Thursday, April 29, 2010

Golden Egg

This week's golden egg hails from CVS. I got all of the fixings for our daughter's Easter basket for next year. For $.79! CVS has marked all Easter-related merchandise down 90%, which allowed me to score big for next year's basket. So when next Easter rolls around, I'll just take this stuff out of storage and toss it into her basket. That's about as easy as it gets! Also marked down were those cute little chinese take-out boxes with spring colors. I snagged 14 of them for a whopping $1.26 total! Since they're not Easter themed, I'll use them for favors at her next birthday party.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring Facelift

I've been staring at my sad collection of mismatched pots for the past month. Well today I decided to do something about the situation! I ran to Lowes (one of my favorite stores by the way) and picked up a can of spray paint for $3.44. Literally 10 minutes later, I had a set of "brand spanking new" matching pots. I once again will mention my love for spray paint and how versatile it is! Tired of this look next summer? Paint them again with another color. If you have a plant that can't be moved, secure a grocery bag over it before spraying. Please do not look closely as I was attempting to ward off child, dog, and a rain shower while painting! I'll have to do a final touch-up tomorrow, but thought you'd enjoy the pictures today. Now I'll take all that money I saved from not having to buy new pots and buy some pretty flowers to go in them...

Before...                                                                         After!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Designer Duds

I have to say that when it comes to certain things, designer brands are truly a better fit for me. I've found that denim is no exception. Designer jeans fit better, last longer, and are more flattering on my frame. Darn, right? Well, my logic just might surprise you! (In a good way, that is.) When buying a pair of jeans, you have several choices.

Choice A:
Go to Banana Republic and pay $100 for a pair of jeans. (And look fabulous, by the way!)

Choice B:
Go to Wal-Mart and pay $25 for a pair of store brand jeans.

Choice C:
Go to the thrift store and pay $3.50 for a pair of Banana Republic jeans.

Now, most folks trying to save money would head over to Wal-Mart to get jeans and console themselves with the thought that they'd just saved money by paying $25 for a pair of jeans. After all, purchasing a $25 pair of jeans sure beats paying $100! But if you try looking at a thrift store for jeans instead, you can pay just a fraction of either price while still walking away with a fantastic product! I don't want you to think that I'm a clothing snob or that Wal-Mart jeans are inferior- that's not the point. I just happen to prefer designer jeans and thus go about getting them in a non-conventional way. So regardless of whether you are a Gap person or if  Wal-Mart jeans work for you, go get them at a thift store! I didn't add Choice D, which would be to get them even cheaper at a yard sale but this method works too. It's just that you probably won't be able to try them on and it'll take longer to find them. I used jeans as an example- you can do this with anything!

*Real life example: I snagged 3 pairs of jeans for $1.50 each last fall at a thrift store. They were practically new and were from Gap, Banana Republic, and White House Black Market. If I'd paid retail the total would have been $258 instead of $4.50!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Container Gardening

Want to have fresh produce but are low on space? Give container gardening a try! Did you know that the average tomato plant will bear 10-15 pounds of fruit? Whether you're using a rooftop, deck, patio, or flower bed there is bound to be a space that you can utilize. (I know, my overall touting dog has absolutely nothing to do with this, but I couldn't resist. He begged me, what can I say?)

Here's a handy list of some popular veggies that are great for container gardening:
Green Beans
Green Onions
Leaf Lettuce

These are some unusual alternatives to traditional containers:
Kiddie pool
Rubbermaid totes
*Be sure to drill holes in the base for proper drainage and give them a shot of fertilizer ever week or two. (Something like Miracle Grow will work.)

You can grow these plants vertically by training them to climb:
pole beans, cucumbers, small squash, peas, and tomatoes.
Clever locations for climbing plants:
  • Trellis
  • Along an existing fence,
  • The railing of your deck
  • A porch next to the house or garage
  • Kids play structure
Check out the gardening tab for more tips on incorporating vegetable plants into your small spaces!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Chocolate Egg

Here is the golden (chocolate) egg I alluded to last week: my wedding outfit. With an upcoming May wedding to attend, I set out last month in a quest to procure a nice dress. Expecting to pay a hefty $25.00 at the clothing discount store Ross, I was resigned to the fact that I'd just have to bite the bullet and pay. (Yes, I know a $25 dress seems cheap to most but I'm always pushing for a better deal!) I went directly to the clearance dress rack, fully expecting to wade through the usual suspects: garish frilly frocks that I wouldn't be caught dead wearing! And there it was. It was beautiful- a perfectly classic dress with no holes or deoderant marks. Here's the kicker: it was only $1.99! Under 2 dollars. This is not a typo, I repeat this is not a typo! Upon trying it on, it actually looked better than on the hanger and fit! So friends behold, I give you my wedding ensemble. (By the way, I asked the cashier if that tag was a mistake and offered to pay more, but she said it was correct. I happily complied.)

