Thursday, December 31, 2009

100! (continued)


Finishing what I started yesterday...ways to save money, #51-100!


Traveling

51. Check out Travelzoo! They have great deals!

52. Try to get a hotel room with a mini refrigerator, and stock up on milk, orange juice, yogurt and other items at a grocery store so you can spend less money at restaurants.

53. Better yet, if you have a mini kitchen, you can try cooking instead of going out to eat!

54. Timing is everything - traveling in the off-season can save you a ton of money. Go to ski resorts in the spring, or go to Europe in the fall or winter.

55. Be flexible - changing what day or even time of day you fly can save you some cash. Websites like Expedia or Kayak can help you in your search.

56. If you want to try an expensive restaurant, try it for lunch instead. It's probably easier to get a table, and lunch almost always tends to be cheaper than dinner.

57. Don't spend your travel budget on your hotel - unless you're going to be doing much more than sleeping in your room, spend your money elsewhere. Wouldn't you rather go on a zipline and stay in a 2 star hotel than watch TV in your 4 star hotel? I would.

58. Check for membership or student discounts. AAA offers discounts on hotels, rental cars and even events, and student IDs can get you discounts at museums or other tourist attractions.

59. Look for mass transit options. If you're in a larger metropolitan area, chances are the mass transit options will be cheap and relatively easy. I got a MetroPass for the subway when I was recently in New York and it was way cheaper than getting a cab to all those destinations.

60. Join a rewards or frequent flier program. I have an Alaska Airlines credit card and it definitely helps scale down our travel expenses by offering companion fares and extra miles for every year you have the card.

61. Although it's probably not for me, you can have free lodging (and maybe even a car) if you're willing to swap houses with someone.

62. Make sure to set a budget and stick to it. It's easy to get carried away when you're on vacation and justify spending money you don't have. Decide what your priorities are and allocate money accordingly.

63. Really work on your packing. If you can pack everything in a carry-on, you can avoid paying $25 or more for each item you check. Opt for items you can layer instead of bulky sweaters that take up more room.

64. I like to pack multipurpose items when I travel - it saves space and it's cheaper than buying a specific item for everything. I use conditioner for shaving cream, I have a multiuse makeup stick for lipstick, blush and eye shadow...

65. You can see the world and do some good work for others by joining Peace Corps, Art Corps, or other service agencies.

66. Utilize your hotel shuttle service. Not only can they take you to and from the airport, but many can take you to other tourist destinations.

67. I love this tip from Wise Bread's 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget - eat soup! Soup is usually very cheap and very filling.

68. If you have to rent a car, rent the smallest one you can. The smaller the car, the cheaper the rate and the less you'll spend on gas.

69. Use search engines like Bing or Airfare Watchdog that shows you how flight prices are trending and will alert you when prices change.

70. Have fun! Don't obsess about saving every penny and ruin your vacation. Plan ahead of time, leave some breathing room in your budget for peace of mind and enjoy your time!


Personal Care

71. According to a study in Women's Health, most people waste 10-20% of grooming products because they use too much. Check out their suggestions on how much you should really be using.

72. Unless you have really oily hair, you may not need to shampoo it every day. You're stripping natural oils from your hair and you're wasting half of your shampoo! Plus, the more you shampoo it, the quicker you have to color your hair (if you do that sort of thing).

73. Keeping with the hair theme, you only really need to condition your ends, so don't fill your palm with conditioner and slather it over your entire head. It will make your hair greasy and again, you're wasting conditioner!

74. I know it's fun to get a mani/pedi once in awhile, but they definitely start to add up! An expert gives tips on a perfect at-home manicure and pedicure.

75. Start getting multipurpose makeup - as I mentioned earlier, it's great for traveling, but I use it at home. Check out NARS Multiple.

76. Unscented lotion, like Cetaphil, is great for everything. My husband and I use it for hand, body and facial lotion. It's cheap, it's effective, and if I wanted to wear a fragrance, I just layer it on top of the lotion.

77. Use toothpaste on pimples. Seriously! Make sure it's the PASTE and not the gel...

78. Try going to a beauty school to get your hair done. It might take awhile (lots of other people do this) but you can save a ton on haircuts and colors.

79. Drink water - this can save you a lot of money on skincare products and makeup because it flushes all the toxins out of your body and makes you feel great!

80. Laugh - you always look good when you're truly happy.


Shopping and Clothes

81. I love Fantabulously Frugal! She posts great deals on clothes, home items, and more!

82. I actually made money during the holidays because I shopped with ebates! Check it out!

83. Follow your favorite stores on Facebook or Twitter, or if you don't mind the added bulk to your inbox, submit your email address. You'll get head's up on sales or maybe even special coupons.

84. Launder your clothes less if you can. That is the fastest way to make your clothes look old. Sometimes, you can opt for the lint roller instead of the dry cleaner.

85. Invest in classic pieces made of quality materials instead of buying cheaply made clothes. They'll last a lot longer and you'll get a better bang for your buck in the end.

86. If you have a great pair of shoes, polish, shine and repair them instead of throwing them out.

87. Pay attention to how you wash your clothes - wash in cold water and inside out, and make sure everything is zipped up so things don't catch during the wash cycles.

88. Just with lots in life, timing is everything. Best time to buy jeans: October after all the back to school shopping is done. Best time to buy winter coats: February or March when the spring stuff is moving in. Do your clothing shopping in off season and you can score some great deals.

89. Make sure your wardrobe is versatile. Buy pieces that have more than one use or way to wear. Ladies - a little black dress can go anywhere - work, after work, parties, weekends, weddings...

90. Check out Frugal Femme's great advice on what you should have in your closet!


Health Care

91. Look into getting a Health Flexible Spending Account. Just like the Transit one, you save pretax money in an account you can later use to cover health care costs (even things like aspirin)!

92. If you can, opt for urgent care clinics as opposed to the emergency room. If your situation is an emergency, DON'T but many people could probably visit the urgent care clinic instead and save a lot of money in the process.

93. Keep an eye out for free things offered by drugstores and health fairs - free vaccines, free skin checks, free cholesterol checks are among some things you can probably get!

94. Ask your doctor to prescribe you a generic version for your prescriptions.

95. Even better, ask your doctor to give you free samples in lieu of buying your prescriptions.

96. Utilize your time wisely in a doctor's appointment. Make a list of all your questions to make sure you get everything answered.

97. If possible, see if you can set up a phone or email appointment with your doctor. It's free and it saves you a copay and a trip!

98. Drink coffee and wine! Studies have shown a glass of wine is good for your heart and having coffee may reduce your risks of getting Type 2 diabetes.

99. Drink tea, too! It's been shown to do many things, from help get over a cold to help with memory loss.

100. Staying healthy is the best form of prevention - eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep.


Okay, that's it! Hope this helps you think about how to save money in 2010! Wishing you and yours a wonderful, safe, happy and healthy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

100!

Lean with Green is now an old lady - we're officially at Post 100! Thanks for reading, for commenting and for telling your friends! We know you lead busy lives and we're glad you take a few minutes out of your day to read our little blog!


