Archive for the ‘Frugal Tips’ Category

Are You Making New Year’s Resolutions?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

It’s that time of the year… most of us are making New Year’s resolutions. In fact, we’ve been talking about this quite a bit on the HBHW Facebook Page. The initial reaction was that interesting… quite a few readers had given up on making resolutions.

new-years1

If that’s you and you’ve stopped making resolutions because you know you’ll quit a few days or weeks after the New Year, I have a thought for you.

Make Daily Resolutions

If making a resolution to exercise more or lose a bunch of weight seems overwhelming, don’t… make a daily resolution instead. Promise yourself to go for a 30 minute walk today or vow to make smarter food choices for the next 24 hours.

After a week or two of daily resolutions, take a look at the big picture and see what you’ve accomplished. That should be enough motivation to keep you going for a few more days. Rinse and repeat.

Another great way to stay motivated is to talk with other motivated people. A great place to start is the HBHW facebook page. Here’s another look at some resolution comments.

new-years2

I hope you’ll come join us and I’ll be sure to share my own resolutions and some tips for keeping them both on Facebook and here on the blog.

5 Valuable Money Saving Tips

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

This is a Guest Blog Post by Debt-Free-Christian.com

We have all heard the talk about debt consolidation loans and  other “debt solutions”  but here are 5  simple  tips that  everyone   can use to  stop needless spending  and get on track to  complete debt freedom .

1)   Sack The Sandwich

Making a lunch  instead of buying it will not only save money it is usually a much healthier option also.  A bag lunch can be made for a fraction of the cost of eating out and without having to leave for lunch you will also save money on gas.  Estimated savings $1,300 per year.

2)   Create Frozen Assets

Overspending is a common problem and having a credit card handy can make it so easy to purchase unnecessary items on a whim.  Instead of  slicing up  your credit cards that you may actually need  at some point , simply put each one in a glass of water or plastic bag and freeze it.  If you want to use it for a  quick purchase  you are forced to really  plan  whether it is worth thawing out the card to make the  purchase .

3)  Create An Emergency Fund

One of the single biggest ways to save money on credit card interest is to build your own line of credit for emergencies or other purchases through a savings account.  By saving at least $500 you will have a cushion for unexpected car repairs or other  situations  that would otherwise require you to put it on  plastic .  Saving money on interest payments  will  add up quickly over time,  but you must remember to replenish the savings !

4)   Don’t Make A Habit Of Eating Out

Make eating out a special treat that you do once or twice a week and plan for it in advance by adding it as a line item to your budget.  Keep track of your  mealtime  expenditures and you will be surprised how the meal, tip, and gas can add up to an expensivedate.

5)   Budget With Cash

Using cash to pay for  day to day purchases  makes you realize how much money you are actually  wasting in some cases .  Some people refer to it as the “envelope system” which is when you carry enough cash to pay for the  everyday items  in your budget but no more.  This will keep you from overspending because you  actually  do not give yourself access to additional funds .  This idea has grown in popularity in recent years and continues to be a habit for many budget conscious people everywhere.

Everyone can make  easy  changes to move toward financial independence .  For more strategies visit the debt free Christian site at www.debt-free-christian.com and get on the road toward debt free living today!

Easy To Make Halloween Costumes For Kids (No Sewing Involved)

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Homemade Halloween Costumes Made SimpleIn 2007 I sat down with my friend Nicole Dean* from ShowKidsTheFun.com and we put together an ebook with over 90 easy to make Halloween costume ideas for kids.

This year I decided to give the ebook a bit of a makeover and turn it into a Hillbilly Housewife Ebook.

We have a lot of fun in our house with these simple costumes. They’re perfect, not just for Halloween, but also for School Plays or just playing dress-up.

Take a look at Homemade Halloween Costumes Made Simple

Here’s just one of the many costume ideas, to give you a little taste.

BEAR
What You’ll Need

• Tan, Brown or black sweatsuit (depending on what type of bear your child is — or long underwear/leotard/leggings).

• Velcro

• Headband

• Felt

Directions

Dress your child in the tan, brown or black clothing. Cut some ear shapes out of felt. Glue two layers of felt together for a sturdier ear. Glue the ears to the headband and have your child wear them. Use a little black face paint to paint his or her nose black.

Cut a large oval shape out of a felt color that contrasts your child’s bear costume. If the outfit is tan, use brown felt. If the outfit is black or brown, use tan felt. The oval felt shape should be large enough to cover a good part of the front of the shirt.

Add some Velcro to both the shirt and the back of the felt piece and stick it on.  (You could also glue the felt on if you’re not planning on removing it later, or use double sided tape)

Accessory suggestions

Turn your wagon into a cave. If your child will be trick-or-treating with a wagon, decorate it with poster board to resemble a cave. Then, glue on leaves and sticks. Put a glow stick inside the wagon if it’ll be dark so everyone can see your little bear emerge.

*Nicole has since moved on to bigger an better things and has become quite the go-to-girl for Online Business Success. She’s graciously allowed me to rework the ebook and make it part of the HBHW Library of Ebooks.

