Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Deals

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you have some fun weekend plans in store! Here are your Friday Deals!

*FREE full-sized body butter at The Body Shop (while supplies last or through Sunday) with a purchase of $30 or more. This offer is good online only.

*Another online sale at Gap - 25% off your order when you enter code GAPSAVE25 though Saturday.

*Did you know that March 1st is National Pancake Day? Well, it is. And IHOP wants to give you some FREE pancakes! When you go in between 7 AM and 10 PM, you can get a FREE short stack. It's also a fundraiser for Children's Miracle Network, so consider leaving a sweet donation.

*I love SELF Magazine so I was thrilled when I saw Tanga is offering it for $3.99 a year (and you can subscribe up to 3 years at that price). Enter promo code SELF at checkout. This deal is only good for a few more hours, so hop to it!

*I love me some Chipotle and also some reality TV - combining those two is an unbeatable combo! When you "like" the new NBC show "America's Next Great Restaurant" on Facebook, Chipotle is giving out coupons for buy one, get one FREE burrito/taco/bowl/salad. It's good through Friday, March 4th. Nice! While you're there, feel free to "like" Lean with Green. If there's a good deal during the week, we'll post it on our Facebook page - don't miss out!

* is selling gift certificates for 80% off (normally $10 for $25 worth of food is now $2) with the code DINE at checkout. Valid now through Monday, February 28th.

That's all I have! If you know of any other deals, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reduce, Reuse...Make That Old Corkboard Fabulous

I love Young House Love. LOVE it. I think John, Sherry, Clara and Burger are just about the cutest family ever. I also love their design aesthetic, their creativity, and how they stretch a buck. They totally inspire me to go through piles at Goodwill to find a diamond in the rough, or head over to Michael's clearance aisle to see what I can do with scrapbook paper, a vase and fake flowers. I had an homage to YHL in the past with my Halloween decor, and I thought I'd share my recent triumph with giving new life to old junk.

I've had a corkboard lying around for years. Literally. It had not been in use since the year after college where it served as a photo holder of the good ol' days (that had just happened 6 months before...). I never got rid of it, thinking I'd be able to find a use for it. After we moved into our house last March, I had an Oprah a-ha moment - the corkboard would be a jewelry display board. Oh yes.

So I took the sample of paint I had from when we painted our bedroom and painted the corkboard within an inch of its life - really, probably about 5 coats. The color is Benjamin Moore's Coventry Gray, if you were curious.

I purchased a box of 40 cup hooks at Home Depot.

And then it continued to sit in our basement until last week. Finally, I decided to get my act together and finish what I barely started.

Project Budget:

Corkboard - FREE and in need of a purpose
Leftover paint from sample - FREE (but I did pay $3 for it when we painted our bedroom)
Box o' hooks - $2.19
Patience from my husband for a project that took months when it should have taken an hour - priceless
TOTAL: $5.19

The finished product:

While I wanted to paint the wood frame white to set it off against our dark blue walls and to match the hooks, I ran out of patience (hey, I'm 39 weeks pregnant). But overall, I'm pretty pleased. My necklaces aren't getting tangled any more and it's doing double duty as a piece of functional wall art.

Anyone else have some fun DIY projects in the works? Can I get a "heck yeah!" for YHL?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Think Small!

Bigger is better, right? Well, I'll take a bigger piece of cake, a bigger salary or a bigger blanket to avoid cold toes, but I don't think bigger is always better. For instance, take housing.

Since we've had baby on the brain for the last 9 months or so, people keep asking us what "stuff" we need. Baby stuff can be endless and take up a lot of space in your house. But my husband and I have been pretty good (in my opinion) of avoiding "stuff" for stuff's sake, primarily based on the fact we don't have room for it in our 1400 square foot house. It got me thinking that maybe having a small house is the way to go. How else can having a small house save you money?

*Energy costs - this is kind of a no-brainer, but the less space you have to heat or cool, the more money you save! Right on! Not only that, but if you have fewer rooms, you likely have fewer electrical appliances plugged in, meaning the "vampire draw" (or appliances that suck up energy without being used) will be less!

*Less space to fill - just like my husband and I refuse to get "stuff" for our baby because we don't have room for it, this can apply to just about every space in our house. We have a small kitchen, so our cabinets are full of things we use frequently instead of the random appliances that we'd use once a year. I can't be a crazy bag lady and have multiple half-used bottles of beauty products in the bathroom because we have 1 bathroom with 4 shelves of storage. If I don't have 7 rooms to fill with furniture, I'm saving thousands of dollars! It keeps us conscious of what we buy and helps us better identify when it's time to give other things a better home when we're not using it anymore (tax deductions or garage sales put money back in your pocket!).

