Couponing for the Rest of Us

The House We Didn’t Buy……..Thankfully

Home sweet home

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a story with you about that time our realtor assisted us in selling two spec homes. If you recall, this realtor did nothing short of saving us our sanity during a very difficult season in our family. On the flip side of that, over the past 17 years my husband and I have purchased three homes, all with the help of our realtor. And so today, I would like to come full circle and share with you the story of the house we didn’t buy, thanks to our realtor.

Last year, we found a home in foreclosure that we thought was perfect for our family. It was in a great neighborhood, had four bedrooms, a partially finished basement, and even a swimming pool. We thought we had found the perfect home for our family at a great price. Although it needed lots of work, we weren’t bothered at all. We had experience with putting elbow grease into our homes, since we completely remodeled the house we live in now upon purchase.

Since we had built spec homes before we had a great list of contractors, we knew we were more than capable for the job. As we walked through the house full of excitement, our realtor began to point out things that in our excitement we were blinded to. With years of experience, he quickly recognized areas of concern that warranted our attention. Evidence of a previously flooded basement, mold on the wall, and a cracked foundation were just a few of the issues mentioned. Even though the house was priced considerably lower than market value, the needed improvements just to make sure that the home was safe for our family were significant. Thankfully our realtor had our best interest at heart; it wasn’t just about selling another house to him. He suggested we get bids from professionals to give us a better idea of how much the repairs would cost.

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We knew that waiting for estimates to determine the  cost of the needed repairs could potentially cost us this house, but we trusted our realtor. Turns out, the needed repairs would have cost us close to $50,000! That didn’t even count the cosmetic upgrades we wanted to make; this was just to make sure the house was safe for our family to live. Nevertheless, had we not trusted our realtor’s professional opinion and years of experience, we could have gotten ourselves into a very difficult financial bind. This wasn’t our dream house after all; in all reality it was a huge money pit. In this case, we are thankful for our realtor’s expertise in a real estate transaction that didn’t come to pass. We love our home and are very content staying right where we are.

Besides our personal experience in buying and selling homes, my husband Gary is a Mortgage Loan officer who works with home buyers on a daily basis. Because of his line of work, he understands how much smoother the entire process can go when a real estate professional is involved. Now that you have heard our personal experience in home buying, he is going to share from his professional expertise.

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Gary:
As a professional who works in the real estate market every day, I have seen and come to appreciate the importance that realtors play in working through a real estate transaction. My job is to help families find the right mortgage that will allow them to purchase a home. I have worked with clients who did not have a realtor representing them when they initially came to me for a mortgage. In many of those cases, the client was asking me questions that I am just not qualified to answer. I had to complete many hours of class work and pass a state and national exam, as well as be licensed with credit and background checks. The State of Tennessee says that I am qualified to answer questions that deal with acquiring a mortgage on a home, NOT the process of selling or buying a home. Yes, I have sold and bought many houses through the years, but that does not make me an expert in the field of real estate.

So what can a realtor offer you? The realtor is an extra layer of protection for you. Your realtor will be out in front of your transaction speaking with the mortgage broker, title company and listing agent (as well as many others), ensuring that the transaction is moving along and on schedule. Typically, the realtor has relationships with all of the involved parties and can communicate effectively to ensure the closing is on target. By enlisting the help of a realtor, you can rest assured knowing you have a trained professional who knows what they are doing and can proactively navigate the buying or selling process.

Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make in your lifetime. I don’t know about you, but if I am dealing with a legally binding transaction, I don’t want the best opinion of someone not trained in the business. I want a professional who deals with this every day! Using a real estate professional can be the difference in selling your home or purchasing your dream home. They serve as the protective and helpful barrier between you and the other party. Let a licensed professional represent you, and thus ensure that your transaction will run smoother.

Now that you have heard both our personal and professional experiences, the next step is finding a fabulous real estate professional. Dave Ramsey offers an Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program. The ELP program is a super simple to use, trusted program. You can even find recommendations specific to your local area across the country. Rest assured that those included in Dave Ramsey’s ELP program have passed stringent guidelines to be included in the program. In fact, each real estate ELP professional is evaluated monthly based on their performance. Having that extra layer of accountability can make a huge difference between finding an average real estate agent and getting matched with the best real estate agent in your area.


Water Balloon Flip-Flops: Summer Fun at Dollar Tree

Disclosure: I’m thrilled to be partnering with Dollar Tree to share their new Summer Fun products with you! All opinions expressed are my own!