So in honor of Post 100, we're going to be doing 100 ways to save money! Since it'd probably take forever to read (and write), we'll start with 1-50!


Groceries

1. Clip coupons for things you regularly buy, but not for things you don't. It's not saving you any money if you buy those fruit snacks for 75 cents cheaper when you don't normally buy them.

2. Build your weekly menu around grocery store circulars and who has the best deals.

3. Compare unit pricing to see what is really the best deal. Is the bigger package the better bargain? Check the unit pricing.

4. Seasonal produce is cheaper - what's in season right now? Here's a list.


5. Buy seasonal produce at the farmers market if you can.

6. BYOB - bring your own bag. Some grocery stores still deduct a few cents for every bag you bring.

7. See if your grocery store has any specials on items creeping up on their "sell by" date. I spent $2 on 8 Yoplait yogurts (normally would have spent around $6) because they were supposed to be sold in three days. I also saved $3 on a premade salad - that's $7 saved in one trip!

8. Save more money on produce by buying some things canned or frozen.

9. Make a list and don't buy things that aren't on it.

10. If you are a compulsive grocery shopper (or shop when you're hungry), look into getting your groceries delivered. For a small fee, you save time and won't end up with a cupboard full of chocolate-covered pretzels (drooling...) or Easy Mac.

11. Think about joining a wholesale club. There are lots of deals to be had, but the yearly membership fee may not be worth your potential savings. I weighed the pros and cons about shopping wholesale in this post.

12. Don't fall for the pre-packaged snack packs. Buy a bigger bag and do it yourself.

13. Join your grocery store rewards club if you haven't yet. They're free and they save you money on food (and maybe gas!).

14. Buy generic, especially on staples like sugar, flour, and salt. I've never heard someone complain that the sugar tasted generic. Generic might even taste better, as our taste test proved.

15. Look for better bargains at the top and bottom of shelves. Most people want to buy things at eye level, so stores might place more expensive items where you're more likely to buy them.

16. Don't buy bottled water. Most likely, you have access to good, clean water and filling up your own water bottle is a lot better for the environment.

17. Check your pantry first. Try and use up what you have before you buy more. But...

18. Stock up when something is on sale. For instance, if you cook a lot of pasta and spaghetti is on sale, it will be nice to have on hand and you'll get a better deal on something you always buy.

19. Buy less expensive cuts of meat and make them delicious in a Crock-Pot!

20. Repurpose leftovers. Pack them for lunch or transform them in another dish - this will save you from buying more food to make more meals.

21. Get out quick! Studies have shown that for every minute over a half hour, customers spend 50 cents to $1 more!

22. Check your receipts - maybe the checker keyed in the apples that were $1.99/lb instead of the apples that were 88 cents/lb. Mistakes happen - don't pay extra for them though.

23. Check yourself - are you hungry? Tired? Mad? Your mood can play a role in what you buy and how much you spend.

24. Make sure your food won't go to waste quickly and check the expiration date. What's the point of getting a good deal on buying 2 gallons of milk if you're going to throw a half gallon away because it expired?

25. Beware of endcaps, the displays at the end of an aisle. You might think the items are on sale, but there are probably cheaper varieties elsewhere. Chips and salsa are frequently endcap items at my grocery store, but they are Tostitos brand. If I walked a few aisles down, I could pick up the grocery store salsa (which I prefer) and cheaper chips.

Entertainment
26. I cannot sing the praises of Groupon enough! If you haven't yet, check it out. It can save you beaucoup bucks on wine classes, pole dancing (yep, you read that right), restaurants, sports events, ballets...

27. Hit up happy hour at your favorite restaurant instead of a full-fledged dinner. Sure, it may be a little earlier or later than you'd normally go, but you can save lots of money in your dining budget!

28. Utilize your local library for free books, magazines, movies and internet access. Libraries also have book clubs and readings!

29. If you can't wait for movies, join Netflix or try RedBox.

30. Keep a lookout in your local papers for free concerts and events.

31. Matinees are great for movies and theater productions!

32. Check your local museums for discounts! Often, museums have days or times of day with free admission!

33. If your area has one, purchase an Entertainment book. The $20 you pay for the book more than pays for itself with coupons for restaurants, movie tickets, mini golf courses, ice skating and more.

34. Use your memberships! If you're a club member, a student, an alumni...these groups and more have special perks!

35. Host your own dinner party/Trivial Pursuit/"Mad Men" marathon night. Doing stuff at home is almost always cheaper than going out to a restaurant or bar. Invite some friends over and have a party. Better yet, have them come bearing food or drinks and you won't foot the bill yourself.

36. If you live to watch live sports, hit up minor league, college, or high school games. They're cheaper than professional games, and you may even be able to say you saw the next-big-thing when they were still an unknown.

37. Take another look at your cable bill. If you don't feel like you're getting your money's worth, get a cheaper plan. Or call your cable company to see if they can lower your bill.

38. Go to a state or national park for a day of hiking, seeing the sights and being out in nature.

39. Learn a new hobby, like snowshoeing or cross country skiing! I just found this great website (http://www.wintertrails.org/) that shows when FREE lessons and equipment rentals are available in your area. January is Winter Sports Month, so keep your eyes peeled for deals on snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding and more.

40. Check for last minute deals on ballets or theater productions. There are usually deep discounts to be had the closer to showtime it is.


Transportation

41. Fill up on gas midweek - the price usually gets jacked up Friday-Monday to account for weekend travelers.

42. Make sure your tires are properly inflated (check the panel on the inside of your car door, not the manufacturer's suggestion on the tire). And remember, air contracts and expands, so you should check the pressure with changes in temperature.


43. Take unnecessary items out of your trunk - for every 250 lbs in your car, you lose 1 mile/gallon in fuel efficiency. Not that anyone is carrying around an anvil, but every little bit helps.

44. See if your employer offers any transit flex plans - use pre-tax money to pay for bus passes, possibly parking and get taxed on less at the end of the year.

45. Walk more - it'll cost you less and it's healthier for you!

46. Is it possible for you to work from home? Check with your boss about telecommuting once a week and save your money and the environment.

47. Carpool.

48. Evaluate your car insurance and talk to your provider about a plan that might be cheaper and better suited for you.

49. Remember to keep up your car maintenance - dealing with smaller, more routine things could help you avoid a costly repair.

50. If possible, look into getting your car repaired at a vocational school. Although the work is done by automotive students, they work closely with their teachers and it's far cheaper than a mechanic (usually only charging for parts and supplies).


WHEW! Come back tomorrow for the next 50!

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Financial Resolutions

Where have I been? Well, the last two weeks have been great! I was in New York for 4 days and in Portland with my friends and family for a week...and I thought I should take a break from all things, including blogging, for the holidays. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! Any good last minute shopping deals or day-after sales stories?




Now that the Christmas excitement has worn off, the reality of another year ending is upon us. Not just a year, but a decade! This is also usually the time when people evaluate their lives and start goal setting again, also known as New Year's resolutions. Lose 10 lbs, spend more time with family and friends, travel - these have been my resolutions of the past until I decided that goals made on January 1st were pretty arbitrary and never made it past Easter (I now do birthday resolutions instead - read about them here). But let's do some checking in and see what I need to do financially for 2010.

