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Frugal Friday: How to Set Your Monthly Grocery Budget {And Stick to It}

For the past four years, we have followed the Dave Ramsey financial peace plan.  A huge part of this plan is writing down and sticking to a monthly budget.  We tell every dollar where to go, including what we spend on food.  Setting and sticking to a budget is the number one thing you can do to become debt free and find financial freedom.  If you are bogged down by your finances, know that freedom is possible.  We are living proof.  You can read more about our financial story here.  Both of us were once deep in debt and we have now been debt free for almost 4 years.  Today I’m sharing how we set our monthly grocery budget, and a few tips that help us stick to it.  
1) Track your spending.
Before you set your grocery budget, it will be helpful to track your food spending for one month.  Keep you receipts and add up your totals at the end of the month.  Was this a typical month or was your budget off kilter because of guests visiting, birthday parties, etc?  Add or subtract to accommodate those factors.  This will give you a ball park figure to add to your total budget.
2) Create your larger monthly budget.
Your grocery budget is a part of your larger monthly budget.  There are a multitude of budgeting tools out there.  We prefer Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover budget tool.  It takes you through setting up a budget step by step.  If you want to do it on your own, simply write down your total monthly income and start subtracting your expenses.  Account for your tithe or giving, rent or mortgage, utilities, and then groceries, and any debts.  After the essentials you will see what you have left to spend on the non-essentials like dining out, gifts, travel, etc.  You will probably need to tweak the numbers a few time to get everything just right.  Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a few months to get it right.  
3) Take your grocery number set in your larger budget and divide it up.
How much do you usually spend on meat?  We buy meat only when it is on sale and freeze it in individual baggies or in freezer meals.  We also eat at least one vegetarian meal every week to reduce our spending and our environmental impact.  What are your budget busters? Alcohol, fancy cheese, brand name foods, seasonal items… Each week you will want to make sure your basics are covered before you buy a bottle of wine or (in my case) a fancy cheese.  Goat cheese is my love language, y’all.  If you are a soda drinker, wait until they are on sale and stock up.  One month we busted our grocery budget buying Christmas candy.  I’m so not kidding.  
4) Meal Plan 
Write down your dinners for the week and stick to the plan.  I’ll share more about how we plan our meals next week, but know that without a plan it is easy to lose track of your spending.  Some folks use coupons to help them plan, but I have more luck shopping at Aldi.  When we started shopping there it cut our budget by almost 40%.  Seriously.  They aren’t a sponsor of this blog (but the totally should be), we just love the store.  We gave up name brands almost entirely.  There are a few products that truly are better with name brands, so we look for coupons for those favorites.  
5) Use cash envelopes.
Take out the entire monthly grocery budget in cash at the beginning of each month.  Put it in your grocery envelope and take it with you every time you go to the grocery store.  If you run out before the end of the month, try your best to use what you already have on hand and get creative.  Using cash will help you immensely as you try to stick to your budget.  
How do you keep your grocery spending on track? 

Family Fun in DFW: Beat the Heat at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

We are in the seriously-too-hot-to-live phase of Texas weather, and constantly trying to find ways to keep cool and entertain our family without spending too much or staying glued to the tv.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know that recently we visited the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas and had an absolute blast.  We received free passes in exchange for this review, but all opinions are strictly my own.  We love exploring the city we call home and enriching the lives of our wee ones on the way.  The Aquarium has been around for a long time, but was recently completely redesigned as a Children’s Aquarium.  EVERYTHING is on a child’s level, completely accessible, and perfectly placed to grab their attention.  Bear was enthralled.  He has been talking about the alligator we saw for over a week now.  
Isn’t this jelly fish amazing?
There are two sides to the main aquarium, salt water and fresh, as well as a touch pool, shark tank, and stingray touch pool.  Everything is included in the admission price except for stingray food (if you want to feed them) for and extra $2.  Bear was a little intimidated by the stingrays, so we didn’t try feeding them.  

Spike wants to bite your toes.  Thankfully thick glass protects you from this 190 pound 75 old year old titan snapping turtle.