Dollar Tree has a brand new line called Summer Fun, which is a NEW collection of colorful flip-flops, summer tableware, party supplies, toys and more created to launch you into a fun-filled summer. I was especially excited to see their selection of flip-flops. Does anyone wear anything but flip-flops in the Summer? We spend so much time at the pool, or out playing in the sprinkler in our backyard that flip-flops are our regular attire. For a crafting project, I thought it would be fun for my daughter and I to decorate a pair of flip-flops. What better place to go shopping than Dollar Tree, where we can take advantage of their incredible already low prices during their Summer Fun flip-flop frenzy?

Flip-Flop Frenzy Details:

  • Flip-flops are available in solid colors (blue, black, pink, lime, turquoise, yellow, purple, and orange), as well as colorful patterns and styles. Colors and styles vary by store.
  • Flip-flops are available in men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes.
  • Also check out colorful Summer Fun housewares, party supplies, and toys.

After seeing so many different fun flip-flop crafts on Pinterest, my daughter and I settled on water balloon flip-flops. I’m not super-duper crafty, so I wanted to make sure we didn’t bite off more than we could chew.

Water balloon flip-flops are fun, easy and inexpensive to make. I’ve included the supply list and details below.

What you need:

  • flip-flops
  • 1 to 2 packs of water balloons

You’ll want to begin on one end of the flip-flop. First, gently stretch the balloon, then tie tightly in a double knot. Alternating the direction of each balloon, continue until the straps are covered. Make sure to tie balloons closely together. You can follow a color pattern or change it up, depending on your preference.

You’ll have lots and lots of water balloons left over for fun summer water balloon fights. You could probably get away with one pack, however I went ahead and grabbed two just in case. Even so, I ran out of green balloons quickly. My kids are already planning a water balloon fight this afternoon after they finish their school work.

Stay in the Loop:

  • Have you signed up for Dollar Tree’s free loyalty program, the Value Seekers Club? You’ll get access to exclusive crafts, recipes, and tip ideas every month. Visit www.ValueSeekersClub.com.
  • Learn more about new Dollar Tree products and contests as an email subscriber. Sign up for weekly emails here:
  • Follow Dollar Tree on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Dollar Tree via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

Mt Rushmore KOA Review: Tons of Family Fun

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. All opinions and text are my own. Visit my full disclosure policy here.

Mt Rushmore KOA

Recently, my family joined 15 other bloggers and their family on a cross country RV trip. We started our journey in Middlebury, Indiana and ended 7 days later in Salt Lake City, Utah. On the way to Salt Lake City we stopped for two days in South Dakota at the Mt Rushmore KOA, also known as Palmer Gulch.  This was my family’s very first RV trip. In fact, I don’t think I had stepped foot on a campgroup in 20 years, since I was in Girl Scouts. I really didn’t know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised at the amenities that the Mt Rushmore KOA offered. The bathrooms were very clean, the restaurant was delicious, and it was very family friendly. In addition to RV sites, there were exclusive cabin accommodations as well as tent sites. A couple of my blogger friends won a night/nights in the exclusive cabins and said they were amazing!

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My kids had an absolute blast on these “banana bikes” as they called them. In the afternoon and evenings many of the kids would ride around together.

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When the kids weren’t riding bikes, they were enjoying this amazing playground.

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On site mini golf made a great afternoon adventure for my husband and my kiddos while this mama caught up on some much needed sleep.

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The Splash park wasn’t open yet, but it looked super fun!

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Who doesn’t love water slides? Water activities are always fun and family friendly. We were just a couple of weeks too early to take advantage of any water fun.

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There was even a Palmer Gulch Mining Company. I would really like to come back when all the activities are available.

Unique Amenities

Camground activities from Memorial Day to Labor Day 
  • Free horse-drawn hayrides twice a week
  • Two different free movies each evening
  • Free musical entertainment three nights a week
  • Shuttles for a nominal fee to the Lighting Ceremony at Mount Rushmore
  • Sunday Worship Service – non denominational
  • Breakfast trail rides
  • All day rides to Harney Peak
  • Pancake breakfasts

Just a note from experience, DO NOT follow GPS directions to Mt Rushmore KOA. We found out the hard way late at night when we were directed to a dirt road with no outlet. Thankfully, the KOA is aware of the problem and has the correct directions posted on their website.

That Time our Realtor Saved our Sanity……….