SAVE MORE - my birthday resolution was to have 6 months of living expenses saved. This time last year, I literally had $100 in my savings account ($100.21 to be exact). By April, I had $300 when I made saving a priority. This year, I have $5200! I did not come into a large sum of money - on the contrary. I work for a non-profit so my paychecks are not huge and my husband was unemployed for 5 months. But I made deliberate choices with what I did with my money and altered my habits a bit. I still have digital cable, I still have a gym membership, I still go out to dinner...but I spend time clipping coupons, I don't buy things at the mall for full price, and I turn out lights and take shorter showers. Seriously - take a few minutes a month to monitor your budget and figure out where you can save a little can save you A LOT. Honestly, I think writing this blog and hearing from you all has helped me too! So thanks!


PREPARE TO BUY A HOUSE - as mentioned in this post, the husband and I are getting ready to achieve the American dream and buy a house. We've saved our downpayment, plus some money for closing costs, moving, and all those other miscellaneous costs that come with buying a house (um, new furniture!). It is definitely the biggest investment we'll ever make and we are (mostly) ready. Stay tuned!


BABY FUND - yup. Baby. The train to Babytown has not left the station yet, but we figure kids are expensive. I have 4 much younger siblings, and just buying them toys and taking them out for excursions costs a small fortune. Have you seen how much diapers cost? Anyway, the average cost of a child hovers around $15,000/year, according to Baby Center and I'm guessing it'll be easier to save before the baby is here than try to save later, ya dig?



What are my non-financial New Year's resolutions? Sit less. I calculated how much time I spend sitting at work and at home, and it was DEPRESSING. More water breaks, more walks around the block, less TV. I know. We'll see...

How about you? Making any financial (or otherwise) goals for the new year and new decade? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Deals!

Hey all! I'm so ready for the weekend! Christmas shopping, packing for my 2 week vacation, seeing friends and family! Bring it on!


*50% off on sweaters from the Gap when you purchase them in store (thanks Fantabulously Frugal)! These luxe sweaters are great!





*30% off one item at Borders! Offer expires on Monday.

*20% off all Philosophy products both online and in store through Monday! Use the code 2GIVEIS2RECEIVE online. I'm in love with the Amazing Grace sample I received from them a few weeks ago!


*FREE holiday music sampler from iTunes! Doesn't listening to Christmas music for 2 minutes totally transform your mood?



Seattle specific Friday Deals, courtesy of the Seattle Times Freeloader!


*FREE hot cider and FREE valet parking at University Village! The hot cider is available daily at the concierge desk (between Ben Bridge Jewelers and Sole Food), and free parking is Friday, Saturday and Sunday AND the week before Christmas.




*FREE appetizers at Kathy Casey Food Studios in Ballard to celebrate her new book! The menu features bacon, blue cheese and pecan cocktail cookies, lamb sliders on rosemary buns and croque monsieur puffs. The open house runs from 11 AM - 7 PM on Saturday, and it's located at 5130 Ballard Ave NW.

*FREE Nutella crepes at Mobatta at their new location on 2nd Ave between Cherry and Columbia!

Looks like I don't have to pay for meals this weekend! Enjoy and stay warm!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Regift or Not to Regift?



Regifting. It sounds like a dirty word. To some people, it is a dirty word. But regifting can also be resourceful - it's a way of giving gifts you won't use to someone who will use and enjoy them. Treading the Regifting River may be tricky, so if you do choose to regift, here are some tips and rules of etiquette:


*Regifting should be done in a situation when it will not hurt or embarass the original giver. Think of how you'd feel if you found out someone gave away the gift you gave them. Maybe give in another circle of friends, a coworker, a neighbor, etc. If you have a pile of regifted gifts somewhere in your home, maybe think about keeping a list of who gave you what gift and when.

*Keep everything in its original package. It will be obvious something is a regift if the styrofoam packing is gone or the box is in poor condition. But then again, don't try and put it in a box from another retailer. What if the recipient tried to return it to that store? Embarrassing!

*DON'T regift something you've already used. Unless there is a special significance to the hand-me-down, don't do it. Tacky!

*Remember to present it as a new gift! Don't use the old wrapping paper or leave the old card on the box...it's amazing that some people neglect to check things like that, but it has happened to me!

*Regifts can sometimes make awesome white elephant exhange gifts!

*If regifting is totally not an option for you, think about selling unwanted gifts on Craig's List, eBay or Amazon. Then use the money you make to buy real gifts!


Have you ever regifted or been on the receiving end of a regift? How did it work out?

PS - did you know the term regift originated in a "Seinfeld" episode? Elaine's boyfriend was a "regifter". Reason #173 I love that show!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holiday Help: Decorating on the Cheap

I know I tend to go a little overboard on my holiday decorating budget, but this year, I definitely tried to create decor on a dime - nay, a nickel!

I think keeping things natural is a good way to go. I love the smell of fir trees, and in lieu of getting a Christmas tree that would 1) die, because we are gone the week before Christmas and 2) would cost at least $40, I went to Home Depot to get some garlands. While I didn't find exactly what I wanted, I did find a pile of branches that had been cut off trees. Bonus - the staff at Home Depot just gave them to me for FREE! I made custom fir decorations for my entry table and my kitchen.


Another natural thing I brought in were fresh cranberries! They were so pretty for Thanksgiving, I wanted them for Christmas. I put them in small votive holders to brighten up my space. One bag at the grocery store cost $2 and filled 8 votive holders.




Other natural things that make easy and beautiful decorations are: pinecones (I've seen some even glazed or spray painted), leaves, oranges or clementines (hint: if you stick cloves in them, they smell ah-mazing), and cinnamon sticks.

Next, I love ornaments. They're so versatile - besides hanging them on the tree, you can put them on your mantle, you can fill a hurricane or a vase, stack them on shelves...so I purchased ornaments from Home Depot for $7. I hung them using some ribbon (which I'll also used to wrap presents) for $4. I also strategically placed them in my fir arrangement and to spruce up an old wreath.





Oh, and of course, the $1 advent calendar from Trader Joe's!





I literally decorated my house for Christmas spending less than $15, repurposing a few things and using a little creativity!

How did you decorate for the holidays? What are some tricks you use to save money on decorating?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Deals

I'm sure in a good mood this morning after my Oregon Ducks clinched the Pac-10 championship and a Rose Bowl spot! But seeing some of these good deals for weekend shopping was the icing on the cake!

*Friends and Family at Cost Plus World Market! Get 25% off home decor, furnishings, gifts and more, and 10% off food/alcohol. Use this coupon in store or use code FFONLINEDEC online. Is anyone else a sucker for their Beer of the World 10-pack like I am?



*Friends and Family at The Body Shop - 20% all merchandise in store or online (use code FNF2009). If you shop in store, you also get a FREE gift with a $20 purchase. Make sure to print up this coupon if you plan to shop in store. Ends Sunday.

*Love that Borders.com has coupons all the time (become a Borders member for free like I mentioned in this post) and this is a pretty good one! 30% off one item! Go here to get the coupon.

*25% off your order of $150 or more at jcrew.com. Enter code GIFTS. Totally wanting this vest...