The jelly fish were truly beautiful to watch.  They float so gracefully like aquatic ballerinas.  It almost made me hate them a little less.  I’ve been stung one too many times.  

The touch pool is surrounded by a step rock formation to make it the perfect height for every kid.  The staff guide was so patient with Bear and showed him shells and sea urchins, helping him touch them gently.

The outdoor shark and stingray tanks were fabulous.  There are several different vantage points to watch the sharks, but this was my favorite as well as Bear’s.  He waited for each shark to swim by and chased it down the glass.  I couldn’t get a non-blurry photo, but it was such a fun memory I had to share.  
If you are a fan of the tv show New Girl, you probably recognize the lion fish.  These beauties were so incredible to watch. 

In my opinion, the best thing about the Children’s Aquarium is the price.  Admission is only $8 for adults, and $6 for kids 3-11 and seniors.  If you have a membership to the Dallas Zoo you get $2 off admission.  An even better deal is the annual membership.  For $20 ($15 for zoo members) you can buy an annual membership and visit any time.  If you’ve checked out the prices on any of the other aquariums in town you know that price is unbeatable.

**Holiday Gift Idea** A season pass would make a perfect gift for the fish loving child in your life.  People (children included) remember experiences far more than material things.  Do you remember what toy you got for Christmas at age 6? Probably not.  But I bet you remember a favorite visit to the zoo, aquarium, or special museum.

I would highly recommend the Children’s Aquarium for families with kids 1 and up.  A visit takes 1-2 hours, depending on your child’s attention span.  The Children’s Aquarium also hosts groups, birthday parties, overnight guests, and summer camps for kids from pre-k through 5th grade.  
Visit the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park any day of the week from 9 am to 4:30 pm, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.  Click here to visit the Children’s Aquarium website for more information.  For more information about the Dallas Zoo visit their website here.  You can also follow the Zoo and Aquarium on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.    
What is your favorite species to see at the aquarium?

Frugal Friday: Confessions of a Gift Wrap Hoarder

Y’all know I love to clean out, clear out, sell stuff, and give it away.
That is still true about most things in my life, with a few exceptions.
Today I’m confessing the ugly truth.
My name is Becca, and I’m a gift wrap hoarder.  
Why do I hoard gift wrap?  I do it because it saves us tons of money at every gift giving holiday, birthday party, baby shower, and wedding.  I rarely spend money on gift wrap.  It started with our wedding five years ago.  If you’ve had one, you know you get tons of presents, all beautifully wrapped, and it seems like such a waste to throw away all those bags and tissue paper.  I started folding it all up neatly and holding on to it.  I moved my collection cross country and 3 times since.  It is totally worth it.  For every shower and birthday I’ve saved at least $3-5 in gift wrap by using my stash.  
At Christmas I buy one roll of brown packing paper from the dollar store and use it to wrap all my box presents.  I tie the packages up with recycled bows from my stash or plain ribbon.  Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things.  
I never have to run by Target or the Hallmark Store at the last minute to grab a gift bag, and our presents always look super cute for at no extra cost.  Lots of people don’t keep gift wrap because it takes up space, and quite frankly we live in a disposable culture.  I rack up every Christmas on new gift wrap because no one else can be bothered to keep it.  Oh, I’ll always take it off their hands.  Don’t mind if I do.  
Do you have a gift wrap stash or a frugal gift wrap solution? Share it in the comments section below.       

Baby Bloom: Minted Review and Giveaway ~ Win a $50 Credit to

I am so thrilled to share with you a review and $50 giveaway to Minted that you can use for birth announcements, wedding invitations, party invitations, art prints, greeting cards or anything of their other products!  Have you been to yet?  Minted has been around since 2007 and strives to bring the  best in stationary design and paper goods to the world.  From

“Minted is a global community of independent graphic designers and an online store that prints and sells the best of their designs in the form of paper goods.”

