Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Resource-o-rama!

During the holidays I have failed miserably at my goal of posting weekly.  It's a busy time for everyone, so even if I had posted, no one would have had time to read it anyway, so I think we're even!

With the new year coming up, I know many of us are making resolutions about things we want to accomplish.  Most of us will probably abandon these goals by January 6th or 7th, but let's pretend that we're gonna stick with them, ok?

If saving money is one of your goals, it really is doable in the new year!  So as an encouragement to those of you who are setting this goal, here are some of my favorite money-saving resources:

Dave Ramsey
Dave is awesome!  His concepts are simple, even old fashioned, but adopting his philosophies about money really will change your life.  I highly recommend reading one of his books (checked out from the library of course!) or attending Financial Peace University.   He breaks it down to the basics:  Don't spend money you don't have!!  Freedom from debt is a gift that can completely turn your life around.  Seriously...

The Frugal Girls
Great resource for deals and ideas on DIY stuff.  Their Facebook page is also a great resource.  Simply liking their page will put them into your newsfeed, so you can keep up with all the great deals they post. 

Consignment Mommies
Fantastic site to find great seasonal consignment sales in your area.  Whether you're wanting to make some moola by cleaning out your kids closets and toy boxes or trying to find some inexpensive options to clothe your kiddos, this site has some great resources.  I've sold and bought at several sales in my local area, and LOVE it!  I find much better deals at seasonal sales rather than consignment stores, since sellers are allowed to set their own prices.  I'll devote an entire post to this topic later in the year, but just check out this site.  It's great!

Southern Savers
I get a lot of questions about couponing.  If you live in the South (mainly the South East), this is a fantastic resource.  It has an entire section on how to coupon, and keeps you up to day with lists that match store sales with coupons for the most savings! 

Pinterest
I know, you probably already know about this site for recipes and fun craft projects, but I've also found a lot of money saving resources on it!  Recipes for common household products, ways to reuse items around your house, tons of recipes for leftovers and freezer meals.  If you don't already have an account, it's much easier to get one if someone sends you an "invite."  So post it on your facebook status, and surely someone will take pity on you! 

I really hope we're all able to stick with our New Year's Resolutions (mine is to set up a cleaning schedule at my house and actually stick to it so this place isn't in chaos all the time!).  Here's to hoping yours stick!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Gifts from the Frugally Minded

For the past three weeks or so, I've been getting the same question from my daughter... every day... sometimes three or four times a day... or maybe more, depending on her mood.

Is tomorrow Christmas?

As sweet as it was at first, I do have to admit, once I've answered this question for the 13th time in a day, it starts to be a bit annoying.  But it does serve to remind me that Christmas is sneaking up on me, kinda like an obnoxious little brother who likes to hide behind  the bushes and throw bottle caps at you (yes, Momma, that reference is for you).

My main challenge at Christmas time is coming up with unique, affordable gifts to give my friends and family.  Over the years I've compiled a few ideas on how to address this problem.

Utilize your friends who are more talented than you

I have my talents, but most of them aren't quantifiable.  I'll gladly sing you a song, but it probably won't gift wrap very well.  On the other hand, my sister is a knit-a-holic.  She creates adorable knitted and crocheted items all the time.  Recently, I paid her to make a specialized baby present for my fellow science fiction nerd friends (It was a Jane hat.  You'll only get that reference if you watched Firefly).  It turned out adorable and they loved it. 

It would totally be possible to utilized this same concept for Christmas presents.  Have a friend who's a super scrapbooker?  Pay him to make a small memory book for grandma.  Have a friend who can sew anything?  Pay her to make a couple of adorable throw pillows for your sister.  Know someone who loves to make pottery?  Have her make a vase to match your best friend's living room.  Paying for the supplies and another small amount for their time, it's a win-win!  You'll usually come out MUCH cheaper and definitely more unique than if you just gave them a gift card. 

Channel Your Inner Craft Goddess

I like to think I'm crafty, but in reality, I'm not.  Most of my craft attempts come out looking like they were made by a 4 year old.  Actually, some of my 4 year old daughter's crafts look better than mine do.  But thanks to Pinterest, there are TONS of ideas out there for inexpensive cool stuff.  Here are just a couple of ideas I've found this year, but I'm sure there are directions on how to make some amazing stuff for cheap all over the internet.  You just have to hunt a little.  (WARNING:  If you expect to receive a gift from me this year and want it to remain a surprise, DO NOT click on any of the links below.)

25 Handmade Gifts for Boys
Awesome ideas for the boys in your life!  It even tells you how to make your own real life Angry Birds game!  At the end of the page are links to handmade gifts for girls, women and men!!

Transferring Photos to Wood
This video makes it look incredibly easy!  There are all sorts of ways you could use this technique!

Homemade Soap in Your Crockpot
One batch of soap made in the crockpot would make great gifts for friends and neighbors!  Plus, she has several other adorable ideas on this post!

There are about a bajillion other ideas on Pinterest or Youtube or whatever.  Just get searching!

Give Them A Memory

Most of my best childhood memories are of experiences and not of actual physical gifts.  Get them a membership to a local museum or zoo, which is often pretty reasonably priced and includes multiple admissions.  There are usually multiple levels so you can give as big or as little as you like.  Here are some resources for my local NC friends:

NC Zoological Society
A family membership includes year-round admission for 2 parents and ALL children in their household for only $59.

Marbles Kids Museum
A family membership cost $100, but includes a year's worth of admission for your household and some other really cool benefits!

