Five Essential Tips for Back-to-School Savings

Five Essential Tips for Back-to-School Savings

Back-to-school season is one of several times during the year when you’ll find many people heading out to the mall or online to do some major shopping. Getting your kids prepped for another school year can seem like an expensive and overwhelming endeavor. Here are five tips we’ve put together to maximize the occasion while not simultaneously breaking the bank.

Back-to-School Savings

Start at home!

Chances are, this isn’t your first back-to-school occasion. And, if you’re like many, you might have plenty from years past that can be recycled, repurposed, or just plain reused.

Go through your entire house for old school supplies that might have been lost in the garage or misplaced in your kid’s closet. Combine this effort with a little summer cleaning to really maximize your time.

It’s also good to note what things you can intentionally save next time for reuse. It could be binders, pencils, refillable pens, scissors, and the like.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Five essential tips to saving on back-to-school shopping!” quote=”Saving up at such a busy and costly time is a skill and it takes time for smart habits to form. Start off with these five basic tips and add on as you go along. Hopefully this will your most productive (and cheapest) back-to-school season ever!”]

Buy classic and versatile clothes.

Clothes can often be the most costly during back-to-school season. Not only do you need to ensure you have outfits for every day of the week, but after-school programs, sports, and other activities typically pile a few more demands on.

Wherever possible, invest in classic pieces that your kid can match up with multiple outfits. Not only is this in vogue right now as a fashion trend, but you’ll manage to save money on clothing in the process.

For boys, fashion and clothing choices isn’t usually as much of a concern.

For girls, you often need to be a little pickier.

For a stylish yet cheap option that you can use to mix and match, look to choices like colored jeans and bralettes. Jeans can be used with multiple outfits, and are always in style. Bralettes can be worn under a variety of tops to add color and style, and will save you a lot of money.

Be smart about shopping.

Keep an eye out for end-of-season and holiday sales. Plan your shopping just in time for the end of summer so you can take advantage of large discounts from the end-of-season sale. If you happen to miss it, Labor Day also gives you great deductions and allows you one final chance to grab a few discounted options.

Nowadays, online sales are always happening. Its best to price a few options and then track the prices over several weeks. If you see the price drop, jump on it.

Splurge on the important things.

It might be contradictory to splurge when what you want to do is save up. However, when you splurge on the important things, it can save you more in the long run. What’s so good about a cute and affordable backpack when the straps end up giving out a few months later? Or a cheap pair of sneakers when the soles are worn out after a couple of times?

Allow compromises on other replaceable things, but don’t hold off on the essentials. Picking up a few high quality pieces of clothing and other supplies could in fact save you money in the long run.

Have your kids “earn” their shopping money.

Starting in the summertime, you can designate household chores and tasks to your kids as a way for them to work for their shopping money. This way, you’re not only building up funds through your kids in time for back-to-school, but you’re also teaching them a great lesson about perseverance, gratitude, and discipline. Teach your kids about money early and it’ll pay off in the long run! Plus it keeps them from being idle all day long and your house is clean throughout the summer. It’s a productive use of time all around.

Saving up at such a busy and costly time is a skill and it takes time for smart habits to form. Start off with these five basic tips and add on as you go along. Hopefully this will your most productive (and cheapest) back-to-school season ever!

Do you have any tips on ways to save?

Share ’em in the comments below!



allena rissa back to school savings


Allena Rissa is the founder and editor of The Better Fit, a website focused on helping women find the right bras for their unique shapes and sizes, along with feeling confident in their own skin. Allena became interested in this when she learned over 80% of women wear the wrong size bra (including herself!). Since then, she’s become an expert on the topic and is focused on educating women on how to find the best type of bra for each of life’s occasions.


Why I Invest in the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit

Why I Invest in the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit

The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit (GBT) is something you can’t help but run across right now – whether you’re a professional blogger, other online entrepreneur, or do it only for the fun of it, the GBT is everywhere.

Now the question stands: is it because A) it really is that awesome or is it B) because everyone and their mom (myself included) are affiliates for them?

Answer: Mostly A, maybe a bit of B…BUT I say that with the disclaimer that honestly everyone plugs GBT because it REALLY is that awesome!

What is the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit?

genius bloggers toolkit

The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit is this amazing bundle of e-courses, books, trainings, and more, all neatly wrapped up and sold to you at a WILDLY discounted rate. Now if you know anything about my blogging mentor programs, you know that I don’t automatically equate low price with low quality, but c’mon now — nearly $7,500 worth of products for less than $100? How can that be??