Minted’s independent designers come from 43 different countries, so the variety of designs is unparalleled.  I found so many birth announcements I loved, then found myself looking at children’s and nursery prints, and birthday party invitations.  There are thousands of fun options.  Pricing is competitive, and if you subscribe to Minted’s email newsletter they often send out discounts and deals.  One thing that really sets Minted apart is the quality of the paper.  Maybe that sounds silly if you aren’t into paper goods, but my sister and I were discussing this and agreed that out of all the printing companies we’ve used, Minted has the highest quality products.  She actually brought it up when I told her I was reviewing the company.  

Baby Bloom - Bare Feet on the Dashboard by Becca, see more birth announcements

I created 2 inspiration boards for you to check out a few of the options I’m considering for Mini Bear.  These are five of my favorite birth announcements, and 3 of my favorite art prints.  I can’t decide which I like the best.

Baby Bloom II ~ Bare Feet on the Dashboard by Becca, see more kids art prints

I ordered Christmas cards from Minted, and fell in love with their free addressing service.  You enter your recipients’ addresses and choose the font, and your envelopes arrive addressed for you.  Genius.  I’m excited to check this off the list before Mini Bear arrives so that all I’ll have to do is add her photo and birth stats.

Head over to Minted and pick out your favorite products and enter to win a $50 credit on the Rafflecopter form below.  You don’t need to have a blog or a Facebook profile to enter, just an email address.    
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is the first post in my Baby Bloom Blog Event series.  Stay tuned for more reviews, giveaways, and baby themed good times here on Bare Feet on the Dashboard.

**I was not paid for this review and all opinions are my own.  I did receive products in exchange for a review.

Best of Bare Feet on the Dashboard – Crafty Edition

It’s my 3 year blogging anniversary this week, and I’m celebrating by bringing you my favorite and most popular posts from the past 3 years.   I’m kicking off the party with my favorite crafty posts.  I started blogging to have a creative outlet, and creating fun stuff is a huge part of that.  I’d love for y’all to check out my old projects and feel free to pin away if you like what you see.

DIY Baby Book with Free Printable Pages
(My most popular crafty post so far.)
The Picket Fence Project – Roadside Trash to Wall Decor
Part One   Part Two
Anthro Inspired Sandal Makeover
Anthro Inspired Headband with Vintage Fabric
Cake Plate Jewelry Holder
Festive Paper Flower Tutorial
The Mod Podge Doily Canvas Project
DIY Solar Powered Light Jars
Ribbon Mobile for Baby’s Nursery
Felt Embroidered Bird Onesie
Handmade Felt Christmas Stockings
Burlap Easter Wreath
A Burlap Wreath for All Seasons
Bowtie Onesie Tutorial
Vintage Highchair Makeover
Birds in Flight Nursery Mobile
Burlap and Pinwheels Summer Wreath
Cheap Giant Photo
Pinterest Free Printable
There they are, all my fav crafty posts.  Happy blog anniversary to me!  
What was your favorite craft project that you made in 2012? 

Duck Creek DIY: Our Wallpaper Removal Miracle

 As you may have seen in our before pictures, we have been working with some seriously ugly wallpaper all over our little Duck Creek Ranch.  We’ve dreaded the removal process, but decided to tackle the dining room and entry hall over Christmas break.  We’re so glad we did because what we experienced was nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

 There were not one but 2 layers of wallpaper on an accent wall in the dining room and in the entry hall.  I apologize for the poor lighting, but you can see the 2 layers of ugly from the hall above.  Not the underneath layer in the dining room is actually kind of retro cool, but we couldn’t save it during the removal.

 The wallpaper has been up there for at least 15 years (top layer) and almost 40 for the bottom layer.  We just knew in our hearts it was going to take hours upon hours of spraying and scraping to remove it.  Amazingly, Jed started peeling it from the corners just to see what would happen.  It came off!  Smoothly!  In giant chunks!

A true Christmas miracle.  
In under an hour we removed all the wallpaper from the dining room, entry hall, kitchen, and master bath.  We tried to do the same in our guest bath, but our good luck ran out.  I can’t wait to show you what we’ve done in the dining room and hall.  They are both transformed.  

