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!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Everyday Spending Really Adds Up

What would happen if you sacrificed spending money on everyday little things, such as eating out for lunch a few times a week or getting your morning cup of Joe?  What might happen if you canceled or downsized your cell phone plan, and canceled your Cable TV?   How much money could you have if you saved instead of spent it over 20 years?


3X per week at $8.00 per meal

starting balance $0.00
interest 7%
monthly contribution: 100.00*
Time: 20 years

Future Value: $52,396.57
Total Interest: $28,396.57
Total Contributions: $24,000.00


5X per week at $2.00 per cup

starting balance $0.00
interest 7%
monthly contribution: $40.00
Time: 20 years

Future Value: $20,958.64
Total Interest: $11,358.64
Total Contributions: $9,600.00

Cell Phone

Data Plan X2 $30.00 per plan

starting balance $0.00
interest 7%
monthly contribution: $60.00
Time: 20 years

Future Value: $31,437.89
Total Interest: $17,037.89
Total Contributions: $14,400.00


Avg of $80.00 per month

starting balance $0.00
interest 7%
monthly contribution: $80.00
Time: 20 years

Future Value: $41,917.11
Total Interest: $22,717.11
Total Contributions: $19,200.00


After 20 years:

By Saving $280.00 a month, at an average interest rate of 7%,

in 20 years you would have:  $146,710.21.  

Here is the breakdown:
Total Contributions (money you saved over 20 years): $67,200.00
Plus Total Interest Earned: +79,510.39
Equals Total Future Value (your savings plus interest): $146,710.21

And after another 20 Years:
Now, suppose you left that amount in your investment portfolio for another 20 years but never added another dime, then in another 20 years, at a rate of 8% interest, you would have $722,812.18!
Starting Contribution: $146,710.21
Plus Additional Contributions: 0.00
Plus Total Interest:  +576,101.97
Total Future Value: $722,812.18

Now, suppose instead of the 8% interest rate you had a 12% return on your investment (the stock market average over time), then your Total Future Value would be:  $1,598,048.91 !

Your small decisions each day can really add up!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Garage/Estate Sales, Flea Markets & More

Did you know the Williams & Sonoma stores sell actual antiques from the Paris Flea Market?  They do, and the prices are sky high! 

Go and look, get ideas and then buy similar quality for A LOT less money at a garage sale, moving sale, estate sale, flea market or Craigslist.

Here are some of my best finds.

Vintage, early 1900s Underwood Typewriter No. 4 - recently selling on Ebay for $175 - I paid $25 at a flea market.

Silver Plated Champagne Bucket.  I saw a very similar bucket at a swanky boutique for over $100.  I paid $15 at a moving sale.
Hunting painting. I paid $10 from a seller on Craigslist.

3 vintage crystal wine glasses to add to the set I inherited
 from my Grandma on my father's side. I paid $1.25 each at a garage sale.

Set of 6 vintage crystal wine glasses made in France.
The set is worth $40 - I paid $4.00 for the whole set at a garage sale.

Vintage oil painting of a street in Paris.  I paid $10 from a seller on Craigslist.

Silverplated salt & pepper shakers - I paid $2 each from a Seller on Craigslist. They are very heavy and well made.

Pewter water pitcher.  I paid $4.00 at a moving sale.

 Authentic silver chalices made in Italy - I paid $1 for each at a flea market.
Hand painted bone China dish - I paid $1 at a garage sale.
Lovely, large tablecloth purchased at a moving sale for $15 - includes the napkin set below.  It was still carefully folded in the dry cleaning bag when I bought it. 
Lovely set of 12 napkins came with the tablecloth above at the moving sale

Vintage book - $1
These are very heavy, plaster reliefs which can be hung on the wall.  They are fairly large.
I found the same ones online at a garden center store for $120 each. I paid $20 each.

Coffee Service set - $15 for the set from a seller on Craigslist
Thanks for checking out my post!  I hope you got some good tips and discovered that you can get that Paris Flea Market antique look for a dollar store price! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Frugal Fun with Friends

We often think we have center our social life around food or entertainment, which often means spending money going to the movies, a concert, an event, or a meal, etc.

There are other ways to socialize on a budget besides doing things together which cost money.

