Thoughts On Making Gifts

I wish I were really good at making presents. I could save a lot of money this Christmas! It’s true, you will save money when making a gift. Just ask yourself a few questions before you embark on this project.

1) Will you actually finish the gift? Answer this question honestly!

2) Will the receiver really appreciate all your work?

3) Would YOU want to receive the gift you are making?

If you answer “yes” then, by all means, make your gifts! There’s just a couple of points I’d like to make clear.

1) >Sometimes it takes TIME for people to REALLY appreciate all of your hard work. I received the blanket pictured above when I was 12. My grandma made it for me. I liked it then, but I did not really appreciate it until much later in life.

2) Sometimes it takes TIME for people to get a clue. My maid-of-honor hand-wrote a ton of recipes for me when I got married. She also sewed an 2 aprons! It took me 3 years to really LOVE these gift due to the fact my husband did all of the cooking in our home. Things have recently changed. Now that I’m in the kitchen, I’m continually donning my apron and looking through my recipes.

3) Sometimes people will ask you how you made your gift
My sister soldered some mini-frames and inserted a few of my wedding pictures into them. She then attached ribbon so I could hang them on our Christmas tree. I am continually bugging and asking her to teach me how she did this!

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*

Wrapping Christmas Presents and Cutting Costs

Face it. Tomorrow is the day after Halloween. Soon you will be bombarded with Christmas tunes decorations and holiday treats! I’m excited about it. I’ve already wrapped two gifts. I spent a lot of time wrapping those two presents. This is because I’m a firm believer in the fact that “packaging matters.” I’m always drawn to the cooler looking water bottles, prettier labeled lotions and tastier looking packaged foods, even when the product inside the package is EXACTLY the same. I’m pretty sure that this is true of Christmas gifts, too. Save some money by making your gift LOOK more expensive than it is!
Here’s My Quick Tip List

1) Use left over wrapping paper you bought ON SALE after Christmas 3 years ago.

2) Personalize the gift in your own unique way.
(I cut card-stock that matches the paper into a small tag. I then attach the letter of the person’s first or last name on that card. I punch a hole in the card stock and attach it to the ribbon.)

3) Present the gift!

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*

Organize Your Home and Save Money

Have you ever:

1) Forgot to pay a bill on time? (This will usually incur late fees)

2) Gone out to eat JUST because you didn’t plan ahead? (Eating outside the home costs more)

3) Lost a paycheck? (This is self-explanatory)

4) Bought an item because you can’t find the one you already own? (You’ve doubled the cost of that item)

5) Bought an item because you FORGOT you already owned one? (Ditto to what I said above)

6) Stayed up WAY too late paying bills because they were due the next day? (This is just plain stressful!)

You may want to think about organizing (or re-organizing) your home. I must admit that ALL of these scenarios have happened to me in the past. I am continually working on my organization skills so I’ll never have to face these problems in the future. HERE is a list of organization blogs…You can always check out books from your library regarding this topic!

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*

Owning A Pet and Saving Money

We have a dog named “Maddie.” She’s pictured above and is actually sitting on my lap as I type. Maddie is 9 years old. Last time I went to the vet they commented that “her eyes looked old.” I wanted to reply “Well, your eyes look old, too!” This is how protective I am of my little furry daughter pet.

We received Maddie 2 years ago. We instantly discovered there are many costs associated with pet ownership. The vet cleaned her teeth for $300. Yikes. She needs to be groomed regularly (this is $80 a pop). I’m trying to come up with ways to save in these departments.

I can’t say Ihavetried these options yet, but I am GOING to:

1) Brush her teeth regularly. Maddie will NOT chew any bones that supposedly clean her incisors.

2) Groom her myself. She has been skittish for 3 days since we took her to the groomer, anyway. I’ll save loads if I just trim her coat on my own…she may not look as cute, though:)

3) Buy better dog food. I was feeding her Beneful. Then I looked at the ingredients. According to my unprofessional opinion, Beneful equals chicken flavored corn chips. Who could stay healthy on a diet of corn chips? Unhealthy=’s more trips to that expensive vet that tells me my dog’s eyes look old. Thus, I’m in the process of switching her to Nutro

Remember that your pet provides you with countless hours of entertainment. I’m pretty sure Maddie has saved us from countless mall trips, restaurants and other black holes that eat money!

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*

Make Your Own Accent Throw Pillows

I believe in being thankful, but the past 3 years I struggled to like my living room furniture. I was tired of looking at mis-matched pillows my husband had accumulated before we met. So, I begged my mom for help. We went hunting for fabric and decided we could re-upholster 2 chairs and 5 pillows for about $45. I jumped at the chance. Now I have a living room that forever reminds me of my mom. We spent a lot of time working on it! Plus, I saved a ton of money by NOT buying pre-made pillows or chairs.