We’re Having A…

Will Mini Bear be a brother or sister for our little Bear?
Will it be a bow or tie in our Christmas box?
Can you guess?
 Mini Bear’s tiny little foot

Still don’t know?
I’ll let Bear show you…

He approaches the box…
opens it up..
 and we see a hint of pink…

We’re having a precious little girl, and we couldn’t be more excited.  She should arrive near the end of April.  As you can see, I’ve already started her accessory collection.  The majority of y’all guessed correctly, so congrats on your good instincts.  You should probably go buy a powerball ticket.  🙂  Now we just have to figure out a name…

Frugal Friday: The Dollar Store – Deal or No Deal?

I love the dollar store.
Not Dollar General or any other faker store, the real, everything costs $1 or under store, like Dollar Tree or the 99 Cent Store.  But, can you really find great bargains?  Yes!!!  Let me preface this by telling you not everything at the dollar store is a great deal.  While there are a lot of things we buy there often, there are others we will never buy there.  Now that you can use manufacturers’ coupons at Dollar Tree, it’s like a whole new world.  Today I’ll give you the top ten things we love to buy at the dollar store, and a few that we don’t.  This post is dedicated to my late mother-in-law, Carrie, whose love for the dollar store was passionate and true.  
Top Ten Deals at the Dollar Store:
1) Cleaning Supplies 
They have it all, including lots of name brands.  Don’t pay full price for stuff to clean your toilet bowl.
2) Kids’ Books & Coloring Books
They have tons, in English and Spanish.  I already have a bunch picked out for stocking stuffers.  
3) Food
They have our favorite Nature’s Own Double Fiber bread for 1/3 the price of the grocery store 1 block away.  We find name brand canned goods all the time.  The freezer section is often overlooked, but they have a great selection of sweet treats and frozen vegetables.
4) Craft Supplies
From grosgrain ribbon to wreath forms, they have tons of craft supplies.  I just bought mini pumpkins to add to my fall wreath.
5) Holiday Decorations  
Easter eggs, Halloween costumes, Christmas garlands, Fourth of July banners, they have a huge selection for every holiday.    I just bought 4 ceramic pumpkins to spray paint for my fall mantle.  
6)Party Supplies
The best deal of all used to be their mylar helium balloons, but there is apparently a helium shortage and our store has been out for months.  You can find wrapping paper and bows, gift bags, balloons, candles, all of it.  I buy brown packing paper and use it for every gift.  
7) Kitchen Supplies
Paper plates, napkins, and cups, as well as glass, plastic, and ceramic ware can all be found in the kitchen section.  Pie plates and random utensils are often a great deal as well.  
8)Home Decor
I buy candles and picture frames all the time.  There are tons of items with potential if you get a little creative.
9) Pregnancy Tests
Instead of $9-$20 at CVS, try $1 for 2 tests. 
10) Candy
Our dollar store has a big selection of movie theater big box candy, and it makes a great treat.   
Top Five Things I Would Never Buy at the Dollar Store:
1) Electronics
2) Batteries
3) Medicine
4) Clothing
5) Anything I want to last for a long time.
Basically, you pay for what you get.  While the dollar store has tons of great deals, a lot of the stuff is not high quality or regulated for content.  Quality doesn’t matter as much for party supplies and seasonal decorations, but does matter for your vitamins, your baby’s onesies, and your electronics.  
Here’s a great article from Forbes that breaks down everything you should and shouldn’t buy at the Dollar Store.  Thanks to our friend T.J. for sending it my way.    
Do you shop at the dollar store?  What’s the best deal you’ve ever found there?

