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Published November 03, 2011, 11:30 PM

Money-saving mama: Free money's out there if you search

After my son Owen was born this summer, I knew my family would face a few weeks of unpaid maternity leave followed by lower wages from my reduced-hour work schedule.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

After my son Owen was born this summer, I knew my family would face a few weeks of unpaid maternity leave followed by lower wages from my reduced-hour work schedule.

I decided it was a good time to find some free money.

There may be no such thing as a free lunch. But there is free money out there, especially for new moms, if you allocate the money you do have wisely.

I’d already planned to set up a bank account and college savings account for Owen, places to deposit the dollars we received as gifts after his birth. Then I got a coupon from Town and Country Credit Union. If I opened a savings account for my new baby with them, depositing at least $25, they’d deposit $25 in the account as well. The branch manager told me they do that deal for any new customer.

Years ago, my mom opened half a dozen new certificates of deposit at a bank because with each one she received a free set of holiday dishes. Those Winterberry-design plates still grace our table every Christmas.

Now, instead of dishes or toaster ovens, banks will often offer cold hard cash for your business. The same week I opened Owen’s account I saw another incentive offer from State Bank and Trust: refer a friend to open a checking account there and you each get $50.

Next up was opening a 529 College Save account. Being a North Dakota resident, there’s an even bigger bonus – more free money.

Because Owen was born in the state in 2011, he can get $100 deposited into his account through the Children First program. All I had to do was fill out a short application form and deposit $100 in the account by the time he’s 4.

Our income also qualifies us to receive a one-time matching grant from the state – up to $300. All that required was filling out an even shorter form and attaching a copy of our last state tax return. We received this same matching grant for our daughter Eve in 2008. Even with down markets, we’ve seen that grow to over $450 in three years.

Having delivered our son meant I had maternity clothes that I didn’t need any more. One Wednesday morning, I took two tote bags of those clothes, plus a diaper box of coats, shoes and outfits Eve had outgrown, to three resale stores in Fargo: Clothes Mentor, Once Upon a Child and Kinder Kloset. Forty-five minutes later, I had $64.30 in my pocket and less clutter in my house.

Lastly, because Eve had been a model big sister to her baby brother, we wanted to reward her with a family lunch at Space Aliens. SaveCoin.com, a local daily deal website, happened to offer a half-off deal for this kid mecca right around this time.

You have to be careful: You can go broke getting good deals from sites like these. But we’d been planning to patronize the restaurant anyway.

Getting $25 of food for $12 was like getting money for nothing, and chicken strips for free.


Sherri Richards is an employee of The Forum and thrifty mom of two.

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