The Stigma of Direct Marketing

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After having my first child in 2005, I became a stay-at-home Mom.  For the first few months, I was busy with my little girl.  But, after falling into a rather predictable schedule, I became antsy and started looking for a hobby.  That’s when I found candle making.  It was therapeutic and I was actually really good at it.  After perfecting them, I decided to try and sell them.  I even went so far as to rent out a booth at a craft fair to try and sell them.  And, even though I didn’t sell very many the first time around, I was instantly hooked on running a business.

About a year later, I had to accept the fact that candle making and toddlers do not mix.  My little girl was becoming more of a handful and I had less and less time to actually make the candles.  When I became pregnant with my second child, I knew I needed to either give up the candle business or find another way to keep it going.

I never thought of joining a direct marketing company.  That is, until that moment I realized it was the perfect alternative to giving up my business.  I had heard all of the usual stigmas surrounding direct marketing/direct sales/multi level marketing companies.  Most of them stemmed from people that had a bad experience with pushy distributors/consultants that only cared about making money.  But, when I went searching for a company I could trust, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.  I found women, and men, that actually used the product or service they were selling.  I found passionate people that loved the social part of their business just as much as the product they represented.  I found quality products with great reviews and a fan base.  I found a family!

I finally settled on a candle company I could believe in and hit the ground running.  I did shows, fundraisers, and connected with people online.  I bought candles for myself and my family and friends.  They were great candles and I wanted to share them!  I built a team of my own and trained them to just let the product speak for itself.  And it did!  I was doing well, and my team was doing well.  But, as time went on and family life consumed more of my time, the business took a back seat.  I no longer had the time or energy to put into my business and it slowly started to close shop.  I stopped ordering candles for customers and handed over all of my inventory and leads to one of my team members.

Although my team continued to build their own businesses, after a while I stopped getting candles for myself.  I had lost my passion for the product.  I stepped down as team leader and decided to focus on just being a wife and a mother for a while.

Yes, it’s true that many distributors and consultants for direct marketing companies will quit.  But, I’d like to look at it more like moving on instead of quitting.  I learned a lot during my time as a candle business owner.  I learned how to connect with people, generate leads, build a basic website, and how to run a successful fundraiser (I even ran a successful fundraiser in New York from my home in Wisconsin!)  I learned about marketing and social networking.  But, most importantly, I learned how great it felt to build something that was mine.  I learned that hard work can get you places you’ve never been before.  I learned that direct sales companies are a great way to empower people to share their passion, make friends, and become financially independent if they play their cards right.

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How to Get Free Food from the Grocery Store

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Getting free food from the grocery store only takes about an hour of planning each week.  It’s a great way for us moms to contribute a bit to the family finances.  So, instead of just feeling like I’m always the one spending money, I can know that I’m doing my best to save the most on food.

 

5 Simple Steps to Getting Free Groceries

  1. Shop at a grocery store that has double coupon days and then plan to go shopping on those days
  2. Save the grocery store insert and in-store coupons that you get in the mail each week
  3. Look at all of the sales and specials and find manufacturers coupons to match the items that are on sale
  4. Take the sale price and subtract in-store coupons and doubled manufacturers coupons to get your final price
  5. Decide whether or not the end price is worth the purchase and add it to your shopping list

If you don’t have much time, but you’re curious about what some of the free items could be at your local grocery store, you can get a list at Money Saving Mom.  You can even sign up for their e-mail list that will keep you updated on the latest coupon match-ups for the week.  The lists aren’t always complete, but it’s a good place to start.  I usually find more products than what they have listed.

To find manufacturers coupons, you can look through your Sunday paper and/or find printable coupons online through Coupons.com, Save.com, ShopatHome.com, CouponNetwork.com, and through various social media and product sites.  You can always do a search for the specific coupon you’re looking for.

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Starting a Web Design and Development Business From Home

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We started our own business!

But, before I start talking about that, I wanted to bring you up to speed on the past couple months.

So, a lot has happened since I last posted.  In February, we found out that we will have our fifth child in October!  This news was a bit unexpected, yet we weren’t really surprised (if that makes sense).  Our world is about to change… again.  With four children already, all under the age of 8, our desire to home school has been replaced by our desire to keep our sanity.  So, we enrolled our oldest in the local public elementary school and our second-oldest will be in Kindergarten next year at the same school.  We hope to return to homeschooling when our youngest is 3 yrs old.  I will probably talk more about this in a future post.