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Our story began nearly 8 years ago. At that time, I was pregnant with our second child and desperately wanted to leave my job when the baby was born. My husband had experience in the construction business from when he was younger, and we had contracted out our home several years earlier. With this in mind, my husband got his contractors license so that we could build spec homes on the side to supplement my income. Our first experience went beautifully, we sold the house before we finished it. In fact, we even netted enough profit to pay off my car. We were in a great place financially, had learned a great deal following Dave Ramsey’s debt elimination program, and felt like we were ready to take the leap for me to stay home.

After such a smooth experience the first time, we decided to build two spec homes in the same neighborhood. We placed them just a lot down from each other. We decided that with the proceeds we would be able to pay down our mortgage and put extra away in savings. From our standpoint, our plans were perfect. At least they seemed that way to us. Then, right after we broke ground on those two houses the real estate market began to crash. My daughter who had just turned 3 was diagnosed with type I diabetes, and 3 months later we discovered my father had incurable brain cancer. With all of this on our plate, did I mention we were right smack dab in the middle of building two spec homes in a housing recession?

Life was very stressful during this season. Between taking care of a newborn, learning a new way of life with my daughter’s diabetes, and trying to visit my daddy as much as possible, marketing our homes was impossible on our own. Over the next 10 months we made the three hour trip to visit my dad as often as we could. At first, we tried to sell our spec houses by owner. It cost more to build the houses than we originally anticipated so we were hoping to bring in a larger profit. Do you know what happened? Those houses sat, and sat, and sat some more. No one looked at them, no one noticed our beautiful bright for sale sign in the yard, no one answered our ads in the newspaper. If we ever did get a call, either they didn’t want to make an appointment to see one of the houses or if they did, we were out of town with my dad and unable to show the houses.

As my dad’s health continued to decline we knew that the added stress of trying to sell the houses on our own wasn’t worth it. Not only were our houses not being exposed to buyers, but every month they didn’t sell meant two additional mortgage interest payments for us. So, not only were we not saving money by trying to sell them ourselves, it was actually cutting into our potential profit month after month. It didn’t take us long to realize something had to change.

I can tell you I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we signed the contracts with our realtor to list the spec homes. No longer were we solely responsible for marketing, showing, negotiations, contracts, etc. Although we had used a realtor to sell and buy houses before, I never understood their role and appreciated it as much until this moment in our life.

istock sold

Here is what we learned:

  • Our realtor helped us determine a competitive price for our spec homes so that they would be looked at more favorably by buyers. Since there were several other houses for sale in the same neighborhood, our realtor could look at both current listings and sales history to make the best recommendation. Plus, I recently read that people who use a realtor sell their home for 16% more than those who don’t. We could definitely use that additional 16%.
  • By hiring a realtor our house was instantly in front of thousands of customers on realtor.com, and in the Multiple Listing Service. Having more than a sign in the yard and an occasional newspaper ad was key in getting our house in front of our target market.
  • Open Houses – Our realtor scheduled open houses during strategic weekends. Even better, we didn’t have to spend our Sunday afternoon in the houses hoping for customers. This was more time we could spend with family.
  • If you have ever tried to sell a house by owner then you know how awkward it can be to show a potential customer your home. When they were for sale by owner, often times potential buyers were reluctant to schedule an appointment for a showing when they called. Having a realtor meant that buyers were more comfortable taking the time to look through our spec homes with their realtor, someone they trusted.
  • Once we had a buyer (hallelujah) finalizing the contract as well as the details needed for closing were all taken care of by our realtor.

As you can see, during this period of our lives a realtor was the key to selling our spec homes. We were able to focus on our family and the issues we were facing, while the realtor was able to help us get top dollar for our properties. We learned a very valuable lesson through this process, trying to sell our houses by owner ended up costing us more in the long run than we could have ever saved by not hiring a realtor.

Now, the most important task is finding the perfect Realtor. Did you know that Dave Ramsey offers an Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program? The ELP program is super simple to use, trusted program. ELP’s are chosen based on the following criteria:

  • Have the heart of a teacher
  • Put the client’s needs first
  • Have proper licensing and active license in good standing
  • Agree to help clients based on Dave Ramsey’s principles

Real Estate ELPs must:

  • Be licensed and practicing real estate full time for at least five years
  • Be a high producer in their particular market (i.e. 40-120 transactions a year)
  • Have the heart of a teacher and be willing to take time with clients to explain the process
  • Be committed to service (i.e. will return phone calls promptly, show the house, advertise it properly, etc.) and have a record of demonstrating this service over time
  • Be willing to provide real estate advice based on Dave Ramsey’s principles
  • Be willing to work with anyone, regardless of financial

Our realtor, truly saved our sanity.  Getting our spec homes in front of thousands of potential buyers was key. We’ve learned our lesson, and won’t make the the same costly mistake again.

