Thursday, October 3, 2013

Keeping Your New Things Looking "New"

Our trick to keeping throw pillows and blankets looking new is to rarely use them!  

We store them away and bring them out when company is coming.  

I love cream colors but it's not a practical color for everyday use. 

Our English Setter, Suka

For everyday use, we use our old throw pillows and blankets.  It preserves the life of our nicer home decor.  

It also lets us just relax and feel comfortable in our home. If dog hair gets on it, if a soda spills or if it looks worn out, it doesn't matter because it's not meant for show.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Guest Room Decorated on a Budget

Our guest room is very small so we kept the colors light to make it appear larger.  We skipped the headboard since the end of the bed just clears a closet door.

We bought the crocheted coverlet in Santorini, Greece, on our honeymoon.  This is the most expensive item in our guest room, but we've had it for 13 years now.  The quilt is a gift from my husband to me from several years ago.  The pillow covers are newer, from Marshalls.  

Oil paintings of Paris on the walls are Craigslist finds we purchased at $10 each. 

The "nightstand" is a chair from our dining set, with a lovely white antique pitcher which belonged to my grandmother. It sits on a hand painted saucer I purchased at a garage sale for $1.00.  The faux flowers are from Pier 1 and I used a coupon.

If you are decorating on a Budget: 

  • Check out Craigslist for furniture, artwork, and more.  
  • Use things you already have, like an occasional chair or extra dining set chair
  • Incorporate family heirlooms 
  • Utilize items you've received as gifts
  • Fill in the details with small touches: faux flowers, throws, pillow casings from Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning or another discount store. 
  • Skip the expensive "made in China" items from Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware which are overrated & mainstream.  Why pay more for modern reproductions when you can pay less for the real antiques on Craigslist, at garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets, and estate sales?  You will find unique items and you'll have a story to tell about your hunt for the bargain.  Real antiques give a feeling of history.  Mingle antiques with modern furnishings to make an eclectic look all your own.
Paris scene oil painting - purchased from a seller on Craigslist for $10

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gifting on a Budget is Challenging!

Here's How to Find a Gift Someone Likes


Not Spend a lot of Money.

Many people are out on Christmas Eve running around like chickens with their heads cut off scrambling for that "perfect gift" for their significant other.  Parking lots are jam packed, crowds are swarming, merchandise is picked over and what's left is way overpriced.  This is a recipe for overspending and getting stressed out! 


Not all sales are created equal.  There are great deals on Black Friday but don't assume everything on sale that day is a rock bottom deal.  And those products may get sold out fast, wasting your trip.  Here is a great article exposing the truth about Black Friday: 10 Things Stores Won't Say About Black Friday.

Buying After Christmas Offers 4 Advantages:
  1. Get a Jump Start on the New Year;
  2. Buy Now to Enjoy a Full Year without Buying Any More Gifts; 
  3. Prices are Reduced; and
  4. The stores are not Pandemonium.  
Make list of everyone you want to buy a birthday and Christmas gift for next  year.  Buy them all after Christmas and relax for an entire year without having to buy any more gifts!   


Use Pinterest (click here)
Pinterest offers 2 main advantages:
  1. Get Gift Ideas - There are THOUSANDS OF INEXPENSIVE GIFT IDEAS on Pinterest.  Here's a link to an article with 100 different frugal gift ideas.
  2. Have A Way to Remember Those Ideas.  Pinterest is an online bulletin board system with pins which "bookmark" your webpage.  You can create a board for whatever category you want. Create a Board which is called, "Gifts," and pin various gift ideas.  You can even create a Secret board if you don't want your loved ones to see what they're getting. When it's time to buy, you can simply go to your board and remember all your ideas and where to buy them.  Here's my Board called Gifting on a Budget.
You can even create a board to let others know what you want for Christmas!

Use Amazon's "Save For Later" feature
From time to time my husband will mention something he really wants to buy.  Immediately I go on Amazon and put it in my "Save For Later" list.  Then when I have time I can shop around for that item with the best quality at the cheapest price.  When his birthday or Christmas approaches, I buy it within the 30 day return policy time frame and Amazon ships it free. 

3 advantages with Amazon's "Save For Later" feature: 
  1. You will have time to read reviews;
  2. You can look for a gift without rushing;
  3. You won't be wracking your brain for a gift idea when you need one;
  4. You will have time to compare prices & find a good deal.  

Stock up on a rock bottom deal when you see one: books, candles or other items which would make great gifts for just about anyone.  Buy & save them for when you need a gift.  The other day I saw several beautiful tote bags for $3.99 each.  I missed my window of opportunity, though, but next time I'll grab those up and save them for when I need a gift. 

See also my post on Thrifting for Gifting

Friday, September 27, 2013

Planning for Irregular Expenses

Monthly Expenses are easy to budget for because they are routine and predictable.

Non-monthly Expenses can lull you into a false sense of security and then blindside you.

