Cash For School Update: November 2016 Update

Cash for school

It’s time once again for our monthly check-in! How are we doing with our goal to remain debt-free while I earn a graduate degree?

Last month, I shared that I will be splitting up my last grad school session to ensure I don’t go crazy with stress trying to complete my practicum and my master’s portfolio at the same time. Where do we stand now?

  1. My tuition– I got an email this month telling me my account had been charged for this session’s books, a total of $333.83. We weren’t happy that the new process doesn’t let us know how much books are until after the fact,but of course we paid it. We have enough for the remainder of my program’s tuition and will pay about $1680 in tuition at the end of December. I also learned that wherever I end up teaching for my classroom and online practicums may require I buy the textbooks the students will be using, so I can prepare for my teaching. This was new to us, and I have no idea how much that could be. I am still trying to narrow down even one of my four placements and am rather stressed about it.  (If you know a nursing educator in SW Ohio, send them my way!) On the upside, I could opt for new or rental textbooks if I needed to, since I am not forced to purchase through the school bookstore.
  2. My Roth– I have about $3658 in my 2016 Roth fund. I plan on putting my usual $250 towards it this month, plus I will have about $100 in rebates, referral and affiliate income to put towards it as well. That would bring me to $4008. My stretch goal is to put another $300-500 towards it and get near $4500.
  3. His Roth– It’s ready to be funded now. Woot!
  4. Next year’s tuition– Our last payment should be at the end of March, and I anticipate $2240. I don’t know if we will have any new books for that session. If we do, maybe another $300 tops?

The end is almost in sight!

Where are you at with your goals this year?

Frugal Steps and Stumbles


This post contains referral and affiliate links. Thank you for supporting our family!

Frugal Steps:

  1. I don’t go Black Friday shopping in stores, but if we plan during the year to buy a big-ticket item, we usually wait until Black Friday/Cyber Monday to get the best price. This year we bought an Xbox and a retro Singer sewing machine. It was in our budget and we had been planning these purchases for over a year.
  2. My back is in bad shape again, and I have been sleeping sitting up in the recliner. Thankfully my massage therapist is back in action,and I see her tonight. I did use Ebates to get 10% cash back on a Groupon for three massages at a place nearby for just $80 out of pocket. I’m going to try and get a weekly massage this month to get it back under control.
  3. I got 25 free Christmas photo cards through Amazon printing for free! I am a Prime member and chose 8-10 day shipping, making shipping free too. Between a Shutterfly 25 free cards deal and the Staples Groupon (50 cards for $14, with in-store pickup), I spent $21 for 100 cards. I still have to buy stamps, but it should be within my $60 budget. The Amazon deal is over, but you can get 40% off a custom calendar through Amazon Prints today.
  4. I picked up our stocking stuffers at Walmart for just a few dollars. We don’t go crazy with stockings.
  5. I took down the Thanksgiving decor and put up the wreath my mother-in-law gave us a few years ago, plus the reusable Christmas signs in our garage. Our tree will go up this week, and it was a fake tree that my husband’s coworker bought in the mid-80s and they were going to throw out. It’s still in mint condition!

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. I had to cancel two shifts last week because of the endless Plague.
  2. Thanks again to the Plague, we had extra medical/food expenses, including an extra doctor visit, an urgent care visit, antibiotics, Pedialyte, throat lozenges, popsicles, antibiotic ointment, and lots of canned soup.
  3. I cannot tell a lie- I succumbed to the Instant Pot 7-in-1. It’s $69 on Amazon today. I take it for a test drive tonight when I make spaghetti with meat sauce.


Feeding 5 For $100 Per Week: Last Week of November 2016

Dorothy Lane (not pictured): $26.78

Thanksgiving goodies I ran and bought when it became obvious that we were all down with The Plague. Mostly a cheeseball, cheese dip, croissants, crackers, pizza rolls, and popsicles. We still have a lot leftover.