Well if you’ve read my review on Ultimate Bundles before, you know that they’re able to sell these bundles at a low cost for a variety of reasons, namely that they’re VERY limited in the times that they sell them and also because of people (like me) who contribute their products in exchange for a higher affiliate commission fee. It’s a genius business model if you ask me.

My First Experience with the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit

I first bought The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit three years ago, before I was an affiliate or even knew much about Ultimate Bundles! Along those lines, though, I do want to mention again that I am an affiliate for Ultimate Bundles and therefore links within may earn me commission at no additional cost to you.

genius blogger toolkit review

With that out of the way, let’s get back to my first experience with GBT —

I knew within moments of landing on that sales page that I was going to make the $97 investment because I immediately recognized SO many big names with courses I’d been dying to check out, but ya know…money and all. And guess what? Not only are there dozens of “big names” back again this year, but the bundle is nearly TWICE as big (and still only $97!!)

Will I Use Everything in The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit?

The toolkit contains such a huge assortment of blogging related topics, from marketing your blog to avoiding burnout, and so much more. It can be pretty overwhelming at first, but believe me when I say it is incredibly fun to dive into. Now does that mean you’ll use each and every resource within the bundle? No, probably not. But that’s expected, right?

The idea isn’t that now you have 94 resources on your to-do list to work through. Rather, it’s that you have access to all the ones that make sense for you and your blog’s needs as you need them, but at a fantastic price. Some of these will be perfect for you immediately and others you might not come back to for a little while. But when you’re ready for them, you’ll be so glad they’re there. Plus, most people will find at least a few bonuses that are a great value for them, so that’s an additional perk on top of the products.

Genius Blogger’s Toolkit Review

Do I Lose Access to the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit eventually?

You’ll have these eBooks forever, and access to the eCourses for six months, so there’s really no rush. They also organize everything so well to help you figure out what to dive into first so you can focus in on the products that best meet your blog’s needs.

Isn’t all this information already out there for free?

While you can find some of this information from the various authors on their websites, in their podcasts, through their emails newsletters, and all the good stuff they offer for free, most content creators save their very best content for the products they sell (and understandably so).

For example, last year I was lucky enough to be selected to include my Automation Education course – something that I normally sell for $49.

Could you go through and piece together everything I have within my course? Maybe…but probably not. And regardless, it would literally take you hundreds of hours and MANY trial-and-error attempts to put together the strategies within my course. And that’s only one course.

Still not sold?

Oh hey, did I mention that not only will you get access to an absolute gold mine of information, but it also comes with a 30-day guarantee. If for any reason, you don’t feel the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit is right for you, simply email the Ultimate Bundles customer service team within 30 days for a full refund. How amazing is that?!

STILL not sold? Okay, how about if I told you that not only do you get access to all these goodies, but if you buy through my link, you’ll also get ANOTHER set of bonuses — a pitch-free strategy session with me PLUS a copy of P3 (the MUST HAVE business planner pack for 2020)!! That’s right — you’ll get everything in the bundle (again, that’s nearly $7,500 worth of products!) for LESS THAN HALF of what it’d cost you to JUST buy P3.

Insane? Maybe.

But you know you need it.

Act fast – this sale ends on Monday Oct 7th at 11:59pm!!!

Get yours now before it’s too late:

Have you bought The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit in the past? Comment below, I want to hear about YOUR favorite resources!


The Argument Against the Snowball Method

The Argument Against the Snowball Method

Paying down debt can go such a long way to living a better, healthier life. Less debt means less stress, but it also means less time spent having to find ways to make sure the bills are paid each month.

There advice on how best to find financial freedom is conflicting to say the least, so I hate to throw one more wrench your way, buuuut…

The Argument Against the Snowball Method

In January 2016, our household debt totaled over $200,000.

Now you might think that someone with nearly $200,000 of debt must have a serious spending problem. That or a very nice house, a fancy car, perhaps an addiction to the smell of burning money… SOMETHING, right?


All we have to show for our debt is an 8 year old mini-van, a 130 year old fixer-upper of a home, and two college degrees that between us cost $150,000.

Full disclosure, here is our debt breakdown:

  • Lowes Credit Card: $2,800
  • Furniture Row Credit Card: $1,782
  • Private student loans: $96,646.09
  • House: $43,600
  • Car: $17,970.23
  • Federal Student Loans: $46,094.17‬

Grand total: $208,892.49

Our Lowes and Furniture Row bills are (were) the only credit card debt we had. We used both when we purchased our house so that we could purchase some much needed appliances and furniture. Fortunately they both offered zero percent interest for a set amount of time, but still – $4,600 in credit card debt is a huge chunk of change to carry around.

