Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Create your own fabric baskets

I got sick of looking at the ugly yellow bucket that my laundry soap came in and the pile of dirty dish rags and bibs that accumulated on the floor of my laundry room, so I created these cute little fabric baskets for them, for FREE!

I see cute fabric baskets at the store for a minimum of $10 each (and that's talking Walmart, can you imagine Pottery Barn?!) . Since I am a cheapskate mom, I searched my basement for suitable sized boxes and covered them with fabric items I had laying around my house.

The big basket is made from a crock pot box and a table cloth that doesn't fit my new table. I got the table cloth for $1 at an after Christmas sale a few years ago. I simply wrapped and folded the table cloth around the box and slid the laundry soap bucket in.

For the small box I used an Eggo waffle box from Sam's club and put an old flannel pillow case that we never use over top. I secured the corners underneath with clear packing tape. I chose to leave the fabric bunched on my baskets for texture but you can wrap these up as tight as you want to. Both boxes are very sturdy.

I now feel much better about my laundry room and it didn't cost me a penny. Feels good...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Think Outside the Christmas Box

Everyone knows that after Christmas is the best time to buy things for the next Christmas. For example last year we got $50 from our grandma for Christmas. My husband and I bought a 6 1/2 foot tree with lights, and over 200 christmas ornaments. We saved hundreds of dollars since the tree alone was over $150 the day before.

But what many may not think about is that this is also a great time to stock up on items for other times of the year too. There are always table cloths and plate sets and other house hold items that we never think to look for that are also majorly discounted. I have several beautiful table cloths and place setting that I have purchased for pennies that don't "look" Christmasy so I use them all year round. For example plain white or a beautiful sage green, both of which match my kitchen.

Think about other special occasions as well. I was getting married in April and I knew that my colors were going to be black, white and red accented with gold. My mom and I went to an after Christmas sale and stocked up on red and white candles, gold platters and thousands of white lights. We used them to decorate my reception. It looked elegant and not like Christmas at all. The money we saved was spent on the designer dress I just had to have and our honeymoon at Lake Tahoe. A much better allocation of funds.

Also, be sure to check out clothing departments. You can always find very nice dress clothes for your kids at very low prices. Some dresses and things are clearly Christmas but many can pass all year round. If it's an item that is clearly Christmas that you just love buy it in the size you think your child will wear next year. If it doesn't fit them when the next year rolls around sell it at a consignment sale. You'll probably get more for it than you paid for it.

This year, think outside the Christmas box and save youself a lot of money on things you can use year round!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Grate your Cheese

Could cheese be any more expensive? I love cheese. I think it is one of the greatest foods on the planet. That is why whenever I buy it I eat it as fast as I can, or at least I used to...

I discovered that when I would buy block cheese I had no problem cutting large chunks of it and eating it. My cheese wouldn't even last a week. When it costs anywhere from $7 or more (sometimes much, much more) for a two pound block of cheese it can add up.

The remedy? Buy grated cheese or grate it yourself. Why it works? When cheese is grated you eat less of it. You are less likely to snack on grated cheese. When you cut slices or cubes you are using up a great deal of cheese. With grated cheese it looks like you are using a lot of cheese when you really aren't. It's almost like a mind trick.

What I do is buy a 5 pound bag of fancy grated cheese from Sam's Club for $14. I take it home and fill smaller bags with the grated cheese. I keep one bag in the fridge and put the rest in the freezer. When I need a new bag of cheese I just pull it out of the freezer. It thaws in just a few minutes. I can still snack a little on the grated bits and it is very easy to put on the meals that I cook. I use less and it lasts weeks longer than when I was buying block cheese.

Try it... your waistline and pocketbook will thank you.

Free Books for Your Preschooler

Dolly Parton has created a wonderful foundation for children called Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

What it is: It is a program for preschool age children to receive a free book once a month.

Who can sign up: Any child ages 0-5 who lives in an area that participates in the program.

How it works: This description was taken directly from her site:

"A community must make the program accessible to all preschool children in their area. The community pays for the books and mailing, promotes the program, registers the children, and enters the information into the database.
From there The Dollywood Foundation takes over and manages the system to deliver the books to the home."
How to sign up: Visit her website . You can sign up and get all details there.
How I feel about it: My daughter is a participant and I think it is great! Each month she gets a new book in the mail. It is a lot of fun. They are very nice quality books and age appropriate. Thank you Dolly! We love reading your books!