Walmart: $44.85

This isn’t all of it- we have 8 canned goods for the food pantry, soup for us, and some Christmas candy and stocking stuffers I had to sneak in when the kids were in bed. Shhhhhhh…I did most of this yesterday in the evening,and the store wasn’t crowded at all. Even better, I got 200 walk-in Shopkick kicks just for running in and grabbing milk and essentials.



Weekly total: $71.63

End of month total: $498.62

Black Friday Online Deals


This post contains affiliate and referral links. Thank you for supporting our family!

We were up all night last night, but it was with our two year old, who is dealing with both a sinus infection and strep throat, not camping out in front of a store. The day before Thanksgiving, she developed a fever and wouldn’t even drink her milk, so I sat with her at the pediatric urgent care for a few hours. The other kids weren’t feeling that great, and the mister and I were still getting over a virus, so we canceled on Thanksgiving plans and stayed home.

Even if we hadn’t been felled by The Plague, I still would not have willingly stepped foot into a store today. I know some of you may enjoy the thrill of the hunt, but Black Friday has everything I hate: staying up all night, waiting in lines, hanging out in the cold, huge crowds, jostling, and going to malls.

Shopping online, on the other hand, has everything I like: staying in my home, enjoying a cup of tea, the ability to check out reviews first, stacking coupon codes and rebates,  no crowds, no weather, no fights between crazy people who are way too excited about shopping.

A few deals for today


This year, we planned on a big ticket item for the kids. Our almost nine-year-old son has begged for a video game system for years. We decided to go for it this year, and bought an Xbox One S with Minecraft bundle for $249, and  a Kinect for $97.

I have been thinking about buying a sewing machine for over a year, and decided to take advantage of a Black Friday deal to get this cute retro-inspired Singer for 40% off.   Now that my four years of schooling are nearly at an end, and my youngest child is turning three, I am resuming my hobbies. I can knit and crochet, and I have made a couple of quilts before. I’d like to improve upon my skills, and teach my children these skills too.

I also decided to take the plunge on an Instant Pot 7 in One. It’s part pressure cooker and part slow cooker. I use my slow cookers constantly, and often will have both going at the same time. I make rice in them, yogurt, make beans from dried, and cook meals in them. We have limited storage space, and my hope is to retire the slow cookers and just use one Instant Pot. It’s $69 on Amazon today, instead of the usual $129.

There is a huge and lively Instant Pot Facebook group with a lot of great ideas. I hear that you can pull out your freezer meals and get them cooked from frozen within an hour. This is perfect for me, as I am the queen of forgetfulness and often forget to defrost, get the rice in the slow cooker on time, or get things loaded into a slow cooker before noon.

Eye Buy Direct

Use the code BOGO and get one pair of glasses free when you buy one

If you have never shopped with them before, sign up with my link and you’ll get a $10 off coupon code!


If you wanted to start a blog or website, this is a great time to purchase your hosting services. Set up a new 36-month account and it will only cost you $2.65/month.


Ebates is a rebate program, but they have their own Black Friday deals. Most retailers are offering a significantly high amount of cash back this today. Sign up for the first time, and get $10 extra cash back after the fist time you shop.

LL Bean

We like LL Bean because of its quality and its lifetime guarantee. It almost never has the kind of sales you see in department stores. If you use the code THANKS20 you will get 20% off a purchase of $50 or more both in store and online. Pair it with Ebates and today you will get an extra 4% cash back. If you stick to their clearance items, you can get some things at a great price! is a place where you can buy gift cards at a discount. Today only, get an extra 5% off if you use the code RAISEBF. I use discounted gift cards to increase my percentage off at stores by combining the discounted gift card with sales and coupon codes. Today I paired a 1800Flowers gift card I bought on with 10% Ebates cash back and a 1800Flowers sale.


BeFrugal is a cashback program similar to Ebates. They offer differing amounts for the same retailers, so it pays to check both to see who is offering more back. For example, today Ebates is offering 10% cash back for 1800Flowers and BeFrugal is offering 6%, so I opted for Ebates. However, BeFrugal is offering 12.5% cash back for Amazon, so I opted for them. If you haven’t tried them, you can sign up through my link and get $10 bonus cash after your first purchase.