Meanwhile, my husband and I both have a LOT of student loan debt. Despite both of us working while in college, we fell into the trap of taking out way more than we should have.

Looking back, there’s certainly a part of me that wishes I’d gone to community college. Instead, I spent all four years at a private school that cost me about $36,000/year. My husband did go to a community college first, but was still persuaded to take out a lot of student loans to help support himself while in school.

Nearly $150,000 in student loan debt and together our jobs net us $33,000/year (after daycare is factored out…)

ditch the snowball method

So how in the world have we managed to pay down over $10,000 in debt in two months?

Well, our first step was to take a look at our budget and figure out where the majority of our money was going. We were paying $1,600/month towards our debt but the overall total was only decreasing by $1,100. Once we figured out why and how that was happening, we were able to change things up to make a more significant dent in our debt.

So Step 1 is….

Pay Off Your Debt Based on Interest Rates

Some financial gurus recommend you snowball your money. The “snowball method” is when you pay off the smallest debts first, get a “high” from paying off a bill entirely, then roll that payment towards paying off the next smallest debt.

Here’s my problem with that:

Let’s say you owe one credit card $2,000 with 0% interest for three years and another credit card is owed $4,000 with 24.9% interest.

You have $300 to put towards your debt each month. If you put $170 towards the first debt and only $130 towards the second, it will take you a year to pay off that first card.

Meanwhile, in that year, you’ve put $1,560 towards that second card but have only paid it down by about $500 – that’s not even a third!!

So with the snowball method, you’ve put $3,600 towards your debt but at the end of one year, you will still owe over $3,500. That balance will now take you another 14 months to pay off and cost you even more.

Snowball method: Pay $300 for 26 months, $6,000 of debt = $7,800

Reverse That Debt

So what if you reversed it and paid the minimum due on the zero interest and the rest towards the second card?

You’d be looking at $70 towards the first card, $230 towards the second.

In the first year, you would put $2,760 towards your second card, $2,070 of which would be towards the principal.

In the end, paying based on interest rates, you would be free of these two debts in less than two years.

Paying based on interest rates: Pay $300 for 24 months, $6,000 of debt =  $7,200

So not only would you save yourself nearly $600, but you’d also have an additional $300/month two months sooner.

That’s $1,200 you can now throw towards another debt (like your mortgage!)

Now I will say that the snowball method has been proven to work for many people. It can be an effective way to motivate yourself to pay down those debts. But depending on your financial situation, you might be paying quite a high price for that motivation.

So for today, the first thing to do to get started towards paying down $10k like I did is to look at your budget (create a budget if you don’t have one!) and list out every debt you owe, the APR on it, and what you’re currently paying each month.

Having a good grasp on your financial situation is the very first step to improving it.

Check out the rest of the 10k series here:

What debt causes YOU the most anxiety?

Is this the debt with the highest APR, the highest balance, or both?

If at any time you’re confused, feeling overwhelmed, or just need clarification on one of my tips, please do not hesitate to e-mail me. I love to hear from my readers almost as much as I love to help them!


Clever Ways to Use Mason Jars

Clever Ways to Use Mason Jars

The uses for mason jars are innumerable! I love to collect glass jars, specifically mason jars. Weird to some, maybe, but they’re just so incredibly useful! Now I know I’ve written on why you should declutter to save money, so maybe you’re thinking “Amber, I don’t need anything else!” but seriously there are just so many amazing ways to use these jars!

Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission should you click through to make a purchase; this in no way impacts your cost or my opinion of said products/services.

Build a window sill herb garden

Fresh herbs when you need them means saving time and money! This is especially easy if you already grow herbs in your summer garden. Before the first frost, take a snipping from each herb just below a joint. Put each herb in a jar and fill with just enough water to cover the joint. Swap out the water every few days and once roots appear, transfer to dirt.

You can take your gardening on a budget one step further by using yogurt cups or other used receptacles. Poke a few holes in the bottom, fill with dirt, plant your herbs, and set back in the mason jars. Mist every week or as needed, just be very careful not to over-water.

Make oatmeal jars

Oatmeal jars make for a perfect easy breakfast! I love how simple these are to modify and change up any time I find myself getting bored, there’s hundreds of recipes to be found online and it’s easy to figure out just how to make them to best suit you.