The Lord has blessed me with some wonderful friends.  In the past few weeks I've been able to spend time with each of them in budget-friendly ways.  Here's what we did:

Playing board games or cards with friends.
My sweet grandmother says I'm frugal because I am part Scottish and part Bohemian.  There is a very small percentage of those ethnicities in me - I'm primarily Irish, Danish and English, but I sure do love a bargain.  My grandma and I like to play a game of scrabble or Rummy 500 in cards.  It is fun and it's free. We get a chance to talk to each other about what's going on in our lives while we play.
My grandmother and me
Talking and praying with friends.  My closest friend Rachel, is not only budget-friendly but also is my prayer partner.  This great gal and I pray together over the phone once a month.  Although she lives almost 500 miles away, we email almost every day and are the best of friends. Thanks to her cell phone plan and free minutes, we are able to chat without cost.  I'm so thankful for her friendship, encouragement and prayers.  She is quite the frugalista and is always giving me great tips on how to save money.  We encourage each other in our efforts to be good stewards of our money.
My lovely, dear friend Rachel and her husband, Brian (he makes great blue cheese burgers!)

Enjoying low-cost hobbies with friends.  My budget-friendly friend Valerie and I often get together to make cards.  We pool together our card making supplies and make some lovely cards together. Yes, making cards does cost money up front with buying supplies and stamping equipment and materials, but in the long run, card for card it is less expensive than store bought cards.  Plus, I often use the cards as gifts in packets of 8 or 10.  I can make something I'll use, enjoy a hobby and at the same time enjoy the company of a good friend and it doesn't cost any money (although I must confess, we did spend money on a pizza!).

Walking with friends.  My budget-friendly friend Tiffani and I enjoy walking several miles and getting some exercise.  Walking together burns calories, allows us to enjoy the beauty of nature and provides time for good conversation.  Also, it's free!  We did work up an appetite but we chose an inexpensive place for lunch - $7.49 for the salad bar at Jason's Deli. 

Ministering to others with friends.  My budget-friendly friend Laura and I like to shop at Goodwill together, but we also love to sing duets together.  Together we've ministered to the elderly at nursing homes or at our church.  Here we are after a church concert where we sang a duet together called Laudamus Te from Vivaldi's Gloria.  She's the glamorous gal on the left.
My friend Laura and I after singing at a Christmas Concert
Bible study with friends.  Several ladies came on a Saturday morning the other week .  We socialized and discussed how to spend time getting closer to the Lord and balancing life's demands.  We had a wonderful time sharing and encouraging each other.  Invite your friends over for coffee and a Bible study (or even a book club) and just enjoy time together.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


If you are an organized person who plans ahead, then you are going to be (or already are) great at saving money.

If you want to save money but are not used to planning ahead or being organized, it's time to change your lifestyle! 


Saving money means spending time planning.  Set aside a few hours every week to write up a budget, a menu, a grocery list, to clip coupons, check store ads & couponing sites for deals and organize your schedule to shop.  It's almost impossible to save money without getting organized.  If you're winging it with the menu for the week, ordering out, or running to the store at the last minute when you're tired & hungry and just grabbing whatever you like off the shelves, you are literally throwing money away.

  • Has No Weekly Menu
  • Can't Remember what's in their pantry or fridge
  • Doesn't Clip Coupons 
  • Doesn't Check Ads for deals
  • Buys WHAT and WHEN they want 
  • Shops at a convenient location
  • Buys regardless of price
  • Has No Dollar Amount Limit 
  • Doesn't stick to the grocery list 
  • Is prone to impulse buying
  • Is Brand Loyal
  • May shop when hungry
  • Pays full price for convenience, time or brand loyalty

  • Plans a weekly menu 
  • Clips coupons
  • Checks store ads & couponing sites for deals
  • Makes a grocery list
  • Has a dollar amount limit
  • Sticks to the grocery list
  • Doesn't impulse buy
  • Doesn't shop at convenience stores 
  • In general, is not brand loyal
  • Shops 2 or more stores
  • Doesn't shop when hungry
  • Never pays top dollar 
  • Is willing to sacrifice convenience, brand loyalty and time in order to gain good quality at a great price