How We Started a Web Design and Development Business From Home

Today, I would like to talk about how we started a Web Design and Development Business from our home.  My husband has been a web designer and developer for about 3 years now after taking just a few classes at the local technical college.  He has an eye for design (see his work at www.MashupMedia.net), a passion for front-end web development, and he has always wanted to start his own business.  Since I’ve already tested the waters with my own candle business a few years ago, I knew that we would make a great team.  Although I didn’t have the time anymore for my candle business, I knew I could handle most of the clerical side of the web design and development business while taking care of the kids.

Stuff to Consider

Before Jesse gave his two weeks notice to the company he was working for at the time, we had to first consider a few things.

Top 5 Things to Consider Before Starting a Home Business

  1. Where would he work?  We would have to get an office set up at home to start things off.  Once the business was making a profit, we would consider other options.*Update:  As of June 20th, he has officially moved into a great office space only a minute away from our home!
  2. How much do we need to invest of our own money?  Office supplies, accounting services, legal services, marketing, insurance, etc.*Update:  We have only invested about $600 from the beginning and have already paid ourselves back!
  3. What connections and resources can we tap into in order to secure an income for the first 6 months?  We have a family to support and can’t afford to lose money in the first year like most businesses.*Update:  Jesse was able to negotiate a contract with the first company he worked for.  The contract states that Jesse will be doing contract work on a regular basis for this company and in return would get paid bi-weekly.  This has given us the security we need.
  4. What will our business entity be?  Will we be a sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, or something else?*Update:  We started out as a single member LLC and have converted to an S-Corp since hiring our first part-time employee.
  5. Where should we set up our business accounts?  Keeping business transactions separate from personal ones is very important, so we had to set up a business checking and savings account.  We also shopped for a business credit card with a 0% intro rate and cash back on business purchases.*Update:  We’re still working on this, since we couldn’t open the account under the business tax ID number (the business has no credit yet!)  So, although we were able to open business accounts, we were unable to separate them completely.  Now that we are an S-corp and have been in business for almost three months, we should be able to switch the accounts over to the business tax ID  number.

We started the business April 1st and have been going strong since then.  A few small things we’ve done have brought us new clients and even more security for the future.

5 Easy Ways to Get Clients for Your Small Business

  1. Tell Your Friends and Family!  Get some nice looking business cards and hand them out to friends and family just to let them know you’ve started your own business.  You can spread the word on Facebook and Twitter too!
  2. Post an Ad on Craigslist.  You may need to experiment with wording and title choice when posting.  Delete your old post and make a new one every week or every month at the very least.
  3. Join a social networking group.  If you don’t have the time to get out and join a physical business networking group, at least join LinkedIn and start building a network that way.
  4. Make sure your own website is looking good and has a contact form for prospects to contact you.
  5. Make your current clients happy!!!!  Always, always, always, make sure your clients walk away happy with your work.  This will help with getting clients by word of mouth.

Well, I guess that’s it for now.  I’ve been working on this post for weeks now and should probably go ahead and publish it.  Hope y’all enjoyed it!

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A Better Cash Back Program

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So, I’ve been doing some research on the cost of diapers and decided that I would organize my findings on blogger.  I’ve been doing this for about a month now and have found some great websites in the process of finding the best prices on diapers.  Until recently, I had been using Ebates as my preferred cash back website.  And, although I still use that website on occasion, I’ve found another cash back website that yields higher cash back (at most of the major retailers.)  This has been very beneficial considering the holiday season and the online Christmas shopping I’ve been doing.

Many of the top retailers are on this new cash back website that I use.  It’s completely free to join and completely free when you redeem your cash back.  You simply search for an online retailer, click the “Get Cashback Now” button, and it will automatically record your visit and purchase.  You will then receive a notification via e-mail with information about your cash back.  I’ve only been using it since the beginning of November and I’ve already earned $15 cash back.  It can really add up over time.

Interested in signing up?  Don’t forget, it’s completely free to join and free to redeem your cash back.  

Right now, you can get 12% cash back at Drugstore.com.  You can also get 6% cash back at Kohls, 5% back at Walmart, and 6% back at Target.  There are many many more online retailers to choose from.

In an effort to maintain full disclosure, I would like to inform you that the following banner contains my referral link and I will receive up to $10 when you sign up and you receive cash back for online purchases.  If you also love the website, you can also receive $10 for referring your friends and family.  I will not receive anything for your referrals.  This is NOT a pyramid scheme or scam of any kind.  It is a real cash back program that rewards their users with cash back when they shop online through selected online retailers.