My favorite recipe is to sauté bananas in some coconut oil and brown sugar then fill a pint-size mason jar halfway with oatmeal, top with the bananas, add in some walnuts, and fill the jar with almond milk. Give it a good shake and let it set overnight. You can make five at a time to ensure breakfast is ready every day of the week.

Put leftover coffee to use

Pour some into an ice cube tray to freeze and the rest into a mason jar to stick in the fridge. In the morning, add the coffee cubes to the mason jar, pour in some heavy whipping cream or other favorite coffee add-ins, and you’ve got iced coffee ready to go! Yum!

Perfect for a gift exchange

Did you forget about the Secret Santa exchange at work? Grab a mason jar, toss in some hot cocoa mix and marshmallows, tie a ribbon around it and voila! A cute and easy gift that anyone will love. Don’t forget to grab a cute Hallmark greeting card from the Dollar Store!

Learn to can

Take advantage of the cheap summer produce and stock up to ensure you have access to healthy options all year round. Personally I love pickled foods (like seriously – my mouth waters at the idea of anything pickled!) but you can also make family-friendly treats, like crockpot apple butter!

Use them to store your homemade beauty products

I love to use apple cider vinegar as a facial toner and coconut oil as a moisturizer so I keep both stored in mason jars in my bathroom. This is also a great route to take if you’re into essential oils and need an air tight container for any blends you make.

Mason jar storage

Buy in bulk and use mason jars to store things like loose leaf tea, grains, sugar, etc. Bonus: glass jars are critter-proof!

Make your own household cleaning products

Vinegar makes for a great cleaner and mason jars are perfect to store those solutions!

An easy (and great smelling) cleaner is to:

  • Fill your mason jar with orange peels, or any citrus you enjoy.
  • Cover the peels with vinegar, seal, and then store in a dark place for 2-4 weeks.
  • Strain the peels, add to a spray bottle, and you’re good to go!

Just like any cleaning products, though, make sure you label them properly and keep them out of reach of the children.

Mason jar organization

From holding pens to store paper clips, mason jars can go a long way in helping your work area stay organized.

Make your own cold brew coffee

Toss 1/3rd of a cup of coarse coffee grounds into a jar filled with 2.5 cups of water. Sit in the fridge for 8-24 hours (depending on how strong you want it) then strain with either a cheese cloth or a tea infuser and coffee filter. Way cheaper than going to a coffee shop!

Keep your crafting and art supplies organized with mason jars

Just like you can do with your office, mason jars are great at helping you keep things like paint brushes, beads, glue sticks, and such quite organized. The smaller ones also make for great containers for DIY finger paints for the kids!

DIY Mason Jar Ideas

Mason jar diy ideas

Salad jars

Remember those McDonald Salad Shakers from the early 2000s? Yum.

You can make them yourself and make five ahead of time so you’re set for the week, just make sure you put the dressing at the bottom and the greens at the top (add your usual mix-ins, like sesame seeds or cheese, in between).

Mason jar vase

Don’t toss those dandelion flowers your son picked for you! Grab a mason jar and display them proudly.

Mason jar tupperware

Use mason jars instead of plastic tupperware to store and tote leftovers. They’ll last longer than your traditional plastic tupperware and it’s so much better for the environment!

Make a rootbeer float

This is seriously an amazing dessert and with far less sugar than a traditional rootbear float (which is especially great if you’re just starting a keto diet!) Fill the bottom of the pint-sized mason jar with heavy whipping cream. Cover and shake for 30 seconds then slowly add your root beer. Trust me on this – it’s AMAZING.


Make your own mason jar candles

These work great as presents or for your own use. Hearth and Vine has a great tutorial to make mason jar oil candle lanterns!

Or make your own hanging lanterns…

Punch two side-by-side holes in the top of your mason jar and thread wire through. Drop in a battery-operated tea light and you’re good to go with a beautiful hanging lantern, perfect for frugal Halloween decor or any time of the year!

Use mason jars instead of disposable cups

Not only is this better for the environment, but you can use a cupcake liner to keep bugs out of your drink. Simply use the jar’s outer lid to secure the cupcake liner and then poke a straw through. This is especially great if you have young children prone to spilling.

Use smaller glass jars to store your spices

You can even add magnets to the tops to keep them on the side of your fridge and take back some of your much-needed cabinet space.

Create a time capsule with your kids

Have them gather up a few things representative of this time period and seal them in a mason jar. Decide on when you’ll open it back up and then pick a spot in the backyard to bury it.