Kohls offers $15 in Kohl’s cash for every $50 spent both in store and online.


TopCashback is yet another cashback site, similar to Ebates and BeFrugal. You now have three places to check for the highest amount of cashback! Like the other two, sign up for the first time and get a $10 bonus after your first $10 or more cashback accrual. They are offering cash back on sites like Verizon,, and Travelocity, along with the usual retailers.


I usually use the Ibotta app to get rebates at the pharmacy or grocery store, but if you are braving the crowds today, don’t forget to check and see if you can get a little extra rebate for your purchases. Best Buy, Gap, OldNavy, Jo-Ann Fabrics, AEO, Game Stop, Hallmark, and Famous Footwear all offer rebates through this app. Sign up today and redeem a rebate within two weeks, and you’ll get a bonus $10 cash back!


If you decided to go out today, this is the perfect day to take advantage of that Shopkick app! Most major stores are offering walk-in kicks, and a day of power shopping could possibly earn you 1000 kicks or more. Every $500 kicks gets a $2 gift card, so you might as well take advantage of it!


This is a great time to take advantage of a local deal through Groupon. Ebates is offering 10% cash back for local deals on Groupon. If you have never used Groupon before, you get to use an extra coupon code (HEYTHERE) to get another 25% off your deal.

I know it sounds complicated, so here is an example if you have never used both Groupon and Ebates before.

Sign up for Groupon but do not add anything to your cart yet.

Sign up for Ebates. Enter Groupon‘s site through Ebates‘ link. This will ensure you get your cash back.

Log in to Groupon. Find your local deal through Groupon, put it in your cart, and pay for it.

Once your purchase is complete, Ebates acknowledges it and shows your cash back accrual. Once every 4 months, you’ll get a check with all the cash back your have accrued.

Have you gotten any great deals today?

Frugal Step: Make A Menu


This week are starting out with a horrible virus and it ends with Thanksgiving. The mister and I are on a pretty much soup and toast diet thanks to very raw throats, and the kids will be eating hot dogs, toast, and eggs.

Not sure if we will be doing Thanksgiving with the family, but if so, we will be enjoying leftovers the rest of the week.

I think we’ll just call this an official Hunt and Peck Week.

Feeding 5 For $100/Week: 4th Week of November 2016

Dorothy Lane: $26.37

Fancy treats for the kids and their two babysitters.


Kroger: $61.59

My Ibotta rebate this week will be $1.50.

We didn’t need a lot. There was a huge pile of meat (bacon, brats/metts, Little Smokies, chopped ham) on clearance for $0.99 each, so I bought $7 worth and am freezing most of it.

Yes that is a pumpkin decorated like Captain Underpants.


Weekly total: $87.96

Running total: $426.99

This is a five week month, so we still have $73.01 to spend next week.

This post contains referral and affiliate links. Thank you for supporting our family!


Frugal Steps and Stumbles


This post contains referral and affiliate links. Thank you for supporting our family!

Frugal Steps:

  1. I got my quarterly Ebates check in the mail. $20 this time! That will get transferred to savings.
  2. I went to CVS and, using Extra Care Bucks and multiple coupons with a sale, saved 60% off my cart full of vitamin and mineral supplements.
  3. I got the game Pie Face through BeFrugal for free after cash back rebate. If you decide to try it, you can get $10 in cash back after your first order. They have coupon along with cash back, and I am using this one for 25% off a local Groupon deal plus 6% cash back to get another cheap massage therapy session. (If you have never done Groupon before, when you sign up, you can get $10 in Groupon Bucks).
  4. CVS sent me another random email giving me $2 in Extra Care Bucks.
  5. I am only 200 Swagbucks away from my $25 Hulu gift card. My goal for tomorrow is to nail it!
  6. I earned another $2 Target gift card from Shopkick after doing an hour of walking at the mall with the toddler.
  7. I worked three shifts this week.
  8. I have earned about $3 in Ibotta rebates this week. If you want to try, you get $10 cash back bonus after submitting your first rebate.
  9. I borrowed the book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis from the library.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. We ate out multiple times. Entertainment budget = blown. The mister was out of town half the week and the kids and I were sick with cold/sinus stuff. I went through the Panera drive through multiple times for hot soup and hot chocolate.