*Less upkeep - whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you, the less space you have means the less time and money you spend on cleaning, renovating or replacing. I can tell you I already hate spending half of my Saturday cleaning my 3 bedroom home (and I'm too cheap to pay someone to do it)...I would absolutely cringe spending my entire weekend cleaning a 5 bedroom and multiple bathroom home. Who wants to clean more than one shower? Not me.

*Healthier in a small home? - I could be reaching here, but I would argue you could be a healthier person if you live in a smaller home. Think about it - a smaller home is easier to keep clean, meaning there would be less germs and air pollution. Although I guess you could argue you might be in better cardiovascular shape if you had a bigger home (walking further, climbing more stairs, etc).

Image from MyBallard

Obviously, you have to have a space that works for you and your family. But if you can get by with a smaller home, it will benefit your bottom line in multiple ways.

Anyone else who loves living in a smaller place and saving money? Anyone who lives in a big space that feels it's worth it?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Deals

Happy almost weekend everyone! And for some of us, it's a long one! Thank goodness for 3 day weekends! Here are your Friday Deals!

*Good Presidents' Day sale at Gap starting today - 44% off 44 styles and lasts through Monday. Not sure what the 44 styles are, but that's a good amount of stuff! Not valid at Gap Outlet.

*Gap's more expensive big sister Banana Republic is having a sale of their own - 25% off already reduced merchandise in stores and online (enter code BRPRES25). Ends Monday.

*25% off your full priced purchase at Ann Taylor Loft in stores and online (just enter code PRESIDENT) AND 40% off sale merchandise! Ends Monday.

*20% off all women's orders over $150 at when you enter code FABFEB. Ends Monday.

*Buy 3, get 3 FREE on Signature Body Care products at Bath and Body Works in stores or online. Ends Monday.

*Buy 1, get 1 50% off on all items at Express, PLUS $15 off every $75 you spend (enter code 1088 online).

If you know of any other sales or good deals, leave them in the comments! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is $75,000 the Magic Number?

As I was watching Oprah a few weeks ago, she had a man named Dan Buettner on her show discussing how to be happier the "blue zone" way? What the heck is a blue zone? According to Mr. Buettner, blue zones are places in the world where people are exponentially happier and live longer than in other parts of the world - and these places share many commonalities. Residents have high rates of being physically active, of drinking wine (yes please!), eating a primarily veggie-based diet, of belonging to a faith-based group...there are a total of 9 indicators (the "power 9" as he calls them). One point of contention between him and Oprah was on the topic of money. He said research suggested that at a salary of $75,000 per year for a family of four, your happiness plateaus. As you can imagine, Oprah begged to differ.

But I'm wondering if that's really true. Clearly, something to take into account is location. Obviously $75,000 goes a lot further in Cedar Rapids or Cleveland than it does in Seattle or San Francisco. Another thing - happiness is kind of subjective, right? Would you be happy if you didn't own your home? Would you be happy if you couldn't take a vacation? Would you be happy if you didn't have designer clothes? Some things that might be key to your happiness might be more difficult to obtain on $75,000 a year.
Apparently, the $75,000 magic number relates to day-to-day happiness, and that once people make more than that, their day-to-day happiness plateaus. And by people, I mean persons over the age of 15, men and women, and people all over the world. There's also a difference between money and satisfaction (strong correlation) and wealth and positive emotion (more complex). Read more about the story here.

What do you think? Is $75,000 the magic number for universal happiness?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lessons to Teach Kids About Money

As I'm weeks away from welcoming our little baby girl into our home, I am thinking about all the things my husband and I will have to teach her: sharing is caring, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, treat others the way you'd like to be treated, subject-verb agreement...the list goes on and on. But one thing I don't think enough parents tend to tackle is the subject of money. Studies show that parents have a hard time talking with their kids about the big three: sex, drugs and rock and, money. But it's hurting our kids - by the time children start to manage their own finances, they have an average of $2100 of debt on 4 different credit cards! Schools can't be guaranteed to teach financial literacy - most states do not have mandatory financial literacy units. I know we're still a few years out from talking to Baby Claire about money, but this is where my husband and I are thinking about starting.

Allowance does not equal an entitlement. I do believe that kids have to have their own money in order to understand how to manage it. That said, I don't think kids should get $10 a week just for being them or doing their basic household responsibilities, like keeping their room clean or making their bed. No one pays me to clean the house! It's just what I have to do as a member of the family. When kids want to take on projects that fall outside their realm of responsibility, then they should be paid according to their age and the level of difficulty of the chore. It shows they have to earn money, they can't just sit and wait for it to fall into their lap.