Frugal Tips Video – Damaged Dollar Bills

Friday, August 21st, 2009

I recently went to a conference and decided to ask some of the fellow attendees to share a frugal tips. I filmed their responses and am going to share them on Youtube and this blog. A big thank you goes out to Tracy Roberts from HomeDecorThemes.com . She gave me the idea to shoot these short little 1 minute videos.

The first frugal tip comes from Nicole Dean from ShowMomTheMoney.com. Here’s her frugal tip video.

Nicole is the proud owner of a crazy dog who ate a $20 bill. Thankfully it came back out the other end (yuck!) and Nicole found out that you can take damaged bills to the bank and they will exchange them for new bills provided you have more than half of the original. Great tip Nicole and thanks for sharing.

Making Extra Money – Tips from a HBHW Reader

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

I received the following email a few days ago from loyal HBHW reader Danell. These are some wonderful tips that any of us can use when we need some extra cash for unexpected expenses or like in this case a special family vacation. Thanks so much for sharing Danell.

Here’s her email…

Recently Disney offered the Military and its family one free for the active duty and extremely discounted for the rest of the family. We are one income and there are 5 of us. How was I going to raise the 500.00 for 5 day park hoppers (again a huge savings) almost 700.00 to stay at the Disney camp ground, keep in mind this is during spring break. Then a few hundred for incidentals and a few souvenirs. Since we own a travel trailer we brought all our food and I can cut a mean coupon!

We had a yard sale getting rid of more than I’d like to admit I bought. BUT 98% of what was sold was purchased at yard sales, which is something else I happen to be good at. We made pretty near that 700.00 Saturday. I sold a crafting die cutter that was collecting dust, another 300.00.

Then I really started thinking, paying more attention to l those “throw your gold in a bag and send it to us in the mail, and HEY we’ll send you a check” commercials. Well I contacted The most reputable jeweler in my town and that day gold was 940.00 and ounce. I left with a check for 678.00 for broken chains, odd earrings a ring a boyfriend bought me that was missing a stone. (keep in mind it is the gold they want) REMEMBER I ONLY GOT RID OF OLD BROKEN AND NOTHING REALLY OF USE TO ME. You don’t want to sell your favorite bracelet, it is not worth that!. Please keep in mind the jeweler in your town will buy your gold, just make sure it is a reputable Mom and Pop store. You do not have to go to the ones we keep seeing advertised, we don’t know who they are!

So we made almost 1700.00 for our trip had a blast driving to Disney from NC and having picnics all the way there and then all the way home. saving all that money by not buying Disney’s food allowed us to prepurchase a photo CD
of all the pictures the professionals take while you are there, it became a fun game finding them and having our pictures taken everywhere, all 376 of them. We can reproduce our 300 plus pictures anyway we choose because we own the copy right for them. We also prepaid for a scrapbook that they bound and make for you, you just click and drag the pictures where you want them with captions etc. I keep looking at my wonderful 26 page book I just got in the mail, and they did a wonderful job, it is a real bound book!!!

Also by not eating on the properties afforded the kids each a t shirt and another small souvenir. We watched movies in the camper at night and I had a great time using the best recipes I have ever had, that I got off the best web site ever Hill Billy House Wife saved us a bunch too.

Thank you Susanne for being a part of the best trip ever.

Sincerely,

Danell F.

Seymour Johnson AFB

NC

Save Money In The Kitchen With Smoothies

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

By Carrie Lauth

We’re all looking for ways to save a few pennies while still feeding our families healthful, nutritious food. One of the ways you can do that is by learning how to prepare your own smoothies.

How can smoothies save you money? In my home, smoothies are a great way to use up those last small bits of food that would otherwise go to waste.

That half eaten banana discarded by your toddler?
That half a serving of yogurt the baby couldn’t finish?
The last bit of oatmeal that got cold and congealed in the pan?
The jelly left in the “empty” jar?

All these make great additions to a smoothie. Here are a few ideas:

- Add a little milk to an “empty” jelly or peanut butter jar and shake vigorously. Place in the blender with a little ice, frozen fruit and perhaps a banana to make a fab PB&J smoothie.

- Use cold, leftover cooked grains to thicken smoothies. Rice, oatmeal, cream of wheat – use up to a cup in the blender to thicken a smoothie and add additional nutrition. You may want to add the grains and liquid first and blend for awhile until smooth before adding the other ingredients.

- When your children leave half eaten fruit lying around, chop it and place into a container in the freezer. When full, dump in the blender with a little vanilla yogurt or milk – enough to get the blender blades rotating and maybe a little honey for sweetness. Blend to make a delicious shake.

- Did your child turn up his nose at his spinach or other greens? Throw them into the blender with frozen berries and make a “supergreen” shake. I’ve noticed that I can add a LOT of leafy greens before my children even notice their flavor. It’s a great way to sneak in more veggies to a picky kid’s diet.