Don’t know how to sew a pillow? Go HERE

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*

Sonicare Toothbrush

I have a secret.  Feel special because it is one I’ve only told my husband and dental hygienist.  I used to be convinced I would have to start wearing dentures in my 30’s. Kind of a weird fear, right? Well, I grew up drinking well water. This means I did not have any fluoride in my water. Thus, I began living a life filled with cavities. I brushed, scrubbed and gargled with fluoride rinse but it was all for naught.  I still had a cavity EVERY time I visited the dentist (which was a lot because of my poor teeth).

Fast forward a few years. My hubby bought me a Phillips Sonicare toothbrush. Guess who has not had a cavity since? Me. I’m so proud. Therefore, I’ve concluded that using a Sonicare toothbrush is essential. Yes, there is an upfront cost, but staying out of that dentist chair has really saved me time and money. Plus, I don’t see dentures anywhere in my near future. What a relief.

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*

Money-Saving Gadget #1

I used to nanny. This experience enlightened me. I discovered that mis-matched socks are a huge time waster. I spent many Saturday mornings laying out rows and rows of multi-colored socks only to find a a few that matched. What a drain of time! My mom introduced the sock-lock. I rolled my eyes. I spent another Saturday trying to pair socks. My loving mother ignored my rolling eyes and sent me a box of sock-locks. No more Saturday mornings spent sorting boxes of mis-matched foot apparel. In fact, I now deal with holy socks. Who knew you could wear a sock so long it would start erupting with holes.

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

Due to lack of employment after our big move to NJ, I started looking up do-it-yourself recipes that could help save cash. I decided I wanted to try to make granola bars. Here are a couple of links to get you started.

Healthy Chewy Granola Bars

Chewy Granola Bars

I have found that there are a million different recipe’s out there. I’m pretty sure a chimpanzee could bake them. They are that easy! I cut my bars and store them in sandwich bags. My hubby then enjoys them at work. I’m not sure how much money this will save you, but I’m pretty sure they taste BETTER. Plus, they aren’t processed. If you want to save MORE money, skimp on the extra’s like chocolate chips, dried fruit, ect.

This is the recipe that I have used in the past. It’s pretty basic.

Chewy Granola Bars
4.5 cups of rolled oats (I often substitute one cup of rolled for steel cut)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup butter softened
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
a handful or two of chocolate chips
a handful of golden raisins
a bit of coconut
(I like to improvise if you can’t tell)
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 in pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda, butter or margarine, honey and brown sugar. Stir in the 2 cups of assorted chocolate. chips, raisins ect.

3. Lightly press mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 18-22 minutes. Make sure it looks golden brown before removing from oven. Cool for 10 minutes. Cut into bars. Make sure the bars are cool before removing or serving.

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*

A List of Money-Saving Tips I Have TRIED.

Here is a list of frugal changes I have made in my life. I have gleaned many of these tips from other blogs and personal experience. Read away.

1) Change the way you cook!

Add more beans to your diet and eat less meat. Beans are cheaper. Plus, if you purchase them canned they are very easy to prepare. I cut $100 from my grocery bill each month. This is partly because of the aforementioned reason. (100 x 12= $1200/year!) I have posted a couple of my favorite bean recipes here.

2) Don a Pair of Sweat Pants When It’s Cold or Running Shorts When It’s Hot

I have watched our utility bill drop from approximately $145/month to $39/month. My hubby and I decided we are comfortable with our thermostat set to 79 degrees during summer days. We’ve also agreed that we are warm enough when it’s programmed to 66 degrees throughout the colder seasons. This small change has help trim $106 off of our monthly utility bill! That’s a big chunk of money over a span of a year. ($106 x 12 [the number of months in a year] = $1272). Keep in mind that your utility bill will be higher during more extreme weather situations)

3) Quit Using Most Paper Products

I am a nurse. I like things to be clean. Therefore, I do not trust hand towels that others might have dried their not so sterile fingers on. I also don’t believe in using the same wash rag to clean my counters and dishes. I’m weird, I get it. I figured out that my obsession with sterility was costing me a chunk of change each month. So, I decided to cut up some t-shirts and use them instead of paper towels. I feel that this is JUST as easy as using a paper towel! I’m not really sure how much this saves me, but Growing A Green Family has some good insight on the topic. I definitely don’t have to take the trash out as often! *NOTE* Make sure you sort your rags into bathroom cleaning, kitchen cleaning and ect. You don’t want to cross-contaminate. You may also want to consider washing your rags with BLEACH….just a thought.