Ebates.com: Spring Fashion Giveaway & Double Cash Back!!

I was compensated by Ebates to work on this campaign, however as always opinions and text are my own. Visit my full disclosure policy here.
ebates
I don’t know about you, but with a change in season I am ready to go shopping for new Spring clothes. Since I homeschool my kids and run two businesses at home it’s not always easy for us to make it out to the stores. Personally, I prefer to shop online. Not only is it stress free, but I can also rack up extra savings by shopping online through ebates.com. And, ebates.com has generously offered to sponsor a giveaway exclusively for Time 2 $ave readers!! Before I give you details – let’s review what Ebates is and how it helps you earn money.

By going through Ebates on your way to an online merchant – your purchase is tracked and you earn a percentage back in cash!  Who doesn’t like to get cash back from something they already intended to buy? This percentage  back is on top of sales and coupon codes!

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It really is easy to join free. I recently received a check back for right at $15 for online purchases that I made last year at Old Navy.

 

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First, sign up for an Ebates account. Then, you’ll get your $10 Giftcard as soon as you’ve made a $25 purchase by going through Ebates. In addition to the regular cash back amount, right now many stores have doubled their cash back for the Spring Fashion Sale. The Double Cash Back runs April 8 – 21.

Spring Fashion Sale Stores and Double Cash Back

  • EXPRESS – Plus 5.0% Cash Back
  • American Eagle – Plus 4.0% Cash Back
  • Neiman Marcus – Plus 8.0% Cash Back
  • Rodale’s – Plus 10.0% Cash Back
  • Nordstrom – Plus 6.0% Cash Back
  • Fossil – Plus 10.0% Cash Back
  • Magazines.com – Plus 40.0% Cash Back
  • The Limited – Plus 3.0% Cash Back
  • Saks Off 5th – Plus 6.0% Cash Back
  • Lucky Brand – Plus 5.0% Cash Back
  • Neiman Marcus Last Call – Plus 5.0% Cash Back
  • eBags – Plus 12.0% Cash Back
  • Ulta – Plus 8.0% Cash Back

Now, for the awesome giveaway!! Ebates is giving away $100 in Ebates credits to (2) Time 2 $ave readers to use towards their Spring Wardrobe!! Follow the instructions below to enter!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Shark Steam & Spray Mop Review @SharkCleaning

Disclosure: I received products from Shark to facilitate a review. All views and and opinions in regard to the products or company itself are my own and were not influenced, nor reviewed by the company prior to posting.

Shark Steam Mop Review

Recently, I had the opportunity to review the Shark Pro Steam & Spray Mop. I have lots of light colored tile (worst decision ever) in my house and hardwood floors. I’ve been looking for something to make the job of keeping the floors clean a little easier. I really like the fact that the Shark Steam & Spray mom has 3 different cleaning options, depending on my need. In addition to mopping the floors from top to bottom, sometimes I just need to spot clean. It’s important to me, to find a cleaner that does the job and saves me time. As much as I like my floors clean, I really really hate to clean up.  I know some people genuinely like to clean, I’m not one of them. So, when I find something that makes my job easier, and saves me time I’m sold!

The Shark Steam Mop comes with:

  • Shark Pro Steam & Spray Mop
  • 1 bottle Shark Steam Energized Cleanser
  • 1 Washable Cleaning Pad
  • 2 SaniFiber Disposable Pads
  • 4 AA batteries
  • Water tank filling flask
  • quick start guide
  • owner’s manual

We have used the washable cleaning pad several times and it holds up really really well.

3 Cleaning Modes

  1. Steam
  2. Spray – quick cordless clean ups
  3. Steam & Spray

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We have a small bar in our kitchen where my kids always eat breakfast. To say that the floor underneath the bar stools gets dirty is an understatement. Getting out the mop and bucket after every meal is just too much and other quick cleaners I’ve tried just didn’t do the job. With the Shark Steam & Spray Mop, my kids can easily use the spray option without having to plug in the mop. It only takes an extra minute or two, and it makes this mama really happy to have a clean floor under their bar stool.