Have some fun with the kids and make your own butter.

Just add some heavy whipping cream to a glass jar and shake, shake, shake! Keep rockin’ it for a few minutes and you’ll have whipping cream, keep going for a bit longer and you’ll end up with whipped, delicious, easy-to-spread butter.

Use them to celebrate the holiday season.

Make snow globes with your little ones by gluing a cute scene or decor to the inside of the mason jar lid. Fill the jar with a bottle of clear Elmers glue, about a quarter of a small jar of glitter, and water. Hot glue the lid to the glass and you’re good to go!

Get a little fancy at your next dinner party…

Serve individual desserts in some of the smaller jars and you’ll really wow your dinner guests. You can bake cakes directly inside them or fill with ice cream, set out bowls of toppings, and have a DIY sundae bar.

Make a mason jar bird feeder

Pick up a poultry feeder base from your local farm store, fill a mason jar with bird seed, attach some wire, and you’ve got a great little bird feeder.

You can find mason jars in bulk online, but I recommend looking around the next time you head out to garage sales or do an ISO (I Seek Out) post in a local resale group. I guarantee you can find some amazing glass jars for an even more amazing price!

Do you use mason jars?

What’s your favorite way to make use of them?

Inexpensive Secret Santa Gifts

Inexpensive Secret Santa Gifts

Secret Santa can be a lot of fun, even if you’re frugal-minded like me!

It’s December and for many of us that means it’s time for lots and lots of gift-giving. From your own families and friends to your children’s teachers and even the mailman, there are lots of presents to be bought. Even if you planned ahead and bought cute knick-knacks at the end of last year’s Christmas season, you might still be scrambling for some last-minute ideas that won’t break the bank, particularly if you participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange.

Many work places, including my own, celebrate the end of the year by pulling names from a hat and “sneakily” leaving presents for each other with a set minimum (usually $20). Rather than sabotage your co-worker’s goal to eat healthy this year by loading her desk with a bunch of vending machine snacks, here are five ideas on inexpensive Secret Santa gifts that people will love:

Inexpensive Secret Santa Gift Ideas

secret santa gifts

Cold Weather Gear

Here in Illinois we can go from 38 degrees on Friday to 70 degrees on Sunday. With the wild changes in the weather, and never really knowing what to expect, cold weather gear is often easily misplaced. Personally, I can never have too many scarves or gloves. For just a couple dollars, it’s easy to pick up a cute scarf or a pair of warm gloves or even a fun Monster hat…

toddler digging in sand wearing a green and orange monster hat


When I first met my partner, he thought I was nuts for always wanting to buy blankets whenever I saw them on deep discount. Now that we have children, though, he sees the light. We have blankets in each of our cars for emergencies, we use blankets on the kids in their car seats, we need extra blankets whenever a child is sick, the list goes on and on. You can never go wrong with a cute throw blanket and you can usually find one for $5 or less (especially if you use this money-saving Christmas trick like I do!)

DIY “All in One” Jar

Now I know this blog is all about saving time while also saving money, but hear me out – for just a few dollars you can pick up a mason jar (unless you’re already a jar hoarder like me!) fill it with cocoa mix and marshmallows, throw a pretty ribbon on it, and call it a day. For those of you wanting to really impress, you can also include a mini bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Yum!

red cup with white dots filled with hot cocoa


Photo Frames

Like blankets, I’m a firm believer that you can never have too many photo frames. If you’re Facebook friends with your Secret Santa receiver, you could even go the extra mile and print a picture for them to put in the frame. Even just a frame, though, is always a great gift and you can often find them on clearance at places like Hobby Lobby. It’s important to have frames for those extra special moments…

crying baby sitting in santa's lap

Winter Care Kit

The only thing worse than chapped lips is chapped skin. Help your Secret Santa combat winter dryness by giving him/her some lip balm and a travel size lotion. You could also include small “spa kit” things like a sugar scrub or microfleece slippers.

A Personal Print Out

One of the most memorable Secret Santa presents I ever received was a Pepsi with a homemade card attached. The card was a Photoshopped David Bowie holding a Pepsi (I’m a *BIG* Labyrinth fan). If you’re an expert in Photoshop, put those skills to use and spend a few minutes making your Secret Santa something personal.

It truly is the thought that counts! I hope you enjoy this holiday season and are able to find some extra moments to enjoy the magic that is this time of year.



Merry Christmas, everyone!