed my grocery shopping experience, but it cut our grocery bill in half. 

The class is $49, but I made up for that quickly by reducing my grocery spending by hundreds of dollars each week. There are also payment plans available.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to help you with your money situation. I know this class will make a huge difference in your life. 

What You Get With the Class

This class is very thorough. The classic edition has 10 video lessons, 10 lesson worksheets, and access to a Facebook support group. The extreme edition includes all of that plus 3 Accountability & Group Coaching Calls with Erin, Bonus Video & Worksheet: Store Hopping, and Bonus Video & Worksheet: Deep Dive Couponing. It’s worth it! you will never shop the same again.

How to Register

The Grocery Budget Makeover is taught by Erin Chase.  First, you can take her free introductory workshop here.  Registration for the actual class is only open for a week starting September 6th. If you click over to her site right now and register for her waiting list, then you will be the first to get in when it’s time. If you are reading this post between Sept. 6th to Sept. 11th then you can register here, but if you go before or after those dates then the link won’t work. Be sure to sign up for the waiting list until the link goes live.

It’s worth every penny, plus she has a payment plan if you need it. I’m so grateful that I took her class and cut my grocery bill in half!

Save Hundreds per week with grocery budget makeover

If you are looking for help to set up a budget, click here. Come back soon for more money management advice from a professional accountant, entrepreneur, and college instructor. I can teach you to prepare your taxes, start a business, budget, be frugal, make more money, save money, and so much more!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small referral credit at no cost to you while still providing you the best offer I’m aware of.  Please read my disclosure page for more information.

Debt Free School Year Challenge (Plus Printable Planner and Budget)

For those of you with kids, it’s time to start thinking about buying school supplies and clothes. But school shopping can really put a dent in your budget, especially if you have more than one child. The best strategy is to set a budget for your back to school expenses and try to stick to it.

Debt Free School Year Challenge

I want to challenge you to the Debt Free School Year Challenge. This is where you try to avoid putting any school supplies or clothes purchases on credit.  I’m going to take the challenge and I hope you will too. If you stay within your budget then you won’t have to go into debt this school year. You shouldn’t use debt to pay for these items, especially when there are so many sales available this time of year.

Free Printable Planner

I have created an entire 12-page Back-to-School Planner that includes a Back-to-School Budget, Monthly Calendar, Weekly Planner, Back-to-School Checklist, Shopping List, School Info Sheet, Before and After School Checklist, Family Chore Chart, Week Scheduler, Lunch Menu, School Lunch Idea Sheet and Homework To Do List. It has everything you need to organize your school year. It will also help you set a budget for school shopping.  Get your FREE copy in the Free Printables page or at the bottom of this post.

Meal Planner

Back-to-school also gives you the perfect opportunity to get back on track with meal planning and keeping your food budget under control. There is a Meal Planner listed on the Free Printables page if you need that. Also, I will be doing a post in the next couple of weeks about a 10-minute Emergency Meal Plan. It will help you have a backup plan when you are tired, running late, or out of ingredients. This will keep you from going out to eat and spending too much.

Back-to-School Shopping Strategy

After you set up a budget and shopping list for your school shopping, it’s time to start looking for deals. Make sure to check your weekly circulars that come in the mail. Stores will be advertising deals heavily this time of year. Lastly, use an online shopping strategy that involves using a rebate app (Ebates: get $10 sign up bonus here,  Mr. Rebates: $5 sign up bonus here, or Swag Bucks), online coupon sites (BeFrugal.com: get $10 sign up bonus here, InboxDollars, or TopCashBack), and discounted gift cards (Raise.com, Cardpool.com).

There are also quite a few ways to save on food for school lunches. For really cheap meat, go to Zaycon Fresh. For deals at grocery stores, download coupons from coupons.com or RedPlum. You can also get rebates on groceries at Ibotta.

Will You Take the Challenge?

Are you willing to set up a school shopping budget and try to stick to it? Are you willing to take the Debt Free School Year Challenge where you don’t use debt to pay for any of your school shopping? Let me know how it goes. I love to hear how things are going for you. Budgeting is so important and is the way to get back on track with your spending and get on the road to financial freedom.

Don’t Forget Your Free Download

Get your FREE copy of the Back-to-School Planner with 13 helpful worksheets including a Back-to-School Budget, Monthly Calendar, Weekly Planner, Back-to-School Checklist, Shopping List, School Info Sheet, Before and After School Checklist, Family Chore Chart, Week Scheduler, Lunch Menu, School Lunch Idea Sheet and Homework To Do List. 

 

Download File !!!!!!!