*Take an extra 20% off Vera Bradley sale items! Enter code 20OFFSALE at checkout (thanks to Fantabulously Frugal for this one).

*Although it's not a Friday Deal per se, make sure to check out Ebates.com if you plan on shopping online for gifts. Ebates.com is a GREAT website I mentioned in this post, and it's a website that partners with over 1,000 stores to give you cash back on your purchases. I had not used it much but when I decided I wanted to get some great online deals on Cyber Monday, I thought I'd give it a try. Not only were all the online stores I wanted available, but Ebates was running a special of getting double cash back! I got about 11% cash back on my purchases! If you'd like to check it out and sign up, here's the link.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Help: Having a Greener Holiday


I have a few pet peeves about the holidays: crowds, rude people, traffic. Out of all of the things that bug me from Thanksgiving to New Year's, my biggest pet peeve is how much is wasted - wrapping paper, bows, decorations, food, and plenty more! Don't get me wrong - I'm not a scrooge! But over the years, I've gotten increasingly concerned about the environment and I'm trying to minimize my impact. I figured a lot of you are in the same boat. Here is how I'm planning to have a greener holiday:

*Wrapping presents with something I already have - newspapers are a classic, but what about old scarves or bandanas? What about placing a present in a basket or other container I have lying around the house? I also think it could be nice to get a gift in a reusable shopping bag - something I can use later! If I have to buy wrapping paper, I will only buy paper made of recycled materials. I also love to wrap presents with nice ribbon that could be used by the recipient again - I love to use old ribbons for headbands, belts, or an accent on my purse.

*Giving experiential gifts. I love this one! Last year, my husband and I got my twin brothers tickets to an Oregon Ducks football game. Since we couldn't buy tickets until July, the present they got to "open" were foam fingers that we hid in the house. When they found the fingers, we told them they'd need to use those to cheer at the game we'd be taking them to. It was pretty cute! I plan to do more of this during the holidays this year.




*Giving the gift of my time. I used to think these were so cheesy! My mom would always encourage me to make personal gift certificates, but I thought they were lame. Now, I love them and so do the recipients! Make a certificate for your parents and take them out to their favorite restaurant (or one within your budget) or babysit your niece and give your siblings a night out. People stay relatively connected with technology these days, but nothing beats a few hours of face time with those you love. I promise that will be a memorable gift.

*Giving a membership or subscription. As I've mentioned in other posts, I love giving magazines as gifts (just remember to either pass the magazine onto someone else or recycle it when you're done). Memberships are also great! One year, my mom got me a membership to AAA. With an unreliable car, that definitely got me out of a few pickles, plus it gave me ultimate piece of mind. Maybe you could find a cheap membership for a friend's favorite museum?

For other ideas on how to have a no-waste holiday, go to reduce.org.

What do you think? Is it important to you to give in a way that reduces waste? How are you incorporating being green into your holiday routine?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Frugal Heart Beats for Twitter

I'm still a little new to the whole Twitter scene (melissawgaffney, if you'd like to follow me). It's kind of neat to see celebrities on there - Joel McHale and Bethenny Frankel are some of my favorite tweeters (is that the right use of the word?), but I think my favorite thing about Twitter is how instantly you can find all kinds of deals!

First off, you can follow some of your favorite stores. Much like Facebook, if you follow certain stores, they are likely to post special promotions or deals on Twitter. It's a good way to keep informed on sales all in one place. Since I never pay full price at Banana Republic, I like to follow their tweets letting me know it's 30% off sweaters and outerwear!



Here are some of my favorite deal tweeters:




1) Fantabulously Frugal - I love Lisa and her sweet, sweet deals! She keeps up with EVERYTHING! Check out her blog, too!



2) Free List - Free List is just like it sounds - it lists anything from classifieds in your town that are free! The posts can be a little overwhelming, but it's a good way to score anything from free skiis to free hot tubs to free cars (okay, no engine, but still). I'm following Free List Seattle, but there are lots of Free Lists. Check for your town!



3) Groupon - I've mentioned Groupon before, and now I'm in love with their tweets! They send out a fantastic deal every day for restaurants, spas, events and more for numerous cities! Last I checked, they were in 45 cities. Find the Groupon for your area!



4) Target Daily Deal - I can't spend time every day checking Target's site for good deals, so they tweet it for me! Their Daily Deal tweets are great! Just 3 days ago, Dyson vacuums were on sale for $299 - normally $400! Can't wait to see what they have for the holiday shopping season...






5) Travelzoo - if you love to travel, or just need to find deals on how to get where you need to go cheaply, you must follow Travelzoo. They have great travel finds ($29/night at the Tropicana in Vegas?!) for last minute getaways or they can give you a head's up when you plan something in advance.



Do you tweet? Who do you follow that makes you laugh, think, or save money? I'd love the suggestions!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Clothes Shopping the Frugal Way Part 3



So I finally made my shopping trip. As a refresher, here were the items I've decided to start with to round-out my wardrobe. I've put an X next to those which I have purchased.



Black Tank
White and black T's (short sleeved and long) X (One long sleeved black T, still looking for the others)



Black turtleneck sweater
Crew neck sweater X (three one red, one pink, one black)
Black pants X
Heavy sweater X (a tan over sized cowl neck)

Cashmere
hoodie
Gray Flannel pants (I might choose another fabric aside from flannel) X (I got flannel and I love them! I even found a washable flannel)
Black round-toe pumps
Black knee high boots
1-2 additional pairs of neutral pants such a pin stripe X (a very dark grey/silver. What can I say? I like grey)
1-2 dressier blouses X (a burgundy colored blouse with a ruffle)





So overall I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished. I spent about $350, which considering I haven't purchased clothes since March isn't that bad. I made my purchases at Express and Ann Taylor Loft. I consider these good quality stores. While eventually I'd like to move toward a beautiful pair of Theory pants, the fact is my closet was sooo bare, that my budget just wouldn't allow. So always buy the best quality you can afford. I'm proud of my self for not going to the cheapest of cheap stores and buying a ton of stuff I know will stretch out and pill within a couple of days.




I've worn Express editor pants in years past and they always hold up well. I highly recommend them for anyone who is looking to add some pants to their wardrobe.




The other thing I'm going to do differently is being very cautious how I launder my clothes. I plan to hang dry almost all of them, and then through them in the dryer to just wrinkle release. Even though they say they can handle the dryer and they may or may not shrink, they will still start to look older much faster.



I'm still on the hunt for the perfect black boots. Anyone have a pair to share?










Monday, November 30, 2009

No-Spend January

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and it was filled with the 3 Fs: family, friends and freaking good food!


So what about going a month without spending money? What?! A month without spending? Well, I'm definitely toying around with the idea. I L.O.V.E the holidays but come the second week of January and the excitement has worn off, I usually feel a little sheepish about how much I spent. So - a detox, of sorts.



This was the post by Sox in Budgets are Sexy that inspired me. Now Sox is pretty intense, and I don't know if I can quite do what he did, but I'm determined to reign in my spending and hopefully learn a few things, too.