If you would like to get cash back for your online purchases, simply click on the banner below or go to TopCashBack.com.
Online Cashback

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Save on Diapers, Entertainment, and More + Free Shipping

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I spent almost the entire day searching for the best deal on diapers.  Right now, my two youngest are in diapers.  So, we could really benefit from getting the best deal on diapers possible.  I didn’t want to find just any one-time deal.  I wanted to find the lowest price per diaper, and I wanted to get free shipping.  And, by ordering online, we will also be saving time and money on gas.

As I started my search, I found the obvious choice.  I didn’t even have to finish the chart I started!

 

Incomplete Diaper Price Chart

In the end, I signed up for Amazon Prime with Amazon Mom.  Amazon Prime includes free instant video and music , a 5% discount on products including diapers, free shipping, and a free Kindle book each month.  So, instead of keeping our Netflix account open for about $8.50/month, we can get the same thing through Amazon Prime for $6.50.  This gives us a discount on entertainment, select products including diapers, AND we get free shipping!  Plus, signing up for Amazon Mom/Family is totally free and gives you an additional 20% off diapers!

Once the final calculations were done on size 3 diapers, it came to 0.17/Huggies Diaper, 0.17/Pampers Diaper, and an amazing 0.13/LUVS Diaper!  Deals on Chemical Free diapers included 0.23/Seventh Generation Diaper, 0.23/Huggies Pure & Natural Diaper, and 0.24/Earth’s Best Diaper. *Prices are subject to change.

So, you just pick your preferred diaper brand and sign up to get a box shipped to you every month or every 2 months depending on the quantity in each box of diapers.  I was surprised how easy it was.

 

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A Poem About Money

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My husband wrote this poem years ago when I was going through a poetry phase.  It’s a little silly in some parts but has an overall great lesson to be learned.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

A Poem About Money

I’m looking at a penny sitting lonesome on the street

And I can’t help but think of how it reminds me

That if I were to pick it up and receive it as my own

No one would care

They may wonder why…

 

So I’d tell them a story of when I was a kid

How I lived on the street and my home had a lid

Where the sound of a car horn was my ambient noise

And I had hypodermic needles to play with for toys

 

When it rained I’d get wet, when it snowed I’d be cold

And the corner of Concord and 1st is where I thought I’d grow old

People ignored me and counted my worth

Just like the pennies which had fallen to earth

 

So I collected each one to make as a friend

And before I knew it, one became ten

As I saved that small ten, I still found more

And in just a few short years, I had ten thousand in store

 

I became quite well known to entertain a laugh or two if you threw me some change

In their arrogance they chuckled that I would scurry to obtain

Money so worthless they were glad to throw away

And just as my pennies grew in numbers so fast

So did the people who would throw change for a laugh

 

When I was a few years older, I had saved quite a bit

So I bought the small store on the corner where I would sit

I really only bought it cause I knew it so well

I didn’t have much of anything that I could sell

 

Well I rented it out for the right market cost

And I changed just like that from servant to boss

Then I learned from a paper that I found on the road

That a bank would lend me money, in lieu of the store that I owned

 

Then a man that I knew cause I saw him every day

Who owned the building that was down the street a little way

He told me of how he wanted to sell

So I said, “Sure!  I’ll buy your hotel!”

 

The street that I grew up on, I now own every store

And my purse at the bank just grows more and more

Now the very same people who found humor in my want

Now pay me rent on the first of every month

 

Although a penny by itself is rather worthless indeed

When put into a person’s hand, it’s potential is freed

 

Author:  Jesse Lee

Money Poem Image

 

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How We Made Extra Money Using Craigslist, Ebay, and Rummage Sales

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I love looking on Craigslist at what people in my area are selling or trying to barter.  It can be a great place to find stuff you need, sell stuff that you don’t need, or resell something to make extra money.  Sometimes you can even find some good stuff for free that you can sell to make extra money!  This weekend, I will be listing a bunch of our stuff on Craigslist to make extra money.  We’re hoping to get enough money to replenish our emergency fund after we cleaned it out to buy a used van (more about that later.)