Oil Change Expenses are Typically Quarterly

Certain expenses are not monthly but hit at irregular times, for example, annually or quarterly. The catch with these expenses is that you forget about them and they pop up when you are unprepared.  For example, annual membership dues, bi-annual property tax bills, quarterly oil changes, tire rotations, annual back-to-school expenses, children's field trips, Christmas gifts, etc.

How to Prepare for Expenses which Hit at Irregular Times:
1. Start a Budgeting Calendar.  You may choose to do this on a regular calendar or by using Personal Finance Software such as Quicken or youneedabudget. But seeing it visually on a calendar as opposed to just a list or spreadsheet helps you remember the timing of when these things hit.  You get the big picture of where your money is going in different months and prepare for the upcoming expenses each month.  I use Google Calendar to add dates for the items below.  We use this in addition to budgeting tools such as Mint and Quicken. Here's a sample list of irregular expenses:
  • Dry Cleaning
    Holidays: Gifts, hosting parties, family gatherings, etc.: graduation, wedding, baby, birthday, Christmas, anniversary, baptism, Mother's day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, Bosses' day, or other special occasion.
  • Haircuts (every other month or every 6 weeks)
  • Dry Cleaning
  • Oil Changes for automobiles
  • Car Wash
  • Tire Rotations for automobiles
  • Annual medical checkups
  • Flu Shot or other vaccinations
  • Annual Eyedoctor Checkkup
  • Bi-annual Dental Cleanings
  • Back-to-School Registration, Clothes, Supplies, Activities, & other Expenses
  • Vacations
  • Medication refills
  • Landscaping Services
  • Carpet Cleaning Services
  • Furnace Cleaning
  • Accountant's fees/tax filings
  • Pet care - vet visits, shots, medication, grooming services 
  • Other household maintenance/repairs
  • Fundraisers
  • Continuing Education Classes or Credits
  • Etc.
2. Turn an Annual Bill into Monthly Payments
See if you can change your insurance payments (at no additional charge) into monthly installments or start your own "fund" at home by setting aside 1/12th of the money each month for 12 months until the bill comes due.

For example:
  • Homeowner's Insurance
  • Property Tax Bills
  • Annual Memberships
  • Vehicle City Stickers
  • License Plate renewal fees
  • Christmas gifts

3. Keep a vehicle maintenance schedule for all your vehicles and mark your calendar.  If you lost your schedule, you can click here and fill in your car's make, model, and year and find it.

4. Keep a Home Maintenance/Repair Schedule
For example, furnace cleanings, air conditioning maintenance, gutter cleaning, etc. Here's a home maintenance schedule from Lowe's.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Get Paid for Sharing Your Opinion

Years ago I joined a database company which facilitates market research groups called Focuscope in Chicago, IL. They take your personal information and contact you if they have a market research study group which fits your gender, age, and profile.  Their research topics run the gamete from favorite shampoo to mattresses.

The times I actually was selected and went to a study, I really enjoyed it.  There was a conference table of about a dozen random people and we were asked several questions and we discussed our opinions.  Here are a few times I remember:

  • A Women's Cable Channel - $60 for a study group which was 1-2 hours in duration;
  • A nationwide, well renowned weight loss company - $60 for a study group which was 1-2 hours in duration;
  • A cancelled group - $60 - I showed up only to find out it was cancelled, but I still got paid.

This is a great way to bring in extra cash.  Go to Google and type in "focus group studies" and also the name of your city and State.  Join several databases to maximize your opportunities. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sell Your Clothes through a Consignment Store

Sure you can try selling on ebay, but will you ever get around to it? Taking photos of every single item, then paying for shipping and giving ebay their cut - will you have made money?  Some people are experts at selling on ebay but if you aren't experienced, you can actually lose money.

Save yourself the hassle and take your clothes to a consignment store instead.
Sift through your closet(s) for:
Coats & Jackets
Blazers / Suit coats
Formal Dresses
All other clothing & apparel

You should probably sell it if:

  • you rarely wear it
  • you never have an occasion to wear it
  • you spent a lot of money on it and feel guilty giving it away
  • it's great on the hanger but not flattering on your body
  • you keep putting off getting the alterations it needs
  • you've lost weight but are keeping it "just in case"
  • you've gained weight but intend to fit back into it "someday"
Call ahead to find out if your local stores are currently taking any inventory and if there are limitations on what they allow you to bring in.  Try calling around to several stores.

I have taken my clothing to Fashions Anew in Oak Park, Illinois. They only allow you to bring in 15 items and it must be clothing for the upcoming season.  

3 months later when I've completely forgotten about it, suddenly there will be a check in the mailbox from $40 to $75!

This is a great way to make money with little time and effort involved.

Try it with kids' clothes too!  Your kids are constantly growing out of their clothes, so sell them to your local children's consignment store!

To those who want to donate clothing to charity instead of selling it, consider patronizing your local GoodWill Stores as a customer rather than a donor.  You will still be supporting their cause and you can buy with the money you made off of selling your clothing!