Here's my proposal:


*No spending money on clothes, shoes or other accessories. Period. The holidays will have just happened, and while there will be killer sales, I can suck it up for a month. It's a high probability that I will get at least one clothing item for Christmas, and really, I have plenty of things to wear.


*No spending money on going out for meals or drinks. This does not mean that I can't eat out in restaurants; this just means I cannot pay for a meal in a restaurant. If my husband and I go out for dinner, no joint account money (thanks babe!). Do I have any friends that would like to take me out to lunch or dinner in January? :)

*No other incidental purchases, like coffee, nail polish, candy bars, etc.


*I WILL spend money on things that need to get paid - rent, groceries (I may have to look at upping my budget to account for how much more I'll be eating in), bills, and gas. Obviously, if an emergency expense comes up, I will have to pay for that as well. But we're not talking an I-was-hungry-and-so-I-got-Thai-takeout emergency; this will have to be something that will significantly impact my day-to-day routine (sickness, car emergency, etc).


What are my strategies?


- Be much better about packing my lunch. The expense of lunches out has started creeping up on me again. Stay tuned for another lunch post on how to actually eat and like what you pack for lunch...


-Preparing. I'll be getting work on my car done in December and going to the dentist/doctor to not have any co-pays or other forseen medical expenses taken care of.


- Host people at my house for dinner/drinks instead of going out.


- Getting tips/support from you all! :)


I'll be tracking my progress on the blog so you can hear about my triumphs and struggles. Anyone else want to have a No-Spend January with me?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Meal Planning Challenge


I've finally gotten this meal planning thing done and I have to say, it's been going very well and we're saving lots of money. But I still have a ton of food in my cupboards, it's always stuff that I'm sure I'll eat at somepoint and never get to. I'm now using it as inspiration for my meal planning. All that food that's sitting in my cupboards is just wasting me money. It's good to have staples, but some of these things need to go!

As a new weekly feature, every Monday I will posting my five challenge foods for the following week and look for your suggestions as well as search through recipes and utilize sites such as Recipe Czar. I will post my menu and recipes for the following week on Friday afternoon.

The rules are easy. I must use the below five ingredients in meals for the following week. I can use them in any combination, like two in one recipe, but I must use them all.

Here are next week's challenge ingredients. As an FYI we are traveling for Turkey Day so we won't have any leftovers.

Panko Bread Crumbs

Sundried Tomatoes

Canned Chicken (really not as gross as it sounds)

Cranberry Sauce

Roasted Red Peppers




Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Deals

Thank goodness it's Friday! Busy weekend ahead of Thanksgiving prep, seeing friends and taking in "New Moon"! Here are some good deals for your weekend!

*Take 25% off your whole order at gap.com - enter code GIFT123. This offer is good until November 23rd!

*FREE clutch with a $25 purchase at Sephora (in stores or online). It's filled with 8 samples! Enter code CLUTCH4U if you order it online, and be sure to bring a print out of this if you get it in stores.


*$20 off purchase of $125 or more at onlineshoes.com! This offer expires on November 23rd and make sure to enter code 9GOBBLE.




*FREE scarf at victoriassecret.com when you buy a sweater! Enter SCARF09






*FREE CD (with U2, John Legend and Dave Matthews Band, no less) at Starbucks when you make a purchase of $15 or more! I got a bag of coffee, a latte, and a free CD yesterday! The CD is with the RED project, so part of your purchase goes to support AIDS relief in Africa. PS - if you have a Starbucks card, don't forget to register it! You get a FREE drink when you purchase beans plus you get a FREE drink on your birthday!




*Good flight deals going on - Southwest is charging $59 (and free bags!) for some one-way tickets. Clearly, these are just for selected cities, but hey, if I wanted to fly from Seattle to Boise, it'd only cost me $118 roundtrip! Make sure to read the fine print because exclusions apply.



*FREE shower gel and bubble bath sample from Philosophy when you become a fan on Facebook! If you sign up to receive emails, you'll get a FREE Amazing Grace perfume with a $15 purchase.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holiday Help: Drink and Be Merry!


So, a week until the holiday season officially kicks off! I've got my card table to seat more people (a table and 4 chairs for $40 - thanks Target!), table runner, napkins, decorations, menu...now I just need some drinks! I definitely don't want to break the bank for drinks - I'm keeping my budget at $25 for 5 people. What am I going to do?


First, I'm going to make a seasonal cocktail. I saw Rachael Ray's Thanksgiving episode and thought a pomegranate prosecco drink sounded great! I can't find it anywhere to share, but basically, she took a bottle of pomegranate juice and a few slices of fresh ginger. Let that steep for awhile and add an entire bottle of chilled prosecco. Mix and voila! I found a bottle of prosecco for $7 and pomegranate juice for around $4. For a non-alcoholic version, I bet ginger ale would be fantastic in place of the prosecco, and a whole lot cheaper!




For my wine, I'm going to have a rose (I hear it is fantastic with turkey) and beaujolais nouveau, which also pairs well with turkey. You can find both wines for modest prices. Beaujolais is also a great wine to have because it comes out the 3rd Thursday of November! Perfect timing, don't you think?





I'm leaving beer off because I think it's a little heavy with all the food. I'm sure if my husband's reading this, he's getting ready to go pick up some PBR Light. I bet he'd say nothing goes better with Thanksgiving than PBR Light because it's American, it won a blue ribbon, and it goes with just about anything. I think I'll disagree, but it's a great price point!


Since I love wine, but I'm far from a wine expert, I have a FANTASTIC blog, Good Wine Under $20, and her post for good holiday wines here.


Cheers! Salut! Prost! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Free Beer!

Okay, so not exactly, but we have another guest post this week from David Seidman. David is a true frugalisto. He would rather do something himself than pay someone else to do it, and that includes making his own beer and his own business. David mixed his business smarts, his frugal sensibilities and his desire to save people money to create splitts.com, an online matchmaker to help people share large purchases like boats, vacation homes, and even airplanes. If you're interested in finding about what splitts.com has to offer, check it out. Here, David shares his love of the homebrew.
Okay, brewing your own beer (“homebrewing”) isn’t quite free, but it’s a lot cheaper than at the store or the bar. An average microbrew costs anywhere from $1-$3 or more at the grocery store and $4-5+ at a bar, but you can brew it yourself for as cheap as $0.50. On top of that, it’s really simple and you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.


The big sucker punch here is up front – a basic starter package costs about $50, but most people wind up buying about another $50 or so in equipment, and sky’s the limit for fancy gadgets (spouses: great gift opportunities!). Once you have the basic equipment, you’ll spend about $30-40 per 5 gallon batch for good-quality beer. Cheap light beer can be, well, cheaper, and really hoppy or malty beers cost more. Wine is also simple to make but it has a different process that takes longer and doesn’t save you as much money. Also, it gives me a hangover.