 

If you need help setting up a budget, click here. For a copy of The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting! 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions, including top advice from a professional accountant and university instructor, click here.

Enter for your chance to win a FREE $150 Amazon Gift Card.

 

 

 

This Easy Investment Can Give You Returns Up to 200% Per Year

Does an investment that returns up to 200% per year seems too good to be true? Well, it is true, but it’s not what you expect. It’s not some mutual fund or high-risk scheme. It’s an investment in a couple upgrades in your home that can more than double your money in energy savings.

You can literally make low-cost improvements that will reduce your utilities by hundreds of dollars each year. I bet this is a better return on your money spent than any other investment you might have. Plus, you don’t have to pay taxes on your the profit since it’s in the form of cost savings.

Top 5 Money Saving Improvements

1. Improvement: Install Programmable Thermostat
This helps you by automatically changing the temperature during certain hours to be more efficient and save you money on your electricity.
Time Involved: 30 minutes
Cost Range: $30 to $60
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Up to $180 per year Consumer Reports
Return on Investment: Up to 300% return the first year

2. Improvement: Insulate Your Water Heater
Time Involved: 1 Hour
Cost Range: $28 at Home Depot
Difficulty Level: Super Easy
Savings: saves $20 to $45 annually
Return on Investment: 67% to 225% the first year

3. Improvement: Replace all light bulbs with LED bulb.
Don’t switch to CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) because they are less efficient and are hazardous to people if they break. So stick with LEDs. They are safer and they last for about 10 years.
Time Involved: How long does it take a person to change a light bulb?
Cost Range: You can usually get 1 box free (15 bulbs) from your electric company. For the rest of the bulbs you need, they only cost $2 per bulb at the Home Depot.
Difficulty Level: Super Easy
Savings: About $1.30 electricity savings per bulb per year. 25 bulbs in your house could save you $32.50 per year.
Return on Investment: If you get 15 free and purchase 10, ROA is 160% the first year.

4. Improvement: Insulate Your Attic. Upgrading your attic insulation is easy enough to do on your own for half the cost of a professional. You can get information at your local home store on how to do this, or go to YouTube for video instruction.
Time Involved: 1 day
Cost Range: About $750
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Up to $600 per year
Return on Investment:  80% return in the first year. The remaining 20% during the 2nd year.

5. Improvement: Seal the Leaks Go around your house and check door frames, windows, and points of entry for pipes and cables. Then seal the holes with caulking and peel-and-paste insulating strips.
Time Involved: a few hours
Cost Range:  Between $100 to $150 for the average home depending on how many leaks you have.
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Energy Star claims it will reduce energy cost by 12% to 20% per year or $240 to $480 per year.
Return on Investment: Up to 320% return the first year.

The years following all these fixes will continue to yield cost savings without any spending. You can’t get returns like this in the stock market!

All the above numbers are based on a scenario where you do all the home improvements yourself. It will usually cost at least double the amount if you hire someone else to do it. You might not know how to do all these improvements yourself, but there are free videos on YouTube that can teach you how.

How You Use Your Energy

The average energy consumer spends over $2000 per year on their electricity bill, using between 700 to 1000 kWh of energy per month. So cutting back costs are essential to managing your money properly. Knowing where you are spending the money can help you identify where to cut back. In a typical home, these are the things that use the energy you are paying for:

  • Heating and Cooling 58%
  • Water Heating 19%
  • Refrigeration 12%
  • Appliances and Lights 11%

For other ideas to reduce your living expenses, see this post. Or download The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting. You can download it below. The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting: 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions. 

 

1 Easy Trick to Never Get Late Fees Again!

1 Easy Trick to Organize Your Bills and Never Miss a Payment Again

What is the worst possible fee that you could ever pay? Late fees! It’s a ridiculous amount for nothing. You don’t get a product or service in return. There is no benefit from paying it. Plus, late fees can add up fast. They are bound to make anyone angry. But there is an easy way to avoid them.

Be in Charge of Your Finances

When I worked as an accountant, many clients would come in with statements showing tons of late fees. We’re talking as much as hundreds in extra expenses per year, sometimes thousands. The biggest reason for this was that they had so many bills and were so disorganized that they just forgot to pay. If this is also your problem, I have a solution.

Easy Way to Organize Your Bills

The easy way to avoid late fees is to set up a Bill Organizer Kit. This will help you by keeping you organized, and it will make paying bills the easiest it has ever been. All the worksheets you need for this are free to download at the end of this post.