4) Analyze Your Cleaning Products

Quit using clorox bleach wipes, individually wrapped mirror wipes, swiffer pads, dusters and other such-like products. I don’t know why I ever thought these items were so great. They drained my wallet. I now attach a micro-fiber towel to my swiffer. It works just as well. I use the aforementioned t-shirts to clean my sink, counters ect. instead of clorox wipes, mirror wipes, etc. Every time I pass pre-packaged cleaning wipes at the store, I wonder why I ever wasted my money on these products.

5) Quit Comparing Yourself

I think women REALLY struggle with this. Running into someone who looks like they have it all together, can make one feel inadequate, ugly, not smart enough…ect. I KNOW there have been times I ran to the mall, bought new jeans, shirts etc. so I could feel good about myself. That was a waste.

I have also compared my home to others who make a lot more money. In my head I would say “Wow. Their bedroom is bigger than my living room, dining room and kitchen put together.” This is not healthy and can cause one to spend money when they don’t have it. Be happy for your friend, colleague, ect. They will probably appreciate you more when you are TRULY happy for them and not envious of their gifts, looks, house etc.

6) Explore Cheap Dating Options

Hike, play games together, cook for each other, walk your dog together, find an inexpensive ice-cream shop, start traditions. These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. My hubby and I rely on these a lot!

7) Turn the Lights Off

I used to roll my eyes when people told me this, but it does make a difference in your utility bill.

8) Utilize Craig’s List
I’ve sold a lot of things on Craigslist or sites like it. I’ll list a few, just so you can see how useful it is! I sold an old christmas tree for $15 dollars. Someone bought an ab-doer for $17. I also sold two area rugs (I can’t remember the amount), a bunch of camping supplies, Insanity DVD set and probably a few other things I can not remember. I’ve probably made about $200 dollars selling stuff I no longer use. (You may ask why we ever bought an ab-doer…that was a purchase my husband made BEFORE I met him:)

9) Unplug Unused Appliances

There’s this phenomenon called vampire power. Apparently, some appliances use electricity even when they are not turned on. Also, be conscious of electrical items that are in rooms you don’t use much. Do you need that digital alarm clock turned on in the guest bedroom?

10) Think About Your Hair

I like pretty highlights. I like having auburn streaks in my hair. Do I need this? No. I’m pretty sure my hubby does not care about the color of my hair as long as it is not grey. The truth is, getting your hair colored  is wasted money. I’m still trying to come to grips with this:) I’m in the process of growing my highlights out. I will save hundreds of dollars/year by doing this.

11) Make Your Own

I’ve started baking my own granola bars and cereal. It’s surprisingly quick and easy. It saves money. You can apply the “Make Your Own” principle to many different areas of your life. I re-upholstered two of my chairs and 4 throw pillows for about $45. I’ve varnished a set of drawers I received for free. These items elicit admiring comments ALL of the time. Look for ways to do things yourself. You’ll appreciate the item MORE and your wallet will thank you.

12) READ

I became motivated to save money because I read some inspiring blogs (The Simple Dollar, Frugal Dad are just a couple). Reading is also entertaining, not to mention educational. The urge to go to the mall will be muted while reading a good book.

13) Eat Those Oats!

I can’t get over how much cheaper Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat and Grits are than boxed cereal. They are also healthier. Don’t like the taste? Add a little brown sugar or something else you fancy. Think you don’t have enough time? They make Oats that cook within a minute. Set your alarm a couple of minutes earlier:)

14) Find the Cheapest Grocery Store

My husband and I currently shop at ShopRite and Trader Joe’s. Every time I look up prices for “sale items” at other stores they STILL don’t compare to the price at these two stores.

15) Skip The Coupon

This may seem counterintuitive. Most of the coupons I come across are for BRAND NAME items. Clipping a coupon does not equal instant savings. Think about it. Does your family need Cheetos or whatever else the coupon is advertising? You will save MORE money buy not buying a unecessary item. This brings me to my next point.

16) Buy Generic

Some people seem to have a problem with this. I don’t. I find generic items USUALLY taste just as good as their brand name counterparts. Buy the generic item, unless the brand name item is on sale and costs less.

17) Skip the Junk Food

I was raised this way. We never had junk food in our home. I have been literally SHOCKED when I’ve opened other people’s pantries (with their permission of course). I’m greeted with boxes of M&M’s, large bags of Doritos Chips, Hostess cupcakes, and other fattening foods. I would be HUGE if I kept these items in my pantry. Plus, I’d have to add another $75 onto my weekly grocery bill. Just skip the junk food. I know everyone likes to have something sweet every now and then, but you don’t need a concession stands worth of treats in your pantry. Quit buying too much junk food. Your medical and grocery bill will thank you.

