I think I was born with entrepreneurial excitement flowing through my veins. As a preteen, selling cookies at our friend’s garage sale was more fun to me than playing! There was just something about looking down at that cash and knowing we had worked to earn the money that brought a sense of accomplishment and excitement.

As teenagers, my sister and I bought ribbons and hair clips with money we had earned by babysitting. We started a little business in which we made hair bows to sell at consignment stores and craft boutiques. Between September and December, we earned enough money to pay for a vacation to California for our entire family! Thus began my love for finding creative ways to purchase quality items and provide fun experiences for our family, products and experiences that otherwise would be financially impossible for us.

As a busy wife and homeschooling mom, my goal has never been to earn money to supplement my husband’s income. Instead, my motivation has been to be a creative steward of the money my husband works so hard to earn. My desire is to exemplify the words of Proverbs 31:11: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.”

I would like to share with you some of the ways I have learned both to save money and to earn money. The fun thing about this subject is that the options are limitless and can be tailored to utilize your personal talents and interests.

Couponing

“A dollar saved is a dollar earned.” I don’t know how many times I have heard my mom say this, and she is right! One of the easiest ways to “earn” money is to save money on something you would normally buy. It is satisfying to know that although I am not the one going to work every day to provide for our family financially, I can still contribute in a very real way by being diligent to get the best buy on everything I purchase.

I began couponing just over a year ago. Before that time our family budgeted $400 a month for groceries, which did not include personal toiletry items, household paper items, diapers, etc. After a year of couponing, our budget now ranges from $100–$200 a month for groceries and includes all household and personal items—for a family of seven.

Some of the questions I often hear when talking to my friends about couponing include these: “If I normally shop store-brand items at a discount grocery store, will I really save money using coupons?” and “We like to shop for organic items and avoid processed foods; will couponing work for us?” and “How do you ever find the time?”

Before couponing I shopped frugally at discount grocery stores. Now I am able to get things for free or for a fraction of the discount store-brand prices. The idea is to combine coupons with store promotions and sales in order to get the best deals.

It is a lot harder to find coupon deals if you exclusively shop organically. One of my goals is to save money on items that I would normally buy (such as cereal, frozen foods, canned foods, toiletry items, cleaning supplies, and diapers) and then use the money I have saved to buy u-pick organic fruits and vegetables and hormone-free meat.

In our house, Tuesday evening is “Mommy’s night out to coupon.” I enjoy shopping with a couple of friends while my husband stays home with the kids. My children look forward to that night alone with Daddy! I like to set aside Tuesday afternoons for organizing my coupons, planning out a route of stores to visit, and determining what I will be purchasing at each store. This helps me to limit my “couponing time” to one afternoon and evening a week, which is manageable for our family.

A huge part of couponing is stockpiling. When diapers are less than $3 a pack, I like to buy several months’ worth of them so that the supply will last until the next great deal comes along. When cereal is 50 cents or less per box (it’s often free!), I’ll purchase fifty boxes. After building up a supply of the items I use on a regular basis, I can be very selective about the price I’ll consider paying for something. Then, when an amazing deal comes around again, I replenish my supply.

An incredible amount of helpful advice about couponing is available on the Internet. A great way to begin is to follow the blogs of couponers in your area who post information about the sales and coupon match-ups for your local stores. “The Grocery Gathering” on the blog titled becentsable (http://www.becentsable.net/) has a large list of couponing blogs from bloggers located throughout the U.S. You also can find a great deal of helpful information, including searchable coupon databases, from a couponing forum. Two of my favorite forums are http://www.afullcup.com/ and http://www.hotcouponworld.com/.

Buying Quality Used Items

When I talk about buying used items, I’m not referring to buying the fifteen-year-old stove from the garage sale for $20 in order to save money! While that may be necessary at times, I have found that when we buy quality used items, we actually acquire much nicer furniture, appliances, and home décor than we would have been able to afford if we had bought brand-new items.

When your refrigerator needs to be replaced, instead of heading to Sears to buy the most basic model (which is on sale for $350), why not spend $300 for a two-year-old refrigerator (found via craigslist)that originally sold for $1,400? That’s exactly what we did when we purchased our house three years ago. We were able to purchase every appliance in our home from craigslist or a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. It’s wonderful to have almost new, top of the line quality appliances and know we spent less than the amount we’d budgeted for each purchase!

When purchasing large items, patience and research are the keys! It took eighteen months of casually browsing craigslist before we found the living room furniture that was just right for our family. It was worth the wait since we eventually found a set we loved for a great price. If you can live without the item you need for a few months—until that perfect one becomes available at a good price—it will be worth the wait. Don’t be tempted to buy the bookcase (made out of recycled fibers) at Walmart when, with a little patience, you could have a beautiful solid wood bookcase for the same price.

Look at http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites to find classified ads in your area. Habitat for Humanity ReStore resale outlets sell reusable and surplus building materials to the public. You can find a directory of these outlets at www.habitat.org/restores.

Creative Ways to Afford Your Hobbies

My favorite hobby is purchasing clothing my five children, aged 8 and under. I just love shopping for cute clothing, making hair bows, laundering and ironing their clothes, and even reselling the clothes when we are finished with them.

I am always amazed by the different reactions we get when I take the kids out on an errand with me. When I quickly grab them in their play clothes, a little disheveled, for a quick trip to the store, I get plenty of comments like these: “Are they all yours?” and “Wow. You have your hands full!” In sharp contrast, when the kids are dressed in cute outfits with their hair done nicely, the comments range from “They’re so cute! How old are each of you?” to “My, what a beautiful family you have!” In regard to having a large family, I love the testimony of the latter scenario.

Now, how do I afford this hobby without it being a burden on our family finances? It takes creative thinking! I purchase name-brand, quality clothing for the children on clearance, usually at the end of a season, to set aside for the following year. After taking good care of the clothing throughout the time they are wearing it, I then resell the clothing and use the money to buy the next season’s wardrobe. By doing this I have been able to clothe all five of my children at no cost to our family since the time my oldest was 1 year old.

In order to facilitate this hobby, I first started reselling their clothes on eBay. Then a friend and I started a name-brand only, semi-annual children’s consignment sale called Ever After Resale (http://www.everafterresale.com/). We have many consignors who sell their gently used children’s clothing at our sales. Doing this allows us to sell our own children’s clothing and also to earn money for our family in a way that we enjoy.

What is your hobby? The possibilities of turning that into something that will support itself and perhaps even provide a little extra income are endless! There is a lady in our neighborhood who loves gardening. She starts a large number of plants in her greenhouse and sells them at plant sales that she holds in her driveway. Another friend has become an expert on specialty yarn and sells yarn to people all over the country using Etsy and eBay.

Near Christmas, my oldest three girls place sprigs of mistletoe (tied together with bright ribbon) in ziplock sandwich bags. I accompany them as they go door to door selling them to earn money for buying Christmas presents. My entrepreneurial blood must have been passed down to them, because even in the worst weather, they beg to be able to go to just one more door!

Christy and her husband Nathan are both second-generation homeschoolers. They live with their five children in Eugene, Oregon. Christy is co-owner of Ever After Resale (www.everafterresale.com2), a bi-annual, name-brand, children’s consignment sale held in both Portland and Eugene, Oregon.

Copyright, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, Summer 2011.

Visit The Old Schoolhouse® at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com  to view a full-length sample copy of the magazine especially for homeschoolers. Click the graphic of the moving computer monitor on the left. Email the Publisher at Publisher@TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.