So how does it work? Well, it’s a lot like cooking. You boil some water, and while it comes to a boil you steep a teabag-like bag of grains in the water. These give it flavor and color. Once the water’s boiling, you stir in “malt extract”, a syrup made from malted barley, the base ingredient in your beer, and throw in some hops. You boil this for about an hour, adding hops at a few key points along the way. Then you cool it down, pour it into your fermenter (a big bucket with an airlock), toss in the yeast, seal it all up, and put it in an out of the way place for a week or two. Like magic, the yeast will turn the malt into alcohol, and you’ll have beer! Flat beer, though. So the next step is to transfer it into bottles (there’s a gizmo for this) along with some sugar. As the yeast digests the sugar, it makes carbon dioxide, and in a couple weeks your beer is carbonated and ready to drink!


To get started, you can order any of the basic starter packages off the internet, or go into your local homebrew store. In the Seattle area, Larry’s in Kent, Mountain Homebrew in Kirkland and Homebrew Heaven in Everett are all good. They’re used to beginners and can get you all set up. They can also help you pick out a recipe and get all the ingredients. You can make any kind of beer you’re interested in drinking, and once you know what you’re doing you can even make up your own recipes, try crazy ideas (maple syrup beer, anyone?), and you’ll always have beer on hand when you want it. There are lots of great sites on the internet (search for “homebrew”) to help you out, or find a friend who homebrews - brewers are a friendly bunch (nothing to do with the alcohol…) and most people love helping their friends get started. So take up a hobby that actually saves you money! And as the homebrewers’ tagline goes: Relax, Don’t Worry, Have a Homebrew.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Deals

Good morning and happy Friday the 13th! Some deals for you on this chilly Friday!

*FREE Aveda Rosemary Mint Body Wash - as I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm a big fan of being an Aveda Rewards member. You get free offers every few months in the mail, but this is for everyone. Go to Fantabulously Frugal and print out the coupon.

*FREE shipping on your order at J.Crew when you become a fan on Facebook! The promo code is LOVEJCREW. It expires today so get! And take advantage of their great fall sale! While you're on Facebook, become a fan of Lean with Green!


*FREE shipping on lots of holiday items at Pottery Barn! New monogrammed stockings, anyone?


*Need some new books? Borders.com is having a buy 4, get the 5th book FREE sale! Plus FREE shipping on orders over $25!

*Macy's is offering 10%, 15% and 20% off items with a promo code SAVEMORE. Only available online.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Holiday Help: Thanksgiving Dinner Edition

As we get closer and closer to the holiday season, Frugal Femme and I will be doing a series of posts dedicated to having fun during this special time, but also keeping your pockets lined with more than just spare change. Sound good?




According to a 2008 study by Forbes, the average Thanksgiving dinner for 10 costs $44. 61. They included the turkey and 12 traditional dishes, like pumpkin pie, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes. However, the fine folks at Forbes did not include alcohol...and really, can you survive Thanksgiving without it? I digress...



As I'm putting together my menu for my second Thanksgiving that I've hosted, I'm determined to keep my costs down this year and I figured I'd throw my suggestions out there and see if any of you had any ideas! Here's what you can do to keep costs down but still have a fabulous Thanksgiving meal!


*Make it a potluck Thanksgiving. Okay, so right off the bat, I won't be doing this one. My in-laws are coming up from Portland. Since they're making the 3+ hour drive (not including what promises to be horrific traffic), I don't want them worrying about cooking. I have given them the task of picking up rolls, dessert (I don't want to bake a pie) and alcohol so that will definitely save me some money. But if you're having a local Thanksgiving (or if you're less of a control freak than I am) definitely spread the meal love around. Assign people coming over to bring something. For your cousin who doesn't cook, how about drinks? For your recently college graduate brother, why not something inexpensive like dinner rolls? This will not only take time off your hands and free up space in your refrigerator, but will save you a significant amount of money. Plus, it leaves your guests feeling like they contributed something to make the holiday memorable.

*Shop around and do it now! I just saw a deal at my local Safeway for 27 cents/lb for turkey! Hopefully I can clear out enough space in my freezer to get a great deal on the turkey, but there are definitely bargains out there. Stores will mark up prices as it gets closer - you can't have Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey, right? - and they'll definitely take advantage of late shoppers. I bought my turkey two days before Thanksgiving last year and paid around $14 for a 12 lb turkey as opposed to $3.24 (currently the deal at Safeway). WOW! That's a $10 savings!

*Buy produce in bulk. Since you're most likely cooking for a larger group, you can now take advantage of buying fresh produce in bulk. I know I'm cooking mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts, so I'll go to Costco and buy a 5 lb bag of brussel sprouts for $6 and a 15 lb bag of potatoes for $7. First, I'm doing a trial of recipes so I know I'll need more than just for Thanksgiving dinner. Plus potatoes can keep up to a month if stored correctly, so I'll just use them for regular dinners...this makes my husband very happy.

*Buy frozen/canned items. Fresh produce is obviously going to be more expensive, and unless your recipes call specifically for fresh, you can definitely substitute frozen or canned items. I think frozen green beans would be just fine in a green bean casserole. Are you going to make pumpkin puree? No, we'll leave that to Martha Stewart. Buy canned pumpkin.

*Don't make everything from scratch. Who said Thanksgiving has to have all homemade items and days spent toiling over every detail? Not me! Last year, I bought my stuffing from Trader Joe's and it was great! True, my mom's stuffing is better, but I spent $3 and 20 minutes instead of a lot more time and definitely more money.


Ultimately though, it doesn't matter how much money you spend. Thanksgiving is a time when we give thanks for our friends and family, and regardless of how much you spend at the grocery store, it's about the time we spend with our loved ones. Maybe start a new tradition - I'm going to start a guest book (thanks to my friends the Duttons for this idea!) and have my guests write what they're thankful for. How cool would that be to look back on years later?

What about you? Do you have money saving strategies for holiday dinners? What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

Stay tuned next week for tips on saving money on holiday beverages!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guest Post: Hosting a Party on a Budget

Hey all! We're VERY excited to have the lovely Alysia from Prost to the Host write a post on how to host a fabulous party on a small budget! Prost to the Host is a blog that features everything lovely and fresh in the world of entertaining! Make sure to check it out - she has a beautiful site and fantastic ideas! Thanks Alysia!

Hello beautiful! I am Alysia from Prost the Host, LLC and I organize parties and weddings in my spare time. Budget is the number one factor in determining a celebration. While the economy is slowing picking up, people are still cautious with spending and it seems everyone is on a budget. One can still have a fabulous celebration without busting the bank. As we get closer to the holidays, there are many opportunities to host. The cost to host can add up quickly if one is not careful. Here are a few tips on cutting costs without trimming the fabulous.

Time is NOT on our side
The biggest factor in overspending during a celebration is how much time you spend planning the event. Not having enough time will cause one to pay for convenience by paying expedited shipping costs, buying prepackaged food and shopping for items without price comparisons. Timing is truly of essence when you are trying to keep within a budget. If a Fourth of July party is your annual party, be mindful of the sales associated with after holiday sales and stock up for the following year. Discounts are often as high as 90% for post-holiday sales.