I would normally blog about Frugality on Fridays, but I’ve decided to combine topics today.  Topics will include Frugality, Fitness, and Fun.  And, they will all relate to making extra money with Craigslist somehow.  So, here we go…

Frugality

  • Make extra money by listing things you don’t need anymore on Craigslist.  Easy, right?  Just look around your house, take some pictures of the things you don’t need anymore, and post it on Craigslist for free!  Then, just wait for someone to call you, pay you, and pick it up. And, if there’s no one in your area that wants it, there’s sure to be someone out there in eBay Land that wants it.  We actually tried selling a Limited Edition Harley Davidson Leather Jacket on Craigslist, had someone come take a look at it, and they passed it up for $300.  Then, we listed it on eBay with a starting bid of $0.99 with no reserve.  The winning bidder paid $600!  So, we made twice as much money by listing it on eBay.
  • Save money when you purchase things on Craigslist.  Make sure you don’t pay the asking price by offering to pay cash at a lower price.  We bought our used mini van off of Craigslist just yesterday.  We offered them cash if they would knock off $600.  They agreed and we are now the proud owners of a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country that we paid only $2800 for.  Many people are more than willing to negotiate and come down on their asking price.  Just have the courage to ask and bring cash if you can.Garage Sale
  • Have a Rummage Sale and list it on Craigslist!  Some of my family will be having a rummage sale this weekend and I was more than willing to put an ad on Craiglist for them.  Why wouldn’t you put your rummage sale on Craigslist?  It’s free advertising!  Of course you’re going to list your rummage sale on Craigslist when it’s free!  Who’s going to pass up free advertising?

Fitness

  • So, I purchased a Malibu Pilates Chair with 3 Workout DVDs from a woman off of Craigslist for only $25!  It was still in the box!  Everything was still in the packaging.  It retails for around $500!  It will give you a great workout if you have a little extra space.  Sadly, I found that we don’t have a little extra space.  At least not any usable space.  Having 4 small children doesn’t really allow for personal space other than our bedroom.  If I were to set the chair up (which I did by the way) in my living room, my kids would think I had bought a jungle gym for them to play on in the house (which they did by the way.)  My two year old especially couldn’t keep his hands off of it.  So, back in the box it will go.  I’m still debating whether I should keep it or sell it and make some money off it.  I’m leaning toward selling it to make some extra money.
  • The Malibu Pilates Chair is a great exercise tool and would be great to have if I had my own workout room.  I’ve discovered, though, that I really only need a couple of 3 pound weights and an exercise mat to get a good workout.  I’m thinking that I’ll try making a couple hundred dollars off of the Malibu Pilates Chair and put that money toward my healthy food plan.  What is my healthy food plan you ask?  It’s simply that, a plan to eat healthy.  I plan… to eat healthy!  But, healthy food costs a lot more than empty calories.  So, we just have to make it a priority to eat healthy.  Which means, any money we can spare will go toward healthy eating.  It’s a work in progress.  Just put some of that “extra money” toward buying some cook books with gluten free and sugar free recipes.  I made the gluten free/sugar free chicken fingers last night and they were AWESOME!

FUN!

  • Isn’t it fun to go to rummage sales?  I just love looking through all of the junk until something catches my eye.  My husband and I mostly go looking for things that we can purchase for less than $50 and sell for over $100.  We did make a large purchase one time, though.  My husband found a Vintage Slingerland Drum Kit and paid $300 for it.  We turned around and sold it for $800.  That was the most we’ve ever made on a resale item.  And, the whole experience of buying it and finding out how much it was really worth was a lot of FUN!  It’s such a thrill!
  • When finding things on Craigslist, at rummage sales, and at thrift stores, it’s not really about making money.  Making extra money is a nice outcome.  But, for me, it’s mostly about FUN!  It’s fun to hunt for treasure!
  • Want to read some Mindless Banter about Rummage Sales?  Check out my husband’s blog post.  You’ll either laugh until you cry or be completely dumbfounded.
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Overwhelmed By Food

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I’ve been a little overwhelmed by food lately.  It’s just that there is so much that goes into meal planning.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell the average homemaker that.

overwhelmed by food

Every week, I go through the same routine.

  1. Find recipes for the week based on our health needs and budget
    (What should my budget be?)
  2. Go through pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what needs to be restocked
  3. Make a shopping list based on the recipes and restocking needs
  4. Find any coupons I may be able to use
  5. Find time to go to the grocery store without the kids having to tag along
  6. Go to the grocery store and resist impulse buying (avoid bakery at all costs!)
  7. Try to be as frugal as possible without sacrificing the health of our family
  8. Don’t forget main ingredients!  Get EVERYTHING on your list!
  9. Get home and unload groceries (freezer items first) without getting distracted by the kids
  10. Make the next meal of the day and prepare meals ahead of time if possible

This gets to be pretty overwhelming every week.  I suppose some people have meal planning and grocery shopping down to a science.  I’m not one of those people!  I would say there are three categories of grocery shoppers that people fall into.