Smoothies are easy to experiment with. Some of my kid’s favorites were recipes we created on the fly with whatever we had lying around. Familiarize yourself with the basic smoothie “formula” and then get busy trying new creations. One way to make this easier is with the Smoothie Recipe book. It contains 50 smoothie recipes to suit all tastes, costs only $7 and has lifetime free updates!

Frugal Gardening Tips

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Right after I put up yesterday’s frugal challenge about planting something, I came accross this article by my friend Tawra that’s just full of frugal gardening tips. Enjoy!

Gardening On A Dime
by Tawra Kellam
www.hillbillyhousewife.com/livingonadime.htm

People are often surprised to find out that even though I’m a cookbook author I went to school for Horticulture. (I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to own an herb farm.) Growing your own plants can not only save you lots of money on your grocery bill, but a nice landscape can improve the value of your home. If you’re creative, you can have a great garden with very little cost. Here are some of my favorite tips to get you started:

Tools:

Watch people who are moving. Ask if they are leaving their lawn equipment and if you can have it or buy it cheap.

Use an old mailbox out in the garden to store your clippers, plastic bags and gloves. (This is my most used item in my garden!) It is especially wonderful because the kids and Hubby don’t know where my tools are, so I don’t have to worry about them borrowing the tools!

Use wedding tulle found at fabric stores instead of shade cloth to shade plants from the sun or to keep the birds from eating your fruit. It’s much cheaper. Better yet, ask a just married bride if you can have the tulle from her wedding.

seeds

photo credit: timsnell

Cheap Plants:

If you see plants at a store that are in bad shape but not dead, talk to the manager. Ask him if he will give you a “deal” if you take them off his hands. Most of the time they will because the plants look bad and they don’t want to mess with them anymore.

Last year I was able to purchase over 50 large 1/2 gallon-gallon sized perennials for $50. (over $600 retail) All but about 5 of them lived and I was able to take those back and get my money back. Most home improvement and discount stores have a guarantee that if your plant dies within one year, you can bring the dead plant and the receipt and they will give you your money back or give you a new plant.

Buy seeds on sale at the end of the season. Put them in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator for better storage. Seeds usually last many years beyond the “past due” date on the packet.

Mulch:

Ask a tree trimming service to give you their wood chips for mulch if they are in the area.

Some cities also have a free mulch program where the city tree trimmers dump all the wood chips. Call your local County Extension and find out if there is one in your area.

If you just need a few bags, look for torn open bags at the home improvement store. Our local store has a pile where they dump all the torn open bags of mulch and rocks. They sell the bags for $1 each, saving you up to 75% off! Most just have a few chips missing.

Use shredded paper or newspaper under mulch. This way you can use fewer wood chips.

Keep a shower curtain or tarp in your car at all times. This way if you find a good deal on mulch or plants you can take advantage of the deal right away without messing up your car.

Containers:

Use deli trays with lids to start seeds. They are mini greenhouses!

Ask the cemetery if you can have the pots they throw away after Memorial Day. (You can dry the almost dead flowers for potpourri.) Look in dumpsters. Many garden centers at the discount stores throw away the dead plants, pots and all. Ask permission first.

Use Styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of pots for drainage. You can also use small plastic six inch pots, soda cans or plastic bottles in the bottom of larger pots so you don’t have to use so much soil and to make the pots lighter in weight.

Misc. Tips

Use milk jugs as drip irrigation. Poke 2 or 3 small holes in the bottom of the jugs and place next to plants. Fill with water and they will slowly water you plants all day.

Use Christmas lights around fences to add sparkle in the middle of summer. Hang them in trees or line paths with them for extra effect.

Use vinegar in a spray bottle to kill weeds. ONLY spray the weed. It will kill any grass or plants you want to keep if you get it on them.


For Kids

Have kids water the plants after they swim in the kiddy pool. Have them take buckets of water from the pool and water the plants when the pool needs to be emptied.

Buy or ask for sandbags after heavy rains. Use the sand for paths or for the kid’s sandboxes. (Only use sand from clean floodwater situations.)

Save scraps of soap when they get too small to bathe with and put them in an old nylon stocking. Knot and hang the nylon on an outdoor faucet.


Homemade Tough Hand Cleaner

  • 1/4 Cup grated Fels Naphtha soap ends
  • 2 Tbsp. mason’s sand or pumice
  • 1 Cup water

Place soap and water in a saucepan. Place over low heat; stir until soap is melted. After mixture cools, add mason’s sand or pumice. Store in a cottage cheese container or margarine tub. To use, dip fingers into soap mixture and lather hands. Rinse well. This works well on greasy tools, also. Be sure to rinse and dry tools thoroughly.

Tawra Kellam is the editor of Living On A Dime
Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income.

Does Freezer Cooking Really Save Money?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Just got the following email and thought I’d share it with you since you’re probably wondering if freezer cooking can really save you money.