Frugal Friday – Our Top 8 Frugal Family Travel Tips

Here’s our little family high atop the continental divide near Cottonwood Pass in Colorado.  We took an incredible 8 week road trip this summer and spent as little money as possible.  We mulled over what we did right and how we screwed up and decided to share the good with you first.  Drumroll please…
1. Bring your own food for the road.
2. Grocery shop and cook at “home.”
3. Find FREE entertainment wherever you are.
4. Make the trip the thing, not souvenirs.
5. Ask for favors.
6. Utilize local resources.
7. Find travel deals online.
8. Piggyback on a work trip.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
1. Bring your own food for the road.
We packed lunches for driving days, kept an ice chest full of drinks and snacks, and brought reusable water bottles.  If we hadn’t prepared we would have spend an average of $5 per stop on snacks and drinks and $15-20 on lunches.  That adds up really quickly.  The bonus to this tip is that you can make the snacks and meals as healthy as you choose and not be bound by whatever fast food you can find.  If you do order fast food, order a bigger meal for yourself and share it with your child (if they are small enough), rather than ordering a kid’s meal.
2. Grocery shop and cook at “home”.
Stay in places with kitchens or kitchenettes whenever possible.  You will save so much money cooking at home.  Grocery stores in tourist towns can be pricier than at home, but most chains are interconnected so you can use your saver cards from home.  We meal planned throughout our time so that we wouldn’t waste food and wouldn’t be caught by surprise when dinner time came around.  We did go out to eat several times, but we used online menus to check out the restaurants beforehand.
3. Find FREE entertainment wherever you are.
Hiking, biking, exploring, window shopping, cruising around, and seeing the sights are all usually free.  Pick one activity that costs money and try to make the rest of your fun free.  We paid for one activity the whole trip (riding the ski lift at Red River) and it was well worth it.  Look for local entertainment guides that often contain coupons for activities.
4. Make the trip the thing, not souvenirs.
It is incredibly tempting, especially when traveling with kids, to become convinced that you must buy that t-shirt/stuffed animal/taxidermied jackalope/etc.  You don’t need it.  The trip is what you came for, not the junk.  You took your child on an amazing vacation.  They don’t need anything but memories to prove it.  If you love souvenirs, pick one thing that will remind you of your vacation to take home.  I like shells found on the beach, river rocks, and other found objects.  I also love a good Christmas ornament.  Magnets and coffee mugs are good, cheap reminders of your trip that you will actually use daily.
5. Ask for favors.
We asked our friends for help, and they responded generously.  What do I mean?  We ask to borrow houses, stay on couches, and get “friends and family” rates on vacation rentals.  A friend’s guest room is way better than a hotel any day of the week.  You would do the same for them.
6. Utilize local resources.
Ask locals for help with recommendations, must do activities, restaurants, etc.  They will usually be excited to help you.  We also found the welcome centers and Chambers of Commerce to be helpful in several towns.  Become a pamphlet reader.  Look for local blogs.  Do your research.
7. Find travel deals online.
We used Travelocity‘s Secret Hotel deal, Priceline’s Name Your Own Price app, and the GasBuddy app, several times.  We used VRBO to find rentals.  Read reviews online and listen to them.  We got burned by ignoring bad reviews of a hotel.  There are tons of great online resources for couch surfing and house swapping as well.  Again, do your research.
8. Piggyback on a work trip.
I know this may seem random or complicated, but it worked really well for us.  I had to be in Colorado for a month for work, so we planned our crazy road trip around my work trip, because my company paid for our mileage there and back.  This won’t work unless you travel for work, but might be easier than you think.  Our friends the Mitchells took their family to Disney World and got their mileage and most of their hotel paid for by his work because he decided to drive to Orlando for a conference instead of flying by himself.  Genius.
There you go friends, our top 8 travel tips for now.  We’ll be back later with our top blunders and screw ups.
What’s your best frugal family travel tip?

Follow Becca’s board Family Travel on Pinterest.

Call Me

The Bear is showing off one of my favorite Christmas gifts.  Jed bought me this awesome Moshi phone attachment off Amazon and I’m obsessed.  I just bought my Dad one for his birthday.  It is an old school phone receiver that attaches to your cell phone.  It is one million times easier to balance on my shoulder while baby wrangling, and I hear so much better through it.  My iPhone is carefully wrapped in an Otterbox case because I am oh so slightly accident prone.  Seriously, my nickname is the “Spill Queen”.  The case makes my phone almost bulletproof (or drop proof), but it also makes it a little hard to hear the conversation.  I know, I’m weird, I actually like to talk to people instead of text.  I’m old fashioned like that. 
PS- I’m not affiliated with Amazon or Native Union (the manufacturer).  I’m just obsessed.