Buy Expensive Wipes to Save Money

Just because a box of generic wipes is cheaper at the store it doesn't mean it is a better buy. For example, the last time I bought wipe refills at Sam's Club the store brand was $13 the Huggies brand was $15. I decided to save $2 and go with the store brand. Big mistake. Not only were they a little rough (causing me to use a little more diaper rash cream) but they refused to tear in half. Most of the time you don't need to use a full wipe, especially when wiping a face or changing a wet diaper. Spend the extra $2 and get the name brand wipes. They will work better, last longer because you can easily tear them in half and will save you a lot more money in the long run.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Consignment Sales

One of my favorite ways to buy inexpensive things for my daughter is through consignment sales. There are many consignment businesses open year round as well as organizations that do sales on a yearly basis.

My favorite, and the largest that I know of, is in Birmingham, Alabama. It's called Kid's Market. It is held biannually and is housed in an old grocery store. You can sell your child's old items and you can buy new ones.

I like to look for toys, bedding, books and clothes. Kid's Market has strict rules on items in working and good condition so you almost always find great items in great condition for great prices. At the close of the sale items are sold at 50% off which makes many items practically free. Try selling old items at these sales and if you are unsuccessful you can then donate them.

Check around for consignment sales in your area. Also look for Mother's of Twins sales, double the stuff for half the price! You can save and make yourself a lot of money.

WIC Program

What it is: WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children, and is a prenatal and post natal nutrition program provided by the government.

How it works: After you go through the initial application and process to sign up (see site for details) you are given "checks" each month with the items that you are able to purchase, appropriate to age. Each check will have a list and quantity of what you can get. You simply get the items on the list and use the check to pay for them. Most stores are participants. Items include, formula, juice, milk, cheese, tuna, beans, cereal.

Who is eligible:
pregnant (during pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after the birth of an infant or the end
of the pregnancy)
postpartum (up to six months after the birth of the infant or the end of the pregnancy)
breastfeeding (up to the infant's first birthday)

Infants: (up to the infant's first birthday)

Children:(up to the child's fifth birthday)

*There are also income guidelines. Many people are surprised that they qualify. Check out this chart to see if you are one of them.

What I think about it: I think that this is a great program to help parents give their children the nutrition they need. Especially young parents who struggle to make ends meet. You can save your family a lot of money, especially on things like formula and dairy. It is also a fairly simple program to sign up for and participate in. If you are hesitant to use a government program remember this, you pay (or will pay) a lot in taxes, also it is not fair to your child to withhold nutrition in an attempt to save money. If you need it, use it!

Barack Obama's Economic Jumpstart Plan

Millions of Americans voted for Barack Obama and millions did not. He still is going to be our next president and what he does can have a big impact on our families. In an effort to help you understand what his plans are for the economy, I have included his plan to "jumpstart the economy". The following has been taken directly from his site. If you would like more information about his economic and other such plans you should visit his site.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan Jumpstart the Economy

Enact a Windfall Profits Tax to Provide a $1,000 Emergency Energy Rebate to American Families:Barack Obama and Joe Biden will enact a windfall profits tax on excessive oil company profits to give American families an immediate $1,000 emergency energy rebate to help families pay rising bills. This relief would be a down payment on the Obama-Biden long-term plan to provide middle-class families with at least $1,000 per year in permanent tax relief.

Provide $50 billion to Jumpstart the Economy and Prevent 1 Million Americans from Losing Their Jobs: This relief would include a $25 billion State Growth Fund to prevent state and local cuts in health, education, housing, and heating assistance or counterproductive increases in property taxes, tolls or fees. The Obama-Biden relief plan will also include $25 billion in a Jobs and Growth Fund to prevent cutbacks in road and bridge maintenance and fund school re­pair - all to save more than 1 million jobs in danger of being cut.

Cheap ways to lift weights

You don't need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get toned muscles. You can get that work out without feeling like your working out or spending a lot of money. Here are some easy ways to get buff.

When going for a walk, working out to a video or just watching TV, grab cans of food from your cupboard. Do reps with them just like you would with regular dumbbells. When you want more weight, use bigger cans, or take old milk jugs and fill them with either water, beans or rice to add extra weight. Change positions to pinpoint all areas of your body.

One thing I like to do, and my daughter loves, is to lay on the ground flat on my back and bench press her into the air multiple times. I will also have her sit on the tops of my feet while I lay on my back. I lift my feet in the air with her on them as I do a crunchie and make faces at her. It's a great leg workout and she thinks it's a fun ride.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Save Money on Auto Insurance

When you are looking for auto insurance make sure that you ask about discounts that you may be eligible for. Many places are happy to tell you what discounts you can receive but you have to ask first.