Category #1:  The Budget Busters

  • These grocery shoppers are the type that don’t do any planning.  They look around the kitchen a while before going to the grocery store.  Once they are there, they proceed to put whatever looks good into their grocery cart. ” Hmmmm, I think this $10 jar of almost butter looks good.  I think I’ll get that!  Oooo, and that!  And, I could do something with that!”  Before they know it, they’ve got a grocery cart full of condiments and they’ve gone way over their budget.  And, they almost always run out of meals before the week is over.

Category #2:  The Mindful Mommies

  • These grocery shopping mommies will do their best to find food that’s healthy AND on sale!  If they can get something that’s healthy AND low-cost, then they’ve “done what they came to do.”  Mission accomplished!  Planning healthy meals and staying within the monthly budget are a mindful mommy’s constant companions.  She eats, sleeps,and… well, eats her mission to have healthy, low-cost food in her home every week.

Category #3:  The Crazy Coupon Crew

  • These Coupon Crazies are Crazy about Coupons!  All they care about is spending the least amount of money possible.  No time to worry about whether or not that bag of potato chips is healthy or not. ” If there is a coupon for it and it’s a double coupon day, then I’m buying it!  After all… food is food, right?  Gotta make sure we stay UNDER budget!”  So, they spend all of their time clipping coupons instead of planning meals.  And, when the shopping is all done, they’ve got a pantry full of processed food and a rather empty fridge.

Want to know how I came up with those categories?  They’re ALL Me!  I’ve been to both extremes.  I’ve been that Budget Buster who goes down every isle and searches for anything that catches my eye.  I’ve been part of the Crazy Coupon Crew and only cared about dollars and cents.  And, now, I’m starting to settle into the middle category where I should be at this point in my life.  I’m a Mindful Mommy with 4 beautiful children and a great husband to think about.  It’s a little overwhelming at times, but I know it’s worth it.  As long as my family is eating healthy and our finances aren’t suffering, I will feel confident in saying, “Mission Complete!”

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Do We Need Two Cars?

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Crowded CarWe’re in a bit of a pickle right now.  Our second car is on its last leg… finally.  I mean, what did we expect?  It’s a 1993 Toyota Corolla and it has been in my family for years!  I think my oldest sister learned to drive in that car.  We’ll be ok though, right?  We don’t need more than one car. That is, if we don’t ever have to go anywhere as a family.  Our other car is a reliable 2004 Honda Civic that we purchased about 6 years ago in a moment of weakness.  We’re still paying for it, although not for much longer.  Everyone keeps telling us that we need a van, and I guess they’re right.  We are a family of 6 after all.  We need to be able to get to church on Sundays.  No question about that.  And, I’m definitely not going to be asking my parents to help us out every week.

So, I guess we’ll have to put our house hunting off a while longer in order to stay on track with our financial plans.  We just did some landscaping, which added a few thousand dollars onto our credit card balance.  So, we’re set to have all of our cards paid off by April of next year.  Once we have those paid off, we should be able to save for a down payment on a house.

It is very tempting, though, to just refinance and include all of our credit card debt in that.  But, we only pay 1.99% on $5000 of credit card debt at this point.  So, to refinance that balance into, let’s say, a 3.5% interest 30 yr mortgage would be stupid to say the least.  We just need to be patient and help each other stay on track.  It will all be worth it in about 5 years when we own a rental property (our current home) and have only our mortgage on our nice new home with plenty of space for our 4 children… make that 6 children in another 5 years.

Now we just have to find a van that is reliable and doesn’t cost more than $3500.  Good luck with that, right?  Maybe we can swing having just one vehicle?  Would it be worth it to sell the Honda for a few thousand dollars and get a van when my husband would have to take it to work every day?  There aren’t many fuel efficient vans out there to my knowledge.  What to do, what to do?

Option #1:  Sell the old car for $500 and buy a used van for $3500

  • Pros:  We would have two cars and a vehicle that our entire family would fit in
  • Cons:  We would have to buy the van on credit and would have to hold off on buying our second home

Option #2:  Sell both cars for $4500, buy a used van with cash, and use the bus for work

  • Pros:  We would have a larger vehicle that our entire family would fit in and we may end up with some extra cash
  • Cons:  All of that extra cash would go toward gas!  NOT fuel efficient at all.  Inconvenient to only have one vehicle.

Option #3:  Sell the old car for $500 and just keep other car

  • Pros:  We would have some extra cash and no additional debt
  • Cons:  We would not be able to go anywhere as a family and would only have one small vehicle

Are you in a similar situation?  Please share your vehicle woes and put in your two cents about the above options.  Which one will it be?  Option#1, 2, or 3?  Our fate rests in your hands!  Until we take it back into our hands of course.

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