Budget Cuts
Determine what factor is most important to you and adjust the budget. By choosing one or two areas of importance, it will enhance the overall party and make you feel like you are not scrimping on every aspect.
*Use evites or emails to invite your guests rather than mailing invitations. If paper invitations are important, opt for printing your invitations at home or Kinko's.
*Decorations are only necessary if you have a theme. To avoid extra costs, plan your fete in locale with interest. Parks and backyards are naturally pretty and don't need much, while a gym or rental space may require more to dress up. To add a bit of drama, use candles to warm a space. Tealights come in bulk and are an inexpensive and chic way to add depth and drama without going overboard on decorations. Bring the outdoors in! Create fruit centerpieces, branches with fall leaves or herbs such as wheat grass and rosemary. Growing your own herbs is simple and an affordable way to dress up a table and branches from your yard are free.
*Know your area. Flowers from local farms are cheaper than grocery stores and florists. Being aware of the season will help gauge what is actually growing and available since out of season tulips and orchids are beyond expensive.
*If you host often, invest in buffet dishes and bulk glassware to avoid constant disposable purchases. This is an eco-friendly option that will save you green in the long run. Ikea has dishes as low as $0.79, also check out World Market, TJ Maxx etc for glassware.





Eat, Drink and Be Frugal
*If offering alcoholic drinks, stick to a simple bar. A beer and wine bar are acceptable options. Or add a liquor drink to go along with the theme. Keeping the mixers and ingredients simple will limit the costs involved.
*Search for beer distribution warehouses in your area. For example, Columbia Distributing (http://www.columbia-dist.com/Contact-Us.aspx) offers discounted beer and wine. Call ahead for selection options and times. In addition, in the Pacific Northwest, we are lucky to have such an abundance of distilleries and breweries. Which means, in terms of beer, buying in bulk (e.g. half barrels, pony kegs etc), are more cost effective than purchasing cases.
*If wine is of great importance, join your favorite winery and receive member-only discounts. Or buy 6 bottles or more from your local grocery for the "bulk" discount. Don't forget to check out Trader Joe's and World Market for delicious and nominally priced vinos.
*There is no shame in a BYOB party.
*Food costs are a hidden expenditure that can quickly add up. Avoid meal times and offer appetizers and finger foods instead. Skip the pre-made, deli and packaged food aisles. Making the dish from scratch is often cheaper.
*Know your crowd. If you have a meat/potatoes crowd, skip the crudité platter as it will just go to waste.
*Presentation is important! Single servings look more visually stimulating than mountains of food.



Coupons, Sales and Discounts Oh My!
*If purchasing items off the internet, search for free shipping or discount codes prior to purchase. Every store has a coupon, you just need to find it.
*Sign up for store's email lists and receive discounts and coupons for members-only. Only sign up for shops you truly enjoy or your email will fill will spam. My favorite party one-stop shop is World Market as they frequently offer 25% off coupons.
*Check out the library for the Sunday newspaper and see if the coupons are worthwhile. Then purchase your own copy.
*Everyone has a website. Check out your favorite brands' websites for their manufacturer coupons and pair with your grocery "double" coupon for double savings.



Hidden Gems
We are creatures of habit. We go to the same shops and often forget of other retail options. Mix up the routine and check out these stores for affordable loot. Always check out the clearance aisle!

Craft Stores: Michael's, Joanns - always have online and newspaper coupons
Home Improvement Stores: Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Lowes
Discount Chains: TJ Maxx, Ross, Dollar Stores
Online: Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, Plum Party, Bake It Pretty
Clothing Stores: CB2, Urban Outfitters

Details, Details, Details
The little details really make a party stand out from the rest. These inexpensive ideas will take your party to the next level.
*Add some DIY flair to you food and drinks with food tags made of leftover paper and ribbon.
Patterned fabric cut in placemats make a table pop with color.
*If you don't have a theme, pick a color scheme. Color can bring all the elements of the party together. Color specific drinks, food and decorations have a powerful impact.

Best of luck! If you host a party and want to share with me, email me (prosttothehost@gmail.com). In the end, there is nothing shameful about living within one's means. As long as the guests are happy, it was successful. A prost to you, the party planner! Cheers!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Much Should You Save for a House?

Now that my husband has a good job and the real estate market is friendlier to first-time home buyers, we've decided to start the search for Our. First. Home. Exciting! Scary! Nervewracking! EXPENSIVE!!!! All of these words come to mind when buying a home and definitely the last word...here in Seattle, the median price for a home is between $400,000 and $500,000! Not a super affordable place to live, but I know those of you who live in California are going to tell me I'm lucky prices are so low.


So we've been doing a little research about how much to save. As mentioned before, we did a really good job of saving over the past year, but factoring in all of the costs for a house, I'm not sure it's enough.


I'd love to get some tips and hear stories from those of you who have been in my shoes before. Besides a down payment, what else did you save for when buying a house? Closing costs? House emergency fund? Anything you wish you did differently in your search? I'd love any of your advice! Thanks, readers!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Brand v. Generic Faceoff - Tailgate Edition

After reading this Wise Bread post a few weeks ago, I was inspired to do a DIY taste test. Knowing that I'd be hosting a football party to watch the Oregon Ducks take on the Stanford Cardinal seemed like the perfect opportunity to host a tailgate edition of generic v. brand taste test. Frugal Femme and I figured out what we'd test that were typical tailgate snacks and we came up with soda, potato chips, onion dip, tortilla chips, salsa and pretzels. After not being able to find generic potato chips and soda being declared a "flop", we were down to four items.

The ballots

We had our participants (i.e. willing friends) take a blind taste test and rate which item they thought tasted the best. We asked them to add their comments on why they prefered Food A to Food B. Here's what our research determined.


The Faceoffs:

1) Safeway Brand onion dip v. Lipton onion dip -in a blind taste test, the participants preferred the Safeway brand 2 to 1 compared to the Lipton brand. The Lipton brand was "too overpowering" for one participant, and another prefered the Safeway brand because it had a "nice, mild onion flavor".

2) O Organics (Safeway Brand) white corn tortilla chips v. Tostitos white corn tortilla chips - Tostitos won, but just barely (by 2 votes). Some people said they prefered the O Organics brand because there was "more crunch", but Tostitos eked out a victory.

3) O Organics (Safeway Brand) mild salsa v. Tostitos mild salsa - the O Organics won by a hair (two votes). One voter said about the O Organics brand "you can tasted the individual ingredients" while saying about the Tostitos brand "tasted like processed tomatoes".

Eric enjoying the taste test!

4) Safeway Brand pretzels v. Snyders pretzels - our testers were tied on this one. We even had a self-described pretzel expert in our group and she could not tell the difference between the generic and store brand!

So what's the point? Well, besides having a fun taste test, knowing that overall generic brands taste just as good if not better in most cases could save you a lot of money when you're shopping for party food, or just your grocery budget in general. Clearly, we know that some things are worth the splurge for a brand (soda!), but you're not missing much else.

What about you? Are you buying brands because you think they taste better? Do you always buy generic to save some money? Are there some products you refuse to buy generic?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Clothes Shopping the Frugal Way Part 2

So I went through my closet and the checklist. I determined that I really, really lack a lot of basics and truth be told, I never owned most of these basics ever. Which I think ( I hope!) has solved my dilemma of having tons of clothes but nothing to wear.