Hi Suzanne,

I just had to write to thank you for your freezer cooking e-book. I bought it yesterday and read through it last night. This morning, I ran across a flyer from my grocery store. Chicken breast on sale for 99 cents a pound. We eat a lot of chicken and I usually pay at least $2.89 per pound. I went shopping first thing this morning and was able to get 10 pounds of chicken. When I got home, I used your crispy chicken from the freezer recipe and the one for chicken pot pie to turn most of the meat into freezer meals. The rest will be dinner tonight. Saved $19.90 on the chicken and we have a bunch of dinners ready.

Thank you – Cindy H. SC

Big Kudos go to Cindy for going out and getting that great deal on chicken and then taking the time on a Sunday to make all those freezer meals. I’m so happy you’ve found it useful and are already saving money on your groceries.

Since we’re on the topic, I thought I’d share another email with you as well…

I have researched freezer cooking extensively and gave a talk to over 200 women last year on the subject. You did a fantastic job putting your freezer cooking info together. I am really impressed.I am a registered dietitian in Iowa and refer people often to your website. It is a wealth of info on frugal and healthy cooking as well as other subjects. Keep up the good work!
Michelle

Thank you both for your kind words. It means the world to me. – Susanne

To get your copy of Freezer Cooking Made Simple, click here or on the image below:

When Is The Last Time You’ve Reviewed Your Budget?

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

After yesterday’s post about making debt reduction a New Year’s resolution (and after emailing the HBHW newsletter list about it as well), the emails kept pouring in. I’m so excited to hear that so many of us are making it a priority in 2009 to reduce the amount of money we owe.

Whether it’s paying of credit cards, a car loan, mortgage or setting some more money aside as an emergency fund, for college or for retirement, we a lot more likely to succeed with a plan. And that plan should include a family budget. I’ve been talking about this quite a bit and it seems most of us have one already.

But when was the last time you looked at it and adjusted it? Now is a great time to sit down and review your existing budget (or of course make one in the first place). Go over your list of expenses and see if you have since added something new, or if what you are paying has changed. This is also a great time to reevaluate what you do and don’t need. You may also want to shop around and see if you can get some better rates for that car insurance or your cable tv and internet package.

Prices for anything from groceries to clothing have gone up, so you may need to allot a little more money in that category.

Don’t forget to take a good look at money coming in as well. Has anything changed there? Maybe you’ve since gotten a raise, or have taken on a better paying job.

Once you’ve given your budget a good makeover and have taken out any unnecessary expenses, you should have a pretty good idea of how much money you’ll have left over at the end of the month.

That figure should give you a good starting point for your monthly goals to reach your financial goal for 2009 whatever it may be. Just take baby steps and before you’ll know it you’ll reach your goals.

New Year’s Resolution – Get Out Of Debt

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I thought I’d share a little story with you on New Year’s Resolutions. I went through a bunch of papers in my desk the other day and came across a note I wrote to myself last January. It was my New Year’s resolution and here’s what it said.

“My goal for 2008 is to finally get out of credit card debt”.

I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to accomplish it, since we owed quite a bit, but during the first part of the year, I kept that note on my desk to remind myself that this was our big financial goal for the year. And little by little we ate away at that debt. And guess what? By September of last year we had our cards paid off and since then we’ve also been able to pay off our car loan. It’s a good feeling to know that our only debt is our mortgage and we have some plans to pay it off well ahead of schedule as well. As an added bonus, our monthly disposable income has gone way up because we are no longer paying interest on all that consumer debt.

How about you? Are you ready to make a serious New Year’s Resolution, put it in writing and work each day, week or month toward that goal? I put together a little worksheet for you. Just fill in the blanks and keep it close by to help you turn your resolutions into reality.

Here it is:
http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/resolution.pdf

By the way, if reducing or even eliminating credit card debt is one of your resolutions, I can highly recommend the “Winning The Credit Card Game” ebook from Living on A Dime. You can get your copy here

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/livingonadime.htm

Frugal Gift Ideas For Christmas

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

As we are getting closer and closer to Christmas, I’ve been getting quite a few emails from folks who are looking for some inexpensive or frugal gift ideas. This year is tough financially for many of us and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and crafting and cooking to come up with some fun and interesting gifts for everyone in our family. I thought I’d share some of my own ideas and then invite you to share yours as a comment below.

Here we go …

Bath & Body:

Epsom Salts Bath: In pretty color plastic bag (found in party stores in goody bag section) pour 1 cup or more, depending on the size of the bags. Use matching twist tie, and embellish with pieces of ribbon, tulle, and little flowers. Or use clear bags and embellish with raffia bow and sea shells for a natural theme. These are great gifts for teachers, domestic helpers, co-workers, day care workers, etc. Epsom Salts are a sometimes forgotten luxury that really works to relieve sore and stressed muscles and weary bones. Instructions are: Run a nice deep, hot bath, pouring in 1 cup Epsom salts under running water and swoosh around. Quietly soak for at least 20 minutes. Write the instructions on a small gift tag and tie on bag with ribbon or raffia.

Epsom Salts Foot Soak: This may be more appropriate for a male gift recipient. (A lot of men don’t take baths… they don’t know what they’re missing out on, but oh well.) Put the Epsom salts in a clear plastic bag (found in party stores in goody bag section) and tie with twist tie. For a masculine look, you could put the plastic bag inside a small, brown cardboard craft box; you’ll find them in craft stores, around the decoupaging things. Tie either a raffia or jute string around the box, attach a card with the instructions for a foot soak after a hard day’s work.