The importance of being earnest. Money is very complex, and should be taken very seriously. Yes, you can have fun with your money and you should! But money is for more than just having fun. It's survival, both short and long term. It's saving for a goal. It's giving to something or someone who needs it more than you. I love the piggy bank below because it accounts for all the various ways kids should view money (in my opinion anyway). Of course, kids should be able to spend money just like adults. They can get that toy they've always wanted, or they can buy something impulsively, never play with it again, and it becomes a teachable moment. But kids should also understand the importance of philanthropy and giving back to others. I want my kids to feel like they can make a difference - whether that's at their school, in their community or in the world. Philanthropy and charitable giving is a great way to make kids feel like they did something good for someone else. Obviously saving is a great value to instill in children - they might be saving for a big purchase or event, but teaching them to save when they're young will help them be better savers when they're older. And I love that there's an "invest" slot in the piggy bank. When you're ready to talk to your kids about how to invest and what the stock market is, that is a great tool to help facilitate that lesson. For allowance and cash gifts kids receive, I like the 40-30-20-10 rule: 40% long term savings, 30% big ticket purchases savings, 20% immediate spending and 10% charitable giving.

Everything costs money. Or as my husband likes to say "There's no such thing as a free lunch." I don't think kids should be sheltered from the costs of things. Obviously, there are more appropriate ages to bring up the costs of a mortgage versus the cost of a pack of gum, but kids should know that everything has a price. I think showing monthly bills
or grocery store receipts can go a long way in kids understanding how money works to keep a house going. In order to get things that we need and want, we have to work and pitch in to earn money. At least until the money tree we planted last year starts to grow...

Practice what you preach. While we all want to raise financially savvy children, it's hard to do that when you have mass amounts of credit card debt, live in a house you can't afford, and spend money like it's going out of style. You are your kids' best teachers, but actions speak louder than words. Getting conflicting messages about money will no doubt confuse kids, so make sure to be a good role model yourself.

Are you a parent already teaching your children about money? What do you do that has worked? Did your parents give you any words of wisdom you take with you to this day? What are you planning on doing with your children?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Deals

Wow, it's been WAY too long since I've done one of these! Lots of fun stuff, including gift ideas for Valentine's Day if you needed to get a jump on doing something special for your sweetie. Enjoy!

*FREE Coffee Mate creamer when you "like" Coffee Mate on Facebook. By 9 AM PST today, they will be giving out over 100,000 coupons for a FREE creamer. Nice! I could probably drink the Hazelnut Biscotti flavor straight out of the container...okay, maybe not... but it sounds delicious!

*Need some FREE dessert? Chili's Grill and Bar is giving out coupons for FREE Brownie sundaes today only when you "like" them on Facebook. The coupon is good through next Thursday, February 11th. Also, if you sign up for their email list, you get a free welcome gift of queso and chips. Nothing says "Welcome!" like melted cheese, in my opinion.

*We mentioned already on our Facebook page that Burt's Bees grab bags are back! For $25, you get over $50 worth of great stuff. When I bought mine last year, I took a few things out that I wanted to keep and gave the rest as gifts or stocking stuffers during the holidays. Perfect! Hurry though - they don't last very long!

*If you want to get your online shop on for Valentine's Day, head over to The Body Shop. You get a FREE gift with a purchase of $25 or more. Online only and expires on 2/13.

*Another just-in-time-for-Valentine's-Day deal...Victoria's Secret is giving away FREE underwear with a $50 purchase. I can't tell if it's just online, but use the code LACIE50 when checking out. Ends Sunday.

*Need some romantic music? Head over to Amazon for 14 FREE downloads of Valentine's themed songs!

*Like Cheez-Its? Well, "like" them on Facebook for a FREE sample.

*A GREAT Groupon deal for all you book lovers out there! You've got the weekend to get $10 for $20 worth of merchandise at Barnes and Noble. This can even be applied to ebooks! It's valid online and at most of the 700 retail locations. Hurry - it says limited quantity available so I don't want you to miss out!

That's all I got! If you know of any other good deals, feel free to post them in the comments! Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Dark Side of Group Buying Sites

Some people wake up with a cup of coffee. Some need a shower before they can function. Me? I check my Groupon, Living Social, Tippr, and BuyWithMe emails. It's a gross obsession really. I do really love a good deal, but sometimes, just the notion that I can get something more than 50% off is just enough of a catalyst to get me to reach for my credit card.

What the hell? I write a financial literacy blog and I am a compulsive group-buying site deal shopper? Can the two go hand in hand? Here's how I learned to enjoy the opportunity that group buying sites provide and still have my dignity (and spare change) in tact.

1) Be smart about your purchases - I know that part of the reason these sites exist is so new businesses can draw clients in the door with a cheap meal or service with the hopes they become repeat customers. While I love trying new places, I also have to be somewhat realistic. Sure, an unlimited month of yoga for $40 sounds amazing, but the studio is 35 minutes away from my house. I may make it once or twice a week, which drops the value of the package significantly.