Some discounts I have received in the past include: safe driver, student, homeowner, multiple car, and continued customer.

Another way to save money is to pay your 6 month premium all at once. I have insurance through Progressive and if we made payments every month our 6 month cost for insurance would be $407. Since we pay for the whole 6 months at once we are given a discount and pay only $351. A savings of $56.

In order to ease the burden of a big bill. My husband sets aside "an insurance payment" every month into a separate savings account. It's like an escrow account for our car insurance. When the premium is due we already have the money ready to send out.

Save money on auto insurance the smart way. NEVER cheat yourself out of the proper coverage you need to protect your family just to save a few pennies. Always buy the most coverage you can afford.

Revamp Your Kids Toys

Don't pass up toys at garage sales or throw out your kids toys because they are starting to look shabby. Look for ways that you can turn those junky looking toys into treasures.

This is a sit and spin that I got at a consignment sale for $4. The stickers were hideous and torn. What I did was recovered those ugly stickers with cute paper I had in my scrapbook collection. I used Mod Podge to secure and seal the new paper.

This is something you can get really creative with and you can even personalize your children's toys with letters, stamps or special paper. My daughter uses her sit and spin all the time, it's cute, unique and the best part is, it was cheap!

Wallgreens Super Saver Program

Walgreen's has a great program to save you money. It's called their Super Saver Program.
What it is
Each month they publish a new Super Saver catalog. You can get it from their website or in the store. The catalog has a ton of coupons as well as rebates on select items. Many of the rebates are very good and cover a large portion of the cost of the item. Each month they also feature select items that are free.
How it works
Go into the store during the designated dates and purchase the items you need from the Super Saver catalog. Save your receipt. You can then redeem your rebate via Internet or mail. I have found that the Internet is the best way. You just go to their site and type in the necessary receipt code and they will review your receipt and either send you a check for your rebate or you can choose to get your rebate in the form of a Walgreen's gift card. If you choose this option they will give you an additional 10% of what your rebate is worth. I have received my rebate in less than a months time. *Note: the state taxes you pay are not refundable in the rebate.
What it's saved me
I've only been participating in this program for two months but the savings are already awesome. The following items are things that I have received for free through this program.
L'oreal face moisturizer - $19.99
Rimmel foundation - $7.49
Alamay mascara - $6.99
L'oreal facial cleanser - $6.99
8 x 10 photo - $2.99
Total Savings: $44.45

Roasted Garlic & Tomato Pasta

COST: $4.50 *estimate, may vary

1- 1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes
4-5 cloves garlic - large chop
10-15 leaves fresh spinach - sliced
1/4 c. fetta cheese
1/4 c. Italian dressing
1 box bow tie pasta

1. Place tomatoes, garlic and Italian dressing an a small baking pan. Roast at 400 for about 20-25 minutes or until tomatoes start to split and garlic begins to brown.

2. Boil bowtie pasta. Once cooked, drain and place in a large bowl.

3. Mix spinach, fetta cheese and tomato/garlic mixture in with the noodles.

Friday, November 7, 2008

10% Savings

Many people pay 10% of their gross income to their church as a tithe. Why not give yourself 10% too?

Don't expect the government to take care of your retirement. The only way to ensure your financial future is to take personal responsibility for it. Saving and investing at any age is a good idea but the younger you are when you begin, the more your earnings can add up. Building up your savings can be a difficult thing but follow these tips and you might discover that it is easier than you think.

Step#1: Discuss with your partner what your savings will be for (retirement, home, college) and when it is okay and not okay to dip into it.

Step#2: Discuss how much you will always put into your savings. 10% is a good number to start with but more is always better if you can afford it.

Step#3: Decide what type of account you will keep it in. Money Market accounts and CD's from your bank are safe places to keep your money while gaining a little interest. IRA's, HMO's and other investment accounts have higher earning rates but can fluctuate over time. Discussing options with a financial planner, your employer or your bank will help you decide the best option for you.

Step#4: JUST DO IT! When that check comes in at the end of the month put your designated percent in your savings account right away. If you don't do it immediately you'll spend it. Trust me. Some employers and banks even have options through direct deposit to place percentages into your different accounts. Other employers will match what you put into a retirement account.

Step#5: Stick to the plan. Be consistent and don't borrow for unnecessary things. Better yet, don't borrow from it at all. If there is an emergency and you have to borrow, pay yourself back as soon as possible.

Step# 6: Teach your children how to save. You can never be too early to start.

Step #7: Enjoy your financial freedom and peace of mind. You deserve it!