Milk Bath: Using powdered milk, package in pretty color plastic bags (found with party supply stuff in goody bag section). Close with the matching twist tie, add pretty ribbon, flowers, etc. or raffia and seashells. Print instructions on a gift tag and tie it to the package. Optional: For a little larger gift, purchase a pretty tin or a cardboard craft box (found in craft stores). Purchase a small, natural bath sponge and put both the bag and the sponge inside the tin or box and tie with ribbon or raffia.

Soothing Baking Soda Bath: This is more of the same idea, just using one of my favorite bath ingredients. Package it pretty and flowery, or package it using more natural materials.

Brown Sugar Face and Body Scrub: I would look for “Dixie Crystals light brown crystals” when I buy the brown sugar. It has a nice “sparkle” and is a pretty color. Package it similar to the other bath products (Epsom salts, etc.). If you package a cup or more, you may want to include a pretty little spoon (look for unusual ones at flea markets or antique shops) so it can be measured for a face scrub. Just tie it into the ribbon along with instructions: Rinse face with warm water. Put 2 teaspoons of sugar in your palm, add a little water, and massage gently over face and neck. Rinse well. For Body: Put 1 cup of sugar in your palm, add a little water, and massage gently over wet arms and legs to exfoliate.

After-Spa Robe: For a young girl, buy two bath towels, lay together (wrong side, if there is one, facing out, unless the towels are fringed, then sew them face out. Sew short end of towels together, leaving a space open in the middle for her head. Then starting about six inches down the long side (for her arms), sew both sides closed, but stop about six inches from the bottom to allow for walking ease. Now, the size of the towels and the space for the arms and head will depend on the size of the child. Just use your judgment… maybe eyeball a t-shirt in her size and measure the neck and arm space. You could also make a Spa Package gift. Box together her new After-Spa Robe along with a pretty bag of “Milk Bath”.

Food Gifts:

Coffee Or Hot Chocolate Mix: Use one of the beverage mix recipes found here and then package it in a mason jar. Top the jar with a small square piece of cotton and tie a ribbon around it. Get out some card stock or a piece of heavy construction paper and write the instructions on how to use the mix on the paper. Punch a whole in the corner of the card and tie it to the ribbon on the jar. Depending on the recipients taste, you can make anything from fancy coffee mixes like Swiss Mocha or Cafe Vienna to a rich and delicious hot chocolate mix or even some spiced tea.

For an even more stunning presentation, measure the ingredients out into the jar and layer them. For the hot chocolate mix, top the jar with some mini marshmallows.

Chocolate Coated Coffee Spoons: Search the flea markets and antique shops for pretty, unique spoons. You may also use a plastic spoon for simplicity. Purchase any kind of melting chocolate. Chocolate chips will do. You may also want to crush up some peppermint candies to coat some of the spoons. Melt the chocolate slowly over very low heat. I put a pan on to boil, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove. Then carefully lower a smaller pan containing the chocolate bits into the larger pan. As soon as you see the chocolate start melting, start stirring. Remove your chocolate filled pan from the hot water as soon as the chocolate seems about half way melted and continue stirring until it melts all the way, and cools down a little. Now, dip your clean, dry, spoon into the melted chocolate, and place it gently on a cold cookie sheet. (If you have parchment paper, that’s great. But do not use waxed paper or tin foil as it will stick.) When you’ve done all the spoons you want, put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens. Remove the chocolate spoons from the cookie sheet by gently bending the cookie sheet until they ‘pop’ free. You may use little plastic ‘goody bags’ you find at party stores, or purchase small candy bags in candy making area of craft store, place spoon in and tie with ribbon so handle sticks out of top. Optional: Dip spoon in chocolate and carefully dip into crushed peppermint candies for a Chocolate Peppermint Coated Coffee Spoon. These are great gifts for Mother’s Day.

Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Sticks: Buy tiny pretzel sticks. Purchase any kind of melting chocolate. The way I melt chocolate is: Melt the chocolate slowly over very low heat. I put a pan on to boil, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove. Then carefully lower a smaller pan containing the chocolate bits into the larger pan. As soon as you see the chocolate start melting, start stirring. Remove your chocolate filled pan from the hot water as soon as the chocolate looks about half way melted and continue stirring until it melts all the way, and cools down a little. Dip each pretzel, first one end then the other, so you leave a bare spot in the middle, into melted chocolate and lay out on parchment paper on cookie sheet. Put cookie sheet in refrigerator until cold and set. Lay a pile of pretzels down and form a ‘stick pile’. Tie your ‘sticks’ together in the middle, gently, with a little raffia to form a little bundle of sticks. Then put in plastic gift bag and secure the top with raffia. You should use candy bags for these pretzels; you can find them in the candy making stuff in the craft stores.