2) Read the fine print BEFORE you buy - many times, there are all kinds of restrictions on your half-off deal - not for use on alcohol, must be used in one visit, cannot combine with other offers like happy hour, etc. Check out the business' website to see if it's realistic for you to spend your certificate in one purchase, or if there's anything you'd actually want to eat there that's not on the happy hour menu.

3) Question refund policy - I have had two experiences (one with Groupon and one with LivingSocial) where the merchant went out of business before I was able to spend my certificate. With the LivingSocial deal, I didn't even know it was too late until I drove past the dark restaurant with the windows boarded up. I contacted both LivingSocial and the restaurant to ask if I could get a refund for my $20 and never received a response from either. On the flip side, Groupon actually contacted me when the vendor I purchased from was going out of business. They wanted to either give me a $10 credit towards another Groupon or to refund the $10 to my credit card. Customer service winner goes to...GROUPON. In this economy, particularly with new businesses, it's tough to keep the doors open, so make sure you're aware of how things are handled if the vendor can't honor your certificate.

In short, I look at group buying site deals like grocery store coupons: if it's not something I would normally buy without the deal, it's probably going to be a waste of money and I shouldn't get it. We've all had that moment where you MUST get something because it's on sale, right? Hopefully, it was a great purchase and you got a lot of use out of it. But sometimes, that thing you had to have just sits in your closet with the price tags still on. The deals online are definitely tempting, and I say go for it if it's in your budget and it's something you'll enjoy. Just don't get blinded by the good deal that isn't actually worth it.

One more group buying site to check out: Ideal Network. They are not everywhere yet, but it's a daily deal site where part of the proceeds benefit area charities. Check out their deal in Seattle right now - $10 for $20 of Theo Chocolate...and $2.50 of your $10 goes to one of 6 charities you choose (I chose the Woodland Park Zoo). Do you like how I preach about the evils of group buying sites and then show you a new one? Ha!

Theo Chocolate - feel free to get me some for Valentine's Day!

Any other thoughts on the merits or drawbacks of group buying sites? Do you have a particular strategy to get a bang for your buck but keep in line with your budget?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Discussion: What's Your Biggest Splurge?

Greetings y'all! I hope most of you are staying warm - it looks nasty in most of the country. The Northwest has the makings of a perfect winter's day - crisp, sunny and dry!

Anyway, my friends over at WiseBread had an interesting question posed to their readers this morning, and I thought I'd ask you all: what's your biggest splurge?

This was a question that took me awhile to answer. I allow myself to spend $25 every month at coffee that a splurge? I recently upgraded to a nicer gym with amazing amenities and cleaner facilities for an extra $5 per month than I paid at my old gym. Splurge-worthy? I don't have expensive clothes or shoe habits, I don't get weekly manis or pedis, I've had 4 massages in my whole life...what the heck do I splurge on?

The closest things I could think of as splurges are a) food and b) home improvement. With food, my husband and I cook 5-6 nights a week, and when we go out to dinner, we usually go to a delicious restaurant that doesn't cost more than $40 for the two of us (including tax and tip). Hardly splurging...BUT when it comes to groceries, we probably spend $75-$90 a week. What do I buy? Lots of fresh produce (which is often organic), Greek yogurt, and hardly any processed foods. This means that our grocery bills might be a little higher than average, but eating good and good-for-you food is important to me. If you can, I totally recommend buying from a farm that participates in community supported agriculture (CSA). You are buying directly from the farmer, so your produce is super fresh, seasonal and supports your local businesses! One more food-splurge: grocery delivery! While I don't do this all the time, I have ordered from AmazonFresh on a handful of occasions. It's not necessarily more expensive than a grocery store, but there is a delivery fee if you don't purchase a certain amount of food. It's convenient (I've had groceries delivered at 6 AM before), it saves me time and money on gas, and it might even stop me from those impulse buys.

As far as home improvement go, I think it's almost in our biology to prepare our home for a new member of the family. Before little Claire came into the picture, my husband and I wanted to put in California Closets or pimp out our backyard. Maybe make the basement into a man cave. After we knew we were expecting, all those fun projects got replaced with buying new carpet (not fun, but necessary) and getting a nursery ready to go. And while we didn't go over budget too badly, it's just hard to say no to buying things for your unborn child. The willpower is not so strong with us when it comes to getting cute art for her room or a onesie that says "It was the dog." (yes, we have it in orange).

But I do have a splurge goal now: traveling. I want to see more of the world, and I want Claire to see more of the world with us. I think exposing children to different people and places is extremely important for them to learn and grow.

What about you? What do you splurge on and why?