Now that my closet is clean, it's time to shop! Here are the items I'll be looking to add to my wardrobe based on the check list)

Black Tank
White and black T's (short sleeved and long)
Black turtleneck sweater
Crew neck sweater
Black pants
Heavy sweater
Cashmere hoodie
Gray Flannel pants (I might choose another fabric aside from flannel)

I also decided to add a few things to the checklist:

Black round-toe pumps
Black knee high boots
1-2 additional pairs of neutral pants such a pin stripe
1-2 dressier blouses

I have to admit the first thing I want to do is run out and buy all of these items and then some more items i "need." Of course that would be incredibly expensive. Because the next important step in this wardrobe re-hash is buying quality. Now quality does not necessarily equate to expensive, although they typically will be pricier. Some items you don't necessarily need to spend on as no matter what, they will eventually wear out, such as white T-shirts. Here's another great guide from Real Simple which details what to save on and where to spend.

For those items where it's worth it to "spend" eHow has a great article which helps you determine quality. This is a must read. And of course most important is that the fit is impeccable on you. If you have a hard to fit body, it might be worth it to invest in a tailor for a few key pieces such as black pants.

I'm determined to have a complete and classic wardrobe eventually and I'm well aware it make take a few years to eventually save up all of the money I need. Therefore I am prioritizing items. I'll start by purchasing the cheaper items such as the t-shirts and tanks. This will immediately allow me to create several different outfits at a relatively low cost. Next I really need a pair of black pants and black boots. So I will be on the hunt for those and splurge on them instead of 5 new tops that I'll rarely wear.

Next week we'll examine how to save money on these quality items.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Deals

Hello Friday! Enjoy the deals and have a fabulous weekend!

- One of my favorite deal finding sites, Fantabulously Frugal, posted about this offer from Coach Factory stores. Save an additional 20% now through November 15th!

- If you have a birthday coming up, register your Starbucks card and get a FREE drink on your birthday!

-FREE entree at Applebee's for veterans on Veterans Day (Wednesday, November 11th). Just show proof of military service. And thank you for your service to our country!

- $1 scarves at Old Navy tomorrow (Saturday, November 7th)! Saw this on TV last night, so I don't know all the details, but sounds good enough to check out.


- J. Crew is beginning their Fall Online Sale - take an additional 20% off, plus FREE shipping on orders of $150 or more. Woo hoo!

- If you have a Gap Family (Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, Athleta) card, shop this weekend and save 30% on your order! There's also FREE shipping for orders over $75 and other good sales (50% off outerwear at Old Navy, 15% off at Gap when you order a child's item).

- Bath and Body Works is having a buy 3, get 3 free sale on their signature body card items (soaps, lotions, creams, etc). You could save over $65!

If you want to get a jump on holiday shopping, this weekend might be a good time!

Remember to become a fan on Facebook for other tips and discussions on how to save money and look good doing it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Slow Cookin'....


The slow cooker. A lazy person's kitchen accessory or a smart person's essential kitchen item? Since I love my slow cooker with all my heart, I will select the latter. My friends and I actually got in a debate - if you could only select one cooking source, which would you select from a grill, a stove/oven, or a slow cooker? While there's obviously merits for all of them (nothing tastes like a grilled burger or cookies fresh from the oven), I think the slow cooker is convenient, versatile, economical, and green!


For those of you who are new to slow cooking, welcome! Basically, a slow cooker cooks food at a constant and low temperature for hours, making food more flavorful. Ever notice how people sell things by adding taglines like "slow-cooked"? Yeah, because it's delicious. And it's also great because you can take 10-15 minutes chopping and prepping your food, throw it in the slow cooker, leave for work for 8-10 hours, and when you come home, your dinner is ready. How awesome is that?!

You can cook just about anything in a slow cooker, making it a super versatile piece of equipment to have in your kitchen. Just some quick glances at my slow cooker cookbook and here are some of the recipes: hot artichoke dip, butterscotch fondue, beef bourguignon (I'm sure Julia Child is not thrilled about this), Jamaican jerk pork sandwiches, pasta with sun-dried tomato sauce, rosemary chicken and potatoes, and decadent raspberry brownies! YUM!

A slow cooker also helps you get more bang for your buck in your grocery budget. You can buy cheaper, tougher pieces of meat, and put it in a slow cooker for a few hours. What you end up with is a tender, flavorful piece of meat (sorry vegetarians!).

And something I definitely love about slow cookers - they're an energy efficient way to cook. Now, this probably depends on a few factors - is your oven energy efficient? Do you have a low-wattage slow cooker? How long will you leave the slow cooker on? In most instances, your typical slow cooker is going to have a lower wattage than your oven. Surprisingly, it will even use less energy in 8 hours than an oven would in an hour! Check out this planet green post on the author's research on slow cookers v. ovens.

If you are interested in dusting off your slow cooker, the recipe book I love is Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes. Anyone else out there in love with their slow cooker like I am? Anyone inspired to give it a try?

Oh, and PS - dinner tonight: slow-cooked white chicken chili with corn bread muffins.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How the Recession Changed Us

I read a really interesting article in Parade on Sunday about how the economic crisis over the last year has changed Americans. You could probably guess that there was a lot of negativity:

-79% of people had been personally affected by the recession
-68% of people had lost their job or had their pay reduced, or they knew someone who had
-Over half of people had trouble paying their housing costs or knew someone who had

It talked about people cutting back on vacations, holding off big ticket purchases, postponing home additions or renovations. People are feeling cheated because they "played by the rules", and many are losing faith with elected officials.

I, like many of us out there, was personally affected by the recession. Three weeks after my husband and I returned from our wedding in September, we realized his bank was being purchased by another bank and he'd most likely be out of a job. By December, it was official, and by February, he was unemployed. He recently was hired by a great company, but for months, we lived in uncertainty.



But what I learned, and what millions of others are learning, is that through the challenging circumstances, there's still so much to be grateful for. First off, we made saving money our priority. We hosted game nights and potlucks instead of going out and spending money on food and drinks, and 46% of people said they're forming better relationships with friends as a result of the economy. In July, I started volunteering for the Humane Society - 30% of those surveyed began volunteering for a charity or cause. And my husband and I are definitely have a stronger marriage because of everything we had to go through - 52% said their relationships are stronger with their spouses.


The recession has enabled people to get more creative. More people are learning new skills or becoming do-it-yourselfers. More people are reading for pleasure. People report being healthier and more active. Frugal Femme and I started this blog!


I do tend to look on the bright side of things, and while this recession has been incredibly painful for millions of families, I think it's helping us remember the important things. It's not about big houses, fancy cars, or the hottest clothes. It's about family, friends, taking care of yourself, giving back, and helping out.


I don't know if I could have said that in February when my husband lost his job. But we both gained a lot of knowledge and lessons that many couples probably don't learn until years down the road. Many of the things Frugal Femme and I talk about in this blog are tips and strategies that I'll continue to use. After what we went through, I'm passionate about saving. I try to save at least 10% of my paycheck. And I've become better about gift buying - I now prefer to give gifts that are more personal, like a batch of homemade cookies, than going out and spending a lot of money on something meaningless.


Anyone else out there that was personally affected by the recession who feels like sharing? Do you feel like you're better off in life because you've struggled?