Dress: $1.99
Shoes: $1.50 (thrift store)
Necklace: $.50 (yard sale)
Belt (free-found it in my closet)
Total: $4.00
The thrill of the hunt: priceless!

Here's a picture of the tag for those skeptics out there!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Look out folks, yard sale season is upon us!

In the spring and summer months I live to “sale” as I call it. I know what you’re thinking: she drives a rusty pickup truck towing a ragged trailer with a bumper sticker that says “I brake for yard sales”. That’s ok, I take no offense. My motto is “let someone else pay for it”. Let someone else pay $75 for that cashmere sweater, but then decide that it was the wrong color before wearing it. I’ll happily take that brand new baby off your hands for a $1! Just because I buy my stuff from yard sales doesn’t mean I don’t have nice things. It actually means I have nicer things. For example, I love Pottery Barn but I don’t love their prices. (Although I confess, I have bought things from this store.) I can either shelve that taste for Pottery Barn, chalking it up as too expensive or I can just find it at a yard sale for exponentially less. I’ll take the latter, thank you very much! There’s nothing better than getting up at 6:30 on Saturday morning, and soldiering out, armed with your coffee and newspaper, quivering from the caffeine and excitement! Check out my detailed list of  hints for successful yardsaleing on the "Money Saving Tips" tab.

*Remember, most yard sales are on Saturday but some occur on Friday too. So get ready to go treasure hunting! (Can you tell I'm already excited?)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free cup o' joe today!

Stop by any Starbucks today with an empty reusable coffee cup and they'll fill it for you for free in honor of tax deadline day April 15th! You might as well get something good out of April 15th, right?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stay in shape for free!

As I am faced with an upcoming wedding, and will need to be able to wear this week's golden egg comfortably (I'll explain on Friday), I'm reminded of the importance of becoming a little more toned! I don't belong to a gym, and am often faced with the challenge of being motivated to exercise, so here are a few tips that I've found to be helpful:

• Use a pedometer-these often are less than $5 at your local big box store.
• Get DVDs from the library or download free workouts from Netflix
• If you can, walk. You’ll save gas and burn calories.
• Squeeze in exercise by doing squats or lunges while watching tv, brushing teeth, etc.
• Research trails/walking paths in your area and try them out
• Have an accountability/workout partner
• Check out healthy cookbooks from the library
• Check your insurance company’s policy for exercise rewards (My sister's insurance company offers tons of cool freebies as rewards for exercise!)
• Reward yourself with non-food goodies. I like to get a new piece of exercise clothing when a goal has been reached.

• Join an online support group
• Sign up for a race to give you a concrete goal.
• Become involved in community events. Check your city or county’s website for inexpensive or free exercise classes or programs.
• Walk the dog- he’ll thank you for it!

Here's the calorie-burn count for 30 minutes of these everyday tasks:
Housecleaning: 60cal
Rearranging your furniture: 225cal
Raking the yard: 65cal
General gardening: 70cal
Mowing the yard with a push mower: 90cal

Now to avoid hypocrisy, I will go do some crunches...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Share your ideas!

I've had a lot of interest on the subject of making extra income, so I'm inviting you all to share your ideas! Feel free to leave a comment and if there are enough, I'll post them on the main page for all to see. Thanks for sharing!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Making Extra Money

Everyone seems to be interested in making extra income these days. The important thing to ask yourself is "What are my skills and talents?". Do you have a marketable skill that others are in need of? If you're great at math, tutor math. If you love to cook, offer to do holiday baking. Get your creative juices flowing- you may surprise yourself!

Here's the list:
  • Tutoring
  • Cleaning houses
  • Sewing alterations
  • House/Dog sitting
  • Babysitting
  • Caring for the elderly
  • Ironing clothes
  • Running errands (you can deduct mileage in addition to your fee)
  • Selling produce from your garden
  • Freelance photography
  • Freelance writing
  • Substitute teaching
  • Sign up with your local government offices as a temp.
  • Work seasonal part time positions at favorite stores to obtain discounts
  • Sell on ebay and craigslist
  • Make meals for friends and family
  • Sell arts and crafts on or at craft shows
  • Teach voice or instrument lessons
  • Play instruments for churchs, funerals, weddings, parties, etc..
  • Stage homes for sale
  • Enter sweepstakes
  • Holiday baking or catering for people you know

Finally, here's the important concept that's great to remember: saving money is often just as valuable as making money. Remember that when you go out, you will spend money. Even if it's just money for gas, which can add up! Also when you make money, that money will be taxed. Money that you have saved by not spending is tax free!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Will that be paper or fabric?