Make Your Own Bill Organizer Kit in 5 Easy Steps

1. Get a folder with pockets. Any kind of folder will work as long as it has pockets for your papers. I recommend shopping at the cheapest place around, like the Dollar Store or Walmart.

2. List all your bills on the Bill Info Tracker.  Use the Bill Info Tracker Worksheet in the FREE booklet below and list out all your bills, due dates, amounts, whether it is paid online or by check. It even has a spot to write down your passwords for online payments, so everything is in one place.

3. Use the Money Calendar or Bill Scheduler to Plan. Set up a plan for when to pay your bills based on your paycheck schedule.

Write your expected paychecks on the calendar and then list out all the bill amounts and due dates on the calendar too. Then place the calendar somewhere prominent like on your fridge. That way you can see what bills are coming up and make sure you pay them on time.

 

4. Put your bills, checkbook, envelopes, and stamps in the folder. When a bill comes in the mail, immediately stick in this folder. Then once a week, get the folder out and pay any bills that are coming up and check to make sure you are on track. Keep your checkbook, envelopes, and stamps in the folder too. You want to make it as easy as possible to pay your bills on time.

5. Use the Bill Tracker to mark paid bills. Once you have paid a bill, either online or put it in the mailbox, then check it off for each month. That way if you ever wonder if you actually paid it, you can reference back and see what happened.

Isn’t that easy? Keeping all of those items together in one place will make a huge difference, and scheduling your bills on a calendar will keep you on track. Try to make a habit of going through the folder once a week!

This folder is also a great place to keep your budget worksheets if you already have a budget set up. If you don’t have a budget planned out, get one right away! Budgeting is absolutely necessary for financial freedom. Click here for help to set up a budget.

Never Get Late Fees Again!

The Bill Organizer Kit is now included in my free workbook called The Modern Mom’s Epic Guide to Easy Budgeting. Click below to download for free. If you downloaded the booklet already, you might want to download again to get the Bill Organizer Kit that is now included. The workbook has been updated with several new lessons and worksheets to help your finances.

The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting! 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions.

 

 

Don’t Fall For These 5 Phone Scams!

Tax Phone Scam

Have you ever given your phone number out online only to get telemarketing calls later? Scam artists love it when they get your phone number, but don’t fall for their tricks. One common phone scam is to call and tell you that the IRS is after you.

For example, here is part of a machine generated voicemail I received on my cell phone just the other day:

“Tax filings from the headquarters which will get expired in the next 24 working hours. And once it get expired after that you will be taken under custody by the local cops as there are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment. We would request you to get back to us so that we can discuss about this case before taking any legal action against you.”

Then the message listed a phone number to call. No matter what, don’t call back!

As a tax accountant, I can tell you that there are a few obvious problems with that message.

1. The IRS wouldn’t make a call like this. They always contact you by mail first. The first step the IRS would take is to send a letter asking for a document to support a claim on your tax return. By mail, not a phone call.

2. You can’t be arrested for tax problems until much further along in the process. You would be allowed to get a tax attorney to represent you before anything like that happened.

3. There are massive amounts of grammar issues in the recording which means that English is probably not the native language of the scam artist. This might indicate that the person is located in a foreign country just waiting to steal your money when you call them back.

Don’t call back!

Other Financial Scams to Watch Out For

There are plenty of people who do fall for phone scams and lose thousands of dollars. This happens to millions every year. $9.5 billion dollars was lost to phone scammers in the past year. Don’t let it happen to you.

Here are four other phone scams to watch out for:

  1. *72 Scam. A caller claims someone in your family died recently. Then the person tells you to call another number but to first dial *72. Don’t do this. Pushing *72 will transfer control of your phone calls to the other number. This way, the scammer can give your number out to friends all over the world to call him on your bill. *73 will remove the setting.
  2. Juror Scam. Some are getting calls claiming that they didn’t show up for jury duty. Then they ask for personal details to cancel the bench warrant. Others are just informing the person they have jury duty and asking for personal details. Never give out any people details over the phone, especially your social security number. You can always call the court to verify the validity of such a claim.
  3. Hitman Threat Scam. This one is a scary one. A person calls, claiming you will be the target of a contract killing unless you pay the hitman some huge amount of money. The guy claims to be watching you, and you aren’t allowed to call the police. Don’t fall for this one.
  4. Kidnap Scam. The caller claims to have kidnapped one of your family members and threatens to kill them if you pay the ransom. There is an easy way to prove that this isn’t true. Just call your family member and ask if they are OK. Then call the police and report the scam.

If you receive a phone call like these, you can get help from the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint. The FTC website also has a link to join the Do Not Call Registry.

Protecting Your Identity

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