NC Symphony Orchestra
They offer a really wonderful children's program.  Tickets might seem a little pricey, but purchased in sets for more than one show can lower the cost.  It's a great way to introduce kids to live, classical music. 

The Dreaded Re-Gifting

I'm about to spill my guts about something I haven't admitted to very many people.  I am a re-gifter.  I know, it's not socially acceptable, but I am guilty of it.  Every year, it never fails, that someone in our family receives a gift that he or she isn't particularly fond of.  It's perfectly good stuff, just not something we can use.  I have a large box in my laundry room where I keep this stuff.   It usually consists of jewelry that's not my style or candles in a fragrance I'm not fond of.  Sometimes there are books that I've already own or toys that my kids aren't interested in.  I keep them around for passing along to someone who might like them.  I know it's not considered proper etiquette, but when you're on a limited budget, and want to give a nice gift, I see nothing wrong with passing along something they would appreciate more than you!   It works great for white elephant parties!  There are a couple of important rules, though:

1.  Don't pass along used stuff.  If you've burned the candle to see how it smells, don't regift it.  If you've tried the bodywash, don't regift it.  If you've worn the earrings, don't regift it.  If you're kids have drooled and snotted all over the stuffed animal, don't regift it! 

2.  ABSOLUTELY DO NOT GIVE IT BACK TO THE PERSON WHO GAVE IT TO YOU!!!!  This would be disastrous!  Before an item enters my regifting box, it gets a sticky note with the name of who gave it to me and the date I received it.  If you're not certain where it came from, DON"T REGIFT IT!!!!!

Anyway, those are just some suggestions I have for some unique and inexpensive gifts.  Hopefully, my family will forgive me if they receive something from this post and it's not a surprise.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Monster-C Smoothie: Exclusive Guest Post!

I'm super excited! 

My amazing friend and fellow Meredith College graduate, the lovely Ms. Angela DePoy, has written a guest post for me!  Check out her yummy recipe for inexpensive, outrageously healthy smoothies below:

The Monster-C Smoothie:

Do you love those $5 "fruit" smoothies?  I hate them. They're full of crap. Ice, sugar, and fruit sitting in syrup.

I stock up on the huge bags of plain frozen strawberries - about $7 at Sam's Club. I use these as the "base" and make a month's worth of smoothies for 2 people (5 days a week) with one of these bags. Strawberries are super high in vitamin-C. I wish Sam's club had organic strawberries, I know they would cost a bit more, but at least frozen fruit is safe, high in nutrients and much better for you than what you get at the smoothie shops. That's about .17 per pint-size smoothie.

I also buy the huge bags of blueberries (the tiny wild ones are my favorite, but sometimes only the big ones are available). They are about $4 for a bag half the size of the strawberries. Mixed berries are good too, there's a bag with strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Blueberries are great. Full of antioxidants, low in calories..they're our friends. It only takes a few blueberries to flavour up a smoothie, or maybe .20 worth of blueberries.

I hate getting sick. I take Emergen-C religiously. For $17, I get a huge double pack of Emergen-C at Sam's club. Not my favorite flavours (hello pink lemonade, I wish you could be cheaper), but somehow raspberry and tangerine taste a lot better when you think about 80 packs in the box, or, .21 per packet.
I hate soy. Who knows what on earth they put in soy milk? I you've ever made it at home, it tastes nothing like what you get in the store, even if you strain it a million times. If I eat soy, I eat edamame or tofu but soy milk is scary. It doesn't taste creamy and it surely makes smoothies taste strange. I love So Delicious Coconut Milk (the 80 calorie kind). It's about $3.50 at my grocery store, and I use a half cup in each smoothie making it .22 per smoothie.

I also believe in good quality juice. I love organic grape juice, it's the cheapest kind and for around $3 you can get a small bottle - remember a little goes a long way. The little bottle is 4 servings, but you only need a half cup or 38 cents worth.

I keep organic Demerara sugar on hand. Usually there's a Dixie crystals coupon in the paper for it and that lowers the cost. You are only using about .10 worth of it (1 teaspoon), enough to brighten up the sweetness of the fruit.



Putting protein in smoothies is optional. Most Americans eat protein in ridiculous excess. Unless you're an Olympic hopeful or playing in the NFL, I don't see how putting chemically altered stuff full of artificial sweeteners and flavours is good for anyone. Worried about protein? Take a handful of almonds, pulverize them (try a coffee bean cutter, but you can only do a few at a time, or a high power blender). You can put that in a smoothie.  I use a Ninja blender, not the fancy one, the $50 one.

12-14 whole frozen strawberries (.34)
1/2 cup wild blueberries or 1 cup blueberries or mixed berries (.40)
1/2 cup coconut milk (not the canned kind) (.44)
1/2 cup good quality grape juice (.38)
1 teaspoon Demerara sugar (.10)
1 packet Emergen-C (.21)



Throw strawberries, blueberries, emrgen-C, coconut milk, grape juice, sugar in Ninja. Pulse it until it is super smooth. You may need a tablespoon or two of water if it gets too thick. Don't overwater, use one at a time. This smoothie will be super "velvety". Yields 2 pint-glass sized smoothies. Total Cost per smoothie: 94 cents. Makes a GREAT breakfast.



Thanks so much, Angela!  Sounds delicious and ridiculously healthy!!  I still have some strawberries in the freezer that we picked at our friends' farm in the summer that I plan to use for this recipe to make it even cheaper!