Muffin, Cobbler or Brownie Mix: Mix the dry ingredients for a batch of muffins or brownies or even a cobbler. Pour everything into a plastic bag. Use some scrap fabric or a kitchen towel to sew a simple bag. Add the plastic bag with the mix along with some instructions on how to use the mix and put it into the fabric bag. Tie with a pretty ribbon and your gift is done.

You can easily make this into a bigger gift by adding a little homemade recipe booklet, or some recipe cards, an inexpensive baking pan etc. To make a pretty gift basket, keep an eye out for baskets in various sizes in thrift stores or at yard sales. Arrange everything in the basket and tie a pretty red bow to the handle.

Food Gift Basket: Make a batch of muffins, cookies, brownies or fudge and arrange them in a pretty basket. Of course you can also make a combination of all of the above. Include some beverage mixes as well. For a cute small basket, buy an inexpensive holiday mug (I like to look for these at the dollar store). Then scoop some coffee mix or hot chocolate mix into a small bag and stick it in the mug. Tie a ribbon around the bag and stick a small card with instructions on how to prepare the mix in the mug and you’re done.

Assorted Picture Framing Ideas:

“Thumb-Body” Loves You Frame: Purchase wood frame, it can be totally unpainted or already painted, as long as you can add your child’s thumb print in paint to the surface of the frame. Using acrylic craft paint, take a paint print of your child’s thumb and carefully press it on the surface of the frame. You may want to practice this a few times, and you’ll want to keep a wet paper towel handy just to wipe off the prints that don’t work right away. When you get one on the frame that you like, let it dry completely. Then go back with a Sharpie and draw dots for eyes and a smiley mouth. That’s all there is to it. You’ll want to take a Sharpie and write “Thumb-Body Loves You” along the edge of the frame. All it needs now is your smiling child’s picture. Good Grandparent gift, Mommy, or Daddy, too.

Picture Matting Refrigerator Frames: For that mess of pictures and art work on your refrigerator… purchase matting for picture frames in assorted colors and sizes, and purchase stick-on magnets (available in strips that you can cut to suit your needs). Cut and stick the magnets on the backs of your matting, making sure you have enough so they will stick to the refrigerator without sliding around too much. That’s all you need. Now when Grandma gets that picture for her refrigerator, she can “frame” it and anchor it to the refrigerator in one step. This is so inexpensive, you could put together a little assortment and present it as one gift. How nice to have a whole refrigerator turned into an art gallery.

“You Always Have Time For Me” picture frame: To let someone you love know that you appreciate the time they spend with you. Scrounge around flea markets for old watches that don’t work anymore. You might even ask your friendly jeweler if they have a drawer full somewhere that they want to get rid of. Once you have an assortment, find a picture frame that compliments them. You’ll probably want a metal one, but you’ll need to keep in mind the right glue. (Check your hardware store for glue that sticks metal to metal.) Now, glue your watches (just the faces, remove the bands) around your frame in an artful way. Frame the picture of you, and the person who always has time for you, spending time together. What a wonderful reminder to that special person that you know how important it is to spend time with people you love.

Family Tree: The size of this project will depend on how many pictures you’ll want on the tree. Find a nicely shaped branch with limbs, clean it up, trim it nicely, and be sure it’s dry. Take a clay pot, and cut florist foam to fit inside. Stick branch into foam. You may have to wedge in more foam to make the foam tight and the branch not wobble. Now, go outdoors, and take some spray acrylic sealer and lightly spray on the branches just to seal them and make them a little shiny. Choose a picture for each member of the family, glue a piece of paper ribbon on the back and tie it to the tree. There is your “Family Tree”. This is a good idea for Mom or Dad’s office, but keep the size in mind! You may want to keep the tree smaller and make small copies of the pictures and tie those up instead of the full size pictures.

Flip Flop Picture Frame: Purchase new flip flops, the simple $3.00 kind at Old Navy will do. As a special beach vacation souvenir, choose a picture from your vacation, trim it to fit the flip flop foot area if necessary, and using craft glue (the kind to use with foam crafts) glue the picture to the middle of the flip flop. You could also do a collage of several pictures, if you buy big enough flip flops! You may want to create something to make the flip flop hangable. Maybe even a pop top from a coke can. Ha! Stepped on a pop top, blew out my flip flop…

Bejeweled Picture Frame: Search the flea markets and the discount clothing stores for interesting old necklaces, bracelets, etc. Purchase a wooden craft-store frame. Paint the frame a complimentary color to most of the jewels. (You could paint it gold or silver.) Purchase glue that will adhere to glass and metal. Arrange the jewels artfully around the frame and glue on. This is a frame that will appeal to Granny or Auntie, especially if you have a picture from the old days that you give to them in this frame.

Candles:

Clay Pot “Bird Bath” Candle: Buy 4 1/2 inch clay saucer and 3 inch clay pot. Turn 3 inch clay pot upside down and glue it to the bottom of the saucer. You have a bird bath! Add some tiny rocks to the saucer with a tea light candle in the middle. You may also want to embellish the clay surface by gluing on a little sand (use spray adhesive and sprinkle sand) so it looks more garden like.