18) Use Canvas Grocery Bags

Our grocery store gives us $00.05 for every canvas tote we bring a long. We save about 30 cents a week by doing this. It’s not a lot, but it adds up. 30 cents x 4 (the number of weeks in a month)= 1.20 x 52 (the number of weeks in a year)=$62.40. You can do a lot with $62. We also like our canvas totes because they carry more groceries. This is important to us, since we have to climb a large flight of stairs to get to our kitchen. Thus, they save us time and money.

19) Stay Away from Soda

I feel like a hypocrite writing this tip. I LOVE Diet Coke and am currently drinking a can. I know it’s not healthy and it wastes a lot of cash. That’s why I’m adding it to the tip list. I will someday be a non-soda drinker and my bank account will have a lot more money in it! For example, if you drink one 12 pack of soda per week you are spending about $3.99 (this is the name-brand price in our area). 3.99 x 4 (the number of weeks in a month)= 15.96 x 12 (the number of months in a year)= $191.52. This does not include sales tax.

20) Think About It

Some people waste money without even thinking about it. Last week a friend state “he frequently buys souvenir pens, cheap sodas and other junk so his bill will add up to $10.” (Some stores accept credit cards ONLY when the bill is $10 or greater). My immediate thought was, “Hmm…I wonder if he knows how much money he is just throwing away.” Think about what you are buying. This small action will save you mulah.

21) Ditch the iPhone, BlackBerry, ect.

My husbands employer used to pay for internet service on his phone. Then, he got a new job. We were forced to foot the phone bill ourselves. After a couple of months we dropped it. He purchased a cheap phone. Our bill decreased by approximately $90/month. My husband has even stated “I feel less stressed when I don’t have e-mail on my phone. I don’t have to constantly check it.” I am less stressed, too. It drives me crazy when people feel the need to constantly check and respond to e-mail, texts or etc. I actually consider it to be rude. Anyway, $90/month = $1,080/year. That’s a lot of extra cash in our pockets.

22) Hang Dry Your Clothes

Not only does this lower your electricity bill, it also lengthens the life or your clothes. Have you ever found a spot on your favorite shirt AFTER you dried it? It’s almost impossible to get the stain out. It’s easier to get a smudge out of an item that has been hang dried.

23) Organize Your Pantry

It’s very frustrating to go shopping and buy something only to find out you already have two of the same item. This used to happen to me a lot. Then I typed a list I frequently update. This has saved me money! I no longer buy 3 extra bottles of cinnamon, crushed red pepper  or other such like items. I just check the typed up sheet in my pantry while I’m writing my grocery list. It is also worthwhile to maintain the neatness of your fridge.

24) Organize Your Entire Home
I believe an unorganized home can eat money out from under you. How many times have you replaced an item because you can’t find the one you already have? Have you ever paid a bill late because of forgetfulness? Do you often go out to eat because of a lack of planning? These situations all point to a lack of organization. I’m not a guru on the subject, but I have read a few helpful books on the topic. The FlyLady is a great resource for beginners!

25) Continue to Look For Ways To Save
A few years ago, I probably would have refused to do quite a few things on this list. I also did not save as much money during that period of my life. Be open-minded and LOOK for ways to save. You’ll be glad you did!

Want more some more insight on saving money?  Here is a group of blogs full of tips.

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*

Saving Money. Remaining Fit. P90X and Planet Fitness

My husband and I are dedicated to fitness. That being said, we aren’t fitness models but remaining healthy is important to us. How can becoming/remaining or striving to be fit save you money? Most have heard that obesity increases risk of diabetes, stroke, cancer and ect. These diseases will often land you in the hospital. (go HERE, for a CDC article regarding this topic) Hospital stays cost money. I like to save money, so I exercise. I have worked out at home to avoid gym membership costs. I have also exercised in a gym so I wouldn’t have to buy my own equipment. I believe both options are good. Read below for a review of Planet Fitness and P90X.

Here is my husbands review of P90X.

My husband did the P90X program 3 times. I missed treadmills. Thus, we both got a membership at Planet Fitness. It costs approximately $21/month for BOTH of our memberships. We are not bound to a one year contract and have never had to wait in line for any cardio equipment.

All of that being said, some money-saving blog authors will encourage you to ditch your health club membership. If you find a cheaper, yet effective way to exercise definitely cancel it! Just don’t give up on exercise! In my non-professional opinion..staying healthy will save time and money in the long run.

*This blog reflects the opinion of the author. Please understand that all information or opinions gleaned from this blog are done so at your OWN risk*