I am embarking on a new venture and dipping my toe into the pool of fabric napkins. I've researched the cost comparison and cloth napkins are slightly cheaper than paper, but not exponentially. So why use fabric? One good reason is that fabric napkins are more eco-friendly as less waste ends up in a landfill. But here's the kicker! The past several weeks, I have been using fabric napkins that I made and I have to say I don't think I'll be going back to paper for one simple reason: luxury. No more sratchy papery stuff on my pouters! I've been spoiled by the soft durability of my fabric napkins, and quite honestly, I feel a little silly spreading a paper napkin in my lap before I eat. Not to mention, napkins offer a fun way to spice up your table's decor with beautiful colors and textures. It evokes a satisfying feeling to see those napkins all rolled up in crisp little scrolls in a basket. So move over Cousteau, I'm going in!

Here's a quick and easy tutorial- remember I can't sew so anyone can do this!

1. Cut out your squares. (Standard napkin sizes are 12, 14, and 16”) Cut 1” larger than the final size, so if you want 12” napkins, cut out a 13” square. (Please excuse the ugly fabric and wrinkles. I found it in my scrap bin. It was free.)

2. Fold edges under twice and secure with pins
3. Stitch along the edges, about 1/4" from the edge just like you're hemming a pair of pants. Remove pins as you go.

4. Presto! You now have lovely napkins you can use again and again! Remember to use fabrics that are washing-machine friendly. Wrinkle-free fabrics are even better! (Remember, if you are an accomplished seamstress, you can do mitered corners and fancy stitching.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Free Date Night

Here's a heads-up about a promotion that Kroger is advertising. I'm putting this up on the blog because you had to look closely at the ad to see it so it may have been unnoticed by some. Kroger is offering your choice of either 15 mp3 downloads, 15 ringtones, or a free movie ticket for every 10 participating items that you buy. The most inexpensive participating item on the list is Yoplait yogurt, which is on sale for $.50 per cup. So if you buy 10 yogurts ($5 unless you have a coupon), you get a free movie ticket. So it's like buying a movie ticket and 10 cups of yogurt for $5. Not a bad deal since movie tickets around here cost about $12 each! I bought enough products to earn 2 movie tickets, so we'll be able to go on a date for free. (And we'll have our fair share of yogurt for breakfast!) The register prints out a code that you redeem online and I haven't redeemed mine yet, but the customer service rep at the store said that if there is no participating theater in your area, the company will refund the price of the movie tickets to you. You can earn an unlimited amount of tickets. Not bad!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Food for thought

I've been on a no-waste crusade the past few months and it's been so rewarding! I noticed a while back that when I cleaned out my fridge every week, I was throwing away a ton of food. So as a result, the no-waste crusade was born. I've been trying to use up everything perishable by the end of each week. This is more challenging than it sounds. One consequence of this new policy is the occasional oddball meal. You know, the kind that inspires quotes from your husband like "Cleaned out the fridge today?" when you're dining
on peas, tacos, and fruit compote. My mom instilled in me the need to cook balanced meals- the perfectly balanced ones with a green veggie,a starch, and a protein. While I still do this most of the time, I've realized that it's ok to serve an "unbalanced" meal once in a while for the good of my conscience. It's also been a great opportunity to become more creative with my cooking. Now, I'm not intimidated when all I have to work with is pasta, avacados, and canned tomatoes! I challenge you to try out a no-waste policy in your kitchen too. You will be surprised at how great it makes you feel to be using up the food in your fridge instead of tossing it!

Here's a recipe I've created using my leftovers:
8 oz. linguine (or whatever pasta you have on hand)
1 tsp. olive oil
2 cups diced veggies (carrots, onion, peas, broccoli, peppers,
tomatoes, asparagus- whatever you have on hand)
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz reduced fat cream cheese (half of a brick)
1/2 cup skim milk
salt and cracked pepper to taste

Cook and drain pasta. Saute veggies in olive oil til tender. Add garlic and saute one minute. Melt cream cheese and milk over low heat til combined. Toss veggies, cooked pasta, and cheese sauce. Serve warm with freshly ground pepper and parmesan. Serves 4

*Use your creative juices on this one! You can substitute sour cream for the cream cheese, evaporated milk for skim, frozen veggies instead of fresh, or add chicken. I like to add a dash of nutmeg to mine. There are so many variations- remember, just use what you have!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dress Crisis

Easter is tomorrow, can you believe it? If you are stressed out because you don't have an Easter dress for your little one, fear not! Snag a plain dress from the closet and doctor it up. You can sew a decorative ribbon border around the hem, embellish with ric-rac, or use a colorful ribbon for a contrasting sash. I've seen some really adorable dresses that were once plain Jane. Be creative and have some fun!