Frugal Step: Make A Menu


Most of the recipes I link to can be found in my Pinterest boards. Check them out- lots of frugal dishes!

Monday: “Snacky Dinner”: Big tray with fresh celery, carrots, bell pepper, grape tomatoes, broccoli, cheese slices, sliced summer sausage, and ranch dip made with nonfat Greek yogurt and Aldi’s Ranch powder.

Tuesday: Cheese Grits with Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Wednesday:  Slow Cooker Apple Bourbon Pork using this sauce, Pan Fried Brussels Sprouts

Thursday: I have a team-building dinner with coworkers. The family gets fruit, carrots, and hot dogs.

Friday: Shirred Eggs with Herbs and Garlic, Peas, Potato Rolls (practicing for Thanksgiving)

Saturday: Dinner at The Winds Cafe with friends. I look forward to Aged Cheddar Soup and Fried Brussels Sprouts every year.

Sunday: Hunt and Peck


Earl Grey Tea Latte

Pumpkin Gingerbread

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting our family!


Feeding 5 For $100 Per Week: 3rd Week of November 2016

Kroger: $82.81

(Pending Ibotta rebate: $1.50. Here is how I use Ibotta to help boost my Roth IRA retirement savings.)

The mister was playing in a tournament yesterday and I had to hire a babysitter so I could hit the store quickly and do my grad school homework. We didn’t really need a lot, so I concentrated on using the 10 sale at Kroger to get things for the upcoming holidays. Now I need to hide those chips and fruit snacks in the basement!


Sam’s (not pictured): $40.23

The mister made a trip and bought Clif Builder Bars and bulk all purpose flour, sugar, and raisins. The last time we went to Sam’s was in February. We just haven’t been baking as much now that I’m not making our bread regularly. I may start up again when I am done with grad school.

Weekly total: $123.04

Running total: $339.03

This is a five week month, so we still have $161 to spend over two weeks.

This post contains referral and affiliate links. Thank you for supporting our family!


Frugal Steps and Stumbles


This post contains referral and affiliate links. Thank you for supporting our family!

Frugal Steps:

  1. I picked up three shifts this week.
  2. I got a random survey email from CVS, and I earned $5 in Extra Care Bucks just for 10 minutes of my time. (If CVS ever asks you to join its survey panel- say yes!)
  3. CVS also sent me an email giving me a random $2 in Extra Care Bucks today. Score! I now have $17 in ECBs to use.
  4. I got a random “we want you back” email from Vudu, giving me a $3 rental credit. I’m waiting for the Absolutely Fabulous movie to be available to rent before I use that.
  5. My mom sent us home with fried chicken, grapes, ham, corn, meatballs, and crescent rolls Sunday.
  6. I froze two pints of pinto beans for later, since we were eating up mom’s leftovers for a couple of days.
  7. We didn’t make anything on the menu other than a big roast last week, so my shopping list is very small this week.
  8. The mister went to Sam’s and bought sugar, flour, raisins, and Clif bars in bulk.
  9. I hit $38 in rebates and bonuses for Ibotta since October 23rd. If you wonder how it works, you can check out my Ibotta post.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. It’s mid-month and we already used all of our eating-out money! I have had a migraine that lasted from Monday to Friday. The mister picked up burgers one night, and I picked up pizza last night. Add this to last weekend’s entertainment, and I am tapped out. I already know I will go over budget this week when I meet coworkers for a team building on Thursday at a restaurant.
  2. The mister is at a hockey tournament today, and I had to hire a sitter for several hours so I can get my homework done. I just can’t write a small paper with three children 8 and under milling about and dive-bombing me from behind my office chair.
  3. My school billed me for an unexpected $333. Apparently, though they still force us to buy books from their book store, they are now billing us after the fact for books, instead of rolling it into the tuition we are billed. No one bothered to tell that to any of us though, so I received an email this week asking me to pay. To say we are annoyed by this is an understatement.