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I don’t know about your kids, but mine kids don’t typically smile when it’s time to mop. The request is usually met with a sad face. I don’t know how long this will last, but you can bet your bottom dollar we are going to take full advantage of it. The steam feature is particularly of interest to my children, as it just makes mopping so much more fun!

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I don’t think my floors have ever looked this clean. My daughter and I mopped the kitchen while my hubby and son were out getting firewood for the impending snow that is supposed to be coming our way. My husband, who doesn’t usually notice the floor even said it looked super shiny. An added bonus, with all the crud that is going around, I really like the fact that using the steam mop eliminates 99.9% of germs and bacteria, including e-coli, staph & salmonella. Also kills 99.9% of the virus that causes H1N1 (does not prevent H1N1).

To find out more about the Shark Steam and Spray Mop, click here

 

Announcing New Tru Moo Chocolate Marshmallow Milk #TruMoo

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Chocolate milk is one of my kids favorite special treats. I was super excited to hear that this month Tru Moo is releasing a brand new chocolate milk flavor………Chocolate Marshmallow Milk!!! Oh my word. My kids LOVE chocolate milk AND they love marshmallows. Who wouldn’t? I have a feeling that they are going to be asking for Tru Moo Chocolate Marshmallow milk more often. Since it’s important to me that my kids are eating healthy, I really like the fact that TruMoo contains no additional growth hormones or high fructose corn syrup. For the month of February, TruMoo Chocolate Marshmallow milk will be available in the dairy section at grocery stores.

One thing I REALLY like about TruMoo Chocolate Marshmallow is that it can be served either hot or cold. I don’t know what it’s been like where you live, but it’s been flat out freezing here in Tennessee. My kids are constantly requesting Hot Chocolate. Since TruMoo Chocolate Marshmallow milk can be served either hot or cold, it’s sooooo easy to just pour a mug and warm it up in the microwave. In under a minute I can serve my kids a hot mug of Chocolate Marshmallow Milk. I think we will start adding extra marshmallows for good measure, just to make it more fun. What about you? Does your family like to warm up with a hot drink on a cold winter night?

TruMoo Chocolate Marshmallow milk is made with fresh white milk sourced from regional dairies around the country – pure cocoa and just enough natural sugar to make it taste great.

  • Nutritious and Delicious
  • TruMoo Milk contains no artificial growth hormones and no high fructose corn syrup.
  • Enjoy TruMoo Chocolate Marshmallow hot or cold! Enjoy it hot and you have yourself a s’more!

It’s available in the dairy section at grocery stores nationwide through the month of February.

Make sure to follow TruMoo on facebook and twitter, or check out the TruMoo website here. You can also use this handy dandy store locator to find out where you can purchase TruMoo Chocolate Marshmallow Milk.

Ninja Ultima Blender Review Plus Our Favorite Fruit Smoothie Recipe

Disclosure: I received products from Ninja to facilitate a review. All views and and opinions in regard to the products or company itself are my own and were not influenced, nor reviewed by the company prior to posting.

Ninja Ultima Review

Recently, I had the opportunity to review a Ninja Ultima Blender. I was so excited because my kids LOVE smoothies. We’ve already gone through 2 blenders in the past couple of years, and really neither did a great job with smoothies.  I have always heard rave reviews about Ninja blenders but didn’t really know a lot about them. When it arrived my kids couldn’t wait to give it a test spin as it had been a while since they had one of “mama’s smoothies.” Can I just say HOLY SMOKES! The Ninja Ultima gets it done. I had no idea there could be this big of a difference between blenders. Compared to the Ninja, I might as well have been using a whisk before. Seriously, no comparison. My daughter said, “Mama, it’s like having our very own Smoothie King in our house.” I would have to agree, it really is. Our Ninja Ultima Blender Review is definitely two thumbs up.

We have made smoothies almost every single day this week. I also made natural peanut butter. Since both my husband and daughter are type I diabetic our smoothie recipe is a little different than most. We use lots of fruit with a little Crystal Light for a perfect low-sugar smoothie. I’m going to order some protein powder this week to add to our smoothies so that they are protein packed as well. We use all different kinds of fruits. Our favorite recipe includes peaches, oranges, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, and grapes blended with Strawberry Orange Banana Crystal Light.

To find out more go to www.NinjaUltimaBlender.com. [Read more...]