Free Printable - Click Here

Friday, September 20, 2013



SOME TIME AGO we canceled our Cable TV to "trim the fat off" our budget.  We switched to Netflix & Amazon Prime.  We don't miss it and we'll never go back to Cable.  Here are 7 reasons to cancel cable & switch to Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Prime:

  • The average, monthly cable bill is about $86 and is on the rise.  Several news sources say that monthly cable bills could average $200 by the year 2020.  It's time to switch to less expensive, better options.
  • Hulu online is Free and streams videos, hit shows and more to your computer or laptop.  For $7.99 a month, Hulu can be connected to your television or other devices.
  • For ONLY $7.99 a month (and a free 1 month trial), Netflix offers a huge variety of unlimited streaming of videos and TV programs.  Unlike Amazon Prime, everything's included and there are no extra charges for certain films.  Their rating system allows you to customize your genre preferences.  Member reviews are very helpful.  
  • For $79.00 a year (under $6.60 a month), Amazon Prime offers a large selection of free films and TV programs.  Navigating Amazon's website can be confusing, however, since they sell everything under the sun.  It's difficult to sort between free and pay-per-view videos.  But, your membership also includes free 2 day shipping on most purchases.
(Netflix & Amazon Prime do not have commercials, but Hulu Plus does). Freedom from live TV is freedom from intrusive, annoying, and loud commercials!  But an added benefit is freedom from their marketing agenda to get you to spend more money.

With Hulu, Netflix and Amazon, you are choosing a particular video you enjoy.  You are not mindlessly surfing through hundreds of channels looking for something remotely interesting.

#4 - NO MORE SETTLING.  Netflix and Amazon offer a huge selection of documentaries, old time classic films, educational programs, and inspirational and award winning films which allow you to be more discerning about what you watch.  You're not stuck with whatever slim pickings are being served up at that time on Cable TV.

Since you are streaming programs instead of live TV, you aren't restricted by a TV program schedule. There's no need to record your show.  Simply play the videos you want, whenever you want. 

With Hulu, Netflix and Amazon you're not chained to your home TV.  They all offer instant streaming through any computer, ipad or laptop via Wi-Fi.  Now you can play your favorite films & TV shows on vacation or anywhere there's Wi-Fi.

'Nuff said.  Enjoy this clip from Seinfeld with the cable guy waiting for Kramer. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Chicago Skyline
  • Check out Free Things to Do In Chicago at Chicago Free Info's website, or google, "Free Things to Do" and the name of your City and State.
Chicago Cultural Center

  • Check out Free Admission Days for Chicago's Museums Schedule  
    Art Institute of Chicago
  • Millenium Park (The "Bean," Lurie Gardens, Crown Fountains)
Jay Pritzker Pavillion, Millenium Park
  • Buckingham Fountain
    Greek Festival on Halsted Street in Greektown, Chicago, August, 2013
  • Free Movies in Chicago Parks - Movie Schedule
  • Free Days for IL Residents at Shedd Aquarium - Schedule
  • Walk along the Lakefront from Navy Pier to the Adler Planetarium 
    The "Bean" at Millenium Park
  • Lakefront Beaches 
  • 4th of July Fireworks Shows in Chicago and suburbs
Navy Pier, Chicago
  • Free Museum Day on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 - click here
  • Free Art Walks in Chicago Neighborhoods (Sept.-Oct., 2013) - Schedule
  • Fall Adventure Day at Northerly Island - October 19, 2013 - Click here
  • Spooky Zoo Spectacular at Lincoln Park Zoo - October 26, 2013 Click here
  • Celebrate Halloween with Fireworks to a Spooky Soundtrack on Sat. October 26, 2013 at 9:30p.m. at Navy Pier over Lake Michigan - Click here 

Christmas Tree at the Peninsula Hotel, Chicago
  • Bring your own skates for Free Ice Skating starting end of November through March in downtown Chicago. McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park is located on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison Streets and has offered skate rental for only $10.
  • Magnificent Mile Lights Festival - Christmas lights on Michigan Avenue and State Street during end November through early January 
Daley Center at Christmastime
  • Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier November 30, 2013 - January 6, 2014 including an ice rink, decorations, huge inflatable slides and entertainment
  • New Year's Eve, December 31st, 2013 - Fireworks at Navy Pier