Clay Pot Candles: Clay pots make a perfect outdoor candle. First, purchase the votives and holders, or tea lights you’ll be using. Then purchase the clay pots and saucers to fit. You might want to embellish the clay pots by gluing on outdoorsy stuff, like sticks, pebbles, moss, etc. This is a nice patio accent.

Fish Bowl Candle: Purchase fish bowl or any round bowl (those beta fish bowls work well). Place glass votive with candle in center of bowl. Fill exterior space with found objects you enjoy, whether it’s seashells, rocks, sand, anything non-flammable. Marbles work well, too.

Knitting, Crocheting and Sewing:

Knit Something: Knit a hat, a scarf, a pair of socks or a pair of mittens. There are quite a few small projects you can get done in time for Christmas. Look through your stash of yarn, grab a pair of needles and get started. I like to browse through knittingpatterncentral.com for ideas.

You can also knit some very cute dolls. I came across this artist a few weeks ago and have been manically knitting quite a few of her dolls. I bought a couple of her pattern books through Annie’s Attic. She has some of the cutes free pattern on the site as well including some cute little baby dolls and a fun snowman. http://www.jeangreenhowe.com/

Crochet Something: You can crochet some pot holders, dish clothes or even a small afghan. Browse through sites like crochetpatterncentral.com for ideas.

I also like to crochet small dolls and stuffed animals for kids. They are fast and you only need leftover pieces of yarn to complete them. Google “amigurumi” for patterns and ideas. I love the patterns found on this website here. I’ve made quite a few of them last year for my daughter and my nieces and am working on more this year. amigurumipatterns.blogspot.com

Sew Something: Sew up some aprons, kitchen towels and the likes as gifts. Last year I made the cutest coasters by cutting two squares of fabric. I’d then appliqué a motive on one of the squares. Layer them like a little mini quilt with some thin batting and add a bias border. I made matching sets of 4 little fabric coasters for my mom and sister and they absolutely loved them.

Miscellaneous:

Eyeglass Case Necklace: Look at the flea markets and discount stores for long necklaces. If you can’t find one long one, you can also put a couple together, but you’ll need some tools, like a small needle-nose pliers if you do. Look at discount stores for an interesting cloth eyeglass case that is open at the top. You could sew your own using some nice quilted material. Open the necklace up and remove the closures from both sides so you just have a closed loop on both sides. Now, using a heavy thread, sew the loops on both ends of the necklace to the outer corners of the open end of the eyeglass case. You now have an eyeglass case on the end of the necklace. Grandma’s glasses are now protected in her eyeglass case, but she knows right where they are.

Dad’s Chair Pocket: Purchase a table runner (check out outlet stores and thrift stores). Lay the runner over the arm of Dad’s chair, with one end tucked securely under the cushion about an inch or two. Now, fold the part that’s hanging over the arm outside the chair over on top of itself until the runner is only hanging about 10-12 inches past the bottom of the arm. Now you know how much fabric you have to cut into pockets. Cut the length of runner that’s you’ve folded over off and cut it up into pockets. Put a couple little pockets on the inside of the chair and a couple larger pockets outside the chair. Pin into place and sew into position. You may want to cover the raw edges of the pockets with fabric glue and ribbon, depending on the fabric the runner was made out of.

Personalized Lamp Shade: You’ll need lamp with plain paper lamp shade and decoupage glue. Choose pictures of person with family, friends… at an event, or enjoying their favorite hobby. Copy on laser printer (ink jet will run). Cut out pictures and arrange on lampshade until you are satisfied. Now, one by one, brush decoupage glue lightly over back of picture and place in position on lampshade. When all pictures are in position, let it dry until pictures are secure. Then, lightly brush coat of decoupage over top of pictures and lampshade. Let dry, and brush a second coat over lampshade. Now, when your gift recipient turns on the light, they’ll be reminded of a special friend.

Ok, enough from me… now it’s your turn. Take a moment to leave a comment with your frugal gift ideas.

Susanne

Let’s Talk Emergency Fund

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

I’ve been meaning to talk about how important an emergency fund is for quite some time. And with the state of our economy and the increase in job loss, it’s become more important than ever.

The last time we went through a rough financial period, we didn’t have an emergency fund to fall back on and it was rough. We ended up having to rely on the generosity of family and friends to get by. After we made it through those months, I swore I would never let us get back into this kind of situation. (more…)

Frugal and Green?

Monday, September 15th, 2008

I’d like to share an article with you that my good friend Carrie Lauth sent to me. When money is tight, going green isn’t always the first thing on your mind, but believe it or not, they often go hand in hand. Just think about the conversation we had a few weeks ago about not using our dryers as much. It saves money and is good for the environment. Ready for another frugal green idea?

Green Your Refrigerator and Save Money

Many of us are trying to live a more sustainable, eco friendly
lifestyle. Doing so saves us money. For example, when we use
less energy we save on our monthly bills. And one of the best places
to start making changes is in our kitchens, the hub of the home and
a place where we use lots of electricity and gas.
Here are some tips on reducing your carbon footprint and making your
kitchen a little healthier too.

Make sure your fridge is set at 36 – 38 degrees. You will likely need
to purchase a refrigerator thermometer to gauge this properly. Move
the thermometer around so you can learn where the coldest and warmer
spots in the fridge are, and use this information to determine how you
organize your fridge.

Don’t place your fridge close to a stove or sunny window where it will
be warmer, causing the compressor to turn on more frequently and
therefore costing you more money.

Check the seals on your fridge yearly. Place a dollar bill the door and close
it. If you can slide the bill out easily, the seal may be too loose,
letting cool air leak out. Clean them regularly with vinegar to cut
down on the gunk and replace them if needed.

Vacuum your refrigerator coils monthly. The more dust that sits on the coils,
the less efficient the unit. Use a brush attachment on your
vacuum cleaner to clean those.

Keep your fridge 3/4 full to help it operate at maximum efficiency.
Any more full and cool air can’t circulate well. But if your fridge is half
empty, it has to work harder to cool. Place containers of water in
your fridge if you need to to keep it at this ideal.

The next time you buy a fridge, make sure it’s Energy Star certified.
Look for the yellow sticker on the model you want when you go
shopping. And the less popular style of refrigerator that has the
freezer in a drawer on the bottom is 10-25% more efficient than side
by sides.

Use glass to store leftovers. Not only will you avoid nasty chemicals
like phtalates and BPA, but glass also gets colder – helping your
fridge conserve energy. You can often find glass containers at
yard sales and thrift stores cheaply. Since they’re infinitely reusable,
they save you money too.

Looking for more easy green living tips? Visit
http://www.naturalmomstalkradio.com/blog. Healthy, whole foods recipes
can also be found at http://www.naturalmomsrecipes.com

Do You Barter?

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Let’s take a little trip into the past. Back before we handed out our credit or debit cards at the store to pay for items, we used various forms of cash (from bills to coins) to pay for things.

If we go back even further, we simply bartered one item for another. In fact, coins were invented to make it easier to barter for various products with each other.

Ancient Chinese coins -- fakes
Creative Commons License photo credit: jimmiehomeschoolmom

Does bartering still have a place in our modern society? Absolutely!

Back before I was married, I used to barter oil changes for a home cooked meal with a neighbor who was more “mechanically inclined” than me. These days hubby takes care of that, but I haven’t given up on bartering.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how bartering might work for you.

If you don’t have a garden, but know someone who does, offer to make some baked goods in exchange for fresh fruits and veggies.

If you need a baby sitter, but can’t afford one, offer to watch your neighbors kids after school or even tutor them.

If your car needs fixing or your roof needs to be patched and you know a mechanic or a roofer, think about what you could do for them in exchange. Maybe you’re a computer wiz who could fix their computer or set up their website.

Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you can do for them or trade with in exchange for what you want. Once you get used to bartering, you won’t go back to using cash for anything and everything. And of course you usually end up with a much better “price” when you barter.

Grocery Saving Tips

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Since our frugal challenge this week is saving on groceries by going to the store less often, I thought this would be a great time to share some of my best grocery saving tips.

When you go to the grocery store how much do you spend? With the prices the way they are today, most of us are spending way more than we need just a year ago. But you can still save money if you take the time to learn how to be shopping savvy.

Here are some ways that can help you to become one smart shopper:

  • Shop less often. If you shop less often with a specific goal in mind then you can void the impulse to buy what you really don??”t need. With shopping less comes the need to go armed with a shopping list so that you are ready to get what is needed and avoid what is not. Often times it is the impulse shopping that gets us in trouble and makes that grocery bill higher than what it needs to be.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time. Meal planning is a big money saver. If you plan your meals ahead of time you can create that list that was covered in the first tip and save time and money. Not only will you save money but you will have less waste, avoid those extra trips to the store, and you can avoid the last minute ordering out because you did not buy enough potatoes for your meals this week.
  • Find deals and use coupons when appropriate. Everyone is clipping coupons and that is a smart thing to do. Cut those coupons but don??”t go crazy with it. Sometimes you actually spend more than you intended. Instead of using the coupons to determine what you get at the store, look for deals in your weekly circulars to decide what the grocery list will be. If you find items like rice, frozen vegetables, fresh vegetables that store well, canned beans, or other items that have a long shelf life or you can freeze, then stock up. Just don??”t over board because you can lose food if it gets frost bite or meal bugs.
  • Make your own convenience foods. Items like baking mixes, drink mixes, mixes for soup or rice, bread, salad dressings and the likes. You can create these items yourself. You can often find items like blenders, coffee grinders, and bread machines at thrift stores. You can use these appliances to create mixes that are healthy for you family, have no MSG (a big no no), and the ingredients are controlled by you. Experiment and see if you can find the perfect mix for your convenience food needs.

Grocery shopping does not have to be something you dread because of the money you may spend. You can save, even in today??”s economy. Take some time to decide what you need to do to save a few dollars on your groceries.